8 Projects Through The University of Maine and Partners Receive Federal Funding From NOAA Grant Awards

NOAA recently allocated over 2.9 million dollars to UMaine and other partners for the Fiscal Year 2022 from three different NOAA grant programs: Sea Grant, Saltonstall-Kennedy, and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Recipients include University of Maine’s Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI), University of Maine Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR), Maine Sea Grant, and Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center (MAIC) based at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center. These funds will support responsible aquaculture research and help develop sustainable US seafood production. “It’s really encouraging to see all this funding coming in with support from NOAA. These 8 projects will advance the environmental and economic sustainability of this burgeoning industry in Maine through innovative research and development,” says Debbie Bouchard, Director of the University of Maine’s Aquaculture Research Institute.

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Awards

Five pilot projects were awarded funding, two of which are here in the state of Maine. Damian Brady, a joint faculty member with Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI) and the School of Marine Science (SMS) and Dana Morse, of Maine Sea Grant were selected for their project “Comparing the biological and economic performance of rigid trays and lantern nets for the nursery culture of Atlantic sea scallops.” In collaboration with Maine scallop farmers, this project will compare rigid trays with industry standard lanterns nets, two types of nursery gear differing in material and mesh size. Scallop growth and economic data will be incorporated into an existing bioeconomic model of scallop farming and shared with stakeholders through outreach and extension.

Paul Rawson, a joint faculty member with ARI and SMS, Adam St Gelais of ARI, and Dana Morse of Maine Sea Grant were also awarded funding for research looking at “Optimizing settlement substrate and nursery practices in support of razor clam (Ensis leei) farming.” Although there is strong interest in razor clam production within the shellfish industry, there is a lack of reliable razor clam seed. The current labor effort and logistical planning to grow these clams to seed size within a hatchery is strenuous. This project will address these challenges by developing technologies for culturing razor clam seeds outside the hatchery, by supplying the grower with clams in an earlier (larval) stage – including experiments to establish which sediments maximize production with hopes to increase survival and lower costs. 

NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) Awards

The University of Maine also received two S-K grant awards. Professor of Marine Ecology at UMM and ARI affiliate, Brian F. Beal, was awarded $300,000 for his project “An examination of softshell clam, Mya arenaria L., fecundity along the Maine coast: the influence of clam size, tidal height, season, and geographic region.” This project seeks to understand how reproductive effort changes with age of the organism, and how both spatial and temporal variability impact egg production and spawning related to clam size. Research findings will inform decision makers regarding rules and regulations to promote sustainable softshell clam production, as the population is currently declining. 

Dr. Timothy Bowden, a joint faculty member with ARI and the School of Food Agriculture brought in $299,992 for his project examining “Probiotics to improve sea scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) hatchery success.” Bowden’s project will optimize hatchery methodologies to create a more reliable seed source for scallops and enable year-round hatchery production of larvae by improving larval health and reproduction. This research could increase the economic value of sea scallop landings in Maine, benefiting the industry, both wild caught and farmed.

Both these projects focus on the 2nd priority of the S-K funding: technology promoting sustainable US seafood production and harvesting.

NOAA Sea Grant Awards

ARI, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, UMaine CCAR, and Maine Sea Grant were all also awarded funding totalling 2.12 million dollars. The projects range in topics from enhancing US finfish and shellfish broodstock to community engagement.

17 day old California yellowtail (Seriola dorsallis) larvae. Photo by Kevin Stuart.

“Nutritional Strategies for Improved Larval Production of Marine Finfish with an Emphasis on Seriola sp.” led by Matt Hawkyard at the Aquaculture Research Institute focuses on Seriola and will advance the development and expansion of marine finfish aquaculture in the US by furthering the capability to cultivate and produce larval feeds and assess the effects of “assess the effects of non-artificial, nutrient rich diets on growth and survival rates of both larval California yellowtail and yellowtail amberjack.


Chris Davis Executive Director of  the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, and ARI affiliated faculty Tim Bowden, Adam St Gelais, and Damian Brady’s project “‘Cracking the Shell’: A Collaborative Approach to Developing Hatchery Production of the Atlantic Sea Scallop Placopecten magellanicus” will determine best practices for larval rearing and settlement protocols, and broodstock conditioning and spawning. It will also look into how hatchery environments impact organism health, growth, and larval immune response, evaluate the economics of hatchery production at a commercial scale, and collaborate with community members and stakeholders. 

Stephen Eddy, Director of UMaine CCAR will work on a project titled “Domestication and Breeding of Lumpfish to Accelerate Successful Commercialization and use for Sea Lice Biocontrol in the Northeast US.” Eddy’s project will address the lack of US sourced, diverse, and self-sustaining Lumpfish used as a biological control for parasitic sea lice in farmed Atlantic Salmon. Starting with wild-caught juveniles from the Gulf of Maine, researchers will refine lumpfish husbandry protocols to establish a domesticated, genetically diverse breeding colony.  These fish will enable hatchery production of up to 100,000 juveniles in the 3rd year of the project, which will be stocked into commercial salmon pens. 

“Supporting Industry Needs Through Maine Aquaculture Hub” will continue for two more years, implementing activities identified in the recently released 10-year Maine Aquaculture Roadmap. These activities will benefit Maine’s aquaculture industry, coastal communities, and general public, including workshop and outreach events, and various trainings. Additionally, through ARI and MAIC, an R&D and Education assessment will create a stronger relationship between the Hub and industry members by gauging industry research and training needs for future progress. 

NOAA’s continued investment in aquaculture within the State of Maine demonstrates the important role this industry plays in fostering Maine’s coastal communities and economy. With continued R&D, Maine is well established to be a leader in the Nation for sustainably produced US seafood.


Author: Corinne Noufi