It’s been a rough year for Nordic Aquafarms, the Norwegian company that wants to build a $500 million industrial salmon farm in Belfast.

A 2018 artist’s rendering of the Nordic Aquafarms facility proposed for construction beside the Little River in Belfast. A Feb. 16 Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling over the ownership of intertidal land in Belfast has created a major hurdle for a $500 million fish farm that Nordic Aquafarms plans there. Courtesy of Nordic Aquafarms

On Feb. 16, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled that Nordic can’t cross intertidal land it needs access to for its saltwater intake and effluent discharge pipes. The ruling also affirmed the legitimacy and enforceability of a conservation easement that stands squarely in the way of Nordic’s pipes. And on March 21, the first full day of spring, a lawsuit was filed challenging Nordic’s right to build its vast fish tanks in what seems to be the only viable place for those buildings.

That latest lawsuit brings to seven the total number of suits facing the company, and it’s still not clear how Nordic is going to get around the Feb. 16 decision by Maine’s highest court.

The city of Belfast is trying to help Nordic overcome that hurdle by declaring eminent domain over the intertidal land and an adjoining upland lot, purportedly to create a public park. But that move is also facing legal challenge, as eminent domain cannot, in Maine, be used for private purposes.

In Maine, conservation easements can be modified or terminated only in limited circumstances defined by statute, and only through a court process involving the Office of the Attorney General. And the AG’s Office has already advised the Maine Law Court that the Bureau of Parks and Lands cannot issue any submerged lands and dredging leases to Nordic, given the court’s decision last month.

It seems that Nordic’s legal woes are piling up higher and deeper than a March snowstorm, and it’s getting harder to see how Nordic can dig its way out.


Let’s be blunt. It’s time for Nordic to throw in the towel.

Nordic’s Belfast project would be bigger, in dollar terms, than the city of Bath’s tax valuation of Bath Iron Works. According to Nordic opponents, it would be bigger than Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park and the TD North Garden combined. In other words, the project is huge. And for five-plus years it has divided the Belfast community.

It’s time to heal those rifts. It’s time to move on.

The Nordic plan was flawed from the start. Never mind everything else, it’s simply in the wrong place. All of Nordic’s other plants were built in existing industrial areas, as would be the project Nordic wants to build in California. And the Whole Oceans project planned for Bucksport. And the Xcelerate Aqua plant slated for Millinocket. But Nordic’s Belfast plant would be built in a beautiful, even iconic, natural and recreational area. It would impinge on the outstanding five-mile Little River Trail, and it would destroy 56 acres of mature forest, vital wetlands and wildlife habitat, including that of the extraordinary and threatened bobolink bird.

In late 2018, I traveled to Norway and Denmark to look at Nordic’s operations in those countries, and in Bergen, Norway, I spoke with professor Are Nylund, perhaps the world’s foremost academic expert on aquaculture. Nylund told me he’s not opposed to land-based aquaculture projects but that they should not be built in recreational areas. He said he would oppose Nordic’s Belfast project if it were planned for a recreational area.

Well, it is. And Nylund is right. In Belfast, the Nordic project is simply the wrong project in the wrong place. And it’s time for Nordic Aquafarms and the city of Belfast to recognize that and end the division that has racked Belfast for more than five years.

Copy the Story Link

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.