SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Fishing facts for Alaska communities


December 21, 2013
Saturday PM

(SitNews) - Want to know at a glance how many fishing boats call the Kenai Peninsula Borough home? It’s 1,089.  Or what percentage of Wrangellites fish for a living?  Just over 15 percent. Or how many skippers plus crew fish out of Juneau?  That number is 705.

To help policy makers and the public become better informed about how the seafood industry fits into the state’s economy, the United Fishermen of Alaska has compiled Fishing Fact sheets for 26 communities, plus statewide tallies for Alaska and Washington.

A big misconception the well documented UFA data puts to rest is that money from fishing only benefits the coastal communities where the fish crosses the docks. In fact, seafood landing and business taxes are split 50/50 between the port where the fish is delivered and state coffers – to be distributed at the whim of the Alaska legislature.

At a glance, the fishing facts show that Kodiak (home to 690 fishing boats) received over $1.6 million in fisheries taxes in FY 2012 and the State got the same. The Kenai Peninsula Borough (which  claims over 1,000 fishing boats)  added another $1.8 million more..  Sitka, Cordova and Petersburg each contributed more than $1 million in fish taxes to the state general fund.   The Aleutians East Borough, which includes Akutan, Cold Bay, False Pass, King Cove, Nelson Lagoon, and  Sand Point added another $4, while Unalaska/ Dutch Harbor topped them all putting more than $8.5 million in fisheries taxes.   Overall, the seafood industry put in $90 million to state coffers through FY 2012. 

UFA’ s fishing fact sheets also include data on how many people catch and process fish in each community, earnings, vessels and permits owned by region, support industries and much more.  They include Aleutians East Borough, Aleutians West Census Area, Anchorage, Bethel Census Area, Bristol Bay Borough, Cordova, Dillingham Census Area, Haines Borough, Homer, Juneau, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Lake and Peninsula Borough, Matanuska – Susitna Borough, Petersburg, Prince of Wales – Outer Ketchikan Census Area, Seward, Sitka, Skagway – Angoon – Hoonah Census Area, Unalaska – Dutch Harbor, Valdez, Wrangell, Yakutat, and the Yukon Koyukuk Census Area.

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Help out with halibut

Halibut scientists plan to expand the depth and breadth of their stock assessments by 30% next summer, and will add 390 survey stations to the existing 1,300 that range from Oregon to the Bering Sea.

 Since 1998 the halibut surveys have been done in at a depth of 20 to 275 fathoms where most of the fishing was taking place. But halibut watchers are seeing changes in the fishery.

 “We’re seeing the catch coming out of  deeper areas, particularly out in  the Unalaska region, out through the Aleutians and on into the Bering Sea,” said  Claude Dykstra,  survey manager for the International Pacific Halibut Commission. “And we’ve seen shallower water captures being pulled out of various Gulf areas as well.”   

Surveys will be added in the zero to 20 and 275 to 400 fathom ranges next summer. More boats are needed and Dykstra said that’s posing a bit of a challenge.

“Finding boats and crew experienced in fixed gear is one challenge;  the other is that a lot of these guys diversify their operations  and they move into salmon fisheries in the summer. So there’s some competition   in getting the work,” he said.

Each charter region takes about three weeks of fishing and boats can bid for up to three regions. Vessels also get 10% of the halibut sales and 50%   from any other fish retained and sold. Typical payouts range between $70,000 to $120,000 depending on survey regions.    Interested?  Contact   (206) 634-1838

Harbor Lights Festival

It’s traditional during the Christmas season to decorate a down town with lights – for Kodiak and other coastal communities “downtown” means the boat harbor.  

This month, alongside the local businesses on shore, Kodiak’s floating storefronts will be showcased in the downtown lighting festivities – meaning the 650 or so fishing businesses that each support one or several Kodiak families.  Think of it as a mall in a marina!

The revamped Harbor Lights Festival is an old theme with a new twist, said Toby Sullivan, director of the Kodiak Maritime Museum.

 “The only difference is that the boats won’t be parading down the channel. They will just stay in the harbor,” he said, referring to over a decade ago when festively adorned fishing and sport boats would motor through the channel while people   enjoyed the displays from shore.

Bad weather too often forced cancellations of the light show, said Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson, who braved many a blustery boat parade.

 “It was tough to get your boat all decked out in lights and then have foul weather postpone the event,” she said. “We decided to hold it in port and allow the lights to shine regardless of the weather.”

 Mayor Branson, the Maritime Museum and the Downtown Revitalization Committee believe it will bring more focus to the hundreds of small businesses that are floating in Kodiak’s two harbors.

