Monday, October 31, 2005

A classic new fishery

You are wondering full bore what fishery I'm refering to here I'm sure. Here's one that fits the bill, and is spreading in Southeast Alaska. Most of us have heard about the sea cucumber dive fishery. But it struck me that the payroll of this "insignificant" fishery is probably greater than the tanner crab fishery in S.E. Certainly the value of the "cukes" is greater than S.E. king crabs, which were classically "hammered" down to nothing.

Photo of S.E. tanner crab from my crab buying days. They used to be considered a "pest" before someone figured out how to get the meat out.

When I was running a plant in Juneau for tanner crab, we only had about 20 workers on the processing line, and that was only for about a month. The "cuke" plant in Juneau runs all winter with 30 processing line workers. And I guarantee, we didn't pay our workers more per hour just because crab is a higher status fishery among the fishermen. The Asians don't care about our egos. The diver in this fishery looks like the one that's making the money. And they might not even have to go get a NAUI certificate.

Starting a fishery out somewhere in Alaska reminded me of some guys that tried to get a sea urchin fishery going out along the Alaska Peninsula. The trouble was, the sea otters came in and ate all the urchins. If you are going to start a miscellaneous fishery, make sure sea otters don't like what you're after.

But if Southeast Alaska is the only place that any "cuke" fishery is going on, some good opportunities might be getting passed over farther to Westward. I remember noticing how productive the intertidal zone in Dutch Harbor was. Actually, out on the spit, not in where all the big boats anchor and tie up. With record halibut being caught out there by the charter boats, there may be record "cukes" out there.

This morning I was reading a survey done for a resource from a few years back and noticed how much trouble the investigators had with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. It reminded me of some scenario out of "The Gulag Archipaligo," not the Alexander Archipaligo. The trouble with starting new fisheries is that the ADF&G was never in lock-step with the economic development folks, and the city managers had no clue what was going on. How much of this is still true, I don't know. Cities have hired economic development specialists, but they generally don't have a clue about fisheries development. They were hired based on a resume a yard long of work putting in shopping malls and such.

The only way fisheries development ever worked was through private enterprise. A couple of guys going out and looking for something. Then when they find it, they start the real work of getting a permit to commercially harvest it. And if they are smart, they'll get "in the know" real fast so their whole fishery doesn't get derailed before they even start.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Tech breakthrough puts Omega 3s in many foods

Milk with fish oil? I just put a question mark there to get you going. This trend is taking off like a rocket. One producer of enhanced milk say it outsells their regular milk two to one. This is one for the "revitalization" folks in Alaska to put in their pipe.
The process by which this Nova Scotia dairy puts fish oil in milk was developed right there in N.S. Wouldn't be surprised if that sharp young woman I met at the research center at Technical University of Nova Scotia had something to do with it. They would develop any kind of seafood product you wanted there, for a fee of course.

If Mother Theresa liked cooking, that's the kind of kitchen she'll get in her "mansion." You could whip up a batch of surimi link sausages and fish protien powder pancakes for breakfast. Maybe I shouldn't shortchange myself and put in such a request for my "mansion" in heaven.

Picture of some of some kings and a small coho on my troller in Lower Chatham Strait one spring.

Grain sauce on the salmon, and protien pasta.

This just in from my new home-town newspaper on the latest trends in eating. If you've got a new seafood sensation in mind to make up and produce, the writer of this article might be a good one to contact. And for you fifty and over bachellors, if she is wearing a large red hat, it might be doubly fun. You just gotta read this one.

Conagra wins foodservice innovation award.

Here's how to make an award winning product. Coming up with a product that 2500 school districts immediately glom onto is no small thing. The novel thing here was just using a whole wheat flour that kids think is the refined, couch patato white flour. As us parents know all so well, you have to give kids what they will eat, or they won't eat at all. But they are no different than adults in that they want their food to taste good. They like Top Ramen noodles because of the spice packet. Someone just needs to make those noodles out of protien instead of the dead substance they are using, then you'd have something.

