The U.S. Department of Commerce is investing $1.5 million to support the development of Maine’s aquaculture industry.

The grant from the Economic Development Administration will be used by the Darling Marine Center at the University of Maine in Orono for improvements, and to increase the availability of incubator space.

The money will help the center demolish and replace its deteriorated pier, renovate the Flowing Seawater Laboratory, upgrade the flowing seawater system, and add three new business incubation laboratory spaces.

The improvements will ensure the continuing availability of marine environmental and ecosystem data essential to the management of Maine’s coastal fisheries, and the long-term health as well as sustainability of the commercial fishing economy, according to the Commerce Department.

Last year, Maine’s aquaculture industry was cited by FocusMaine, an economic development group, as one of three key industries the state should focus resources on because of its huge growth potential.

Maine’s aquaculture industry was valued at $7 million in 2016, but analysts predict it can grow to over $30 million by 2030 with proper investment.

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