Mariculture team shapes plans for new industry; Public meeting Feb. 17

February 15, 2017

 

Shellfish, sea cucumbers, geoduck clams, seaweeds and biofuels are just a few of the crops envisioned by Alaskans who are crafting a framework for a statewide mariculture industry expansion.

An 11-member task force created a year ago by Governor Walker has wasted no time advancing its mission to put a comprehensive report on his desk by next March. The group, which meets regularly, also has attracted wide interest from Alaskans who want to serve on advisory committees as the plan takes shape.  

“Advisory committees include research, development and environment, regulatory issues, investment and infrastructure, workforce development and public education and marketing.”



Barbara Blake is the Governor’s point person on the task force. She says there is lots of interest among Alaskans.

“Yes, I get calls from interested partie,s at least a few a week, who would like to participate.”

Blake says the mariculture group is very gung ho.

Absolutely.  I think everyone who is participating in this group and the advisory committees are really committed to seeing this initiative move forward to develop something that will be beneficial for the entire state of Alaska and to see the growth of our economic opportunities throughout our coastlines and beyond. People are charged up for this. It’s a new concept that allows our communities to engage in a way that allows them to maintain their residence in our rural coastal communities.”



Senator Lisa Murkowski also has gotten onboard with the hiring of a marine biologist who will be the Senator’s mariculture point person.

Globally, shellfish and sea weeds add up to multi-billion dollar sustainable industries and in Alaska, much of the necessary infrastructure is already in place from the seafood industry and hatchery programs.

“Not only is it something that contributes to mini-operations in our coastal communities, there  are huge benefits by this being a green industry, it cleans our oceans, it provides for more areas for our fish to spawn. There really are not any down parts to this. It’s just building up the infrastructure in our state to allow those interested individuals to engage in this industry. That’s the purpose of the task force. And I think we can get there.

Alaskans can participate in a public task force meeting this Friday in Juneau or via teleconference. On the agenda – a U.S. Department of Energy grant program that moves mariculture into the microalgae biofuel sector.

Mariculture meeting, Feb. 17, 8am (AK Time)
Teleconference number:  1-800-315-6338/Access code 29660
Receive ongoing information by email at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game home page.
Check out our podcast with Barbara Blake on the AK Fish Radio home page!  



 

Rep. Louise Stutes puts AK fisheries in legislative spotlight

Fish Radio
Stutes puts AK fisheries in legislative spotlight
January 12, 2017

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Fisheries are gaining more stature among Alaska lawmakers. More after this –

Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak chairs the AK legislature’s Fisheries Committee
Credit: cordovatimes.com

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The Alaska Legislature’s Fisheries Committee had to turn away interested legislators this session, the seven seats filled so fast.

“Our fisheries committee is going to be busy this year. We intend to  educate not only legislators but the residents of the state of Alaska. I would venture to say that there is not one community in this state that is not impacted by fisheries in a positive way.”  

Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak chairs the Fish Committee. She also is Majority Whip in a new bipartisan coalition that will lead the Alaska House when lawmakers convene next Tuesday. The new group takes House leadership away from Republicans for the first time in more than two decades.

No more budget cuts to commercial fisheries will be a Fish Committee priority. That push follows a 30 percent reduction over two years. Some dollars may be shuffled, Stutes says, to make sure they are targeted to maintaining ongoing fisheries.

“Such as weir counters – we need them in order to maintain a sustainable salmon fishery. There’s just no question about that. “

Stutes says work will continue on reorganizing the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. Also on the table is tweaking the formula that sets fees for permits in open access whitefish fisheries. That system has not been updated for more than 20 years.

“Right now if you have a 58 footer that can hold 200,000 pounds and you have a  125 footer fishing the very same resource in the very same area that can only carry 100,000 pounds – the 125 footer e is going to pay a much higher permit fee than the 58 footer that can out hold them. So it is just not a fair and equitable situation.”

Stutes, who is in her second term, believes Alaska’s seafood industry is gaining more attention for its contributions to the state. For several years now, one king salmon is worth way more than a barrel of oil

“In my opinion it is no less important than oil is. We have to look at it and treat it as such. The difference is, if we treat our fisheries appropriately they are renewable; oil is not.”

 The seafood industry is second in the revenues it puts into state coffers, more than $250 million in taxes and fees last fiscal year. Stutes says many don’t understand that half of those fish bucks go into the state general fund and are distributed at the whim of lawmakers.

Particularly coastal communities or communities where fish are landed. They are paying a 50% raw fish tax that goes directly into those communities. Those are dollars that the state is not putting in. Those dollars are supplied by the resource and the fishermen and the stakeholders. And for that not to be acknowledged is criminal.”

Louise Stutes represents Kodiak, Cordova and surrounding communities.  Find links to the Alaska legislature at our website – www.alaskafishradio.com

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, an Alaska corporation proudly supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and the Alaskans who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and culture.  www.oceanbeauty.com    In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.