Maine’s seafood industry is getting a $2.5 million investment aimed at making the seafood supply chain more resilient and giving fishermen and aquaculturists a broader online market during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Island Institute, Luke’s Lobster and Silicon Valley Community Foundation said on Wednesday that they will put up the money and partner to expand and diversify the Luke’s Lobster e-commerce business, which sells products from fishermen. The collaboration also involves meeting environmental goals and providing education about the seafood industry.
Luke’s, based in Saco, is a processing facility and restaurant chain that buys seafood directly from fishermen. It set up the website in April when virus-related restrictions caused it to temporarily close all but one of its 26 shacks in the United States and 11 overseas. While it recently reopened 14 U.S. shacks for takeout and delivery, this project will focus on building its e-commerce business.
The investment will go toward making more types of farmed and caught seafood available through the website, which already sells lobsters, crabs, scallops and oysters. It recently added seasonal seafood products with short harvest windows including Gulf of Maine dayboat scallops and fresh halibut.
Rob Snyder, president of the Island Institute, a Rockland-based nonprofit that focuses on sustaining island and coastal Maine communities, said the collaboration is a response to the pandemic and aims to minimize “potentially catastrophic community and economic disruptions” while building up resilience in the supply chain in case of future crises.
He said upward of 70 percent of fishermen on the Maine coast, peninsulas and islands are self-employed and have been hard hit by the pandemic.
Luke’s and the institute will also use the funding to meet environmental goals and social objectives such as providing technical assistance on clean energy and water quality improvement projects. The money will be used to collect data and look for ways to decarbonize the seafood supply chain. The collaboration will be overseen by a five-person advisory committee.
“There have been many bumps in the road in 2020 for Luke’s Lobster and the Maine seafood community, but this gives a much-needed shot in the arm,” Luke Holden, CEO of the seafood processor, said.