Friday, September 30, 2005

Working Waterfront Preservation Act

Here's an article that supports the notion I was talking about in a previous post.

"Unfortunately, there was little assistance that I could offer beyond identifying some grant programs that might apply. I discovered quickly that there is no targeted, federal program to help the commercial fishing industry gain or preserve access to waterfront areas. At the same time, the pressures that drive the commercial fishing industry from these vital pieces of industry infrastructure are mounting. I have introduced the Working Waterfront Preservation Act to create a matching grant program to assist our nation's commercial fishermen."

"The loss of commercial waterfront access in Maine has been astonishing. Only 25 of Maine's 3,500 miles of coastline are devoted to commercial access. Portions of Maine's working waterfront are being sold weekly and converted to other uses, most often second homes and condominiums."

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Only the top ten percent of the U.S. market really care about "what they are putting into their mouths," and that trend shows regional differences. "It's a concern in the West, but not nearly as strong in the Southeast," he said.
The biggest future fish story? Tilapia. "There will be remarkable, explosive growth," Anderson predicts.

The reason I include this about tilapia is because we ordered tilapia from the menu at an Olive Garden last night. It was fresh, mild tasting, and firm. No off flavors at all. It took up the seasonings the cook used very well and amounted to a very pleasing seafood experience.

It got me thinking that there is an unlimited amount of land in the U.S. to dig ponds to raise tilapia, and a lot of food processing waste that could be used for food for these fish. Remember the Idaho potato growers feed tilapia the discarded potato skins. Tilapia put on an amazing 1.1 + pounds for every pound of food you give them. There may not be the pollution problem that raising salmonids causes.

Besides who could complain about groundwater problems when so many households in this country use leaching fields for their septic tanks. And of course the catfish farmers are going strong. I don't like to eat catfish. I think they are tough and greasy, sorry. But tilapia are like the brown bombers we used to catch trolling close in to shore when we were after coho in late summer. We'd cut off a fillet, fry it up and slap it on a slice of bread for a real gormet lunch.

I don't know why the Israelis didn't grow them on the Kibbutz I was on. They had state-of-the-art everything, just the wrong kind of fish. The Kibbutz was at the base of Mt. Gilboa, the mountain where King Saul died, and was over 400 feet below sea level. Good spring water, wherever it was coming from. They loved me, because I knew how to mend net. They would beach seine a pocket in one corner of a drained, three acre pond to get the fish. Then a tank truck on the levee would extend arm with a retractable dump bucket down to the seine so you could brail fish into it. A real slick operation.

The United Nations said once that tilapia was going to solve the hunger problems of the world. The trouble was, was that they figured on putting tilapia in cesspools to eat the algae, and tilapia have a tendency to take up flavors from what they eat. I think I'd rather starve too. That whole thing has gone by the wayside and U.S. tilapia growers are producing a tasty product and are expanding pretty fast.

Government leadership in salmon revitalization

"Alaska's struggling commercial salmon industry can thrive only if it restructures, but it faces "fundamental obstacles" including lack of government leadership in making the needed changes, according to a new university study.
"For Alaska's salmon fisheries to become and remain profitable, we will have to find ways of catching salmon at lower cost and raising the quality and value of the harvests," the report says."

State government should watch over their "restructuring brain childs" like the military watched over the entrance to Dutch Harbor in WWII.

Well, duh, on the last statement. Jerry McCune's point, later in the above Wes Loy article, was that government has taken many steps already to restructure the salmon industry. Probably more than all the previous governors combined in my opinion. And I don't know that they aren't "working on it." I got an e-mail from a Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game staffer who was "working on it" full bore from what it looked like.

I don't know how many other state employees are working on restructuring, or revitalization, things. There are a small handfull in the Dept. of Commerce who are. Even though they are often deemed as just cheerleaders, never-the-less, they do work on revitalization things too. Even the new head of this Department is only running on a couple of cylinders as far as fisheries issues goes. He's from the coal industry. Well, who is a governor gonna get for that job anyway, a plant superintendent or fish company president? Not. My dad used to regularly turn down offers to run these kind of things.

Of course a ISER think tanker that lost the last Gubanatorial race is going to say state government isn't leading the charge. They HAVE led the charge, if you look at the Board of Fish and Game efforts, the RSDAs, and ASMI restructuring alone. BUT, I agree that there could be more GREASING THE SKIDS on the part of Government.

The Institute for Social and Economic Research should do something constructive to help point at ways government can grease the skids on initiatives that are now in the works. If the Regional Seafood Development Associations alone are successful, like they are in the rest of the country, that would be all the industry would need. I won't mention that ISER differed with me on the value of the Seafood Development Association concept 15 years ago.

And that their glossy proposal, that used the full resources of the U of A to impress some folks enough to get the contract for the Salmon Information Service, was used to beat out other folks that had vast industry experience and insight. One proposer knew the salmon market so well that the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank spent $20,000 to see if they could get canned salmon on the commodoties market and use that savvy to help their co-op member/processors.

