Who We Are

Upstream Watch is a loosely bound but tightly focused group of small business people, educators, scientists, historians, and citizen activists, together with current and former civil servants from local, state, and national government.

Why We Are 

The purpose of Upstream Watch is to advocate for the health of Midcoast Maine rivers and watersheds through science, education, and public action.  

What We Want

We seek a vibrant, sustainable, and diverse economy for all of Maine and all Mainers.  To accomplish this we must perform “CPR” on any activity with environmental consequences.  CPR is shorthand for “Conserve, Protect, Restore.”  Midcoast Maine watersheds need CPR.  Penobscot Bay needs CPR.  The Gulf of Maine desperately needs CPR.  And so do all creatures “great and small” that inhabit the waters and lands with us.  We are convinced that humankind’s long-term survival cannot be guaranteed until humanity returns to its ages-old niche in the Web of Life…a position of stewardship, not superiority.  We are determined to “bloom where we are planted” by dedicating ourselves to the restoration of the Little River watershed, in all its natural beauty. 

What Concerns Us About the Nordic Farms Proposal

Nordic Aquafarms, Inc. proposes to turn 40 acres of woodlands 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 30,000 metric tons (66 million pounds) per year.  
 The technology behind this concept – called “RAS” which is short for “re-circulating aquaculture system,” has never been built or operated on the scale Nordic envisions, anywhere in the world.  
In order to operate an industrial facility of this size, Nordic will need a continuous supply of fresh water drawn from wells on the property and purchased from the Belfast Water District, along with saltwater from Penobscot Bay.  It proposes to build three pipelines out into the bay – two for saltwater intake; one for wastewater discharge.  At full capacity, the facility will discharge 7.7 mgd (million gallons/day) of wastewater, create an unknown amount of solid and semi-solid waste, and release air emissions of an unknown quality.  The effluent’s temperature will be 5°F to 33°F warmer than the bay, depending on the season.  
    A steady flow of traffic will bring supplies into the operation and take frozen salmon fillets and solid waste away.  The factory must run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year because the fish must swim or die.  There is no land-based salmon-raising facility of this size operating successfully in the United States.  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.  


Here are the most important of those issues: 

  • Nordic is still “high and dry.”  Despite its public statements, Nordic does not have “title, right, or interest” to legally cross the intertidal zone it must invade in order to lay its pipelines.   

  • Pollution impacts are significant but largely unknown.  To date, no information on the nature and predicted impacts of Nordic’s full discharge has been submitted to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Department of Marine Resources (DMR), or Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry (DACF).  

  • Penobscot Bay water quality will suffer.  Water currents in the bay take 14 days to move any discharge down and out into the Gulf of Maine.  Nordic’s discharge will create a continuous plume of approximately 108 million gallons of effluent off the shores of Belfast, Northport, Lincolnville, Islesboro, Camden, Rockport, and Rockland.  

  • Nitrogen pollution is likely.  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.  

  • Mercury-laden sediments may be disturbed.  Dredging required to bury Nordic’s three pipelines may stir up and re-suspend mercury deposited 50 years ago by HoltraChem.  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.  

  • An underwater seawall will change currents and habitats.  Burying the pipelines will create a 5.5-foot high, ½-mile long underwater seawall off Northport.  Lobster migration may be affected, currents will change, and shoreline erosion may increase. 

  • Water temperatures will rise.  Nordic’s discharge will always be warmer than the bay…somewhere between 5°F and 33°F warmer, depending on the season.  

  • What the salmon eat, they will excrete.  Nordic calculates it will need 216,758 pounds of fish food a day…but has not decided exactly what will be in it.  If we do not know what they will be fed, we do not know what will bio-accumulate in their flesh or concentrate in the solid and liquid wastes produced.  

  • It’s not a carbon-neutral factory.  Nordic has no plan to achieve carbon neutrality.  It will be a large, net energy consumer and most of the energy needed will be carbon-based.

  • Vaccines, medicines, and industrial cleaners will be used.  Nordic lists four industrial detergents, four disinfectants, four therapeutants, and five “emergency” compounds for disease control.  All may appear in waste flows from the plant.  

  • It’s not a long-term benefit to the Bay.  Whatever short-term benefits Nordic may claim over the 30-or-so-year life of its facility, the long-term impacts on native Atlantic salmon, 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.  

  • Nordic has no exit plan.  Nordic representatives have said that their proposed factory has a 30-year economic life.  NAF has dismissed the need for a closure plan to remove concrete and restore or reuse the land at the end of their tenure.  It declined to entertain the setting of a performance bond to protect Belfast (and Northport) if the experiment fails.  

  • An unproven production process, RAS carries its own risks.  The largest RAS facility right now is Atlantic Sapphire’s operation in Florida.  It is also a Norwegian enterprise.  Just last year Atlantic Sapphire CEO and Chairman, Johan E. Andreassen was quoted as saying: “disease outbreaks, algae outbreaks, parasites and toxins are common problems in farming.  While land plants have obstacles to stop most of these problems, there is no absolute guarantee.”  Do we want to be the site of a giant science experiment?   

  • It’s hard to drive safely when you can't see the road ahead.  Nordic’s facility would definitely be “leading edge.”  Unfortunately, our regulatory agencies are not fully prepared, staffed, or funded to accurately evaluate all the risks ahead, establish all the limits needed, monitor operations effectively, and generally hold Nordic fully responsible for what may come.  Let’s not put the cart before the horse.  Let’s remember, it’s “Measure twice; cut once.” 


P.O. Box 113 Belfast Maine  04915


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