GREAT WASS ISLAND, Maine — With mulled cider and homemade cookies, dignitaries and officials Saturday dedicated the easternmost marine research facility in the country.
Downeast Institute of Applied Marine Research, located on Black Duck Cove on Great Wass Island, is built where cold water flushes the bays twice a day with enormous tides. But the once-thriving fishing industry is losing its economic foothold.
Dr. Brian Beal has dedicated his life to changing that, and DEI, formerly known as the Beals Island Regional Shellfish Hatchery, has a 20-year history of successful shellfish research.
DEI is a nonprofit organization that has an understanding with the University of Maine to provide hands-on marine research opportunities.
When state Sen. Kevin Raye, Rep. Diane Tilton, University of Maine at Machias President Cindy Huggins and Beal cut a bright yellow ribbon Saturday, they opened the door to the future — one Beal hopes his research will enrich.
The new marine education center is the culmination of a 10-year-old idea, Beal said. “This will improve educational opportunities for children, community members, fishermen and students at the university.”
Public seminars, speakers, forums and classes can be held in the facility, which abuts the lab where Beal now conducts his groundbreaking research on clams, scallops and lobsters. “This is now a year-round facility for learning,” Beal said.
DEI now has $678,000 in research projects under way. They include:
• $400,000 for research into multiple farming techniques for northern hard clams.
• $90,000 for oyster farming research.
• $163,165 to increase sea scallop harvests through stock enhancement.
• $25,000 to spawn and seed surf clams in natural field plots.
“We believe that stock enhancement and other programs here at DEI will result in new economic opportunities for Down East Maine,” Beal said.
The new marine education center is part of a 9,000-square-foot facility that also includes a commercial wharf and two working impoundments.
Huggins praised Beal’s work. “UMM has adopted an environment-liberal arts focus, and DEI is a perfect match,” she said. “This center is critically important for UMM and will attract scientists and researchers from all over the world. That provides a unique and exciting opportunity for our students.”
Raye said the research at DEI is “so important to the Down East way of life as well as our future economy. This is a perfect example of how to leverage and secure critical investments to Maine. This is exactly the type of development that will attract jobs to our state.”
Raye said there is much more going on at DEI than what is apparent in bricks and mortar. “This is a major resource and educational tool,” he said. “There is a lot of promise here for Down East Maine.”