In this October 2008 file photo, a salmon farmer makes his rounds near floating pens containing thousands of Atlantic salmon in Eastport, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

PORTLAND, Maine — A Maine science institute is working with the state’s labor department to create an aquaculture apprenticeship program.

There is an active aquaculture industry in Maine, where farmers grow oysters, mussels, seaweed and other seafood items. The Maine Department of Labor said Jan. 10 it would work with Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland to establish the apprenticeship program.

The effort is part of the results of a $500,000 federal grant to GMRI. The program will focus mostly on rural parts of the state such as Knox and Washington counties, Maine labor commissioner Laura Fortman said.

The labor department said in a statement the pilot project will allow participants to “gain valuable experience, receive mentoring, get trained and tested on defined occupational competencies, and learn to use cutting-edge technology at Maine’s most sophisticated commercial shellfish and sea vegetable farms.”

GMRI said it would work with Southern Maine Community College, Maine Aquaculture Association and other institutions on the project.