UMaine receives $1.5M award to advance Maine’s marine economy

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently announced a $1.5 million award to the University of Maine to support a major waterfront infrastructure investment at the Darling Marine Center (DMC), UMaine’s marine laboratory in Walpole, that will benefit marine industries statewide.

Together with matching funds from UMaine and state marine bond funds, the EDA award will enable DMC to upgrade its flowing seawater system, renovate its oldest seawater laboratory and replace the nearly 50-year old main pier. These key facilities allow UMaine researchers, staff and students to work directly with companies and communities in the marine economic sector, including aquaculture and commercial fisheries. Approximately 50 jobs at marine-related companies are expected to be created through this project.

“For more than five decades, researchers and students at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center have provided marine environmental data that is critical to our state’s commercial fishing and aquaculture industries,” said Sens. Collins and King in a joint statement. “We are delighted that this investment will allow the center to continue its important work as well as expand job opportunities in the aquaculture and technology sectors in the region.”

DMC researchers are helping the state’s marine fisheries and aquaculture sectors adapt, diversify and grow in response to Maine’s evolving environmental conditions. They conduct applied research, and work collaboratively with marine industry professionals to develop new value-added marine products and bring them to commercial scale. Current projects include studies of changing environmental conditions on lobster and shellfish as well as industry-led product development and commercialization efforts focused on oysters, glass eels and sugar kelp. DMC and company partners also provide on-the-job training and experience for student interns.

“With support from the EDA, the Darling Marine Center will be able to continue to support Maine’s marine industries and contribute to the creation and retention of jobs that are critical to our local economies and communities,” said Carl Wilson, director of the Bureau of Marine Science at the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

A significant driver for DMC’s waterfront investment is the recognized need for more space for business incubation and research-industry partnerships. UMaine scientists and students work closely with industry at DMC and throughout the state.

“Research, training and business incubation activities at DMC support the thousands of Mainers engaged in fisheries, marine aquaculture, and other marine-dependent businesses,” noted UMaine Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation James Ward. This project also will contribute to job retention in Maine’s marine-based tourism, and natural resource based recreation sectors.

“Maine’s fisheries and aquaculture professionals depend on healthy coastal and oceans,” said Darling Marine Center Director Heather Leslie. Understanding these connections between people and oceans, and how they are changing is central to our work at the DMC. We thank the delegation and local communities for their support of this important project.”

Founded in 1965, the Darling Marine Center is the University of Maine’s marine laboratory. Its mission is to connect people to the ocean. The center’s researchers, staff and students work alongside fishermen, aquaculture entrepreneurs, marine industry professionals, and members of the community, in Maine and around the world. More information is available online.

Contact: Heather Leslie, 207.350.2713