You could make Top Ramen out of turbot, since they aren't good for much else. Call it Turbo Ramen and put a picture of a kid in a Halo II outfit on the package. If you are wondering what Halo II is, you are probably way down the learning curve in developing a food product for kids. Like the famous Chevis Regal ad said, under a bottle with no label, "If you don't recognize this bottle, you're not ready for Chevis."

If you really want to rejuvinate the seafood industry, make seafood products for kids. It would probably help if the fish was no longer recognizable and didn't taste like fish. To get kids to eat fish in traditional forms, it has to taste better than what's out there now. Even if you could get day old, troll caught king salmon to every grocery store in America, it still isn't "cool" to kids. And these Roman style feasts on seafood you get at some restaurants won't last forever the way they are emphasizing health education in high schools these days. For example, in the Dallas, OR high school, the health teacher flunked a hundred kids one year. Of course that doesn't say much for the teacher in my opinion, but the point is, is that schools are serious about health education, just like keeping the guns out of there.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Latest on RFID, kind of

We're all wondering if we'll need to put a RFID tag on a brown crab shipped to a customer in Orange County. And whether it's going to help make more money; Return on Investment (ROI). Here's a story about DelMonte's experiences and it appears they took about the most serious look of all food manufacturers I've seen anyway.

Picture of the old marine ways in Petersburg before it was razed to make room for the boat harbor expansion. It was right where the new fishermen's hoists are now.

(A point of order that was brought to my attention by a reader. I do not condone the ad that is automatically placed on this blog about salmon having feelings. A search engine puts it there. I'll try to get rid of it like some of the others of even less repute that have found their way onto my blog. My apologies for being a party to spreading such nonsense. It's actually kind of funny. I suppose these are the folks that think their fresh salad lets out a little scream every time they take a bite.)

There was a press release recently by MCI on their giving Ocean Beauty Seafoods a full make-over in the Information Technology arena. Seems the system will integrate everything, and I mean everything. Maybe even keep track of the guano load on the cannery roof in Petersburg. No mention of RFID though, but if they do go that route, I'm sure this system would handle it. And it will be able to handle video teleconferencing and Voice over Internet Protocol too.

But my new cell phone can probably do that too, if you could get through that manual they send with it. The manual is several times the size of the phone. I do know I can take pictures and then e-mail the pictures to someone with a Bluetooth enabled computer and have them printed out or put on my blog, just like that.

Don't feel bad if you didn't get all that. Dan Cuddy, the President of First National Bank of Alaska, wouldn't have a computer obstruct his view of the Chugach Mountains over his desk, even if he did know how to use one.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Displaced fishermen free training program

A very fine report by Laine Welsh on the Mercant Marine training for fishermen. "So far more than 200 salmon fishermen have participated in the training program, and Mayhew said they are just beginning to get a feel for the numbers of displaced workers from the Bering Sea crab fisheries which began in August. She stressed that the SIU training builds on the experiences fishermen already have, and that the Coast Guard credits them for some or all of their sea time. "It really puts them on a fast track for upgrades instead of having to start at ground zero," she said."

Going through the program GUARANTEES a job. With all the bennies too! Seems there is a shortage of merchant mariners. $3,500 a month to start and cruise ships coming on line all the time that need manning. If I were just a few years younger... This is the kind of pro-active reporting that helps keep the marine trades alive and well.

It's the norm these days to switch careers 3 - 5 times in a lifetime. So fishermen shouldn't feel too bad about having to switch. I know some job exits are hard to stomach though, getting thrown out on your rear by people more powerful than you. Try an appointment in State government. If you're going forward, with your breast-plate on and battling for the right, you need to get in, make what contribution you can, as quickly as you can, and get out before you get it in the back. Simple.

This Laine Welsh article also spells out in great detail the rundown on halibut and black cod prices. The other day I was telling someone about the virtues of smoked black cod and starting to get a real craving. At those prices I'd have to skip lunch for a week. Maybe in another six months my Google AdSense ads will pay for a nice feed. And I know, the ads seem to be stuck on Kosher these days. Don't know what glitch in their program is causing that.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Working Waterfront Reform Act cont.

