by Laine Welch –What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing Alaska’s seafood industry? Jobs, adding value and high-energy costs were common themes given by five major candidates for governor during the famed fisheries debate at Kodiak. Here’s a sampler of the candidates’ responses: “We need to put more jobs in the hands of more Alaskans. [...]
North Pacific fishing groups are leading an ambitious effort to save a South Pacific fishing town named Robinson Crusoe.
The tsunami that followed the massive earthquake in Chile in February devastated the island community, located among the Juan Fernandez archipelago 400 miles offshore. It was here that the sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned in 1704 and lived in solitude for more than four years. The sailor inspired Daniel Defoe to write the classic novel “Robinson Crusoe” in 1719. It is often considered to be the first novel in English.
Sitka is doing something a lot of fishing communities spend a lot of time talking about — investing directly in future generations of both fishermen and fish.
Through a newly formed Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, Sitkans are able to invest in independent, community-based fishermen who are committed to conservation, and reward them through the marketplace. Funding comes from the Oak Foundation, an international philanthropic organization.
Federal fishery managers have begun accepting public comments on a new aquaculture policy in waters from three to 200 miles offshore. The input will guide NOAA Fisheries as it creates a regulatory framework for open-ocean fish farms.
An independent Marine Aquaculture Task Force that spent two years canvassing the country and studying the issue has already urged Congress to — above all — ensure strong environmental standards are in place to regulate offshore farms.
The task force recommended that NOAA Fisheries work closely with states, and that regional fishery councils not be tasked with oversight.
Alaska fish can now claim another “best” on the health front. It is the easiest protein on your tummy. That is the conclusion of the first comparative study ever done on digestibility of America’s most popular proteins.
“Most people have assumed that fish is a superior source of protein, but no studies have been done to prove it,” said Dr. Scott Smiley at the University of Alaska’s Fishery Industrial Technology Center in Kodiak. “We wanted to fill that gap by studying the compositional and digestibility differences between the big protein sources: beef, pork, chicken and fish.”
Continued misfortunes by Chilean salmon farmers should give an added boost to sales of wild salmon again this year.
Wild Alaska salmon faces stiff competition from farmed fish, delivered fresh to markets year-round, usually as glistening fillets. Chile is the largest supplier of farmed salmon to the United States, but the industry has been battling a deadly fish virus since 2007. Last year, Chilean salmon production dropped 60 percent and exports are predicted to be down 40 percent in 2010. Salmon farms in Chile have been cut nearly in half, from 344 in 2007 to 174 farms last year, reported Seafood Source News.
It’s tough to track a workforce when you don’t know where it is. But that will remain the case for more than 20,000 Alaska deckhands — at least for the immediate future.
Crews aboard fishing boats are one of the only groups of laborers in Alaska not counted by the state. A project to collect labor data on deckhands in every fishery has been under development for two years, and it seemed to be on its way for legislative approval this year.
Concerns by the United Fishermen of Alaska, however, were enough to stall the program from being introduced this session. At issue: skippers would be tasked with all the paperwork.
The Boston Seafood Show provides a good barometer for the mood in the global fish business and by all accounts, it was upbeat. The show is the largest in North America, attracting some 16,000 buyers and sellers from 90 countries.
“People are much more optimistic this year,” said John Sackton, a veteran industry market expert.
Alaska’s halibut and sablefish fisheries include a built-in, low-interest federal loan opportunity to help new entrants buy shares of the fish. The loans are funded by a fee of up to 3 percent of the dockside value of the catch. Seventy-five percent of the total goes to recover management and enforcement costs; 25 percent supports the loan program. Fishermen are eligible for 80 percent of the purchase price of quota shares, paid back for up to 25 years at a low interest rate; currently 6.5 percent.
The catch share plan for Bering Sea crab was designed the same way. But five years later, loans to buy crab poundage aren’t even on the books.
Blustery winds and high seas put a damper on Alaska’s March 6 halibut opener, with prices expected to be artificially high for skimpy landings of the season’s first fresh fish.
“That’s the question of the day,” said one Kodiak halibut buyer.
“It’s hard to say how it will shake out,” agreed Matt Moir, manager at Alaska Pacific Seafoods, one of Kodiak’s largest processing plants. “The weather forecast is not good and frozen inventory is low, but the market won’t sustain goofy prices. If it gets too high, the market will shut down.”