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Ocean Food Systems


Photo of Barry Costa-Pierce
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

UNE NORTH: The Institute for North Atlantic Studies of the University of New England Portland & Biddeford, Maine, USA and Tangier, Morocco

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Alan Furth, Cobscook Community Learning Center, Trescott, Maine; Newell Lewey, Passamaquoddy Nation, Pleasant Point, Maine, USA; Erik Heim, Nordic Aquafarms; Peter Handy, Bristol Seafoods; Dana Eidsness, Maine International Trade Center; Stephen Von Vogt, Maine Marine Composites; Dr. David Fredriksson, United State Naval Academy, Annapolis; Dr. Robert Jones, The Nature Conservancy, Washington, DC, USA; Professor Helgi Þór Thorarensen, Holar University, Sauðárkrókur, Iceland; Professor Kristina Snuttan Sundell, University of Gothenburg, Göteborg, Sweden; Dr. Ögmundur Haukur Knútsson, Akureyri, Iceland; Professor Mette Sørensen, Nord University, Bodø, Norway; Zach Miller-Hope, University of New England NORTH; Adam St. Gelais, University of New England NORTH

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Portland, Maine, USA

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Washington County Maine, USA and the Passamaquoddy homeland covers an area of 8500 km^2. The municipality of Ísafjörður, Iceland is 26 km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America Passamaquoddy Nation, Maine, USA and New Brunswick, Canada Iceland

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Our ocean food systems program connects the issues and problems of the peoples of rural coastal communities in USA, Canada and North Iceland who are dependent upon ocean resources for their survival. These peoples are watching oceans change before their very eyes in real time and are having a very difficult time coping economically and social-politically. We work with emerging leaders across political boundaries since the future of rural coastal communities that are dependent upon the ocean are astoundingly similar across the North Atlantic. Ocean food system issues and value chains scope from rural, local geographies to rural, global ones in many, applied ocean issues related to foods from the sea, and especially so in their social-ecological complexity. All issues in ocean food systems today - and into the future - require a unique place based education, plus a deep connection to the peoples of the place. In our case we connect the next generation of coastal leaders who join us from throughout the World in a applied Master's degree program that has an equal, meaningful partnerships with the Cobscook Community Learning Center that was co-founded by the Passamquoddy Nation, to innovative ocean industries harvesting and producing knowledge-based, value-added products, and to leaders of the rural communities and applied academic centers in northern Maine ad North Iceland (the Westfjords). The Passamquoddy Nation territory encompasses the modern political areas of Washington County, Maine, USA and Charlotte County, New Brunswick, Canada, so it has been important for us to include tribal leaders in New Brunswick. In both of these areas there are serious concerns about the future of ocean food production (large vs. small scale fisheries, and large vs. small scale aquaculture), the rural and cultural impacts of global tourism, and the intriguing possibilities of making more of the emerging connections between these to evolve rural economies, both globally and locally.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The economy of rural Washington County, Maine is under great threat as it is almost entirely dependent on tourism and the harvest of one natural resource from the ocean - the American lobster. The forest products industry has collapsed. We intend to engage our partners in rural Maine and Iceland and to leverage our works in ocean foods in order to expand on the concept of “food”, and to engage in its social, policy, health, nutritional, economic aspects - and not only in ocean areas - but extend to rural and inland geographies. UNE has Maine's only medical school and has rural Maine health centers which can serve as the basis of community education in food. In forestry, the Maine International Office has just signed an agreement with the Government of Finland to cooperate fully on the green forest bioeconomy. The leader of this Maine International Office is an advisor to UNE NORTH and will advise on our outreach to rural Maine forest leaders. The Passamaquoddy Nation has a large traditional homeland of over 16,000 km^2 but today are restricted to two reservations (Indian Island and Pleasant Point) that extend across the USA-Canadian border. The Passamaquoddy are the "People of the Pollock" with thousands of years of traditional use of ocean and land resources for survival. In modern times, they lead important sustainable developments in the management of fisheries, having their own national fisheries management plan, anadromous fish restoration programs, and sustainable aquaculture and forest programs. Our ocean food systems program derives much of its inspiration from the experiences and wisdom of the indigenous leaders of these efforts who join with us as teachers and will also be project managers, interacting with not only with students from throughout the world, but also with our Icelandic colleagues. The Passamaquoddy Nation also co-founded the Cobscook Community Center as a place for social recovery, sustainable rural development, and lifelong education steeped in indigenous values. The UNE ocean food systems program students are resident at the CCLC for a two week immersive, then travel and spend a two week immersive in North Iceland.

