Maine Gubernatorial Candidates Publicly Oppose American Aquafarms Project

Portland, Maine – Earlier this month, Governor and gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills and former Governor and gubernatorial candidate Paul Lepage both indicated they do not support the American Aquafarms project which would have put 120 acres of net pen salmon at the footof Acadia National Park.

Republican candidate Paul LePage took to his Facebook page stating, “…I will oppose any future application from American Aquafarms in that location. The working ecosystem in Frenchman Bay is much too critical to place at risk for this proposed venture.”

Democratic candidate and current Governor Janet Mills, through her campaign in the trade magazine Intrafish stated, “The governor does not approve of American Aquafarm’s proposal.”

Mills in the past has refused to take a public position on the American Aquafarms project or other large scale industrial aquaculture projects.

The American Aquafarms project was nixed when the Norwegian company failed to find an acceptable source of smolts. While PMFHF was pleased to see the project stopped, the organization recognizes it would have likely moved forward if not for that technicality.

PMFHF executive director Crystal Canney said, “We are pleased to see the project that is potentially so detrimental to the environment get such wide attention in a governor’s race. Protect Maine urges both candidates to engage in planning along the Maines coast.” Canney added, “It’s not a secret that aquaculture leases are eating up the coast of Maine. We are hearing from individuals up and down the coast who are questioning why there is no planning for Maine’s coastline. Protect Maine again is asking Governor Mills to appoint a committee to look at this. We ask that the committee includes a broad range of stakeholders – not one that is limited to the historically biased group of powerful aquaculture lobbyists who have written the very rules and regulations that put a for sale sign on Maine’s coastline.”

Canney added, “Right now Maine’s rules are biased in favor of industrial aquaculture. Any individual, business, or corporation can hold up to 1,000 acres of the ocean for 20 years and transfer those leases to anyone in state, out of state and out of country without a public hearing. For an industry that has been promoted as being an opportunity for the lobstering industry to diversify, this has in fact hurt them. In addition, this also impacts small owner- operator aquaculturists as well. Protect Maine believes in the small owner-operator model, and we want Maine people to remain owners and not become farm hands.” PMFHF has introduced aquaculture moratoriums in multiple coastal communities which have been adopted. Communities have echoed the same sentiment – there is no planning for Maine’s Coast.

PMFHF is a founding member of Frenchman Bay United which has worked diligently to defeat the American Aquafarms project.


For immediate release, August 15, 2022

GOULDSBORO, Maine –Frenchman Bay United (FBU), the coalition that is leading the fight against a massive salmon farm proposed for waters next to Acadia National Park, is encouraged by public statements opposing the project from both major candidates for Maine governor.

“After more than a year and a-half of hard work building strong, credible opposition to a proposal that will do irreparable harm to the environment and economy in and around Frenchman Bay, we are pleased to know that we will have the support of whichever candidate is elected governor in November,” said Henry Sharpe, FBU board president, adding: “There is much work still to be done to make sure that something like this is never allowed anywhere along the Maine coast.”

A recent article in industry publication IntraFish headlined Maine’s candidates for governor denounce American Aquafarms ahead of election quotes from former Republican governor Paul Lepage’s campaign Facebook page last month in which he stated: “…I will oppose any future application from American Aquafarms in that location. The working ecosystem in Frenchman Bay is much too critical to place at risk for this proposed venture.”

The article goes on to quote the campaign manager for incumbent Democrat Janet Mills, Alex Raposo, who told IntraFish that “The governor does not approve of American Aquafarm’s proposal and is pleased the Maine Department of Marine Resources independently rejected its application based on state law and scientific criteria.”

“There are many issues in this year’s race for governor, but this one is especially important to the people around the bay,” said Kathleen Rybarz, president of FBU coalition member Friends of Frenchman Bay and a select-board member in Lamoine, one of several towns around the bay that has gone on record against the American Aquafarms’ project. “Voters in Hancock County are likely to play a critical role in a close election, and we welcome the support of both major candidates in opposing a project that poses such a grave threat to the environment and economy of this area.

Rybarz noted that a public opinion survey conducted last spring by Oceana, an international ocean conservation group that opposes the American Aquafarms proposal, showed that 85% of voters in Hancock County said they were aware of the proposal to build a large-scale commercial fish farm in Frenchman Bay, and that 66% of county voters oppose the project after hearing arguments for and against it.

Last April, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) refused to accept American Aquafarms’ applications for leases on two sixty-acre site in Frenchman Bay because the company repeatedly failed to identity a qualified source of eggs under Maine law. The DMR action prompted the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to end consideration of the corresponding wastewater discharge applications the department was reviewing and return them to the applicant.

“If aquaculture is to be a driver to Maine’s economy, and the DMR and DEP are to uphold their respective roles in protecting marine resources and air and water quality,” said Sharpe, “the American Aquafarms proposal has clearly demonstrated that all stakeholders in Maine must work together to assure the continued abundance of our coastal resources for future generations.”

He added that “evidence shows these resources are in decline and under accelerating threats which are not being adequately addressed by our current regulatory framework. Maine’s next governor and legislature will have some important choices to make in terms of short-term thinking about benefits that accrue only to a few versus longer-term thinking about a sustainable and abundant future that benefits all Maine people.”

Sharpe said that time is of the essence because American Aquafarms has repeatedly stated that it intends to bring forward a new proposal, with company spokesperson Tom Brennan telling Maine Public last month that “it is absolutely our intention to pursue this again.”

News media contacts:

Ted O’Meara
Save the Bay

Crystal Canney
Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Foundation
(207) 615-5968