Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Resource Economics and Policy


Xuan Chen

Second Committee Member

Caroline Noblet

Third Committee Member

Keith Evans


The Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) at the University of Maine is taking an interdisciplinary approach to examine many aspects of marine aquaculture. My role on this team has been to focus on economic concerns related to aquaculture production. The main topics addressed here include price interactions between foreign and domestically produced aquaculture products, as well as production efficiency in New England’s oyster aquaculture industry.

We chose to use catfish as a model species in order to assess the role that the price of foreign aquaculture products have on similar domestic products. There are a several reasons for this choice, including the availability of long-term price data, and the fact that this industry has been well studied by agricultural economists. The catfish industry has also recently undergone substantial changes, in the form of an influx of inexpensive catfish products from Vietnam, and subsequent enforcement of anti-dumping duties by the U.S. on these products. Cointegration tests were used to confirm that there was a long term price relationship between domestic and imported catfish products, which has endured despite the anti-dumping tariffs. Further investigation revealed that Vietnamese prices no longer significantly impact domestic prices, while prices from other catfish exporting countries still influence the price received by domestic catfish producers and processors. This suggests that, while targeted tariffs may be effective in eliminating price relationships between specific products, these measures are likely not enough to ensure the long-run competitiveness of domestic aquaculture industries. The methodology presented in this paper could be used to study any aquaculture product, and this type of analysis will become increasingly important as aquaculture expands both in New England and globally.

The next section focuses on oyster aquaculture, which is a widespread practice in coastal New England. Oyster production generates millions of dollars in annual revenue for coastal communities in this area (Lapointe, 2013). yet this industry has received relatively little attention from economists. We perform the first evaluation of production efficiency among oyster producers in the United States. Production information was collected from oyster growers using a mixed-mode survey instrument. Stochastic frontier models indicate that there is significant potential to productivity in this industry by reducing inefficiency. However, production efficiency does appear to be increasing annually in this relatively young industry. Further analysis reveals several factors that significantly contribute to inefficiency in oyster production. Findings also suggests that bottom planting, a relatively simple production method, is more efficient as compared to more capital intensive methods. This information could help governance bodies and outreach specialists to make more informed decisions regarding oyster aquaculture.

Examining the production side of aquaculture through an economic lens has led to some important findings. We have contributed to the understanding of price interactions among aquaculture products, as well as determinants of efficiency in aquaculture production. Most importantly, this research has paved the way for future work in this area, which will improve our understanding of the supply of aquaculture products in New England and on a global scale.


This research was supported by National Science Foundation award #1355457 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine. Additional funding was provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture under the Hatch project #ME021603