Since last December when the activist group Protect Downeast announced it would appeal the permit granted to Kingfish Maine by the Jonesport Planning Board to build the U.S. subsidiary of The Kingfish Company, the land-based yellowtail farmer’s response has always been confidence, and the latest court decision has proven them right. The Maine Superior Court has denied the last appeal of the opposition to the project and upheld the Maine Environmental Protection Board’s joint permit for the Kingfish Maine project.
A victory for Kingfish Maine
When last December the Roque Island Gardner Homestead Corporation and the Eastern Maine Conservation Initiative – organizations behind the Protect Downeast group – announced the appeal against The Kingfish Company’s Jonesport project, Kingfish Maine Director of Operations Megan Sorby stated: “We respect the permitting process. We are confident the appeals from Roque Island will be denied just as they have been to date, and we will begin the construction process next year.”
Now, after learning that, as they had hoped, the court has ruled in their favor, Sorby has continued with her argument. “The opposition from Roque Island continues to be unsuccessful in its appeals of the Kingfish Maine project. This latest appeal denial is a clear victory for Kingfish Maine and more importantly the residents of Jonesport,” she said.
“Kingfish Maine will bring economic development to the Downeast region and that cannot be controlled by Roque Island. We are excited to celebrate this Superior Court victory with the community of Jonesport,” continued Kingfish Maine Operations Manager.
For his part, Vincent Erenst, CEO of The Kingfish Company, assured that they remain focused on advancing the Kingfish Maine facility and also remarked on the company’s commitment to the city. “This ruling by the Superior Court underscores the continued work of our Maine-based team to the success of this project and Kingfish’s commitment to the Jonesport community which has supported our project from its introduction,” he claimed.
A continued attempt to stop the project
With this latest ruling, the Maine Superior Court has upheld the Maine Board of Environmental Protection’s joint permit for the Kingfish Maine project, granted under the Site Location of Development Act (SLODA) and Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA). That permit was issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in 2021 and ratified, on appeal, by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection in 2022.
This was Roque Island’s second state-level appeal denial, in what the yellowtail production company considers a “continued attempt to stop the project” by the family-owned Roque Archipelago, separate from the site chosen by Kingfish Maine by Chandler Bay.
In its appeal, the petitioners raised issues with what they claimed was the BEP’s “failure to independently assess the project’s impact on wildlife under NRPA.”
However, the ruling states that, “While Petitioners ask the court to vacate the Board’s decision upholding both the NRPA and Site Law permit, Petitioners’ challenge is based on the alleged violations of NRPA, and they mount no meaningful challenge to the lawfulness of the Site Law Permit (SLODA).”
Strengthened arguments for future appeals
This latest ruling is yet another door opening for the Kingfish Maine project and closing for appeals by activists who have fewer and fewer instances to pursue their objetive. “This is the latest decision on the appeal of one of our state permits,” Megan Sorby confirmed to WeAreAquaculture. “With this denial, the opponents have the option to appeal to the Maine Supreme Court, also called the Law Court, but all other state issued permits have no opportunity for appeal.”
The land-based farmer is also pending another appeal filed at the municipal level by the same groups – the Roque Island Gardner Homestead Corporation and Eastern Maine Conservation Initiative – which was previously denied by the town’s Board of Appeals and is now also in Maine Superior Court.
“It is unfortunate that with the municipal appeal, the party to the appeal is not Kingfish but the Town of Jonesport. So not only are they delaying a project the Town voted in favor of, but they now are directly costing its taxpayers,” Kingfish Maine Operations Manager told WeAreAquaculture.
However, if she has always been confident about the court’s decision, she is even more so now. “There is currently a motion which has been filed by the opponents that needs a decision, and at that time, we anticipate the judge will establish a timeline to resolution of the matter,” Sorby continued. “This most recent win only supports our arguments to deny the municipal permit appeal.”
About Kingfish Maine
Kingfish Maine is part of The Kingfish Company, a pioneer and leader in sustainable land-based aquaculture. It currently produces 1,500 tons of high-quality, high-value Dutch Yellowtail at its Kingfish Zeeland facility in the Netherlands but expansion is underway, and capacity will reach 3,500 tons in 2023. In its site in Jonesport, Maine, located near Chandler Bay, the company will deploy the same advanced technology and operational excellence proven in the Netherlands. Once the Jonesport facility is fully operational, it is expected to produce 8500 metric tons of yellowtail.