Alaska Sea Grant says it wants to "reinvigorate the state’s sluggish shellfish farming industry."
In 2010, some 67 shellfish farms held licenses to operate in Alaska, primarily in Kachemak Bay, Prince William Sound and Southeast, Sea Grant said in a recent press release. But only 25 farms regularly supply shellfish to the seafood market.
"Moreover, the farms produce only about 10 percent of their capacity," Sea Grant said. "Total shellfish production has been level for the past five years, averaging about $500,000 in total sales each year."
Ray RaLonde, an aquaculture specialist, hopes to liven up the industry using a two-year, $284,000 grant from the national and Alaska Sea Grant programs.
“Shellfish farming has great business potential for coastal Alaskans, and this grant will allow us to work with communities and individuals to open new areas to shellfish farming,” said RaLonde, with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program.
RaLonde will work with colleagues Quentin Fong, MAP marketing specialist; Gary Freitag, Ketchikan MAP agent; Glenn Haight, MAP business specialist; and Deborah Mercy, MAP instructional media specialist.
They'll conduct shellfish farming instruction, helping the Alaskan Shellfish Growers Association develop a best practices manual and assisting communities with aquaculture plans.
One goal is to identify four new aquaculture zones that could accommodate 20 farm sites, Sea Grant said.
RaLonde said the grant covers a range of other activities: training high school students and new farmers; economics research; business support and technology transfer for existing farmers; and infrastructure assessment for communities interested in aquaculture.