Nordic announces new leadership amid Heim, Naess departure

PORTLAND — Nordic Aquafarms announced on July 5 that Chief Financial Officer Brenda Chandler will act as interim chief executive officer in the US after founder Erik Heim and spokesperson Marianne Naess departed the company. There is little information about the reason for the married couple’s departure.

The change in leadership took place over the previous weekend, according to a July 5 press release. Chandler will divide her time between Maine and California, where the company is in the process of obtaining permits for a facility in Humboldt County.

Current company leadership of the proposed California and Maine facilities will remain unchanged, according to the press release.

Chandler is from Maine with ties to Belfast and Jonesport, according to the press release. She has been with the company since March 2019.

“This is an exciting time in our industry,” Chandler said in the press release. “I am honored to have been chosen to lead the company and I look forward to working alongside the good people in Belfast and Humboldt to develop projects their communities can be proud of.”

Nordic’s US team remains committed to a bicoastal presence in the country’s seafood market, Ed Cotter, senior vice president of engineering, said in a July 3 email. “As far as Belfast, the team remains the same, as does our work with local city leaders and community organizations,” he said.

Nordic has all its major local, state and federal permits for the Belfast project but is still in the project planning stage seeking detailed design and building permits, according to the press release. The company is still pursuing permits for its California facility.

Friends of Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area, a group opposing the proposed Belfast fish farm, issued a press release July 3 with a statement from group President Sid Block stating that he is not reassured by the departures and he will only be reassured when the company ends its activities in Maine. The group remains committed to stopping the facility from being built.

Nordic’s press release did not detail why Heim and Naess left, but Heim wrote on LinkedIn that he is taking the summer off. He was president of the US company from 2018 until July of this year, according to his LinkedIn profile. He founded the company eight years ago in his Norway living room, he said.

He called the permitting process for the proposed Belfast facility challenging, but the next steps for building the facility are underway. He said for the past three years Naess worked on creating “a strong foundation for larger scale aquaculture in California.”

“I wish our staff in the US all the best with the journey going forward,” he said. “I am confident that we are only in early beginnings as far as the potential for aquaculture in the US”

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