Industry News

Read all about the exciting things happening in Maine’s innovative and diverse aquaculture sector. From land to sea, fin fish to shellfish and everything in between – check out industry news below and learn how Maine seafood producers are building a sustainable, resilient local food system with aquaculture.

A MAINE KELP BUSINESS ON GLOBAL STAGE AT WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM IN DAVOS

Mainebiz, 6/2/22 – “The CEO of a Biddeford kelp processing company had some lessons to share with international business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, held May 22-26 in Davos, Switzerland. In a session on the “blue economy,” Briana Warner discussed how Atlantic Sea Farms’ business model and products are driving positive change for people and the planet in the face of climate change. Warner, a 2020 Mainebiz Next list honoree, was invited as one of 20 innovators from around the world to be part of the forum’s UpLink Top Innovator program. “Davos has long been seen as an annual forum where positive and innovative change can be made, but also as a place where the international elite and the world’s largest companies are overrepresented in influencing the global economy in their direction,” she said.”

Brother Shucker serves cold fresh oysters from a food truck

Pen Bay Pilot, 6/2/22 – “Brother Shucker is a new fixture in Rockport and beyond the cheeky name, the food truck offers something no other food truck in the Midcoast has ever offered: fresh, raw oysters shucked on site. Zak Kuras moved to Maine in 2016 and started oyster farming on the Damariscotta River, first with Glidden Point Oyster Farm in Edgecomb. After that,  he managed Community Shellfish’s Oyster Farm in Bremen. “I decided after that, I’d like to run my own business with my brother, Hudson,” he said—which removes the mystery of where the name “Brother Shucker” came from.”

CASCO BAY MUSSEL FARM DOUBLES PRODUCTION IN TWO YEARS

Mainebiz, 5/24/22 – “A planned expansion helped Bangs Island Mussels, a Casco Bay mussel farm, double production over the past two years, with further growth expected for 2022. The farm, founded in 1999, grows mussels on ropes suspended from rafts above the ocean floor. The product, sold nationally, has been featured in outlets such as Martha Stewart Living and the New York Times. Father-and-son Gary and Matthew Moretti bought the operation in 2010 and began growing kelp, sold to Biddeford food producer Atlantic Sea Farms, alongside the mussels using a system called “integrated multi-trophic aquaculture.”

THESE FARMERS AND RANCHERS TURN TRASH INTO TREASURE

Modern Farmer, 5/23/22 – “Farmers and ranchers are the ultimate innovators, finding all kinds of creative uses for items that would otherwise end up in a landfill—or, sometimes, that already have. “All the rope I use I get at the dump,” says Abby Barrows, a Stonington, Maine-based oyster farmer and marine scientist researcher. Barrows, who, in her work as a marine scientist, focuses on microplastics in the ocean, has reused various materials since buying the oyster farm in 2015. “It’s been my flavor going into it,” says Barrows, who inherited flotation devices for the oyster bags on her farm made of cedar and housing installation from the previous owner of the oyster farm. She also built an oyster tumbler using wood that she and her husband cut and milled themselves and oversized PVC piping in which  they drilled holes.”

STILL AWAITING FINAL PERMITS, KINGFISH MAINE GETS FIRST SHIPMENT OF YELLOWTAIL

Bay News 9, 5/23/22 – “The company hoping to build a large-scale fish farm in Jonesport recently received its first shipment of yellowtail kingfish from the Netherlands, an effort to ramp up production in anticipation of receiving final permits. “When you’re planning a big facility, getting fish ready ahead of time is critical,” said Megan Sorby, operations manager for Kingfish Maine, the American branch of the company owned by Kingfish Zeeland in the Netherlands. As they await permission to build a new facility on 93 acres in Jonesport, the company is leasing space at the University of Maine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin.” 

STUDENTS LEARN SCIENCE OF SCALLOP FISHERY AT HURRICANE ISLAND SCHOOL

News Center Maine, 5/19/22 – “As the spring days edged closer to summer, students at Oceanside High School in Rockland skipped class to search for scallops. On a sunny May school day, sophomore Aiden Weymouth boarded a skiff along with other students to retrieve spat bags—mesh bags designed to trap scallop larvae that floats freely in the ocean—from Penobscot Bay. Students placed nine spat bags in the harbor last fall. Altogether, they lost five bags and one was destroyed, but three bags remained. They spent part of their school day carefully picking baby scallops from the mesh.”

REINVENTING THE EEL

Eater, 5/17/22 – “Many eels appearing on menus are raised in China, where limited regulation means that eel farms can import the fish from illegal or sustainably fished populations, and then grow them using potentially harmful chemicals. So what’s an ethical eel eater to do? In an otherwise unassuming business park in Waldoboro, Maine, one small company may have a solution. On this week’s episode of Gastropod, “Reinventing the Eel,” co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley visit the brand-new industrial facility of American Unagi, the first and only commercial-sized eel farm in North America, where pioneering eel farmer Sara Rademaker is trying to change the way the U.S. buys and eats eel.”

