Magazine Article - Boston Globe Magazine

Iceland’s ‘Silicon Valley of Cod’ Holds Secrets for New England’s Fishing Industry

| Feb. 01, 2024

The Iceland Ocean Cluster has sparked a movement that’s captured the attention of leaders from Maine to Alaska.

Picture two scenes, one positive, one very much less so.

In the first, two University of Maine biomedical engineering graduate students, Patrick Breeding and Amber Boutiette, pore over the results of some late-night lab work. They’re looking at a protein from lobsters that seems to be key to the animal’s ability to regenerate lost limbs. This is not for credit; they’re in love.

Boutiette has terrible eczema, and it pains Breeding to see her hiding her face behind scarves. They’re developing an experimental lotion, built around that protein, which, until now, has been drained away in the production of food. Their experiment works beyond all expectations: Within weeks, Boutiette’s outbreak has vanished. Fast-forward four years, add the services of a business incubator called the New England Ocean Cluster, and their Portland, Maine-based company, Marin Skincare, sells the lotion online and through stores such as L.L. Bean.

In the second scene, the far less optimistic one, lawyers square off before the Supreme Court. It’s January 2024, and in a case pitting herring fishermen against the National Marine Fisheries Service, they’re arguing over who will bear the costs of scientific monitoring of fish populations under the 2007 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. At stake is the extent to which federal agencies can interpret such laws; the case could have far-reaching implications for the regulatory powers of agencies such as the EPA and FDA.

These scenes have a common backdrop: the decline of our fisheries, and the question of what can be done to help them survive. The version of the story that winds up in the Supreme Court is one we in the Northeast are too familiar with: Overfishing, habitat degradation, and climate change threaten to kill off a species, and the quotas, regulations, and expenses of protecting that species threaten to kill the livelihoods of coastal communities. Cue the conflict and rancor.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Harris, Gregory. “Iceland’s ‘Silicon Valley of Cod’ Holds Secrets for New England’s Fishing Industry.” Boston Globe Magazine, February 1, 2024.

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