Aquaculture in Alaska
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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…
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,…
(VIDEO: Watch Gary Freitag give instruction on how to use a remotely operated vehicle) There’s no typical day in the life of an Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent. Sometimes the work might involve disentangling a humpback whale caught in commercial fishing gear. Another day it could be performing a necropsy, rescuing a stranded baby…
Researchers are welcome to apply for grants to advance the aquaculture industry in Alaska and nationwide. The deadline for proposals is March 2, 2018. National Sea Grant expects to have available $7 million to $11.5 million over fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020 as part of the Sea Grant National Aquaculture Initiative.
An underwater robot with a custom-built arm may become a useful tool in seaweed farming, an emerging industry in Alaska. Alaska Sea Grant’s Gary Freitag designed and modified the seaweed-plucking arm to help our state’s aquaculture industry expand its reach.
Alaska Sea Grant has received funding to help marine aquaculture businesses in the state find good locations, obtain geoduck seeds and avoid shutdowns after heavy rains.