More than 125 boats chugged across Frenchman Bay on Sunday to protest plans by American Aquafarms to place an industrial salmon farm in the bay off the coast of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

Organizers of the “Save the Bay” flotilla said it demonstrates the depth of opposition to the proposed salmon farm. The parade of boats included working lobster boats as well as pleasure craft.

The flotilla passed by the Bar Harbor town pier, where people stood holding signs in opposition to the fish farm.

Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Foundation helped organize Sunday’s protest. The foundation and other parties are concerned that the fish farm will have negative environmental implications on the bay and its users.

American Aquafarms describes itself on its website as an American company that is in the process of establishing a hatchery, fish farm facilities – for both Atlantic salmon and cod – and a state-of-the art processing plant in coastal Maine.

American Aquafarms has proposed raising 66 million pounds of Atlantic salmon annually at two 15-pen sites in Frenchman Bay, according to the Mount Desert Islander newspaper. Each pen would encompass 60 acres.

Leslie Harlow, a local restaurateur, organized Sunday’s flotilla. She owners Ironbound, a restaurant in the town of Hancock.

“The synergy of tourism, lobstering, owner-operated independent aquaculture operations, and recreational boating works beautifully on Frenchman Bay,” Harlow told the newspaper. “A proposal of this magnitude threatens all of that.”

“Without question, this project has the potential to devastate the lobster industry in this area,” Zach Piper, a Hancock-based lobsterman and board member of Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Foundation, told the newspaper. “We need to make sure this never happens and then fix the rules and regulations that got us here in the first place. If we don’t stop this project, it will be only the beginning of selling our entire coastline to out-of-state investors who don’t care one bit about our heritage or jobs like mine that depend on a healthy, clean environment.”

A spokesman for American Aquafarms was not available Sunday evening to comment on Sunday’s flotilla demonstration.

A description of the fish farm project on the company’s website says that the protein needs of the planet are outpacing the ocean’s ability to produce, with global fishing resources stretched beyond sustainable levels. The company states that 90 percent of the fish consumed in the United States is imported from Chile, Norway, Scotland and Vietnam and that having a fish farm on the Maine coast will lower the carbon footprint of ocean-going vessels.

American Aquafarms’ application to operate the fish farm is pending before the Maine Department of Marine Resources.


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