SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Seafood industry workforce stats, Grant give aways, and Permit surprise!
By Laine Welch


July 13, 2007
Friday PM

What is the average age of Alaska commercial fishermen? 47.1 years, compared to 38.3 for other state industries.

What percentage of Alaska's statewide fish harvesters in 2005 were non residents? 38.6 percent, with total gross earnings of 60.4 percent. For processing workers, 67.3 percent were non residents, earning 66.2 percent of total wages.

Those are just a few of the insights on Alaska's seafood industry workforce now available from the state Dept. of Labor. Easy to read tables and pie charts provide information through 2005 on harvesting and processing jobs for every fishery in each region, even offshore. And for the first time, labor data for the seafood work force is compared with other Alaska industries.

"We were interested in how much commercial fishing money ran through a region in a given year and how it compared to other industries there. When communities are applying for certain grants, it's important to be able to document how many fishermen are working in their area," said Dept. economist Andy Wink.

Some of the data are startling, such as the number of non resident seafood processing workers at the Aleutians and Pribilof Islands at 92.2 percent, and 79.7 percent for the Bristol Bay Borough.

"At this point, we need them and they need us to get the jobs done. But there definitely is a lot of non resident involvement," Wink said.

Groundfish (pollock, cod, flounders, rockfish, etc.) comprised 37.6 percent of total fish landings in 2005, followed by salmon at 25.8 percent, halibut at 14.9 percent and crab at 12.7 percent.

Data show that from 1997 through 2004 the seafood industry as a whole has been catching more fish with fewer people. Alaska communities that gained or lost the most resident fishermen during that time frame:

Sitka gained the most at 31, Juneau and Metlakatla gained 11, Petersburg gained eight harvesters and Chugiak gained seven. In terms of losses, Hooper Bay went from 32 fishermen in 1997 down to three in 2004. Kwigillingok went from 34 to five, Unalakleet dropped from 92 harvesters to 28, Shaktoolik went from 31 to 11 and Egegik went from 53 to 20 resident fishermen.

For Kodiak, the number of residents who fished their permits in 2000 was 1,043; the number dropped to 830 in 2003; to 820 in 2004 and 819 in 2005.

The statewide percentage of seafood industry workers employed in Alaska in 2005 was 15.2 percent compared to 84.7 for other private sectors. For coastal Alaska, harvesting and processing comprised 36.9 percent compared to 63.1 for other private sector workers. In all, the seafood workforce statewide totaled 50,305 workers; followed by 38,556 construction workers.

Andy Wink said he is updating the seafood industry site now with 2006 data and he would appreciate "lots of feedback." Find the site at < (scroll down). Contact Wink at 907-465-6032 or at .

Grant give aways

Three grant programs are open now through September 10 for Alaska salmon industry stakeholders in Southeast Alaska and Yakutat. Why just Southeast?

"It has to do with the funding source," explained Debbie Mass of state Dept. of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. "The money comes from the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, which we often refer to as the Southeast Sustainable Salmon Fund. These monies can only be used for salmon related projects in Southeast Alaska."

Salmon Vessel Quality Upgrade grants of up to $25,000 are open to permit holders and tender operators to help boost chilling or freezing capacity.

Fisheries Economic Development grants are open to qualifying communities, non profits and small businesses and can be used for such things as cold storage facilities, or transportation and distribution improvements. Maas said there is no limit on these grants so applicants can request as much as they'd like "although reasonable requests are appreciated."

Marketing grants are open to Southeast fishermen, and large and small processors.

Small direct market fishermen are limited to $25,000 and there is a 75% contribution from our department. Mid-size processors can apply for up to $200,000 and we provide two thirds of the matching requirement. Anything above that is considered a major grant and it's a 50/50 matching requirement," Maas said.

She added that the economic and marketing grants are competitive, meaning they are judged against each other. The vessel upgrade grant, however, is determined on a first come, first served basis.

"Those applications don't compete against one another. We're already receiving many so it would be wise not to wait until the Sept. 10 deadline," Maas cautioned.

The state will determine how much to allocate to each grant program after all the applications are received. At least $875,000 is available among the three programs, maybe more. Contact Maas at 465-2023 or .

Permit surprise!

Every U.S. boat owner (except those in the military) could soon be required to get a water pollution permit to discharge bilge water, ballast water, even deck runoff.

It stems from a California lawsuit in which a U.S. district court judge ruled last year that the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority by excluding certain discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels. The court revoked discharge exclusions which have been on the law books for 30 y ears, and ruled that all vessels will be required to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit under the Clean Water Act by September 30, 2008.

The Marine Exchange of Alaska calls the new law "a nightmare for anyone who operates a watercraft, from a 950 foot container ship to a 14 foot outboard." State records show nearly 70,000 boats are registered within the state of Alaska. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, along with 8,400 vessels equipped with ballast water tanks making 86,000 port calls, there are also 13 million recreational boats, 81,000 commercial fishing boats and 53,000 freight and tanker barges operating in U.S. waters.

The EPA is appealing the federal court ruling. Meanwhile, the agency is asking for public comments should it be required to develop the new permitting program. Better act fast - deadline to comment is August 6.

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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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska