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Alaska targets $1 billion aquaculture industry

Staff Writer |
Alaska’s aquaculture industry is gaining momentum, spurred on by growing markets and the steadfast push by Governor Walker’s Mariculture Task Force.

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Applications for more than 1,000 acres of oyster and kelp farms were filed with the Department of Natural Resources by the April 30 deadline, far more than usual.

Fifteen are for new farms in the Southeast, Southcentral and Westward regions of which seven plan to grow kelp exclusively.

Two farms at Klawok also are adding kelp to their current oyster growing operations.

The Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development (DCCED), upon announcing the numbers.

Along with other state agencies, DCCED is an active part of the 11 member Alaska Mariculture Task Force established by an Administrative Order in 2016.

The group’s mission is to provide Governor Walker with a comprehensive report for statewide mariculture expansion by March 1 of next year.

Walker believes mariculture of shellfish and seaweeds is a viable means to diversify the economy and provide a $1 billion economy within 30 years.

Latest data from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show that 54 aquatic farms, seven shellfish nurseries and two shellfish hatcheries are operating in Alaska, primarily growing Pacific oysters, with sales topping $1 million in 2014 and 2015.

Production in 2015 of 10.6 million oysters fetched an average price of $9.84 per dozen, up $0.24 (2.5 percent) from 2014.

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