Casting a Wider Net: Free Program Helps Fishermen Start Fish Farms


Since the start of shared water aquaculture in 2013, more than 400 people have completed the course, 30 new aquaculture enterprises have been established and 60 have grown or are still in operation.

Applications are being accepted until December 1 for those wishing to join the ranks and take the free program which begins January 3 in Belfast.

“For the past 10 years, the Shared Waters Aquaculture course has been a vital tool in helping anglers learn to farm the sea, diversify their income and start a new industry on Maine’s busy waterfront. “said Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association.

The program is managed by Coastal Enterprises Inc., Maine Aquaculture Association, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center and Maine Sea Grant.

Emphasis is placed on the cultivation of commercially valuable species, including oysters, mussels, scallops and kelp. Students learn from industry, regulatory and scientific experts on fundamentals such as site selection, permits, breeding, equipment, business planning, financing, marketing and community relations.

Courtesy of Maine Aquaculture Association

Antonia Small (right) took the Shared Waters Course in 2018 and launched Ice House Oysters in Port Clyde with partner John Cotton (left), who is also a commercial fisherman

“Having fished Penobscot Bay and Southeast Alaska for many years, this training course was a perfect fit for me, and I am now in the early stages of starting a scallop farm,” said Michael Scott. from Isle au Haut.

In 2020, the program received the Superior Outreach Programming Award from the National Sea Grant Program.

The 2023 course will run from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday evenings for 14 sessions, ending in early April with optional opportunities for field trips in the spring. Click here for more information.

The course will be offered in person at the Hutchinson Center at the University of Maine Belfast with an option to attend virtually. The course is free and applications are open to anyone based in Maine.

The 2023 course is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, administered by the Department of Marine Resources.

According to the Maine Aquaculture Association, aquaculture in Maine is one of the most diverse marine farming sectors in the country, producing more than 25 species of fish, shellfish and sea vegetables, more than any other US state.

Maine’s aquaculture has grown over the past 20 years at an average rate of 2%. Less than 1% of Maine’s coastal waters are used for aquaculture, yet more than 99% of Maine’s marine farms are family owned.


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