SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Major Fisheries Changes Can Affect Whole Communities
By Laine Welch


January 09, 2006
Monday PM

The Bering Sea crab fishery, now newly operating under a quota share plan, has been in place for just a few months, starting in August with golden king crab along the Aleutian chain, followed in mid- October by the red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay. As intended, the "rationalization" program (referred to as crab ratz) has ended the race for fish. At the same time, it has changed the traditional pace, pricing and patterns of the crab fisheries, and drastically reduced the number of players.
jpg Laine Welch

Kodiak, King Cove and Sand Point have partnered to provide an early glimpse at how crab ratz is trickling down into their towns. They've hired a fisheries economist to track three key things: how many people are working in the crab fisheries, how the compensation of crews and skippers has changed under the new system, and how spending by the fishing fleet may have changed.

"It takes decades to really understand the effects of a major fisheries change, but it does have a profound effect on just about everyone involved or associated with that fishery. It affects whole communities," said Gunnar Knapp, an economist at the University of Alaska/Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research, who will lead the study.

Knapp said he believes there is general agreement that we "have gone into a lot of changes in the past without a whole lot of thinking in advance about what the implications might be, and without necessarily studying what the effects have been."

At a time when Gulf of Alaska groundfish is already in the "restructuring" pipeline, Knapp said "it just makes sense to know as much as you can about what the effects are likely to be." He added that radical fishery changes result in a mix of good and bad, with differing opinions on what that mix is. "It's useful to try and establish what actually happens not just speculation. And it's good to begin documenting it right away," Knapp said.

Kodiak city manager Linda Freed agreed. "This data documents some of the anecdotal evidence of negative impacts the North Pacific Council has been hearing from community members. It will help the city and borough make the case to council members to pay close attention to the needs of coastal communities," Freed told the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

Knapp will unveil the study's early findings during ComFish in mid-March. The formal ISER crab ratz economic impact report will be completed by March 27, 2006. Anyone with knowledge to share is urged to contact Gunnar Knapp at or 907-786-7717.

BAY DELAY - The date for Bristol Bay salmon fishermen to vote for their own marketing group has been pushed back from March 1 to May 1. Called Regional Seafood Development Associations (RSDA's), the groups comprise an innovative new state program designed to boost seafood sales in 12 distinct Alaska regions. The RSDA gives fishermen the chance to direct their own marketing ventures using their own money. But first, they must vote to approve a tax to fund the RSDA based on their salmon landings.
Organizers decided to delay the vote because Bay permit holders need to better understand the RSDA concept, said interim board member, Bob Waldrop. "It was clear at a meeting at Fish Expo in November that we had not done a very good job about getting the word out, or in such way that people really understood it," he said. Waldrop said the tone of the meeting started out "very skeptical" but ended with a strong show of support for an RSDA.

A one percent landing tax on Bristol Bay sockeye by drift gillnet and setnet permit holders (roughly 2,900) could yield more than $1 million dollars each season, at a cost of about $300 per fisherman.. The money can also be used for infrastructure development, new products, and various programs in partnership with state or local groups and agencies.

Copper River/Prince William Sound salmon fishermen were the first to embrace the RSDA concept. Southeast's Rainforest Wild will vote soon to include a whopping 69 different fisheries in its RSDA. "The possibilities are very exciting," said Waldrop. "So we're going to take a little extra time and redouble our efforts to get more information out to Bristol Bay fishermen." Questions? Contact .

NAME NAMES - Fisheries stakeholders will be soon be lobbying hard to get their chosen reps on Alaska's elite policy making boards: the state Board of Fisheries (BOF) and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC).

The BOF has two and possibly three seats up for grabs. The terms of Fred Bouse of Fairbanks and Jeremiah Campbell of Seward end this year. Board chairman Art Nelson is also expected to step down to dedicate more time to his new job as consultant to a Western Alaska fisheries group. The seven member board of fish is charged with regulating commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fisheries in state waters, meaning out to three miles. Members are appointed by the governor and must be confirmed by the Alaska legislature.
Two seats will also be vacated on the NPFMC, which advises on federal fisheries from three to two hundred miles offshore. The terms of Arne Fuglvog of Petersburg and Ed Rasmuson of Anchorage end this year. Names for those seats also are selected by the governor and approved by the Secretary of Commerce in Washington, DC.

New (or returning) members of the BOF and NPFMC begin warming their seats in the fall. Also of note - the NPFMC is seeking applicants for a charter halibut stakeholder panel to help craft a new management plan for that fishery. Deadline to apply is January 10.

FISH FARM POO SPREADS BIRD FLU? Bird flu may be spread by using chicken poop as food in fish farms. That's according to Bird Life International, the world's leading bird conservation organization in one hundred countries.

Fertilizing fish ponds with poop is a common practice in developing countries. Called "integrated livestock fish farming", it involves transferring wastes from pigs, ducks or chickens directly to fish farms. IntraFish reported that at the right dosage, the nutrients in the manure give an enormous boost to the growth of plankton in the fish ponds, which are the main food of fish such as carp, and (increasingly popular) tilapia.

Bird Life believes the practice may set up major reservoirs of bird flu infection, if the poultry providing the poop are infected themselves. The suggestion echoes the mad cow scare when cattle were infected by their food. The practice also puts a big question mark over a procedure that is firmly backed by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Bird Life is calling for an investigation into the possibility that thousands of manure fed ponds across Asia may be the means by which the potentially deadly strain of bird flu is being spread. IntraFish said although no mention has been made of the possible links between poopie ponds and influenza, the issue has been raised before. An FAO report two years ago references a paper published in the journal Nature in 1988 titled "Fish farming and influenza pandemics.," It said bringing together fish farms and livestock may well be the creation of a considerable human health hazard.


Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. Her Fish Factor column appears weekly in over a dozen papers and websites. Her Fish Radio programs air on 27 stations across Alaska.

Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

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