Nordic Aquafarms, the company planning to build a $400 million fish farm at Humboldt Bay, announced Thursday it has fired its new local project director over a photo that surfaced of him posing with a lion he had shot and killed with a rifle.
Shawn Harriman was terminated just a week after the company announced his hiring as the first on-the-ground exec for the major fish farm operation. Harriman had already moved to Humboldt County for the job.
Nordic exec Marianne Naess announced Harriman’s firing after the Lost Coast Outpost asked the company for comment on the photo, which has surfaced on blogs and Twitter feeds over the past several years.
“We have just been made aware of unfortunate circumstances pertaining to Shawn Harriman, who was recently hired as SVP Projects for Nordic Aquafarms in California,” Naess said in a statement.
“We want our Humboldt County partners and the community to know that we take any concerns regarding our values or stewardship of natural resources very seriously and therefore we had no choice but to terminate our relationship with Shawn,” she added.
The Norwegian recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) company Nordic Aquafarms announced on Nov. 1 that its board of directors has voted to go ahead with the company's plans to build a facility in the US state of California.
Nordic announced in February that it had entered into an exclusive option agreement with the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, in Humboldt County, to lease 30 acres. The new facility, which is to be located in an area known as the Samoa Peninsula, near the Northern California town of Eureka, has been estimated to represent a potential $400 million investment and is expected to ultimately produce as much as 27,000 metric tons of fish annually, while creating 80 jobs in the area.
The company had identified concerns about toxic brownfield problems that have existed on the property since the closure of an industrial pulp mill there, though Naess indicated that further reviews indicate any problems may not be as bad as originally thought.
The type of fish to be produced has not yet been determined, though early speculation has included Atlantic salmon, steelhead trout or both.
Permit applications are expected to be submitted in the summer of 2020.
After Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors voted last month to reject Terra-Gen’s proposal, leaving the company with millions of dollars in sunk costs, 1st District Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn worried aloud the decision would deter similar big projects.
“Too many unknowns,” he said.
Nordic Aquafarms still hopes to build a nearly $400 million land-based fish farm on the Samoa Peninsula. And while Nordic Executive Vice President Marianne Naess declined to speak directly about Terra-Gen’s project, she said her own company knows how to avoid a similar outcome.
“It’s important to show benefits to the community,” Naess said. “The team that we’re employing will actually be living in Eureka. You have to be part of the community and, of course, be a steward of the land.”
Wiyot tribal administrator Michelle Vassel said she hasn’t closely looked into the aquafarm proposal; like many others, she opted to attend Terra-Gen’s public hearing in November instead of Naess’ cross-town meeting the same night. Terra-Gen’s wind project had been planned for the Bear River and Monument ridges, land sacred to the tribe.
That the wind turbines involved so much sunk cost and grief at days-long public hearings was regrettable — and avoidable, Vassel said. All any developer needs to do is take Native American concerns seriously, she said.
“It’s really important to seek out the tribe on the front end of these development phases and work with us as an equal,” Vassel said. “Come to the table at the beginning, rather than superficially checking a box and providing us with information.”
A Norway-based aquaculture company will soon decide whether to pursue a project on Humboldt Bay’s former pulp mill site and its interest has highlighted the economic potential of the Samoa Peninsula.
At its Aug. 3 meeting, Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors was updated on the project and its infrastructure-related challenges. The company, Nordic Aquafarms, entered a lease with the Harbor District, which owns the project site, but now has doubts due to the need to upgrade freshwater delivery infrastructure and the more expensive proposition of removing turbidity.
Economic Development Director Scott Adair came to the meeting with good news – a federal funding source will pay 80 percent of the $3 million cost of improving the delivery infrastructure.
Water infrastructure isn’t the only utility concern on the Samoa Peninsula. Roads, bridges and broadband telecommunications infrastructure also need improvement or development and supervisors discussed forming a multi-jurisdictional Joint Powers Authority to handle it.
The Nordic project represents an initial $400 million investment and the creation of 100 primary and ancillary jobs. The site’s zoning includes aquaculture and the county is keen on promoting new industry.
But a letter of support for the project wasn’t approved without discussion and some debate. The letter is important to Nordic’s board of investors, which will decide on whether or not to go forward with the project on Sept. 15.