I'm not bashing ISER here, just setting the record straight. And another thing, the RSDAs aren't going to work if fisherman "A" get's his wife to be the executive director while he fishes. They aren't mom and pops. They are very serious tools that need to be wielded by the best people around. The 64 dollar question is whether they can afford to get the experience they so badly need.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sitemeter fun, Institute for Social and Economic Research

Ever wonder what was in that SiteMeter button at the bottom of Blogs? Well, here's a glimpse of what is available in that arcane world of traffic control. This link should take you to my traffic meter for a look at a world map with dots representing people's location that visited my site. No specific details are available these days to contact any one visitor.

The Seattle area and Oregon provide about half the hits. Mostly the Seattle area. You can also see that there are many parts of Alaska not represented in my readership, at least not in the last 100 readers. The dots on Juneau and Seattle are really the top of a pile of dots, so to speak.

I suppose far-flung parts of Alaska don't get the word from the grapevine that this blog is here. They might not be as hip in running blog searches either. Another explanation for what looks like a lack of interest on the part of a lot of Alaska, in something designed for the progressive fisherman, is that his server might not be right where he lives.

There is also the theory that fishermen aren't computer users. But, that from a fisherman who is decidedly not progressive, BUT has an important fisheries political post. Go figure. A useful piece of research for Alaska's Institute for Social and Economic Research would be to find out "what women want", oops, I mean "what fishermen want." You hear from people that like to run fishermen's organizations, but you don't get any surveys from their membership. Like in, Rate from one to ten the importance you put on beating the next guy to a set. And Rate from one to ten your capabilities for staying on the cutting edge of global product development and demographic information.

You can count on one thing regarding what fishermen want, and what the industry needs, the folks in the trenches aren't going to listen to a bunch of think-tankers that haven't put in their time in the trenches themselves. The above hyper-linked article about ISER by Wes Loy is good. Notice that the punch line gets to the Regional Seafood Development Associations. Where was ISER when I was pushing the RSDA concept by myself 15 years ago. I'll tell you where, disagreeing with experience "from the trenches" as they still are.

We don't need more gum flapping, we need to unify behind some great initiatives that are in the works, especially the RSDAs. I hear the theory that the big processors might just let the RSDAs dabble around a bit and then pull the plug on them. I've been having a search engine give me e-mails on "Production Associations" and it has been overwhelming. Everybody in the world uses the production association concept except Alaska fishermen I think. Why is that ISER? What are fishermen really up against in Alaska? Can they take control, given their business acumen (at whatever level that is at) and the opposition to their taking control (at whatever level that is at)?

Those are questions ISER should be researching. The problem is that you won't get the truth by asking in the obvious places. It's like they say about breaking into Hollywood, if you haven't grown up in the business, you aren't going to know how to play the game.

Ozone RFP extended one month.

John-Who am I? Just a F&G bureaucrat working on salmon revitalization. I was surfing through some of your old blogs and saw something favorable about ozone. Folks should know that there is a grant program out there to fund shelf life extension projects in SE... with ozone on the short list of acceptable projects.
Grant solicitation was out over the summer and got limited response. We're going to extend it for another month. I imagine you know all sorts of folks who would like to know this. One technical thing on the blog- it's easy to find "previous posts" but once you're there, it's not so easy to head back forwards into "subsequent posts."Thanks much-Ken--
Ken Alper, Planner
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Juneau, Alaska 99801
(907) 465-6134

Isn't that something! Another ozone afficionado. When Kurt Kormos went up to Homer to run those big ice machines of that fair city, out on the spit, they were putting ozone in the ice. Haven't kept up on that one. I was telling someone about ozone generators just the other day though. For about $75 you can get one that will disinfect your house in a day. Make it smell fresh as a daisy. I used one in my dad's basement one time. The ozonated air killed the smells, and the mold on the cement walls changed color too.

Presumably the mold died, but I couldn't say for sure. They might just have gone into a "turning blue" state and revived sometime after I switched off the ozone generator, but I doubt either of these was the case.

Speaking of ozone, you ever wonder what they put in those clear plastic-covered trays in the stores that have positive air pressure. The clear plastic is bulging out. There are exotic gasses I've heard used, and I described this in a previous post. Made two week old humpies look like they were caught three days prior.

Ozonated water would be good to dip fresh fish in too. Ozone is just extra oxygen. Pathogens and all sorts of nasties like to hide in dark, warm places, and getting ozone in there fixes them good. If you could seal your product in with gasses, you would have insurance against total coolant failure. Cheap insurance?

Consolidation of quota shares?

It always gets me when reporters use President Bush's name in regards the mundane workings of government. In this case it's the implication that this Texan President is tinkering with the fishing business where he shouldn't be. In actuality NOAA - NMFS is just doing the best job it knows how and proposing rule changes that they figure will work best.

This port, Pelican, is already on the verge of bankruptcy.

This is the link to the article in question, and outlines some of the other issues, including consolidating quota shares. The new version of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, first enacted in 1976, has plenty in it to fuss about. And the folks that didn't wait for the ink to dry last time, before lining up to take advantage of the Law's provisions, made out pretty good. The savvy operators will be doing the same thing this time. But instead of building factory trawlers they will be buying up quota shares probably.

