Feb. 3, 2022

Melissa Benbow, Machias Savings Bank, and Dianne Tilton, Downeast Institute, celebrate the bank’s gift in Downeast Institute’s shellfish hatchery. Behind them sit ropes in the process of being seeded with juvenile mussels.

Downeast Institute in Beals has received a $24,000 gift from Machias Savings Bank to support its efforts to commercialize shellfish hatchery methods it has developed.  The Institute’s Executive Director, Dianne Tilton, said the donation gives them an important jump start.  “We need to get our innovations out to farmers and fishermen, but that takes an upfront investment of staff time that we just didn’t have.”  Downeast Institute (DEI) is the only public shellfish hatchery in Maine, and the only one that produces soft-shell clams for municipalities and mussel seed for farmers. It also grows other juvenile shellfish for scientific research and shellfish farming in Maine and beyond.

“Machias Savings Bank prides itself in supporting the community,” Melissa Denbow, the bank’s VP, Community Experience Manager commented. “Downeast Institute is working to support our coastal communities with innovations in wild and cultured shellfish. We were happy to provide these funds to DEI.”

Downeast Institute began with a 4-H project in Jonesboro, which grew into the Beals Island Regional Shellfish Hatchery in 1987.  The hatchery worked with local clammers and produced soft-shell clams for public fisheries stock enhancement.  DEI continues to grow soft-shell clams as well as produce seven other shellfish species for experiments and applied research to support shellfisheries.   “Downeast Institute is really a unique institution,” Tilton said.  “We are known around the country for our expertise in shellfish husbandry, and we collaborate with other researchers in and outside Maine as a result.  I am proud that this all began in Washington County, and that we have called Beals home for over 30 years.”  DEI serves as the Marine Science Field Station of the University of Maine at Machias and works with students of all ages. Their research campus is located on Great Wass Island.


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