Wednesday, November 30, 2005

MSA reauthorization news: an East Coast perspective

This is an article from the East Coast that gives a different perspective of the Act and the efforts to reauthorize it through 2012.
Maine fishermen are having the same trouble with it that Alaska fishermen are. They are worried that the small time fishermen and communities are going to go broke too. There appears to be some legislation on the horizon to ameliorate these effects.

The build-up of the processing sector at Dutch Harbor.

The legislation to tinker with and extend the Act are political solutions. They are also like band-aids on superficial problems. There's no way to nail down the effects of legislation as sweeping as this. There are no professors, bureaucrats, lawyers or witchdoctors that have the answers to what is going to happen to the fishing industry and the communities with something like this.

The original Act was ammended many times in order to protect the stocks of fish. The science was supposed to be down to a gnat's eyebrow. There are still stocks that are in trouble, maybe even more than before the Act. So does that give a lot of confidence in everything being hunky dory with the new amendment? I wouldn't say so.

In fact, the writing is on the wall in king crab gurry, that would suggest that there is big trouble brewing. And that would be for the politicians that don't include the fishermen in the decision making process on quota schemes. Political suicide comes to mind. Why not let fishermen decide if there even should be more quota schemes in the first place? The following quote is from the above hyperlinked article.

"According to Allen, the bill would accomplish those goals by giving fishermen a strong voice in the creation of any quota system and in the allocation of quotas. The bill also includes language aimed at preventing excessive concentration of quotas in a few hands, and calls for the quotas to be reviewed periodically. Crocker said NAMA, which represents mostly individual, small-boat fishermen supported Allen’s bill.
“If you want to keep vibrant, small fishing communities alive,” and insure access to the fisheries for future generations, he said, “it’s the best safeguard to be protected against the negative impacts of quotas.”

Then there certainly is a disconnect between the number of plant owners that want a quota and the many hundreds of fishermen who already have fishing priviledges. Personally I think the Harbor Masters deserve a quota share. I would say that the solution lies in whatever helps the most kids the most. And them being in the small communities near the fishing grounds, where most of the fishermen live.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Enterprise zones to help fishermen, Grant for oyster processing plant

"The enterprise zones were started to attract jobs to coastal communities where workers were hurt by the net-ban restrictions. But things have gotten worse for Wakulla-based marine workers who have been pummelled by hurricanes and red tide, said Ron Crum, president of the Wakulla Fisherman's Association."

Petersburg got it's start by utilizing enterprize zones. They were called public docks, with shareholders and all. The former Kayler-Dahl dock in the foreground started as a public dock. So did the Petersburg Fisheries cold storage.

"The enterprise zones will help rebuild the seafood industry, Crum said. He explained that a struggling fisherman could possibly find a job in a seafood-related business in an enterprise zone." I don't know why there aren't more towns in Alaska like Wrangell that believe in enterprise zones. Some towns in Alaska will bend over backward to attract a new business and others will chase them off with a stick.

Another way to do it is try to get whatever land you can by the waterfront and get an Economic Development Administration grant for a piece of infrastructure. This is what the Shellfish Growers Cooperative in Homer did. They are getting a one million dollar plant so they can shuck oysters and hold live oysters. This will be a real boon for the dozen or so oyster growers around Kachemak Bay. Not to mention the 70 people that will get a job there.

It's going to be up to the city councils of all the individual towns to get the vision of giving priority to seafood related enterprises on the waterfront, and keep the travel agents and gift shops at bay. A little anyway, would be appreciated.

Juneau is finding out a little late that it doesn't have enough working waterfront for the demand for fresh and live seafood that could be shipped from that airport. The reason the Juneau airport is so much better than the others in S.E. Alaska is because it is out in front of a glacier. The cold draft keeps the runway clear of fog when the others are closed. (Juneau is basically "on the grounds," unlike Anchorage.) And since there is pitiful little cargo space to be had on airliners, I guess all the "space available" about matches.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The G5 Fish Tag, more on RFID

Now there is a way to track those wayward salmon on their journey into the trackless expanse of the North Pacific Ocean. Maybe. The Brits have come up with a device, after working on it for 20 years, that we might want to try. The problem we have had was brought home this summer when runs up and down the coast failed to show up. And nobody could say what happened to them because nobody knows where they go.

Of course you have to have a pretty good map of the ocean in regards temperature at various depths all over. For all I know the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is "on it" already. How is it that I don't believe that though?

The ADF&G used to catch some salmon coming into Southeast Alaska and stick them with a tag that looked like a little airport locker tag. The idea was to see which stream they were heading for. I found a humpy packing one of these tags in a stream on the north end of Kuiu Island one year. I sent it in and got all of a dollar as a reward. Fishermen would have to send in the G5 tag too. Hopefully the reward would go up.

