Saturday, March 31, 2007

Shipping fish live and other industry assists

Alaskan fishermen could have used a good way to ship fish live a long time ago. They need to start doing research on these things themselves, since nobody else is going to do it for them. There are a number of technology applications like this one that could be helping raise fish prices. ("Let it be known in the fishing world that the Philippines has now developed a technology for waterless transport of live fish, a method that will revolutionize the way we normally handle fish after harvest," said then Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo.)

Ain't technology great. On this occasion, this fish finder was just telling us that the steelies were swimming right past our Planer-deployed luhr.

The only way fishermen are going to achieve critical mass to do the research is with RSDAs. Just as an experiment, lets look at news articles on fisheries and see if the bad news of the day couldn't be solved with a true "producers association." Alaska has used the "processors association" approach up to now and has resulted in mega loss of opportunity and low fish prices.

I heard about live shipping methods before, just that nobody got into it much. Those could have been funky methods, like carrying the fish in a baggy of water. But the new method could be a way out for fishermen to send their fish to a processor in the Lower 48 instead of getting jacked by a processor in Alaska. They could just fly 'em to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and truck 'em from there or some such.

The company in Anchorage I talked to that flys DC-3s says he doesn't do fish because the guys don't pay. When I went to Juneau to run a processing plant, most of the fishermen had sent fish south on their own account, but got stiffed by the buyers down there. Personally, I believe if paid business folk were running the Regional Seafood Development Associations, you would avoid these problems. Then you might get some cargo carriers interested in coming to Alaska for fish.

Here's something I reported on before, regarding losing waterfront for commercial fishing uses. And not only Maine is worried about it, North Carolina is too, and Georgia. N.C. has lost 33% of it's fish houses since 2001. Some of that can't be helped by any amount of grant and tax relief help. Privatization of the fisheries resources, that has spread like the plague, consolidates the industry.

I saw this site before, and even called them, about their involvement in fishermen hooking up themselves. None. But then after looking at the offerings of the organization in product development and marketing, it seemed that the RSDAs in Alaska might want to send their board members here for a jump-start.

And there are more ideas for Bristol Bay to consider:

"Dear John,

I have been reading your column for some time and appreciate the content and issues you present. I would like to comment on the recent letters about permit stacking in Bristol Bay. I started fishing in Bristol Bay in 1976, at that point I believe there was approximately 1250 Drift Permits in the bay. I have a different perspective on the Bristol Bay permit stacking than the letter expressed in your most recent posting.

I don’t believe stacking is the answer for our fishery, nor do I believe that there should be a difference in the same permits for the same fishery. The second permit allows for using less gear than the first. It seems to me that it is against the law and intent of limited entry. A portion of the fishermen in the Bay support the idea, however many of us do not.

The way I see it the State of Alaska is responsible for the problem of “too many permits” by having continued to issue new permits over the years. I believe there are now close to 1850 permits. I don’t understand why I should have to invest more money into this fishery to be competitive and to receive the production based price incentive, and potentially over-capitalize when the BOF or ADFG can continue to change the rules and leave us to buy ourselves out. The state should buy those extra permits back, because at any time they can sure reissue them.

After years of emphasizing quality we are now faced with production as the driving force for our fish price. The processors know they will get the fish regardless of how many fishermen there are. By controlling the market and forcing our participation in poundage bonus it leaves me disgusted that if I have fewer fish of higher quality they are worth less money than high volumes of lower quality fish.

Anybody been to TOGIAK lately? The buyers say the herring are not worth anything, yet do us a favor by “taking them” for us as a “favor’. So we can fish for NOTHING? Yet if I don’t produce high enough salmon volume I don’t even have a chance for the market if I do want to fish for low prices. How about SE Alaska? Fishermen there with no markets because they won’t let outside markets in to buy the fish.

If Eric Sabo is correct, when he stated the optimum number is 1200 permits, and I believe there are 1850 currently, then if 650 fishing vessels have dual permits, that leaves 550 fishing vessels without? Or do we split the 550 and have a total of 925 drift permits. Sounds pretty good, until we can’t harvest the run. In the past four years Bristol Bay has left quite a few harvestable fish on the table (over-escapement). HELLO is any body HOME. We all have seen the day when 3, 4, or 5 million fish can be harvested in one day, and we did it with 3 shackles of gear.

There is a quote that I have heard many times, it says, “United we Stand, Divided we fall.” Stacking permits is Division. It is leading to more market control for the processors. Allocation to limited entry permits is WRONG. ASK the Governor to let outside markets into The State of Alaska. What about NAFTA? LET the RSDA have a chance. Believe in your product. And last of all if 300 million Americans wanted 8 ounces of Sockeye Salmon tonight for dinner, who would supply them?
Darryl Pope"