Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Seawatch: Local shellfish growers win Farm Family of the Year

Bates family of Halibut Cove wins mariculture Farm Family of the Year.

A Halibut Cove couple has won the 2020 Alaska Farm Family of the Year Award for mariculture, the first time in the history of the award.

Greg and Weatherly Bates, owners of Alaska Shellfish Farms and Oyster Point oysters and mussels brand, are the first to raise seafood as their annual crop.

The award is given every year as part of the Alaska State Fair, which was canceled this year due to the pandemic.

They were surprised to hear that they had been awarded the honor, Weatherly Bates said.

“We’re so thrilled and honored that that has been given to us this year. We were super surprised. We had no idea that there was this ongoing nomination process,” she said.

They were told they were the unanimous choice, partly because the State of Alaska has been focusing on the industry, with Gov. Mike Dunleavy establishing a mariculture task force.

“It might have been really good timing,” Bates said.

The couple moved to Alaska in 2007 after coming up on their honeymoon from running an oyster farm in Maine.

“There’s just so much clean water, and we just felt like there’s so much opportunity for mariculture here. Coming from the East Coast it’s sad that the fisheries there have declined so much,” she said.

Weatherly studied fisheries management back east, and felt there was a disconnect between the science and government.

“It was so lobbyist-driven, and I decided I could make a bigger difference helping Greg grow seafood sustainably,” she said. “We’ve been committed to grow sustainable protein pretty much from nothing, and I feel like in turn that might reduce pressure on over-fished wild species.”

The couple has also been studying their farm location as a source of kelp, something that is gaining interest in many places in Alaska.

The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and their partners are accepting applications through Feb. 1 on the Alaska Sea Grant website,, seeking a new cohort of participants for virtual format training for over 100 people in 2021.

The goal of the program is to provide tools and training necessary for Alaskans to own and operate their own seafood farm. The program is targeted towards commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives and fishing communities, AFDF officials said.

It will include an online webinar on Feb. 2, a series of virtual technical multi-day workshops over one week beginning on Feb. 22, one-on-one mentoring for high-performance participants, and potential in-person hands-on field training in the spring and summer of 2021, depending on the status of the pandemic.

Cristy Fry can be reached at

More in News

Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. The veteran Alaska legislator was passing through Homer while waiting to take the M/V Tustumena ferry to Kodiak. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Clem Tillion, PFD founder and former legislator, dies at 96

Tillion died Wedneday, Oct. 13, at Halibut Cove home.

Thunder Mountain High School on April 18.  Earlier this fall, vandalism including stolen soap dispensers and toilets clogged with foreign objects such as paper towel rolls were a problem at schools nationwide and in Juneau. But, principals say the local situation is improving. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
After brief surge, vandalism subsiding at local high schools

Principals say internet trends, stress likely behind incidents.

In this Jan. 8, 2020, photo Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, heads to a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. An Alaska man faces federal charges after authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill Murkowski, according to court documents unsealed Wed., Oct. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,File)
Delta Junction man faces charges over threatening Murkowski’s life

Authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill the senator.

Donna Aderhold recites the Homer City Council oath of office and is sworn in for duty at the city council meeting on Oct. 11. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
New council members sworn into duty Monday

Newly-elected Homer City Council members Shelly Erickson and Jason Davis and re-elected… Continue reading

Runners participate in boys varsity race at the Ted McKenney XC Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. The trails recently reported incidents of vandalism and theft. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Vandalism and theft reported at Tsalteshi Trails

One trail user reported stolen skis recently and multiple signs have been defaced.

At left Bonita Banks, RN, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) nurse at Homer Medical Center, and at right, Annie Garay, RN, Community Health Educator, pose for a photo at South Peninsula Hospital on Sept. 27, 2021, at Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
New hospital community health educator starts

Garay, a Homer raised nurse, came home to ride out COVID-19, wound up doing pandemic nursing.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Montessori school goes to universal indoor masking

As of Tuesday, eight KPBSD schools were operating with universal indoor masking for staff and students.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Crabbers look at cuts to quotas

Tanner, opilio crab quotas cut on top of cancellation of fall king crab fishery.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Judge sides with psychiatrists who alleged wrongful firing

Two psychiatrists said they were wrongfully fired when Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took office.

Most Read