Welcome to our 2016-2017 annual report! In the stories collected here, we share highlights of Alaska Sea Grant’s work this past year and invite you to share your feedback.
During the year, we’ve furthered our mission to sustain Alaska’s healthy coasts, ecosystems and economies, through research education and outreach. We continue to support future leaders in science and marine policy through our traineeship and fellowship programs and K-12 learning initiatives.
Five Alaska Sea Grant State Fellows began professional assignments in federal and state agencies, including one who is working in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor helping to craft Alaska’s new climate initiative. We also have two Alaskans working in Washington, D.C., as Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellows, in the office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and at the NOAA Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Our marine literacy program was highly successful this year, particularly in the state’s largest school district. Together with our marine education specialist, the Anchorage School District developed a fourth-grade STEM teaching kit that is now required curriculum for thousands of students in Alaska’s population center. It focuses on helping students learn about the salmon life cycle and how watersheds work.
It was a busy year for research and workforce development efforts as well. You’ll read about some them in the following pages. Research funded by Alaska Sea Grant on humpback whales generated international headlines, including a story in the New York Times. The research documented for the first time that humpback whales feed on hatchery-raised salmon when the salmon are released into the ocean. Other research garnering lots of media attention includes our efforts to promote seaweed farming as a new industry in Alaska, and monitoring tools developed by Alaska Sea Grant–sponsored scientists being used to document coastal erosion in western Alaska, particularly in Alaska Native villages.
One effort we’d like to call out is a project by Marine Advisory faculty Chris Sannito and Quentin Fong. Sannito, seafood quality specialist, and Fong, seafood marketing specialist, received an award for “innovation in research leading to commercialization” by the UAF Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization. The award recognized their work to develop a pet treat made with pollock skin, normally considered a waste product. Americans spend about $6 billion annually on treats for their pets, according to industry watchers.
In faculty and staff news, Sunny Rice was promoted to lead the Marine Advisory Program from her office in Petersburg. Fong became a full professor, and our Nome-based agent, Gay Sheffield, was granted tenure. We also hired Paula Dobbyn as our new communications manager. Dobbyn has been focusing on growing Alaska Sea Grant’s name recognition through media outreach, social media, a new blog and a revamped Fishlines newsletter. Expect to see a new Alaska Sea Grant website in 2018.
Finally, we thank you—our many partners and supporters—who took the time to defend Alaska Sea Grant in the face of proposed elimination by the White House. In March 2017, the administration proposed cutting all funding to the National Sea Grant College Program. We immediately began hearing from fishing and maritime organizations, seafood processors, coastal leaders and residents, and many others concerned about Alaska Sea Grant’s future. Dozens wrote letters in support of continued Sea Grant funding. We wholeheartedly thank the stakeholders that we serve and members of the Alaska congressional delegation for firmly backing our program. At the time of this writing, both chambers of Congress have proposed budgets that will maintain Sea Grant funding in FY18. We look forward to a future of continued partnerships and service to Alaska’s communities to enhance the wise use and conservation of Alaska’s coastal resources.