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Sustainable development goals challenge humanity to end hunger and feed a growing world population. There are many proposals advanced by technologists, geographers and food policy professionals to meet the world’s current and future food needs from agriculture. Nearly all cogent analyses regarding the future of food production on Earth consider “foods” to be “terrestrial foods” with projections relying almost exclusively upon the questionable concept of “sustainable intensification” of agriculture to meet future food needs and prevent additional conversion of the Earth‘s remaining natural ecosystems and biodiversity to farms. However, sustainable intensification of terrestrial agriculture would have to be implemented nearly everywhere; and, if not, the practice would not be able to meet the increased food needs of a projected global population of at least 10 billion by 2050 and upwards of 12 billion by 2100 who will require 70-200% more food than today. The only way the Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems could provide this amount of food from agriculture would be by the continued expansion of arable lands which will result in the conversion of the Earth’s last remaining natural, biodiverse, terrestrial ecosystems. Agriculture would also threaten nearly all of humanity’s parks and nature reserves. In almost all planning and policy discussions on the future of food there is little/no recognition that the Earth is 70% ocean and that 97% of all waters are salt waters, and that with a infinitesimally small footprint compared to agriculture, ocean food systems, and especially marine aquaculture and restored fisheries, could provide for all of the necessary future protein foods and make a significant contribution to humanity’s plant foods. Ocean foods are produced more efficiently and are less consumptive of natural resources in comparison with terrestrial foods - an overall more rational investment for the future of food with the enormous benefit of the preservation of the world’s remaining, undeveloped and invaluable terrestrial ecosystems. Fisheries do not need to expand; they need to be restored almost everywhere. Aquaculture’s expansion can be done without any further pressure on marine fisheries. Ocean foods production is estimated to comprise only ~4% of all human foods. Aquaculture is an ancient practice in Asia; but large and small scale, ecological and restoration aquaculture is poorly understood and routinely neglected. As a result, there are very few “aquaculturally developed“ nations on Earth. Ocean food systems suffer from a lack of leadership and education in both governments and civil societies. For planetary survival in the Anthropocene, an alternative to sustainable intensification of agriculture needs to occur. Ocean food systems with local to global partnerships are needed, especially in rural areas undergoing massive social and climate changes. The success of ocean food systems could lead to a major reordering of global food policy.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

If ocean food systems are designed, implemented and evaluated as part of a participatory community-business process led by students, new social contracts would arise over time. Sustainable models of fisheries and aquaculture developments that interact closely with agriculture and conservation programs would occur to help deliver locally and globally an accelerated amount for nutrient dense ocean foods. To meet the food needs of the future, a focus on ecomanagement conflicts is required. There are educational deficiencies between fisheries and aquaculture managers. Aquaculture is routinely managed under agriculture, environment or fisheries agencies that have little knowledge, training or experiences in aquaculture which has unique technologies and policy needs. Aquaculture and fisheries are so separate structurally and functionally in many governance systems that decision-makers and ocean professionals have regularly lost track of their common goal of delivering environmentally friendly, safe, sustainable seafoods to the people they serve. Sensible regulatory alignment is needed to deliver products that sustain ocean foods livelihoods. More broadly there is a need for institutions to train the next generation of professionals in ocean foods ecosystems that account for the need to preserve biodiversity and natural areas. A new generation of stewards working with a new paradigm of planning is required. In the ocean professions, there is a bias of many fisheries managers, conservationists and marine science academics about aquaculture. It is perceived as a business without a modern, science-based foundation or a threat fisheries and ocean ecosystems. Aquaculture IS a disruptive, "new" field in traditional ocean management regimes in many places; also to existing social-ecological and farming systems norms. Professional, regulatory, “decision-maker communities” in food and natural resource management agencies are dominated by agriculture, fisheries and conservation professionals. To them, aquaculture is a garrulous menagerie of confusing social, ecological and technological advances. In nations where aquaculture has potential such as the rural USA and Iceland, aquaculture is opposed by misinformed interest groups and poorly developed local, state, tribal or national policies. More comprehensive training is needed for a sustainable ocean food future that would result in a modern cadre of transdisciplinary decision-makers who could conduct the integrated, holistic planning necessary for the future of ocean foods to meet sustainable development goals. These leaders would evaluate not only aquaculture and fisheries, but also natural ecosystems and their allied regional social infrastructures. Our chosen target areas of focus are where fisheries and aquaculture interact intensely, and where ocean food system's projects can be developed to meet local and export needs and also prevent the untold destruction of terrestrial ecosystems.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

