When Diane Braybrook started to have meetings with Belfast community members to discuss benefits of Nordic Aquafarm’s proposed land-based fish farm, she quickly realized there were many people in support of the corporate entity.

Braybrook thought the opposition was too insistent that it represented the majority of Belfast-area residents. So, her group spoke to the City Council on July 2 to raise awareness of the large number of citizens who support Nordic.

“In the beginning, the opposition were saying they represent all of Belfast, and we were saying we wanted to make sure that there was the other side to it as well,” Braybrook said.

After seeing what she believed to be false information being circulated through social media by opposition groups, she started having informal meetings that soon led to formation of an organization: The Fish Are Okay! When members tried to correct false information on the Facebook pages of Nordic opponents, they would be insulted or blocked, according to Braybrook.

Online support for the new organization grew quickly, with 514 people "liking" The Fish Are Okay!’s Facebook page, compared to 393 people who "like" the opposing Local Citizens for SMART Growth: Salmon Farm page.

Braybrook notes factors such as transparency are why The Fish Are Okay! supports Nordic. The organization believes the company has held plenty of public sessions to address concerns and offer opportunities to learn about the business, she said, adding all of the permitting paperwork is on the city website and people at the Nordic office on High Street are willing to talk with anyone who walks through the door.

“They have said repeatedly to anyone to come in anytime to speak to them and they will, and we have found that to be really, really true,” Braybrook said. “Anytime one of us goes in there, somebody is there and they don’t rush you. They’re willing to talk to you.”

The Fish Are Okay! will continue its support of Nordic as long as all applications clear the state Department of Environmental Protection’s review, she said.

Upstream Watch, another opposition group, has said it is ready to take legal steps to prevent the project and there is an existing lawsuit against the city that takes issue with zoning changes approved by the council that made it possible for Nordic to proceed with its applications.

“How we feel is that that will be decided by the judge,” Braybrook said. “That (lawsuit) is not written in stone. The lawyers that came up with that, feel that, you know, this is it, they found it and they’re going to get rid of Nordic with this. Nordic’s lawyers looked at it and found that was not so.”

Braybrook hopes the legal wrangling won’t affect construction of the complex. She said she thinks it’s a wonderful opportunity to grow the city’s economy using the most prominent eco-friendly technology for the future of sustainability in the face of climate change.

“This is new technology, this is the way things are going,” Braybrook said. “This is environmentally sound. It’s going to take the pressure off the oceans. This is state-of-the-art technology, but also the economic bonus to this area, not only Belfast but Waldo County and beyond. It’s going to be tremendous.”

The Fish Are Okay! argues that Nordic isn’t a huge corporation and supporting it doesn’t mean the group is against small business growth, like the opposition suggests. Braybrook hopes Nordic will add to Belfast’s mission to be a sustainable city while helping grow the local economy.

“That’s the other thing, it’s like an either/or thing,” Braybrook said. “Well if you support Nordic, you must hate small business and all corporations are bad. And we start with this either/or, black and white mentality, it gets you nowhere. Belfast is thriving, it will continue to thrive and Nordic, I think, will be a plus, an asset.”

The group is organizing a public impact forum with speakers to talk about the economic benefits of having Nordic Aquafarms in Belfast on Tuesday, July 30, at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center at 5:30 p.m.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the meeting date to July 30.


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