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December 2015 Fishlines Newsletter


Published:

Vol. 35, No. 12
December 2015

Coming up

Alaska Shellfish Growers Learn about Seaweed Farming

harvesting seaweed

With edible kelp driving a $5 billion industry worldwide, Alaska shellfish farmers are exploring seaweed as the next step in their small industry. About 40 farmers learned about kelp growing methods, markets, biology, and state programs to expand mariculture during a workshop at the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association meeting in Ketchikan. The workshop was supported by a NOAA–National Sea Grant aquaculture grant to Alaska Sea Grant, for mariculture diversification training and demonstration projects.

At the workshop, Maine-based seaweed grower Paul Dobbins presented an overview of kelp farming from spore to plate including farming setup, and Beau Perry, of Premium Oceanic in California, explained how his company is investing in seaweed growing in Alaska. Mike Stekoll, algae researcher at the University of Alaska Southeast, summarized his experiments with growing several seaweed species in Alaska over the last 25 years.

Alaska Sea Grant’s project is supporting commercial seaweed pilot projects on shellfish farms in Alaska, to test growing conditions, economic feasibility, and logistics. Farmers will have the opportunity to acquire kelp propagation starters as early as 2016. OceansAlaska in Ketchikan is seeding longlines with kelp species native to Alaska and will provide them to growers, who can suspend the lines under water from buoys.

“OceansAlaska is going to provide the string to propagate the algae,” said Gary Freitag, Marine Advisory agent and one of the project leaders. “We can’t use algae from back East—it wouldn't be legal. You have to have indigenous seed in order to raise seaweed in Alaska.”

Alaska’s south coast has a broad variety of edible species. Many of them could be used to make the nori sheets used for sushi, Beau Perry said. 

Perry encouraged Alaska farmers to raise seaweed at their farms as a pilot project, with the possibility of growing seaweed for his company in the future. He cited the advantages of farming algae, which grows rapidly and matures much faster than oysters or mussels, and can be harvested multiple times in a growing season. In addition, after it is dried, seaweed can remain edible for years. Perry sees great potential for seaweed farming in Alaska’s cold, clean waters, and believes there is a huge market for it.

Growers have responded positively to the project. “The farmers were very enthusiastic about trying it,” said Gary Freitag. “I'm getting lots of non-farmers calling me with interest in doing it as well, which is a good sign.”

New FishBiz Website for Commercial Fishermen

fishbiz website

Alaska commercial fishermen in search of business management assistance can find a wealth of information on the Alaska Sea Grant FishBiz website. The website has training tools on getting into the business, financing, income diversification, exit strategies, and many other topics.

Alaska Sea Grant has helped fishermen for 35 years to address business management challenges, with publications, workshops, and a network of coastal Marine Advisory agents. “Our fishing business website had begun to languish. We knew it was time to step up our online delivery of services to this group,” said Cordova agent Torie Baker.

Baker and Petersburg agent Sunny Rice reorganized former website resources to match fishing career phases, and added new tools and brought others up to date. The new design is appealing and easy to use, with customizable financial spreadsheets and podcasts of popular workshops.

Baker and Rice emphasize that a website is no substitute for one-on-one consultations about business decisions with bankers, accountants, and experienced fishermen. “Building a successful business requires talking with professionals, family members and other fishermen, and doing your homework,” said Baker.

CoBank, a national rural cooperative bank, provided partial funding for the website improvements.

Apply for an Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship

Matt in water holding a fish Matt Robinson

Graduate students are invited to apply for the 2016 Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship. The program offers students a professional opportunity to work on marine resource issues with state or federal agencies in Alaska. The Alaska‚Äźbased host agencies are signing up now to host students for one year, starting in summer 2016.

The first two Alaska Sea Grant State Fellows began their jobs last summer. Marysia Szymkowiak works with the Individual Fishing Quota program at the NOAA Sustainable Fisheries Division in Juneau, and Matt Robinson has a position at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage.

Both fellows get a vote of confidence from leaders at their organizations. “Marysia is doing very well. NMFS should support more of these fellows—it is very promising,” said Steve Davis, NOAA Fisheries section chief.

NPFMC deputy director Dave Witherell said, “Having Matt as a fellow in the Council is very successful. We are small with 15 staff working closely together, and Matt fits right in.”

The application period is also open for the 2017 National Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship, to work on marine policy in Washington, DC. Last month Alaska Knauss Fellow Erin Shew was placed as a climate preparedness fellow with the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She will begin work in February 2016.

The deadline to apply for both the Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship and the National Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship is February 12, 2016.

Fifth Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute

Group picture of ASPLI students

This year’s Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute (ASPLI) boasts the largest class ever, with 22 mid-level managers from seafood processing companies. During the November weeklong session at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, ASPLI instructors covered the business of seafood processing, seafood safety and quality as part of corporate identity, upcoming changes in requirements for seafood processors, innovations in seafood packaging and mechanization, and the Department of Environmental Conservation regulatory process.

Lean manufacturing was the subject of one daylong session and another day was devoted to project management training. The group heard from experienced plant manager Jim Majors and toured the Trident plant and the Pickled Willys smoking operation in Kodiak. A local seafood chef prepared lunch each day and the group processed salmon jerky in the seafood processing pilot plant as a team-building activity.

Seven processing companies and three Community Development Quota (CDQ) groups sent employees to ASPLI—Silver Bay, Icicle, Unisea, Peter Pan, Alaska General Seafoods, Norton Sound Seafoods, Trident, Coastal Cold Storage, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. The trainees are now working on winter projects and will get back together in late February–early March in Anchorage for more instruction.

ASPLI’s goal is to provide professional development for employees so they can move up in their company, and to strengthen the Alaska seafood industry, with support from industry and the UA Technical and Vocational Education Program. More than 70 people have been trained during five institutes since 2006, sponsored by Alaska Sea Grant. ASPLI’s reach is statewide and beyond—the 2015 class members hail from Naknek, Petersburg, Dillingham, Nome, Unalakleet, Homer, Larsen Bay, Kodiak, and Seattle.

Alaska Sea Grant Advisory Committee

Partial group picture of Advisory Committee members

In November, 16 members of the Alaska Sea Grant Advisory Committee held their annual two-day meeting in Anchorage along with 12 program staff and faculty. “Committee members provided excellent ideas and information, especially during discussions on community resilience and Alaska Sea Grant operations and tactics,” said director Paula Cullenberg.

Throughout the year the committee provides assistance and expertise in research proposal evaluation, strategic planning, national site review, informing their colleagues about Alaska Sea Grant, and in many other ways.

The 16-page Alaska Sea Grant 2014–2015 Annual Report [3MB PDF] was published for Advisory Committee members and the public. Presentation slides from the November meeting are available online.

Historic Canneries Grants Available

Old historical photo of cannery

The Alaska Historical Society’s Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative offers a small grant program to fund up to $1,000 for projects that document, preserve, and educate about the history of the seafood industry in Alaska. The Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative Grant Program application deadline is January 1, 2016. Alaska Sea Grant is a sponsor of the Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative.

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