Here's more information on RFID tags too. I saw a presentation on this at Fish Expo. in Seattle recently. Monitoring fish shipments is starting to go high tech. and there's no turning back probably. The information gathered this way is invaluable IF the shipper and everyone down the supply chain remains dilligent about keeping the seafood in pristine condition.

A valuable piece of this article is a hyperlink near the end of the article labled "sensors" that links you to a glossary of RFID terminology. In fact the website is called "RFID Journal" and looks like one to bookmark for future reference.

Symphony of Seafood, Ernest Enge - author/fisherman

It's time to throw your new seafood product in the ring for a chance at the prize of taking it to the Boston Seafood Show. Not that you couldn't take your product there on your own nickel anyway. You could even take your product to the big Seafood Show in Belgium, and a dozen other places.

The type of boat my Grandfather and my Uncle fished, starting in about 1916.

But here's the scoop on the application process. And don't forget to run your product through the "12 year old, litmus test." If a 12 year old boy will eat it, it's a good product. If he likes it, you've got a winner and you might as well start looking for a Mercedez Benz to replace that 1969 Ford pick-up.

Just for the halibut, here's an excerpt from the book, "The Good Old Days," by Ernest Enge. Ernest was my uncle and I seemed to have my "firsts" when I was with him: first deer, first fishing tirp. My first trip commercial fishing was a 10 day trip with him. I was about fourteen at the time and got $25 for mostly chopping gurdy bait. Ernest ran the family boat "Augusta" starting in 1946. He had started fishing at an early age with his father Martin, my grandfather and a Petersburg "highliner," as did my father. This is a glimpse of one day in the life of a halibut fisherman in "The Good Old Days."

"Bill Johnson was along this trip. After setting the gear at Yasha Island, a whole fleet of trollers moved around us. With them came a blanket of fog. Soon everything got quiet. The boats were drifting and the men were talking to each other. We heard one fellow holler over, "I think I see land." Having a chain saw aboard, Bill put it on the hatch, started it up, and after a while, hollered out, "Timber." I think every troller boat at Pt. Gardner started their engines up. As I was writing this story, Bill died February 20, 1985."

It really takes the experience of the eerie quiet and disorientation of a fog on a flat calm day in S.E. Alaska to really appreciate the humor in that, I suppose. Ernest was like a lot of the career halibut fishermen who believed that a little humor now and then was a necessary ingredient in the fishing life.

This is one of several books Ernest has written about commercial fishing in Alaska in about the first seventy-five years of the 1900s. He and Gordon Jensen put the first steel fishing boats in the Petersburg fleet. Ernest was diagnosed with M.S. the next year and had to lease out the boat from then on. But just before building the Martina, he skippered the Sparrow Castle for Kayler-Dahl Fish Co. to prospect for king crab in S.E. Alaska.

That must have been the fall of '66, because I was on the tender "Laddie" that summer and we followed the brand new steel Sparrow Castle around awhile that summer. That was the first steel boat I had been around and it was a real thrill at the time. The next time I saw the Sparrow Castle it was in Dutch Harbor and Bob Bark had it. Other boats I crewed on ended up longlining out of Dutch Harbor too. The "Miss Norma," that used to belong to Audy Mathiesen, and the "Nakat," that had belonged to Steve Enge, my brother.

The calcium connection, Las Vegas restaurants

"When the sun strikes your skin it produces vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D is also found in fish oil and egg yolks, but few other foods." This statement struck me because of the fact that calcium in the diet could arguably be as important as Omega 3 fatty acid. After all who wants to get osteoporosis, that debilitating weakening of the bones. We really need our bones to hold our bodies in the right shape. Unless being a Darth Vader doesn't bother you.

I see "seafood sales gold veins" flying around the country.

So when says that fish oil is their third top selling health item, it's pause for reflection on how might Alaska benefit from the trend. Baby boomers are looking for a silver bullet to strike back at the growing awareness of their mortality. Fish oil is something that just HAS to be good for you. You can almost imagine squeezing the oil out of fish with a ringer washing machine. Even though I believe in taking a multi-vitamin, it's hard to imagine that all those vitamins and minerals are coming from a source that you could recognize as being natural, good for you and maybe even morally correct.

How many fish oil pills are being sold? Where does this fish oil come from? Is it really fish oil? What is the real omega-3 and vitamin D content of these pills? For food supplements, there is not a lot of regulation of potency. For all I know, these pills might be canola oil with a little synthetic vitamin D and some fish flavor thrown in to give a good fishy belch. Maybe the Fish Tech. Center in Kodiak knows. They might even be able to shed some light on how Alaskans can get in on this veritable gold rush.

We also have an article here on the rapid rise of everything Las Vegas, including restraurants. These are high end, just like everything else in Vegas. 62,000 jobs were created in Las Vegas last year. While in Los Angeles, scores of trendy restraurants have recently closed, they are opening right and left in Las Vegas.

