The Working Waterfront

Salmon farm would be environmental disaster

Adjacent to Acadia, it would also hurt economy

Henry Sharpe
Posted 2021-12-14
Last Modified 2021-12-14

It’s been a year since American Aquafarms—a Norwegian firm backed by speculators that is American in name only—announced plans for a massive industrial salmon farm in Frenchman Bay, right next to Acadia National Park.

Longtime Sorrento lobsterman James West spoke for all who oppose this project when he stated recently: “It’s just a big accident waiting to happen. I am still shocked that we are talking about it.”

Unfortunately, we are, but we also are working tirelessly to make sure this monster fish farm is never built, and that no other Maine communities will ever have to wage a similar fight.

There would be two 60-acre lease sites with 30, 150-foot diameter pens employing a new “semi-closed” technology…

Every day, our coalition grows stronger—concerned citizens, fishermen, towns from around the bay, conservation groups, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Friends of Acadia, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Oceana, the National Parks Conservation Association—even the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, whose many members in the tourism and hospitality business understand that this project is not just an impending environmental disaster but a major economic threat.

At a recent Department of Environmental Protection meeting on the company’s applications to discharge more than 4.1 billion gallons of untreated waste into the bay each day, more than 40 people, including West, spoke out forcefully against the project. No one spoke in favor.

Other lobstermen, an organic kelp farmer, scientists, and an incredibly broad cross-section of year-round and seasonal residents were joined by Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider, who warned about “the extreme large scale of this development” and called it “incongruous with the existing nature and setting of Frenchman Bay and its surrounding lands.”

In addition to the discharge of more than three times the effluent from the New York City sewage treatment system, here are just a few things to consider:

• There would be two 60-acre lease sites with 30, 150-foot diameter pens employing a new “semi-closed” technology that has never been used on this scale. In fact, the trial of the only such pen in North America was just halted because of poor water quality and fish mortality. It was one of the few (and perhaps the only) semi-closed pens worldwide to attempt raising salmon to harvest-size.

• According to independent modeling by the University of Maine and University of Rhode Island, the effluent, which will include fish feces, uneaten food, pharmaceuticals, and pathogens, would not simply be flushed away as the company maintains; it would circulate throughout the entire bay in ever-increasing concentrations that imperil fishermen, small-scale aquaculture, and clammers, not to mention the bay’s many residents, recreational boaters, the economy, and environment.

• Ten, 500-kilowatt diesel generators powering massive pumps would run day and night, polluting our air and water while producing uninterrupted noise and light that will forever alter the bay’s tranquility.

• The DEP applications contain no contingency plans for oil spills despite 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel stored on two barges that would be refilled every seven to ten days.

Not surprisingly, American Aquafarms dismisses all concerns. It greenwashes the “eco-pens” that will foul our waters, and in a recent letter tried to reassure residents the fish will “live and grow with no pain and no fear,” despite being jammed into pens by the millions followed by stun and bleed harvesting. The company trumpets creation of a handful of low-wage jobs but ignores the loss of many more existing good jobs.

Let’s face it, they are here not because they care about Maine, but because our lax regulations and dirt-cheap leases would allow them to build something here they never could build in Norway.

We must stop this dangerous and destructive development. If it is allowed to be built next to Acadia National Park, other industrial-scale projects will quickly follow all along the Maine coast. For anyone who cares about our coastal communities and islands, this is your fight, too.

Henry Sharpe of Sorrento is president of Frenchman Bay United (, a coalition of individuals and organizations that is leading the fight to stop the proposed American Aquafarms development.