BELFAST — A group of organizations in Maine has opened registration for a free training program designed for fishermen to learn how to farm seafood.

Hosted by Coastal Enterprises Inc., Maine Aquaculture Association, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center and Maine Sea Grant, the Aquaculture in Shared Waters program focuses on the cultivation of commercially valuable species including oysters, mussels, scallops and kelp. Students learn from leading industry, regulatory, and scientific experts on fundamental topics like site selection, permitting, animal husbandry, equipment, business planning, financing, marketing, community relations and more.

Aquaculture in Shared Waters cohort gets a tour of the Pemaquid oyster floating upweller system from oyster farmer Smokey McKeen. Courtesy of Chris Davis

 

“For the past 10 years, the Aquaculture in Shared Waters course has served as a vital tool to help fishermen learn to farm the sea, diversify their income, and pioneer a new industry on Maine’s working waterfront,” Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association, said in a press release announcing registration.

Since the program began in 2013, over 400 students have completed the course, 30 new aquaculture businesses have been established, and 60 have been expanded or retained through economic diversification.

Michael Scott of Isle au Haut said in the release that, having fished in Penobscot Bay and Southeast Alaska for many years, he found the training course “a great fit for me, and I’m now in the early stages of starting a scallop farm.”

The Shared Waters program received national recognition in 2020 as the recipient of the Superior Outreach Programming Award from the National Sea Grant Program.

The 2023 course will begin Jan. 3, 2023, and will be held on Tuesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. for 14 sessions, concluding in early April with optional field trip opportunities in the spring. The course will be offered in person at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast with an option to join virtually. The course is free of charge and applications are open to all based in Maine.

The 2023 course is made possible with funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, administered through the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Applications will be accepted at aquacultureinsharedwaters.org until Dec. 1.

According to the Maine Aquaculture Association, aquaculture in Maine is among the most diverse sea farming sectors in the nation, producing more than 25 diverse species of finfish, shellfish and sea vegetables, more than any other U.S. state. Maine aquaculture has enjoyed responsible growth over the last 20 years at an average rate of 2%. Less than 1% of Maine’s coastal waters are used for aquaculture. More than 99% of Maine sea farms are family-owned. For more facts about Maine aquaculture, visit https://maineaqua.org/.