Advancing Aquaculture: Our Role in an Emerging Industry

Perspectives | Dec 31, 2016

by Don Perkins

Former CEO & Founder

In recent years, GMRI has begun a new aquaculture program, focused on growing this emerging industry in the Gulf of Maine. Below, President & CEO Don Perkins describes our goals, as well as some recent progress:

Three fishermen in orange waders stand on a white boat with a line of large blue bins aboard as they drift on gray waters between rows of black buoys.

As global population has grown, demand for premium quality, local seafood has exceeded what we can harvest from the wild. To meet this demand, aquaculture has emerged to provide food for our dinner tables, jobs for our coastal communities, and opportunities for our kids and grandkids to continue working on the water.

In the Gulf of Maine, aquaculture can be a safe, responsible, and sustainable way to grow our marine economy. As wild fisheries change with a warming ocean, we can bolster Maine’s coastal communities by supporting a sustainable aquaculture industry that complements traditional fisheries.

Our Goals

A wide network of NGOs, trade groups, and others are supporting aquaculture in our state through research, education, and training. At GMRI, our primary role in growing this industry will be to provide system-level business development support — from the farmers to the financiers, and everyone in between.

Our goal is to support aspiring farmers entering the industry, help farmers grow their businesses responsibly, help the business community understand the aquaculture investment opportunity, and help diversify and grow the industry as a whole. A healthy and robust aquaculture industry needs to include a variety of businesses, large and small, supporting each other with diverse knowledge, products, and services.

Over time, we will also support the success of aquaculture with targeted research, particularly related to understanding the impact of climate change, and education initiatives.

Recent Progress

To achieve scalable growth, we needed to first ask how much new production this industry could absorb. Our first step in this endeavor was to understand the current and potential value of Maine’s aquaculture industry.

With that in mind, we convened collaborators from throughout the industry to discuss the opportunity at hand. We’re working with these active farmers, leading consultants, trade groups and others to better understand the market challenges and opportunities.

In October, we published important findings which resulted from this collaboration. Our Maine Farmed Shellfish Market Analysis confirms a huge opportunity to grow farmed oyster, mussel, and scallop sectors at a scope and scale that fits with Maine’s working waterfront culture.

With proof of this opportunity, we can now concentrate on seizing it. This will be our focus in the coming months and years, and I look forward to sharing our progress with you.

Mook Sea Farm is an oyster farm founded in 1985 on the Damariscotta River in Midcoast Maine. There, owner and operator Bill Mook unites a passion for science and discovery with a fierce entrepreneurial streak.

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