UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS

Aquaculture in Alaska

oyster farm buoys and floating platform near shore
Kachemak Bay shellfish farm. Photo by Deborah Mercy/Alaska Sea Grant.

Shellfish farming and salmon ranching

Private non-profit (PNP) hatcheries, primarily owned by commercial salmon fishermen, support the fishery with releases of approximately 1.5 billion salmon smolt each year. In recent years, these smolt releases have contributed nearly 30 million fish annually to the commercial fishery.

New supplies of salmon from worldwide farming and strong wild runs in Alaska have reduced the market price, causing economic distress for the Alaska salmon fishery and PNP hatchery income.

How the Marine Advisory Program assists

The Marine Advisory Program is involved in PNP hatcheries in efforts to facilitate sharing of resources and information, and conduct a coordinated applied research program.

State law restricts aquatic farming to seaweeds and shellfish. Started as a fledging industry in the late 1970s, shellfish farming has been revitalized with passage of the Alaska Aquatic Farm Act in 1988. Since 1988, the aquatic farming industry has grown from a single farmer to over 60 farms. In 2002, the State of Alaska passed legislation intended to increase the number of shellfish farms and the variety of species available for farming.

The Marine Advisory Program's aquaculture mission is to provide support for the rapidly expanding shellfish farming industry and provide technical assistance to the salmon ranching effort.

Aquaculture resources

The Sea Grant network has established a National Seaweed Hub to serve as a science-based, non-advocacy resource for the domestic seaweed and seaweed aquaculture industry. This collaboration provides a framework to share information, address challenges, identify needs, and find opportunities in this emerging industry.

Aquaculture news

closeup of a hand holding a live oyster

Alaska Sea Grant debuts farm-to-table mariculture directory for Alaska

July 28, 2020

Alaskans who love fresh Alaska seafood will be happy to hear that Alaska Sea Grant has begun development of an online directory of farms and retailers that sell Alaska-grown shellfish and seaweed, locally or through mail order.

buoys and rafts for oyster farm near the shore

Alaska Sea Grant survey reveals challenges to mariculture industry caused by COVID-19 pandemic

May 4, 2020

Alaska Sea Grant recently surveyed the Alaska mariculture industry to shed light on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and response on their businesses in February and March. Survey respondents reported that revenue was down, with 43 percent reporting losses of more than half of their revenue. More than a third had laid off employees. …

Research will help seaweed farming and traditional aquaculture

September 27, 2019

Alaska Sea Grant has received new federal funds to help develop aquaculture projects in Alaska and to work with partners on regional and national priorities. It’s part of a $16 million award from National Sea Grant that will fund 42 collaborative aquaculture projects across the country. Alaska Sea Grant and the Aleutians East Borough will partner on a project to launch a…

Mariculture workshop kicks off in Kodiak

September 9, 2019

The Kodiak Archipelago Leadership Institute is offering a free, two-day workshop “Introduction to Mariculture in the Kodiak Region,” funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For the past three years, the institute has worked with partners to establish small farms in the communities of Larsen Bay, Old Harbor, Ouzinkie and Port Lions. The…

Chilkat Valley News: Local entrepreneur aims to start kelp farm

September 5, 2019

Demand for seaweed like kelp has grown over the past five decades, and mariculture produces more than 96 percent of the world’s supply of seaweed products, currently valued at $4-5 billion, according to a 2017 report from Alaska Sea Grant.

Blue Starr Oyster Co. debuts new oyster nursery system

July 25, 2019

An Alaska oyster farmer on Prince of Wales Island is hoping that a new device he spent years helping to design will increase his oyster farming productivity and prove useful to other farmers around the state. The redesigned device is a 53-foot aluminum floating upweller system, or FLUPSY. It works by moving fresh seawater filled…

harvesters in a small boat approach a dock with a load of seaweed

Seaweed farmers in Alaska gear up for large haul

May 7, 2019

Blue Evolution is collaborating with the University of Alaska and Alaska Sea Grant on seaweed research aimed at developing cost-effective cultivation methods for several native species.

Woman in waders and boots standing on dock

Juneau oyster farmer battles red tape to grow family business

May 1, 2019

Meta Mesdag is a commercial photographer and mom to three young children. More recently, the Southeast Alaska resident added oyster farmer to her resume. Mesdag is the owner of Salty Lady Seafood Company, a small-scale mariculture operation in Bridget Cove, north of Juneau. She launched the company in April 2018 with the goal of having…

closeup of a hand holding a live oyster

Oyster farmers face challenges and opportunities in Alaska

December 13, 2018

Mariculture is an emerging industry in Alaska that Alaska Sea Grant is helping to promote. Last week some of our faculty and staff gathered in Cordova with shellfish farmers, oyster spat growers and a kelp farmer to share ideas and strategies. It was part of the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association’s annual conference. Experts on marketing…

Support for Alaska’s blue economy signed into law

August 28, 2018

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,…

Learn more about aquaculture

Find aquaculture-related books and more in our bookstore. For more information about Alaska's aquaculture industry, please contact Melissa Good or Gary Freitag.

Melissa Good

Marine Advisory Agent, Unalaska

(907) 581-1876

Contact Melissa

Bio page

Gary Freitag

Marine Advisory Agent, Ketchikan

(907) 617-8990

Contact Gary

Bio page