Department or Program

Environmental Studies


Aquaculture is now the fastest-growing sector of food production worldwide, with marine aquaculture accounting for 38% of global aquaculture supply. In the development of agricultural industries in the United States and internationally, environmental, economic, and governmental factors have allowed for significant consolidation of ownership structure and market share. As aquaculture industries continue to expand, governance structures will need to be put in place to reflect the values and development goals for the aquaculture industry of a given area. While finfish aquaculture has already experienced significant consolidation, shellfish aquaculture remains relatively unconsolidated in most areas, with room for expansion that could follow one of two possible development pathways. One pathway may be the proliferation and success of many small-scale shellfish farm operations, and the alternative may be to follow the lead of salmon aquaculture into a highly consolidated, monopolized industry. This study examined shellfish aquaculture industries in four New England and Mid-Atlantic states to determine factors that have inhibited and/or led to consolidation within the industry, with the goal of making recommendations for burgeoning shellfish and kelp aquaculture within the Gulf of Maine. Results show that governance policies play a major role in limiting or allowing for consolidation. Specifically, limits on lease size and leaseholder eligibility, the prohibition on transferability of leases, and the requirement to prove production on a lease all inhibited the potential for consolidation. In addition to policy, federal and state agency grant and loan programs and University-led aquaculture training programs helped to support the viability of small growers and limit opportunities for consolidation. Additionally, resource-sharing structures such as cooperatives and informal partnerships have the potential to offer small-scale growers the economic benefits associated with consolidation while still maintaining their autonomy. These findings demonstrate the importance of states and municipalities in being proactive to determine development goals for their aquaculture industries, and creating strategic plans to meet these goals accordingly.

Level of Access

Restricted: Embargoed [Open Access After Expiration]

First Advisor

Francis Eanes

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Community Engagement



Available to all on Thursday, May 26, 2022