I don't know who is watching this process for Alaska state government, but I'd be a little concerned, just like the Congresspeople from the East Coast in this article. When I was in state government, I was communicating with 26 coastal communities that wanted more fisheries jobs in their towns. If quota shares on everything is going to put a bunch of little independent fishermen, crews, and shore workers out of work, then some municipal watch-dog should be standing up about now.

The oddest groups keep up on these issues, and the ones you'd think would be, aren't. Just like the bright people that didn't tell the contractor to quit working on the freeway when everyone was trying to flee for their lives during the last hurricane in Texas. Somebody please tell the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference exactly how many jobs they are expected to loose if the new M-SFCMA is enacted as proposed. There shouldn't be just guessing all over the board on something like this.

Conservation groups differ on Fisheries Act

It just struck me as funny that two conservation minded groups with similar sounding names see Gary Stevens looks over the stern of the "Fleet" at his 122 ton herring set. the reauthorization of M-SFCMA differently. This article summarizes the differences in a nutshell. A nutshell is about all the time anyone has anymore for a particular subject. Unless you're a major fishing company, and then you're right in there trying to get your own wording inserted.

A major disagreement seems to be over the change from "overfished" to "depleted" as the new term to describe a fish stock in the new version of the law. Granted, depletion comes from mostly overfishing. But as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says, why quibble over semantics when the resulting response from government will be the same.

The Alaskan conservation group is made up of fishing companies and others that have a strong interest in seeing the stocks not collapse for purposes of future revenue for themselves. East coast and other conservation groups want to see stocks not collapse for other reasons, which may include Eastern religious practices for all anyone knows. There's no requirement that you give your philosophy on our stewardship of God's creation in commentary in the Reauthorization process.

Therin lies the rub. Our motivations are all over the board. When we stick our heads up to make a comment for the world to see it's open season on figuring what someone's motivations are. At least in free enterprise you know where people are coming from. But we try to have this Reauthorization process be as democratic as possible so these things are rendered moot and just numbers of votes and quality of comments count.

You could assign a point system to motivation behind position statements depending on some criteria of altruistic principles such as Christian stewardship, or mother earth, or reincarnation. But I'd be willing to bet the businesses that are in the conservation alliance in Alaska are the MOST motivated to see stocks thrive. I'd be willing to bet they would all pile on a factory trawler and drive it around to the East Coast and up the Potomac to demonstrate their sincerity. The reason being, is they have kids to send to college and workers to pay and communities to support.

If there is any problem, it's with the process by which we manage what we've found useful around us. If "depleted" isn't palatable to some folks, then look at where in the process it got changed and how, and propose something to make that part more democratic.

Friday, September 23, 2005

New tuna fillet product

Ever wonder what Charlie Tuna's counterpart in the salmon industry would be called? The Happy Humpy? No, that's a bar somewhere I think. Erik the Red? That might not go over in a former communist country. I don't know if that approach even works anymore. But never-the-less, Starkist has just announced that they are making a cooked-in-the-pouch fillet of tuna.

This picture is of sockeye chunks marinading in preparation for smoking.

They are saying that the fillet is grilled, marinated then glazed. I'm sure they are going to soak the fillets in a marinade overnight like making Korean Chicken, not. Or send the tuna to China to a plant with ten thousand little grills and a lot of Chinese to flip the fillets and keep basting them with a glaze.

Try painting on grill marks. And a flavored dye to look like marinade. Then squirt a little sauce in for a glaze before retorting. Well, however they do it, they already made my mouth water and primed me to buy a fillet to slap on a sandwich. Even though the Starkist PR people mentioned grilling-before-marinading, the effect is the same.

I saw some Atlantic salmon chunks, IQF, in a large plastic bag at COSTCO today in Medford. Those hummers are all ready to pickle, kipper, make chowder, grill, or do any number of things, with much of the fish handling work done already. I think that's cool.

Every one of these products, in my mind anyway, should have a counterpart product using wild salmon. Does it just take too long to develop a product in Alaska? How difficult is it really to do value added processing in Alaska? What industry sector wants to do it and what sector doesn't want to? The why's and why not's are really immaterial. It's not my job to offer solutions. Just a little food for thought; seafood of course.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Satellite phones cont.

Fishermen need one of these to be on-line on-board. Now they are going to be affordable. The information a fisherman will be able to access from his pilot house will give him the same clout as a businessman on shore. I've mentioned this move by Globalstar before, but I think it bears repeating.

I've moved to Medford, OR, but will be around Dallas, OR alot too. I'm going to need a sat. phone pretty soon myself. I just don't get into running out of cell range. I'll be on the road a lot from now on too, so might just set up a small motor home as a mobile office. Getting a new life here, so bear with me while I try to find time to blog.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Everything you wanted to know about Russia, Run sizes

Many of you are like me, I think, in-depth knowledge of Alaska and all things Alaskan, but are curious about Alaska's neighbors too. So, in that vein, I pass along a hyper-link to the best site I've found on things of the Russian Federation.

The article you'll pull up by clicking on this hyper-link is of Murmansk. But all the regions, all the way to the Pacific Ocean, are listed in a menu on the left of the page. Just get out your map and find Nickolayevsk on the Amur River, near the mouth. This is the river that Captain Cook tried sail up but was stopped by a shoal of salmon!

