BAR HARBOR — One of Maine’s largest mussel farms is applying to the Department of Marine Resources for a new aquaculture lease near Googins Ledge in the waters between the northern shore of Mount Desert Island and Lamoine State Park.
In late December, Trenton-based Acadia Aqua Farms filed a preliminary application with DMR for a 20-year lease on a 48-acre site located southwest of the ledge marked by a red nun buoy and the launching ramp in the park. The department has scheduled a scoping session at which Acadia Aqua Farms will introduce its plan for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23, at Mount Desert Island High School.
According to Acadia Aqua Farms’ application, the company currently farms mussels on the sea bottom of five sites totaling 158.45 acres. Two sites are located in Mount Desert Narrows: a 31.5-acre lease site off Old Point in Lamoine and a 40.3-acre site located off Hadley Point, Bar Harbor. Two more sites are in Sorrento — one in Flanders Bay and the other north of Bean Island — with a total of about 37 acres in all.
The company also cultivates two more lease sites with a total area of just under 40 acres located in Mud Cove off Stinson Neck on the eastern side of Deer Isle.
Acadia Aqua Farms also has six Limited Purpose Aquaculture licenses (LPAs) with a total area of 1,600 square feet. Currently, the company is using longlines (suspended in the water below the surface) on two of those LPAs for the experimental collection of wild mussel seed and scallop spat.
While Acadia Aqua Farms has primarily grown its mussels using bottom culture, its preliminary application describes pans to raise up to 1,000 tons of blue mussels annually using a system of large-mesh nets — about 7 inches square — suspended beneath rows of black-colored plastic pipe floating on the surface some 33 feet apart. In all, the “mussel pipe system” would cover an area stretching about 1,900 feet by 1,100 feet, about 2 million square feet in all, surrounded by a mesh predator net.
The company might also use the site to grow up to 10 million sea scallops, 1,000 tons of softshell clams or 1,000 tons of hard-shell clams instead of, or in some combination with, mussels. With a five-year goring cycle, scallops on the site would range in size from tiny seed to market size. Typically, mussels and clams have much shorter growing cycles, typically two years or less for mussels.
Acadia Aqua Farms is owned by Theo and Fiona de Koning of Bar Harbor and their sons, Alex and Max, are both involved in running the operation. In addition to its farm sites, the company also operates a roughly 4,000-square-foot processing facility in Trenton.