Why Alaskan seafood matters to our economy

By: Editorial Staff Posted: 09/27/2019

Speakers included Chef Tom Douglas, Markos Scheer of Premium Aquatics, and Jeremy Woodrow of Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute

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At our Alaska Business Forum in September, a panel of seafood industry leaders discussed trade, the industry’s economic impact, and what seafood means for advancing Alaskan communities.

  • Jeremy Woodrow, Executive Director of Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, gave an overview of the health of Alaska’s seafood industry and discussed the industry’s value.

Alaskan seafood is a global commodity, he said, with 60 percent of Alaskan seafood being exported. The industry’s impact in the Pacific Northwest region is also massive. According to the state of Alaska, in 2017 alone, over 6.4 billion pounds of Alaskan seafood was harvested. Of that, Washington-based crews fished over 3.9 billion pounds – a value of $873 million.

The value of seafood is more than just dollars, Woodrow pointed out. The industry also sustains healthy communities in Alaska through job creation and economic impact for the state.

  • Markos Scheer, CEO of Premium Aquatics, led a fascinating presentation on the opportunity kelp offers Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Kelp offers significant value as a product and volume, and kelp farmers could utilize existing Alaskan seafood infrastructure and an already 'sea-smart workforce.'

Scheer predicted growth for mariculture and kelp, which he called a superfood. He celebrated the important role kelp can play in the future of food, pharmaceuticals, and beauty products, as well as its essential role in absorbing carbon dioxide and providing habitat for marine life.

Locally, both Washington Sea Grant, housed at the University of Washington, and at Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF), research uses for kelp. Earlier this month, Washington Sea Grant , PSRF, and a number of local and national partners received a $1.1 million federal grant to start a national resource hub for seaweed aquaculture.

  • Tom Douglas, James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur, said, “I’m here to celebrate the value of Alaskan seafood and what it can do for a restaurant.”

Many restaurants in Seattle feature Alaskan seafood, and Douglas spoke about the beauty of plating and working with Alaskan fish, including Copper River salmon. He also spoke about his personal interest in preserving Bristol Bay, where there are prolific wild salmon runs. Salmon from Bristol Bay are served in restaurants throughout the state of Washington, and according to the Seattle Restaurant Alliance, they help support more than 3,100 jobs and $550 million in economic impact.

Check out a photo gallery from this event by James Nguyen with the Seattle Metro Chamber at this link.

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The Alaska Business Forum series helps you stay engaged on issues related to doing business in Alaska. The series, which runs September through June, also helps you connect with other businesses in the Seattle metro region that are active in Alaska. For more information, please contact Betsy Paige, our program lead for this series.