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.
(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.
A half-million-dollar federal grant is headed to the University of Alaska Fairbanks for research in seaweed farming, a growing industry in Alaska.