PORT CLYDE — Last week, a pick up truck backed up to Port Clyde Fresh Catch’s processing facility where a group of students from the Herring Gut Learning Center eagerly waited. In the back of the truck were the 150 pounds of just-harvested California yellowtail or amberjack, which the students were ready to unload.

California yellowtail, more commonly known to fish purveyors as hamachi when served as sushi, is a cousin to the pompano and is in high demand, particularly among restaurants serving Asian cuisine. But it is relatively unknown in Maine, at least until Herring Gut Learning Center students decided to test the local market.

The yellowtail the students unloaded were raised in land-based recirculating tanks at the University of Maine’s Center for Cooperative Research (CCAR) in Franklin, part of an innovative joint venture with Acadia Harvest Aquaculture, Coastal Enterprises Inc. of Wiscasset and the Maine Technology Institute, all of which had sent representatives to witness the event.

Finfish aquaculture has had a checkered history in Maine ever since the first salmon farms went into operation in the waters off Eastport in the late 1980s. Initially, state leaders thought salmon farms would be an economic boon, especially in remote hard-pressed coastal areas like Washington County.

But after about a decade of rapid growth, the salmon farms ran into trouble with environmental authorities, which were trying to protect the last runs of wild Atlantic salmon in Washington County rivers. Some farm-raised salmon escaped and there was a concern that if they mated with wild fish, the gene pool of these endangered populations could be compromised.

Other environmentalists were concerned about pollution from accumulation of fish feed and feces, while still others objected to the whole idea of fencing off the ocean for commercial purposes.

By the late 1990s, finfish aquaculture in Maine had shrunk to a shadow of former prominence, a victim both of increased regulation and, more to the point, increased competition in the marketplace from salmon farmed in less challenging environments.

To leaders at the University of Maine, however, the combination of its marine research talent and the availability of a dormant commercial salmon hatchery induced it to set up the Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research at the edge of Taunton Bay, just north of the famous reversing falls at the Sullivan Hancock Bridge.

CCAR’s purpose is to provide facilities to companies looking to test new ideas, which is where Acadia Harvest enters the picture. Formed in 2011, Acadia Harvest’s goal is to develop and commercialize novel approaches to indoor fish farming of high value species like black sea bass or yellowtail in recirculating tanks on land in a “zero-waste” facility. Both the Maine Technology Institute (MTI), which helped fund start-up operations and Coastal Enterprises Inc. (C.E.I.), which took an equity position in the company, have provided financial backing.

One result of the partnership is the fish Glen Libby and his staff at Port Clyde Fresh Catch will fillet on behalf of the students who have sold the product. The Herring Gut students are all part of an alternative education program where they have established a student-run aquaponics business known as School of Roots. The students learn academic concepts while developing, marketing and selling products to grocers, restaurants and community members.

They previously test-marketed and sold black sea bass produced by Acadia Harvest and have found a willing local market for the yellowtail they have just unloaded as well.