“We are hoping that people will come down and walk around and look at all the boats,” said Toby Sullivan.  “That’s what we are all about - the boats and the harbor and the commercial fishing industry, and I think this is one way to highlight that.”

The Harbor Lights Festival will be held at Fishermen’s Hall on Dec. 21st from 5 to 9. It will feature music by the Isle Belles and St. Innocents Academy Choir.

Pollock pat on the back

Speaking of contributions, the Pollock Conservation Cooperative was recognized this month for its annual contributions to the University of Alaska/Fairbanks which total more than $13 million since 2000, the largest donation in the University’s history. The PCC includes the member companies of the At-sea Processors Association (APA) whose boats fish with mid-water gear in the Bering Sea.

The group formed a catch share cooperative in 1998 and shortly after partnered with the university to develop a marine research grants program, and to support a faculty position within   the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Each year, the APA members contribute $1 million to help sustain and expand the programs.

“The APA/PCC companies appreciate UAF’s recognition of our continued contributions to improving knowledge of the ocean environment. This is a successful collaboration of industry and educators working together to anticipate and meet the needs of the present and the future,” said Stephanie Madsen of Juneau, PCC Executive Director.     

Fish feeders

SeaShare, which got its start in the mid 1990s in Alaska as a ‘bycatch to food banks’ program has become one of the largest protein donors in Alaska and the nation. The group has gotten the backing of   federal fish managers to amend permits three times in the last two years to allow more boats and processors to participate. That has allowed SeaShare to  expand its donations to food banks in Fairbanks, Kotzebue, Dutch Harbor, Juneau and Galena, all at no cost to the recipients.

Some recent highlights:

The USCG flew 6 pallets of halibut from Kodiak to Kotzebue.  Lynden shipped a full truckload of frozen salmon steaks from Seattle to Fairbanks.  13,000 pounds of salmon portions were delivered to the Bellingham Food Bank … 6000 pounds of breaded portion were donated to the Millionair Club and the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle …  43,000 pounds breaded pollock portions donated to the Oregon Food Bank…1,100 pounds of canned salmon were donated to  Helpline House on Bainbridge Island, WA. 

SeaShare also recently received 400,000 pounds of donated salmon and pollock. 

“That’s great news for the hungry families we serve,” said director Jim Harmon. “But before we can ship them out, the salmon has to be steaked and re-packed, and the  pollock blocks require re-processing into, breaded portions.  Generous companies have offered discounted processing, but even with their help SeaShare will still incur approximately 42 cents per pound to ‘finish’ these donations.”

Celebrate Seven Fishes! 

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes - although   some  families   celebrate with up to 13 different dishes.

This celebration commemorates the wait for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus on Christmas Day. The long tradition dates from the Roman Catholic practice of abstinence – in this case, refraining from the consumption of meat on the eve of certain holy days. Observant Catholics would instead eat fish, typically fried in oil.

There are many hypotheses for what the number "7" represents. Most believe it stems from the Bible, in which seven is the most repeated number and appears over 700 times. Regardless of your reason for the season, celebrate Alaska’s seafood at Christmas and all year!

Food trends

Environmental sustainability, local sourcing, and health/nutrition are and will remain the hottest food trends 10 years from now. That’s according to an annual survey of 1,300 members of the American Culinary Federation by the National Restaurant Association. Children’s nutrition and gluten-free cuisine rounded out the top five.

 “Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research,” Hudson Riehle  of the NRA’s research and knowledge group said in a statement.

The trends that made the biggest leap in the survey were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking (11th place), pickling, ramen, dark greens and Southeast Asian cuisine.  The largest drops on the list were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat , grass-fed beef and organic coffee.

Southeast Asian cuisine made the biggest jump in trendiness among ethnic cuisines, Peruvian and Korean cuisine also made the top-five list in that category, along with “regional ethnic” and “ethnic fusion.”

Salmon surge

Salmon abundance in the North Pacific remains at near record  levels, according to data from the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission.

The 21st annual NOAFC meeting was held last month in Vancouver (using an email format) with 71 participants from member countries including the US, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation.

While the North Pacific Ocean continues to produce large numbers of salmon, the abundance levels vary among species, often from year to year.

Alaska led all others for pink salmon catches this year at 313,800 tons, followed by Russia at 241,292 tons and 13,171 tons in Canada. Russia was the leader for chum salmon catches at 101,395 tons, with Alaska at 65,120 tons.  The NOAFC report said catches of Chinook salmon are at low levels with landings reported at 1,640 tons in Alaska, 512 tons in Russia and 214 tons in Canada.  Figures for hatchery contributions were not available yet.

This year marks the 21st 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 Welch ©2013

Laine can be reached at msfish[AT]
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SitNews ©2013
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska


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