Parnell signs shellfish farm bill at OysterFest

Gov. Sean Parnell signs a mariculture loan bill at Juneau's Hangar Ballroom on Tuesday. Watching, from the left, are Haa Aani' mariculture coordinator Anthony Lindoff, Sealaska CEO Chris McNeil, Haa Aani CEO Russell Dick and Commerce Commissioner Susan Bell.

The state is expanding its support for mariculture.

Governor Sean Parnell this week signed a bill creating a revolving loan fund for shellfish farms.

“The fund will be capitalized and if you want to engage in and begin operating a small business of that kind, you’ll now have greater access to capital in the state to do it,” Parnell said at the Juneau bill-signing. “You will also have an opportunity for a loan from the Alaska microloan revolving fund. This is a niche where the banks don’t offer it typically as a product. But (it’s) focused on access to capital for entrepreneurs of our state.”

The bill-signing was part of the kickoff reception for the Haa Aani OysterFest.

The event is connected to the Celebration 2012 Native culture festival. Haa Aani, part of the Sealaska regional Native Corporation, has helped start several oyster farms in rural Southeast.

The legislation also provides financial support for other business opportunities.

“There are two more revolving loan funds created in here related to communities being able to buy quota, something our communities have not had access to capital for, as well as the commercial charter revolving loan fund to allow individuals to get into the halibut charter business,” Parnell said.

OysterFest features cooks demonstrating recipes using Southeast-grown shellfish. It continues through Saturday across from the Sealaska parking lot in downtown Juneau.