Big buck Asians are skipping Rodeo Drive to head straight for Las Vegas and it's new high-end shopping and dining. Alaskans may have a hard time getting a vision for selling seafood to these folks, who will spend $4,000 on rare wine for a meal.

So, what am I saying, do Alaskan fishermen need to expand their vision? Probably. Do they need to find niche markets for themselves? Probably. When you rely on someone else to do this work and to have the larger vision for your product, you just cut your profits in half. Maybe more. When you're talking about HIGH-end seafood, you're talking about a GPS tracking device on the shipment, a courier to go with the load, packed in dry ice in excess luggage, paddlocked containers, 24 hours out of the boat, taxi service to the restaurant and cash on the barrel-head for the courier, and maybe a massage and dinner thrown in too.

See how just getting a new vision can help a program. Fisher folk need help getting the vision, that's about all. They can do the rest. After all, aren't high tech jobs going to countries now that we only saw in the National Geographic? The people might not have been the ones wearing the brass necklasses and that's about all, but you never thought they would have the tech jobs in a few years. So I guess American fishermen, with their Yankee ingenuity, can sell some top quality seafood to the neveau rich.

Might even help the trade imbalance, and besides, the guys that sold the $4,000 of wine don't have any problem charging the moon for their wares. I remember a 20 year old kid, that I met on the Kibbutz in Israel, made a bundle with a little ingenuity. He disappeared for a couple of days. Turns out he had gone to Jerusalem, bought a stamp collection, flew to Athens and sold it for a $10,000 profit, flew back and caught up on his sleep in the nicest hotel in Jerusalem.

These kind of guys aren't eating anyone's lunch, they are just charging what the market will bear, like everyone else. Ther's no moral high ground in selling low. Check out the parable of the wise servant.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Threatened species: fishermen AND salmon

Salmon in the Pacific Northwest have new champions in the form of federal judges. These judges don't buy the line that there is nothing that can be done to save the wild runs of salmon that go up the Klamath, the Columbia and other rivers. They have found too much evidence that the Federal Government is just stalling. Until maybe the salmon are all gone, and it becomes a moot point?

My No. 4 son trying to grow up sane in Eastern Oregon.

Sockeye salmon users in Upper Cook Inlet, Alaska are starting to pressure the State government there to do something about the runs there too. And it sounds like the familiar scruffing of foot dragging up there too. It's a tough situation and one that I'm glad I'm not involved in. There is always the option of moving away from a problem. But some people get pushed once too often and dig their heels in and fight for what they think is the right thing to do. And saving salmon runs is a popular cause.

Salmon runs aren't like reserving a pool of oil in the ground. Even trees are somewhat a one time extraction. But a salmon run happens every year, and can contribute millions and millions of dollars, through the multiplier effect, to the local economy. When there are other places to build our cities besides on top of a salmon stream, we should go with the former. Maybe the economy is getting so big that even built up salmon runs are peanuts compared to a Nike or some computer company. But would you like to end up with just computer companies and sneaker companies as choices for an occupation or recreation.

Sport fishing for salmon was a great way to stay sane through the teen years in Alaska. Subsistence fishing in Upper Cook Inlet for reds was just as recreating. Watching your net fill up with your 85 reds as the tide roared in. The immense pod of beluga whales going by following the school of salmon. The warm summer sun, and bringing all those silver, omega-3 containers, back to the smokehouse and pickle barrel. Bureaucrats hired out of the Ivy League schools don't have a clue what it's all about. I tried being a bureaucrat once and found it to be mutually exclusive of the hunting/gathering mentality. Not that we don't need people with a one track mind on progress, but progress should be a type of progress folks want and not be forced to take just because it was in "Government Technology" magazine.

I didn't see a whole lot of compassion for fishermen in government, come to think of it. Just a lot of "whoopie, this is a fun job." Thank goodness judges have a little understanding. And commercial and sport fishermen can still vote.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Seafood gift packs, more on "rationalization"

A Canadian company that sells seafood gift packs has seen a lot of challenges. Take for example loosing a customer that represented 25% of it's sales, and the airport retailers who asked them to cut their prices 30%. Can mom and pop operations weather these kinds of storms? Read the article from a West Coast Canadian web site.

When you fly around in the Alaskan "bush" a lot, you'll eventually fly over one of the 59 active volcanoes.

The crux of the matter, in selling seafood gift boxes, is that there has been a shift away from giving a bottle of whiskey to a business client or associate at Christmas, or anytime. It's a kinder, more gentle business world, where women have become more entrenched at all levels. Remember, the bulk of the herring roe pack goes into little gift boxes for giving to business associates around the New Year. When there are Alaskan packed herring roe gift boxes on the department store shelves in Tokyo, then the Alaska seafood industry will have grown up.

