Big oyster farms planned for Southeast

State task force projects it could be a $100 million industry.

Large oyster farms have been proposed for southeast Alaska, marking potential growth in marine life cultivation for food that a state task force has projected could be a $100 million industry.

Silver Bay Seafoods has been working on securing a 10-year lease on 182 acres of seafloor near Sitka from the state Department of Natural Resources, CoastAlaska reported Tuesday.

State agencies are reviewing the application by the seafood company, which has been buying and processing fish at its plant in Sitka for the past decade. The company’s proposal is available for public comment through March 1.

Another oyster farm has been proposed on 127 acres in Doyle Bay off Prince of Wales Island. The farm has passed the regulatory review process, but it still needs to post a bond, pay its fees and sign for the lease.

These new farms could be larger than any previous oyster farm proposals in the state to date.

“I think our largest farm is — prior to Doyle Bay going as far as it has — is like 26 acres,” said Christy Colles, the state’s aquatic farm program coordinator.

The state Mariculture Task Force, which was established by Gov. Bill Walker three years ago, has projected that the sector could become a $100 million industry in 20 years. Mariculture is the cultivation of marine life for food and includes shellfish and seaweed.

Small operations have struggled to take hold in the state, but larger farms could succeed, said Julie Decker, co-chair of the task force.

“There are farms this size and larger in British Columbia, the state of Washington, Oregon and California — so up and down the West Coast — but Alaska is still untapped that way,” Decker said.

• This is an Associated Press report.

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