Saturday, August 20, 2005

Looking 100 years ahead

This article about Seattle looking 100 years ahead is thought provoking in itself, but I especially wanted to include a link to this web site. There was an article that led me to the site about nanotubes. They are being made into sheets of fabric that is stronger than steel, holds a charge, is transparent, can be welded in a microwave oven and even has the science fiction buffs drooling over the possibility of a space elevator. This looks like the technological breakthrough of the decade.

But it got me thinking about an article that Lainie Welch wrote about the University of Alaska offering on-line courses in Seafood Marketing, etc. These courses are all well and good, except for the fact that there hasn't been the discussion about what our seafood industry should look like down the road.

And I'm not faulting Steve Grabaki as this has the makings of a cushy job for a lot of years. But who is he going to point to as the source of fish products. The fishermen who are forming ranks to be the suppliers, under the Regional Seafood Development Associations banner, or the traditional suppliers, the shore plants who have never worked at new product development with any enthusiasm.

Of course, these courses will come with a lot of video and glitz, content that folks that have been in the industy have seen a million times. These are the students that have the background to take marketing to the next level in my opinion. They have attended Fisheries 101 on the deck of a halibut or crab boat or piled seine web day after day on a salmon seiner, or worked in a processing plant. I'm not saying that others can't break into the industry from scratch via the internet. I still feel bad for discouraging a car salesman in Anchorage that was from a northern village and wanted to market fish for the Tannana Chiefs Conference.

But to teach the basics of harvesting and processing to students that have never "been there - done that" is a tough job, and might yield negligible results. But who's to say. From an instructors point of view, with limited hands-on industry experience, it makes sense.

These courses are a step in the right direction, but remember, colleges are businesses that are looking to increase enrollment first. But the good thing about this is that course outlines can be changed quickly. I hope some fisher-folks with good ideas will contact Mr. Grabacki with suggestions for curriculum to represent their interests.


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