GOULDSBORO — American Aquafarms is inviting the public to tune in to the first of its eight-part “Community Conversations” series starting Thursday, Jan. 20. In the introductory video, the Norwegian-backed company’s new American CEO, Keith Decker, paints his vision of Maine as a major food producer and the proposed $250 million Frenchman Bay salmon farm as being at the forefront of sustainable fish farming practices worldwide. As the pandemic persists, company officials see the online series as a way to disseminate information directly about the project and respond to questions from the public.
Archipelago Law, a Portland-based firm specializing in maritime and “Blue” commerce, which earlier this winter took over from Bernstein Shur as American Aquafarms’ Maine legal counsel, developed “Community Conversations.” One of the small firm’s founding partners, Benjamin E. Ford, serves as host in “Show 1” of the series created on the video hosting platform Vimeo. Decker and American Aquafarms’ Project Development Manager Tom Brennan are the only other two participants in the 15-minute segment available at https://vimeo.com/661319868/c983238d00.
With guitar-strumming in the background, “Community Conversations: Show 1” opens in Gouldsboro’s Prospect Harbor village, where American Aquafarms says it is in the process of acquiring the closed Maine Fair Trade seafood-processing complex from the New Bedford, Mass.-based East Coast Seafood Group.
Sweeping aerial shots of Prospect Harbor and its lobster fleet and Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands set the scene for “Show 1.” In the eight segments of the series, Ford says viewers will hear about the different facets and phases of American Aquafarms’ proposed operation that would also encompass two 15-pen sites in Frenchman Bay, where the company would raise 66 million Atlantic salmon annually in Norwegian-built Eco-cages.
In “Show 1,” Ford introduces and interviews Decker, who has worked for more than 30 years in the seafood business. American Aquafarms’ new CEO says he’s spent a lot of time on “the Gulf of Maine trying to restore the groundfish fisheries at least from a harvesting and production capacity perspective.” He also makes a case for the United States to cease importing 90 percent of its seafood and grow its own fish. He notes that five of the top eight species of seafood consumed in the U.S. are farm-raised and imported.
Undoubtedly referring to Atlantic salmon, which is the top fish consumed in the U.S., Decker stresses the fact that Maine and Alaska boast optimum conditions for growing that cold-water fish and the Pine Tree State’s proximity to New England – the top domestic market – makes coastal Maine all the more attractive.
“While this is an opportunity to talk to you, the viewer, about our project, we’re also hoping to hear from you about what questions you have and concerns you’d like to address.”
The series is not a live interactive forum. Instead, viewers may email questions to [email protected]
In the video, acting as host, Ford questions Decker and Brennan about various issues – from lighting to sound – that have arisen since American Aquafarms first pitched its project in the fall of 2020. Among them is the credibility of company co-founder Mikael Roenes, who has a criminal record having served a prison term for securities fraud.
“He paid his debt to society. He went to prison. He repaid all his debts. He has spent the last 20 years rebuilding his career, rebuilding name,” Decker said. “He’s very public about his past background. We are a society of once people have paid their debt to society, we are a forgiving society. Consider him no different than any other investor.”
American Aquafarms’ website has not been relaunched. To access “Community Conversations,” go to https://vimeo.com/661319868/c983238d00.