Ketchikan to host shellfish events in October

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — Alaska shellfish growers, harvesters, regulators and aficionados will be gathering in Ketchikan late in October for four days of meetings and educational opportunities, capped by the second annual Alaska Shellfish Festival up at the Ted Ferry Civic Center.

"I think for anyone interested in aquaculture, it's going to be a real exciting time," said Rodger Painter, president of the Alaskan Shellfish Growers Association that has scheduled its annual meeting for Oct. 28-29 in Ketchikan.

The series of shellfish-related events actually will start Oct. 26 with a meeting of the OceansAlaska Industry Advisory Committee.

Based in Ketchikan, the OceansAlaska Marine Science Center recently took delivery of its new floating mariculture research, training and development facility that will be moored at its George Inlet site. The advisory committee will be working on setting priorities for mariculture research, training and development, according to event information.

On Oct. 27 will be a day-long shellfish aquaculture educational opportunity sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant Aquaculture Program.

A draft agenda for the training session includes topics such as environmental monitoring on farm sites; farm safety; marine toxins; intertidal goeduck clam mariculture in Alaska; handling, storage and processor design for post-harvest oysters; and others.

Further information is available through Ray RaLonde, the aquaculture specialist with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program.

The evening of Oct. 27 will feature the second annual Alaska Shellfish Festival organized by OceansAlaska, the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association and the Alaskan Shellfish Growers Association with the goal of raising awareness about the shellfish dive and mariculture industries.

Positive reviews from the inaugural shellfish festival in 2010 prompted the groups to organize it once again.

"We felt it was a good way for the local community and other people to get together," said Phil Doherty, executive director of SARDFA, which represents the region's commercial harvest divers.

The centerpiece of the event are recipes featuring Alaska-produced oysters, spot prawns, geoduck clams, sea cucumbers, scallops, Tanner crab and potentially other species of shellfish prepared by local restaurant chefs and others.

The goal is to show attendees "what species of shellfish are being caught here in Southeast — southern Southeast in particular — and the chance to taste some things that they wouldn't have had a chance to before," Doherty said.

Shellfish suppliers will include Trident Seafoods, E.C. Phillips and Son, Absolute Fresh Seafoods, members of the Alaska Scallop Association and several oyster growers from Southeast Alaska and the Kachemak Bay area, according to organizers.

"This is all (seafood) that's going to be harvested starting the first of October," Doherty said. "It will either be fresh or fresh-frozen."

Recipe preparers are expected to include Cape Fox Lodge; The Narrows; Annabelle's Famous Keg and Chowder House; Jeremiah's; and Tomi and Kiyu Marsh, authors of the "Fishes and Dishes" cookbook, according to organizers.

Beverages are being supplied by Odom Distributors, K&L Distributors and Specialty Imports.

Doherty noted that the local restaurants and beer and wine distributors are volunteering their services and products for the event.

"It's a great thing that they're doing this for us," Doherty said.

In addition to the cuisine, festival attendees also will be able to talk with representatives of organizations and agencies involved with the Alaska mariculture industry, including the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

OceansAlaska General Manager David Mitchel said last year's event provided a "more relaxed atmosphere for interactions between folks from the state, regulators, politicians, and people from the industry."

It also gave shellfish producers the opportunity to be with consumers who are enjoying their products and to get immediate feedback, according to Mitchel.

"I think there's a lot of pride in people's products," he said. "That was a neat aspect of it."

Tickets for the 2010 festival sold out well ahead of time. Doherty and Mitchel anticipate the same thing will happen this year.

"There probably will not be tickets at the doors," Doherty said.

After covering expenses, any proceeds from the event will benefit the Ketchikan High School Ocean Science Club, members of which will be helping with the event.

"I think there was a lot of excitement last year over the festival, so I'm looking for another good turnout and a lot of fun," Painter said.

Following the shellfish festival will be the Alaskan Shellfish Growers Association annual meeting on Oct. 28 and 29.

"We're going to have a real focus this year on what we call 'seed security,'" Painter said. "There's been a lot of problems with oyster farmers and geoduck farmers (not) getting enough seed. We're trying to work on a coordinated, cohesive statewide plan to try to address those issues."

Other topics on the ASGA meeting agenda include an update of geoduck farm status, new Fish and Game regulations and the state mariculture loan program, according to event information.

"I think there are a lot of exciting things going on," Painter said. "I expect there to be a whole lot of growth here in Southeast over the next decade."

09/27/2011 - 8:16am