American Aquafarms hires new CEO



Keith Decker
PHOTO COURTESY OF AMERICAN AQUAFARMS

GOULDSBORO — American Aquafarms has named New Bedford, Mass.-based Blue Harvest Fisheries’ most recent CEO, Keith Decker, as its new top executive. 

Decker is credited with building that enterprise into New England’s largest groundfish harvest and processing company. His tenure also included the doubling of the company’s scallop and groundfish fleet to 24 draggers and trawlers through the 2020 acquisition of vessels and fishing permits from then imprisoned seafood tycoon Carlos Rafael. Nicknamed the “Codfather,” Rafael was convicted of conspiracy, tax evasion and falsifying fish quotas. 

Before joining Blue Harvest Fisheries in 2018, Decker was the CEO of Nova Scotia’s High Liner Foods (USA) Inc. In a five-year period, High Liner Foods more than tripled its revenue from $256 million in 2007 to $943 million in 2012, becoming one of North America’s biggest seafood companies. High Liner Foods processes and markets value-added frozen seafood, according to Steven Hedlund of SeafoodSource Journal. 

In a press release Oct. 27, American Aquafarms’ founder and former CEO Mikael Roenes noted that Decker “has the right resume, experience and New England know-how to move American Aquafarms into the next generation of Maine’s maritime traditions.” 

Decker will continue to serve as Blue Harvest Fisheries’ CEO until his successor is named. In his LinkedIn profile, Decker is identified as a board member and investor in the Norwegian company West Coast Salmon since 2020. West Coast Salmon aims to build and run an industrial-scale, land-based Atlantic salmon farm near Reno, Nev. 

“I’m confident that Keith will collaborate with industry experts while recruiting the workforce we need to fill the year-round, high-quality jobs we’re creating,” Roenes said. 

Decker will lead the Norwegian-backed company in its quest to raise 66 million pounds of Atlantic salmon annually in Frenchman Bay and make its base in Gouldsboro’s closed Maine Fair Trade seafood processing plant. 

“By leveraging the state’s deep-water assets with next generation, eco-friendly technology to sustainably produce food close to its market, we have the opportunity to set a new standard in the United States,” Decker is quoted as saying in the release. “On just 20 acres of active sea farm, we can produce up to 66,000,000 pounds of healthy fish per year without impacting the seabed. This is a game-changer for how North American seafood is produced and transported along the entire Eastern Seaboard. 

“I’m eager to get to work and confident that Maine is the ideal location to lead the way in what’s next for our waterfront industries.” 

A few days before his hiring was announced, Decker introduced himself in a letter to Hancock County residents. To engage with and answer the public’s questions, American Aquafarms’ new CEO say the company plans to hold regular “Community Conversations” online, rather than in person, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Likening the format to Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah’s briefings, Decker said each session will address a different topic and the intent is to provide “honest and accurate” information about the proposed venture. A start date was not mentioned.  

 

Letitia Baldwin

Letitia Baldwin

Arts Editor at The Ellsworth American
In addition to editing the Arts & Leisure section, Letitia edits special sections including Out & About, Overview, Health Quarterly, Your Maine Home, House & Garden and Get Ready for Winter. She comes from Chicago, Ill, but has deep family ties to the Cranberry Isles. [email protected]
Letitia Baldwin

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