Maine is one of the leading producers of farm raised marine seafood in the United States. Farm raised oysters, salmon and mussels are the most valuable crops raised in Maine. The state is also a worldwide leader in developing new methods of aqua farming that will protect our ocean. Over ten species are farmed in Maine.
There will be a major shortage of food throughout the world by 2030. The development of more aqua farming will be critical to meet these demands for food. Currently our country falls behind Norway, Chile, Scotland, Ireland and Canada. The United States imports about 90% of the seafood we consume.
Farming off the coast of Maine has met many problems, downturn of the sardine industry, the decline in ground fishing and the closure of the Eastport fertilizer plant. Salmon farming has met with issues of disease, waste, predators, environmental restrictions and changing economic issues.
Cooke Aquaculture of Canada bought the three Maine salmon operations that went out of business. Salmon farming in Maine is on the rebound.
The salmon are monitored 24 hours a day using underwater cameras to enable sufficient food for the fish. Fish with desirable traits are selected as future parent salmon. Cooke does the cleaning and gutting of fish as well as processing at their facility in Machiasport.
Clamming in mid coast Maine has been hit by green crabs eating the young clams. They have turned to aqua farming to battle the invasion of green crabs.
Norwegians have developed a land-based lobster farming technology. It is land- based to avoid escapes, pollution and impacts on the environment. These methods are expanding throughout the world.
When visiting at the Ocean Point Inn, be sure to visit Glidden’s Oyster Farm on the River Road along the Damariscotta River. You may taste their freshly harvested oysters. There is a tour boat out of Damariscotta that will take you down the river to see the oyster farming.
On Route 220 in Washington, Maine, you will see a sign for Agriculture Engineering, Inc. They have developed a system that combines large fish tanks with hydroponic garden vegetables. Fish Farming in the Unites States has usually been in natural bodies of water which is inexpensive but damages the environment. They first raised trout but have now changed to Tilapia which breed and grow very quickly. Tomatoes and lettuce are irrigated with water from the fish tanks that is rich with nutrients.
Maine Sea Grant is helping Maine shellfish farmers to grow kelp. They are raising sugar kelp which is native to Maine and grows quickly. In addition to raising seaweed as a source of food and fertilizer, some types of seaweed contain half their weight as oil which is a potential biofuel.
Maine, Florida and Washington vie for the number one spot in saltwater aqua farming. Seaweed and scallops are the most recent additions in the industry.
During a recent trip to Southeast Asia, I was amazed at how much aqua farming is being done, even in very poor areas. They were farming shrimp, sharks, tilapia and seaweed. When you saw the incredible amounts of seafood in their fish markets, the necessity of aqua farming became very clear. Seaweed was served to us regularly in many forms and tasted delicious.