Speaking of Canadians, I talked to a British Columbia author at the Fish Expo in Seattle last week who used to work in fish politics. He was touting his book, "Salmon Wars," that he spent four years writing, without any support. There is no glory in writing something like that because the folks that have the money to get the story out generally don't want the story getting out. Dennis Brown knows the inner workings of B.C. fish politics and has some dire warnings regarding individual fishing quotas, etc. B.C. fisheries have always been a bell-weather for the fisheries in Alaska.

Dennis really wanted me to read the book, and I will when I can resolve how I'm going to continue offering this service. There are two issues here. One, is that sometimes we get compelled to write this stuff, no matter the consequences to ourselves. And two, giving back, unconditionally, is about the bravest thing you can do. The trick is to do it unconditionally. A lot of government service and charity work is giving back to society, but when charity CEOs are making in the upper six figures, then it sure as heck isn't unconditional.

Maybe our elected leaders, policy-makers, law-and-order types and the sort, should be measured by the top bar. After all, they raise the bar on us all the time. The thing is, the politically powerless have a way of suddenly speaking up and throwing the rascals out and saving the good ones. After all, it's "government by the people, for the people and of the people." "Of the people," in my dictionary, means "containing," "belonging to," "having as an important quality," and "relating to."

I think what is being called rationalization is just a test of how far special interests can get, by using government as a tool in their toolbox. If you took out processor quota shares from rationalization, what would you have then? Maybe just good fisheries management. Fisheries management has no business, in the context of the Constitution as I understand it, telling businesses who they have to do business with. We have warmed up in the proverbial frog-in-the-kettle analogy by going along with limited entry permits for fishing, and individual fishing quotas for fishermen. I reckon we'll be pretty well cooked when the temperature gets up to blocking any more competition in processing.

This kind of thing might be what will get fishermen to join large regional associations; just to protect themselves. And that some fishermen have always had a larger vision and have vertically integrated into processing. Taking this away in "rationalization" would take away a very viable option for the regional development associations. There is little else these regionals have to offer at the starting gate. Is it just a coincidence that these attacks on the harvesting sector are starting to mount just when fishermen are given the opportunity to finally gain their footing in the industry?

Anyway, Dennis' book can be had from Captain's Nautical Supplies in Seattle. This is a cool site to bookmark anyway, especially for reference before Christmas. You men might want to hint to your wives that this site has "the good stuff."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mad about "rationalization" and won't take it anymore

There are some pretty ticked off people over this so-called rationalization business, as I found out at Fish Expo in Seattle the last few days. Here's an exerpt from "rationalization country." "Ted’s former aide, Trevor McCabe, now Ben’s partner, has long schemed to rationalize Alaska’s fisheries, by giving public resources away to select companies, including current clients. In 2001, McCabe was already spearheading rationalization and processor quota shares in the Gulf of Alaska by e-mail. He’s the former executive director of At-Sea Processors Association, who paid Ben as well."

Would that the stark beauty of Alaska and the hard work it takes to live there, put a little humility in a few of the elected leaders.

The whole Kodiak Mirror story is here.

You also got organizations popping up, with booths at the Expo., to shed light on this subject. One was handing out copies of a news release by the Governor's office. It is a draft called "Governor Announces State's Position on Reauthorization of the MSA Act, Emphasizes Opposition to Processor Shares." But if you read closely enough, the brain fog from double-talk settles in. And maybe Becky Hultberg, the Governor's press spokeswoman, just didn't explain it very well. But please explain this from the news release, Becky:

"Strong opposition to the inclusion of processing quota shares in new rationalized fisheries, but support for use of harvestiong quota shares of limited duration as a tool for use in newly rationalized fisheries in order to provide balanced benefits for harvesters and processors to benefit Alaskan coastal communities;"

What are you talking about? Balanced benefits for harvesters and processors? When you start talking like this you're talking social engineering not free enterprise. If you're going to give processors quota shares in all the newly "rationalized" fisheries, what difference is there between that and full support for processor quota shares? Read the State position statement again real slowly. My goodness, that's a lousy job of camouflaging support for processor quota shares.

Hey, the processors are in the business of processing, they don't need the fishermens' businesses too. And would the government quit using words that aren't in the dictionary. The average Alaskan that is having his access to fish resources taken from him has no clue what "rationalization" of the fisheries means. When the government uses it, it just allows them put any definition on it they want. Have a neighbor read the above statement and you'll see what I mean.

The only thing that "rationalization" is shaking out to mean, is that government and big business is trying to rationalize taking away a brailer load of rights that Alaskans have historically enjoyed.

Byrd Amendment repeal and "process your own"

It always got me that the Byrd Amendment provided for some big bucks for seafood processors that complained of damage by foreign imports of similar species to the ones they were packing. But I haven't seen any mention of a fisherman getting in on any of this largess,

A few of these old buildings is all there is left of the working waterfront in downtown Halifax, N.S. Canada.

