Paul Brayton

Location of Interview
Collection Name

Ellsworth High School - Maine


These interviews were conducted as part of Ellsworth High School's participation in the NOAA Fisheries Service  (NMFS) Local Fisheries Knowledge Pilot Project 2003-2005.  All 10th graders participated in this interdisciplinary project that involved English, History, Social Studies, and Biology classes. To read about the LFK Project, go to

Date of Interview

Joyce Whitmore 

Principal Investigator

Paul Brayton is a multifaceted individual who has pursued various occupations throughout his life. Born and raised in Ellsworth, Maine, Brayton began his career as a commercial fisherman after serving in the Navy as a pilot. He was drawn to the excitement and freedom of fishing, spending long hours at sea, and enjoying the financial rewards that came with it, especially during the less regulated times of the 1970s. However, as he started a family, Brayton realized that the demanding nature of offshore fishing was not compatible with being present for his loved ones. In the late 1970s, during a trip to New Zealand with his wife, Brayton encountered mussel farming and found it intriguing. Concerned about the inconsistency and lack of quality in wild mussels, he saw an opportunity to control and grow his own mussels in a more controlled environment. This idea sparked his interest, and he decided to venture into the world of mussel farming. Starting with wild musseling, Brayton soon recognized the need for a more consistent and reliable source of high-quality mussels. This led him to transition into mussel farming, where he adopted sustainable practices to produce top-notch mussels. He developed a unique method of suspended culture, using ropes and rafts to grow mussels in a natural and environmentally friendly manner. By controlling the density and feeding conditions, Brayton could optimize growth and produce a superior product. Aside from his involvement in mussel farming, Brayton also operates a boat-moving business and works as a backhoe operator, emphasizing the seasonality of these occupations.

Scope and Content Note
Brayton describes his daily routine as a commercial fisherman and how he transitioned to inshore fishing and became a mussel farmer. He discusses the regularities of mussel farming. Brayton emphasizes the regularity of mussel farming, including harvesting and processing to meet customer demands, particularly on Monday mornings.  He has a personal relationship with distributors. Brayton prefers a personal relationship with a single distributor rather than dealing with multiple accounts, highlighting the distinction between being a producer and a supplier. He emphasizes the economic benefits of mussel farming. Mussel farming provides a living for three full-time families and creates an economic multiplier effect through sales to distributors and restaurants, benefiting the State of Maine. The amount of time invested in mussel farming varies, ranging from no hours to around ten hours a day. Brayton discusses the ongoing effort to make the work easier through machinery and improved ergonomics. He says staying informed about industry developments and learning from other mussel producers worldwide is essential. Trade journals and publications are valuable sources of information. Brayton shares advice for aspiring mussel farmers.  He explains choosing a suitable location for a farm and understanding social dynamics are crucial. Coastal areas in Maine face challenges due to wealthy retirees and a shift towards service-based industries. He then traces his journey in mussel farming: Brayton started experimenting with mussel farming in the early 1980s and reflects on failures as valuable learning experiences. He began building his current farm in 1988. Brayton also discusses the bureaucratic processes and challenges involved in his work. Establishing a mussel farm requires a lease from the State of Maine, extensive paperwork, and an environmental impact statement. Opposition from wealthy landowners adds complexity. Brayton takes pride in producing high-quality, sustainable mussels that stay local, providing a natural protein source while minimizing environmental impact.  Finally, despite challenges and a year-round commitment, Brayton's passion for mussel farming and dedication to quality food production remain unwavering.

Please Note: The oral histories in this collection are protected by copyright and have been created for educational, research and personal use as described by the Fair Use Doctrine in the U.S. Copyright law. Please reach out to let us know how these interviews are being used in your research, project, exhibit, etc.  The Voices staff can help provide other useful resources related to your inquiry. 

The NOAA mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. The Voices Oral History Archives offers public access to a wide range of accounts, including historical materials that are products of their particular times, and may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes.

Voices Oral History Archives does not verify the accuracy of materials submitted to us. The opinions expressed in the interviews are those of the interviewee only. The interviews here have been made available to the public only after the interviewer has confirmed that they have obtained consent.