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Board of Fisheries to look at mariculture questions



When the state Board of Fisheries meets in Seward next week, it will have plenty of fishing issues to deal with. But not every proposal has to do with fishing, or even fish. A pair of proposals are focused on aquatic plants.

Things like seaweed and kelp, sea vegetables to some, are becoming more popular, says Eliza Eller. But the rules on the books regarding harvest of aquatic plants don’t allow for much subsistence or commercial use.

“There are two issues. One is the plants that are growing and the next is the plants that wash up on shore. The plants that are growing make really good food and the plants that wash up on shore make really good compost.”

The proposal Eller submitted to the board asks it to establish a more detailed regulatory framework for harvest of aquatic plants within the non-subsistence area of Cook Inlet. That part is important because while current regulations allow harvest for non-commercial use up to ten pounds a day, but not in the Anchorage non-subsistence area. That area also includes Kenai, Soldotna, Seward and Homer.

“My feeling is that it’s a little bit too restrictive right now and that it could be opened up some and still preserve the sustainability of those kelp forests.”

While Eller’s proposal is aimed at personal and subsistence use, the other proposal on the table is geared toward commercial use. Al Poindexter, who runs Anchor Point Greenhouse, says in his filing that his family has been picking up seaweed on the beach since the early 1960’s. And for most of that time, beach kelp has been used in making potting soil mix, which he says is a half-million dollar a year business statewide. 

Poindexter’s proposal asks the board to more clearly define commercial use and who does and doesn’t need a commercial permit for harvest as he does. He says he’s seen the amount of seaweed washing on shore increase over the years. Eliza Eller, who teaches cooking classes at Ionia in Kasilof, says kelp and seaweed are getting more popular.

“(There’s been) a huge upswing in interest. People are really interested in harvesting their own seaweed, want to know where to do it, how to do it, how best to do it and how to cook it. In general, I think there’s a surge in interest in plant-based diets and sea plants, sea vegetables are a big part of that.”

The Board of Fisheries meets in Seward December 10-13 at the AVTEC center.


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