What concerns us about the Nordic Aquafarms' proposal?

Algae Bloom from Nitrogen and Phosphorus Pollution/PUBLIC IMAGE

Nordic Aquafarms, Inc. proposes to turn 40 acres of maturing, carbon sequestering woodlands and wetlands into an industrial-scale, land-based, salmon-raising operation.  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has aptly named such facilities “Concentrated Aquatic Animal Production” facilities or “CAAPs.”  


Nordic’s proposed facility cannot be called a “farm” by any reasonable definition of that term. If constructed, it would be a completely artificial environment for the controlled production of Atlantic Salmon – from eggs, to fry, to smolts, to adults – at the rate of 33,000 metric tons (72 million pounds) per year. The technology behind this concept – called “RAS” (re-circulating aquaculture system) is not the best available technology and presents numerous serious environmental problems.  


Upstream Watch and the Maine Lobstering Union have filed formal comments with Maine regulators laying out a long series of concerns that need to be addressed before Nordic can operate, not after.  

Upstream has spent almost three years researching this technology, and the specifics of Nordic's applications. Despite the massive size of this proposed factory, several large environmental groups endorsed the project immediately without actual permit data to base their decisions on. With the exception of Maine Sierra Club, other groups have remained conspicuously silent, or latched onto the deceptive marketing that Big Aqua is the only option before us.


We believe that standing for the health of the land, waters and community starts with asking questions—tough questions—and demanding answers. Upstream Watch believes it is unconscionable, in this time of climatic breakdown and extinction, to not thoroughly examine the immediate and long-term ecological, social and economic consequences of all of our decisions, especially those that put so much at risk.


As the natural world unravels, and the production of food is controlled by fewer and fewer multi-billion dollar corporations, we believe it is our moral, ethical and intergenerational duty to demand viable, ecologically sustainable alternatives, the restoration of the rivers, bays, wetlands and forests, and the empowerment of local fishermen and women, and family run, restorative aquaculture businesses.


Below, is a summary of some of the most serious issues. Please see our RESEARCH page for more in-depth material.

Here are some of the most critical issues...

  • Nordic is Still “High and Dry.”  

    • Despite its public statements, Nordic does not have “title, right, or interest” (TRI) to legally cross the intertidal zone it must invade in order to lay its pipelines.   

      • In January 2019 ​the State of Maine requested that Nordic prove TRI. As of March 2021 Nordic has still not secured TRI.

      • As an alternative, Nordic has proposed blasting into the bed of the Little River in order to run its pipes into the bay. More information can be found here.

  • Pollution Impacts to Penobscot Bay Would be Significant

    • Nordic failed to meet the State's Anti-Degradation requirements​. Their application's nitrogen levels are almost two times the quantity permitted under Maine state standards.

    • Nordic’s factory will discharge 1,484 pounds of nitrogen daily.  

      • Excess nitrogen in seawater can cause algal blooms that lower the dissolved oxygen for marine life, leading to fish-kills and possible damage to the Bayside Mussel Farm, one of several, small-scale aquaculture operations to the south. See Dr. Kyle Aveni-Deforge's testimony.

    • Discharge would also include phosphorous, formaldehyde, as well as detergents, disinfectants, antibiotics, anti-virals, and highly toxic pharmaceuticals used to address illness, disease and emergencies. 

    • Viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens will be in the mix. See Dr. Brian Dixon's testimony here, and  Dr. Richard Podolsky's here concerning these issues.


  • Nordic's Filtration System is Unable to Effectively Protect the Bay 

    • The system would be unable to eliminate all toxins, bacteria and viruses. When raising 72.6 million pounds of salmon per year, plus eggs and fry, illnesses and die-offs will be inevitable. Please read here for details.

    • Nordic will discharge 7.7 million gallons of warm effluent directly off Brown's Point in Northport daily.

    • Nordic's models show that the daily discharge will remain in the bay for 14 days. This means 108 million gallons of resident discharge will be present in the discharge area at all times. 

    • The effluent path is likely to circulate around the northern tip of Islesboro and down the eastern side of the island. See Dr. Neal Pettigrew's testimony.

