Farming sea scallops in Maine has been developing for about 20 years. It offers new opportunities for former and existing commercial fishermen.
Fishermen are facing numerous challenges, including climate change – and aquaculture offers a solution. Maine’s wild fisheries have become very focused on the lobster industry. Farming sea scallops in Maine offers an opportunity to diversify the seafood harvesting business and increase resiliency for coastal communities built around seafood production.
The sea scallop aquaculture community is unique to Maine and composed of a variety of people and organisations, including fishermen farmers, marine extension programs, community development financial institutions, and research and outreach foundations.
Marsden Brewer is a fourth-generation fisherman who still fishes for lobster. However, reduced fish stocks and an increase in commercial fishing regulations have led to a decrease in fishing opportunities. Marsden’s son, Bob, wanted a career working on the ocean; Marsden looked for other opportunities and saw the potential in sea scallop farming.
‘In order for a waterfront to stay alive, you gotta be having something to sell. You gotta be landing in product. You gotta bring new money into your community. And this does it, same as lobsters,’ Marsden said.
Together, Marsden and Bob created their company, and have reached the point of making weekly deliveries throughout Maine coastal communities. They have plans to expand production to further meet existing demand.
Andrew Peters spent years as a sternman on commercial lobster vessels while planning to pursue a license to fish lobsters on his own vessel. He learned of the extensive wait time to receive a license and the uncertainty of the process. This led Andrew to search for other ways to expand and solidify his marine career. He discovered the possibility of sea scallop farming.
‘A huge reason why we picked scallops to farm over other species was the amount of support from interested parties,’ said Andrew. Since founding Vertical Bay farms in 2017 with his wife Samantha, they have expanded their knowledge of farming scallops, accompanied by increasing sales.
They have applied for additional authorisations from Maine to expand production. Andrew now sees a future where sea scallop farming is profitable and will allow him to work on the ocean full time.
Part of the interest in farmed scallops relates to the traceability of the product from farm to market. This is especially important because they are promoting the freshness that comes from distribution to markets within 24 hours of harvesting. PenBay Scallops created a cookbook to help consumers, chefs, and wholesalers understand what the products are, where they come from, and how to use them.
Sea scallop farming in Maine will not compete with wild scallop harvesting volumes in New England. It will also not impact the trends for demand and prices of wild harvested sea scallops due to the differences in harvest and distribution scales, market demands, and production costs.
‘A farmed scallop is not meant to compete or displace wild fishery scallops. It’s simply a different product offering,’ states Hugh Cowperthwaite, senior program director for fisheries and aquaculture at Coastal Enterprises, Inc, a community development financial institution in Maine that has a long history of supporting fishing and aquaculture.