SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

New program helps fishermen replace or retool
engines to boost energy efficiency

By Laine Welch


September 08, 2008
Monday PM

A new low interest loan program will help fishermen replace or retool their engines to boost energy efficiency. It is packaged in the state's new energy plan and is available through the existing commercial fisheries loan program.

"The bill was signed by the lieutenant governor's office last week and it is effective Sept. 27," said Geoff Whistler, a lending officer with the state Commerce Department's Division of Investments. "That is the date we can actually start approving the applications, but people can file the loan applications anytime. It is permanently in the regulations and will be an ongoing program for fuel efficiency in commercial fishing vessels."

Whistler said the loan can be applied to anything that will improve fuel efficiency, including overhauling an engine, replacing an engine or cleaning and maintenance. It is open to all commercial fishermen, with a few caveats.

"Twenty-five percent or more of their income in the last two years must come from commercial fishing, they must be an Alaska resident for at least the last two years, and have no past due child support or IRS taxes," Whistler explained.

Whistler said Southeast trollers who have overhauled their engines report huge fuel cost reductions.

"One family bought a Tier 2 John Deere diesel engine two and a half years ago and told us they went from using 12 gallons an hour down to 5 gallons an hour while trolling. In that time period they said they have paid for the cost of the purchase and installation of that engine in fuel savings," he said.

Halibut fisherman Jeneanne Holzman of the F/V Casino agreed.

"We had our engine rebuilt a few years ago and we didn't appreciate then what a difference it would make. But it has kept our fuel costs in a reasonable frame," she told KCAW in Sitka.

The energy loan interest rate is now at three percent, but Geoff Whistler said it will be variable until the loan is locked in.

"So the sooner people apply, the better chance they'll have of getting the lower rate," he said.

Another plus - annual loan payments are not due until after the fishing season.

Get more information at
or call Geoff Whistler in Juneau toll free at 800-478-5626.

Fish watch

Alaska's salmon catch last week topped the preseason projection of 137 million fish. By Friday the statewide catch for all species totaled 137,476 salmon.

The breakdown shows Chinook catches at 305,000; the sockeye harvest reached 38 million fish out of a projected catch of 47 million. For coho salmon, the statewide catch was at 3 million and is likely to reach the forecast of 4.4 million silvers; likewise, the chum salmon catch was nearing 16.5 million and should come in at the expected 18.7 million fish. The industry was breathing a sigh of relief as catches of hard to predict pinks reached 80 million, topping the forecast of a paltry 66 million pink salmon for this season.

Copper River ouch! - Alaska salmon catches were lackluster in many regions, and nowhere was it more evident than at Copper River. The cumulative harvest by last week for all 25 periods fished this season was 311,879 sockeye and 11,263 Chinook salmon. That compares to a 10 year average harvest of 1.3 million sockeye, and 43,059 Chinook salmon. State managers said since 1969 only three seasons (1978, 1979, and 1980) have yielded lower red salmon catches, and only one season (1980) where chinook salmon catches were lower.

Fish heads and healthy hearts

Health professionals for years have touted the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids in reducing heart attacks. And omega 3's from cold water fish - especially wild salmon - pack the most punch. New research claims the benefits might be even better then you think.

Results of two major studies that followed nearly 6,000 heart patients over four years were released last week by the European Society of Cardiologists. It concluded that fish oils rich in omega 3's work slightly better than Crestor, a popular cholesterol-reducing drug, to help patients with chronic heart failure. The doctors said people "should get the same benefits from taking cheaper, low-tech options like fish oil supplements - or by simply eating more oily fish like salmon."

Doctors around the world now believe that because cell membranes in the heart (and brain) are made of fatty acids, fish oils can help replace and strengthen those membranes with omega 3's. Fish oils also are thought to increase the body's good cholesterol levels, and stabilize the heart's electrical system to prevent abnormal heart rhythms. The study findings were published online in the medical journal The Lancet.

Salmon heads are the focus in Japan for another valuable health ingredient: chondroitin sulfate, used to relieve degenerative arthritis in knees, fingers, hips and other body joints. reported that Marutatsu Kamasui Company has developed a system for mass production of chondroitin from chum salmon heads, which are minced and processed into a concentrated liquid, then refined into a powder.

The company aims to produce 10 tons of chondroitin from chum heads in its first year. The ingredient is said to have market demand of 200 tons a year just in Japan, and it is growing fast. Marutatsu Kamasui is the same company that has produced DNA materials from salmon sperm, used in the first organic LED lighting.

AK pollock funds research

The Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center (PCCRC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks ( has issued its annual call for funding requests for marine research projects in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. The Center has a total of up to $350,000 available for projects, and is especially interested in research that focuses on factors that influence sustainability of Steller sea lions, pollock stock dynamics, and salmon ecology and bycatch reduction technologies in the Bering Sea.

Questions? Contact Denis Wiesenburg at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at 907-474-7210 or via e-mail at . Deadline for proposals is October 17.


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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