Fish Radio
Mariculture momentum in AK, growers gather
December 2, 2016

Giant geoduck clams are just one of many shellfish farmers are growing in Alaska Credit: akjournalofcommerce

Giant geoduck clams are just one of many shellfish farmers are growing in Alaska
Credit: akjournalofcommerce

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch –Momentum for Alaska grown shellfish and seaweeds. Mariculture updates and a gathering for growers – more after this:

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Alaska advocates are wasting no time forming guidelines to expand homegrown shellfish and seaweeds into a multi-billion dollar mariculture industry.

“We’re not talking about finfish farming when we talk about mariculture. We’re talking about shellfish and aquatic plants – also wild fishery enhancement and aquatic farming restoration.”

Julie Decker is co-chair of Governor Walker’s Mariculture Task Force Initiative he created by Administrative Order in February.  Walker believes it is a viable means to diversify the economy in a field where Alaska already dominates: seafood.

“He’s very excited about the opportunity Alaska represents because it is so large and pristine there’s a lot of natural upwelling of nutrients and all those things make it look very promising.”  

Decker also is director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which believes mariculture   could jump from its current $1 million vale to growers to $1 billion within 30 years.  If just 3 tenths of a percent of Alaska’s 35,000 miles of coastline was developed for oysters, for example, it could produce  1.3 billion oysters at 50 cents each adding up to $650 million a year.

Alaska also aims to cash in on the $12 billion global seafood market by growing kelp, dubbed the new kale. Sea Grant already has pilot projects in the water in parts of the Gulf.  Another focus, Decker says, is helping existing farmers become more efficient and profitable with growing kelp. That also can give shellfish growers a ready cash flow while they are waiting up to three years for their bivalve crops to ripen.

“You can stagger your planting and lengthen your season from three to six months – they only really take about 90 days to grow.”   

Seaweed also acts a climate cleaner

“There’s a number of ways that seaweed takes up excess nutrients in the water like carbon, and nitrogen and phosphates – it is a win-win.”

And one day seaweed might replace oil as Alaska’s top resource engine. The US Dept. of Energy is looking at seaweed as a biofuels source.

Find links to Alaska’s Mariculture Task Force at Fish and Game’s Home Page.

And everything you want to know about mariculture will be on the table at the  Alaska Shellfish Growers Association annual meeting Dec. 9-10 in Anchorage.


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