An illustration of how the salmon RAS in Belfast might look. Image: Nordic Aquafarms.

Nordic praises 'facts and science' approach to RAS permits

Nordic Aquafarms Inc (NAF) has moved a step closer to winning permission for a 33,000-tonne recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) salmon farm in Maine in the United States.

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The state’s Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) spent Wednesday deliberating on the company’s plans, including discussing about potential conditions if the BEP was to approve NAF’s applications for permits.

The BEP did not make a decision on the applications, but in a press release NAF said it was very pleased with the BEP deliberations.

The next step in the process is for Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staff to draft a recommendation on each of the applications for BEP consideration.

Erik Heim: Thanked BEP for "thorough processing of the applications based on facts and science".

“It has been a long journey and I want to thank our employees, the DEP staff and our advisors for their efforts in the permitting process,” said NAF president Erik Heim. “We also want to thank the BEP for its thorough processing of the applications based on facts and science.”

Improved technology

NAF said it was satisfied with the permit conditions discussed during the deliberations by the BEP, a seven-member citizen board which is part of the DEP but has independent decision-making authority.

The company also said it had improved its discharge technology since submitting an application for a discharge permit in the autumn of 2018 and is comfortable with potential permit conditions that will be proposed by the DEP.

“Nordic has developed the highest ocean protection standards in the industry with higher nutrient removal and biosecurity measures than any other farm in operation today,” said the company.

Marianne Ness: Board's action "proves what we have been saying all along".


If the BEP grants permits, NAF also has to overcome the hurdle of lawsuits from people opposed to the salmon farm plan who claim the company doesn’t have lawful access to the sea for its intake and discharge pipes.

“We hope these lawsuits will be settled in the near future,” said NAF executive vice president commercial Marianne Naess, who said court proceedings had been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She cannot yet say when NAF might break ground on the salmon farm, or when its first fish will be produced.

High environmental standard

“At this point, it all depends on the progress and potential appeals,” Naess told Fish Farming Expert. “We will be starting producing fish approximately one year after the construction start, with fish in the market about 1.5-2 years after that.

“This (move by the BEP) is an important milestone for the company, and it proves what we have been saying all along that the applications have been complete and that we have a set a high environmental standard.”

The Belfast project is one of two that NAF plans in the US. It intends to build another 33,000-tonne farm on the Samoa Peninsula in Humboldt County, northern California.

Its Norwegian parent company, Nordic Aquafarms AS, also owns a yellowtail kingfish RAS in Denmark and an Atlantic salmon RAS in Fredrikstad, south of Oslo in Norway.

An earlier version of this article reported that the BEP had ordered DEP staff to issue draft permits for the fish farm, implying that permission had been granted. This was an error. In fact, the BEP has asked staff to draft a recommendation on each of the applications.