There wasn't even one nay vote in both houses of the Maine Legislature when this bill went through. It's going to the voters now in a referendum in a couple of weeks. It's the working stiffs against the summer home folks and developers it looks like. And since the summer home set are mostly from out-of-state, this should be a lead pipe cinch.

There already are provisions all over the place for assessing property on it's current or historic use: green belts, parks, timberland, farmland. Without some protection from lawmakers, there is no way fishermen can compete against developers for prime waterfront space because of the taxes based on assessed value.

One day I was toying with the new Google Earth program that uses satellite photos and was looking at Kodiak. For some reason, it was showing the physical location of small processing plants. They were scattered all over the City of Kodiak. Not the model of an effecient port for fish handling. Of course Kodiak already has large plants lining it's waterfront like seagulls on the beach. But whoever did that almost seemed like they were trying to make a point.

An Alaska law should go further and disallow government entities of all stripes from owning the prime waterfront spots, like the University of Alaska in Juneau does. You'll probably never dislodge the Coast Guard from their nice digs on the Juneau waterfront, but you could stop further erosion of the fisheries economic base by government. In Petersburg it was the Fish and Game Department. ADF&G could have used the boat harbor slips for their skiffs like everyone else and that property with an all-tide boat float could have been used by a specialty seafood processing plant.

Government efforts in fisheries infrastructure; a case study.

Here's a report on Brookings, Oregon's attempt to help the fishermen and should probably stand as testimony to how fast taxpayer's dollars can be wasted when free enterprise is not the prime directive. Communities in Alaska have done a lot of good in putting in public docks with hoists to help fishermen do what they are already doing. It's like coming along with a backhoe to help someone who is digging a ditch with a shovel.

What you can't do is offer him mining equipment. Heck, he only wants to bury a water line, not dig for the iron ore to make the pipe. What does he know about smelting ore anyway, even if there was ore under his house, which there probably isn't, but nobody bothered to find out.


There might want to be some more town hall meetings held by legislators around the state on SB113 on "rationalization," as some call it. I don't know how rational it was to throw out on the street 700 to 800 king crab crewmen and almost 150 skippers. The little town of King Cove lost 20 crew jobs and crabbers delivering will drop from 50 -60 down to 20.

The attendees at the "rationalization" meeting didn't seem to find SB113 very rational either. Is what would have been rational, to counteract the greed of the boat owners, would be to put a timer on the pot hauler to keep it from working 24 hours a day for days on end. I've heard crew tell that they could only crawl acorss the deck after a few days of fishing non-stop. Or you could have pulled the license of a boat that lost a man.

Anyway, to say "rationalization" is a success just means you have stock in a crab boat. Everybody else is singing the blues. And the North Pacific Fishery Management Council just says, "ya got to be tough, you see." Well, I hope a NPFMC member doesn't make a wrong turn and end up in a dark alley in King Cove. If the Alaska Municipal League would ever get a grip on fisheries issues, you wouldn't have King Coves, Port Grahams and Pelicans, to name a couple, popping up all over the place.

The irrationalization people thrive when folks say, "it's not my job." I met a retired doctor in the Dallas, OR city park one day and he was still apologizing for HIS FRIEND who was in Oregon Fish and Wildlife when all the salmon streams were being killed off. All I can say is don't end up having to apologize for the rest of your life if there's anything you can do to be truely rational.

And down here in Oregon some writer was saying how this has gone on for years in Alaska. He is obviously a shill for the big hake processors who are lobbying for a big quota share. Any more of this in Alaska and the state will have to start a Ghost Town Days celebration to draw tourists. Also read a Kodiak Native's take on SB113.

Salmon - it's baby brain food

What we have here is a remarkable study done by Harvard Medical School. It says that when expecting mothers eat salmon, light canned tuna and sardines, the baby's brain develops better. Remember, all mothers want their babies to be little Einsteins. This could be big.