I guess the assumption was that by just simplisticly getting some money back into the same industry as the imported product, all would be well. And this redress comes out of taxes on seafood imports, the same money that painted a salmon on an Alaska Airlines jet, that well should benefit ALL players in the industry.

And seafood processors aren't the only ones benefitting. It's growers of sugar cane, and all kinds of products that make it seem like the U.S. is a protectionist country. Not the great Free Trade advocate that we try to make ourselves out to be.

But the first thing a player does when there is some windfall like this, is to consolidate his position against the other players. This is not good for small processors and fishermen trying to become small processors, and maybe if they can catch the brass ring, become big processors.

Speaking of small processors, it seems that the proposed Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Rationalization Plan would say "nyet" on any small processors trying to get into the game. Well, maybe not "nyet," the Russians even ditched socialism. The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council wouldn't see their actions in THAT light of course. Just in the light of, those major players/councilors, consolidating their position as good business men and women naturally do. That's the type of fisheries management system we have.

Another bit of news that makes you scratch your head in amazement comes from Maine. They seem to be on a real seafood revitalization roll these days. First it was protecting the waterfront from condos and out-of-state investors. Now it's a processing plant so their lobsters can really be Maine products instead of Canadians processing Maine lobsters and calling them Canadian lobsters.

Seems consumers are starting to prefer a lobster product that they can put in chowders, etc. They like the convenience. I also read that they are finding new lobster grounds 200 miles off-shore. That's a surprising area to me. The Canadians are getting surf clams 200 miles off-shore too. They process them and package them for the surimi market and get over five dollars a pound for the meats. I had to go over to Halifax for that information.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Individual Fishing Quotas: by Craig Medred

There are some very knowledgeable and lucid Alaskan writers speaking out on some issues in the seafood-o-sphere these days. One writer I've always liked has been writing on outdoor stuff for the Anchorage Daily News. He was the outdoor and fishing columnist when I got to Anchorage twenty years ago. There's a guy that found what he likes to do and did it well. I think I'm going to include letters like these in this blog for a permanent record, in these archives anyway. They are easy to get at.

IFQs make sure other folks won't get a crack at something like these 80 acres, of Alaska at it's finest, a big black cod IFQ holder has. Don't get me wrong, it couldn't have happened to nicer folks.

And, the Monday after a trip to the Fish Expo in Seattle requires a ton of other duties, like looking at why the furnace isn't working, and returning the rental car. So enjoy Craig's article on IFQs. I was lobbied in Seattle to reprint a fisherman's letter to a editor, and I will if I can find it. Some fishermen's letters are just classic (like in pulling all the tinsel and ornaments off an issue), and need to be spread around some more. And if it's for the good of the industry as well as coastal residents, and is constructive, I'll print it here. Not to worry, I have a hard time not bashing people too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Congratulations to Maine fishermen

The Maine fishing industry finally won their tax fight with the developers and vacation home people. They won big. Now they can afford to keep that valuable fisheries infrastructure that is such an integral part of a vibrant industry; the docks and other waterfront property. Would that other states pass a constitutional amendment to tax waterfront property based on historic use as well.

When I was the Fisheries Infrastructure Development Specialist for the State of Alaska, it would have been handy to have had a free rein to look at issues like this. Then maybe they wouldn't have taken such exception to my idea of a seafood development association.

Picture of the old Ship Creek cannery in Anchorage. We put up 80,000 cases here one summer. Last I heard there was a tourist/office complex slated for the place.

If Alaska had such a law we might not have people like the rich German industrialists that have a lodge and private dock on the Petersburg waterfront. There are any number of fishermen and fisheries business people that would give their eye teeth for that property. These private acquisitions come about real quietly, I guarantee.

When Coastal Zone Management Planning by communities was big in the early '80s, I got to be the chairman of the waterfront committee in Petersburg. One person started to come to the meetings and then wanted to be the secretary. I could tell he wasn't writing down anything, so I had to tell him to "write that down" on occasion. Then the next thing you know, that man acquires a piece of beach property and builds a house on the lower side of the beach road, quite contrary to the desires of everyone in town.

I still think the Alaska Municipal League could be instrumental in helping retain the model of the successful fishing port in the coastal communities in Alaska. And there IS a model. It has evolved over the millenia and doesn't include putting fish processing up in the muskeg or the tundra because it can't get a place on the waterfront.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Fish soup and seafood breadings

Here's a good article on the essence of the soup making craft. There's nothing like a good salmon chowder in my book. I have to admit that I'm not too keen on the way a lot of people make it in Bristol Bay, with the skin on the chunks of salmon. That's a cultural influence of course. But then they would laugh at a story my mother tells about my father, who is of Norwegian extraction.

