Nordic Aquafarms founder and president Erik Heim and his wife, Executive Vice President/Commercial Director Marianne Naess, have unexpectedly parted ways with the Norway-based company.
The news, first reported by seafood industry publication Undercurrent News, comes just days after the release of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for a massive land-based fish farm on the Samoa Peninsula. The company has a similar facility in the works in Belfast, Maine, and the sudden departure of Heim and Naess appears to have caused surprise on both coasts.
But according to Lynette Mullen, an independent consultant who’s been working as community liaison for Nordic’s California-based subsidiary, the local development will not be affected by their separation from the company.
“While the departure of Marianne and Erik definitely represent a change at Nordic Aquafarms, the project has not changed and agreements made regarding additional discharge monitoring, renewable and non-carbon energy use, commuting incentives and more are baked into the project,” Mullen said in an emailed statement. “The rest of the Nordic team also remains in place, so technical know-how and experience for the project continues. As the County Planning Department has always emphasized, they permit projects, not people.”
Heim and Naess have been the faces of Nordic’s Humboldt County project since it was first announced, nearly three and a half years ago. Heim presented PowerPoint presentations before the Harbor District, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and in a series of public forums while Naess regularly met with local stakeholders, reporters and members of the public. Last summer she led a series of tours of the former pulp mill property, where Nordic plans to build its recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility.
Reached for comment over the holiday weekend, Naess emailed a statement to the Outpost, saying, “There is never a perfect time to leave a company, but this was the right time for Erik and me.”
Contacted via LinkedIn, Heim deferred to his wife, whose statement continued, though it did not explain the reason for their departure nor whether it was their decision to leave:
I am very proud of the work we have done in Humboldt over the past 3.5 years, and a solid foundation is laid for Nordic to complete the job. I have spent a considerable time in Humboldt and I have come to really appreciate the community and the people in Humboldt, and I will miss all of you.
I also want to thank everyone who has engaged with us along the way and a special thanks to the environmental groups who have fought hard to protect the environment and the community. I also want to thank Humboldt County, and Director Ford and his team for the excellent job they have done as lead agency for the CEQA process.
Erik and I will continue to work within the seafood/aquaculture industry in the future, but it is too early to disclose our plans yet.
Heim, for his part, published a post on LinkedIn under the title “MOVING ON,” in which he says that he and his wife have ended their time with Nordic and are now on vacation.
“It has been eight years since I founded the beginning of Nordic Aquafarms in our living room in Norway – a company to become one of the most profiled RAS companies in the world … ,” the post reads. “It has been an incredible journey leading to many talented people working together in Europe and the US to further the RAS agenda. And that journey will continue. I wish the company and our staff in the US all the best with the journey going forward.”
Maine-based Chief Financial Officer Brenda Chandler said in an email that the company will issue a press release after the Fourth of July holiday with further information. Asked a follow-up about why Heim and Naess parted ways with the company so suddenly and unexpectedly, and whether they quit or were fired, Chandler responded, “As I hope you and your readers will understand, unfortunately, like most companies, Nordic maintains a strict confidentiality policy regarding any employee personnel matters.”
Mullen said new leadership will be announced tomorrow. The project on the Samoa Peninsula is scheduled to come before the Humboldt County Planning Commission on July 28.