I'm currently en-route to Kodiak AK to work on a video for a new client, the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust. The background information has been enlightening so far. This group advocates for commercial fishermen... or I should say "fishers" as the gender delineation is troublesome in this industry too. The ASFT doesn't advocate for just any commercial fishers, they focus on the smaller business. It seems that the quotas that have been put in place to protect certain species from over fishing might actually ... in some cases ... create a problem for the fish population. It certainly has an impact on the small fishers, and in many cases have actually put people out of business.
And not for the reasons you might think. Its not because of the restrictions for taking fish... its very involved. And my job is to communicate that involvement to the rest of the world.
I'll write more about it as I learn about the trials and tribulations of the small commercial fisher here in Alaska. But for now, as I wait for my flight from Anchorage to Kodiak, I'll leave one example of how these quotas have made life tough for the little guy.
There are companies, big ones that wish to increase their take of certain species. Take king crab for example. A large company might buy control of the processing of crabs. Once they have enough influence of those activities on shore, they can set the prices for the catch of the day. So a fisher may come in with a big haul, only to find that the processor, owned by a large company with fishing vessels of their own - making them a competitor, has lowered the price per pound. So imagine showing up with tons of crab that is worth much less than the day before... or the price for next week. Now remember the small fisher has an annual quota. He can only catch so much crab. Selling it at a low price guarantees he will go out of business.... so when nobody is looking, he protects his interest and his family's livelihood and illegally dumps the catch. Killing the crabs and protecting his quota for a better day. Aka "cutting your losses".
After a while the big business will offer to buy the fisherman's quota and they will own and control even more of the market.
Now so far I'm jut telling you what I read and certainly only one side of the story. Still.... interesting place this. Its not what you think that's for sure. At least my impressions of Alaska change Every time I talk with someone up here.
I'll be here for several weeks. Kodiak, Yakutat and then Sitka. I'll be in touch.