Janet Mills, the governor of the U.S. state of Maine, recently announced a 10-year strategic economic development plan to grow the state’s economy, and has included aquaculture as a target industry to support and cultivate. The plan is designed to combat poor economic growth in the state caused by lethargic gross domestic product, a shrinking workforce, and subpar state wages.
“This strategic plan creates a road map to foster collaboration, drive innovation, jump start growth, and, ultimately, achieve a diverse, forward-looking economy that offers everyone an opportunity to succeed,” Mills said in announcing the plan, according to MaineBiz.
“Maine is well-positioned, based on its geographic location, to become a global leader in land-based aquaculture. This is good news for our state, our economy, and our environment,” the state's Office of Economic and Community Development’s said in a posting on its website. “Our state has the potential to attract a combined investment of more than [USD 450 million, EUR 407 million] in land-based aquaculture projects. This will create high-wage jobs in addition to supporting local tradespeople and businesses, driving the sales of goods and services, and infusing money into our small-town economies as these facilities are built and maintained.”
The economic plan, the first for Maine in more than two decades, brings attention to the state’s aquaculture industry during a period of rapid expansion and growing support. While the economic plan zeroes in on land-based expansion, ocean operations are thriving as well.
Among other companies moving aquaculture operations to coastal Maine, Kingfish Zeeland – which is seeking to build a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility in Jonesport, Maine to eventually grow up to 6,000 MT of yellowtail annually – recently announced a partnership with the state’s flagship University of Maine campus.
The Maine Aquaculture Association (MAA) recently launched a series of videos on state aquaculturalists that aim to educate the public on the industry.
According MAA President Sebastian Belle, the designation in the state’s economic plan won’t result in much immediate changes to the industry’s regional growth or the organization’s operation – but it’s a great distinction to have.
“The fact the the state has recognized the aquaculture section for it’s potential to provide economic growth in coastal communities and the state as a whole is huge,” Belle told SeafoodSource. “We’ve never really received that kind of recognition at that level.”
The industry’s awareness of its own potential in the state is nothing new for the association, the oldest of its kind in the state with more than 40 years of promoting and backing aquaculture operations. The association’s board is designed to show the diversity of the industry in Maine in terms of species, production method, and size — so small entrepreneurs entering the industry get as much representation as larger, established company finding a home in Maine.
“Maine has a lot to be proud of in terms of what its growers have accomplished,” Belle said. “In the end, the industry here has been built, not by the association, politicians, or regulators, but by the growers. Our growers have a proven track record of doing the right thing, building systems that work and always advocating for the industry. And I think that will continue on as the sector grows.”
Photo courtesy of the Maine Aquaculture Association