SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Bankrolling ‘the best available science’ for fisheries


February 20, 2012

(SitNews) - It’s a mixed bag in America in terms of bankrolling ‘the best available science’ for our nation’s fisheries.

Based on the preliminary federal budget released last week, funds for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration went from $4.7 billion to $5.5 billion, an increase of about $750 million.

Within the NOAA budget, funding for the National Marine Fisheries Service comes in at $1 billion - a drop of $15 million from its actual budget for the last fiscal year. Out of NMFS’ FY13 budget, $174 million will fund science and management of US fisheries. NMFS oversees more than 80% of Alaska’s fisheries, which occur in federal waters from three to 200 miles from shore.

The largest increase in funding - $36 million - goes to a new line item called National Catch Share programs. Industry expert John Sackton of said the agency does not predict an increase in catch share programs over the next five years. Instead, most of the money will pay for implementation, observer coverage, monitoring and other start up costs.

“The rationale for catch shares,” Sackton said, “is that NOAA believes these programs are the best way to rebuild fish stocks to maximum sustainable yield, which would lead to a 54% increase in overall value of US fisheries, worth more than $2 billion at the docks.”

One red flag is that the cash for catch share programs comes from a transfer of $17 million from cooperative research programs.

“Cooperative research is used for the payments NMFS makes to industry, often including matching funds, for work involving commercial vessels, gear modifications, and other developments which have had spectacular success in areas such as bycatch reduction,” Sackton explained.

Another spectacular success set for elimination is fishing vessel safety research. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is set to lose all research funding for its Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Sector, totaling $19.6 million. Of that, the budget for fishing safety programs is a mere $1.5 million.

“I am very disappointed in this,” said Jerry Dzugan, director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association in Sitka. “It’s interesting that those are three of the highest risk groups for workers in the country.”

Dzugan said funding cuts have become an annual thing because of lack of support within the Center for Disease Control, the parent agency for NIOSH.

“Although it touts fishing safety research as one of its most successful programs, it is a low priority within CDC,” he added. 

When the President’s budget came out last week, Dzugan said he was prompted to investigate the budget of other another risky industry.

“The mining industry in the US gets $53 million of research inter-prevention efforts from the federal government. The fishing vessel safety program that NIOSH is doing gets $1.5 million.   That’s about three percent of the budget that mining safety gets,” he said. 

Dzugen said both industries lose 45-65 workers on average per year - but the fatality rates are far different.

“When you look at the fatality rates, or the number of fatalities per 100,000 people, fishing vessels have something between 100 and 200 fatalities per 100,000 on average. The mining industry has 0.20 per 200,000 on average,” he explained.  “There is just no comparison to the risks in those industries and the lesser amount of fund they are getting. And now they are talking about eliminating that $1.5 million. It makes no sense to me whatsoever.”

The President’s proposed budget now goes to the House of Representatives and then to the U.S. Senate before it is finalized.

Other fisheries budget highlights: a $15 million increase for stock assessments and fisheries research; a $5.5 million increase to support the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts; $8 million to plan and design a new Arctic ice breaker. Employment at NMFS will increase by 75 positions for a total of 2,897 full time positions.

Jump on jobs!  

High school and college students can sample a career in the last frontier as interns with the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game. Available positions this summer range from working at hatcheries and wildlife information centers to tagging and sampling fish in the field and tracking sea lions in Southeast.  The internships are paid positions, ranging from $13 to $20 per hour.

“They can get out and actually get their hands dirty and see if it is something they want to do for a life career,” said internship program coordinator Sheila Cameron in Juneau. Ultimately, the goal is to show there are good careers right here in Alaska and hook a new generation into ADF&G.             

“We are trying to attract the best and the brightest to the Department,” Cameron said.

Internship applications should be made to ADFG. Get more information at

Deadline to apply is March 5.

Seafood winners

The Symphony of Seafood played to a packed house last weekend, as fans flocked to taste the new products, vote for their favorites and be the first to hear the contest winners. The event, now in its 19th year, is hosted by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation to showcase innovation in three categories: retail, food service and smoked.

Winners are:  Food Service -- Sweet Potato Crunch Alaska Pollock Sticks by American Pride Seafoods;  Retail – Aqua Cuisine Naturally Smoked Salmon Frank; Smoked – Kylee’s Alaska Salmon Bacon by Tustamena Smoke House in Soldotna. The People’s Choice Award in both Seattle and Tracy’s Alaskan King Crab Bisque by Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Juneau. Kylee’s Alaska Salmon Bacon also took the top honor as Grand Prize Winner. All winners now head to the International Boston Seafood show in mid-March. 


This year marks the 21st year for this weekly column that focuses on Alaska’s seafood industry. It began in 1991 in the Anchorage Daily News, and now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A daily spin off – Fish Radio – airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. My goal is to make all people aware of the economic, social and cultural importance of Alaska’s fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world. 


Laine can be reached at msfish[AT]
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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska


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