Aquaculture is farming the water. With over 70% of the earth covered by water, and an increasing number of people to feed – we need more places to grow food. Maine aquaculturists grow baitfish, marine ornamentals, halibut, mussels, oysters, clams, salmon, scallops, seaweed (kelp), trout, and urchins in both freshwater and saltwater sea-farms. The practice of aquaculture began thousands of years ago in China and has been active in Maine for over a century.
Today aquaculture is a growing industry in Maine, helping to increase food production, minimize impacts on the environment, and preserve our beautiful and bountiful coastline.
- Seafood is one of the healthiest sources of protein in the world, and a number of analyses predict that demand for animal protein on the entire planet is going to double in the next 30 years.
- Aquaculture has the greatest opportunity to help meet that demand without inducing serious environmental harm. Growing food in water takes less land, nutrients, water and energy than on land.
- Right now, seafood is 46% capture fisheries and 54% aquaculture. If we didn’t have aquaculture we would have a HUGE seafood deficit.
- Aquaculture is a great supplement to wild capture fishing – it helps stabilize the economy and creates jobs.
- As a country we currently contribute over 15 billion dollars annually to our national trade deficit by importing 95% of our seafood – over half of which is produced through aquaculture in countries with less strict health, safety, labor and environmental laws. Locally grown aquaculture products from Maine are produced under some of the strictest regulations and best environmental conditions in the U.S. and Maine aquaculturists are a leading supplier of fresh, sustainable and locally grown seafood.
- Maine’s aquaculturists are helping preserve a heritage of working waterfronts and communities linked to the sea, and they are incentivized to keep our oceans, lakes, and waterways healthy and clean because healthy ecosystems with high water quality and diverse habitats are a key ingredient in Maine’s sustainably grown, healthy seafood.
- Besides for food, aquaculture products are also used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, animal feed, toothpaste (like Tom’s of Maine!) – and even compost.
- U.S. aquaculture helps to conserve native fish, shellfish, and plant populations as well as to enhance dwindling stocks. Because the young shellfish travel on water currents before settling down, they can help to establish natural shellfish beds that perform the important functions of filtering the water and establishing better growing conditions for other marine organisms. This adds to biodiversity, an important factor in stabilizing ecosystems.
Aquaculture in Maine
- Maine’s 3,500 miles of coastline and two million acres of state waters (only 1,300 if which are currently leased) present an incredible opportunity for growth in the aquaculture industry.
- Maine is uniquely positioned for success in aquaculture due to its strong brand identity with quality seafood, and low transportation costs to major seafood markets such as Atlanta and Chicago, providing access to over 140 million customers within 24 hours.
- Maine is recognized as a world leader in the development of sustainable farming methods – like aquaculture – and has some of the highest water quality in the country. Plus, our cold winters limit disease and parasite growth compared to warmer locations.
Starting an Aquaculture Business
- Maine’s one-stop permitting and leasing program makes it easier to start an aquaculture business here than in other nearby states. Find out more here.
- The state’s commitment to the working waterfront creates a hardworking labor pool, as well as aquaculture training programs that begin as early as the high school level and continue through both community college and university level programs. For more information, see the Maine Sea Grant program, Maine Aquaculture Association, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, and University of Maine Aquaculture Research Institute.
- Maine provides both state and local tax incentives, as well as state-financed employee training for aquaculture entrepreneurs. Find out more at the Maine Department of Economic Development.
- Maine also offers for reduced property taxes coastal land used for aquaculture, under the working waterfront exemption.
- Science, technology, math and engineering are all required in aquaculture – making it a great field for attracting smart, entrepreneurial people “from away” as well as Mainers who want to have careers here at home.
- The state of Maine is invested in growing the aquaculture industry and is offering up to 400k in community development and 500k in research and development grants for those working to build the aquaculture industry in the state. For more information, please see the Maine Department of Economic Development, the Maine Technology Institute, and the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center.