Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2021

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Teresa Johnson

Second Committee Member

Brian Beal

Third Committee Member

Keith Evans

Additional Committee Members

Samuel Hanes

Sandra De Urioste-Stone


Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production system in the world. Aquaculture growth is heavily influenced by the governance system that establishes property rights and determines the rules by which individuals and communities must follow. This dissertation focuses on the social and ecological factors that influence development of marine aquaculture, as they exist within the governance system, in Maine, USA. In Maine, the marine aquaculture industry is experiencing a period of intense growth necessitating further understanding of the factors shaping its development. Chapter 2 analyzes semi-structured key informant interviews to identify challenges and opportunities to inform sustainable industry growth. Research participants identified regulatory, environmental, technological, socio-cultural, and economic challenges and opportunities. The leasing system, climate change, infrastructure, public perceptions, and access to capital were major challenges identified. Opportunities include favorable environmental conditions, farm innovation, skilled workforce, strong product demand, and the research and development capacity in Maine. Chapter 3 identifies factors influencing development of intertidal soft-shell clam (Mya arenaria) aquaculture in Maine and how it would intersect with the wild fishery. Intertidal clam aquaculture has the potential to diversify and sustain a declining wild fishery that is important to the economies and ii cultures of coastal communities. This qualitative study utilized semi-structured interviews with wild clam harvesters, state regulators and other key stakeholders. Participants identified predation, environmental change, and failing state management efforts as leading causes for the overall decline in wild clam populations. Maine’s intertidal property rights system, loss of access to the intertidal, and community preferences regarding privatization of this resource are primary challenges for development of intertidal clam aquaculture. Chapter 4 examines why non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are becoming involved in aquaculture in Maine and how they are shaping its development. NGOs have played instrumental roles in development and management of a variety of natural resources. In aquaculture, NGOs have historically organized in opposition to development, but this is changing. Semi-structured interviews with Maine NGOs involved in the aquaculture sector indicate they are playing critical roles in development processes including research, economic development, training, education and outreach. Findings suggest most NGOs have become involved in aquaculture in response to rapid industry growth and new funding opportunities. The research conducted in this dissertation used a qualitative research approach to help identify factors influencing development of aquaculture in Maine. The social and ecological context of a place are unique so while global trends may inform development, site specific data is needed in order to approach development of the sector in a sustainable fashion. Particular attention is given to the governance system, a major component of social-ecological systems, which has enormous influence over the use and management of natural resources. The findings of these chapters indicate a need for marine planning which could reduce user conflicts as competition for coastal waters intensifies.