Max Lyons and Duke Delgado at Beginning Kelp Farmer Training Workshop. Photos by Ellen Carty.

Our region’s coastal communities depend on the ocean to support our thousands years old continuum of nutritional, spiritual, cultural and economic life ways. Unfortunately, our ability to engage in these practices has been severely disrupted in the last century through federal and state fisheries policies that curtail Alaska Native and coastal community access and legally sanction over-harvesting by commercial fishers of community dependent species such as halibut. Environmental impacts from pollution and global warming place additional strains on our region’s waters and marine life. As our region’s abundance has declined, so have our communities.

Community leadership has articulated that we must work to re-establish our relationship as indigenous and community-based stewards and knowledge keepers. And as stewards, we must lead restoration efforts that support our communities and the marine environment that sustains them. We have traditionally harvested sea vegetables such as Kapuustaq (sea lettuce), Caritet (rockweed) and Nasquiut (bull kelp) for food and other uses. We see regenerative mariculture and in particular kelp farming as a primary means to begin to restore environmental and economic abundance and maintain our traditional practices.

KALI is actively engaged in several large initiatives in support of regenerative coastal communities. These include:

Developing Alutiiq Kelp Farms and Farmers.  With funding through the Native American Agriculture Fund, KALI and our Alutiiq Grown communities are working with partners that include Alaska Ocean Farms, the University of Alaska Marine Advisory Program (MAPS) and the Native Conservancy to establish a regional network of Alutiiq and community owned kelp farms. KALI and Alaska Ocean Farms are delivering a regionally-based comprehensive training and technical assistance program with the goal of establishing a network of at least eight Alutiiq owned kelp farms by the end of 2023. Four of our communities including Afognak, Old Harbor, Port Lions and Ouzinkie are currently working on identification and permitting aquatic plant farms along their coastlines. KALI’s training program is serving as a pilot program for future state-wide delivery by MAPS.

Qik’rtaq Regional Rural and Alaska Native Kelp Development Plan. 
KALI has been facilitating discussion around an emerging collective vision for regenerative mariculture in our region. Through these discussions, five components necessary to successful build-out of the kelp space were identified by our community leadership, beginning farmers, and our major collaborative partners. These include:

  1. Recognition and incorporation of Alutiiq values in all development efforts.
  2. The strategic planning and permitting of farms to establish local control of access to areas adjacent to our communities and traditional use areas while developing sufficient production to support a sustainable regional rural and tribal business model of processing and marketing.  
  3. Beginning farmer support through site selection, permit applications, training and access to capital.
  4. Articulation of a realistic build out of processing and marketing assets that fosters local control, incorporates the latest developments in small scale processing while also integrating with larger regional processing efforts.
  5. The development of a funding plan based on planning efforts in 1-4 above.

KALI is collaborating with a number of technical and business partners to facilitate the fleshing out of these identified components as part of our Qik’rtaq Regional Rural and Alaska Native Kelp Development Plan. Planning efforts are being supported by a generous donation from Koniag, Inc., our Alaska Native Regional Corporation. We are encouraging all of our tribes, communities and Alaska Native Corporation partners to become part of our ongoing planning efforts and to consider participating in this emerging regenerative economy as farmers, employers or investors.