With our partnership, communities in Washington County, Maine, the Westfjords, Iceland, and the Passamaquoddy of Maine/New Brunswick will have a new toolkit of plans and projects in order to add additional sustainable pathways to the management of their natural resources, fisheries and forestry, and the sustainable development of aquaculture in these regions. Communities and industries will learn from Iceland's very important international advances in sustainable fisheries management that will be directly applicable to Maine's fishing industry, and the Passamaquoddy national fisheries management plan. Iceland will learn from Maine/Canada fisheries restoration programs. Everyone will benefit from new knowledge gained on sustainable aquaculture programs. The Westfjords region of North Iceland will benefit from the UNE Ocean Food Systems Program's social-ecological systems approaches to rural and community development advanced in Maine, and the new international collaborations we have with Norway and Sweden on the future of large and small scale ocean food systems, seaweed and shellfish systems, their allied value chains, and the vital connections of production systems with rural development planning, tourism and the roles of foreign investment. Systemic changes as outlined above; however, will not occur in short time frame of any one award or grant. We will not over promise to you systems-wide systematic changes. Rather, we do offer, as our most expected impact, changes to the behaviors of peoples we engage with, and especially to the emerging leaders who will come from this effort. These are best exemplified in their own words: Julie Stockbridge of Belize (see, Bailey Moritz Washington and Maine, USA (, and Phoebe Walsh (see and Hillevi Jaegerman, both of Maine, USA (see

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Ocean foods are superior sources of higher quality proteins and seaweeds for human health and wellness in comparison to any terrestrial animal proteins or plants. Fish have much higher concentrations of essential fatty acids, bioavailable minerals and vitamins than terrestrial proteins. Scientists have found that diets low in seafood omega-3 fatty acids accounted for an estimated 1.4 million premature deaths in 2010. Others have shown that fish consumption reduced mortalities from heart disease by 36%. These are spectacular findings from the medical community that suggest that dietary changes to ocean foods from terrestrial animal protein diets can make fundamental changes to humanity. There's also a feed conundrum. Much of the land conversion destroying natural ecosystems is for feed crops to feedlot animals. Pigs and chickens alone consume six times the amount of seafood as US consumers, and twice that of Japan. Planet Earth is Planet Ocean; she is 70% water, and 97% of that is seawater. FAO has estimated that more than 400 MMT of new protein foods will be needed by 2050. Terrestrial agriculture has serious resource and environmental constraints that will prevent it from providing 70% more food to an estimated 10 billion people by 2050. Studies advancing the sustainable intensification of agriculture systems to meet these human needs are inadequate; they border on the fanciful. All serious projections on the amount of terrestrial arable lands and waters, and additional irrigation systems that must be developed; the quantities of additional nutrients and pesticides that will be required to meet dire human needs via terrestrial food production require the massive conversion ( = destruction) of the Earth’s remaining natural ecosystems and reserves via deforestation, conversions of grasslands, damming and diversion of remaining watercourses and addition, and construction of new, massive energy systems infrastructures. There is clear evidence that human land use (agriculture, development, etc.) has crossed a “Planetary Boundary” needed to preserve long-term terrestrial biodiversity, defined as the maintenance of ecosystem functions from biome to global scales. Scientists have estimated that the safe limit of conversion of terrestrial ecosystems to preserve the Earth’s remaining terrestrial biodiversity has been crossed. Land use by humans now covers over 58% of the world’s land surface, shrinking the space available for the Earth's remaining natural biodiversity. Land conversion to agriculture is accelerating in the world's last remaining biodiverse ecosystems terrestrial agriculture is expanding to meet human populations that are not stabilizing, but exploding in Africa and Asia. Continued consumption and degradation of lands for terrestrial agriculture and for new urban developments will destroy the world’s remaining terrestrial and coastal biodiversity and its novel ecosystems and threaten human health and wellness into the future unless we plan now and develop partnerships and training the next generation of leaders, and to invest in a new mental model for the future of good food. Sustainable intensification - not of terrestrial crops - but of integrated aquatic and marine food and energy production systems of fisheries, aquaculture, and plant systems is urgently required. These are far superior choices for global investments to 2050 and beyond in comparisons to any other terrestrial agriculture production systems based upon numerous, comprehensive scientific assessments from life cycle analyses, input and protein efficiencies, carbon footprints, greenhouse gas production, and nitrogen and phosphorus discharges per unit of protein production. Future increases in ocean food production cannot come from capture fisheries and must come from the expansion of plant and animal aquaculture, and integrated agriculture-aquaculture farming systems in both freshwaters and oceans. Complete recovery of all of the world’s capture fisheries by 2050 would only provide by 2050 an estimated 20% of the global protein demands. A global, sustainable aquaculture revolution in rural areas is needed to meet the sustainable development goals is especially important. Aquaculture development globally is currently limited to China, a few countries in Asia, Norway, and Egypt, but is rare everywhere else. Aquaculture is stymied by the fact that it is a “newcomer“ to many bioregions of the world. Aquaculture has evolved rapidly but remains a complex, knowledge-based cacophony of practices that are poorly communicated. Aquaculture innovations are happening so rapidly that “old news“ is months ago. A regular recycling of past poor practices and the resulting advocacy information and misinformation play out especially in rural social settings where there are few leading voices who have the experiences and broad transdisciplinary training to calm the waters for rational decision-making. Also, there are virtually no applied centers of academic excellence and outreach to assist rural municipal officials and the public to make informed decisions. Aquaculture suffers from weak decision-making abilities and poor governance structures which have led to lack of scientifically-informed policies. Reviews of this situation have been released in the USA, Europe and Iceland, all of which identify the dissemination of misinformation, the lack of adequate research financing, negative public perceptions, insufficient permitting and leasing policies, and a lack of financing for facility startups as deterrents. University centers of aquaculture excellence, innovation, extension/outreach and training are rare in the world today, and where they do exist, they are poorly funded or rely upon short-term project funding for what should be long-term strategic development financing. Many academic centers in aquaculture, fisheries, and applied ocean innovations that clearly impact sustainable development goals worldwide (and locally) have either closed their doors or eliminated applied academic programs in aquaculture. Many of these centers began in the pioneering days of large scale aquaculture in the 1970-80’s. There are exceptions, and new models are arising; most notably with investments in knowledge-based aquaculture innovations having combined industry/academic and extension/outreach connections in China and Norway. There is an urgent need to develop more comprehensive cooperative, place-based, global centers of excellence and programs to train the next generation in ocean foods systems which include works in ocean food value chains as most of the economic development and jobs opportunities important to rural areas are in the value chains, not in production. Professionals and business leaders in ocean food systems need to interact not only in oceanography, ocean engineering, and marine biology/ecology, but also in ecosystem governance, and in the interplay of ecological aquaculture and fisheries, ocean conservation/marine parks, and marine spatial planning . We propose to train student leaders internationally to develop and help implement comprehensive “Regional and National Ocean Foods Systems Plans” that would include leaders from land-based foods systems. There also are innovative opportunities with our partner, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), to document the positive roles that restoration aquaculture can have in the Earth’s ocean biogeochemical cycles, habitats, ecosystems, and societies of coastal ocean nations worldwide. TNC has documented numerous examples of aquaculture facilities revitalizing natural aquatic habitats, ecosystems and fisheries, as opposed to destroying/degrading the natural environment, as much of large scale terrestrial agriculture is doing. Without such transdisciplinary programs working on real systems, investment plans for the sustainable expansion of ocean food and energy systems will suffer from a lack of a rational, scientific basis for planning and policy, and continue to be replaced by heresy, junk science, and advocacy. Policies and investments that prioritize the planning for ocean food systems and the acceleration of sustainable, ecological aquaculture developments in the context of the U.N.‘s sustainable development goals could save humanity from a terrible food-conservation-health crisis.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Mark E Capron

