A Bristol Bay set netter will take over the Alaska Sea Grant. Paula Cullenberg will lead the program after serving as its associate director and as head of the Marine Advisory Program.
Many people are familiar with Marine Advisory Program, but the Sea Grant does a lot more than that: it funds research, up to 1 million dollars per year. It also has an educational component that sponsors publications, a research symposium, and teacher training.
Cullenberg will lead the program beginning in July. She says a first priority for the Sea Grant is maintaining Alaska’s strong resources.
"That for example might be looking at the sea otter-shellfish fishery issues in Southeast, it could be monitoring for invasive specifies, working with subsistence harvesters up north on seal diseasee up north, it could be funding research to look at salmon habit needs or marine needs that could support the resources," said Cullenberg.
Helping the state’s fishing and seafood industries reach their potential is another focus.
"Economic diversification in our state is very important, getting the most value out of our resources so that we're not just focused on primary harvest, but other ways to add value to that for communities around our state. New occupations and businesses that might be tourism focused, they might be coastal business focused, they might shellfish farming or commercial fishing focused that can sustain our economy," said Cullenberg.
Cullenberg will be busy this summer managing the program, but as a longtime Bristol Bay set netter, says she hopes to be out fishing at least a few weeks.
"This is year 27 for us. Luckily I have two sons who are 22 and 24, and my husband, so it's a family operation. I certainly intend to come out and get my hands wet and deal with as many salmon as I can, for sure," said Cullenberg.
The Alaska Sea Grant is a partnership between NOAA and University of Alaska Fairbanks. Cullenberg replaces David Christie, who is retiring after leading the program since 2008.