Kingfish Maine staff, students, and teacher Robin Monini (fourth from right) at an aquaponics facility used in the school aquaculture program.

Second small harvest planned by Kingfish Maine

Yellowtail grower also launches fourth year of school aquaculture program as it looks ahead to construction of 8,500-tonne RAS


United States land-based yellowtail farmer Kingfish Maine is to carry out a second harvest of fish at a small grow-out facility at its hatchery in the state in November.

The company, which has permission for an 8,500-tonne recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility in the town of Jonesport, harvested 8,000 pounds (3.63 tonnes) in early spring. The yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi) were distributed to and served at restaurants in Maine, Boston, Washington DC, and California.

The November harvest will be distributed to select restaurants in the US, as well as being made available to the residents of Jonesport.

Kingfish Maine is owned by Netherlands-based The Kingfish Company, which brands its fish as Dutch Yellowtail.

Fish well received

“Our first harvest of Dutch Yellowtail from Maine was well received by top chefs and restaurants across the country. We look forward to another successful harvest as we continue to prepare for our full production facility in Jonesport,” said Kingfish Maine operations manager Tom Sorby.

Kingfish Maine’s plans to build its RAS in Jonesport were on ice due to legal appeals against its permits by a group led by a family business that owns a group of private islands on the other side of a strait from the farm site. Those appeals have now been rejected, enabling the company to move forward.

Sorby and partner Megan Sorby have been leading the Kingfish Maine development since inception in 2019. With all permits approved, Kingfish Maine said Tom Sorby will continue to build broodstock numbers and complete small-scale grow-out in preparation for the Jonesport development while Megan will now take an advisory role with Kingfish as she explores new initiatives outside the company.

From left: Maine University president Joan Ferrini-Mundy, operations manager Megan Sorby, Senator Angus King, operations manager Tom Sorby, and hatchery specialist Liz Groover during a visit to Kingfish Maine's broodstock facility in Franklin earlier this year. Megan Sorby is stepping back to take an advisory role now that permits have been secured.

Meanwhile, the company is continuing its sponsorship of a high-school aquaculture program for a fourth year.

“With the recent affirmation of our state-level permits by the Maine Superior Court, we are laser-focused on our vision for the Downeast region of Maine; providing economic development in partnership with the community of Jonesport,” said Sorby. “And there’s no better way to prepare the future workforce of Kingfish than introducing area students to the aquaculture industry and our technology.”

The Kingfish Company donated a small RAS to Jonesport Beals High School in Jonesport in 2020, helping students stock the system with tilapia and learn the process of growing and harvesting fish. Lead teacher Robin Monini has added an aquaponics component to the school-based RAS and has successfully landed additional grants to grow the program.

Real-life training

“Our aquaculture/aquaponics program provides real-life training for high school students who are interested in pursuing a future in aquaculture,” said Monini. “It’s a unique program: the students grow the fish and learn the basic mechanics of RAS. They also have a chance to grow vegetables as part of the system. Most importantly, they see how their hard work and effort pays off.”

As the latest program was launched this month, Sorby provided students with a primer on yellowtail from the Kingfish hatchery at the Centre for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR) in Franklin, less than an hour’s drive from Jonesport.

Vincent Erenst, chief executive of The Kingfish Company, said the momentum in Maine was “tremendous”.

“The US operations team is focused on building our broodstock numbers and preparing pre-design for the facility in Jonesport. We credit not only our strong team in Maine but the supportive community of Jonesport, which will benefit from the economic development which we will provide to the region,” said Erenst.

The Kingfish Company produces 1,500 tonnes of fish at its RAS in Zeeland and has had consistent success with fish biology but has not yet made a profit. An increase in capacity to 3,500 tonnes next year following an ongoing expansion will enable the company to become profitable, Erenst has said.