Southeast Alaska’s developing mariculture industry was one of the topics mentioned during a joint news teleconference Thursday in Juneau, featuring officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Alaska Farm Service Agency.
The news conference was part of Juneau’s annual Innovation Summit, and included Regional Forester Beth Pendleton, Deputy Undersecretary for USDA’s Rural Development Patrice Kunesh, Samia Savell of the Natural Resources Conservation; and Danny Consenstein, director of the USDA Farm Service Agency.
Kunesh focused her remarks on USDA programs in Western Alaska, particularly programs that aim to help rural communities install water and sewage systems.
In his remarks, Consenstein noted that his agency has no employees in Southeast Alaska, but the Farm Service does try to support industry here, including mariculture start-ups.
“We’ve heard this from the people of Southeast that the potential for job creation in shellfish mariculture industry … could help create jobs, particularly in rural areas,” he said. “This is the kind of industry that’s kind of a mom-and-pop. It requires a lot of Alaskan ingenuity and resilience to live in remote area and produce these shellfish, and so the Farm Service Agency has helped through our loan program and other programs we have to try and lower the cost of doing business.”
Transporting materials, for example, can be prohibitively expensive for people trying to set up a shellfish farm in a remote area.
Ketchikan is home to OceansAlaska, which produces some of the shellfish seed used by the state’s mariculture industry. There are oyster and geoduck farms in Southeast Alaska, including remote parts of Prince of Wales Island.
(This story has been corrected. The article originally identified the Farm Service as a state agency.)