September 28, 2016 – A delegation of Maine-based aquaculture and fisheries professionals will travel to Aomori, Japan October 1 through 10, 2016 to learn best practices for scallop farming with the goal of importing that knowledge and technology to Maine.
Maine has been exchanging information and sharing insights into fisheries, energy practices, art, culture and education with its “sister state’ of Aomori Prefecture since 1994, although the origins of the relationship traces back to 1889. That year the 1,500-ton Cheseborough ship, sailing from Bath, wrecked off the coast of Aomori. Local citizens from the village of Shariki rescued four survivors and buried those who died, including Peter Erickson, the captain.
Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI) is a lead organizer of the current trip, assembling the ten-member delegation based on their backgrounds and expertise. “We want to get key people there to see what’s possible in scallop farming and to believe it can be replicated in Maine, although at a much smaller scale” said Hugh Cowperthwaite, Fisheries Project Director for CEI who made his first delegation visit to Aomori in 2010. “When I first saw what the Japanese are doing to commercialize scallop farming I was blown away. The Japanese have been sustainably growing and harvesting scallops for decades and have nearly perfected their grow out techniques over the past 85 years. Maine has the capacity to grow our shellfish industry by adding farm raised scallops to our offerings. This exchange allows us to make new and deeper connections with the business community. Can this industry find its footing and create jobs in Maine?”
The Japanese have been sharing their processes and techniques Maine’s industry for nearly two decades dating back to 1999 with a focus on wild seed collection and farming techniques to grow scallops from juveniles to adult sizes. The current visit will focus heavily on learning about machinery used to farm scallops, lease site set up, vessels used and interacting directly with fishermen and fishing cooperatives. There will also be exploration of shellfish processing and value added products associated with the scallop industry. Unlike in the United States the Japanese often eat the entire scallop animal whereas the US only eats the abductor muscle.
Cowperthwaite says during his 2010 visit he was introduced to equipment manufacturer Mutsu Kaden Tokki Co. that builds machines to mechanize several labor intensive steps to farming scallops. Their techniques and machines are not currently in use in Maine. With grant support from the Maine Technology Institute, CEI is seeking to purchase three different machines addressing different aspects of scallop farming to put to use in Maine.
In addition to Cowperthwaite the nine delegates for this October’s visit are experienced aquaculture practitioners and fishermen:
- Don Hudson of Arrowsic, Chair of the Maine Aomori Sister-State Advisory Council, who made his first delegation visit in 2010;
- Dana Morse, Extension Associate, Maine Sea Grant College Program and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension of Walpole;
- Sebastian Belle, Executive Director, Maine Aquaculture Association, of Hallowell;
- Chris Davis, Executive Director, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, of Orono;
- Nate Perry, Pine Point Oyster Company, LLC of Cape Elizabeth;
- Gordon Connell, F/V Zephyr, Commercial Fishermen, Spruce Head Island;
- Marsden Brewer, F/V Lindsay Marie, Commercial Fishermen and Aquaculturists, Stonington;
- Robert Brewer, Commercial Fishermen and Aquaculturists of Deer Isle;
- Matthew Moretti is the President of Wild Ocean Aquaculture, LLC (WOA) of Portland.
The delegation’s intensive one-week itinerary was funded by the United States Japan Foundation and will include visits with a series of marine scientists, private business, fishing cooperatives and government officials, as well as the company from which CEI will purchase the three automated machines.