On April 8, 2020, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded $2,000,000 to the state of Maine to help revitalize the state’s fishing industry.
“Maine’s marine economy is an engine that has powered our state for generations, and we are committed to supporting its continued success,” said U.S. Senators Susan Collins (who notoriously defunded America’s pandemic response unit just prior to the COVID-19 outbreak) along with Angus King, and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden in a joint statement.
“Building on our traditions of the past, industry leaders are working to create new, sustainable opportunities that will maximize the benefits of our vast marine resources. This funding from the EDA will support those industry-led efforts to foster innovation and adaptability, and improve current and future workforce needs, which are needed now more than ever to help this vital sector weather the coronavirus pandemic and future challenges,” they added.
The funding will establish a new 3-year project to develop an industry-led roadmap and action plan called Maine’s Marine Living Resource Economy Initiative.
“This funding targets critical areas of need in Maine’s marine economy,” said Patrick Keliher, Commissioner of Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR).
“Workforce and market development are key for the stability and growth of our state’s fishing and aquaculture industries. Improvement in supply chain efficiencies are also vital for efforts to innovate and add value. I’m am grateful for the support of the delegation and the collaboration among industry leaders which will benefit industries so important to Maine’s economy and identity,” he continued.
Overseen by the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) and FocusMaine, the initiative will bring together industry leaders from both commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, including Maine fishermen, marine researchers, scientists, and educators, to develop strategies to match Maine’s marine products with global markets, attract investment, and bolster the industry’s workforces.
“MTI is keenly aware of the dire economic and environmental pressures facing the marine sector in Maine – one of our state’s most critical industries,” said Brian Whitney, President of the Maine Technology Institute.
“That’s why we are so encouraged by the collaborative, cross-sector effort to sustain and grow Maine’s marine living resources economy. That effort generated a winning proposal that will focus on four primary areas: asset mapping and resource assessment, emerging opportunities to diversify and sustain the marine economy, capital attraction and market growth, and workforce development,” he added.
“This effort has, from the start, been driven by industry leaders and committed partners in Maine’s marine economy,” said Dr. Kimberly Hamilton, President of FocusMaine. “Today’s announcement marks the culmination of more than a year of thoughtful collaboration and planning. This award complements FocusMaine’s strategy to grow good jobs in Maine’s aquaculture industry. This infusion of resources comes at an especially critical time and will strengthen Maine’s competitiveness, support Maine’s sea farmers, and build the skills and talent needed to transform our heritage marine economy into a modern engine for sustainable economic and job growth.”
“At a time where Maine’s economy is being impacted in unprecedented ways by Covid-19, this award presents an opportunity to help advance Maine’s economic development plan to sustain and grow the state’s marine economy,” explained Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development.
“This is a great example of the kind of collaboration that is needed to create a resilient, forward looking plan to sustain communities, grow jobs, and preserve our natural assets. There is no doubt in my mind that Maine will continue to stay at the forefront of the marine economy, and this vote of confidence from the EDA will further strengthen our position. I applaud the diligent efforts of all who were involved and thank our federal delegation for their support in ensuring that Maine will be prepared for emerging opportunities in this sector,” she concluded.