The First Farmed Chesapeake Salmon Versus the Last of its Sturgeon

Could the Maryland’s first farmed salmon be a threat to the last of its sturgeon?

Lovers of the sturgeon, a species as old as dinosaurs that was once thought to have disappeared from the Chesapeake Bay, worry its fate could hinge on what happens with a massive salmon farm planned on the banks of a pristine Eastern Shore creek.

Environmentalists and scientists are raising fears that a facility Norwegian company AquaCon plans to build in Federalsburg could inundate the shallow Marshyhope Creek with surges of cold water that could make it inhospitable for a population of Atlantic sturgeon that research has shown returns year after year to spawn in its shallow waters with a gravelly bottom. The creek, along with the Nanticoke River it feeds, is believed to be Maryland’s only sturgeon breeding ground.

For its part, AquaCon says it will bring hundreds of jobs to a community that, like many others on the Eastern Shore, is at least a generation or two removed from anything resembling a booming economy. And it says its aquaculture technology is the future: The type of salmon farm AquaCon is planning, a $300 million indoor facility capable of raising 15,000 tons of salmon a year using recirculated water, is considered a more sustainable alternative to the use of open-water net pens.

What’s best for both fish species, and for Maryland, is now at the center of a debate the state has never seen.

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