I haven't heard of any sailors in Alaska ever running aground on a mass of salmon at the mouth of a river. I'm pretty sure Alaska's salmon runs will only increase in strength from the heavy stream fishing that fed the hundreds of canneries early in the 1900s. And the fish traps too, that blocked salmon migration past major headlands.

When I worked as a loan officer and the "economist" at CFAB, I thought that Alaska could sustain runs of 150 million fish a year. Now they are going over 200 million. And I know for a fact all the little creeks around Petersburg still need to recover by about 900 percent. Petersburg creek alone had all five species of salmon running up it, plus a big run of steelhead.

I'm afraid my great-grandfather had a lot to do with the steelhead runs declining. He had kids like my father camp up the creek and gillnet steelhead in the holes and salt them in barrels. Then, at least one winter, he shipped the barrels to Minnesota where he took the salt steelhead around to the farmhouses to sell them. Can you imagine driving an open horse-drawn wagon all around Minnesota in the winter!
Needless to say that didn't appeal to him, but at least he didn't lose heart at the prospect of it.

Maybe we need to look at how the pioneers did things, to give heart to some radical moves to save Alaskan fishing livelihoods.
But back to size of salmon runs. If all these little creeks that only have a small fraction of their original run size would completely bounce back, you might be looking at runs of 500 million salmon. Who knows.

Petersburg set a record this summer with dock deliveries of 2.5 million pounds in one day.
What's all that fish worth? Not much when you stuff it in a one pound can and sell it in Dollar Stores. The next generation of fishermen will have to figure out how to make it pay. And if the haves and the have-nots can work together there might be some hope for all the little fishing towns in Alaska.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Shrimp to the Gulf II, Senator Stevens, Photo info.

As I predicted, the demand for shrimp in the Gulf states is driving the prices up like the gas prices down there. If you could get your Alaska shrimp down there you'd probably do quite well.

A quote from the article: "The disruption to commercial fishing and shellfish operations in the Gulf of Mexico because of Hurricane Katrina is boosting prices for certain products, particularly oysters and shrimp, said Ed Robinson, vice president of Bar Harbor Seafood, an Orlando-based distributor."

This would be a good time for the Alaska Department of Environmental Quality to allow cooking on the decks of shrimp boats, just to get the shrimp moving south. I promise that the cooking pot will be covered in case any seagulls make a bombing run on the deck crew. Cookers use a lot more energy uncovered. The other necessity for this is that the Petersburg shrimpers don't have anyone to deliver their product to even if they didn't want to sell it to distributors themselves.

Well, my first article prompted Mark Vinsel, the Executive Director of the United Fishermen of Alaska, to call me and try assure me that they are actually doing something besides just express good intentions toward Gulf fishermen. It turns out a past AFDF Executive Director and another high energy type are doing the organizing. Mark figures that since the boats won't get out before the first of the year, they have a lot of time to organize collecting of old gear and equipment in the communities.

My daughter-in-law wanted me to send her an address of somewhere in the South to send some boxes tomorrow, bless her. She said a trucker was back-hauling to the South from the Midwest somewhere and he just announced he would be parked to take donations down. He stayed up all night and the next day loading stuff and took off with a 40 foot trailer full. The guy said government just takes too long. Well, duh.

Mark Vinsel of the UFA says the shrimpers in Petersburg would have to request their help through a local fishermen's organization for them to help. And even then he didn't know what they could do to offer the Southern markets shrimp, or help the idle Alaska shrimpers get fishing. Well, I guess if you haven't seen it done before you wouldn't know what to do. But this is where the rubber meets the road guys.

Like I've been saying, market changes move as fast as a hurricane sometimes, and any organization that professes to help fishermen needs to be structured to move just as fast.

The media seems to be playing politics again, as if it's the first time, not. If it's any consolation, and a bit enlightening, to Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens, the Anchorage Daily News started plotting something awhile back. My sister was a reporter for them after McClatchy bought the paper and she complained that she had to go to Saturday "philosophy sessions" that she wasn't compensated for. I don't know how McClatchy reconciles bashing Senator Stevens groundlessly and praying for our elected leaders. Unless they don't own a Bible, then they have more to worry about than a lawsuit.

The photo of the scalloper in a previous post wasn't taken by me, as all other pictures in this blog have been. I do reserve exclusive rights to all pictures of mine posted on this blog. If you have a picture that you like and want to share with others you can e-mail it to me as an attachment with a little story about it. I promise I'll use it sometime, even if I have to start another blog for all yours and my fishing pics. I'll credit you fully in the blog. My e-mail address is:

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"In Praise of the Lowly Pink Salmon"

The Tyee strikes again, and again. Alaskan fishermen should pay more attention to what is going on in the British Columbia fisheries. Civilization is marching up the road through B.C. and Alaska is next. And the Canadians have found ways to deal with it. Things that Alaskans will have to do someday. Unless being stalked by the bear instead of stalking it is OK.

What struck me about this article, besides it's focus on quality fish, was the disappearance of almost all of the original 31 species of fish caught in lower Georgia Straits except the migratory salmon. And now the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is saying that Southeast Alaska rockfish just lives too long and are declining in some places. Well, if many of the big ones were born in the 1800s, I can see why.

