Editor's note: The Republican Journal does not fact-check opinion columns. This column reflects the writer's opinion and personal research.

As I mentioned in my last reply to one of Lawrence Reichard's columns this summer, Nordic Aquafarms welcomes dialogue with both supporters and opponents. Such dialogue though, must be based on facts and differences in opinions, not misrepresentation of facts, innuendo and defamation.

We fully respect that we disagree about whether Nordic Aquafarms should build its planned land-based facility in Belfast, but we encourage the exchange of opinions to be reasonable, fact-based and respectful.

We have generally not found it relevant to comment most of Lawrence's op-eds, because they are based on flawed interpretations, incomplete information and lack of knowledge of what he is writing about — or worse — he purposely misrepresents the information. In his last op-ed though, there are several grave accusations that are so misleading that we want to set the record right for the public in Belfast.

False accusation of disease at our Danish facilities

Lawrence claims that our tanks in Denmark producing Yellowtail Kingfish are full of disease. This is a false and serious accusation. We have never had disease outbreaks in either of our Danish facilities, something our veterinary's affidavit, which will be attached in upcoming permit applications, will document.

In the first weeks after hatching only a small percentage of Yellowtail fish larvae survive as healthy fish fry — just as in nature. This is common in all marine fish hatcheries and has nothing to do with disease. These tiny larvae are highly sensitive to a range of naturally occurring bacteria and environmental conditions. The small larvae tanks are therefore cleaned after every three-week batch cycle to prevent biofilm build-up in the tanks. Such cleaning procedures are not necessary for larger fish fry and larger fish, or for our salmon grow-out production.

His claim is demonstrably false.

Use of Virkon S to clean the fish tanks

Lawrence is also mixing up the uses and purposes of cleaners and disinfectants. Diluted Virkon S, the cleaner he referred to in his op-ed, is not used for cleaning tanks. It is used as disinfectant for biosecurity purposes at the farm at the entrances to the facility to ensure that bacteria are not entering the facility from outside sources. Vikron is an approved disinfectant that is used by most of the industry.

A high level of biosecurity in the facility is ensured by having anyone entering the facility wear indoor shoes and walk through these footbaths. This is used in almost every single fish farm in the world. Maximus also requires all employees to wear protective wear, also to ensure that outside bacteria are not introduced in the clean production areas. Again, Lawrence is getting his facts wrong.

Illegal work conditions for young employees

Lawrence is also painting a dramatic story of a 14-year old boy who has been subjected to illegal work conditions. First of all, it is common for teenagers to work part-time from the age of 13 on in Denmark, and this is clearly regulated in The Danish Labor Law and facility protocols. Maximus provides a few part-time jobs to teenagers looking for work in a rural area with a limited employment market.

Young employees usually perform simple tasks under adult supervision. Cleaning of the tanks is one of the tasks performed by young employees and it is considered safe. The picture below shows what these small tanks look like.

Lawrence also claims that Danish authorities are investigating our Danish subsidiary. Neither the board nor our Danish director has heard anything from the Danish authorities since Lawrence´s visit a few weeks back. Our Danish facilities have a “green smiley face” status from the Danish authorities, meaning we are in full compliance with the law. The facilities are also subject to audits from the authorities.

These are just a few examples of false and misleading accusations from Lawrence. He claims to be an experienced journalist. Good journalists care about getting to the truth, and he has clearly demonstrated that he does not care about the truth — all he cares about is crafting stories that fit his agenda as a member of a small group that is opposing our plans in Belfast.

We meet many people every day in Waldo County and it is clear to us that very few people are aligned with Lawrence’s narrow and negative agenda. The vast majority of people in the area are excited about our plans to build an environmentally responsible, industry-leading aquaculture facility in Belfast. They recognize that the good jobs, new tax revenue and increased economic activity our project will bring benefit everyone and will help to make Belfast and Maine a world leader in land-based aquaculture.

Finally, I couldn’t help must notice that the Journal added this disclaimer to Lawrence’s column: Information contained in his column could not be independently verified by The Republican Journal.

Since Lawrence is an avowed and vocal opponent of Nordic Aquafarms who has dedicated nearly every one of his columns over the last few months to criticizing us, perhaps in the future your readers would be better served if you indeed verified what he is saying before you print it.

Marianne Naess is director of operations for Nordic Aquafarms Inc.

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