I was reading an article the other day about fish oil having the essential nutrients for formation and health of membranes in the brain. So when I discovered the Ashland Food Coop in Ashland, OR a couple days ago I was looking for good salmon. And lo and behold they had some nice pieces of fresh bright king salmon. For an ex-troller like myself, I knew I'd found my kind of store all the way around. They also carried wild Mexican pale shrimp. If it had been Alaskan prawns, it would have been a two course dinner that night.

Waxing philosophical a little on health food stores; that store in Ashland is almost the reason for being for the city of Ashland. The prices were good too. No twinkies there. Everything else under the sun though. Beer is natural isn't it? What a fine model of a good-for-you-food store. The apples weren't those little sour blighted ones you usually see at an organic food store either. They were big and plump with just a couple spots that I saw. That told me they weren't sprayed with stuff that settles in your liver so you have to take dandilion root tea to get it out.

Speaking of health food stores, I'm reminded of the time I went to Arizona to distribute smoked salmon. I got a chain to carry the smoked salmon I was getting and they promptly marked it up to $18.50 a pound and stuck it in a vast wall of other choices. Then they started talking about how easy it would be for them to smoke their own salmon. I promptly went to work for Ruger welding titanium. Oh, the joys of marketing fish!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Byrd Amendment $s to fishermen?

This is a subject that I'm foggy on, I admit it. But here's a link to an article on Gulf Shrimpers trying to get some of the tariff money to help them get back in business. Seems to me this would be as good a use for the tariffs on cheap imported seafood as there ever was. Or is there something else those shrimpers should be counting on as far as getting the boats back out fishing. The boats are the economic engine that drives that shrimp economic ecosystem and nothing else.

But it made me wonder if fishermen elsewhere are getting Byrd Amendment monies to make up for cheap imports. I thought I heard that Trident Seafoods of Seattle was getting a chunk of this money. And I haven't heard of any fishermen getting any. I could be all washed up on this, but just had to pose the question: as first owners of the fish, and the economic engines of the industry, do fishermen get a check back from a seafood company recipient? It would have a notation on the memo line saying something to the effect that it's money they are dispensing on behalf of the authors of the Byrd Amendmant.

Or do they just pocket the money? Actually, I think there is a provision for processors to benefit directly from the Byrd Amendment. It's based on income, so of course a processor is going to make out big, and they have the people to follow through with an application. There are other programs to aid the fishermen in adverse times, but they usually don't apply for the help. If there is monetary assistance that a certain group of fishermen qualify for, why not just send it to them?

Trivia for the day:

Speaking of king crab fishing again, I worked with a couple of crab crewmen once who wanted to get into fish buying. One of which was a freedom fighter in his home country at one time. His father was a military officer and had to pick him up from school in a military helicopter when the city he was in was being overrun. Another interesting character I remember was on a herring squeezing crew of mine in Whittier. He was, by his account, the last of the royal line from Bulgaria. This was a while back now of course. But he was on the lam from the Communists and I guarantee he picked about the last place on earth they would look. The reason I believed his story was because he dressed and acted the part. I gave him time off because he got tendonitis from squeezing the roe out of herring. He thought I was a prince for letting him take a break without having to collapse to do it.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Value added waits for no man

There was a notion being forwarded by the old guard processors for a long time that you couldn't do value added processing in Alaska. It seems that these folks haven't heard that bit of wisdom.

This picture doesn't have anything to do with this article. Just a picture of a loan customer of mine once.

Value adding has been a buzz word for years though. But like any kind of business, sometimes someone comes along that can do it cheaper and knocks you off your horse. On the other hand, if a strong relationship with a market is developed, and the quality is consistently high, it's a lot harder to lose your market. Buyers really are fickle folks. Look at how fast we all jumped over to WalMart.

It's been a lot of years since the name Swiftshure hung up on a building in Alaska. The owners of the name and the modus operandi has changed a bunch of times as well. It must be a good name and have a good market reputation still.

I think you're going to see a lot of these start-ups around the coast in Alaska, whether coming in with proper financing from down South, or boot-strapped together by fishermen. Fishermen do hold the cards though, with the first ownership of the fish, which they should be able to use to secure financing. Along with marketing contracts.

