FILE - ME fishing boat 4-11-2019

A crab boat hailing from Westport, Maine, crosses the outer harbor April 11, 2019, in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

(The Center Square) – Maine will use $1 million CARES Act funding to promote the state's seafood industry and target home cooks in a new branding strategy.

The move comes as the state seeks to bolster its seafood industry reputation during COVID-19, expanding on the well-known Maine lobster.

"This is fantastic news for Maine's seafood harvesters, processors, and distributors, and seafood-related businesses," Afton Hupper, outreach & development specialist at the Maine Aquaculture Association, told The Center Square. "As the first united effort to market and build the brand for all Maine seafood, this is a big win for the state as well as the many Maine businesses which rely on a thriving, sustainable seafood economy."

While Maine lobster is known the world over, many other selections encompass the state's fishing industry, including oysters, Atlantic salmon, sea vegetables, mussels, groundfish, clams, scallops, eels and more.

"We're really happy that this is taking place now, particularly given what has happened to our seafood markets throughout COVID," Ben Martens, executive director of The Maine Coast Fishermen's Association (MCFA), told The Center Square. "Anything that brings Maine seafood to [a] broader audience is beneficial."

While the COVID-19 economic downturn has been particularly tough on Maine's seafood producers, many of which depend on the restaurant market, research data shows retail sales increased 35% since before the start of the pandemic.

"The great thing about this campaign is that it targets home cooks with inspired seafood recipes and information on how and where to purchase Maine seafood to cook at home," Hupper said. "This is a positive step in the much-needed effort to tell our story, get people curious about the variety of seafood Maine has to offer, and to share why Maine seafood is the best in the world."

Meanwhile, Maine Aquaculture, MCFA, Downeast Dayboat, and Aragosta Mama also recently launched Give Maine Seafood, to help consumers locate Maine seafood and seafood-inspired gifts.

And next year, Maine Aquaculture plans to launch a new tourism initiative, the Maine Oyster Trail, Hupper said.