Courtesy of Maine Aquaculture Association

Now more than ever, people are discovering the way life should be and making the move to Maine. When daily commutes and office life came to a screeching halt last year, many people took the opportunity to connect with nature and spend more time outdoors. Across the U.S., a mass exodus from cities to rural areas accelerated by the pandemic has driven Maine’s real estate values to historic highs. It’s no wonder that Maine is an attractive place to live, with its vast wilderness, rugged coastline and quiet neighborhoods. To many, Maine is a place to unwind, a true vacationland. But the draw of the Maine coast transcends its natural beauty. Our state’s working waterfront heritage is an enormous boon to our real estate and tourism markets. Where else can you sit on a dock and enjoy the world’s finest seafood while looking out over the water to see people harvesting it? The working waterfront is a vital component of Maine’s local food system, and a huge draw for visitors and coastal residents. It’s important for new coastal residents and commercial waterfront users to coexist, so that sea farmers and fishermen can continue to make a living on the water and keep our coastal communities resilient.

The Maine Aquaculture Association (MAA) has been supporting aquaculture producers in Maine since 1978. MAA advocates for all aquatic growers, including shellfish, finfish and sea vegetable producers. Over the past 50 years, aquaculture in Maine has experienced slow and steady growth. In the 1970s, there were roughly 25 individual producers. Today, there are over 200. We are proud to represent many individuals who are not only accomplished innovators in their field, but also dedicated stewards of their local bays and watersheds.

The association has recently bolstered its capacity by adding two new staff to support the sector. Christian Brayden has put his UMaine economics master’s degree to work, helping farmers with strategic business planning. Afton Hupper, also a UMaine graduate, has recently launched the Maine Oyster Trail to help tourists and locals plan oyster farm tours and other unique experiences along the coast. The association has played an instrumental role in helping new farmers who’ve entered the sector by providing essential support, advocating for their businesses, and implementing training programs and best management practices to help them thrive as stewards of our natural resources. 

Maine aquaculture is growing, but demand still outpaces supply. Farmers are selling everything they can grow, and Maine seafood continues to fly off the docks. With the real estate, tourism and seafood markets thriving, it’s clear that Maine is the place to be right now. As the coast continues to undergo significant demographic shifts, let’s support our working waterfronts and keep our heritage strong. Together we can support our sea farmers and fishermen by eating Maine seafood, showing support for their businesses and letting them grow, innovate and keep the coast of Maine strong.

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