THE GULF OF MAINE

We moved to Maine in 2010 and quickly became enamored of the Gulf of Maine, which extends from Cape Cod in Massachusetts to the southern tip of Nova Scotia and includes the entire coast of Maine. It is a region of breathtaking physical beauty, and one of the richest sources of marine biodiversity in the world. We also quickly learned of its tenuous state of affairs. Like the rest of the world's oceans, the Gulf of Maine is faced with issues such as collapsing fish stocks, rising water temperatures and increasing levels of acidification.  But the region also benefits from some of the world's leading research institutes and university programs, and a vibrant entrepreneurial community, resulting in a dynamic aquaculture arena. Sustainable aquaculture is a large part of the answer to problems faced by today's oceans, and the Gulf of Maine in particular. We are working with our research and technology experts and local entrepreneurs to help lead the way in developing an ecosystem of sustainable seafood production while supporting struggling coastal communities.  We love where we live, and we want to ensure that Maine continues to be true to its motto: “Maine: The way life should be.’’

THE ISSUES

DEPLETED WILD FISHERIES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

The world population is exploding: today's 7.1 billion people is expected to increase to 9.5 billion people by 2050.  And people are eating more fish.  The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization reported that annual per capital consumption of fish rose from 22 pounds in 1960 to 42 pounds in 2010.  It is estimated that 85 millions of fish year per year will be needed to feed the planet by 2050, a full 1.5 times greater than the current rate of consumption. The oceans simply cannot support that rate of growth: the world's natural fish stock is almost completely exhausted as it is today. 

There is a growing awareness that the ocean is not going to provide all of our seafood needs going forward...
— Monica Jain, founder of the Fish 2.0 conference

 

RISING OCEAN TEMPERATURES

It is well documented that ocean temperatures are increasing world-wide. But, as the Portland Press Herald reported last year, the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost any other place on earth. In 2012, the average water temperature was the highest it has been in the 150 years since it has been measured. This is due to changing deep water currents, and is causing a range of commercially or ecologically important fish species to retreat from the Maine coast to deep water in the southwestern part of the gulf, where bottom water temperatures are cooler.  These migrations lead to disruptions in ecosystems as food chains are broken when vital native species in the chain depart for cooler waters. Warming waters have also been the cause of bacteria-related shell disease in lobsters, a disease which eats through the shell and ultimately kills the lobster. 

INCREASING OCEAN ACIDIFICATION

The world's oceans are becoming more acidic. On a global scale, ocean acidification is caused by the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. The State of Maine issued a report explaining that the situation in the Gulf of Maine is exacerbated by: 1) the colder temperature of the water, which causes carbon dioxide to become more soluble;  2) freshwater runoff from oceans and streams, which tends to be more acidic than ocean water and is increasingly more abundant as we experience more frequent extreme precipitation events; and 3) increasing amounts of organic matter such as nitrogen and phosphorous entering Maine's water systems, which causes alarming algae blooms along the coast.  Ocean acidification prevents shellfish like lobsters, mussels, oysters, clams, shrimp and sea urchins from forming their shells, jeopardizing entire ecosystems and ways of life for local fishermen.  

 

THE CASE FOR FISH FARMING

THE ANIMAL PROTEIN OF THE FUTURE

Fish already feed 2.6 billion people on a daily basis, and is consumed twice as much as beef.  And, compared to beef, fish production is much more gentle on the planet, requiring only 1 pound of feed to produce 1 pound of fish, versus the 8 to 9 pounds of feed and 8,000 liters of water required to produce one pound of meat. With the implementation of sustainable production methods, farmed fish is already the primary source of protein world-wide.  And while early aquaculture ventures focused on lower shelf species such as catfish and carp, today's aquaculture farms are producing high quality varieties such as yellowtail tuna, steelhead trout and barramundi (sea bass).  This has already relieved pressures on wild stocks and will continue to do so, since, as reported in The Street, aquaculture is now the fastest-growing agricultural sector with a 5% compound annual growth rate. 

 

Aquaculture, not the Internet, represents the most promising investment opportunity of the 21st century.
— Peter Drucker

THE OPPORTUNITY IN SUSTAINABLY PRODUCED FISH FEED

Fish have to eat, too. More aquaculture means more fish feed. According to a report from Fish 2.0, fish feed prices have increased exponentially over the last decade as demand has outstripped supply. The challenge is to produce fish feed in a sustainable way while still ensuring the full range of nutrients fish need in order to grow into healthy specimens. Investments in non-traditional ingredients such as algae and seaweed, insects and the trimmings from processed farmed fish represent the most innovative solution, as well as a significant opportunity.  The market for fish feed is poised to almost double from a $75 billion industry to $123 billion by 2019.

REDUCE THE CARBON FOOTPRINT

90% of the fish consumed by Americans is imported.  That's a huge carbon footprint for a country surrounded by water to its east and west.  Local, sustainable fish farming allows for land-based transportation, as opposed to costly and wasteful ocean or air transport.  It also responds to the growing “Buy Local’’ movement and supports small businesses. This is key in the Gulf of Maine, where local fishing communities have been struggling for decades as the result of depleted wild fisheries and competition from overseas. 

IT'S GOOD FOR YOU, TOO

The USDA recommends eating 8 ounces of fish a week, which is about half of what the average American consumes right now.  Fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids which are instrumental in promoting healthy human hearts, fetal and brain growth in early infancy, and preventing visual impairment in older people. 

We must start using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about - farming replacing hunting.
— Jacques Costeau