SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Election, appointments, blogs, fish watch & more...
By Laine Welch


April 02, 2007

Twenty two Bristol Bay salmon fishermen are vying for seven seats on the region's new Regional Seafood Development Association, which many claim will "give fishermen control over their destiny." The region's approximately 1,000 set netters voted against participating in the new association, at least for now.

Ballots were mailed in February to 1,865 driftnet permit holders, who voted last year to pay a one percent tax on their sockeye catches to fund the RSDA.

"It comes out to about three cents per fish," said interim director Bob Waldrop.

The tax, which was deducted from driftnet catches starting last year, could provide up to $800,000 for the RSDA. The money can be used to boost fish quality, develop or improve infrastructure, and enhance research and marketing. The RSDA's, which were authorized by the Alaska legislature two years ago, can also be used to leverage state and federal grants or other funding opportunities.

"It's all about control and self direction," Waldrop said.

Bristol Bay sockeye accounts for almost one third of the value of Alaska's total salmon catch. Ballots by the driftnet fleet must be postmarked by April 7 - the election results will be tallied by an Anchorage accounting firm and announced by April 30th.

Bristol Bay is only the second Alaska region to embrace the RSDA concept, following the lead of Prince William Sound/Copper River salmon fishermen. Their first one percent tax assessment yielded about $200,000, which the RSDA used in part for a first time fall Copper River coho salmon promotion in west and east coast markets in the Lower 48. A vote last year by Southeast Alaska harvesters narrowly rejected an RSDA, which would have represented 61 fisheries under the Rainforest Wild label. Organizers there say they will try again.

Another important deadline is drawing close for other fishing regions - as part of its annual meeting cycle, the state Board of Fisheries is calling for proposed changes to fisheries at Cook Inlet, Kodiak and Chignik, as well as for king and Tanner crab fisheries in all regions, except for Southeast and Yakutat. Deadline to submit a proposal is Tuesday, April 10 .

On a related note: Governor Palin on Friday announced the appointments of Howard Delo of Big Lake and Vince Webster of King Salmon to the Fish Board.

Webster is currently the Lake and Peninsula School District Facilities and Maintenance Director, and for 15 years has served on the Naknek/Kvichak Fish and Game Advisory Committee. He fills the seat of Robert Heyano of Bristol Bay.

Delo is a retired Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game biologist and fish culturist, and chairs the Mat-Su Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee. Delo fills the seat of Art Nelson of Anchorage. Both appointees must be approved by the Alaska legislature before they can take their seats at the end of June.The seven member Fish Board oversees subsistence, personal use, sport and commercial fisheries in state waters.

Fish blog

All's fair in the world of web logs, or blogs, where people can inform or rant with anonymous postings on any subject. A new blog at the Anchorage Daily News called the Highliner targets one of the state's most colorful and fractious industries - commercial fishing. It is hosted by Wesley Loy who has been covering the fish beat for the ADN since 1999.

"Commercial fishing is regarded as one of the more complicated, tedious beats at the Daily News. I also cover the oil and gas industry, which is really the big money maker in Alaska, but I find it to be a really simple industry compared to the fishing world," Loy said in a phone interview.

Loy, who hails from Tennessee, said it was a fascination with boats that originally lured him to the commercial fishing beat. He said he believes the biggest challenge facing the industry today is aquaculture.

"How does Alaska continue to be relevant as a seafood producer when much of the world is engaged in large scale aquaculture - manufacturing fish? And that's just going to get bigger and bigger, meaning Alaska's wild capture production will become a smaller piece of the overall pie," he said.

Loy said nother major challenge for the industry is the question of fishing rights.

"Who will have the right to fish in a given fishery, and what are the costs of segmenting fisheries, whether it be individual quotas or co-ops, or whatever?"

On a lighter - what is Wesley Loy's favorite fish? "Canned sockeye. I just turn it over on a plate and eat it right out of the can."

Catch the new fish blog at .

Fish watch

The Bering Sea snow crab fishery is slowly winding down, with about eight million pounds remaining out of the 33 million pound quota. A total of 89 boats signed on for the fishery and about 35 are out on the water now, said ADF&G's Forrest Bower at Dutch Harbor. The fishery is likely to last through April, he added.

Improved market conditions have boosted the base price for Alaska snow crab to about $1.50/lb, compared to 84-cents last season.

Sitka Sound's roe herring fishery is likely to be all over by now. Seiners took most of the nearly 12,000 ton quota in one short opener last Monday. No word on price, but all indications point to a depressed market.

Salmon from the gillnet fleet at the Stikine River in Southeast will "officially" mark the start of Alaska's salmon season on May 7, getting the jump on fish from Copper River. The Stikine catch will be skimpy, however, at just 6,100 king salmon.

Fish oil at school

Health experts in Britain want fish oil supplements to be required for all school children to improve their intelligence and behavior. According to the Daily Mail, they told Parliament that the nation needs to massively increase its consumption of omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish. A nutritionist from Oxford University said the supplements are vital to improve the health and intelligence of today's children and future generations. She added that fish oil also is effective in treating depression and improving mental health.


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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Ketchikan, Alaska