USA - How Maine's sea farms could be key to feeding the world

Aquaculture as a whole is the second most valuable fishery in Maine, right behind the iconic lobster. Maine’s cold water is ideal for fish production, and the state’s clean environment and close access to markets has allowed Maine producers to fetch as much as 10 to 15 percent more than competitors. The state’s aquaculture industry also is diversifying. Seaweed and scallops are just a couple of the new areas Maine aqua farmers are exploring. Some companies are even exploring land-based fish farms for salmon and yellowtail, although none have gone commercial yet.

April 16, 2015

Maine has seen growth in the number of young farmers and in the value of local agriculture in recent years. But that’s on land.

In the water, Maine is a big fish in aqua farming, one of the world’s fastest-growing agricultural sectors. The Pine Tree State ranks among the top aquaculture producers in the U.S., surpassed only by freshwater catfish producers like Alabama and Mississippi. In seawater, Maine is an aquaculture leader. And when it comes to salmon, no state raises more of it than Maine.

The U.S. ranks 15th for aquaculture production, behind China, India, Egypt, Vietnam and Japan, among others. In 2011, the U.S. produced 0.8 percent of global aquaculture production, while Asia produced 88 percent.

As the global population continues to rise, many expect aquaculture to step in and feed a growing, hungry planet. Indeed, it’s already making a dent in people’s diets.

According to the International Salmon Farmers Association, one in five people rely on fish as a source of protein, and more than 50 percent of seafood originates on a fish farm. The Earth Policy Institute reported in 2013 that farmed fish fills more plates worldwide than beef.

That means Maine’s fish farmers and would-be fish farmers have an opportunity in a distinctly global agricultural market as more people demand farm-raised fish.

[Source: Christopher Burns, Bangor Daily News. Continue reading this article]