Training more Alaska seaweed farmers is the goal of a program next February in Kodiak, Sitka and Ketchikan. The training is phase two of the Alaska Mariculture Initiative that aims to grow a $100 million seaweed industry in 20 years. The program is funded by a $287,646 grant by the federal Saltonstall-Kennedy program for two years.
“Why we’re doing this is because there is immense interest in seaweed farming in Alaska from coastal communities and commercial fishermen.”
Riley Smith is development director with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation which has spearheaded a mariculture push that is taking off.
“Mariculture is expanding rapidly. For instance, in 2016 the state only received four applications for aquatic farms and in 2017, 2018 and 2019, they received 16, 17 and 14 applications for a total of 47 in three years. And it’s important to note that all of these farmers’ applications were for oysters, seaweed or both.”
Alaska Sea Grant also is working with seaweed startups at Sand Point.
“It’s really an easier entry point into the mariculture industry than oyster farming or others.”
Smith says all projects aim to accelerate seaweed farming around the state.
“The purpose is to provide the tools to Alaska and to start their own farm. They are targeting Native communities, commercial fishermen and other locals.”
Ten applicants will be accepted for each training region.
“One of the important things we hope to get out of this is more applications and more quality applications to the Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources. So the education on site selection, and the application process is going to be a huge part of this.”
Participants must pay for their own travel and lodging if they live out of town. Food and materials are provided.
Each will participate in an online webinar, a two day onsite workshop; and the most promising six growers will be chosen for two year mentoring.
Smith says anyone can apply but it’s targeted to those with experience on the water.
“That is one of the questions in our application – do you have a vessel, are you familiar with operating a vessel during the winter, etc. and safety questions and criteria for operating vessels. So, I wouldn’t say that it’s a requirement to have experience and expertise on the water but it is definitely looked for.”
Smith says Alaska’s mariculture industry has strong interest and support from the Dunleavy administration.
“I think that the administration sees the potential for providing jobs to Alaska and diversifying economies and local communities.”
Information and instruction for the training will be provided by GreenWave, Alaska Sea Grant, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Blue Evolution, OceansAlaska, AFDF and others.
Applications are due to AFDF by December 20th.
Questions? Contact Riley Smith at rsmith@AFDF.org