Clear Waters Ahead for Marine Aquaculture in Maine

oysters

Oct 02, 2019 | Category : Aquaculture in Maine

In the past several years, we’ve seen how the power of public opinion is changing our food systems. The demand for traceability and sustainability has heightened as we’ve experienced an increasing distrust of our food supply chains. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation food traceability is one of the top 5 food trends of 2019.
 “ Consumers want to know how their food is produced, where it came from and the quality of the ingredients. They also have broader questions about environmental sustainability, and many seek brands that align with their broader social values.” — International Food Information Council Foundation

While the ideas of traceability and sustainability are not new, they are quite valuable to the consumer and the producer. Off our coast here in Maine, we have an entirely underrated system of food production due to a few different factors, one of which includes visibility. In our coastal waters here in Maine we have an entire realm of food production that provides both. In addition, this area of food production is in a pivotal position to continue to grow rapidly. Maine’s aquaculture industry is booming, as it has had hundreds of new leases granted in the past few years and it is a large part of the marine resource economy, employing more than 1,000 people. In addition, a survey by the University of Maine found that less than 30% of employment is seasonal. It is also generating revenue that is only second to lobster, Maine’s largest commercial fishery.
So, to fully understand what that means, it helps to understand what marine aquaculture is. It’s defined as the farming Is the farming aquatic organisms such as shellfish, finfish and seaweeds. In our coastal waters we are seeing an ever increasing number of limited purpose aquaculture (LPA) licenses granted, as well as standard leases, among the others that are available. The types of species being grown at these LPA’s and leases include the American or Eastern Oyster, the Hard Clam or Quahog, the Sea Scallop, Horsetail Kelp, Sugar Kelp, the European Oyster, Blue Mussels, and Alaria Kelp.
The aquaculture industry does not have the same visibility of that of say, a local dairy farm. When you’re driving through the country, and you might pass cows in a pasture, near a bright red barn, with a sign out front that states its a provider of oakhurst dairy. It looks like a farm, it may even smell like a farm, and it is, in fact a dairy farm.
Now think about how often you find yourself on the ocean. That is, if you do find yourself on the ocean at all. Now, how often do you see or notice other types of food production out on the water? We might see a lobster buoy and we recognize this relationship from the sea to the table. But how often do you see the floating bags or cages of an oyster farm or rafts with hanging ropes growing mussels? Do you recognize this type of farm and does it resonate with you the same way?
Today, more than half of the world’s seafood is provided by aquaculture. It is also the fastest growing area of food production, world wide. Nearly 90% of the seafood American’s eat is imported, and half of it is from aquaculture. Some staggering numbers since only one fifth of United States seafood production is from Aquaculture. It is important to note that Maine has been the top state in marine aquaculture sales for 10 of the last 15 years. So, we at Maine Oyster Company would love for you to feel that when you slurp back an oyster, you might also get to know the way it came from the ocean to your table. We’d like you to know how proud we are of our aquaculture industry and the products that we have growing all along our coast, because we believe that it is hard to find more sustainable protein production for our environment. Follow us for our weekly posts that will provide more information about this food sector we are so stoked about!
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