BEALS (NEWS CENTER Maine)-- The future of Maine’s marine economy got a big boost Saturday.

The Downeast Institute celebrated a ribbon cutting and grand opening of its new $6.6 million facility expansion. Downeast Institute Associate Director, Sara Randall, said the plan includes a state-of-the-art shellfish hatchery and establishes the easternmost marine research laboratory and education center in the U.S.

The expansion of the hatchery facility nearly doubles the space available to produce clams, quahogs, oysters, lobsters, and mussels for fisheries enhancement, research, and development she said.

Randall says it will also add eight new specialty laboratories for marine scientists and entrepreneurs to work in.

“This is really going to help the Downeast Institute build upon the work that we've already started doing”, Randall said. “Understanding the problems that are facing our coastal communities and addressing them and understanding them through the use of science and by doing that we're also going to be strengthening means marine economy.”

Randall said the project was funded by a variety of public and private partnerships as well as by the marine bond Maine voters passed in 2014.

The Downeast Institute is a nonprofit research facility and education center and serves as the marine science field station for the University of Maine at Machias.