The Maine Technology Institute, also known as MTI, and FocusMaine awarded the Island Institute a three-year contract worth $300,000 to serve as program director for SEAMaine, Maine’s Marine Economy Roadmap/Workforce Development Project. SEAMaine is a $2 million project to help the state develop an industry-led road map and action plan for growth and greater resiliency in Maine’s marine economy.

Funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the project was awarded to FocusMaine and MTI, who oversee a steering committee led by Bill Mook of Mook Sea Farm and Curt Brown of Ready Seafood.

Additional steering committee members include the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Maine Lobster Dealers Association and other private and public sector partners.

“We look forward to working with the Island Institute as they assume this leadership role in managing the myriad processes and partners involved,” said MTI President Brian Whitney. “Together, industry leaders will create an economic roadmap and workforce development plan for Maine’s marine economy.”

The Gulf of Maine covers more than 5,000 miles of coastline, including islands. Maine’s marine resources have been a mainstay of the state’s economy, particularly in rural areas. While lobster remains Maine’s predominant and most well-known export, Maine’s marine resources economy continues to diversify and now includes fishing, lobstering, aquaculture, life sciences and value-added processing. Critical supply chain elements like shipping and logistics also support this economy.

In 2016, the Maine marine living resource sector employed 15,583 workers. Most of the positions include fishermen and related shore side workers followed by occupations within the supply chain such as processing, transportation and more.

“Looking to the future, we know Maine’s marine economy will continue to evolve,” said Kim Hamilton, the president of FocusMaine, “We need to plan for challenges ahead and take advantage of emerging opportunities to build resiliency.”

Maine’s Marine Economy Roadmap/Workforce Development Project will identify industry needs, opportunities and provide solutions to workforce needs and skill gaps. It will also focus on investments that create a more resilient marine economy for Maine.

With a history rooted in Maine’s fisheries and working waterfronts and an eye on future economic trends, the Island Institute works with local lobstermen and aquaculturists to help diversify the state’s fishing industry. Through its aquaculture, business, education and leadership initiatives, the nonprofit focuses on strengthening Maine’s coastal and island economies and building work opportunities for these communities. The organization is now expanding on this work through partnerships within the state’s business and scientific communities as well.

With over 50 years of cumulative experience in project management and network building and close to 20 years of experience in economic development, the Island Institute brings a team of professionals to the Marine Economy Roadmap and Workforce Development Project. The team will be led by Sam Belknap, a third-generation lobsterman with an intimate knowledge of Maine’s marine sectors. Trained as both an anthropologist and a climate scientist, Belknap’s professional work has focused on the intersection of Maine’s marine economy and the impacts of climate change. He will be supported by Susie Arnold, a marine scientist, Craig Olson, a small business expert at the Island Institute, and Lisa Millette, the project lead for the nonprofit’s aquaculture and marine economy work.