BEALS ISLAND, Maine — Hundreds of Maine residents and summer tourists flocked to the Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education on Saturday for the Institute’s second annual Shellfish Field Day.
“This is a chance to give us some exposure,” said Kathy Howell, fundraising coordinator for the institute. “This place is the best kept secret in Maine.”
Dwight Carver of Beals Island gave rides to more than 60 people on his lobster boat during the event. The Machias Ukulele Club played music for guests as they ate lobster rolls, clam rolls and hot dogs sold by the Church of Jesus Christ, Lamb of God.
According to Howell, 300 people attended the field day, up from 80 last year.
“The kids love all of the different looks of Maine,” said Jenny Potts, who recently moved to Maine from Hawaii and attended the event with her two sons. “This gives them a chance to see the sea life up close.”
DEI hopes the field day will have a lasting impression on event goers.
“Programs like this let people see what we do here,” said Howell. “If even one child decides to go and study marine life, it’s all been worth it.”
Visitors walked through the institute’s 9,800-square-foot building and talked to staff about the research going on in the facility.
“It’s important for the public to understand what we do,” said George Protopopescu, DEI’s facility and educational outreach manager.
The site has more than 2,000 feet of deep water frontage, a research shellfish hatchery and a running seawater laboratory.
Staff use the building to raise juvenile shellfish such as lobsters, clams, oysters and scallops. The institute’s research centers on developing new ways to grow and harvest the different species. According to the institute’s Web site, in the last 20 years DEI has produced millions of soft-shell seed clams for enhancing stocks on municipal clam flats in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and eastern Canada.
“We have to think of these marine life as a finite resource that we have to manage,” said Protopopescu.
“Preservation and conservation are important for these shellfish, especially since they are so important to Maine’s economy,” said Brian Beal, a University of Maine at Machias professor and director of the institute.
The institute recently received a $1 million grant from the Maine Technology Institute and is working to raise more funds to build a new wharf and another research facility on its property.
For information about the institute go to www.downeastinstitute.org or call Beal at UMM at 255-1314.