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January 26, 2022

Report: $15M investment needed to bolster Maine aquaculture over next decade

3 people with oysters Courtesy / Joseph Conroy III, Maine Aquaculture Association Cranberry Oysters on Great Cranberry Island is part of a diverse aquaculture industry that has potential to grow, according to a report issued this week.

Maine’s aquaculture sector has been steadily growing in recent years, and a new industry report identifies over $15 million in resources that may be needed to continue that growth over the next decade.

The Maine Aquaculture Roadmap 2022-32 was released Tuesday by the Maine Aquaculture Hub, Maine Sea Grant and Maine Aquaculture Association.

The roadmap was developed with feedback from approximately 150 stakeholders representing nearly 100 different organizations and companies operating in Maine’s marine economy.

The plan is based on the premise that sustainable aquaculture has tremendous potential to bolster Maine’s coastal economy by providing good jobs, local food security and diversification opportunities for working waterfront families.

The roadmap outlines four goals:

  • Develop a streamlined licensing and permitting process that balances the rights of an applicant and the public
  • Increase integration and understanding of aquaculture in Maine’s coastal communities
  • Expand and promote the Maine seafood brand
  • Make Maine a leader in triple bottom line sustainable aquaculture: social, economic, environmental

Each goal includes action items that detail suggested organizations to undertake the actions and estimated funds required to accomplish them. 

Together, 23 action items request over $15 million in state funds and require support from 24 full-time employees over the next 10 years.

The framework for aquaculture could affect generations to come, said Fiona de Koning, a shellfish farmer and owner of Acadia Aqua Farms in Bar Harbor.

“Aquaculture is clearly a priority for Maine, and we needed a forward-looking, research-driven plan to responsibly sustain Maine’s marine farming sector,” de Koning said in a news release. “Now we have one that supports Maine’s farm families and the future of the working waterfront.”

Gayle Zydlewski, director of Maine Sea Grant, said the plan focuses on both use and conservation of coastal resources.

“The Roadmap also complements economic development initiatives in the state, giving us one more tool to help collectively prepare for a sustainable future,” said Zydlewski.

Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher added, “As we deal with climate-driven change to wild-caught fisheries, Maine’s aquaculture industry is crucial to the resilience of our coastal economy. There is great opportunity for continued development in this industry, and the Roadmap will ensure that its growth is guided by expertise, insight and ideas from the wide array of stakeholders.”

circles with text
Courtesy / Maine Aquaculture Association
Circles of different sizes represent the number of times a topic arose in focus groups convened to develop the Maine Aquaculture Roadmap 2022-2032.

The report was developed by the Maine Aquaculture Hub, a network of organizations that includes Maine Sea Grant, the Maine Aquaculture Association, the University of Maine Aquaculture Research Institute, the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, and Coastal Enterprises Inc.

The plan is designed to complement the Maine Economic Development Strategy 2020-29; Maine Won’t Wait, A Four-Year Plan for Climate Action; the Seafood Economic Accelerator for Maine (SEAMaine); and other statewide planning initiatives. 

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