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Know Your Species

Every species requires specific environmental conditions to flourish. Your farm’s water needs to provide the right conditions to ensure healthy crops, quality product, and good shelf life. Variables such as temperature, salinity, current velocity, and food availability dictate whether your crops will thrive as well as how long they will take to grow to market size. Picking a site with the wrong conditions for your animals can mean cripplingly slow growth rates, high mortalities, and a lower-quality product.

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Questions

Overview

Oysters and mussels are the most established and have been cultured in Maine for nearly 50 years. Both of these species have established growing techniques and do well in Maine’s waters. Kelp has been grown in Maine since 2012 and its growing techniques have been commercialized. Scallop aquaculture has been experimented with since the early 2000s; however, growing techniques have yet to be commercialized. There have been new advancements in the field and the emerging technologies are promising.

Oysters

In Maine, the average time for oysters to reach market size is 14 months to 3 years, but the distribution of growth varies – some percentage will be sellable on the early side and a small percentage of the slowest growers might take 4-5 years to reach market size. Temperature is the most important factor for their growth rate.

Oysters will grow in most near-shore areas and grow faster in areas with warm water and ample food such as estuaries.

Because water temperature drives growth rate, most Maine oysters have been historically grown from Kittery to the Schoodic Peninsula, with waters further east considered too cold.

Mussels

Mussels take approximately 18 – 20 months to grow to market size and food availability is the most important factor for their growth rate.

Mussels will grow in most places in Maine as long as the site has ample food, flow, and sufficient depth to accommodate vertical lines if using that growout method.

Because they are less temperature sensitive than oysters, mussels thrive along the entire coast.

Sea Scallops

The most important factor is in their growth is water temperature. Rapid growth occurs within the first two years and it takes 3-4 years to reach sizes typical of the wild fishery. Growers in Maine have been testing the market with smaller "princess" scallops and in-shell roe-on products that fetch a premium price.

Scallops prefer colder waters (less than 18 degrees C) with ample food.

Scallops prefer colder waters and are grown from Scarborough to Downeast Maine.

Kelp

Primarily sugar kelp and skinny kelp, though other species such as dulse and horsetail kelp are grown in small quantities by some farms.

Kelp takes 4 – 6 months to reach harvest size and their growing season is during the winter months.

Kelp thrives in areas of Maine where there is good water clarity (to get sunlight) and cold water.

Kelp is grown along the entire coast of Maine, but does best in cold clear waters.