Alaska Fishermen Switching to Shellfish Farming
Shellfish farming—oysters, clams, and mussels—is poised to become one of Alaska's newest industries as Alaska Sea Grant and the Marine Advisory Program (MAP) lead a statewide effort to help entrepreneurs take advantage of the huge potential of “mariculture.”
As Alaska commercial fishermen drop out of the fishing industry, shellfish farming is an option that can keep them connected to the sea—and demand for the product far outstrips supply. There are 56 bivalve farms in Alaska, and
many Alaska shellfish farmers pre-sell their entire year's production in just one week. Thanks in part to the dogged efforts of MAP aquaculture specialist Ray RaLonde, state regulations on tideland leasing for mariculture operations were recently adjusted to streamline the permitting process. In August, Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski announced
the availability of $900,000 for further development of infrastructure needed to advance Alaska's shellfish mariculture industry.