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Fish Factor

Alaska fisheries and related jobs big losers if $7M in federal funding cut
By Laine Welch


January 25, 2007

Alaska fisheries and related jobs from Ketchikan to the Yukon will be big losers if more than $7 million in federal funding is cut by Congress.

The looming shortfall took state policy makers by surprise, according to industry watchdog Bob Tkacz. In his "Laws for the Sea," a weekly report on fisheries news before the Alaska legislature, Tkacz said the State had already written the money into its FY09 budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. But Congress didn't complete its work on the federal budget until late December, after Alaska had already completed its spending plan. That means the state didn't account for the federal cuts, and could come up short.

"The latest information we have indicated the cuts will be more severe than we previously thought," John Hilsinger, director of the state Commercial Fisheries Division said in phone interview.

"Right now it looks like we may get total or significant cuts in every grant we receive through NOAA and the Dept. of Commerce."

The shortfall will hit shellfish and groundfish programs especially hard, Hilsinger said.

"Our interaction in the council process, management and research and surveys of Bering Sea crabvirtually our entire scallop research program is on these federal funds that are likely to be cut. Also a big part of our rockfish research and stock assessments surveys," he explained.

"There are quite a few federally funded projects on the Yukon," he added. "The Pilot Station sonar, subsistence surveys, aerial escapement surveys, and some of the Pacific Salmon Treaty money as well. Research and surveys for near shore geoducks, sea urchins and shrimp fisheries will also suffer."

Also on the chopping block: a loss of $400,000 to the Sportfish Division and nearly $2 million for marine mammal research, Tkacz reported.

Hilsinger said there has been a "sympathetic response" from the state Office of Management and Budget and legislators and ADF&G will "get increments into the governor's revised budget within a few weeks."

"All of these programs and all the staff are very important and we are going to do everything we can to protect them."

Attack on coastal carnage

Alaskans are gathering to plan an all out war on marine debris that is befouling coastlines from Ketchikan to Barrow.

"There is a growing recognition that it poses a threat to fish and wildlife, threats of entanglement to seals and marine mammals, and it's a problem to humans as well," said Bob King, program coordinator for the MCA Foundation, co-sponsor with Alaska Sea Grant of a two day workshop at the Alaska Forum for the Environment next month in Anchorage.

"There are a lot of community efforts going on. The idea is to bring everyone together, to better coordinate and to talk about some of the broader issues such as recycling these materials," King said.

The Alaska Brewing Company, for example, contributes one percent of all Alaska IPA beer sales to a program called Coastal CODE (Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone), and sends cash and "brew crews" to help communities clean up local coastlines.

"Whenever a local nonprofit is interested in a clean up, we like to be involved as much as we can," said project manager Heather Conlin at the Juneau-based brewery. The crews helped remove 150 tons of debris last year and has expanded its program to California, Conlin added.

The MCA Foundation projects picked up 171 tons of debris last year from Southeast to Norton Sound, King said. Most of it ends up in landfills, which in itself poses costly problems.

"In Dutch Harbor the landfill has some 10,000 tons of old nets, and it accumulates by another 1,000 tons each year," he said.

King said the upcoming workshop will look at recycling alternatives, such as converting the plastic nets back into its petroleum base, then burning it as diesel fuel as they are doing in Hawaii. Meanwhile, he says marine debris is drawing national headlines.

"Like the famous North Pacific garbage patch where all this material gets caught in oceanic gyres and accumulates in the middle of the ocean. It's is so big it is even a hazard to navigation," he said.

The Marine Debris in Alaska Workshop is set for February 14-15 at the Egan Convention Center in Anchorage and is open to the public. Get more information at or .

Seafood U

"Basic training" for retail counter and restaurant wait staff is now available from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The lively web based, interactive program called Alaska Seafood U covers various species, management, harvesting methods, health and nutrition and cooking and preparation methods, said ASMI retail marketing director Larry Andrews.

"It's based on a one on one training program ASMI staff did last year at 1,500 grocery stores and restaurants, and continues to do. This kind of training is in short supply," Andrews said.

After successfully completing the program, students receive a certificate rewarding them for completing their seafood education. ASMI promotes Alaska seafood throughout the U.S. and in 16 countries. Find the free training program at .


Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. 2007 marks the 16th year that she has been writing this weekly fisheries column. It now appears in nearly 20 newspapers and web outlets.
Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

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