E-14-EA-2 Aquaculture site prospecting: Developing remote sensing capabilities for the aquaculture community of Maine

Damian Brady
UMaine School of Marine Sciences

Emmanuel Boss
UMaine School of Marine Sciences

Andrew Thomas
UMaine School of Marine Sciences

Dana Morse
Maine Sea Grant and University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Jordan Snyder
UMaine School of Marine Sciences

Aquaculture is increasing across the United States, in part to make up for the Nation’s overwhelming reliance on imported seafood. Many coastal communities also view aquaculture as an economic opportunity; the combined wholesale value of cultured Eastern oysters and hard clams on the East Coast was $120 million in 2012. In Maine, oyster landings have increased in value to nearly $3 million. Most of this growth is attributable to small oyster farmers.

The continued sustainable expansion of the industry will rely in part on proper site selection. Ultimately the success or failure of any aquaculture venture depends on vetting an initial location before the leasing process. It takes a lot of work and time to acquire a lease. If a farmer chooses an inappropriate site, there is a heavy penalty to be paid in lost time and money. Currently, the method for selecting a suitable site for bivalve aquaculture is largely based on imitation or trial and error. These methods are inefficient because they do not take into account the specific temperature and nutritional conditions needed for the species grown, which affect how fast it can be taken to market.

This project seeks to develop and provide aquaculture site prospectors a new tool to evaluate potential farm locations based on remote sensing technology. Brady, Boss, and graduate student Jordan Snyder are using the latest Landsat 8 satellite data, validated at several in-situ locations along the Maine coast where monitoring buoys and programs are in place. Combining the high spatial coverage of remote sensing with the temporal resolution of an estuarine observing system will result in a powerful tool for aquaculturists looking to start or expand their business.

View high-resolution satellite imagery of the coast of Maine.

Read Jordan Snyder’s blog post on the project.

Total funds: $227,208 NOAA Sea Grant’s National Strategic Initiative in Aquaculture
Two-year project (2015-2017)