By David Mitchel
May 11, 2010
For the last several years OceansAlaska has been working to establish a vocational center for shellfish growers to bring needed year-around economic development to Southeast Alaska. After securing the land provided by the State and developing the site, OceansAlaska is poised for the first phase of development this year- construction and operation of the Mariculture Research & Training Facility. Research showed the potential for Alaska's shellfish industry can be increased from $7 million a year to $50 million in 20 years with a sustained and coordinated research and development program implemented to remove industry constraints.
Alaska's experience in reviving salmon harvests with hatcheries show that public investment is critical in promoting a fledgling industry. New Zealand also invested public resources to expand a mussel industry from $15 million to $96 million in 14 years, providing 1500 jobs. With increasing global demand for seafood and Southeast Alaska an ideal location for shellfish and other non-finfish farms, OceansAlaska can provide the research, training, development, and technology transfer that provided the foundation for all successful examples around the world. Expansion of this industry will diversify the economy of Ketchikan and the region, and help reverse the flow of job and population decline in Ketchikan, which has dropped 11% in the past dozen years and projected to decline another 17% in the next 20 years. Mariculture businesses would secure jobs in businesses that serve the industry- it is estimated that 70% of the money spent by farms is within 50 miles of the site. It's an excellent opportunity for Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska to create economically and environmentally sustainable, year-around jobs.
The phase after the mariculture float is the development of the main facility, with 20,000 square feet of exhibit, laboratory, and educational space- with a small gift shop and snack bar. This facility will benefit people who live in and visit Ketchikan- to see the concealed wildlife in our ocean and to provide scientific understanding and educational opportunities. Promotion of sustainable Alaskan fisheries and seafood to maintain the use of our natural resources, integrated school science curriculums, and tidal energy research are included in the project. Educational programs and exhibits are designed to inspire a wide audience of all ages with appreciation and knowledge of marine ecosystems in Southeast Alaska, promoting science in a tangible way, and providing a positive activity for the region's youth, retired, and everyone in between.
Developing a public display of marine species will also help make Ketchikan a better destination, thus increasing the number of visitors to Alaska and increasing the potential for the visitor industry and businesses to expand. It is estimated that OceansAlaska Marine Science Center will generate 61,000 visitors, with an average trip to the facility one hour. OceansAlaska's doors will be open for all to visit, and private operators can bring visitors to the facility. The revenues will help support year-around, self-sufficient community infrastructure and year-around industry. This is a costly venture, and there is still a lot of fundraising remaining for this project, with an estimated $11M needed. To raise that amount of money for a community facility will require leveraging public funding with private donors, a good deal for the community. Currently, OceansAlaska has a focus on mariculture infrastructure to provide economic development in Ketchikan. Community support is important to this effort, and I encourage you to support the project, ignore the propagation of misleading information, and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit me in the Plaza Mall if you have questions.
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