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EPA Issues Aquaculture Permit for Maine Fish Farm

Release Date: 02/21/2002
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, EPA Press Office (617) 918-1013

BOSTON – The United State Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it has granted a water quality permit to a Maine net pen fish farm to operate in Blue Hill Bay. It is the first comprehensive net pen aquaculture permit of its kind in the nation and will help protect an important natural resource.

Developed in conjunction with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Department of Marine Resources with the goal of protecting the environment and the endangered wild Atlantic salmon, the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit granted to Acadia Aquaculture incorporates innovative monitoring and limits, assuring protection of the both the water column and the sea floor.

"This is the most stringent, comprehensive and protective permit that has been issued in the nation," said Robert W. Varney, head of EPA's New England office. "It will allow Acadia Aquaculture the chance to do business in an environmentally responsible way while ensuring the protection of water quality and wildlife in the bay."

Said Mary Colligan, assistant regional administrator of the protected resources division at the National Marine Fisheries Service in New England: "In issuing this permit as conditioned, EPA has charted a course that allows the aquaculture industry to operate in an environmentally sustainable manner. The Acadia Aquaculture NPDES permit provides an excellent foundation for the general permit being drafted by the Maine DEP for existing and new aquaculture facilities in Maine."

EPA's permit includes numerous conditions and standards which will:

    • limit the total annual amount of fish feed that may be used at the site unless studies are completed to show that higher levels of nutrient addition can safely be allowed. The permit would have to be formally modified with opportunity for public comment before allowing a higher feed level;
    • require bottom monitoring with enforceable limits on conditions under and around the pens;
    • require frequent water column monitoring with specific dissolved oxygen limits at the pen site;
    • limit the use of fish medications;
    • incorporate U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service recommendations for wild Atlantic salmon protection.
Acadia Aquaculture applied to EPA for a NPDES permit in 2000, shortly before the agency delegated the permit program to the state of Maine. The state is presently drafting a general permit for aquaculture that will cover the more than existing 40 aquaculture sites as well as potential new ones and generally contains requirements comparable to EPA's Acadia Aquaculture permit.

In addition, several aquaculture bills have been proposed or filed in the state legislature recently including revising the state's aquaculture lease laws and placing moratoriums on new leases. Sponsors of new legislation include the Conservation Law Foundation, Friends of Blue Hill Bay, East Penobscot Bay Environmental Alliance.