Sustainable Aquaculture Communities
Aquaculture represents an increasingly significant share of the global supply of freshwater and marine resources. According to the FAO (2016), aquaculture production for human consumption now accounts for 44% of worldwide fish supply and is expected to surpass wild-caught fish capture by 2025. Maine is arguably one of the epicenters of aquaculture in the United States with economic output nearly tripling in the last decade. A key reason for its expansion has been public and private investments in the science and technology to culture marine species. Such growth represents a major economic opportunity for Maine, but also raises critically important questions about the long-term trajectory of aquaculture and how to harness its potential in ways that create direct and sustained benefits to coastal communities. Indeed, this is not the first time there have been public investments used to expand a marine resource sector. The investments that were made in the commercial fishing industry during the 1970s and 1980s, for example, were vital to bolstering the domestic fishing fleet, but ultimately contributed to the decline of many fisheries in the United States. These declines have caused serious and prolonged socioeconomic and environmental challenges that many coastal communities are still working to overcome.
The focus of this proposal is on developing an open, deliberate, science-based, participatory and replicable process of engagement with coastal communities (including industry members) that helps managers, policymakers, and stakeholders develop long-term visions for aquaculture in coastal waters in Maine. Planning of this type has not been the focus of aquaculture investments to this point, but it is needed to ensure aquaculture benefits coastal communities long-term as they become increasingly depend on it. This project directly supports the sustainable development of aquaculture by developing an actionable method of communicating accurate, science-based messages and information about the benefits and risks of aquaculture.
We identify four core objectives of this project:
- Understand the current state of aquaculture in coastal communities in Maine and the extent to which commercial fishermen are using it to diversify their livelihoods;
- Identify models of aquaculture governance and planning in the United States and worldwide that could be used to address concerns about biosecurity, user conflict, and ownership;
- Establish a highly collaborative process for aquaculture visioning that helps managers, policymakers, and stakeholders develop long-term strategies to sustain aquaculture and the communities that increasingly depend on it;
- Develop a series of concrete policies or recommendations that will support the sustainable development of aquaculture and help keep its economic benefits local.
Our respective institutions bring years of experience in fisheries and aquaculture as well as networking and community engagement to the table. However, we aim to make this a highly collaborative process, therefore we have also partnered with Maine Sea Grant, Maine Aquaculture Co-op, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and members of the Maine Lobster Advisory Council. In addition, a broad range of aquaculture stakeholders, managers and policy makers will directly advise this project, including the Maine Department of Marine Resources, Maine Aquaculture Association, and the Maine Aquaculture Research Institute. We also aim to engage state legislators, particularly those who are part of the Maine Marine Resources Committee.
The Switzer Network is a valuable tool and provides a unique opportunity for us to receive feedback from a diverse array of sectors and varied experiences. We are seeking advice and input from Switzer Fellows who have experience with aquaculture, aquaculture governance, fisheries, coastal communities, stakeholder engagement, conflict resolution, rural development, social change, co-management of resources or any other applicable fields. In particular, we invite feedback on innovative approaches to community engagement and how best to navigate the potential push-back from those who may see our efforts as conflicting with the continued growth of the sector. However, we value any input that will strengthen our goals and objectives and ultimately enhance our chances of success.
A Switzer Network Innovation Grant would greatly help us in the initial planning phases of this project. The proposed work will involve numerous collaborations and will play out over the course of several years. We are currently seeking support from the National Sea Grant Aquaculture Initiative grant program. However, we aim to begin work on this project before Sea Grant funding would be available, and irrespective of receiving this funding. Switzer support would allow us to begin initial discussions and research as early as the summer of 2018. Given the continued rapid expansion of aquaculture in Maine, we strongly feel that the conversation around aquaculture governance is essential and timely.
We request feedback by Friday, March 9th.