Maine gets grant for aquaculture research

The Damariscotta River is the center of Maine’s burgeoning oyster farming sector.

The Damariscotta River is the center of Maine’s burgeoning oyster farming sector.

Baskets used to grow juvenile oysters    — Photo by Saoyster

Baskets used to grow juvenile oysters

— Photo by Saoyster

From The New England Council (

The University of Maine (UMaine) has been selected to receive a $123,735 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). The grant will be given to UMaine’s Aquaculture Research Institute, which was established in 2009 and has completed more than 50 aquaculture projects in the past five years.

The grant is a part of NOAA’s Sea Grant National Aquaculture Initiative to donate over $16 million to 42 projects nationwide. NOAA’s grant will fund UMaine’s pilot program, “Aquaculture Workforce Development: Certificate in Applied Sustainable Aquaculture,” which was designed to address the aquaculture industry workforce needs by introducing and developing alternate career opportunities for traditional fishing communities. In addition, the project incorporates UMaine’s internship program to create an industry and academic partnership pipeline.

“Maine’s history of innovation, collaboration and economic development in this sector positioned institutions in the state to compete successfully for almost one-third of the federal funds awarded,” says Gayle Zydlewski, director of Maine Sea Grant and a professor in the UMaine School of Marine Sciences.

Diversified fishing; Shifting away from the Sunbelt

Cultured sea scallop.

Cultured sea scallop.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

A wonderful story and video by Maine Public Radio’s Fred Bever describes how Maine fishermen are diversifying to address the challenges posed by overfishing and global warming.

Mr. Bever writes:

“These days it’s mostly lobster, but he {fisherman Marsden Brewer} has fished cod and shrimp, and carted urchin to market. They were all once-vibrant species, but now they’re mostly off-limits after being overfished and weakened by climate change.’’ And Mr. Brewer has moved in a big way into scallop aquaculture.

Jon Gorman, who works at Bangs Islands Mussels, told Mr. Bever:

“I see a lot of growth and you never know. We’re going to be doing scallops, then we’ll be back to mussels, and then the springtime and fall we’re into kelp. It’s fun.”

There are some good ideas in the story for southern New England fishermen.

To see and hear Mr. Bever’s report, please hit this link.

As global warming intensifies, and extreme storms, drought and floods ravage some areas, some predict a reverse migration of people from the southern and western U.S. to such places as the Upper Midwest and inland (!) New England, whose climates are expected to remain relatively moderate and that will continue to have lots of fresh water, which is actually better to have than oil, coal and natural gas!

The big population move to the Sunbelt, with all its socio-economic and political effects, may reverse in the next couple of decades – or before.

By the way, water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are four degrees warmer than “normal’’. They’ve often been warmer than “normal’’ for some years now, and at the moment are about 85 degrees. This means more fuel for hurricanes – e.g., Hurricane Michael. Keep burning those fossil fuels and maybe we can get the Gulf up to 95 degrees in the summer in a couple of decades. There won’t be much sea life left, but it will be perfect for a soothing swim. To read more, please hit this link.

Our weather narcissism


Inevitably, some politicians and entertainers (e.g., Rush Limbaugh) are having great fun with the cold and snowy winter in the East and Midwest, saying that this shows that “global warming” is a fraud.

But they are extrapolating from immediate experience and anecdote, not science. I suspect that most of these people know better, but, hey, they’re in show biz.

Actually, January, for instance, which the news media lamented for its cold, snow and ice, has been rather severe in the eastern U.S. because of a huge dip in the jet stream that has brought cold (though not unprecedented cold) to the Upper Midwest and the Northeast while out West, including Alaska, it’s generally been very warm and dry for this time of year. Northeasterners and Midwesterners have endured temperatures 10, 15 or more degrees below normal; Alaska and California have been 10-15 degrees above. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that January was, on a global basis, the fourth-warmest on record.

That the Northeast is so densely populated and that much of the national news media are based in New York and Washington mean that the idea that this winter is particularly bad has particularly strong currency. It recalls E.B. White’s funny 1954 essay “In the Eye of Edna,” in which he noted that the nation lost interest in Hurricane Edna after it moved beyond Boston’s radio and TV stations to wallop White’s comparatively remote Mid-Coast region of Maine.

Then there are such relatively new weather-news outlets as the Weather Channel and Accuweather. These commercial outlets will die if they fail to constantly dramatize such old weather phenomena as “The Polar Vortex” — a low-pressure area in upper latitudes that now is presented almost as a new and lethal threat to civilization. Weather events that would have seemed par for the course of a season a half century ago are now characterized as world-historical events.

Changes in the route of the jet stream from time to time bring cold air deep into the eastern part of the United States while the other side of the country becomes much warmer than usual as the jet stream brings in mild, Pacific air from the southwest. The jet stream’s position, of course, can vary widely but it can sometimes get stuck, meaning warm, “open” winters for us some years and cold ones in others. The general trend, though, is for milder winters. The trouble is that we confuse events in our areas that are part of weather’s natural variability with global climate change.

The confusion of one’s particular circumstances with the wider reality reminds me of the heartening rise in recent years of “evidence-based medicine” as opposed to the more traditional “expert-based medicine.” I am simplifying, but evidence-based medicine relies much less on individual physicians’ experience, values and judgment and much more on cold, hard data derived from rigorous collection and analysis of information from broad populations. As with medicine, so with climate, follow the data.

Anyway, New Englanders have suffered through another week of below-normal weather and are heartily sick of it. That the population is aging and that old people, in particular, find winters wearisome may reinforce the winter fatigue of younger people, too.

In some winters, snow drops and crocuses would be popping out of south-facing slopes about now. It looks as if we’ll have to wait a while for them this year. Still, a gradual change in the mix of morning bird song and that there’s bare ground around the base of trees where there was snow a week or two ago reminds us that the sun is getting stronger by the day: Some birds are coming north again and there’s more solar energy for the trees to absorb. And on one of our recent, and for this winter, rare mild days, I found the worms wiggling enthusiastically in our compost bin, whose contents seem to have been frozen solid a couple of days before. Worms: A reminder of the cycles of death and life.


The Feb. 23 New York Times business section story “Loss Leader on the Half Shell: A national binge on oysters is transforming an industry (and restaurants’ economics)” was heartening for a coastal New Englander. It implied that our estuary-rich region could benefit a lot from much expanded shellfish aquaculture. Unlike, say, casinos, which are a net subtraction from a region’s economy, or local businesses that recycle money that’s already here, aquaculture, because it has exportable physical products and brings people here from far away to buy them in our eateries as local specialties, increases our region’s wealth.

And the business, with its demands for clean water, prods us to keep our coastal environment cleaner.

Robert Whitcomb (, a former  Providence Journal editorial-page editor,   is a Providence-based writer and editor and the overseer of  He  is also a director of Cambridge Management Group (