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Alaska Sea Grant Announces 20082010 Projects

ALASKA - Improving fisheries management models, increasing the size of farm-raised oysters, and learning how to raise red and blue king crab in large-scale hatcheries are among the $1.5 million in new projects, activities, and administration of the Alaska Sea Grant College Program over the next two years, the program announced today.

Alaska Sea Grant is a statewide marine research, education, communication, and extension service based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

The program is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the State of Alaska and private industry.

Alaska Sea Grant solicits research proposals every two years to meet the goals and objectives outlined in its strategic plan.

New research projects are announced following a rigorous proposal review process and funding from Congress. In all, Alaska Sea Grant received federal program funding totaling $1.5 million over the next two years.

During 2008–2010, researchers will

  • examine whether interbreeding between hatchery and wild salmon diminishes the genetic fitness of wild salmon. This study is aimed at further understanding the consequences of interbreeding on Alaska’s wild salmon.
  • study ways to improve single-species fishery management models and understand the uncertainties associated with them. Such efforts will improve the scientific advice given to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
  • study the early stages of red king crab through laboratory studies on growth and field studies on the importance of specific habitats. The knowledge gained will be important to the evaluation of any future wild king crab enhancement program.
  • develop lines of large-growing oyster broodstock to supply Alaska oyster farmers with high-yielding seed. Larger oysters would increase the value of Alaska farmed oysters.
  • examine the perceptions by youth in Alaska’s coastal communities of their lives today and their goals for the future. A product of this project will be a series of short ethnographic films produced by teachers and youths in rural Alaska communities. The project intends to put a human face on the high rates of out-migration in rural Alaska coastal communities.
  • compare salmon head oil extraction techniques and devise extraction methods that can be used by small salmon processors. Salmon oil is an excellent source of omega-3 and other fatty acids important to human health and development. Salmon heads contain much of the oil found in salmon. Utilizing Alaska’s estimated 60,000 metric tons of salmon heads discarded each year would add value to Alaska seafood and reduce seafood processing waste.

Alaska Sea Grant’s federal award supports part of the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program.

MAP connects with marine users across the state through offices in ten coastal communities. Marine advisory agents and specialists work directly with fishermen and processors to improve the competitiveness of commercial fishermen and quality of Alaska seafood, and to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the state’s fisheries-dependent coastal communities.

Alaska Sea Grant conducts an extensive education and public information effort across the state through the publication of books, videos, posters, and brochures, as well as online resources aimed conveying research results and increasing the public’s knowledge of the state’s marine resources.

While state appropriations to Alaska Sea Grant have fallen in recent years due to state and university budget cuts, Alaska Sea Grant has fared well in competition for federal money. An independent federal review of the program in 2006 ranked it as among the best in the country. That designation came with a $30,000 merit award.

Alaska Sea Grant has also been able to leverage its small state and federal budget to launch several new marine science and education initiatives. The first was in 2006, when the program brought together federal, state, and industry partners to begin a research effort aimed at rebuilding Kodiak’s red king crab fishery. The project is now in its second year and has attracted nearly $1 million in funding for research.

In 2007, Alaska Sea Grant brought together fisheries stakeholders and energy development companies in an effort to find common ground and understand the potential impacts of offshore energy development proposed in the North Aleutian Basin near Bristol Bay. A federal lease sale in the basin is proposed for 2011.

Alaska Sea Grant also received a five-year, $450,000 federal grant to help the state develop a comprehensive marine research plan. When complete in 2009, the plan is expected to focus stakeholders’ concerns and beliefs about the needs for research in the Aleutian Islands.

Using a three-year, nearly $600,000 grant from the Alaska Department of Education, Alaska Sea Grant is leading an effort to update a grade school curriculum designed to increase understanding of Alaska’s oceans and rivers.