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Photos: Farmers of the sea in Kachemak Bay

Weatherly and Greg Bates are both New England born and raised, with Weatherly earning a bachelor's degree in aquaculture and fisheries technology from the University of Rhode Island in 2003. The two first found work in Maine, managing an oyster farm and helping boost its production from 10,000 to 200,000 oysters a year. They came to Alaska in 2007 to do shellfish farming for other people, finally beginning their own oyster operation in 2010. Three years later, mussels were added to the only year-round mariculture operation in Kachemak Bay.

They're part of a growing Alaska mariculture industry. Statewide, some 68 aquatic farms, eight shellfish nurseries and two shellfish hatcheries are permitted — concentrated in Kachemak Bay, Prince William Sound and Southeast. A 2013 state mariculture report says they produce 1.2 million Pacific oysters and nearly 5 tons of littleneck clams, blue mussels and geoduck.

"From when Greg was a little boy, he wanted to do something like this and my dad was a lifelong fisherman," Weatherly said. "So I grew up on a boat, just like my kids are doing. Almost from the time they came home from the hospital, we'd make a bed for them in a fish tote while we worked. They got their sea legs early," Weatherly added.

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