- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Maine’s shellfish industry could quadruple in value by 2030, largely because of potential for growth in oyster, mussel and scallop farming, a research organization that focuses on the Gulf of Maine bioregion says.

A marketing report, released Wednesday by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, says Maine’s aquaculture industry currently provides about $6.5 million in value but has the opportunity to grow to more than $30 million over the next 14 years, largely because of the potential among shellfish other than the state’s iconic lobster.

The Hale Group, a Danvers, Massachusetts, firm that does marketing work for the food and agribusiness, prepared the report for the institute.

Although seafood is a huge part of Maine’s economy, the state hasn’t been a big player in oyster, mussel and scallop farming. Maine’s shellfish aquaculture industry currently represents a little less than 1 percent of the country’s total oyster, mussel and scallop production, the report says.

But Maine’s aquaculture industry could experience a boom in part because its growth would not impinge on other, longer-standing marine enterprises, such as lobster fishing, and would use less than 1 percent of the space along Maine’s coastline, the report says.

Institute president Don Perkins said the growth of aquaculture represents a chance to raise the state’s seafood profile beyond the well-loved lobster as other industries, such as cod fishing, fade away.

“This identifies the opportunity. The question then becomes ‘how do we go about encouraging shellfish growers to invest and get bigger,’” he said.

According to the report, Maine’s current farmed shellfish capacity of about 600 acres is not sufficient to meet projected demand, and the acreage will need to nearly double by 2030, with oysters taking up the majority of that.

Gary Moretti, owner of Bangs Island Mussels, said the report is a useful tool for shellfish farmers in the state.

“Understanding future market potentials guide us in developing this necessary emerging industry,” he said.

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