Center to target salmon research

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
12 April 2007, at 1:00am

FRANKLIN - Sterilized blue tanks of varying sizes sat empty Tuesday inside the new National Coldwater Marine Aquaculture Center in Franklin, but they wont be empty much longer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Coldwater Marine Aquaculture Center in Franklin set to open in May, will research and study Atlantic salmon including some first generation fish which were grown in temporary facilities shown here.
Biological science technician Melissa Albert tends to three-month-old Atlantic salmon which were transfered to nursery tanks Tuesday at the nearly complete National Coldwater Marine Aquaculture Center in Franklin.

Soon those tanks will be occupied by schools of Atlantic salmon, from newly hatched alevins to full-size adults, and all will be grown on site.

Four years after the project was approved for funding by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the 50,000-square-foot facility is set to open later this spring.

When it does, it will combine with its neighbor, the University of Maine Center for Cooperative Aquaculture, to create one of the largest and most important research centers of its kind in the United States.

The $17 million project will bring 20 to 30 new jobs to the coastal Hancock County town and expand the municipal tax base.

Bill Wolters, the research leader for the new USDA facility, said he’s thrilled that the long journey is nearly complete.

"It’s exciting to be a part of this new program. We want to think that the research we’re doing here will make a difference," Wolters said Tuesday while touring the new facility off Taunton Drive in Franklin.

Across from the new building is the UMaine co-op, which has been farming several species of fish, including halibut and cod, since it opened in 1999.

The site in Franklin was chosen by the USDA to allow the two facilities to share many facets of internal infrastructure and research, thereby cutting costs on both sides.

"We’ll be linked in many ways. It looks like it will be great for everybody," said Nick Brown, head of research at the UMaine center.

The two centers also should make Maine and the U.S. a leader in cold water research.

"It will be the largest of its type in the U.S.," said Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association, which represents more than 100 fresh-water and saltwater farms in the state. "This [facility] will help us remain competitive using native strains of fish as we compete against many other countries that import at an increasing level."