Imagine what Maine’s economy could be if our wild-caught fisheries, aquaculture businesses, fishermen, and sea-farmers were granted opportunities to diversify their businesses and put more seafood on plates in Maine, the U.S., and across the globe.
Partnering for Sustainability
At the onset of the pandemic, Maine’s fishermen and coastal communities were challenged in unprecedented ways. With diminished demand for Maine’s seafood placing Maine’s marine economy at risk, the Island Institute and Luke’s Lobster formed a creative partnership and are leveraging more than $2.5 million in shared financial resources to build new markets for the Gulf of Maine specialty seafood products that will drive long-term economic activity in our coastal communities.
This partnership is building resilience in the seafood supply chain and providing new opportunities for Maine’s fishermen and aquaculturists. The project is expanding markets and product offerings through Luke’s online platform and will return financial, social, and environmental benefits to Maine’s coastal communities.
“Without the support of the Island Institute we likely would not have a story to tell.”
Founder and CEO of Luke’s Lobster
By sharing the story of our unique partnership, both the Island Institute and Luke’s Lobster aim to “lift all boats” through an increased demand for sustainable Maine seafood. The biggest challenge ahead is reducing barriers to cooking Maine seafood at home, with everyday people learning that lobster, monkfish, kelp, and other Maine products are easy to prepare and good for you.
How you can help:
- Listen to our new podcast series featuring Luke’s Lobster and the Maine fishermen and women who bring sustainable seafood to your plate.
- Check out our favorite Maine chefs preparing their easy recipes in our “Let’s Talk: Maine Seafood” webinar.
- Sign up to receive our emails and monthly newsletter, where we’ll share updates on this work, recipes, and special offers from our working waterfront partners and our friends at Luke’s Lobster.
- Shop online at our store, Archipelago, for the latest seafood-themed products and accessories as well as our collection of seafood cookbooks to help you get started in the kitchen.
- Eat more sustainable Maine seafood. Explore local sources for seafood near you, or check out the Luke’s Lobster online platform here.
Diversification through Aquaculture
Shellfish and seaweed aquaculture can provide fishermen and their families a way to continue making a living from the water for years to come and provide additional income beyond the lobster season.
Our approach to aquaculture started with practical business development to responsibly grow a nascent industry and bolster Maine’s potential for long-term success through quality education and leadership, research initiatives, and widely sharing the results of these efforts. From 2016-2020, the Island Institute’s Aquaculture Business Development program provided comprehensive support to men and women from rural fishing communities to effectively launch and grow new shellfish or seaweed aquaculture businesses. In four years, the program attracted 100 participants and supported 141 individuals interested in aquaculture. The program helped launch 34 new businesses within the aquaculture industry, and we estimate that these businesses have contributed over $4.1 million to Maine’s economy.
While there remains robust interest in our aquaculture training program, the health and safety concerns for all involved during the pandemic led us to make the difficult decision to not bring on a fifth cohort in 2020-2021. Moving forward, we will focus our aquaculture-related work on supporting those businesses we have already helped get in the water. Additionally, our support will include education, leadership, and workforce development through our ongoing outreach and financial support to existing and new aquaculturists.
- Check out our Compass Workforce Grants to help you start on your way to a new adventure in aquaculture.
- Show your support for Maine aquaculture with your very own “Kelp is the New Kale” or “Proud Mothah Shuckah” T-shirts and products—available in Archipelago.
- Learn more about how and why we began working in aquaculture here.
Sustainable Seafood Market Analyses
Our efforts to promote sustainable Maine seafood and encourage the growth of aquaculture businesses are based on the knowledge and strategies gained from several initiatives that continue inform our work in sustainable seafood practices.
Edible Seaweed Market Analysis
More than 95% of edible seaweed products found in the U.S. are currently imported, yet Maine waters provide the perfect conditions for growing quality sea vegetables locally. Maine aquaculturists are harvesting a highly nutritious, organic product and are seeing a surge in interest in edible seaweed across the country. This 2020 study provides an up-to-date analysis of Maine’s edible seaweed market conditions and indicates how investments in this sector could enhance Maine’s coastal economy by diversifying marine livelihoods and providing new supply-chain businesses and jobs. This report documents the size and nature of the business opportunity and identifies the requirements for sustainable growth from 2020 to 2035.
Learn more and download a digital copy of the report here.
Edible Seaweed Product Development Study
While the supply of edible seaweed in Maine is on the rise, Americans still know little about how it can be prepared, its health benefits, and its taste. As a result, there are few commercial processors of edible seaweed in the U.S., and therefore, few outlets for new seaweed growers to sell their product.
To help address this problem, the Island Institute, with the help of culinary consultant Jim Griffin, published a product study in September 2017 that assessed the potential of this growing industry in Maine and developed and assessed ten food products which included Maine seaweed as a key ingredient. The products range from a granola bar to baked beans, with the unifying theme being that each recipe is scalable, appropriate for sale at both foodservice and grocery retail, and are considered delicious by the average American consumer. Download a copy of the summary report here.
Maine Farmed Shellfish Market Analysis
Compared to seaweed, the market for Maine shellfish is relatively developed, questions still exist as to how much more supply Maine farmers can generate before demand is exceeded.
To answer some of these questions, in 2015, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute commissioned a report exploring expected trends in demand for Maine shellfish (oysters, mussels, and scallops) over the next 15 years, as well as discussing strategies to maximize profit during this time.
Island Institute staff sat on the advisory board for the project, and in October of 2016, final report was released, with encouraging results for Maine aquaculture. See the final report here.