Unless you think the shore plants, no matter where the owners live, (mostly out of state) should be entitled to first ownership as well. How would that work for a plant with fishermen stockholders. Do they get to double-dip then? Oregon is going through this exercise now in the hake fishery. Are the owners of these plants going to be Barons, and their wives Barronesses.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Market niches

Here's what I was talking about before about niche marketing. A lot of smart folks have been encouraging Alaskans to take advantage of this. Besides yielding better prices back to fishermen, the markets are more secure. I could write a book on "more secure," but for now just take my word for it.

Picture of grading herring roe back when this kind of processing was still done in this country.

A lot of niche markets are defined by ethnic groups like the above hyper-linked article about Kosher foods. You might think there aren't that many people in the U.S. or around the world that are fixated on Kosher, but you might also be surprised. A product finding it's way into Kosher grocery stores here could soon find itself being requested by grocery stores in Jewish and other ethnic communities all over the place.

And if it's a good product, as most Kosher foods are, health food stores could easily start to get hip to it too. Salmon and whitefish are popular sources of protein in this niche. Both are certainly Kosher when they come out of the water. You just need to get a Rabbi to come into the plant and inspect the process.

Study up on things Kosher first and don't forget to greet the Rabbi with a hearty "Shalom" when he gets there.

Maybe you can wrap your thinking around the fact that the Hispanic niche market is a bona-fide niche. (Actually caucasians are going to be the niche before too long by all estimations. A poll showed that 52 percent of all Mexicans would immigrate to the U.S. in a heartbeat if they could.)

A nice product here is white fish, (I used halibut cubes) marinated in lemon juice to create Seviche. The acid "cooks" the fish in under a day, the same chemical process as cooking with heat as far as the fish is concerned.

And there's nothing to say you can't start your own Kosher foods or Hispanic foods company, specializing in seafood products. If I were doing it, I not sure I'd even bother with the decendents of Western European immigrants. There are big contingents of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Philipino, Korean, Arabic, South American of all stripes, African of all stripes, and so on in the U.S.

Seems to me like the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute could do a great service to Restructuring of the seafood industry in Alaska by hiring a Niche Marketing Specialist instead of an Asian Marketing Specialist. The latter is geared to sending large quantities of product from the traditional shore/Seattle processing plants to overseas buyers. That doesn't exactly jive with fishermen and other processors sending fish into secure, and potentially explosive niche markets in this country.

With a modicum of computer savvy, you could sleuth out every ethnic foods manufacturer, or retailer in this country as a start. Develop a product based on a load of conversations, if you don't have a problem with strange accents.Then send some samples of the product to test out. Just don't try to sell the samples before getting all the permits lined up. You might want to change the process and products after a few of these experiments anyway..

I had one fisherman and his wife contact me about selling fish overseas, who fish in a narrow window of opportunity in an isolated part of Alaska. (What part isn't?) Why not, instead, put up that product in a form and state of preservation that you could feed the market steadily all year from a burst of fishing and processing activity during the harvesting window? Then you have a "real job," like in "get a real job." I say that with all humor, not just to not offend, but to emphasize that the purpose is to have fun doing it.

And I salute the fishermen and their wives that contact me. It keeps me in the brainstorming mode, which suits me best of all.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Whether you believe a group of fishermen can get it together enough to go it alone on processing and marketing or not, here's proof it can be done.

Floating processing is not risk free. But then this is on the north shore of St. Paul Island. Not a forgiving place.

Kodiak setnetters got together and brought in a floating processing ship. And they sell to a good broker, who has 1200 or so restraunts and seafood counters to tap into. A lot of brokers don't have direct contact with retailers and chefs. But I think these are finding that to stay in business it's becoming more necessary.

Gone are the days of phone booth brokerage. They would talk themselves in for 10 percent with just a single line phone. And if you weren't careful, they would sell the product when it got to Seattle and that's the last you would see of the fish or the money. Most all of the Juneau fishermen have gone through that exercise.

