Nordic Aquafarm's permit application takes center stage on Wednesday

Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 5:19 AM EST
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The Belfast Planning Board will meet on Wednesday to start making decisions on Nordic Aquafarms' permit application.

This as the company is pushing back against opponents who claim the land-based seafood farm will not allow Maine to reach its carbon emission targets.

Nordic Aquafarms wants to build a facility near Little River in Belfast, capable of producing millions of pounds of fish per year.

The company released a statement early Wednesday morning, refuting claims it is bad for the local environment.

There is also a press conference in Augusta later on Wednesday where those opposed to the facility will speak out against it's being built - pointing to its impact on the environment as the reason..

You can read Nordic Aquafarm's full statement below:

January 14th, 2020

Nordic Aquafarms Inc

Portland, Maine

Local Belfast opposition group presents study of Nordic Aquafarms´ facility in Maine based on incomplete and misleading assumptions

A local group of opponents in Maine have made continued efforts to argue against land-based aquaculture in Maine, despite strong support from reputable environmental organizations, the general public and local and state politicians. Their claim that land-based seafood farms will render Maine unable to reach stated carbon emission targets are based on incomplete and misleading information.

Carbon emission is a global problem. The US imports vast amounts of fresh seafood, including salmon, by airfreight. Compared to these airfreighted products, NAF provides a product with almost one third of the CO2 footprint. Local catch has the lowest carbon profile, but supply is not even close to meeting demand in the US. Thus, carbon reversal is achieved by displacing airfreighted products.

In addition, the Chinese study referenced by the opponents and their own assumptions are not valid for land-based production in Maine and for the proposed Nordic Aquafarms (NAF) facility. It has:

• Much higher carbon footprint per kwh due to energy mix with high share of coal

• Much higher energy use per pound of fish than NAF has in Maine

• Much longer transport distances for eggs and feed in China

• Much higher feed factor than is best practice today for RAS

• A life-time assumption for the facility that is much lower than modern RAS facilities today

The table and the graph at the end of the press release show the differences.

Opponents are also assuming that NAF will be using 900,000 gallons of diesel per year. Permit applications are made out to account for severe worst-case natural incidents, and expected annual usage is less 150,000 gallons per year. NAF also plans to use biofuel from Maine to reduce emissions.

“NAF is proud to provide carbon reversing food systems for the US, in line with the many environmental benefits of land-based aquaculture farms. Local opposition in Maine is making claims of much higher carbon footprints. Nordic Aquafarms is, however, aware of available scientific studies out there and have also done our own modelling. Our modelling results are consistent with publications from the reputable environmental research institutions Conservation Fund and SINTEF,” says EVP Commercial Marianne Naess.

Carbon footprint is typically measured in CO2e (carbon equivalents). Although assessments may differ based on underlying assumptions, a typical salmon serving of 4 oz from NAF production in Maine has a CO2e footprint of approx. 1.40 lbs. CO2e based on life-cycle analysis. A locally produced and distributed land-based salmon product has about the same CO2e footprint as chicken. In comparison, a similar portion of beef is approx. 6,1 lbs. CO2e.

Arguments have also been made that it is wrong to remove forest. NAF is a proponent of forest conservation and replanting in an efficient land-use context. Maine is covered by over 90 percent forest. The forest in our case is considered low grade and is regularly logged. If green field developments are to be limited, it is reasonable to assess all existing land-use in terms of food yield, jobs, and economic development. The proposed farm from NAF provides higher yields, more jobs, and more economic development effects per acre than almost any food production in Maine.

“Local opposition has at the same time proposed an alternative site that would involve even more removal of forest. This is not responsible environmentalism,” says Naess. “The local opposition is vastly overstating the carbon footprint from land-based seafood in Maine based on faulty assumptions and misleading conclusions. On the contrary, Nordic Aquafarms proposed facility illustrates that Maine is in a position to provide much more carbon efficient conditions for land-based aquaculture than many other locations”, she says.