And the commercial halibut longliners are saying, actually they've been saying this for years, that the charter fleet is catching too many halibut. It's getting pretty scratchy fishing now around Sitka and Homer, home to big charter boat fleets. The charter boats caught something like 9 million pounds of halibut in 2004. Depending on who you listen to, some people say that left unchecked, the charter boat fleet could take the entire quota eventually.

But I like going to "The Tyee" on-line forum occasionally to see what the Canadians are doing. The last time, I saw an article on a book written by a refugee of fisheries politics. A lot of parallels to the Alaska seafood industry. There won't be such a book written by an Alaskan for some time because the interest just isn't there for making any money from a book like that about the Alaska fisheries. His book was on the best seller list in Canada though.

Alaskans are still into reading tales of adventure on the fishing grounds, and if they go broke, well, it was the Chileans fault, or the Fish and Game's fault, or Chevron's fault. There is no required reading on the part of state and local economic development folks in Alaska, very few are reading this blog too. I would double my readership if folks that were responsible for making things work read it. There's probably hundreds of them in Alaska. The Americans are funny this way, the worse things get, the more they pay for public "development specialists."

Even the Executive Director of a fishermen's organization is a "public" figure. But this isn't the model that works for everyone in the "Lower 48." It's the free enterprise model, that of an "association," that works. Then you can have someone be accountable for progress.

Associations need help at times, but only from the top tiers of government, to give them a level playing field. These are going to be the ones that are motivated to stop what happened in British Columbia from happening in Alaska.

The Tyee article has some good information on the shelf life of salmon, and efforts to publicize the lowly pink salmon.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Everything you wanted to know about factory trawling

Well, maybe not quite, but this Wesley Loy
article on American Seafoods Group gives a great head-start. I identify with this story since I've been around Norwegian-Americans all my life and my family came from Norway 105 years ago now. Having that deep-water heritage makes quite a difference.

Factory trawler in Seattle between seasons.

My father's grandfather had fished for cod in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway and sailed to Spain to trade them for oranges. Which he sold back in Norway for a lot better money than he could have gotten from his cod. Funny how international trade will do that.

But, later generations of Norwegian sea-farers have done very well in this country. Look at Petersburg, a settlement of Norwegians, who's celebration of Norwegian Independence Day on May 17, rivals their celebration of American Independence on July 4.

Petersburg was listed in the 1960 U.S. census as having the second highest income per capita of any place in the U.S. In the 1970 census it had the second highest number of millionaires per capita.
One Petersburg processing start-up, that has a local fisherman board of directors, has become one of the three titans of the traditional fisheries in Alaska; Icicle Seafoods. They have operations all over the state now.

I haven't been directly involved in the industrial scale fishing that goes on in the Bering Sea, but have poked around out there for State government and other interests. I did some consulting on the effort by the coastal villages to buy into trawlers after they were awarded Community Development Quotas.

The point? Keep your eyes on what the real smart money is doing? That's the best way to sort out all the rotten advice. Of course, you'll always be trying to catch up, and in the fishing business the first one into something gets the brass ring, the rest get consolation prizes. And you're not going to jump on American Seafoods bandwagon, it would be like trying to hop the bullet tain. Even though they are limited by law to 17.5% of the pollock fishery.

It's too bad that pollock is mostly water and the recovery rate is only 24%. But these factory ships do something with every bit of solid matter: surimi paste, roe for the Japanese market, and meal and oil from the rest. Hopefully they aren't roe-stripping anymore.

I don't know for sure, but a loan customer of mine once said their scallop beds were suffocated by the pollack carcasses dumped over in a pollock roe fishery. That was hard for me to imagine and I suspected something else was going on with this big red scallop rig they had acquired from the Louisana oil industry.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Alaska shrimp to help the Gulf?

This article in the LA Times got me thinking about the disparity of the problems the shrimpers in the Gulf have, compared to the shrimpers in Alaska.

The venerable old "Charles W," the mainstay of the Petersburg shrimp fleet since the 1930s.

The former have nothing but their markets and the latter have everything but a market. Well, that's not quite true. It's just the shrimpers in the traditional shrimp capital of Alaska, Petersburg, that have no "shrimp shed," as they call the shrimp processors in the Gulf.

The processing plant that had been buying shrimp since 1917 just decided to end their shrimp trade this summer. Of course they were expecting a big salmon year too, and farm raised shrimp have been cutting everybody's profits that handle wild shrimp. So, Petersburg fishermen have the shrimp that the Gulf states need, just no way to get it to them. Any ideas?

It would add insult to injury if the Gulf shrimpers found that their markets had shriveled up when they finally get back out fishing. Food handlers do that. They switch to something else when they can't get what they want and then they aren't there when you can supply them. Not that this would happen in the Deep South across the board, but I'm using this to make a point.

The point being, is Petersburg, Wrangell and other Alaska shrimp ports could send product to the Gulf shrimpers markets to keep them open until those shrimpers could get back on their feet. (Although the market might get spoiled on the tiny cold water delectables found in Alaska.) That is a risk worth taking though.

