Supporting Coastal Aquaculture Development

Promoting sustainable and resilient small-scale aquaculture businesses in Maine

Shellfish aquaculture is growing rapidly. In Maine, limited purpose aquaculture (LPA) licenses are relatively easy to attain, and this attracts more people to enter aquaculture businesses. Yet, these farms are struggling to generate revenue and to failing to scale-up their businesses to commercial scale operations. This proposed project aims to support economic sustainability and resilience of small-scale aquaculture businesses through improved understanding of environmental and market risks as well as by identifying barriers and opportunities for social learning and shared capital investments.

Project Goals:

  • Identify and estimate economic impacts of environmental shocks (e.g., harmful algal blooms) and economic shocks (e.g., COVID-19).
  • Build collective resilience by identifying barriers and opportunities for social learning.
  • Improve understanding of behavioral characteristics (risk and pro-social preferences) of small-scale aquaculture businesses.
  • Explore and understand demand for shared capital development.
  • Generate and disseminate policy recommendations, peer review, and field publications to appropriate stakeholder audiences.

As shellfish aquaculture continues to grow rapidly in Maine, farms are struggling to generate revenue and scale their businesses to commerical-scale levels. These startup farms are often owned by those who are new to the industry, often lacking essential knowledge and resources to run a successful aquaculture business. Shellfish aquaculture businesses are vulnerable to environmental and economic risks, which are exacerbated by the growing influence of climate change. Farms’ abilities to respond to these risks will depend on their financial and technical resources, making startup farms particularly risk vulnerable.

This project's principal investigators will consist of two economists, one ecologist, and one outreach specialist who will conduct qualitative and quantitative assessments and compare risk exposure, sensitivity, and coping strategies between startup and commercial lease farms. The PIs will work with industry and regulatory stakeholders to implement scientific research findings through community practice development, a concept that sparks innovation and adaptive capacity by promoting knowledge exchange and the sharing of best practices between stakeholders. This project aims to facilitate social learnings among the farms to build collective resilience.

In Massachusetts and Maine, shellfish and marine algae aquaculture offers critical income opportunities for coastal communities suffering from the decline of wild capture fisheries. Most shellfish and algae aquaculture producers in these states are small-scale, and while these producers bring innovation and energy to the sector, they also have limited financial and human capital which makes them particularly vulnerable to environmental (e.g., harmful algal blooms) and market shocks (e.g., COVID-19). These businesses could mitigate risks and vulnerabilities by investing in shared capital across different operations. Despite this opportunity, small aquaculture businesses face significant barriers to sharing capital.

The long-term goal of this project is to increase the profitability of small-scale commercial shellfish and marine algae aquaculture producers in New England. This project will increase farm profitability by identifying the conditions under which aquaculture businesses are willing to invest in shared physical and knowledge capital to improve profitability, and provide policy recommendations that foster a supportive business environment for capital sharing

Project Team

Read More

  • Collaborations Fuel Aquaculture Progress

    Collaborations Fuel Aquaculture Progress

    With support from a wide network of collaborators, our Aquaculture team advanced three important projects this year, including a workforce development strategy, an entrepreneur development …


  • Advancing Aquaculture: Our Role in an Emerging Industry

    Advancing Aquaculture: Our Role in an Emerging Industry

    In recent years, GMRI has begun a new aquaculture program, focused on growing this emerging industry in the Gulf of Maine. Below, President & CEO …


  • Blue Mussels, Golden Opportunity

    Blue Mussels, Golden Opportunity

    Blue mussels from Maine are both a special part of the ecosystem and an iconic seafood dish. People from here and away have enjoyed them …


  • Aquaculture Impact

    Aquaculture Impact

    As part of our new strategic plan, aquaculture has emerged as an opportunity for us to accelerate the growth of a diverse seafood economy. Our …