Southeast Cluster Initiative: Ocean Products
Cluster Co-Chairs: Julie Decker, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, and John Sund, Mariculture Advocate.
Southeast Alaska Ocean Products Action Initiatives
1. Develop a Sea Otter Management Program in Southeast Alaska
Champion: Phil Doherty, SARDFA
The goal of this initiative is to analyze realistic management approaches to protect important shellfish species and to allow a less restrictive harvest of sea otters by Alaska Natives. A direct output will be the development of an effective Southeast Alaska sea otter management plan for increased subsistence use by Alaska Natives. This plan should benefit all users of shellfish resources, protect shellfish resources from depletion, and allow effective subsistence harvest of sea otters by the Alaska Native people. In 2012, members of the team met with the Alaska Board of Fisheries, the Marine Mammal Commission and the Federal Subsistence Board to discuss the sea otter issue. The team also wrote and sent out a letter of support for the Sea Otter Traditional Use Revitalization Project. In September 12, 2012, Dan Ashe, Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, met with members of the team via teleconference and committed to working out the definition of sea otter use regarding what “significantly altered” means for products created by people from native tribes by February, 2013.
2. Establish a Marine Industry Technology and Workforce Improvement Consortium
Champion: Jason Custer, KMIC
The maritime industries sector, so far an unrecognized industry sector in Alaska, cuts across nearly all of Southeast Alaska’s industries. Enhancements to the efficiency and capacity of the maritime industry sector can result in net positive economic gains that are shared by the wide array of industries reliant upon marine transportation, suggesting opportunities for value adding growth in existing enterprises and for attracting new marine industry businesses to locate in the region. This initiative will map the businesses and physical assets that comprise the Southeast Alaska maritime industry as a basis for preparing an economic development plan for the sector. In 2012, as an indirect outcome of this initiative, the Ketchikan Marine Industry Council formed and a website that showcases the marine industry facilities and firms was published. In 2013, the focus of this initiative will be on expanding to include more firms in the marine industry sector in more Southeast Alaska communities, in order to better address the common problems facing this sector and, thereby, improve productivity.
3. Ensure Southeast’s Fishing Future through Targeted Education and Training
Champion: Jim Seeland, UAS
As boat and permit owners seek retirement, these businesses are often purchased by non-locals and leave Southeast Alaska. This initiative will provide residents with the necessary skills to acquire and operate successful businesses in the region. The objective is to develop the awareness and capability of the local population to capitalize on economic opportunities within their communities. The next generation of business owners needs a new skill set to compete. They need to be innovative in structuring business deals, and proficient in financing to purchase these businesses. If this initiative is successful, local ownership of the businesses associated with the ocean products sector will, at a minimum, remain stable and, hopefully, increase. This initiative has been altered so that the focus is education and recruitment instead of on the flight of quotas from Southeast Alaskan communities. This initiative was on hold throughout much of 2012, but a new team member has stepped forward to serve as the new champion and reinvigorate the team’s efforts in 2013.
4. Refinement of USDA programs applicable to the seafood industry
Champion: Julie Decker, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation
The objective is to creatively refine and better market those US Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that apply to the seafood industry in USDA programs. The benefits would be felt in Southeast Alaska and across the nation primarily in coastal areas. Access to these programs could help stabilize some of the natural volatility of the industry, help the industry compete on a level playing field with other food producers, help the industry invest in improvements which will yield tangible economic benefits and help stabilize coastal communities. In 2012, the team determined that the USDA is not receptive to completing an analysis of how it might creatively include the seafood industry in more of its programs. Consequently, this initiative is being refocused to evaluate how USDA programs might be refined and better marketed. The team acquired a matrix that outlines the programs of USDA Rural Development and distributed this matrix to the CWG. This matrix should help CWG members figure out how their work might fit into the USDA’s areas of interest. A workshop will be held at the Innovation Summit in February, 2013 about USDA opportunities that are applicable to the seafood industry. As an indirect outcome of this initiative, a member of the team is working to complete narratives and grant proposals for three of the USDA’s interest areas that apply to ocean products.
5. Enhance Salmon Production
Champion: Steve Reifenstuhl, Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association
The goal of this initiative is to improve the Southeast Alaska economy by increasing salmon production. Because of the establishment of the Southeast Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership, the cluster working group decided that the group’s work to enhance salmon production should focus on addressing the issues facing hatcheries instead of on habitat enhancement. The initiative will lay the groundwork for additional permitted chum, pink, or sockeye salmon production on the order of 200 million eggs/fry, using existing facilities where feasible and/or constructing new facilities where necessary.
6. Support the Regional Mariculture Industry
Champion: John Sund, Mariculture Advocate
The goal of this initiative is to create a strong and sustainable mariculture industry that supports vibrant coastal communities in Southeast Alaska. In 2012, the initiative team participated in the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association (ASGA) meeting and learned that there is now a mariculture loan available through the State of Alaska. The team, together with other ASGA meeting attendees, also pared down the number of activities this initiative should focus on to those that the team viewed as the most important. These activities, which the team will concentrate its efforts on in 2013, are addressing the problem of seed security and trying to attract more qualified personnel to the field of mariculture.