Alaska’s emerging mariculture industry is getting a boost. Gov. Bill Walker signed a bill this week making it easier for shellfish hatchery owners to access loan funds to grow their businesses.
House Bill 76 amends the Alaska Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund so that non-profit hatcheries, not just individual farmers, can apply for loans to market seeds to grow seaweed, oysters and other shellfish. Alaska’s emerging mariculture industry is hampered by what growers say is a lack of a stable seed supply. The bill aims to help change that.
Walker also rolled out his Mariculture Development Plan that resulted from a two-year planning process in which Alaska Sea Grant has been involved. The plan outlines steps Alaska can take to grow what many hope will be a $100 million industry within 20 years. Priorities include expanding participation in the mariculture industry, refining the regulations that govern it and boosting available funding and research.
Walker also extended the life of the governor’s mariculture task force, which sunsetted on June 30. The task force is now an ongoing advisory panel whose members include Ginny Eckert, Alaska Sea Grant’s associate director for research.
“This an exciting time for this growing, new industry in Alaska, one that is an integral part of the state’s blue economy,” said Eckert. “Alaska Sea Grant fully supports the expansion of mariculture in Alaska. We see it as an opportunity to diversify the Alaska economy and provide jobs in coastal communities for fishermen, seafood processors and others who work seasonally.”
Mariculture is a part of Alaska’s “blue economy,” which includes marine transportation, coastal tourism, ocean technology, renewable energy and marine biotechnology. Supporters of the blue economy in Alaska hope it will add 50,000 jobs and $3 billion in wages by 2040.
The bill signing was held on Monday at Hump Island Oyster Company in Ketchikan.