Maine Passes Law to Set Limits on New Fish Farms
Oceana applauds Maine leaders for protecting state’s waters, economy, and coastal way of life
Press Release Date: June 23, 2023
Location: Augusta, Maine
Raigan Johnson | email: email@example.com | tel: Raigan Johnson
Augusta, Maine — Yesterday, Governor Janet Mills signed a bill into law that establishes limits on stocking density, making it harder for developers to build monster fish farms in Maine’s waters.
L.D. 1951, An Act Regarding Marine Finfish Aquaculture, was sponsored by Sen. Nicole Grohoski (D-Hancock County) and co-sponsored by House Minority Leader Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) and Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook). The law establishes a stocking density of 30kg/m3 for all future marine salmon aquaculture leases. Stocking density, or the amount of fish by weight packed into an area, is a key metric of marine finfish aquaculture with higher densities associated with diminished fish health and water quality. Oceana says limits on the stocking density of finfish farms are critical to preventing disease and other threats, while also reducing the scale of disasters like mass die-offs and fish escapes that have occurred around the world.
“Monster fish farms have no place in Maine. Oceana applauds Maine for setting a clear, statewide stocking density limit for salmon and other finfish farms, which will prevent monster-size, disastrous aquaculture projects in our ocean,” says Matt Dundas, campaign director at Oceana. “The message sent by this bill is clear: Maine will not be the testing ground for questionable aquaculture technologies that threaten the state’s ocean health, fisheries, and economy. Setting density limits is a great initial step, but more action is needed to ensure that future farms do not undermine Maine’s coastal communities or harm Maine’s waters. In addition to limits on the total size of farms, Maine must also protect sensitive areas like Frenchman Bay.”
In May, Oceana released a new report showing that Maine’s previous regulations failed to protect the state’s coastal way of life, economy, and natural beauty from extremely large and disastrous aquaculture projects like the one proposed by Norwegian-based company American Aquafarms in 2021. If allowed to move forward as originally outlined, their monster fish farm would have covered a surface area the size of 15 football fields in Frenchman Bay, Maine, just half a mile offshore of Acadia National Park. The proposed farm would have had two pens with stocking densities of up to 40kg/m3, producing more salmon per year than all 24 existing salmon farms in Maine combined.
Ocean-based fish farms are inherently risky. Not only can they devastate seafloor habitats and nearby waters, these farms often use vast amounts of pesticides and chemicals to prevent disease and parasites. Most finfish species are also carnivores and require fishmeal and fish oil from wild ocean fisheries. Fish waste and uneaten feed also pollutes the water and can lead to harmful algal blooms. Mass fish die-offs, escapes, and sea lice outbreaks, have also been reported all over the world, wreaking havoc on surrounding ecosystems. Since 2000, there have been several thousand documented finfish farming incidents around the world.
In April 2022, Oceana released the results of a poll finding that 66% of voters in Hancock County, Maine (where the American Aquafarms proposed operation would be located) oppose the project.
To watch Oceana’s video about the American Aquafarms proposed project, click here.
To read Oceana’s report, visit https://oceana.org/FishFarmsInMaine.
For more information about Oceana’s campaign, please visit usa.oceana.org/our-campaigns/maine-aquaculture.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 275 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit Oceana.org to learn more.