Mussel farming trials in Downeast Maine: testing new opportunities to expand Maine’s mussel aquaculture industry

Lead PI: Dr. Robert Wood

PI Email:

Co-PI: Dr. Brian Beale, Downeast Institute

Project Team: Dr. Robert Wood, Downeast Fisheries Partnership; Dr. Brian Beale, Downeast Institute; Kyle Pepperman, Downeast Institute; Jeff Robinson, Downeast Institute; Dianne Tilton, Downeast Institute; Chris Bartlett, Maine Sea Grant

Abstract: This project will conduct mussel (Mytilus edulis) farming trials in Downeast Maine farther east than mussel aquaculture is practiced in Maine to: 1. Compare and contrast mussel production and economics of using mussel farming rope seeded with cultured mussel spat with that of wild recruitment methods presently employed by most of Maine’s mussel aquaculture practitioners. 2. Compare production and potential market value of cultured and wild recruitment blue mussel ropes to those seeded with golden-colored blue mussels, a Mytilus edulis phenotype that has been selected and cultured at the Downeast Institute from specimens collected from the waters of [nearby] Blue Hill Bay, Maine; and, 3. Test whether production data and information from 3 farming trials featuring novice mussel farmers using 20’ x 20’ mussel rafts suggests that mussel farming is feasible in coastal waters in far eastern Maine (eastern Hancock and Washington Counties) as an opportunity to provide small scale rafts that may afford lobstermen a measure of resilience against poor lobster harvests and supplemental income opportunity for residents in far eastern Maine who wish to earn a living on the water, but do not have the license or large vessels required for limited access fisheries. If results of these trials are encouraging, the farmer experiences, data, and economic assessment that would result from this proposed study will provide an important foundation for expansion of mussel farming into the Downeast region, for those wanting to farm in these waters tools for business development, and Maine’s aquaculture industry encouragement to utilize new methods and perhaps even a new product to explore. 

Project Dates: May 2020 – May 2021

Project Funding: Main Aquaculture HUB