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It doesn't take a biologist or any other type of scientist to understand the importance of the fisheries industry.
Nor the value of expanding the industry to encompass mariculture.
Expansion boosts the economy, generating jobs.
Ketchikan needs industry that can help the economy grow; industry with potential to flourish.
That's an apt description for mariculture. Alaska already is world renowned for its salmon; the same natural resources that provide habitat for fish will well serve mariculture.
OceansAlaska has had its shoulder to the plow in an effort to develop the mariculture industry even since former Gov. Frank Murkowski raised the idea while in office and during a meeting here with the OceansAlaska board of directors.
Murkowski's worldwide exposure made him aware that mariculture — a multi-million-dollar industry elsewhere — had a future in Alaska, given the pristine environment and geographic location.
He encouraged OceansAlaska to expand its vision and pursue mariculture development, with the understanding that it would benefit not just Ketchikan, but Southeast and even other parts of Alaska.
OceansAlaska is primed to deliver for the community, the state and points elsewhere. The demand from British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest for mariculture seed is high, higher than it's ever been.
Two of the things industry needs to develop are infrastructure and developers with a goal and the ability to implement it. The former — most likely — is the Ketchikan Gateway Borough; the latter is OceansAlaska in conjunction with the borough.
The payoff to the borough is substantial — industry, jobs, new citizens, taxpayers, all of which help to support the community and its public services. When those in OceansAlaska jobs go home for the day, they will volunteer with nonprofits or in public service. They will contribute to programs and foundations; they will participate in activities, and they will support local merchants and businesses.
Mariculture is a lucrative industry in parts of the world; Ketchikan has everything it needs to bring that success home in spades — it has the expertise through OceansAlaska's board and staff and the interest of the borough.
The mariculture industry is ready to take off here. It simply needs a boost. The Borough Assembly recognized that at its Monday meeting, agreeing to supply a $338,000 two-year grant to OceansAlaska.
The grant will cover operational costs while OceansAlaska secures funding for a land-based South Tongass mariculture hatchery. It also will provide $50,000 for design of the 10,000 square-foot facility, replacing a marine facility already too small for the operation.
The current marine facility would be available to be moved around Southeast to train mariculture farmers. It also could be used as a research facility at any location, including Ward Cove, where it also might be employed as a small hatchery. Other organizations might lease it for similar purposes.
Ketchikan needs mariculture, and it's a natural for this and other Alaska communities that will depend upon OceansAlaska for research, seed and training. Thanks to the Assembly for recognizing that and helping this industry.