Gov. Mills shucks an oyster following aquaculture roundtableGovernor Mills Highlights Responsible Aquaculture as Opportunity to Create Jobs, Strengthen Economy, and Promote Maine Seafood

Office of Governor Janet T. Mills, 5/17/22 – “During a roundtable with sea farmers from the New Meadows River Shellfish Co-op today, Governor Janet Mills highlighted her Administration’s commitment to responsible aquaculture as an opportunity to strengthen and diversify Maine’s economy, generate good jobs, and provide Maine people with sustainable, locally-farmed seafood. To support Maine’s aquaculture sector, the Governor pointed to millions of dollars made available to Maine sea farmers through the State’s distribution of funding through the CARES Act, the Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, the recently enacted supplemental budget, and the Working Waterfront Access Protection Program.”

MAINE SEAWEED FARMER AIMS TO HELP AQUACULTURE GROW MORE LUCRATIVE OCEAN PLANTS THROUGH NEW METHOD

Bangor Daily News, 4/18/22 – “Sarah Redmond, the owner of Springtide Seaweed in Frenchman Bay, has set out to develop a new method of farming dulse and nori, two high-value and in-demand red seaweeds [. . .] Redmond, who has been in aquaculture for more than a decade and grows other seaweeds on her farm in Frenchman Bay, started this new work in September with the help of a $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture [. . .] Her efforts were applauded by Sebastian Belle, the executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association, who thought the research could afford farmers the chance to diversify their ocean plots and help move the sector forward. ‘We want to have options, see what the markets are calling for and have the ability to grow different crops on different sites,’ he said.”

OYSTER FARM, FLOWER TRUCK WIN BUSINESS COMPETITION

Mount Desert Islander, 3/9/22 – “Cranberry Oysters and Little Red Flower Truck received $5,000 each as winners in the “pitch competition” at the end of a three-day Business Boot Camp for local entrepreneurs that was held last weekend by Mount Desert 365, which works to foster year-round economic vitality. The prize money was provided by the event’s sponsor, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust. MD365 describes the Business Boot Camp as “an intensive mini-MBA weekend program of business skill development for local business owners and entrepreneurs [. . .] The winner of the pitch competition, chosen by the event’s judges, was Cranberry Oysters, an oyster farm off Great Cranberry Island owned by Lauren Gray.” 

SEAWEED FARMING HAS VAST POTENTIAL (BUT GOOD LUCK GETTING A PERMIT)

Pew Trusts, 3/7/22 – “‘There’s a lot of people who are interested in seaweed farming, take a look at that [permitting] flowchart, and decide there’s just no functional way,’ said Laura Butler, aquaculture coordinator with the Washington State Department of Agriculture. [. . .] Many aquaculture leaders cite Maine, which created the nation’s first leasing system for farming in state waters in 1974, as having a well-developed industry and reasonable regulations. The 190 commercial farms in Maine generate $80 million to $100 million annually in sales, led by salmon, mussels and oysters. Many of the state’s new ocean farmers come from commercial fishing or other maritime backgrounds.”

MAINE BUSINESS PAVES WAY FOR FEMALE OYSTER FARMERS

WGME-TV 13, 3/3/22 – “Libby Davis loves seafood, especially oysters. She’s worked on the water for a majority of her life and was always a minority. ‘The aquaculture and fishing industry is, just historically speaking, is a largely white, cis male dominated industry,’ Davis said. ‘Sometimes I’ve felt that I kind of get pushed aside when I’m out on a boat,’ Lady Shuckers Co-Founder Jacqueline Clarke said. The two women started Lady Shuckers, a company that sells and markets oysters from 16 of Maine’s 23 women-run oyster farms.”

FARMED SCALLOPS TAKE ROOT IN MAINE’S WATERS

Maine Magazine, February 2022 – “Eighty six, eight-seven,” says Andrew Peters, captain of the fishing boat Sammy G. “Ninety,” adds David Loxterkamp, a friend and family doctor from Belfast who’s on board to help for the day. The two men keep counting, the numbers they call out bouncing through the air while the diesel engine chugs. In Grundens orange bibs and teal green rubberized gloves, the men are working through stacked crates of splashing seawater, sorting and counting the day’s haul of scallops. They need 1,200 scallops—cleaned and shucked—to fill the orders for this week. So, this is a scallop farm.”

VACANT DOWN EAST LOBSTER POUNDS COULD BE THE PERFECT GROWING GROUNDS FOR SCALLOPS

Bangor Daily News, 2/4/22 – “A small-scale test indicates that scallops can grow well in old Down East lobster pounds, possibly opening new economic opportunities for the region. A preliminary experiment by the Downeast Institute found scallops in vacant lobster pounds grow faster and have a higher survival rate when compared with those farmed in the ocean. It’s too early to go all in on the idea, researchers said, but if further tests show similar results, scallop farming in dormant pounds across Hancock and Washington counties could provide people who make a living off the water a way to diversify as it becomes harder and more expensive to lobster.”

