Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 17, 2022 and Island Ad-Vantages, November 17, 2022 and The Weekly Packet, November 17, 2022
Maine organizations helping fishermen start aquaculture farms
Aquaculture in Shared Waters cohort gets a tour of the Pemaquid oyster floating upweller system from oyster farmer Smokey McKeen.
A group of organizations in Maine on November 1 opened registration for a training program designed for fishermen to learn how to farm seafood. Maine’s vibrant working waterfront, including aquaculture, builds resilience for generations of Maine’s fishing families, who have long navigated the waters to feed our community, according to a press release.
Hosted by Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Maine Aquaculture Association, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center and Maine Sea Grant, the Aquaculture in Shared Waters program focuses on the cultivation of commercially valuable species including oysters, mussels, scallops and kelp. Students learn from leading industry, regulatory and scientific experts on fundamental topics like site selection, permitting, animal husbandry, equipment, business planning, financing, marketing, community relations and more.
“For the past ten years, the Aquaculture in Shared Waters course has served as a vital tool to help fishermen learn to farm the sea, diversify their income, and pioneer a new industry on Maine’s working waterfront,” said Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association. Since the program began in 2013, over 400 students have completed the course, 30 new aquaculture businesses have been established and 60 have been expanded or retained though economic diversification.
“Having fished in Penobscot Bay and Southeast Alaska for many years, this training course was a great fit for me, and I’m now in the early stages of starting a scallop farm,” said Michael Scott, Isle au Haut. The Shared Waters program received national recognition in 2020 as the recipient of the Superior Outreach Programming Award from the National Sea Grant Program.
The 2023 course will begin on January 3 and will be held on Tuesday evenings from 6-8 p.m. each week for 14 sessions, concluding in early April with optional field trip opportunities in the spring. The course will be offered in person at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast with an option to join virtually. It is free of charge and applications are open to all based in Maine. The 2023 course is made possible with funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, administered through the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Applications will be accepted at aquacultureinsharedwaters.org until December 1.
According to the Maine Aquaculture Association, aquaculture in Maine is among the most diverse sea farming sectors in the nation, producing more than 25 diverse species of finfish, shellfish and sea vegetables, more than any other U.S. state. Maine aquaculture has enjoyed responsible growth over the last 20 years at an average rate of 2 percent. Less than 1 percent of Maine’s coastal waters are used for aquaculture. More than 99 percent of Maine sea farms are family-owned. For more facts about Maine aquaculture, visit maineaqua.org.