Story last updated at 6/13/2012 - 2:16 pm
A new event in Juneau called OysterFest highlighted Alaska-grown oysters and raised awareness about Alaska's expanding mariculture industry. OysterFest was held June 7-9 during Celebration. Sponsored by Sealaska, the biennial dance and cultural event attracts thousands of participants from Alaska, Canada, and the northwest.
OysterFest is part of a movement to develop Alaska's mariculture industry. Gov. Sean Parnell recently introduced legislation to help entrepreneurs obtain financing for farming oysters, geoducks and other shellfish.
"Mariculture has significant potential to create new employment and business opportunities in coastal Alaska," said Susan Bell, commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.
"Until recently, the few oyster farms that existed in Alaska were underdeveloped," said Ray Riutta, executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. "Now with 30 commercial oyster farms currently active across the state and more on the horizon, events such as OysterFest will bolster awareness of Alaska shellfish to consumers and the foodservice industry."
OysterFest was held at the future site of the Walter Soboleff Cultural Center, which is being developed by Sealaska in downtown Juneau. OysterFest is sponsored by Haa Aaní, a Sealaska subsidiary established in 2009 to spur economic development in Southeast. Organizers hope to offer the event annually.