Great discussion on Jan9. The following is the comment I'm using to get the collaboration started. I plan to add specific positive comments over the next couple weeks. Maybe some of the other collaboration suggestions, if anyone replies.

Would you like to collaborate with the other ocean entries? The Ocean Food Systems and Total Ecosystem Aquaculture teams see the need for a network of ocean food systems groups.

Collaboration actions can be:
• Place a positive comment on the other ocean entries.
• Coordinate via email and/or voice to add other ocean entries in your answer to “If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide…”, add notice of collaborations in other entry text, fill gaps in each other’s entries.
• The OceanForesters invites any collaborating team to excerpt concepts, text, and pictures from its entry for use in their entry. The OceanForesters does not expect any collaborating team to share its winnings with OceanForesters.

Email markcapron at oceanforesters. com and jimstewart at oceanforesters. com for emailing documents or setting up Zoom or Skype calls.
(email addresses are altered in hope of avoiding robots)

We, the OceanForesters, have detected the following ocean food system entries (please invite other ocean seafood entries we might have missed):
• Ocean Gardens (Africa, Canary Islands)
• Ocean Nourishment (Africa, Senegal)
• Ocean Orchards (Asia, Malaysia)
• Ocean Food Systems (North America, Maine, USA)
• Shellfish to Save the World (North America, Maine, USA)
• Autonomous Aquaculture: … (North America, New Jersey, USA)
• Sustainable Manjua fishing… (North America, Guatemala)
• Marine Forestation of the Shallows … (no location)

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