Seems someone gave him a big king salmon when he was running the cold storage in Pelican right after my folks got married. The story goes, that my dad gave away fish steaks all the way home on the board street and brought the head home for a good soup. My mother, being from Iowa and not too keen on just seeing the sun for a few hours in that deep fjord to begin with, was not pleased with not having a steak of it herself, to say the least.

Now if breading a piece of seafood has caught your imagination, whether just for dinner or for half a million dinners, here's some good information on breading. Can you imagine hali-beer bits for the masses. We'd have to put a gate across at Ketchikan to keep everyone out. They'd be breaking down the border crossings to get more. The point is that you can't just assume someone buying a halibut fillet in Kansas is going to know what to do with it.

I know ASMI understands this, but hali-beer bits won't be widely known of until probably some fishermen's group breads the halibut IN Alaska. And how do you go about this exactly? "This effort requires one voice," said Trula Remson, president of the Louisiana chapter of the American Institute of Architects, "a persuasive, prepared and passionate voice." 500 planners got together to chart a course for Southern Louisiana and that was the kind of thing they came up with.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The new seafood magazine: "Wild Catch"

This new seafood magazine has been a long time coming. I was wondering when some news was going to show up on it. I agree with their thesis, that the information getting to the retail sector is all over the truth and honesty scale. This mag. has a chance to finally put to rest a ton of bad information on wild seafood. And why should the Monterey Bay Aquarium be the only authoritative voice, if it is one, that address chefs' and consumers' questions about wild caught seafood.

This picture of the glacier behind a Juneau suburb is an example of what Wild Catch magazine is trying to do. Reveal little known facts that can make the experience so much better.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn't make much of an attempt to inform anybody of anything except to let fish processors know they are being watched like a hawk. So, if you want to do a good job of selling seafood, here's a dynamite source of information. The editorial board is impressive too. More blue blood there than Buckingham Palace.

I have a feeling that a young man might do just about as well memorizing this magazine as memorizing course material on the seafood supply chain at the University of Alaska. And save all that money. One reason I say this is because a Regional Vice President we had at a fish company told me he didn't think the President even knew he had a degree. That President was a legend, and built up the largest fish company Alaska had at the time. Go figure.

I know from experience that "it's who you know" that packs water in this industry. And the best way to get to know folks is to just get to work in the business, and that means starting at the bottom. In the machinery of the seafood industry, folks were always valued who had experience AND a natural aptitude for it. It's a big industry and there's definitely room for people that know their stuff. Rest assured that modern communications will now be able to sniff out when someone "has risen to their level of incompetence."

"Every issue of Wild Catch will contain important and useful information on the entire wild seafood supply chain, including species and industry education; marketing insights; wild seafood business analysis; stats, trends and forecasts; chef and retailer profiles; distribution logistics; value-adding strategies; and, wild seafood processing and technology. Backed by some of the industry's biggest players, founding partners of Wild Catch include Ocean Beauty, AquaStar and Alaska Airlines; while leading industry professionals from the Chef's Collaborative, Seafood Choices Alliance, Marine Stewardship Council, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Southeastern Fisheries Association, Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, among others, serve on the editorial advisory board."

If that doesn't sound impressive, I don't know what does. They even asked yours truely if they could use some of my material. I appreciate them asking, because they could have just used 10% max. anyway. Well, we'll see if they quote me. If they include, in every issue, sources of more information, then they will really have something. If they make out like they are the end-all and be-all, then there is bound to be some suspicion. The main thesis, and I hope they have a firm grip on it, is to simply ratchet up the conversation.

Ratcheting up the conversation pulls the gear groups together, pulls the processors and fishermen together as business partners, pulls the economic development folks to the table, and gets everyone on the same page, all the way down to the bus boy in the restaurant. This is one of the reasons I started to blog last spring. There just needs to be more conversation about what counts, and less fishing "war stories."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"Oh, where have all the newspapers gone,......"

You won't ever catch me using a title like "Tech.......something." That's the quickest way to get us old-school types to head for bed. But like it or not, that's the kind of world we live in. Some experts are now dividing us into the categories of the "have DSL" and the "don't have DSL." Never mind the size of our bank accounts, DSL will level the playing field and then make the necessary corrections to the DSL users' accounts.

Talk about changing times. My son on the beach in Douglas, AK. This is what one man looked like as a boy, who the U.S. government used to nab one of the most despotic dictators in history.

One of my sons, who is becoming the communicator emeritus, was offered free dial-up, but almost decided to be without the Internet than not have DSL. It's the reason hardly anybody rides a bicycle to work. They would rather walk or do anything else. It's just so passe.And too, society is building roads for DSL just like they are building roads for cars. There's not much planning for dial-up useage any more than for bike paths along-side new freeways.

