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Fish Factor

Crewmen making sure they are included in groundfish quota share program
By Laine Welch


July 17, 2006

Access without ownership is at the core of a novel plan that Alaska fishermen will present to fishery managers later this year.

As managers craft another quota share program ­ this time for groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska - crewmen are making sure that this time, they are included in the give away. The "rationalization" program being developed could include roughly 25 groundfish species (cod, pollock, rockfish, flounders) for all gear groups (trawl, longline, pots, jig).

jpg winning entry

Chef Joel Chenet's winning entry at a Kodiak
cook off on Tuesday, July 11, 2006.
Chenet and Rick Manning of the Best Western Kodiak Inn will represent Kodiak at the Alaska Media Road Show in New York City in October. The event is sponsored by the Alaska Travel Industry Association.
Photo credit: Dave Kaplan

"Why should the privilege stop at the wheelhouse door," has long been the question posed by Terry Haines, a professional fisherman, activist and columnist who "writes about the world of Alaska fishing as seen from the deck."

Haines is co-founder of the Kodiak-based Crewmen's Association (CA), a group that believes it has a solution to a problem in past QS programs (halibut, sablefish, Bering Sea crab) that has essentially privatized the poundage into the hands of mostly absentee owners and large seafood companies. Those shares were based on how much of the catch had passed through the hands of their crew, but that vital industry component received nary a crumb when the lucrative lots were doled out by federal managers.

As outlined by Haines, the CA plan calls for a percentage of the Gulf's yearly groundfish catch quotas to be linked to a pool of working fishermen (skippers and deckhands) through a co-op mechanism. The fishermen, with a required minimum of two years in the industry, would be assigned points according to experience, and receive QS accordingly.

The structure of the co-op is still being crafted, said CA president Steve Branson, but rules so far call for quota to be linked to a working fishermen who would be free to harvest it on any boat operating under certain criteria, specifically, no linkages to any processing company. The co-op would be managed by an objective third party hired by an elected board of directors. The plan also outlines that fishing vessels that are unable to minimize bycatch would build a history that would exclude it from future access. As skippers and deckhands leave the fishery, they would be enrolled in a retirement program, funded by a self imposed tax.

"Linking harvest quota to local working fishermen and their communities puts the resource in the hands of its most able and obvious stewards ­ those who live on the water and whose kids will too," said Branson.

To Terry Haines, that's the whole point.

"Right now, here in Kodiak, a community of harvesters, processors and businessmen, whether from Old Harbor, Mexico, Oregon or the Philippines, are united by one common interest ­ fish. They care about the resource because they live next to it. Privatization thus far has produced a class of absentee owners selling to foreign-based monopolies," he said in his latest column which is widely circulating in the fish press.

The Crewmen's Association, which is being assisted by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and Deep Sea Fishermen's Union, intends to present its co-op plan to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council this year. The group is soliciting more input from industry stakeholders. Contact Steve Branson via email at .

HALIBUT LOTTERY ON SLOW ROLL - The plan to distribute unused quota shares of halibut by lottery got the ok last month from fishery managers. Now it's starting along the slow federal process to get it up and running.

When halibut quota shares were initially issued in 1995, several hundred people received very small amounts- even just ten or thirty pounds. They've never fished them and those shares could be destined for a pool to be offered to Alaska crewmen in 5,000 pound lots.

Estimates peg the latent halibut quota at about only about 100,000 pounds, but it's still a good deal. "It starts at $20-$22 a pound to buy it. So if you're getting 5,000 pounds ­ there's $100,000. So it is significant to crewmen," said Tim Henkel of the Deep Sea Fishermen's Union.

That number could dwindle as share holders hear of the plan, cautioned Phil Smith, director of the Restricted Access Management Division of NOAA Fisheries in Juneau. "If we put the word out and tell them they need to use it or lose it, there's a good chance they'll use it. So there's a chance that the amount of quota available for lottery will become very small," Smith said.

At least 50,000 pounds must be available for the lottery to proceed, said Jane DiCosimo, senior analyst for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the prospect is still a few years away. "It will take one year to get it approved by the Secretary of Commerce. Then we need to notify and provide one year for quota holders to use or lose; then determine if sufficient halibut quota is still unused to go into a lottery. So I would say it's at least three years out," DiCosimo said.

NAVIGATION INPUT - It's time for Alaska to help improve its navigation services and nautical charting. The Hydrographic Services Review Panel is holding a public meeting to gather input on services that ensure safe navigation for fishing vessels, oil tankers, cruise ships, containerships, tugs, barges and recreational vessels.

The Act authorizing federal hydrographic services expires next year and will therefore need reauthorization. The HSRP is currently working on its annual report which will be delivered to the NOAA Administrator before the end of FY 2006. Its list of Most Wanted Hydrographic Services Improvements will be included in the report.

"Improving our navigation safety and understanding our fishery habitats, for bathymetry and oceanography, depends on accurate data. This meeting gives us an opportunity to share the interest and needs of our fishing industry and coastal communities," said Captain Bob Pawlowski, director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and a former Hydrographic Survey instructor at UAA.

The meeting is set for August 14-15 at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. Contact is Barbara.Hess

FISH FUNDING - The Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board is accepting funding proposals for two separate projects that promote Alaska seafood.

1) A total of $2.5 million will be distributed through an RFP process. Applicants must provide 1/1 matching funds, which may not include "in kind" matches. Deadline to apply is Sept. 15, 2006. Send applications to AFMB, 725 Christensen Dr. #4, Anchorage 99501, or electronically to

2) The AFMB is continuing its volume based salmon grants, which are awarded to buyers/processors based on the pounds of each species purchased during the 2005 season. A total of $2.5 million will be split among eligible applicants: $1.5 million to buyers/processors of pink and chum salmon, and $1 million to buyers/processors of sockeye, coho and chinook salmon. The funds, also with a 1/1 match, may be used for promotion, product development, marketing, advertising, etc. Applications are available at .

Deadline to apply is Sept.1, 2006. AFMB Questions? Call director Bill Hines at (907) 351-3998.



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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