Land-Based Aquaculture: The Right Fit for Maine
Maine is well positioned, based on its geographic location, to become a global leader in land-based aquaculture. This is good news for our state, our economy and our environment.
Our state has the potential to attract a combined investment of more than $450 million in land-based aquaculture projects. This will create high-wage jobs in addition to supporting local tradespeople and businesses, driving the sales of goods and services, and infusing money into our small-town economies as these facilities are built and maintained.
Fishing is a heritage industry in Maine, and at its foundation are the hard-working lobsterman and fisherman who have made a living on our oceans for many generations. The adoption of land-based aquaculture is an opportunity to evolve, diversify and strengthen this industry, ensuring all that are part of it are supported and thrive.
An Ideal Match
Our state is a match for this industry for numerous reasons. First, the Maine brand is highly respected around the world, adding value to any seafood product that is grown and produced here. And seafood is in our blood. For hundreds of years, seafood has been a vital part of our economy. Our people possess a deep knowledge of fisheries, offering a high level of experience in this area. We also have ready access to clean, clear water and a network of marine industry institutions to help aquaculture business grow, develop new technologies, and protect our greatest asset . . . the environment.
Not only is land-based aquaculture good for Maine, it is good for our planet. Consider this: the U.S. imports more than 90 percent of the seafood Americans consume, according to NOAA. This leaves a considerable carbon footprint. Producing this product in Maine will dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of this industry as we can be the distribution point for the 100 million people within a one day drive.
Globally, the demand for seafood has been growing, resulting in widespread overfishing of our oceans. Another sustainable source of seafood is needed now to help our waters replenish themselves and keep our traditional fishermen in business.
Aquaculture is the “farming” of fish, shellfish, and other marine organisms in a controlled environment. Some are raised in pens in the open ocean and bays. Some are land-based, raised in above-ground artificial ponds in enclosed structures.
Maine is targeting land-based aquaculture operations that utilize recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS). These state-of-the-art, high-tech systems circulate water through elaborate filtration that removes and sanitizes waste. The waste is then dehydrated and reused as nutrient-rich compost, biofuel or some other purpose.
A very small amount of water is drawn from the ocean to replenish the artificial ponds, and that is extensively monitored and filtered. RAS is so ecologically sound that it results in a water savings of 95 to 99 percent. And the water leaving RAS fish farms is of the same or higher quality than that of water coming in.
This process is both safe and highly efficient. Contact between the farmed fish and the outside world is eliminated and the compost created through the process can be used by our agricultural community to feed their crops.
A Green Industry
RAS technology is not new. Though it has only recently become mainstream in the U.S., it has been used successfully in Europe for more than 20 years. It is proven to be very safe and environmentally friendly way to raise fish. Multiple levels of security and filtration are in place to protect the water from pollutants and disease and to prevent fish escapes. Discharged water must also meet rigorous federal, state and local standards before it can be released.
Numerous local and national conservation organizations have lined up in support of RAS technology as an important food system. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute, The Conservation Fund, The Conservation Law Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and The Atlantic Salmon Federation.
A New Pillar of Our Economy
Land-based aquaculture is rapidly increasing in the U.S. as the demand for seafood also continues to increase. There have been significant investment worldwide in to this eco friendly and sustainable technology. Maine can now benefit from the latest advancements as we grow and diversify one of our heritage industries. We can take a leadership role in this emerging industry on a global scale, becoming an important part of the sustainable food solution and protecting the long-term sustainability of our wild-caught fisheries.
Now is the time to seize the opportunity. This industry is a logical complement to our heritage fishing economy, and it has been scientifically proven that land-based RAS technology is green, sustainable and ecofriendly, posing no threat to our environment.
Most importantly, land-based agriculture has the potential to bring jobs to areas of our state where high value jobs are scarce. It will also infuse significant investment dollars and tax revenue into our state, reaching far beyond the locations where these facilities are based. This, in turn, will spur further economic development that will have a far-reaching, long-term positive impact on all Maine people and the communities in which we live.