State Settles Salmon Aquaculture Antitrust Suit

December 22, 2005

The Office of the Attorney General announced today that the state has settled an antitrust suit challenging the acquisition of a number of salmon aquaculture lease sites in Washington and Hancock Counties by Cooke Aquaculture Inc. Cooke plans to acquire the sites from Stolt Sea Farms, Inc. The acquisition would have placed Cooke in a virtual monopoly position, controlling most of the lease sites in the State suitable for raising salmon. The settlement, embodied in a court ordered consent decree, requires Cooke to surrender its leasehold interest in four specified aquaculture sites to the Department of Marine Resources, as a means of bringing the company into compliance with a statutory acreage limit as well as antitrust laws. In addition, Cooke is required to divest or sell its interest in two significant salmon aquaculture sites in Cobscook Bay, known as Prince Cove and Rodger's Island, within six months.

Salmon aquaculture is the fastest growing food production industry in the world. In Maine and neighboring New Brunswick, the industry has experienced a series of shocks in recent years as a result of disease outbreaks, worldwide competition and environmental and political controversy. A number of companies have sold their assets in Maine, and there has been a trend toward consolidation and vertical integration. "We wish Cooke well," said Assistant Attorney General Francis Ackerman, who handled the case. "If they can expand production sufficiently, they have assured us they will reopen the Machiasport processing plant, a facility essential to the future of the industry in Maine. At the same time, we hope to encourage the emergence of new players in the industry. Monopoly is never healthy, and that is why we have antitrust laws." The Attorney General praised employees of the Department of Marine Resources for their work on the case and contribution to the settlement.

Jessica Maurer, Attorney General's Office, 207-626-8515