Free-range Urchin Farm is planned

MOUNT DESERT — An experimental sea urchin farm is being proposed for a 4-acre site in Squid Cove on the west side of Mount Desert Island.

Mount Desert residents Erick Swanson and his son, Spencer, have applied to the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) for an aquaculture lease for the site near Goose Marsh Point.

They wrote in their application that they plan to use the “natural confinement and protection of the site and … a constant source of food to keep the urchins within the site.”

“It is our opinion that as long as the urchins have ample food available and the bottom remains clear, the urchins will remain on the lease for harvest.”

If the experiment proves successful, they said, the lease will be converted to a standard commercial lease.

Erick Swanson said Saturday that the experimental urchin operation is primarily his son’s project. The younger Swanson recently graduated from the University of Maine, where he studied marine sciences.

“This got started as part of his curriculum,” Erick Swanson said.

His company, Maine Cultured Mussels Inc., and his son’s, Mussel Bound Farms, jointly filed the lease application. This is their first foray into urchin cultivation. Mr. Swanson has two mussel-raising operations in Blue Hill Bay: on a 15-acre lease site near Hardwood Island and a 51-acre site near Long Island.

“We wanted to see if we could diversify our products,” he said of the sea urchin experiment. “I don’t know if we’ll make any money, but it will be fun.”

For more maritime news, pick up a copy of the Mount Desert Islander.

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]