Anyway, it's just a thought. Somebody would have to start cooking shrimp in Petersburg, even though it might be a break-even proposition. This is what the UFA Director could do that is CONCRETE. And it might get the Petersburg shrimp fishery jump-started, a classic win-win situation.

It would be really telling if UFA couldn't pull off a simple thing like that. This is a good time of year in Alaska to do something like this too. I don't think you would HAVE to peel the shrimp, just cook 'em, chill 'em and fly them all the way to the Deep South.

I was involved in an operation that cooked and brine-froze many hundreds of thousands of pounds of dungeness crab in Yakutat back in 1971. We chartered cargo planes to haul it all South to get the jump on the market. Maybe it could work on shrimp if there was a brine freezer still around to use.

New Satellite Service for Fishermen

"Building a new satellite gateway in Alaska will enhance the quality of coverage of Globalstar's current voice and data service offerings for residents and companies with operations in Alaska. Because of the high concentration of companies in the commercial fishing, forestry, oil and mining industries, Alaska is a high growth region for Globalstar; evidenced by increasing demand for reliable communications services. For much of these industries, wireline or traditional wireless services are impractical or impossible. The Wasilla Gateway is expected to become fully operational by summer, 2006."

Professional Fishermen's Association and Rick McGill's crabber/tender, "Stormy Sea".

Well, there you have it. Next summer a commercial fisherman out on the Seward Gully will be able to access the internet from his boat a lot better. The ramifications of that are enormous. Just as the internet has been enormous for land based businesses all over the world.
Next generation fixed and hand held satellite phone sets are in the making too, from Qualcom.

For one thing, you'll be able to get all the weather data you would ever want from (Along with this Blog.) You'll be able to even video-teleconference with business partners anywhere, send your own video blog to customers showing your fishing operations and podcast anything you want to say to the world or to loved ones.

Speaking of loved ones, fishing families have it harder than ones with dads that come home every night. Little missy can use her web cam and chat live with dad using the web cam on-board. It would be real close to being right there at the dinner table.
I hope it works out this well.

But the potential for commercial enhancement looks bright indeed. Good internet service will make it a lot easier to check on market prices. I predict that buyers will be posting their ex-vessel prices on-line in the not too distant future. If value-adding begins to start on-board to any degree, fishermen will want a close interface with the airlines and other shippers. Especially if more fish are to be sold live.

Processing plants in Alaska are about as few and far between as what is currently available in the Gulf of Mexico. Most Alaska fishermen are fighting for their economic lives too. But at least the Alaska fishermen have their boats and fishing grounds intact.

(This would be a good time for Gulf of Mexico fishermen to re-invent their industry, since they are starting from scratch. The processing plants are gone, so the fishermen have a chance to vertically integrate right from the start, if they can get the right help to do that. And beat the former processors to the punch, who are going to be seeking financial aid full bore to get back control of the marketing.)

In any event, satellite communications will be a big help in Alaska by making a modern office out of the pilot houses that are forward thinking enough to take advantage of the service.


I always knew there was a problem with semantics in the seafood business. First, it's mostly been called the fishing business. That term is used by the processors. Why is that? Could it be that a lot of folks would just as soon that fishermen keep thinking of themselves as only fish hunter/gatherers? If fishermen were called anything that implied that they were the seafood business people that they are, you'd have to call their offices, the pilot houses, something different. Maybe even "Fish houses." But that's what the processors use to refer to the recieving rooms in their cold storage plants. If only this were April Fools Day; I'd have an excuse for this.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Brokers don't develop markets

No duh, but many producers think they do. The tilapia producers in the Philipines were told to develop value added products to enter the U.S. market, and don't use brokers. My brother-in-law is a great seafood broker and they have their place. Just not when it takes money to do marketing. They have a phone and a whole lot of phone numbers, besides knowledge and personality.

Some of these articles that I make a hyper-link to, for more in-depth reading, are about foreign producers trying to sell their products in the U.S. or some other distant land. Alaska is just as distant from the U.S. market as these other countries. Maybe just an hour or so by air closer, a tiny fraction of the shelf life of the seafood. So why not study what other countries are doing?

Nobody said the Alaska seafood industry had all the answers, well maybe a few people I know. These foreign product development and marketing initiatives are good models for Alaska fishermen. There really is a chance for fishermen to reinvent themselves. Seems like I've had to do that a number of times in my life. It's really common these days and, in fact, recommended by the experts. And the recommended time period is getting shorter all the time, as the world speeds up.

How long has the fisherman/processor/broker model been going on? When hasn't it? I don't think any broker can get away with stealing an entire pack anymore, but how much different is it now, than some of the old mind-sets?

Ok, enough broker bashing. To give them some credit they were the ones that opened up major markets for Alaska seafood that gave Alaska a few decades of very well-off fishermen. But that spoiled everyone: gave the industry a false sense of security about broker prowness. The competition has heated up considerably now too and those foreign market opportunities aren't the same.

Salmon medley sells in India

This article from an Indian publication caught my eye the other day, so I didn't delete it, but didn't know what to do with it either. Today is a different day. I think it bears some looking at. Only goes to show how our perceptions can change when our priorities change. I feel a little stronger about value adding by fishermen's groups today for some reason.

This salmon gutting machine is not nearly the brute the old iron chinks are.

