Alaska Sea Grant Marks a Half Century of Service

Alaska Sea Grant is celebrating 50 years of service to the state through research, education and outreach events which have benefitted coastal communities, ecosystems and the state’s overall economy. Over the past five decades, Alaska Sea Grant and its Marine Advisory Program agents have provided a variety of training classes and technical assistance that has helped meet demands from everything from safe ways to smoke fish to responding to animal stranding to dealing with issues related to climate change.

Alaska Sea Grant’s 2019-2020 annual report celebrates this special anniversary, drawing on Sea Grant’s investments in education and outreach as a player in diversifying economies and building resilience in Alaska’s coastal communities. Sea Grant has also been a player in responding to emergencies, such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Prince William Sound, by helping to get resources to communities hard hit by the spill.

Over the next half century, Sea Grant and its Marine Advisory Program agents will face new challenges as their programs continue to educate and support coast community economies.

Focuses of Sea Grant’s energy in 2020 ranged from launching the Alaska Shellfish and Seaweed Growers Project to support of fishermen and the seafood industry in the midst of the global novel coronavirus pandemic.

A survey of the state’s mariculture industry this past spring found that 43 percent of respondents reported losses of over half of their revenue and more than one third had laid off employees. Pandemic related restrictions that led to restaurant and tourism business closures reduced demand for mariculture products. Alaska Sea Grant responded by developing an online directory of farms and retailers that sell Alaska-grown shellfish and seaweed, released the first of several planned videos to introduce the shellfish and seaweed growers, and offered recipes to stimulate demand.

As the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread in Alaska, Alaska Sea Grant organized a webinar on alternative seafood markets for commercial fishermen at risk of losing traditional buyers. Other webinars addressed COVID-19 economic relief resources and comprehensive courses in seafood direct marketing. Alaska Sea Grant also partnered with the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., the Bristol Bay Native Association and others to answer questions about the state’s pandemic mandates and local ordinances.

Alaska Sea Grant plans to continue efforts to help keep the fisheries industry resilient as the pandemic continues.