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Plans Advance for Land-Based Fish Farm on Maine Coast
07/23/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Plans are moving forward for a third proposed fish farming operation in the Downeast lobstering village of Corea. RAS Corporation, a developer of aquaculture technology, has closed on a new round of financing from Coastal Enterprises Inc. to test the viability of raising black sea bass and California yellowtail though a land-based production system. Company officials say the infrastructure at the former Navy base in Corea makes it a leading candidate for a fish-farming operation, and have secured a purchase option there. A.J. Higgins has more.

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Fish farm 1

An artist's rendering of a proposed land-based fish farming facility in the coastal Maine town of Corea.

As the chairman and chief business officer for the Brunswick-based RAS Corporation, Ed Robinson says his company didn't have to think twice about the potential of basing a fish-farming production facility at the site of the former naval surveillance operations center in Corea. He says it was already zoned by the governing town of Gouldsboro for aquaculture, has a potential work force familiar with marine-related industries and the necessary support infrastructure in place.

"You simply have to look at the whole package here, and Corea would appear to offer a number of opportunities for us," Robinson says.

RAS has purchased an option on a seven-acre parcel and a 40,000-square foot building at the former Navy base that is surrounded by hundreds of acres administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

The facility is already being considered for aquaculture operations by two other firms, Maine Halibut and Palom Aquaculture LLC. Robinson says a final decision on whether to locate in Corea could be made in six to 12 months.

Fish farm 3- black sea bass"Part of that decision will be how the growth studies on the fish proceed in the next few months," Robinson says. "We'll be buying several thousand juveniles in August and putting those in the tanks and starting to grow them - hopefully, that goes as well as it has in the past. The other side of that will be our assessment of the needs for a production building and other potential sites for that."

About 20 miles away in the town of Franklin, Nick Brown works as the director of the University of Maine-based Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research. Brown's been busy preparing for test studies on the black sea bass (right) and California yellowtail (below) -- the two types of fish that RAS wants to raise for New England markets.

Fish farm 2 - California yellowtail"This is a new project for Maine," Brown says. "It's a warmer water species, obviously, and wouldn't grow well in the ocean here. But with land-based re-circulation you can control temperature and help to optimize growth."

Some have likened the taste of black sea bass to orange roughy, while the California yellowtail is a mild-flavored fish highly sought by sushi chefs. Brown says RAS would be prepared to sell the fish to a variety of markets.

"You know their fish could be sold as small as a pound, pound-and-a-half, and as large as maybe eight to 10 pounds," Brown says.

Company officials say that if they move forward with plans for a Corea site, as many as a dozen employees could be hired.

Photos and artist's rendering: Courtesy of Coastal Enterprises Inc.


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