The State of Alaska recently received applications for more than 1,000 acres of new oyster and kelp farms, according to the Alaska Mariculture Task Force.
“These permit applications are an indicator that there is developing interest and growth in the mariculture industry in Alaska,” said Alaska’s Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, in a statement.
Over the past month, three new farms in Kodiak and Ketchikan have harvested Alaska-grown seaweed for the first time.
“Although farmers report that there is much still to be learned about efficiently growing and harvesting seaweed, they are optimistic about the future and have plans to expand production,” the department said.
“Members of the task force have dedicated tremendous time and effort toward advancing this industry for Alaska,” the department’s commissioner, Chris Hladick, said. “The task force is encouraged to see the number of applications being submitted for new oyster and kelp farms.”
In addition to the increase in farms, the Alaska Legislature advanced four bills to support responsible growth of the mariculture industry during its most recent session. Two of them – companion bills Senate Bill 89 and House Bill 128 – would allow nonprofits to pursue shellfish enhancement and restoration projects with oversight by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Companion bills HB 76 and SB 95 would amend the Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund to include eligibility for hatcheries, encouraging in-state seed production of shellfish and seaweed.
“All four bills received broad support from fishermen, communities, economic development organizations, community development quota groups, and the Alaska Mariculture Task Force,” the department said.