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courtesy of Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center


Maine’s working waterfronts are diversifying, forging innovative businesses and dynamic supply chains. The future resiliency of our working waterfronts is dependent on the availability of a trained, tech-savvy workforce. There is an urgent need to train the next generation of seafood sector workforce including areas such as wild capture fisheries, aquaculture, supply chain, infrastructure, processing, entrepreneurship, and more. Maine’s community colleges and the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center (MAIC) are linking arms with partners to meet this need.


Washington County Community College (WCCC), founded in 1969, has worked with local seafood industries in Maine to identify workforce development needs. The college currently offers 29 programs of study at the associate degree, diploma and certificate levels. Certificates are designed to be “stackable.” This allows students the option of becoming multi-skilled technicians upon returning for a subsequent year to earn another technical certificate which, in turn, maximizes their employment opportunities. To support the Downeast seafood sector, two new programs are now available at WCCC: the Coastal Fisheries and Marine Technology program which launched in 2020, and the Aquaculture Technology program that will begin its pilot run this year.


With support from the USDA AFRI program, WCCC has been partnering with the MAIC and Sunrise County Economic Council to make the Aquaculture Technology program a reality. This kicks off in August, with a five-day residential course that aims to raise awareness of the diversity of careers within aquaculture, and pathways towards these careers. Students will visit an exciting range of aquaculture operations and become familiar with the varying roles and responsibilities of careers within this growing industry. This will include visiting shellfish, marine algae and fin fish hatcheries, land-based recirculating aquaculture operations, marine-based fin fish and shellfish operations, processing facilities, and research facilities. Students will meet with people in a broad range of careers including farming/production, biotechnology, processing, distribution and transport, gear/equipment manufacturing, veterinarians and aquatic animal health, entrepreneurship, sales, advocacy, education, policy and regulation, research, engineering, food science, and more. To find out more about this course and others we are developing at WCCC, please take a look at this website:


A complementary USDA AFRI funded project is also underway in Southern Maine with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) partnering to develop and deliver both aquaculture workforce training courses, and a shellfish and marine algae farming pre-apprenticeship program.


This energy has continued to garner State and Federal level support with a Congressionally Directed Spending Award to MAIC, Maine Community College System (MCCS), WCCC and SMCC, to support community college seafood training programs. The three-year project aims to forge a new system-wide approach to addressing seafood workforce needs so that together SMCC and WCCC can prepare future generations of Mainers for entry-level positions in the seafood sector, paving pathways for lifelong in-demand, high-wage careers. The collaboration will bring together the MAIC, MCCS, WCCC, SMCC along with the SEA Maine, the Downeast Institute, Maine Aquaculture Association, Maine Lobster Dealers Association, Maine 4-H, Sunrise County Economic Council, Maine Sea Grant, and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to develop world class training and education programs for the next generation of Maine’s workforce in the seafood sector.