Current Research

Soft Shell Clams  Scallops    Hard Clams    Aging Lobsters   Pounding Lobsters

The production/research shellfish hatchery and running seawater laboratory at the Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education (DEI) are home to a number of applied field investigations, all of which involve Downeast fishermen. During 2013, DEI worked with the Town of Freeport and its clammers on a "Shellfish Restoration Program."  You can see a copy of the Final Report to the Freeport Town Council here.

Soft-Shell Seed Clams for Stock Enhancement and Research

For the last 20 years, DEI and its predecessor – the Beals Island Regional Shellfish Hatchery – have produced millions of soft-shell seed clams for enhancing stocks on municipal clam flats in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and eastern Canada.

DEI’s former headquarters—the shellfish hatchery established at Perio Point in 1987 -- was the first public soft-shell clam hatchery in Maine. DEI’s new home at Black Duck Cove is currently the only hatchery facility in the state, and one of only a few in New England that produces soft-shell seed clams.

Learn More About Growing Soft Shell Seed Clams!

DEI provides seed clams to shellfish conservation committees in Maine, New Hampshire,  Massachusetts and eastern Canada as well as to other  researchers. (The fee for the clams is similar to that charged by other research organizations and covers only a portion of production costs) DEI also uses the seed clams for its own research projects, including a clam farming project in Edmunds. DEI will work with Lubec clammers to develop another clam farming project in the Spring of 2008.

Please click the link below to read about and see pictures of DEI’s recent and current experiments with soft-shell clams in Edmunds, Stockton Springs and Hampton Harbor, New Hampshire.


Giving Scallops a Chance  (Using Closed Areas to Enhance the Scallop Fishery)

The Downeast Institute, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and University of Maine Sea Grant Extension are working with Jonesport and Beals Island scallop fishermen to test a plan the fishermen developed to enhance the region’s once lucrative scallop fishery.

The project involves using closed areas – scallop grounds that are closed to dragging and diving – to grow wild scallops. Initiated in May 2007, the effort will determine the best method for moving wild scallops into a closed area and whether it is possible to collect wild scallop spat (seed) using collectors that have been very successful in Canada, Chile, and Japan.

The project is funded by the Northeast Consortium, which is comprised of the University of New Hampshire, the University of Maine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The Consortium’s mission is to encourage and fund cooperative research.

Click here to see photos and read more about DEI’s work with sea scallops

Farming Hard Clams (Mercenaria mercenaria)  

This past Spring, the Downeast Institute completed a business incubator project with Mr. Joseph Porada, a Blue Hill clammer who wanted to test the feasibility of farming commercially valuable hard clams.

With funding from The Maine Technology Institute, DEI successfully spawned adult hard clams from broodstock collected from their site of origin in Trenton. DEI staff reared the larvae and juveniles using techniques similar to those used to produce larval and juvenile soft-shell clams. 

The hard clam seed grew to an average size of 8 mm in length in ocean-based nursery trays and was successfully overwintered at DEI’s Black Duck Cove facility.  In May 2007, the hard clam seed was planted at Goose Cove in one of three experimental lease sites that Mr. Porada obtained through the Maine Department of Marine Resources. 

Dr. Beal and hatchery staff will continue to work with him as his farm progresses.

Click here to see photos and read more about DEI’s work with hard clams.


How old are lobsters?  (Regional Aspects of Lobster Growth and Aging)

Working under a grant from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, DEI is trying to determine how fast lobsters grow and whether their growth is influenced by region and/or the type of substrate on which they settle. This research builds on Dr. Beal’s work with ocean-based lobster nurseries, which he developed and tested in Maine and as a 2000 Fulbright scholar at the National University of Ireland Galway’s Shellfish Research Laboratory.

 In July 2006, egg-bearing female lobsters at DEI’s Black Duck Cove hatchery produced approximately 4,000 larval lobsters. Hatchery staff fed the tiny cannibals on brine shrimp until they grew to the diameter of a penny.  Each juvenile was then placed in a specially designed flow-through container, which were then placed in wire cages. Dr. Beal and hatchery staff worked with area lobstermen to deploy the cages at ocean sites in York, Boothbay Harbor, Tenants Harbor, Stonington, Beals, and Cutler.

The cages are pulled up at regular intervals and the lobsters are measured. When the project ends in the summer of 2008, Dr. Beal will coordinate with Dr. Sean Grace at the University of Southern Connecticut, who will examine the accumulation of lipofuscin from the olfactory lobe in the brain of the lobsters. Lipofuscin accumulates in lobsters and other organisms at a rate that is related to the age of the animal. The results of Drs. Grace and Beal’s work will provide the DMR with two independent measures of the age of the lobsters.

Click here to see photos and read about DEI’s work on lobster aging.

Pounding Lobsters

DEI and the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine are collaborating on an effort to determine if tidal pounds are suitable for rearing lobsters for stock enhancement purposes. The project is funded by the Washington County Fund of the Maine Community Foundation. Dr. Beal and Dr. Robert Bayer, Director of The Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, will hatch and rear lobsters in two dormant lobster pounds, including one at DEI. The lobsters will be reared until they are five to six weeks old and sizable enough to live on the ocean floor and protect themselves from predators. The effort is aimed at developing alternatives if Maine’s $290 million lobster fishery should suffer a decline similar to what happened in Long Island Sound in 1999.

For more information on any of these projects, please contact Dr. Brian Beal at 255-1314.