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Governor Signs Bill To Encourage Mariculture Industry


May 06, 2005

Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski on Thursday signed into law House Bill 198, which is intended to foster the growth of Alaska's mariculture industry. The bill responds to a recent Alaska Supreme Court decision regarding the allocation of shellfish to shellfish farmers.

"As a strong supporter of Alaska's mariculture industry, I am pleased to see that we've found a way to move this industry forward," said Governor Murkowski. "This is an industry that provides promising economic development opportunities for Alaska's fishermen and coastal communities. This bill will help turn these opportunities into realities."

Rep. Jim Elkins, R-Ketchikan, sponsored the bill to amend the state's Aquatic Farming Act to bring these farming operations into compliance with recent court rulings. A Superior Court ruling required the state to provide access to insignificant amounts of naturally occurring shellfish to shellfish farmers. But a later Alaska Supreme Court ruling found existing statutes prevent the state Department of Fish and Game from allocating any naturally occurring stocks to aquatic farmers who are developing new sites, except for use as brood stock.

This bill amends existing statutes to clarify that ADF&G may allocate "insignificant" numbers of wild stocks of shellfish to aquatic farmers and is a compromise between the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association and the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association. The department now must issue regulations implementing the bill, which has an immediate effective date.

ADF&G recently held a commercial dive fishery on designated mariculture sites to remove the commercially significant population of wild geoducks from these areas.

"Under this administration, we've already made the necessary policy changes that will allow this industry to flourish," said ADF&G Commissioner McKie Campbell. "As we begin the regulatory process, we will continue to work cooperatively with the industry, just as we did in passing this legislation."

Source of News:

Office of the Governor
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