The Gulf of Maine Research Institute has received nearly $1.3 million in federal funding for two initiatives aimed at helping the state’s waterfront communities become more climate-resilient and to support innovation in the seafood industry and other ocean-related enterprises.

The Portland-based institute’s Climate Center will receive $650,000 to help develop local plans for addressing sea level rise and other effects of climate change. GMRI’s Blue Economy Initiative will receive $632,000 to boost the startup and growth of marine businesses.

The grants were included by Sen. Angus King in Congress’ recent 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Package.

“Our mission is to develop collaborative solutions to global ocean challenges,” institute President and CEO Don Perkins said, “and obviously, the existential challenge of our time as climate change. We’re also focused on the mechanics of how do we understand and steward the Gulf of Maine as a changing system, how do we produce sustainable seafood, and how do we support the resilience of our coastal communities?”

The Climate Center hopes to build on its “Preparing for Sea Level Rise” workshops in its Portland lab and in communities along the coast, and has hosted 60 such events from York to Mount Desert Island so far.

“We want to make sure that working waterfront communities throughout the state of Maine, whether they’re big and well-resourced, like here in Portland, or much smaller, single-species dependent places, can not only have resilience to climate change with sea level rise and stronger storms, but can also be a model for cost-effective mitigation,” said David Reidmiller, the center’s director. “The idea here is to usher in a new era of climate-smart working waterfronts.”


The group looks beyond economics and infrastructure to the social resilience of the community and the resilience of the ecosystem that surrounds it, said Gayle Bowness, the research institute’s municipal climate action program manager.

The center is building up its staff to aid communities in their resilience efforts. Besides Bowness, a sea-level expert has been hired and there’s an opening for one in climate finance. Those professional resources could turn out to be valuable for some Maine communities.

“That’s a big deal,” King said. “You could be in effect the staff for a town of 300 or 400 people and two or three selectmen.”

The Blue Economy Initiative is being coordinated by Blaine Grimes, chief ventures officer for Gulf of Maine Ventures, GMRI’s business development and impact investment program.

She said the grant will build capacity for a commercialization platform to help bridge the gap between innovation and capital investment.

Gulf of Maine Ventures has developed a create-scale-invest process. First, the program helps generate ideas for innovations, from product development to business development strategies. Second, it supports existing businesses with access to industry knowledge, science and business technical advice, and Gulf of Maine Ventures’ network of partnerships. Then the program helps secure direct investments through venture capital partners.

Gulf of Maine Ventures already has supported the launch of several blue-economy businesses. They include the startup True Fin, launched in 2019 as Gulf of Maine Sashimi, which focuses on providing high-quality fish products through special handling and ultra-freezing, allowing for a higher selling price and higher pay for the fishermen. Another of the startups is New England Marine Monitoring, which uses cameras and artificial intelligence to improve data collection for fishermen and fisheries officials.

Gulf of Maine Ventures has partnered with Bold Ocean Ventures Management, led by Tim Agnew and Brady Bohrmann, to launch a $15 million venture fund to  invest in local blue-economy companies.

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