ELLSWORTH — Billed as an effort “to foster responsible aquaculture and seafood security” in U.S. markets, NOAA Fisheries is making $1.5 million available through the nation’s regional Interstate Marine Fisheries Commissions to fund a competitive grant program to fund aquaculture pilot projects.
As part of that program, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is requesting proposals for grants totaling $450,000 in all.
According to the ASMFC website, the commission is looking for proposals to develop pilot projects “in support of sustainable aquaculture.” The pilot programs “should partner with industry to develop techniques and business models to grow domestic seafood production.”
One priority for the ASMFC is to consider “promising but less commercially developed technologies” for growing finfish, shellfish, seaweed, and “other relative newcomers to the domestic aquaculture industry.”
The commission’s search for “relative newcomers” is somewhat confusing.
According to the ASMFC, aquaculture is currently the third most valuable fishery in New England. Maine is home to a substantial salmon farming industry and several species of finfish — halibut, yellowtail and barramundi among them — are raised in relatively small numbers throughout the region. Aquaculturists also grow shellfish, including mussels, hard clams and oysters, in large numbers in Northeast coastal waters.
According to NOAA Fisheries, the focus of the grant program is “promising but less commercially developed technologies” and the “development and deployment of economically and environmentally sustainable aquatic farming techniques and business practices.”
Proposals that focus on projects that relate to “enhancing” the ASMFC’s mission to rebuild fish stocks and protect essential habitats — such as reducing fishing pressure on wild stocks and seafood culture with minimal or no impact on fish habitats — will be given priority.
Funding will be available for one-year projects beginning April 1, 2018. The deadline for grant proposals is Feb. 1, 2018, with the winners to be announced by the end of March.
Details of the program and the application process can be found at asmfc.org.