This is the part that got my attention: "The range, launched by Sea Food Club includes Alaskan smoked pink salmon fillet, canned salmon in brine, salmon pickle and salmon sausage. "Sea Food Club has a veritable salmon feast and I am actually taking some back home to Perth," Lillee said."

These are about my all-time favorite salmon products. Seems like Sea Food Club thinks so too. It begs the question, what salmon product forms does the rest of the world want? And how is Alaska going to give it to them, and who is going to give it to them, and who should benefit from this trade?

I think it's pretty clear that the answer to the last question is, the coastal communities. Then you can back up to answer the other questions. So, in this vein, how many of the coastal communities should benefit? Would it be OK if just a couple of them did all the processing as the current consolidation in processing is effecting? I don't think that the communities that get left out in the cold are too happy about this state of affairs.

These communities are going to have to join the discussion, get up to speed on a lot of things seafood and fight for their lives, using their local fishermen, if there are any left, to lead the charge. Doesn't that sound reasonable? I've talked to many community leaders and they don't have backgrounds in the seafood industry. City managers are professional city managers, period. While they figure these industries will take care of themselves, they are falling down on the job, and their towns suffer for it..

Two communities in Southeast Alaska with very long histories of involvement in the seafood industry are in the throes of dropping out of the business, Kake and Pelican. There are quite a few others around the state too.

Making the products that markets, like the above one require, can be made in all the former seafood processing communities that are going under. City managers should be bending over backward to help fishermen gain control of their, and hence their communitys' destinies. And the Regional Seafood Development Associations are designed to do this.

Monday, September 05, 2005

"Save the crabs...then eat 'em"

A humor based mass media campaign backed by the Bay (Chesepeake) Program that urged people to “save the crabs…then eat ’em” successfully raised local awareness about the Bay while drawing notice from across the country. The point is that this kind of approach works better than the straight-laced, "do the right thing" kind of approach.

What kind of approach is your seafood campaign, or advertising ditties? There's a lot of psychology involved that even professionals have a hard time wrapping their minds around. But we know people respond to humor and to analogies.

People are bombarded by about 2000 advertisements a day, so the experts say. I didn't make that up. So, in consequence, many consumers of the age group that might buy seafood are consciously avoiding exposure to adverdising. I mean, how much can you take before your circuits overload. Consumers that make wise, healthy choices, like buying wild seafood over farmed raised seafood, might be avoiding ads that don't have a "feel good" quality about them.

Take that to another level. How about ads that have social redeeming qualities? And then how about ads that people will actually seek out because they make them feel so good. Is that too far out? Check this out: Mom and dad meet over dinner to sign the divorce papers, but after sampling the salmon baked on a cedar plank, they tear up the papers and walk off arm in arm.

Well, maybe not, but I'd be willing to bet that anything that smacks of fun, is going to get a good response. Not to say that sex isn't fun, and sells products, but it's highly overrated as a change agent. Even the latest buzz about consumers wanting to know all about the fishermen who caught the fish might not be based on much.

What's a consumer or restaurant going to do when he sees streaming videos on fifteen web sites all showing fish swimming wild and then into the fishing gear of Al, Bjorn, Nick, Harry Jr., etc. Maybe buying behavior will be based on how cute their kids are holding up a fish on the deck of their boat, but I doubt it.

The only other thing I wanted to say today is that the fishing season is winding down for the summer in Alaska and my readers there now at least equal the West Coast readers. Hopefully Alaska fishermen will start doing their homework, but at least one fisherman up there doubts it. Of course fishermen are real skeptics anyway.

I travelled all over Alaska for the state government, which led to my writing the Small Processors Association white paper. But I got some of that "John's here from the government to help us, yeah, right" business. Good thing I'm doing this just to get the truth out. And so my boys will have something to remember their dad by.

Fish Bio-diesel

Once in a while there is a news item that really sparks the imagination. This article on fish oil is such an article. The ramifications, as stated by an Alaska Energy Authority official, are the sustainability of remote villages, diesel oil requirements in delicate ecosystems, powering fish processing plants, and maybe at some point, fishing vessels.

Diesel engines that power most things were developed to utilize cheap petroleum diesel and don't run very well on fish oil, even mixed with petro diesel. Maybe as the result of the latest energy crisis, we'll start to see diesel engines that can run on cruder grades of oil. We're not stuck by any means. I remember one diesel I saw that required throwing chunks of burning oil soaked hemp rope into each cylinder to ignite the oil during starting. In one sense, we've gotten spoiled on compact, high-speed diesel enginges.

I'm not saying we should go backward on this, we may more realistically go to hydrogen fuel at some point. But in the meantime, there are up to 200 million salmon caught in Alaska each year whose various parts could be used for bio-diesel. Not to mention the black cod, and many other species. This flys in the face of the slurry fertilizer people. Someone will have to decide what is the best public use for fish waste at some point.

Fishermen may want to have the oil from the wastes to substitute for the expensive petro-diesel that leaves such a huge hole in their pocketbooks these days. And nobody is talking of diesel getting any cheaper. So maybe fishermen need to weigh in on this subject too. The trouble is, fishermen sign away the title to the fish they caught, and have no more say in what happens to the wastes as they do the edibile portions.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Photo of Halibut Schooner in Seward, AK

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Mussel mania

Demand has been massive and we are expecting to meet it at both home and abroad.”
Over half of all Scottish mussels harvested come from SSMG, who have increased production from 1,500 tonnes to over 2,100 tonnes this year to meet market demand.