There are risk reduction procedures that banks and others use to make this possibility about nil. Look for more fishermen groups following suit. There is a small fishermen's group in Southeast Alaska that bought the old "Blue Wave," a large floater, to process their seine fish. One seiner in Southeast could just about keep the average floater busy all by himself.

If they can get the 58 foot limit lifted from the seine fleet, heading and gutting could be accomplished on board the catcher vessel. Then the fish has a chance of not getting belly burnt through transportation and handling procedures that wouldn't otherwise be possible. Tuna seiners work like this. They brine freeze the fish whole on board so they can run all the way from Africa.

There's still a limit on the seine size, but giving fishermen a chance to do something other than sell to a shore based middleman would be a great step forward. The shore plants aren't hiring local labor much anymore anyway.

It used to be housewives and college kids who manned the canneries. Just look at the the men's room door at the local processing plant and it'll probably say "hombre." Those wages aren't staying in the community for the most part. The old arguements for processing in the community just don't hold much water anymore.

It's a complicated mix of local and world economic arguements. Just look at the controversy in B.C. with their 25 cent stumpage on trees. The only sense I got out of reading a "TheTyee" article and a lot of comments, was that it's too hard for the average person to make any sense out of it. But it did seem like the politics was fearsome, to the detriment of the communities that live amongst the trees.

Is there a comparison to the communities in Alaska that exist amongst the fish? How loud does big business really talk?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Salmon revitalization facts

If you thought the Alaska salmon industry was going to the dogs and there's a lack of leadership in State government, guess again. Here's a link to an article by two State Commissioners that says in a few more words what I was saying the other day.

Pelican was my home for the first two years of my life. The cold storage wrote a Fish Ticket for my parents for " One large baby boy" when I was born. Dad was running the place.

There IS leadership in salmon industry revitalization and it's having results, which means it's not guesswork, but pointed like leadership should be. I was telling someone the other day about Fran Ulmer throwing stones at Governor Murkowski in that Institute for Social and Economic Research report.

The response was that the Governor was doing lots of things wrong. That sounds mostly partisan to me. None of this partisanship has any place in a free market economy. The Chilean fish farmers don't care if we fight among ourselves. All the more market share for them.

If the folks who wrote that ISER report knew their p's and q's about the fishing industry they would know that the restructuring initiatives that are in the works at the moment have the potential to blow the fish farmers out of the water. It's folks that get a little information and run with it that are in actuality holding back revitalization of the industry. We surely don't need that.

Forget the politics and lets all get a free market mentality. Then salmon will be able to compete globally. (Notice I don't call farmed fish from Chile and Norway salmon, most of the time. They are really a trout, and we all know trout just does not compete on the grill with REAL salmon.)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Best Picture of Salmon Thirty Salmon

Heres a link to a cool pic. of the Alaska Airlines 737 painted with a king salmon scheme. Some commentators are right to say about other commentators dissing this project, that there's no call for bashing ingenuity.

As for it costing half a million dollars of taxpayer's dollars: the Norwegian government spent tens of millions of their taxpayers dollars to start marketing Norwegian farmed salmon in the U.S. What do you think would happen to our balance of trade deficit if U.S. citizens bought more American salmon over foreign salmon.

Not only would the dollars stay in this country, but they would be going to American fishermen that support many small communities in Alaska that don't have any other way of surviving. Seems to me that it's money well spent for one thing, and another, how else are you going to do battle for market share in this new age of the global economy.

Seems to me we need more people taking a wholistic view of the global market-place and fewer people taking potshots from a position of low self-esteem, or whatever other reason, at those who do have vision.

The pot of money the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board is doling out is being spent sparingly on good projects with a high reliability factor based on performance in other markets. I hope. We don'tneed to mix apples with oranges and compare this kind of marketing with other non-marketing expenditures. Compare it to crop subsidies if necessary.

And as for public scruitiny and participation in the expenditures of this pot of money to help the fishermen of Alaska compete globally, well, this is a Republic, remember. It's not a pure democracy. Don't know if there are any. We could do like they do in one town in Europe, meet in the town square and yell out our yeas and nays. With all the laws that get passed every day in this country, we'd have to camp out permanently in the town square.

