Document Type

Honors Thesis


Marine Science


Joshua Stoll

Committee Members

Emmanuel Boss, Richard Wahle

Graduation Year

December 2023

Publication Date

Fall 12-2023


Throughout the last decade, the oyster aquaculture industry in Maine has boomed, with 6 million pounds of oysters being harvested in 2021, about the amount that was harvested in 2016 (Cough, 2022). According to the founders of the Maine Oyster Trail, there are over 150 oyster farms currently operating on Maine’s coast, which is about twice as many as there were in 2016 (Maine Sea Grant). With this boom in the industry has come a wave of opportunity, as well as news coverage about the shellfish. This study examines the socio-cultural significance to the state of Maine. While the oyster aquaculture industry is growing rapidly in Maine, relatively limited attention has been given to the sociocultural value of oysters. To begin to address this gap, I conducted a systematic analysis of newspaper articles to elucidate different ways that oyster aquaculture confers value to people in the state of Maine. Here I review Bangor Daily News articles that included the word “oyster” or “oysters” published within the last 10 years from 2013 to 2023. A total of 126 relevant articles were presented. These articles were reviewed and coded thematically with each relevant excerpt categorized based on the value(s) or area(s) of socio-cultural significance that they underscored. Each recurring value or theme that arose was determined to be one way in which oysters carry socio-cultural significance to the state of Maine. The most commonly identified themes presented were those regarding a sense of livelihood. This included four subcategories including, aquaculture from both a positive (14.3%) and negative lens (18.1%), tourism (3.6%), and creative opportunities (12.6%), with excerpts pertaining to aquaculture and creative opportunities dominating. The other three overarching themes identified were a sense of community, a sense of environmental awareness, and a sense of symbolic representation. A sense of community enveloped subcategories pertaining to celebration (2.7%), general entertainment (2.7%), local sales and support (4.4%), restaurants/food (4.4%), and bars/alcohol (4.1%). A sense of environmental awareness included the subcategories of sustainability (9.9%), climate change and habitat destruction (12.3%), and oyster population (1.9%), proving to be quite significant. Finally, a sense of symbolic representation referenced oysters in the context of metaphorical representation (1.4%), historical representation (0.8%), luxury (1.1%), feminism (0.8%), connoisseurial knowledge (2.5%), and Maine pride (2.2%). These percentages were determined simply by comparing the number of excerpts coded into each category to the total number of coded excerpts, which was 364. This research suggests that oysters appear to have socio-cultural significance to Maine and support values such as a sense of community, livelihood, environmental awareness, and symbolism, which can be broken down into many more specific areas of significance. This study aims to promote an understanding of the relationship between people, values, and culture, while simultaneously sharing information regarding the sustainability of oyster cultivation, which is expanding in the state of Maine.