This article reminded me of an evening adventure rowing after work at the cannery in Petersburg. The tide was ebbing out the Narrows into Frederick Sound, and it was a calm, sunny evening. I took the 12 foot, double-end rowboat and set out across the Sound. The only interruptions to a magnificent wilderness experience was a big gas turbine yacht firing up and smoking out of a position right on my course. And a helicopter putting up a microwave repeater on top of Horn Cliffs.

I was fixing to row the seven miles across the Sound to the Mainland and then back before dark. However I stopped at McDonald Island, half a mile short of saying I rowed all the way across the Sound. I beached the boat and noticed I was facing a vast bed of mussels.

They were good sizers too. I had never had a mussel feed and these looked like likely candidates.
I gathered a bucket full, hoping red tide organisms weren't too prevalent around the island. I didn't think so, since it was only 15 miles or so from the mouth of the Stikine river. Too much fresh water I reasoned. Then it was back across the Sound and a waiting steaming pot.

Those were first class mussels, and I may not ever order mussels in a restraunt that can't guarantee that freshness. I got a little spoiled on that quality I know. I've had others that were pretty good. They have a delicate texture and flavor and are highly eatable.

Not sure what it would take to raise and market mussels in Alaska, but Alaskans are highly protective of their pristine bays and inlets. It's one of the great natural resources of that country. A lot of floating mussel farms might not be too welcome, and harvesting them off the beach would require daily testing by the State lab in Palmer for PSP, a LONG ways away.

But it was a lot of fun going out for them, and a real tasty treat in the final analysis. So for now, I guess the U.S. market will have to wait some more for Alaskan mussels. Maybe the political winds might shift soon, who knows

Thursday, September 01, 2005

If Africans and Scots can, Alaska fishermen can

Alaska fishermen are by no means the only ones who can't get a fair price for their product. Take a look at this article about Botswana cattle producers. They are doing what the regional seafood development associations will probably find out they need to do a few years down the road. That is, get all the associations together for some effective leverage. This is not a bad model at all. In fact it has all the markings of real intelligent planning. And since they are just doing it now, it would be a good model for Alaska fishermen to look at.

The Scottish are also in the misdst of major seafood industry restructuring. They are going to be looking at optimizing the efficiency from net to table. The whole supply chain. The problem I see with what they are doing is that there are so many people invloved that it may become cumbersome.

Alaska's restructuring efforts of the last few years are similar. You get everyone involved and then have the state government people write up all the ideas and then what do you have? A whole lot of ideas written up.
Well, you have to make it look like a massive effort to give the impression that something is going to come of it.

When the dust all settles, the companies and fishermen that are in the best position are usually still in the best position. Mostly, they get involved to improve their position and the little guys that don't get involved, lose some position.
So, good luck to you students of restructuring, revitalization, rationalization, re-rationalization, remodeling, recusitation, re-energizing or whatever is in vogue.

The Southwest Municipal Conference and Kodiak are looking at the supply chain themselves in some sort of Task Force. Too bad it wasn't a little broader in scope. But they may have some results worth reading in their effort to get more fish out fresh. They are out in left field and need to figure this out. I've tried flying fish up from out Westward and it's a bugger, I guarantee.

Seafood forum, Canadian style

This link to a discussion through a Canadian publication mirrors the issues that Alaskan fishermen face. They get downright personal in the obscurity of anonimity. It's refreshing to see fishermen and others speak their minds like this. I don't know of a similar venue in Alaska.

Alaskans are big on meetings, task forces and other face to face meetings. But these leave something to be desired in getting to the bottom of what fishermen and others are really thinking. Getting up in public is intimidating for a lot of fishermen, so they have people speak for them that don't always know what they really want.

There are over fifty fishermen's and other seafood organizations in Alaska, and growing all the time, all with their "executive directors" that arrange more meetings to get their group heard. Has this helped? Prices for fish is the acid test.

The Canadian fishermen have the same complaints. Some of their complaints I saw in the Tyee article on all the Canadian "Darth Vaders" they are up against are some of the most eloquent I've seen. And they get down to brass tacks right quickly. They have always been ahead of Alaskans in some regards, but not this time.

They are just as disjointed when it comes to confronting the real threats to their industry as Alaskan fishermen are. For example, look at this, from Irish cattle producers. "Last week's revelations about the much lower production demands on beef from Brazil highlighted the width of the gap between standards that satisfy importers and those required of home production."

What fishermen's group, out of the four or five dozen, are looking into the "wholesomeness" of imported seafood as opposed to wild Alaskan seafood? (I'm a little more worried than before after getting indigestion from eating farmed king salmon the other day.) Quality is more than bled and chilled.

Alaskans could learn to have open anonymous discussions like the Canadians, at least to vent their frustrations and get on with life, if not solve problems. This was the thesis of that Canadian who wrote about his experiences in the fisheries all the way to being an aide in top government offices.