Reducing cost of biotoxin testing in scallop aquaculture

Lead PI: Nate Perry

PI Email:

Co-PI: Damian Brady

Project Team: Nate Perry, Pine Point Oyster Company; Damian Brady, University of Maine School of Marine Sciences; Dana Morse, Maine Sea Grant; Titan Fan, Beacon Analytical Services; Jingping Xie, Beacon Analytical Services; Thomas Kiffney, University of Maine; Struan Coleman, University of Maine

Abstract: A 2019 economic analysis of the culture of sea scallops in Maine found that while the future of the industry was promising, the major threat to the growth of the industry was the high cost of biotoxin testing (CEI 2019). While biotoxin test costs were identified as a threat, a review conducted of scallops grown in HAB prone areas concluded that the sale of roe-on scallops is still possible when a “strict regulatory regime” is implemented (Shumway and Cembella 1993). The last three years of limited sales of whole scallops have confirmed that the whole scallop market is robust (McPherson and Xiao, personal communication). This project will provide data to validate a less expensive testing method for submission to the ISSC to help the emerging scallop aquaculture industry with the high cost of implementing strict biotoxin testing. Approval of this less expensive testing method will not immediately make this approach available to farmers to replace current methods. However, it represents the first step in lowering costs to help growers get products to market. For the culture of relatively high-risk products such as scallops to be successful, testing needs to be as frequent as possible while not creating prohibitive costs to farmers. Currently, the uncertainty and costs associated with biotoxin exposure poses perhaps the largest barrier to entry for fishermen and entrepreneurs looking to contribute to this new industry. Similarly, the early pioneers of suspended net scallop culture in Maine are financially burdened by the high cost and inconvenience of current methods. Effective implementation of the method used in this project would make sea scallops far more accessible to potential new growers, as well as overcome a financial hurdle for operational farms. Finally, an expanded entry pool of growers will lead to further innovation, better site selection, and an overall more diversified shellfish aquaculture industry.

Project Dates: May 2020 – May 2021

Project Funding: Maine Aquaculture HUB