  • What Salmon Eat They Excrete

    • Nordic would need 216,758 pounds of fish food a day. Despite the fact the fish food is a major part of the effluent, the State has not required Nordic to provide any data on the food they plan to use. 

    • Fishmeal contains persistent and bioaccumulative toxic substances (PBTSs) including monomethyl mercury in protein, and organohalogen pollutants. Exposure to these chlorinated compounds is known to cause reproductive, neurotoxic, immunotoxic, endocrine, behavioral, and carcinogenic effects in both wildlife and humans. 

    • The production of fishmeal from fresh, and from formaldehyde and sodium benzoate-preserved catches, results in the formation of considerable dimethylnitrosamine (DMNA). Dimethylnitrosamine is a potent carcinogen. 

    • Wheat, soybean products and corn are regularly used as fish feed ingredients. However, these ingredients are often contaminated with several mycotoxins. They are also GMO's.

    • Fishmeal made to feed farmed salmon for industrialized nations is taking food away from people who's lives, cultures and local economies depend on forage fish, and a healthy oceanic food web. See this link and this link.


  • Mercury Contaminated Sediments  

    • Nordic will dredge sediment in order to place its three pipes. The bay contains   mercury deposited 50 years ago by the HoltraChem mercury spill.  This sediment will be dewatered and dumped back into the bay. 

    • Sediment samples taken found at least one with a mercury concentration of 239 nanograms/gram (ng/g).  Concentrations over 200 ng/g justify closing an area to lobster and crab harvest.  

    • Dr. Ralph Turner, mercury expert from Canada, reviewed Nordic's studies and concluded that these studies lacked valid data. Read here.

  • Warming of the Bay

    • Nordic only passed the water temperature regulations by .1 degree. Nordic used surface water temperatures for its data, instead of the depth of discharge.  Please read here.

  • Nordic's Climate Impact is Enormous

    • The factory requires 28 megawatts of electricity which CMP cannot provide without a $63 Million upgrade.  This energy use is equivalent to adding 38,000 to 40,000 new homes to the midcoast region. 

    • The factory requires the destruction of a carbon sequestering forest and wetlands. With the exception of Upstream Watch's climate paper, no estimation of the forest's, streams', and wetlands' current and potential carbon sequestration has been done. The impact on blue carbon potential is unknown.

    • The factory requires the removal of ALL carbon storing soils, up to 20 feet down, as the site's soils are unsuitable even though soil suitability is a DEP requirement. Nordic will pay over half a million dollars to destroy the wetlands.

  • Nordic Requires 657 MILLION GALLONS of Fresh Water a Year

    • Test wells at Little River showed salt water intrusion.​

    • Pump tests caused draw down of ten feet or more of private wells surrounding the project.

    • Nordic failed to disclose a closed landfill within a half mile of the well that will come online at the Goose River Aquifer. No studies were done to ensure that no leachate will contaminate the Belfast water supply.


  • Impacts on Marine Ecosystem and Endangered Species

    • The long-term impacts on native endangered Atlantic salmon, endangered Shortnose sturgeon as well as cod, halibut, bivalves, elvers, herring, grasses, and seaweeds will be negative.  Efforts to restore native marine populations will suffer, and so will the communities that live off them.  Read here.


Additional issues include:

  • Air pollution from the eight diesel generators, each with a 67 foot smoke stack (called “chimneys" because Belfast does not have a smoke stake ordinance).

  • Destruction to the Bay's Blue Carbon sequestration potential.

  • Destruction and pollution of lobster and fishing grounds.

  • The absence of any details concerning jobs, wages and exact types of employment.

  • The factory has an estimated 30 year life span. There's no exit plan strategy and no funds for decommissioning.

  • Tax assessments and revenue are unknown.

  • Unknown risk of fresh water pollution from landfill in Swanville.

  • Unknown impact on Little River from water extraction.

  • Unknown impacts on dams, including the fact that the dam above the site is at risk of failure, and "poses a risk to human life" according to Maine State Dam Inspector.

  • No proof of financial capacity.

  • Permit violations at Norwegian facilities.

  • Road construction and traffic impacts.

  • Noise and odor pollution.