CEI Releases Market Analysis of Maine Farmed-Raised Sea Scallops

The overall outlook is promising for Maine to develop scallop aquaculture.

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Brunswick, Maine – CEI announced the release of a new market analysis report for Maine farm-raised sea scallops, part of a three-year initiative to further develop scallop farming efforts in the state of Maine. The independent review by rbouvier consulting forecasts a promising potential market for this new aquaculture product.

Results of the report will be shared publicly during a “Scallop Aquaculture” session at the upcoming Maine Fishermen’s Forum on Saturday March 2nd from 1:00-2:30 in the Camden Room at the Samoset Resort in Rockport.

CEI was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, to prove the economic viability of farmed scallops – including the implementation of the Japanese ear-hanging technique of raising sea scallops. The report covers the first year of the work.

As the product does not yet exist at commercial scale (there are several farms growing scallops, but none at significant scale), data was collected from test sites, more established wild-catch scallop markets, interviews with several purveyors, growers and chefs, and from a small survey of Maine restaurants.

Those findings were treated to a PESTEL analysis, which considers political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental factors that could potentially impact a new product or service entering the marketplace. It concludes: “With strong state support for local agriculture industries, a name associated closely with good seafood, and a growing market support for local food, Maine provides a favorable environment for a new, locally produced, fresh seafood product such as farm raised scallops.”

Those findings informed a subsequent SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and may present ways the new product may have certain advantages or disadvantages within the market.

-Maine name
-Food provenance and unique flavor profiles
-Existing expertise- Established shellfish industry
-Leading edge of industry – access to expertise
-Larger scallops
-Environmental impact
-High capital costs
-Unfamiliar product
-Short shelf life
-Uneducated consumer
-Unfamiliar grow out methods
-Low volume of production
-Gear availability (nets and machinery)
-Year-round availability of fresh scallops
-Buy local trends
-Portland restaurant scene
-Fisherman can diversify income stream
-Sustainability marketing
-Tariffs on imports
-New food trends
-May help mitigate some aspect of climate change
-Climate change impacts
-Larger growers
-Biotoxins and testing costs
-Cheaper imports
-Local resistance to aquaculture
-Economic instability (recession)
-Scallop survival rates

“It’s important to have a sense of what the market will bear, who will buy the scallops and for what price, as well as interactions with existing fisheries.” said Rachel Bouvier, principal of rbouvier consulting.

Several growers in Maine are working on different aspects of developing a farmed scallop industry. A few are utilizing highly specialized Japanese equipment and grow out techniques including the use of various containment (lantern) nets. Others are working on perfecting spat (seed) collection techniques, monitoring scallop growth rates and selling scallops throughout the value chain.

“Everyone has an end game focused on assessing the economics and profitability of scallop farming, even more reason to have this recent market analysis conducted,” said Hugh Cowperthwaite, Director, Fisheries Project at CEI. “The scallop grow-out period – from spat (seed) to commercially viable harvest size specimen – is estimated to be between two and three years, depending on the desired size of the final product.”

For the three-year research effort, the team will also include Togue Brawn who runs Downeast Dayboat, a business with expertise in buying and selling fresh wild dayboat scallops to consumers across New England.

“Maine produces the absolute best scallops in the world, but we’ve failed to differentiate them from generic “scallops”. Cultivated scallops from Maine waters will help differentiate our superior product by providing a year-round supply and by helping consumers understand the factors that yield our superior scallops and unique varietals.” said Brawn.

As harvest and demands increase over time, farmed scallops could create further opportunities within the seafood distribution supply-chain, creating marketplaces not just in Maine but beyond, to Boston, New York and ultimately nationally.

About CEI
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) helps to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises and shared prosperity in Maine and in rural regions across the country by integrating financing, business and industry expertise, and policy solutions. CEI envisions a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential. More at www.ceimaine.org