Well, here's Three Tips in using RSS feeds for now. I mean, you could get my posts and any other source of news you want, to come to you, instead of having to go to it. Saves a lot of time. I spend hours a day researching for my posts, and I still use a search engine to bring me stuff. I couldn't even do this without a news feed. If it's a hobby, like this is, you can't spend all day at it, and if you get paid, you could get paid twice as much.

Guaranteed, if someone would invent sunglasses where our news would display automatically on the inside of the lenses once a day, he'd be a rich man. The iconoclastic dad reading the paper before dinner while the dog fetches his slippers is LONG gone. Some of us used to go to work at the bank 45 minutes early to read the paper. That's getting to be a thing of the past as well.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Marketing Genius

That's a catchy title if I ever saw one. I didn't make it up. It is the title of an article about a famous restauranteur. He has more different concepts than you can shake a stick at. And makes 45 to 50 million dollars having such fun. Sounds like he will partner with someone with a good concept. Any ideas?

I heard of a guy that fished around Kodiak for a couple of years as a deckhand, then moved to Buffalo, N.Y. and opened a restaurant called the Kodiak Cafe. Apparently he was importing Alaska fish to serve and making a killing. Same reason a "New York Deli" works so good on the West Coast. It has a mystique about it. My "Passport Alaska" sold fabulously in the gift shops in Alaska and back East, but I couldn't sell one in Seattle. This marketing stuff just goes on and on.

There's a new magazine starting up that Pacific Fishing magazine came up with to address marketing stuff. It is intended to be a bridge between the source of supply and the end of the supply chain, like the restauranteur in the above article. Although it never shows up in my search results. I think anyone that has survived a marriage very long will attest to the fact that communications is of primary concern. Anything to rachet up the conversation in the extended seafood industry. These chefs are the Alaskan fishermen's extended family.

If you need that rich uncle, ya better go talk to him. A standoff doesn't hurt him, it just hurts the fisherman. The day is coming real soon where fishermen will have the confidence and tools to make those trips to see Uncle Harry. One of my readers that fishes quotes Pythagoras. I have a feeling he'll be making the trip one of these days very soon.

Kodiak king crab, oyster prices

The start of the king crab fishery in Alaska was defined by the activities of Lowell Wakefield, the pioneering processor. The locals on Kodiak Island were such a breed that they didn't know they weren't supposed to fish in such rough seas either. And they had a knack for finding their way out to their pots and getting back the same way, in a sort of a low tech way.

Blast frozen tanners for the Japanese market in the little plant I ran in Juneau. The few king crab we got in partly went to provide some legislative functions with top eats.

Along comes the Alaska King Crab Marketing and Quality Control Board, of which my father was a founding member, and the fishery was off and running. In a previous post I described how the Board, at my father's suggestion, went with Frank Horsley's ad agency in Seattle instead of Lowell's ad men from Chicago. And thus the foundation for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute was laid.

Funny things were happening, like a U. of W. grad student studying the parasites on the underside of the female king crab. Some thought that was the most mundane thing imaginable to be studyiing in the early '70s. Turns out it might have been a very important thing to be studying. Here's an article on a current effort to find out what happened to the stocks. Not that the forces of harvesting and processing a mother lode would have slowed down to listen to any bad news.

My father got on the King Crab Board because he was gearing up and sending out boats to commercialize the Southeast Alaska king crab stocks. One of the boats he sent out launched the pots into too deep of water for the bouy lines, and that was the end of that boat's participation. But the participation of those pots went on and on. The learning curve for skippers was steep in those days.

Here's an article on the oyster business. Seems like the fortunes of the Washington oystermen have taken a serious turn for the better since Katrina wiped out most of the oyster beds in the Deep South. It'll be some years before reseeding will result in a harvestable crop down there. In the meantime consumers will have to pay dearly for oysters or switch to other kinds of shellfish.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The 90 -10 Cartel

"Processors said it was too early to tell what prices would be, but Tom Casey, director of the Alaska Fisheries Conservation group, which represents 19 crab vessels, said most fishers were getting about $4 a pound, compared with $4.85 to $5 a pound during the opener last year." Read the Alaska Journal of Commerce article here.

P. cod jig boat in Dutch Harbor.

I won't say a lot about this sorry state of affairs, because it's easy to point out the egg on someone else's face. But "rationalization" folks could learn a thing or two from the salmon "revitalization" folks. Fisherfolk and communities have a hard enough time with laws that come down from the NPFMC court. They don't need laws coming down from the Alaska legislature on how to run a fishery. I guess some legislators saw the NPFMC wield their club on all those crab crewmen and skippers that lost their jobs and thought it looked like fun.

I find it hard to comprehend that an Alaska state legislator would bring a dog and pony show to the constituency instead of just doing the job and finding out how people felt first. I can see the Department of Transportation doing it, like they did with the Southeast Transportation Plan, but not a legislator. DOT was going to make people walk 1/4 mile through Stikine winds to get on and off ferries at the south end of Mitkof Island, which they had only flown over once or twice on a sunny day. (That would have included women with small children down to newborns.) Why didn't DOT ask the loggers who had a log dump in the area what it would be like to land a ferry there.

