American Aquafarms Inc. has dropped its lawsuit challenging the Department of Marine Resources’ rejection of its application to operate a fish farm in Frenchman Bay.

But a spokesman for the company, which is funded by Norwegian investors, told the Press Herald Tuesday evening that the fish farm project is needed to support world food supply chains and that the company will submit a new application in the near future. He could not be more specific about the timeline.

A digital mockup of American Aquafarms’ proposed salmon processing facility in Gouldsboro. Courtesy of American Aquafarms

“Absolutely. We want to come back. This is a good project,” Tom Brennan, Director of Development for American Aquaculture said in a telephone interview. “It’s state of the art technology and the world needs a reliable food source. Aquaculture is the way to do it.”

Dropping the lawsuit is the company’s way of showing it wants to open a dialogue with the state and the fishing community, he said. “We want conversation, not conflict.”

Attorneys for American Aquafarms filed a stipulation to dismiss the lawsuit – with prejudice – Monday in Cumberland County Superior Court. Dismissing the civil suit with prejudice means the company cannot refile the same claim and must start the permitting process from scratch. The company’s petition to dismiss was approved by the Maine Attorney General’s Office as well as attorneys for intervenors in the matter and the lawyers representing American Aquafarms, according to court documents.

“As an intervenor on behalf of the Maine DMR, Frenchman Bay United agreed to the dismissal of this lawsuit,” Henry Sharpe, President of Frenchman Bay United, said in a statement. “We have always believed that DMR made the right decision in refusing to accept the company’s lease applications and that this lawsuit had little merit. We again call on American Aquafarms to end any plans it may have to reapply for permits for this or other destructive and highly polluting projects.”


Local lobster harvesters have expressed concerns that the farm would compromise valuable fishing grounds, while environmental groups feared there would be negative impacts on the local ecosystem. Others worried that putting an industrialized aquaculture operation at the foot of Acadia National Park could harm tourism.

American Aquafarms filed its lawsuit against the Department of Marine Resources on May 19. In its complaint, American Aquafarms alleges that the department’s decision was not supported by evidence. It also claims that the department spoke with a third party without its knowledge just days before the decision, violating American Aquafarms’ right to due process.

The “Save the Bay” flotilla in protest of an industrial salmon farm passed by the Bar Harbor town pier, where people holding signs against the proposed fish farm were gathered, in August 2021 Ted O’Meara photo

American Aquafarms’ decision to withdraw its lawsuit leaves the door open for the company to resubmit another application for a fish farm. Its original proposal called for raising 66 million pounds of Atlantic salmon annually at two, 15-pen closed sites in Frenchman Bay, between Bar Harbor and Gouldsboro, with each pen encompassing 60 acres. The company has also proposed operating a fish processing plant and hatchery in Gouldsboro.

Even if the company decides to return with a new proposal, the Department of Marine Resources has estimated that the permitting process could take another two or three years to complete. There were two major issues with American Aquafarms’ original application, according to Patrick Keliher, commissioner for the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

First, the company failed to find a proper source for its fish eggs, Keliher said. The hatchery listed in the application, AquaBounty in Newfoundland, is not on Maine’s list of qualified egg sources. American Aquafarms also failed to show that the proposed hatchery satisfied genetic requirements mandated by state law, Keliher said.

Brennan said he hopes that such issues can be resolved in a less combative manner than through a lawsuit.


A salmon farm will help fill the void in the world’s food supply chain, Brennan said.

“The ground fishing resources are gone. We’ve got to figure out ways to feed people,” Brennan said.

American Aquafarms demonstrated its commitment to sticking with the fish farm project when it purchased a former sardine cannery in the village of Prospect Harbor back in May. The cannery will be used as a hatchery and fish processing plant by the company.

Opposition groups such as Frenchman Bay United want the project to go away.

“We hope that this is the end for American Aquafarms, but we remain vigilant and ready to challenge any subsequent applications that they may file that would jeopardize Maine’s brand – clean water, thriving natural habitats, pristine wilderness, and a robust, owner operated working waterfront,” Sharpe said.

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