Grant awarded to investigate Japanese “ear-hanging” scallop production in Maine

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a U.S. nonprofit organization established in the 2014 Farm Bill, has awarded a USD 300,000 (EUR) grant for pioneering new scallop production techniques in the state of Maine. 

The grant, announced 23 April, is going to Brunswick, Maine-based Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), which will manage the program. CEI offers business advisory services to small businesses as well as financing and project management. 

The purpose of the project is to investigate the economic viability of the Japanese “ear-hanging” scallop production technique in Maine. The grant, which will fund a three-year program, will cover market analysis and hiring a consultant with a background in wild scallops.

Three types of scallop aquaculture machines built in Japan by Mutsu Kaden Tokki Co., Ltd., based in Mutsu City, Aomori, were purchased by CEI and are being utilized by Bangs Island Mussels in Portland and Pine Point Oyster in Cape Elizabeth. They are a scallop cleaning machine that removes biofouling such as seaweed and barnacle growth, a scallop-drilling machine, and size-sorting machine. Saving labor will be a key to making scallop farming profitable in Maine. 

While some scallop aquaculture is carried out in Maine, in the past, aquaculturists in the state kept the scallops in cages or trays. The Japanese, on the other hand, drill a small hole through the shell near the hinge. They push a series of plastic pins through a rope and then attach a scallop on each side of the rope by running the pin through the hole in the scallop shell. The rope is then suspended from a float.

Hugh Cowperthwaite, fisheries program director for CEI, said that suspending scallops vertically in the water column has several advantages. They are protected from bottom-dwelling predators, they are less crowded, while at the same time a higher stocking rate can be achieved. While much of the technology can be copied from Japan, there are also some differences. Japan produces the sea scallop species Patinopecten yessoensis, while the Atlantic deep sea scallop Placopecten magellanicus is farmed in Maine. 

“It will take some fine-tuning,” Cowperthwaite said. “The scallop shell here is more fragile. The Japanese scallop grows much quicker and the shells are more durable and rugged.”

He said his next project will be to write a “how-to” manual for scallop growers in Maine.

Photo courtesy of CEI


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