A new study has found that Maine’s aquaculture industry is poised for expansion but will need more trained workers to realize robust growth.
The results of the 18-month study, published by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in conjunction with the Maine Aquaculture Association and Educate Maine, shows the industry currently has 600 direct workers, but over the next decade, that number could double or nearly triple as more jobs are added in supply chain, production, and downstream markets.
“What we set out to do is really understand what the workforce needs are and come up with a forward-thinking strategy for how Maine’s considerable education and training institutions can be used to provide a comprehensive system that meets those needs and helps Maine achieve its aquaculture potential,” GMRI aquaculture program manager Chris Vonderweidt told News Center Maine.
Over the course of the study, the team of researchers spoke with a number of newer and established businesses, including marine producers, service providers, and supply chain companies. They sent their findings to a consultancy in Scotland, which has an established aquaculture industry, for an outside assessment of Maine’s potential.
To address current and future staffing, the report recommends focusing on community colleges, both inland and along the coast, along with career technical education high schools, many of which are positioned to provide the training and skills the industry needs. Aquaculture is the growing of marine species, whereas commercial fishing harvests fish in the wild.
Vonderweidt noted that marketing efforts can help bring new students to the emerging industry, while also presenting advancement opportunities to those already employed in a waterfront career.
“It’s crucial for all of us to understand what workforce development efforts are required to realize the potential for Maine’s coastal economy and working waterfronts,” Vonderweidt said. “It’s exciting to be able to provide some of those answers.”