Julie Decker explains mariculture initiatives in Alaska emphasizing sustainable efforts

Published on
September 8, 2022
A seaweed farm in Alaska.

The Alaska Mariculture Initiative, launched under the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF), is continuing to carve a path for the industry in the state, according to AFDF Executive Director Julie Decker.

Decker highlighted the organization's efforts during a presentation at the first-ever International Seagriculture conference, running from 7 to 8 September, 2022, in Portland, Maine, U.S.A.. The conference expands on Seagriculture's Europe conference that has been organized since 2012, and focuses entirely on seaweed. 

“I always like to start out with describing what we mean when we use the term mariculture in Alaska. We are talking about raising shellfish and seaweed through either enhancement or preservation or aquatic farming. Fish farming is prohibited by state law in state water, so that is not what we’re talking about,” Decker said. “I think one reason why my group was drawn toward it is because it’s very complementary to the seafood industry.”

Decker said the Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A.-based nonprofit began the initiative in 2013, and continued to explain how the 10-year mariculture project was being executed. The initiative received more than USD 30 million (EUR 30.1 million) towards mariculture research, and has put together numerous analysis of the seaweed industry's potential in the U.S. state of Alaska.

The initative has so far been able to expand to add new nonprofit organizations, work with the Alaskan legislature, and see significant growth of mariculture farms, according to Decker.

“We were lucky enough to have the support of two governors, two very different governors, and whoever’s elected this next cycle, we hope to have their support as well,” Decker said.

Focusing on scale and addressing concerns regarding Alaska Natives was a large part of Decker’s presentation.

“This one phrase, ‘Failure to understand the fundamental economic issues lies at the core of the fishery policy and practice.’ This is a really important statement that we took to heart when we started this initiative in 2013,” Decker said. As they proceeded with executing the plan, they ensured that appropriate scale would be taken into consideration factoring in Native communities and rural communities in Alaska, Decker said.

Decker said she always makes an effort to emphasize the sustainability of the up-and-coming industry.

“The development of the industry needs to be balanced with responsibility, and the urgency needs to be balanced with equity,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Jorge Corcuera/Shutterstock

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