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New Report: Big Opportunity for Maine Aquaculture Industry

Oct 26, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine — October 24, 2016 — A new report, prepared by The Hale Group at the direction of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Aquaculture Program, reveals tremendous opportunity for Maine’s aquaculture industry. The report also includes strategic recommendations to optimize growth to maintain product quality without competing with existing farms or overburdening coastal ecosystems and communities.

The report is the result of GMRI’s efforts since late 2015 to convene Maine’s aquaculture industry — including active farmers, leading consultants, trade groups, and others — to better understand the current market challenges and opportunities for Maine in this global industry. This system-level focus is reflected in the report, and is meant to benefit the industry as a whole.

“If we’re going to support an industry, it’s critical to understand its current and potential value,” said GMRI CEO/President Don Perkins. “To achieve scalable growth, we needed to ask how much new production this industry could absorb.”

Major Findings:

The major finding of this report is the significant room for growth in farmed oyster, mussel, and scallop sectors at a scope and scale that fits with Maine’s working waterfront culture.

In total, these shellfish (wild and farmed) represent a nearly $700 million marketplace for harvesters in the United States. Today, Maine’s aquaculture industry accounts only for approximately 1% of this total shellfish production, delivering approximately $6.5 million in landed value to Maine’s economy. The findings of this report indicate an opportunity to grow the landed value in Maine organically to over $30 million by 2030, with significant opportunity to accelerate growth.

The report finds Maine uniquely well-positioned to grow and capture a greater share of the market for farmed shellfish for a variety of reasons:

  • The clean, cold water growing environment in the Maine produces a top quality product that markets are willing to pay a premium for.
  • Growth can occur without compromising existing marine uses; utilization of Maine’s coastline for aquaculture would not consume even 1% of total available space.
  • Maine farmers have ideal proximity to large markets — including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Toronto, and Montreal.

Mussels and scallops, specifically, represent the most promising opportunities for growth. Demand for Maine mussels is expected to grow faster than industry average, given their reputation in the market as the freshest, highest-quality product available. Domestic supply of scallops in the U.S. supplies only half of domestic demand. The remaining need is met by smaller frozen imports from Asia and South America, which could be displaced by domestic product, according to the report.

Realizing Potential:

The report also highlights several strategies to realize this shellfish aquaculture opportunity. It finds Maine can strengthen its market position by expanding geographic coverage, building brand equity to support Maine’s high quality positioning and price premium, pursuing operational efficiencies, and investing in winter harvesting capabilities for oysters.

A wide network of NGOs, trade groups, and others will help execute these strategies on various levels of the supply chain. Among them is the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, which started its aquaculture program to expand economic opportunities for Maine’s coastal communities by supporting a sustainable aquaculture industry that operates alongside and complements traditional fisheries.

“Our goal is to help farmers grow their businesses, help the business community understand the investment opportunity, and help diversify and grow our coastal economy,” said Perkins. “We firmly believe a healthy and robust aquaculture industry needs to include businesses of all sizes — large and small.”