The Working Waterfront

Fish-farm opponents distort facts

Belfast project wins permits, endorsements

Erik Heim
Posted 2021-12-22
Last Modified 2021-12-22

The November issue of The Working Waterfront featured a misleading opinion column by John Krueger, an activist from Upstream Watch, a group opposing plans by Nordic Aquafarms to build a salmon growing facility in Belfast.

As with his previous efforts, Krueger’s storytelling is deceptive and designed to fit his activist agenda. Our company has a great story, and it will make large contributions to the local area for decades to come.

Upstream Watch is a group of activists in Belfast who have had more than a fair opportunity to argue against the now fully permitted land-based salmon project. It lost every argument in the federal, state, and local permitting processes after promoting its purported scientific perspectives. Krueger and this group were unable to present solid and convincing science. Nordic did exactly that.

Upstream Watch has promoted zero discharge and other unrealistic ideas for land-based aquaculture…

And who is Nordic Aquafarms? We are a progressive seafood company with three land-based fish farms already in operation. Our facilities are pioneer projects that have been granted significant environmental awards and that have enabled extensive learning that we are leveraging in Belfast.

The result is an environmental and ocean protection standard that far surpasses existing operations at scale internationally. This has been independently vetted by the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Marine Resources, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, and others.

Upstream Watch has promoted zero discharge and other unrealistic ideas for land-based aquaculture that don´t exist at scale. Pursuing such ideas at scale would greatly increase risks in operations and endanger the welfare of the fish. It would also increase the risk of off-flavor in the fish, and it would significantly increase power use.

Anyone claiming zero discharge at larger scale is at a minimum leaving out processing, cooling water, sludge dewatering, and purging of their fish before harvest. All of these activities require exchange of water.

Nordic’s technology has an excellent track record. Nordic is unique in the industry with a full-fledged internal design division and proven technology patents. Nordic’s design team are pioneers in the industry and our technology has a reputation of “best in class” among major international aquaculture companies.

The Belfast plant will remove 99 percent of particles and most nutrients in the seawater exchanged. That is a much higher standard that most sewage treatment plants, and a much higher standard than any other existing or planned large seafood project in Maine.

Comparing Nordic’s project in Belfast to start-ups like West Coast Salmon which has never built a farm and which has zero farms in operation is grossly misleading. Hopeful start-ups in this sector make all kinds of claims before the hard reality hits. While its vendor has built quite a few fish farms, the vendor has yet to validate grow-out salmon farms at the scale Nordic operates today and certainly not what Krueger is promoting.

Producing more fish with less water, less power, less discharge, and lower cost doesn’t add up to a quality operation. It remains to be seen what if anything will be built by West Coast Salmon; we wish them be best of luck.
After ten years in this industry, we have seen many flashy start-ups that never make it or that fail miserably because they over promise.

After Krueger wrote a similar opinion piece published earlier this year in the Portland Press Herald, West Coast Salmon called us to apologize for unknowingly being drawn into a local activist brawl. It was clear the company wanted no part in Krueger’s crusade or his misrepresentations.

The permitting agencies and many others in Maine did an extensive job vetting Nordic´s applications and listening to all sides before approving this development. Nordic will create many jobs in Maine, defend the need for a healthy bay since we get our water there, and drastically cut the carbon footprint compared to imported fresh salmon products.
We remain thankful for all the great support we have in Maine and Belfast.

Erik Heim is president of Nordic Aquafarms Inc.