BEALS — Can scallops grow in a lobster pound? A team of local researchers is trying to find out.
The Downeast Institute has partnered with the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center to test the feasibility of farming sea scallops in vacant pounds.
“If it works, it might be an alternative use for lobster pounds,” said Chris Davis, the executive director of the center.
The project recently got underway and grew out of a previous effort with another bivalve. The Downeast Institute found that the water temperatures at lobster pounds are warmer than the frigid waters in Washington County, which can be a limiting factor when it comes to some aquaculture.
“The water is so cold that it takes a long time for most species found in Maine right now to grow to maturity,” said Dianne Tilton, the head of the institute. “That doesn’t really work for a business plan in most cases.”
So she wanted to see if oysters, which can grow faster in the slightly warmer conditions, could do better in the pounds. The institute tried growing oysters in about a dozen different lobster pounds in Washington and Hancock counties, and found that, yes, oysters can thrive there.
After learning that, researchers started to wonder if scallops, which are starting to gain a foothold in Hancock County, could grow in pounds, too.
“It’s likely that they would do quite well,” Tilton said.
The scallop feasibility study will inform development of an innovative production strategy for scallops and was funded by the Downeast Innovation Fund at the Maine Community Foundation.
Some of the scallops for the project were provided by Alex de Koning, a Bar Harbor-based mussel, scallop and oyster farmer.
Fishing for wild scallops has a long tradition in Maine, but the farming industry is still in its infancy. Interest in the latter seems to be growing though, said Anne Langston Noll, a project manager with the innovation center.
“There is clear interest in sea scallop aquaculture in Hancock and Washington counties, where there is a long-standing economic and cultural tradition of scallop fishing and ideal environmental conditions for sea scallop culture,” she said.
One challenge in growing scallops is they can move. To keep them from swimming off, some farmers grow them in nets. But that can run into issues because scallops also like to have their personal space. Some farmers use bottom cages, but they can be susceptible to predators.
De Koning is testing out a Japanese method of growing scallops where he drills a hole near the hinge of the scallops and attaches them to a line. That keeps them from swimming off, away from other scallops and off the bottom, but it can be extremely labor intensive and expensive.
Because of these factors, scallops could be ideal for lobster pounds that aren’t being used. The scallops would be already contained, they would have plenty of space and the enclosure could protect them from predators.
The economics of a lobster pound can be tough, so if the study shows promise, this could be a chance to revitalize some of the dormant pounds and help catch Washington County up to the rest of the state in aquaculture.
“A lobster pound might be a good solution,” Tilton said.