House Bills 76 and 128 Update Existing Law to Responsibly Realize Alaska’s Mariculture Potential

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2017

Juneau – Today, the Alaska House of Representatives passed two bills to expand existing frameworks to better manage Alaska’s fledgling mariculture industry.House Bill 76 fills a critical gap in capital need for infrastructure development of mariculture operations. It amends the current program to allow up to 40 percent of the fund to be used for loans to permitted hatcheries and enhancement projects for planning, construction and operation. House Bill 128 would allow non-profits to pursue enhancement and restoration projects with oversight by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Both bills are sponsored by Representative Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan).

Alaska’s seafood industry is the single largest private employer in the State of Alaska; commercial fisheries employ over 30,000 independent entrepreneurs and already have a monetary value of $6 billion. These bills would help increase and diversify Alaska’s fishery portfolio to help realize the $1 billion potential of commercial shellfish and marine plant production.

“I hope to support the continued growth of local industry, and help Alaska remain competitive with China, Russia, and Canada, all of whom have invested significant resources in mariculture infrastructure,” said Rep. Ortiz. “We can do this by ensuring Alaskan shellfish and marine plant farmers have access to capital to jump-start the year-round, in-state seed supply they need.”

By expanding the purview of an existing revolving loan fund, HB 76 provides the financial infrastructure to develop a stable supply of seed for resident aquatic plants and shellfish at no additional cost to Alaskans. Today, Alaska shellfish farms do not have a regular, in-state source of seed for aquatic plants and other shellfish.

HB 128 allows qualified non-profits to pursue enhancement and/or restoration projects involving shellfish species, including red and blue king crab, sea cucumber, abalone, geoduck and razor clams.

“Alaskans have been harvesting shellfish for centuries, but the commercial potential of these fisheries far exceeds current levels,” said Rep. Ortiz. “While seeking to capitalize on the obvious opportunity presented by Alaska mariculture, it is crucial we realize these opportunities in a responsible manner that protects our existing world-class fisheries. With that in mind, HB 128 creates a framework for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to permit and manage these projects and sets out stringent safety standards to ensure sustainability and health of existing natural stocks.”

Both bills have received broad support – from fishermen and women, constituents, community economic development organizations, and the Governor’s Mariculture Task Force.

House Bill 76 passed the Alaska House of Representatives today by a vote of 26-14. House Bill 125 passed the House by a vote of 37-2. Both bill will now be sent to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.

For more information, contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Deputy Press Secretary Drew Cason at (907) 465-6791.

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