Federal grant to boost Alaska’s mariculture industry

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently committed $49 million to grow Alaska’s mariculture industry. The award is one of 21 nationally chosen from more than 500 applications.

Skiff in water with person in blue coat standing up putting lines of seaweed seed in the water. Yellow and green buoy with seaweed floats in water that says "Caution Kelp Farm" on it. Mountains in background.
Kelp farm. Photo by Melissa Good/Alaska Sea Grant.

The funding supports Alaska Mariculture Cluster coalition members to develop a viable and sustainable mariculture industry, producing shellfish and seaweed for the long-term benefit of Alaska’s economy, environment and communities.

The coalition is led by Southeast Conference, along with the other coastal Alaskan development districts, the State of Alaska, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Alaska Mariculture Alliance, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, and Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. Private sector and nonprofit organizations will participate in the projects.

Projects include a revolving loan fund for local businesses, development of mariculture workforce training programs, and support to develop and market innovative seaweed and shellfish products. 

oyster farm buoys in a cove
An oyster farm in Prince William Sound. Photo by Dave Partee/Alaska Sea Grant.

Workforce training will expand existing programs and create new culturally responsive programs within the University and Alaska Sea Grant network, including cooperative programs with tribes, vocational education programs, and other partners.

Alaska Sea Grant is a participant in the Alaska Mariculture Cluster and has long supported mariculture in Alaska. Alaska Sea Grant works closely with the mariculture industry in the Alaska Mariculture Alliance (AMA) and hosts the Alaska Mariculture Research and Training Center (MRTC), the central entity in the state for coordinating mariculture research and training. The structures of AMA and MRTC are designed to accelerate mariculture development by linking industry priorities with research and training activities across the state. 

Mussel farm. Multicolored ropes hanging off white boards in the water with seaweed caught on the ropes.
Mussel Farm. Photo by Deborah Mercy/Alaska Sea Grant.

“We are excited to support the existing industry as well as new entrants,” said Alaska Sea Grant director Ginny Eckert. “One of the first activities of MRTC will be to create a mariculture workforce development strategy.” This strategy will be a roadmap for meeting training needs of the mariculture workforce as the sector develops and grows. Strategy development will engage stakeholders and provide a lasting plan to identify workforce demands for the emerging mariculture industry in Alaska.

The Alaska Mariculture Cluster is funded through the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, one of EDA’s programs for building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development. EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding under the American Rescue Plan to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to accelerate economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and build local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.

For additional details, see the press release: U.S. Department of Commerce invests approximately $49 million to boost mariculture industry in Alaska through American Rescue Plan Regional Challenge.