SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Crab workshop; Gettin' jiggy; Fishing Samaritans & more...


April 23, 2011

After a six year delay due to bureaucratic hold ups, a federal loan program is finally taking applications from crew members wanting to buy into the Bering Sea crab fisheries. 

“We want to have crew invested in the fishery,” said Edward Poulsen, director of the Alaska Bering Sea crabbers (ABSC), a harvester group.

The group is hosting a May 3rd workshop at Leif Erickson Hall in Seattle designed to help crews work through the loan process.   Roughly $8 million will be available for low interest loans, similar to the loan program for halibut and sablefish.  Crabbers will be eligible for 80% of the purchase price of crab shares, which can be repaid over 25 years. 

“We’ve seen how the model has worked in halibut where guys working on deck buy a little bit of quota and then buy more   eventually they’ve got a pretty good chunk. That’s where we are going with crab,” Poulsen said.

The crab workshop will cover federal and private financing options, plus input from brokers and the federal Restricted Access Management Division, which administrates transfers of  quota shares.  

Poulsen said the original plan was to hold the workshop in Alaska, but federal Financial Services staff had no travel budget.  Arrangements have been made to teleconference the May 3 workshop to Fishermen’s Hall in Kodiak and the CFAB office in Anchorage.

The crab crew workshop begins at 8am Alaska time and will run for about three hours.  

“We really encourage crew to be invested in the Bering Sea crab fishery,” Poulsen said. “It helps align everybody and makes everyone better stewards of the resource if they are involved in ownership as well.  Questions?  Contact Poulsen at   

Gettin’ jiggy

The jig fishery in the Gulf of Alaska took its Pacific cod quota in record time this year.  The fishery, which opens in January, ended April 14 compared to the usual early June, with a catch of 7.4 million pounds. That’s an increase of roughly one million pounds from last year.  There also was an increase in the number of jig boats on the fishing grounds - 144 compared to 90 in 2010. 

“I don’t know whether it’s because the cod are close to shore and fishing is particularly good and the quotas are higher, and the price is moderately strong compared to past years. It is attractive to people who want to give it a try,” said Nick Sagalkin,  a fishery manager at ADF&G in Kodiak. Another reason for the increased interest: speculation about limited entry.

“People are fishing for history because they are worried about being left out, or they are looking for an investment,” Sagalkin said.

Jig fisheries have been ongoing since the early 1990s in Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Prince William Sound, Chignik and the Alaska Peninsula. The cod allocations come off the top of federal quotas that are then split between pot cod and jig fleets.

Jig trips usually last a day or two and fishermen can stay close to home. The price this year is about 37 cents a pound and trips can fetch between  $100 to $1,500 per day.

Sagalkin said the small boat fishery is attracting a lot of new recruits.

“I have really seen that happen.   Younger guys starting out don’t need a huge investment – they get a couple jig machines, make some money, and then three to five years later you see them getting a bigger boat and maybe diversifying into something else. It’s a neat fishery from that perspective,” Sagalkin said.

The Gulf fleet will be back out catching jigging for cod in September.

Also in Kodiak:  only eight seiners are fishing and two processors are buying herring since the fishery opened on April 15.  That compares to last year’s 36 seiners, seven gillnetters and five processors buying the herring roe that goes to a single market: Japan. .

Fishing Samaritans

It’s been little more than a month since the earthquake and tsunami completely destroyed major fishing communities in Japan. Within a week after the disaster, Alaska’s seafood industry members started fundraising and opening their wallets. By last week donations to the Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission (AFIRM) had topped $200,000 to help Japan’s fishing towns and fleets rebuild.

AFIRM was first formed in 2005 to help Gulf of Mexico fishing towns after Hurricane Katrina, and re-launched last month for Japan.

“Fishermen are the most competitive people around but when one of them is having trouble out at sea, they are the first to respond.  This is similar in a bigger picture,” said Mark Vinsel, volunteer director of the nonprofit charity.   “We are all part of the global seafood industry and Japan is   Alaska’s largest customer for seafood. It’s a very important link to our seafood business.”

Vinsel said AFIRM is making “a long term commitment to Japan.”   

“We’ve been told to expect about one year of planning and infrastructure rebuilding, at which point there will be an opportunity for meaningful assistance in terms of getting gear and other assets to help their fishing towns get back to work,"

Vinsel said 100% of all donations go directly to AFIRM, which works closely with industry advisors and agencies to best leverage the donations.   All donations are tax deductible. AFIRM is online at

Trash update

Since Earth Day (April 22) began in 1970, trash pickup has been a tradition.  Over the past 25 years, the Ocean Conservancy has cataloged the trash picked up on Earth Day into more than 7 million items. The results? 

Roughly 6 percent of the trash pulled from ocean waters was fishing gear. The most trash - 57% - came from food wrappings and beverage containers, also cups, plates and plastic eating utensils. More than 9.5 million plastic bottles were collected, 8 million plastic bags, and 1.2 million balloons.

Thirty three percent of the ocean’s trash came from smokers - 53 million cigarette butts, filters and cigar tips were collected over the past 25 years. The conclusion is that there is a general disregard for what’s being tossed.

 The Juneau-based Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation has led ocean cleanup efforts in Alaska.  In partnership with local communities, the Foundation has hauled away more than two million pounds of coastal debris since 2003 from Southeast to the Pribilofs (including a derelict fishing vessel).

There are some good signs that the tide is turning on trash. Nearly 80% of those surveyed in a recent Gallup Poll said they have made lifestyle changes to protect the environment. And 16 years after it was first proposed the UN last year officially designated June 8 as World Oceans Day.


This year marks the 21th 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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SitNews ©2011
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska


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