Why don't some State legislators ask their constituents about processor quota legislation that could change their lives forever, BEFORE making up their minds. I believe most fishermen would agree that we need more social entrepreneurship in the fishing industry and less social engineering.

Seafoods of the World

Here's an education in what's out there on the world market in the way of seafood products. Over 1,400 companies from all over the world and pictures of their products on this site, supposedly. You could buy Nile Perch from, you guessed it, the Nile River. Sea bass from South America, wild abalone from Australia, lots of squid products from China (mainland), as it's listed.

Picture of yours truely with mudflats and Port of Anchorage in the background.

You hear a lot about globalization of seafood. How in one deal, the Norwegians will provide the financing, to get Russian fish to China for processing, and then send it to the U.S. for sale to consumers. The South Koreans built a large scale, regional seafood processing center awhile back now. That's where at least some the roe herring Alaskans have been selling to the Japanese went.

I was always a little skeptical of this arrangement for the sake of fishermen that caught the roe herring and assumed it was being sold just for the roe. After all, Alaskan processors used to just grind up the whole male herring, and the female herring minus the roe. Or take it to the land fill. Or later, make meal and oil out of the carcasses. But what happens to this "byproduct" when it is out of sight of our shores. Maybe it is turned into 25 different products that is made and marketed by only a few savvy Asian companies.

Remember when the Japanese said we would never be able to make surimi. The industry in Alaska asked for and recieved State and Federal help to develop the products so Americans, as first owners of the fish, could go straight to market. American fishermen are getting hip to this now too. First you have the Regional Seafood Development Associations in Alaska, which can tax their fishermen base to do product development and marketing. And now you have a national association of fishermen starting up.

The semantics have always been misleading. The National Fisheries Institute, and other lobbying groups like it, have always been dominated by the large processors, the secondary producers. Are fishermen starting to view their local friendly processor as Japanese surimi barons? (Disregard the fact that at one point the seafood industry in Alaska was 85% Japanese owned.)

Of course I'm doing reverse reporting here. I must have been way ahead of my time 15 years ago when I started a lone crusade of talking that angle up. Once I went broke doing it, that cured me, kinda.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Grand Coulee Dam vs BC salmon

A page out of history, but one that doesn't look like it's fading. The story of how the Grand Coulee Dam wiped out the run of king salmon that went into Lower British Columbia. It looks like there is an effort now to get the U.S. Government to make good on a 1941 promise that any person or entity would be indemnified in case of any adverse consequences of blocking off the Columbia River.

Picture of "coming in for a landing" at Port Alexander. The famous troll drag is from "Breakfast Rock" at the entrance to the Port, to Cape Omaney in the distance. You were having breakfast about the time you passed "Breakfast Rock" on your way out fishing for the day.

And what consequences they were. Those tribes took 75,000 kings out of the river one year and then zero the next. And that 75 k number could be applied to the next 10,000 years of use of those fish as well as the last 64 years. The different ways of looking at this in court will undoubtedly run the whole gamut.

Maybe why this article caught my attention was because of another article and photo I saw once. It featured a king salmon that had washed down out of Canada and ended up on a sandbar in the Columbia in Eastern Washington. That spawned out carcass weighed in at 150 pounds! I guess these were what they refered to as the "spring hogs," that fed the early canneries in Astoria, Oregon.

But they also fed fishing boats all the way to Alaska. When I was trolling I heard of boats in the past finding big kings that would just break off every time they were hooked. So the boats would retie their gear with stainless steel wire leaders to be able to haul them in. I still have some old brass trolling spoons, that were probably my grandfather's, that have a stainless steel leader remnant still attached.

Right before the Bonneville Dam was build on the Columbia river in the 1920's, the town of Port Alexander, Alaska would swell to over 3,000 people in the summer. The object of their desire was the run of king salmon that would lay in behind Cape Omaney, to feed on the big herring schools, on their way south. Just a few short years after the Bonneville Dam went in, the fishery dropped off and the town went bust for the most part. It furthered shriveled until it became a virtual ghost town, just before the "hippie hand trollers" found it. I say that with great affection, of course, since I hand trolled for a couple of summers back then, inbetween careers.

All this is great fodder for lawyers. Law schools might even start offering courses like "Buffalo Hunter's Heirs as Class Action Defendants." But seriously, we may or may not be out of the woods on protecting such valuable renewable resources. Heck, in Alaska you're still getting fisheries legislation "coming down from the top." Read that, "just guessing." But, not to worry. This kind of thing only tends to wipe out fishermen. Read that, "over 700 king crab fishermen lose their jobs, the rest take a dollar a pound price cut."