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Franklin Fish Lab Opens with a Splash

US - The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) dedicated its new National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center (NCWMAC). Research at the new center is focused on developing technologies to enhance the sustainability and profitability of cold water marine aquaculture and ensure safe, abundant seafood for US consumers. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Research at NCWMAC will be conducted in collaboration with ongoing research at the University of Maine's Aquaculture Research Center in Orono and the university's Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR) in Franklin.

The new ARS laboratory also will support national and international research programs and initiatives in aquaculture. With the annual U.S. seafood trade deficit at more than $9 billion, and increasing concerns about the safety of imported seafood, the domestic aquaculture sector is serving an important national need.

“Commercial seafood producers in Maine and other Northeast states are expanding their efforts to meet the growing consumer demand for high-quality seafood," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. "NCWMAC research will support seafood producers and allied industries in developing cost-effective and sustainable practices to meet that demand. Research at NCWMAC has already made significant contributions to cold water aquaculture, including an Atlantic salmon breeding program that has started to provide Atlantic salmon germplasm to commercial producers.”

When all components of NCWMAC are completed and the center is fully staffed, NCWMAC will have 14 full-time scientists and approximately 45 support personnel. Construction of the $22.7 million facility—which provides more than 44,000 square feet of laboratory, office and tank space—was completed in June 2007 on a site adjacent to the University of Maine's CCAR. This proximity will facilitate cutting-edge investigations and collaborative research with University of Maine scientists and industry partners on key issues in current aquaculture production.

NCWMAC Director William R. Wolters delivered opening remarks and introductions at the event. Invited attendees included Rep. Michael Michaud; Governor John Baldacci; University of Maine President Robert Kennedy; Maine Aquaculture Association President Sebastian Belle; and Merle Pierson, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.