Mariculture in Alaska – Seaweed Farming 101
In 2014, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF) led the Alaska Mariculture Initiative – a strategy to accelerate the development of mariculture in Alaska. (NOTE: In this Initiative, mariculture is defined as enhancement, aquatic farming, or restoration of shellfish and seaweed – for these purposes, mariculture does not include finfish farming, which is prohibited in Alaska waters). The Initiative led to the establishment of the Alaska Mariculture Task Force and the adoption of the Alaska Mariculture Development Plan (Plan) with the goal to grow a $100 million mariculture industry in 20 years.
Mariculture in Alaska provides a host of benefits to Alaskans, including:
• Economic – provides jobs and commerce in coastal communities:
• Environmental – improves the local ecosystem in various ways, such as providing habitat improvement, carbon removal, or countering ocean acidification;
• Cultural – is compatible with traditions, customs, and skills in rural communities;
• Industrial – complements and expands our existing renewable seafood industry, which is Alaska’s largest private sector employer; and
• Food Security – increases access to local foods for Alaskans.
In 2018, AFDF was awarded NOAA grant to work on Phase 2 of the Alaska Mariculture Initiative, with the goal to begin implementation of the Plan which will grow the mariculture industry and benefit Alaska’s economy, environment, and communities.
Promoting the development of seaweed farming in Alaska is one of the primary focus areas of the Plan. In recent years, interest in seaweed farming has grown for multiple reasons. Seaweeds can be used for food and food additives, cosmetics, animal feed, fertilizer, biofuel. Additionally, seaweeds can mitigate a host of environmental issues, including the reduction of carbon to local ocean waters.
Alaska produces approximately $2 billion of seafood annually, which is over 50% of the seafood produced in the U.S. With significant existing fishing and seafood processing infrastructure, a long coastline, and a reputation for purity and quality – Alaska is well positioned to be competitive in seaweed markets. Although the seaweed industry in Alaska is in its infancy, it is poised to experience considerable growth in the near future.
Hear from a panel of industry and other experts about the basic involved in seaweed farming, such as:
• Identify seaweed species
• Find a site & determine which species are available w/in 50 km of the site
• Learn about Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources (ADNR) Aquatic Farm Program & Lease Application Process
• Find a market / product form
• Develop a business plan
• Find seed supply
• Consider layout / design of farm
• Explore processes, techniques and product forms
• Consider a loan for the business:
o Alaska Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund
o Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank (CFAB)
o USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA)