SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Disinterest in dock side fish sales; Ketchikan fish school scores funds; and Fish watch
By Laine Welch


August 13, 2008

Buying locally produced foods is becoming a national trend ­ but it hasn't made a dent at the local docks. At Kodiak, for example, fishermen seldom sell their catch directly to customers.

"It seems to go in spurts. Five or six fishermen will be interested one year, and the next year there's no interest," said Mike Gardiner, a longtime Environmental Health officer with the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

It is not a complicated process that demands a lot of paperwork or permits, Gardiner said, adding that fishermen do not even need a direct marketing permit to sell to individual customers or to local stores or restaurants.

A fisherman does need a 'mobile retail vendor' permit if he wants to sell his catch at another location, say, from iced totes in the back of a pick up truck along side of a road.

"The mobile retail vendor would have to wash his fish with approved water, have a means to clean his equipment and use a permitted fish processor as a commissary," Gardiner said.

Of course, fishermen selling directly from their boats must account for their catches, said Kodiak fishery manager Jeff Wadle.

"They have to get a catcher/seller permit and fill out a fish ticket and let us know how many they sell," he said.

Wadle agreed that local fishermen haven't shown much interest in selling their catches directly to customers.

"Typically, we have several fishermen who live in the Lower 48, especially California and Seattle, who have their fish custom processed locally and take it to the Lower 48 and sell it themselves. That's fairly common. But not so much around town," Wadle said.

Requirements are a bit different for dockside sales of halibut, which fall under federal management. Fishermen need a 'registered buyer' permit, they must off load and weigh the fish at a landing site, and have the catch debited from their quota shares.

"Then they can sell it directly from their boats," an enforcement agent explained, adding that they must fill out (and save) receipts listing the date, time and poundage sold. A fisherman also needs a product transfer report if the halibut is shipped somewhere before selling it elsewhere.

Based on an informal survey, fishermen in other Alaska ports appear to have a similar disinterest in dock side fish sales. DEC's Mike Gardiner speculates it might be due to convenient arrangements with processors, who can also provide ice and other amenities.

"It's just the way it's always been done," said a Kodiak fishermen. "And it's kind of a hassle to hold back some fish to sell from the boat when you've got a big haul."

A Kodiak sales tax of 6 percent would apply, but a City spokesperson said "dock side sales are so infrequent, we have not felt the need to track it."

Get more information about dock side sales at

Ketchikan fish school scores funds

Ketchikan is fast becoming a leader in training young Alaskans in fishery science and management careers. Its Fisheries Technology program through the University of Alaska received a $170,000 grant from the US Dept. of Agriculture to expand its programs, and to partner with shellfish farmers and researchers. Funds are also available for tuition and travel, said professor and program chair, Kate Sullivan.

The program offers s one-year certificates and two-year degrees in fisheries technology. Students work alongside fisheries professionals in hatcheries and management agencies during required hands-on internships.

It is the third year that the Ketchikan program has received a grant through USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CREES), which includes fisheries and aquaculture.

Ketchikan aims to be a world leader in shellfish aquaculture at its new Oceans Alaska center.

"There really isn't a lot of support for shellfish farmers that live and work in remote regions of Southeast Alaska, and it is a good opportunity to enhance their incomes," Sullivan said.

The Fish Tech program is available to students anywhere in Alaska via distant delivery.

Sullivan said the program opens the door to good paying careers in home communities.

"There is tremendous demand. Over half of the state's fisheries management workforce will retire in the next 5 to10 years," she said.

Many opportunities are available under USDA/CREES for Alaska and Hawaii Native- serving institutions, which is a federal designation from the Dept. of Education.

Fish watch

The new method of apportioning halibut catches in Alaska regions will be explained at a workshop in Bellevue, WA on Sept. 4. Register by Aug. 15 at . Questions? Call the IPHC at (206) 634-1838.

Screenings of the award-winning documentary Red Gold can be seen in several Alaska communities this month. The film documents the developing story of Pebble Mine. Check for the line up. It also will air on KTVA on Aug. 10 and 17 at 8pm. See a trailer of Red Gold at

Ocean Beauty Seafood's processing plant at Excursion Inlet near Haines celebrated its 100th year of operation. Gov. Palin proclaimed Aug. 6-12 as Excursion Inlet Week to recognize the role it has played in Alaska's history and seafood industry.



Laine Welch has been writing about Alaska's seafood industry since 1991. Her Fish Factor column appears each week in nearly 20 papers and websites. Her daily Fish Radio programs air on 30 stations in Alaska. This article is protected by copyright and may not be reprinted or distributed without permission. Visit or contact


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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