Humboldt Baykeeper: Fish Farm Proposed for Former Pulp Mill in Samoa

Humboldt Baykeeper logo

Fish Farm Proposed for Former Pulp Mill in Samoa

In February, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, & Conservation District voted unanimously to approve a $20,000/year, 3-year “Option Period” for Nordic AquaFarms subsidiary California Marine Investments, LLC to secure all the necessary permits, and a 30-year lease agreement with two 10-year options for its former pulp mill site in Samoa, giving Nordic AquaFarms’ subsidiary California Marine Investments, LLC site control while it develops plans and pursues permits for a land-based fish farm. The day after the lease agreement was signed, the Harbor District applied for a U.S. EPA Brownfields grant to assess soil contamination at the site.

Nordic AquaFarms, a Norwegian-based corporation, proposes to build a land-based fish farm at the former pulp mill in Samoa to raise 33,000 tons of steelhead or Pacific salmon. Company representatives say they would use a mixture of fresh and salt water, discharging up to 6 million gallons of treated wastewater per day through the existing ocean outfall, which extends 1½-miles offshore. Refurbishing 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 no 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 a similar 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 will provide 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.


Farewell to Charlie Butterworth

Charlie Butterworth reveling in a sunny day with good company on Humboldt Bay aboard his sailboat, June 2014. Photo: Jennifer Kalt.
Charlie Butterworth reveling in a sunny day with good company on Humboldt Bay aboard his sailboat, June 2014. Photo: Jennifer Kalt.

Long-time Baykeeper champion Charlie (Weasel) Butterworth recently passed away after a brief illness. Charlie has been an over-the-top dedicated Baykeeper supporter and mega-volunteer since the very beginning in 2004—stepping up to fill just about every volunteer role we had, plus some that he invented. He staffed the Old Town office on Fridays for years, faithfully monitored his neighborhood waterways, tabled at fairs and festivals, poured wine at Arts Alive (and also donated most of it every month!), and spent an afternoon every November making us all laugh while we stuffed our annual fund appeal envelopes. He was a generous donor and one of our most outspoken advocates. I am particularly grateful for his steadfast support through some difficult times for the organization, as well as good times debating local politics, whether at his dinner parties, rolling bocce balls, or out on the town. His distinctive laugh will be dearly missed at Arcata Farmer’s Markets, Chamber mixers, barn dances…and pretty much every community social gathering around these parts.

Fare thee well, old friend.


For more Baykeeper news and info,
like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter
@HumBaykeeper, and sign up for e-newsletters
by emailing us at