Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions
Evolving mariculture industry
By Rep. Dan Ortiz
September 29, 2016
I recently attended Southeast Conference, where Julie Decker of Wrangell gave an insightful presentation on the Alaska Mariculture Task Force, and our evolving mariculture industry. This task force, funded by a NOAA grant, envisions a booming billion dollar mariculture industry in Southeast Alaska.
Southeast Alaska has an excellent opportunity to diversify our economy with the practice of mariculture, thanks to several grant and loan opportunities for coastal Alaskans. Mariculture is the cultivation of shellfish and sea vegetables by a process similar to the hatchery system, with which we southeast Alaskans are familiar. Mariculture practices can enhance our shellfish and sea vegetable industry, and ensure profitable harvests into the future, providing increased seafood production to fishermen and processors.
We have an abundant variety of local shellfish and sea vegetation, and each species has a unique market opportunity for long-term financial success. Several strains of seaweed, all of which naturally occur in southeast Alaska, have strong, and growing, market demand. While some types of seaweed are popular across restaurant and dinner tables, others can be developed for quality fertilizer. Some macroalgae can even be developed as a fuel resource. Kelp, ever-growing in demand, may be the next food craze post-kale. It takes only ninety days for kelp to grow from seed to harvest-ready maturation. Oysters and geoducks are also high-demand local seafood products whose industries can benefit from the stability and reliability of mariculture practices.
Southeast Alaska has all the necessities to be the base of a thriving mariculture industry, and our opportunity to become a mariculture leader is a bright spot in our economic future. If you are interested in developing a mariculture-related opportunity in Alaska, you can seek more information from the Department of Economic Development, toll-free, at 1-800-478-5626.
Received September 29, 2016 - Published September 29, 2016
About: Ortiz is an independent member of the Alaska House of Representatives, who has since 2015 represented the 36th District. He is the only independent in the Alaska State Legislature.
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