But to help you make up your mind about accountability, here's a link for you on the transparency of the spending of the pot of money for marketing.

Giving money to existing companies to market fish based on current purchases from fishermen doesn't do the fishermen any good that are trying to vertically integrate themselves. So this Board "system" may not be in the best interest of other "restructuring" initiatives.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Is a ""market" a market?

But today - roughly 72 hours after Hurricane Rita roared ashore - is different. Today there is no market.

This line caught my eye today, even though the article is a little dated. The rub is that the shrimpers in the Gulf are reported to have no market. But the consumers hungry for wild Gulf shrimp are still there. So, what's the deal?

The deal is that fishermen everywhere use the term "market" to refer to the closest person willing to buy their catch. That has spawned other middlemen willing to invest in plants and equipment to buy, process and sell that catch to others, often other middlemen, and eventually the consumers.

These first middlemen, often refered to as "secondary producers," have found they can make good money from fishermen's reluctance to go directly as possible to the consumers, or at least the retailers. In actuality, even if the secondary producers go away or spend their money on limos and condos and can't give a good ex-vessel price, the markets are still there.

Ray Cessarini in Valdez, Alaska got a good secondary processing operation going by starting out driving his halibut up the road and selling out of his pickup. Harold Kalve in Anchorage did the same thing. He drove his catch south in a refrigerated truck and sold his catch at a big intersection in Colorado. Others have made a good living buying product from the Gulf and driving north and selling out of a truck in the upper Midwest.

It grieves me to hear about the Gulf shrimpers dumping bags of headed shrimp in the harbor because they say their "market" has been wiped out by the hurricanes. News flash: the hurricanes didn't touch the markets. It's funny how our paradigms are so rigid, but they can shift, especially when born of necessity.

I hope for a lot of fishermen's sakes that they can make this paradigm shift. And it might be the right thing to do to help them make that shift. It's probably not anyone's responsibility to help them make this shift, but it sure would help the communities where these fishermen live, and the family members affected so directly.

The author of the above article is probably right when he says it will probably surprise everyone how quickly the Gulf fishery will bounce back. If I could get cod from the Shumagin Islands off the Alaska Peninsula up to Anchorage, reboxed, then shipped to Korea, still fresh, the Gulf shrimpers probably can do something similar.

I hope they do for the sake of rebuilding that industry, but also so they can see how much more money they can make by going to the real markets. I'm generalizing a lot here, of course, but it takes a potent catalyst to make the shift in thought processes to vertically integrate, to stay in business. In Alaska it took pink prices to get below 10 cents a pound. That's like a hurricane.

The tradgedy would be for the paradigm to never shift. It would be like the court case that was won by citing an urban legend to sway the jury.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The "Rat" Plan

What's with this Kodiak Daily Mirror story about rationalization? SB 113 possibly still allows allocation to the “seafood processing” sector as a co-op or association or some other entity, effectively taking the resource out of the independent fishermen’s reach.

Picture of my old stomping grounds: the Alaska State Office Building, affectionately referred to as the S.O.B.

What if a group of fishermen, say all the fishermen in an RSDA region, got their association going and got a processing plant or two or three? I just hope there was and is going to be plenty of public input on all these "rationalization" plans to hear what EVERYONE is planning. I know that the big trawl and shore-based companies have "government affairs" people on staff. And I hear that independent fishermen, for the most part, are not computer users.

So, go figure who is getting heard in the halls of various capitols. My blog traffic is always heavier in the time-zone somewhat east of Alaska. It's just a fact of life. If the writer of the above article needs more information on rationalization, he can just start a Google search on it and have the results come to his e-mail. And it will be world-wide, not just North American. But search other similar words too, like revitalization, and anything else in Roget"s Thesaurus.

I've found some awesome "association" concepts around the world this way. The Kodiak Daily Mirror writer, and all stakeholders, should want the best framework possible. Just ask the right questions. When I was championing the seafood development association concept in the early '90s, an aide who had worked in a cannery one summer wrote the bill to get it going. You can guess how far that went.