The sustainability of Maine’s year-round islands and its working coastal communities depends on healthy fishing businesses. Without strong businesses and economic opportunity, these vibrant places could soon lose their young families, their local economy, and their identity. The Island Institute is committed to ensuring healthy, marine resource-based economies in the Gulf of Maine.

We work to ensure the future of Maine’s fishing industry by:

  • Working with fisheries leaders to find innovative solutions to problems facing Maine’s fisheries;
  • Providing technical information and services, research, publications, business planning, and policy support;
  • Partnering with fishing organizations to explore local marketing and branding, gear research, and permit banks.


With Maine’s fisheries facing an uncertain future, marine-related economic diversification can help support Maine’s island and remote coastal working communities. Shellfish and seaweed aquaculture can provide fishermen and their families a way to continue making a living from the water for years to come. The Island Institute's economic development and aquaculture programs are working together to help members of island and coastal fishing communities succeed in the aquaculture industry.

Through our Aquaculture Business Development Program, we reach out to island and remote communities about the opportunities in shellfish and seaweed aquaculture. The strength of the ABD program is in its focus on business planning, its prolonged one-on-one support services, and its networking strategy, to help get ABD participants started in the water.

Interviewed here, the Island Institute's first group of prospective aquaculturists began their journey in early 2016 as part of the inaugural ABD Program. Of the 20 individuals receiving support under this program, six participants started new oyster farms, two started a mussel farm, and two participants each started growing seaweed, in Penobscot and Casco Bays. Over the next five years, the Island Institute projects that the farms begun through program will have an economic impact of over $8 million on Maine’s economy.


For more information on the ABD program, or to learn more about our integrated approach on shellfish and seaweed aquaculture, visit our Aquaculture page.

Marketing & Branding

The Maine coast is home to some of the best lobsters, oysters, mussels and other seafood varieties in the world. By capitalizing on consumer interest in high quality, sustainably harvested food that comes with a sense of place, Maine fishermen have an opportunity to differentiate themselves and their products.

The Island Institute works to help fishing community leaders and co-ops learn to market their catch directly to consumers or restaurants, or create a brand built around a sense of place and sustainability practices. Through appropriate marketing and branding, Maine fishermen can receive a higher price for their product.

Maine Island Businesses Selling Seafood With a Sense of Place

Calendar Islands Maine Lobster
Little Cranberry Lobster
Vinalhaven Seafood

Marine Tourism

One potentially underutilized resource in coastal Maine communities is our summer tourists. Visitors to the coast often want to get out on the water and are increasingly looking to have interesting experiences during their stay. Bringing tourists out to haul a few traps or see an aquaculture site can build a relationship and a connection to your community that endures for years. The Island Institute works with our partner organizations to help communities think through and prepare for ensuring the opportunities and benefits, and addressing the concerns and challenges, of tourism for their future. We aim to provide business support to existing and start-up tourism businesses, and help marine-based businesses explore or achieve growth from tourism.

In 2013, the Island Institute, Maine Sea Grant, and other partners hosted a workshop series on fisheries and tourism. Key materials that came out of these workshops included a series of fact sheets, a report and a video documenting two of the three workshops. 

Working Waterfront Preservation

For over 30 years, the Island Institute has devoted extensive resources to protecting what remains of Maine’s “working waterfronts”—the saltwater access (both coastal and estuarine) that supports commercial fishing and a host of other fishing-related jobs along Maine’s 5,300-mile coastline.

Through multiple legislative initiatives, state- and privately-funded projects, technical assistance, mapping services and much more, the Island Institute has become a leader in identifying, securing and protecting working-waterfront access for Maine’s commercial fishermen.


Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative 
Starting and Maintaining Community Supported Fisheries
Community Fisheries Network
Future of Fish - Building a Sustainable Value Chain for New England
Maine Sea Grant - Fisheries & Tourism