What if fish farm pulls plug?

Company closes but fate of fish remains in doubt
GREENPORT–An officer from the state Department of Environmental Conservation Police inspected Local Ocean Monday afternoon, August 12. The factory fish farm recently laid off most of its employees but the fish tanks filled with fish remain at the site.

Environmental Conservation Police Officer Jeff Cox told newsman and photojournalist Lance Wheeler Monday that his visit was a follow up to a similar visit to the plant on Route 9 south of Hudson last Friday. He said that the fish, thousands of them, had been fed and oxygen has been provided to the water tanks where the fish are raised. Officer Cox said he wants an “exit” plan if the business is unable financially to continue to keep the fish alive.
Greenport Town Supervisor John Porreca, who was at the site with Officer Cox Monday, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Ken Flood, county director of planning and economic development, said this week that he had been trying to contact the owner of the aquaculture business but said the owner has been “elusive.” A call to the company’s New York City headquarters listed on the Local Ocean website, was met with only recorded messages.

Mr. Flood said that that the county Industrial Development Agency had ended the its agreement with Local Ocean for payments in lieu of taxes and had put the factory building back on the tax rolls. The company was apparently not able to meet its mortgage payments and the building was reclaimed by its owner on Long Island. The building is scheduled to be auctioned by the county August 20, with the county hoping to recover its back taxes.

One of the problems faced by the company was a successful suit by a firm in Israel that claimed that Local Ocean was using the Israeli company’s patent for raising fish. But the firm may have made other errors in terms of the fish it chose to raise in its saltwater tanks, according to one source familiar with the case.

The Times Union newspaper in Albany reported Wednesday that Local Ocean was deeply in debt to Mexican investors.
Ancram town Supervisor Art Bassin, a member of the financial review committee created by the county Board of Supervisors, said this week that the patent dispute had been an unexpected event and something county officials could not have predicted.

At least 19 people have lost their jobs as a result of the company’s financial problems. A skeleton staff remains to feed and otherwise care for the fish.

Mr. Flood said the county Economic Development Corporation, which he also heads, was disheartened by this latest turn of events. He said the county is trying to find the people who were laid off to offer them help finding new employment.

To contact Parry Teasdale email .

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