WOMEN MOVING INTO GROWING AQUACULTURE SECTOR

The Working Waterfront, 1/31/22 – “Currently, Maine’s Department of Marine Resources doesn’t track statistics on the gender and diversity breakdown of the state’s aquaculture licenses or commercial fishing licenses. But Afton Hupper, an outreach and development specialist at the Maine Aquaculture Association, estimates that in 2019, 80 percent of all aquaculture licenses and limited purpose aquaculture licenses—permits that last a calendar year and are often used for test sites—are held by men. These numbers could be changing. According to a report by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in May 2020, a third of all limited purpose aquaculture, or LPA licenses were held by women.”

MAINE STATE SEA KAYAK EXPANDS OPERATIONS

Mount Desert Islander, 1/22/22 – “Southwest Harbor’s Maine State Sea Kayak is set to open another location on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor this summer [. . .] Last summer, Jordan collaborated with Bar Harbor Oyster Company to give kayak tours of oyster farms. The tours paddle from Hadley Point to the Bar Harbor Oyster company’s aquaculture farm on The Twinnies islands, where the oyster company does its processing. Kayakers can even try Gulf of Maine oysters. ‘Joanna [Fogg, owner of Bar Harbor Oyster Company] and her employees serve the oysters and then we return back at sunset to Hadley Point,’ Jordan said.”

KINGFISH COMPANY SALES MORE THAN DOUBLED IN 2021

Fish Farmer Magazine, 1/10/22 – “The Kingfish Company doubled its sales last year on the back of fast growing demand for Dutch yellowtail in both Europe and the United States, it announced today. Revenues totalled 10.4m euros against €5m in 2020 with sales in the final quarter of 2021 particularly encouraging at €3.8m. [. . .] Late last year Kingfish gained final state level approvals and announced that the land had been purchased for its new facility in Jonesport, Maine. The company added: ‘Following the approval and the land purchase, the company is cleared to start groundworks. The US development is projected to reach 8,500 metric tons of capacity once built. Construction in Maine will start once financing has been secured.'” 

AQUACULTURE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT IS THE FOCUS OF $500,000 GRANT TO NONPROFIT

Mainebiz, 1/7/22 – “Following a study that shows Maine’s increasingly diversified aquaculture industry is a growing source of potential jobs, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland is planning an aquaculture workforce training system with the help of a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. ‘Maine’s aquaculture industry is vital to our state’s economy but needs a skilled workforce to continue to grow and innovate,’ U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 1st District, said in a news release announcing the award. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has designed a collaborative program aimed at training aquaculture specialists, helping students to secure jobs and supporting workforce needs.”

AS MAINE’S CLIMATE CHANGES, SCALLOP FARMING OFFERS OPTIMISM

Portland Press Herald, 1/2/22 – “As rapidly warming oceans continue to drive Maine lobster into more remote waters, some in the state’s fishing industry regard sea scallop farming as the prime candidate to help bring added stability to the industry and offset anticipated revenue losses. [. . .] automation technology and farming techniques borrowed from more mature scallop fisheries as far away as Japan are giving some Maine seafood harvesters cause for optimism. They believe the growth potential for sustainable, farm-raised scallops is nearly limitless in Maine, if they can just figure out the right approach and make it affordable.” 

Down East’s Top 10 Longreads of 2021

Down East Magazine, December 2021 – “This year, the most-read and most-shared stories on our site captured the aspirations and anxieties of a state in transition, weighing the promises and costs of new development, considering the future of Maine’s marine industries, and exploring frontiers in agriculture and conservation [. . .] From our September 2021 issue: Stonington’s Abby Barrows dialed back a globetrotting research career to take over an oyster farm in her hometown. Now, she’s out to refashion the equipment of her new profession, to keep Maine’s booming aquaculture sector from fouling the waters it relies upon.”

ACADIA AQUA FARMS PROPOSES RAISING MUSSEL SEEDS IN FRENCHMAN BAY

Mount Desert Islander, 12/30/21 – “A prehearing conference for a 48-acre aquaculture lease site in Frenchman Bay is set for Jan. 4. The meeting will be held remotely to discuss the administrative process for the public hearing on Feb. 9 in Bar Harbor. The Department of Marine Resources recommends that anyone planning to apply for intervenor status attend. Intervenor status is typically granted to those who have a determinable stake in the outcome of an aquaculture proposal. In its application, Acadia Aqua Farms LLC proposes raising up to 1,000 tons of blue mussels, 10 million sea scallops and 1,000 tons each of hard- and softshell clams on a lease site southwest of Googins Ledge.”