Fishlines newsletter

Vol. 36, No. 11
November 2016

Coming up

Sea Grant Funds Seaweed Aquaculture Research

two people pulling kelp from water

A new $418,000 grant from National Sea Grant will fund a two-year study by University of Alaska Southeast professor Michael Stekoll. The research focuses on cultivating seaweed at higher latitudes—such as when seaweed plants become fertile, timing of transferring plants to the ocean, the best time to harvest, and selecting for specific traits—with the goal of helping growers become successful in this emerging industry. Alaska Sea Grant is administering the grant.

Seaweed aquaculture presents a new economic opportunity for Alaska. Cultivated seaweeds drive a $6.6 billion industry worldwide that is rapidly increasing. Commercial farmers have grown oysters, clams, and mussels in Alaska for years. Now seaweed has the potential to play a role in the future of the state’s aquaculture industry. Several commercial seaweed farms have recently been permitted in Alaska, and shellfish farmers have expressed a strong interest in adding seaweed cultivation to their operations.

While several Alaska seaweed species have commercial potential, the new project will focus on sugar kelp. Sugar kelp may have the best chance of becoming commercially viable because it is fast-growing, grows best in the winter, and has a pleasing taste, according to a commercial distributor. Stekoll will find out more about growing conditions and methods, which could allow producers to grow and harvest commercial quantities of seaweed. The State of Alaska prohibits import of any seaweeds to protect existing natural populations, so seaweed farmed or grown for research in Alaska must come from local stock.

Blue Evolution, a US seaweed-farming company, will provide $125,000 for a College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences graduate student to work with Stekoll, who has a joint appointment with UAF CFOS. The partnership will allow for direct transfer of Stekoll’s research into the commercial sector. Blue Evolution is also working directly with shellfish farmers in Alaska in hopes of kick-starting this new industry.

Apply for Sea Grant Fellowships

fellow walking with mentorJohn Amis photo (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Sea Grant and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offer several fellowship opportunities for Alaska graduate students interested in marine science and policy.

Closest to home is the Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship Program, providing a unique professional opportunity for soon-to-graduate or recently finished graduate students interested in the science and policy needed to keep marine resources healthy. The program matches highly motivated students and/or recent graduates with hosts in Alaska-based state or federal agencies for a 12-month paid fellowship. Currently Jane Sullivan, Sarah Apsens, and Jennifer Marsh are working as Alaska Sea Grant State Fellows in Anchorage and Juneau, placed at NMFS and the National Park Service. Application deadline for students for the 2017-2018 fellowship is February 24, 2017. Selected fellows will begin jobs in summer/fall 2017.

The Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program seeks graduate students with an interest in national policy decisions affecting coastal and ocean resources. Fellows spend a year in the Washington, DC, area in an executive or legislative position, working on national policy issues. Alaska Sea Grant–sponsored Erin Shew is finishing up her year as a Knauss Fellow with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Kelly Cates and Charlotte Regula-Whitefield will start their Knauss fellowships in early 2017. The deadline to apply for the 2018 National Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship is February 10, 2017.

The NOAA Fisheries (NMFS)–Sea Grant Fellowship is for PhD students interested in careers related to marine ecosystem and population dynamics, with a focus on modeling and managing systems of living marine resources; or economics of the conservation and management of living marine resources. Recipients work with a mentor from NOAA Fisheries. Fellows interested in population and ecosystem dynamics can receive up to three years of funding, and those in marine resource economics can receive two years of funding. The deadline for applicants is January 27, 2017.

Advisory Committee Welcomes New Members

group photo

Alaska Sea Grant Advisory Committee members held their annual meeting in Anchorage the second week of November. Twenty attending advisors appreciated updates from researchers, Marine Advisory agents, fellows, and staff on program activities and were presented with the Alaska Sea Grant 2015–2016 Annual Report. Members offered Alaska Sea Grant strategic planning content and advised on the upcoming call for research proposals.

The program welcomed five new Advisory Committee members: Amanda Painter, operations manager for Allen Marine Tours; Kris Norosz, government liaison with Icicle Seafoods; Alice Ruby, mayor of Dillingham; and Ralph Samuels, vice president of government and community relations at Holland America/Princess Cruises. Kaja Brix of NOAA Fisheries is the new alternate for regional administrator Jim Balsiger.

Alaska Sea Grant Director Paula Cullenberg expressed gratitude to five members leaving the committee after many years of service and welcomed them as “Friends of Alaska Sea Grant”: Daniel O'Hara, Steve Borell, Henry Mitchell, John Shively, and Bob Winfree.

Salmon Stakeholders Weigh in on Sustainability

artwork with salmon and map of Alaska

In early November the Center for Salmon and Society and partners held the workshop, Long-term Challenges to Alaska’s Salmon and Salmon-Dependent Communities. More than 200 people of diverse backgrounds attended the Anchorage meeting, including salmon researchers, managers, NGO representatives, and community and Native leaders.

Milo Adkison, University of Alaska Fairbanks professor and workshop chair, said a major accomplishment at the event was discussion of challenges of salmon habitat protection, salmon governance, community health and well-being, and cultural and racial dynamics. Participants identified concrete actions to address these challenges.

“There will be summaries of the finding of each work session. We're writing those up now, and will create a website where they'll be available,” said Adkison. Presentations will be linked to the workshop website.

Organizers believe that Alaska is at a crossroads for making decisions that will have lasting impacts on salmon and the communities linked to salmon. Although salmon populations are relatively healthy in Alaska compared to other regions, increasing population size, urbanization, and climate change are long-term challenges. Salmon-dependent communities are affected by fluctuations in abundance and price, the gradual erosion of access to the resource, the high cost of living in these communities, and other economic and social challenges.

Workshop sponsors are the Center for Salmon and Society, Alaska Sea Grant, Alaska's Salmon Habitat Partnerships, Bristol Bay Land Trust, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, The Salmon Project, and University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.