Fish Radio
October 3, 2013                     Shellfish growers talk seed crisis, mussel successes

Kachemak Shellfish Mariculture Assn Credit:

Kachemak Shellfish Mariculture Assn

 This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Alaska shellfish growers talk acid oceans, blue mussels and more. That’s up next —

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 Alaska shellfish growers will gather in Ketchikan later this month to update the state of that industry.  There are 69 shellfish farm sites in Alaska; 28 are growing mostly oysters with sales topping a half million dollars last year. Dominating this year’s agenda is the seed crisis for future crops — 

And the seed crisis is caused by ocean acidification in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Wshington, where farmers get the predominant amount of seed for shellfish aquaculture on the west coast.  It’s caused by upwelling of deeper waters that are more acidic – because of that the larvae and juvenile seed   can’t develop shells.  

 Ray RaLonde is an aquaculture specialist with Alaska Sea Grant.

   It has happened at a terrible time because we are really on the cusp of moving ahead in a hurry – especially since 2012 when we got appropriations for a state revolving loan fund – that seemed to be the last puzzle piece for this new industry. We have the technologies, the brood stock, multiple species, we have the market , more than 20 years of research and economic studies.

 Some Washington shellfish farmers are setting up shop in Hawaii where the oceans are less corrosive.  Alaska is starting to produce its own seed sources at facilities in Ketchikan, Homer and Seward.

 On a brighter note – blue mussels are showing tremendous potential during the second year of a demo project at Kachemak Bay. Growers had to build cages around the lines to keep sea otters away from the mussel crops.   State agencies also are streamlining permitting and reporting for shellfish growers.   

RaLonde says he is often asked about shellfish farms in Western Alaska. 

  The problem is, it’s hard to work in an information vacuum – with shellfish, temperature has an enormous impact on growth. So we would have to do preliminary studies on focused locations to see what impact that would have on the ability to produce shellfish in a timely way.   

 It takes up to two years for Southeast oysters to reach market size and  four years near Homer due to colder waters.  Similarly, it takes a geoduck clam four years to reach market size in Washington, but seven years in Alaska. 

On oct. 24, Ralonde will lead a workshop on training and technology, followed by the shellfish feast that evening.   The Alaska Shellfish Growers Association meets are October 25 – 26 at the Cape Fox Lodge in Ketchikan.   Ocean acidification expert Jeremy Mathis will present at the meeting.

 Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.