ORONO- Maine relies heavily on its seafood industry, but there is still a shortage in the United States.
Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Institute awarded $16 million in grants to researchers nationwide to focus on aquaculture.
“With the position Maine has in aquaculture, we were positioned pretty well to respond to that call,” said Gayle Zydlewski, director of Maine Sea Grant. “Of the $16 million that was competed, we successfully received across the state $1.6 million.”
That money is being used by researchers to help tear down barriers preventing people from getting involved in the aquaculture industry.
“In addition to understanding technical features of aquaculture and biological reasons why we might want to cite certain facilities in certain places, we also need to know what communities think about these places,” said Laura Rickard, a grant recipient and associate professor at the University of Maine.
Other barriers researchers said they hope to address are permitting, safety, and workforce training.
Zydlewski said part of the grant money will be invested into aquaculture facilities to pursue innovative solutions.
“This is a very dynamic time for the aquaculture industry in Maine and the nation,” said Deborah Bouchard, director of the Aquaculture Research Institute. “As the world combats a protein shortage, aquaculture is one of the best ways to feed the world.”
According to NOAA, the U.S. currently imports 85 percent of its seafood, resulting in a $14 billion trade deficit.
“Aquaculture is just like agriculture,” Bouchard said. “It’s like growing food. It will help the United States with food security and help with our seafood deficit.”
The director of the sea grant college program said hopefully the research taking place nationwide will connect science to industry.