Biden administration awards $49 million to boost Alaska mariculture industry

The Biden administration awarded a group of Alaska organizations $49 million for new projects to support the state’s mariculture industry, money that the winners say could grow jobs in the burgeoning local business sector that produces shellfish and sea vegetables.

The winners, collectively known as the Alaska Mariculture Cluster, plan to use the grant to fund projects ranging from workforce development to green energy improvements. The White House awarded the grant last week as part of a $1 billion federal competition for a portion of American Rescue Plan funds, in which local initiatives could apply for money to promote regional economies.

The $49 million grant “means the world to the mariculture industry in Alaska,” said Robert Venables, Southeast Conference’s executive director. “It is just an amazing opportunity to create such new wealth and new jobs and new opportunities for the state of Alaska.”

In 2016, former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, established the Alaska Mariculture Task Force to recommend developments in the field. The task force’s 2018 development plan aimed to grow Alaska mariculture to a $100 million industry in 20 years.

Southeast Conference and other Alaska Mariculture Cluster members wrote in a “coalition vision” statement that they hope the industry will reach that goal in 10 years and be worth $325 million in 20 years. The cash infusion could also help the Alaska mariculture industry create 1,800 jobs to support the growing sector in the next two decades, according to the statement.

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Venables said the project’s footprint extends from Southeast to the Aleutian Islands. He said southern coastal Alaska is the region of focus, and areas like Prince William Sound and the Kenai Peninsula could ramp up production “with the right investment.”


A coalition of other government, tribal, academic and industry organizations also participated in securing the grant and will implement projects. The partners include the state, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation.

The cluster is one of 21 winners of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration gave out the grants.

“These grants will provide critical and historic funding directly to community coalitions to invest in new infrastructure, research and development, and workforce development programs while creating good-paying jobs, supporting workers, and prioritizing equity,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

Riley Rogerson

Riley Rogerson is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C., and is a fellow with Report for America. Contact her at