From Humboldt Baykeeper:

The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District will meet in closed session today at 12:30 pm to consider a $20,000, 1-year lease agreement for its former pulp mill site in Samoa, potentially giving Nordic AquaFarms/ California Marine Investments, LLC site control while it develops plans and pursues permits for a land-based fish farm. A signing ceremony is scheduled immediately following the public hearing at 1:30 pm. The meeting will be held at the Woodley Island Marina Meeting Room, 601 Startare Drive in Eureka.

Humboldt Baykeeper and other local environmental organizations recently met with Nordic AquaFarms. The company proposes to build a facility that would use a mixture of fresh and salt water to raise 33,000 tons of steelhead or Pacific salmon, discharging 7.7 million gallons of effluent daily through the existing ocean outfall, which extends 1½-miles offshore. Remodeling the former pulp mill would also include removing the smokestack and other unused structures at the site along with other improvements.

In addition to committing to raising locally native species – no Atlantic salmon, for example – company representatives have promised to stay away from genetically engineered (GMO) fish and growth hormones. They have also said that they plan to use fish feed with less than 10 percent fish content to minimize consumer health concerns related to PCBs, dioxins, and mercury exposure. Minimizing the fish content in the feed is also essential for preventing harm to wild forage fish stocks, which are being overharvested all over the world.

Other than these verbal commitments, Nordic AquaFarms’ proposal is in the beginning stages, with few concrete details available at this time. Numerous permits and public review processes will be required by various state and local agencies.

The project appears to be highly speculative so far, since it would be far larger than the company’s “Sashimi Royal” facility in Denmark, which produced 1,200 metric tons of yellowtail mackerel in 2017. Besides questions related to the sheer size of the operation, many concerns will need to be addressed as this proposal moves forward, including:

  • Confirming fish species that would be raised and the source of fish stock.
  • Verifying ingredients and sustainability of the fish feed.
  • Researching and monitoring potential legacy contamination associated with ground disturbance during demolition and construction.
  • Assessing risks of disease, parasites, and any chemicals used to treat them that could affect the farmed fish and effluent discharge.
  • Water quality impacts related to effluent concentrations and volumes to be discharged into the ocean.

Humboldt Baykeeper is in contact with Friends of Penobscot Bay, a Waterkeeper affiliate group that is opposed to Nordic AquaFarms’ proposal in Belfast, Maine, which has been in process for the past year. Reviewing the company’s permit applications for the Maine proposal has given us a helpful preview of their proposed operations. We will continue to research and review Nordic AquaFarms’ proposal, and will keep our members and the community informed of opportunities for input.

Humboldt Baykeeper works to safeguard our coastal resources for the health, enjoyment, and economic strength of the Humboldt Bay community, and is a member of the California Coastkeeper Alliance and the international Waterkeeper Alliance.