Thursday, January 28, 2010

Financing options for Bristol Bay permit retention and ownership

Bristol Bay residents have opportunity in fishery

This past fall’s Board of Fisheries agenda was full of a number of restructuring proposals, including proposals to allow permit stacking, larger vessels, and longer nets. While there may have been legitimate reasons for proposing any number of these restructuring ideas to the Board of Fisheries, the overall consensus, both here in the Bristol Bay, and at the State of Alaska Board of Fisheries level was that the residents of Bristol Bay would be even further disenfranchised from the fishery if these proposals were sanctioned by the Board.

So, how did we get to this point? How is it possible that since 1975, Bristol Bay watershed residents no longer hold the majority of the fishing permits?

The number of permits owned by residents has been steadily declining, while the number owned by non-residents has been steadily increasing. In the case of the drift fleet, the number of permits owned by non-residents is now greater than the number of permits owned by residents. Because these numbers were obtained from ADF&G, the numbers do not separate out Bristol Bay residents from Alaska residents. When you take those transfers into account the curve is even steeper.

How did we lose control over our resources so quickly? Well, without doing a massive study on each and every permit buyout from resident to non-resident, one can only surmise. One possibility is that the high cost of living forced residents to look at the short-term cash opportunity present with selling their fishing assets, including permits. Another possibility, often overlooked in this discussion, is that perhaps it isn’t so much that the permits were sold to non-residents, but that past residents purchased permits, but now reside elsewhere. Yet another reason is that extended family members could have purchased permits from their resident family members.

However, the real question we should be asking ourselves and our fishing families, is this: how can we reverse the trend of non-resident permit ownership in Bristol Bay? How can we encourage our younger generations of Bristol Bay watershed residents to engage in the fishery and assume ownership and control over the fishing rights (i.e. permits)?

The answer lies in financing. This is where BBEDC residents can really gain a lot. For those readers who haven’t heard about the BBEDC Permit Loan Program, it is a fantastic opportunity for BBEDC village residents to get involved in the fishery as permit owners. With a permit, a fisherman can earn a lot more than a deckhand, and have some control over their own destiny. BBEDC has partnered with the Commercial Fisheries and Agriculture Bank (CFAB), to guarantee loans to qualified residents, provide financial assistance through subsidies and “sweat equity,” and to help teach permit holders how to successfully manage their fishing business. For more information about BBEDC’s Permit Loan Program, call 1(800) 478-4370 or 842-4370.

For watershed residents who do not resident within one of the BBEDC villages, there are other options. If you would like to purchase a permit or a boat, the State of Alaska Division of Investments offers financing packages through their Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan Fund. More information on the State’s program is available at Additional opportunities exist if a person is willing to work directly with CFAB. Information can be found online at or by calling 1(800)544-2228.

Bristol Bay Salmon Trampoline

Check this youtube video on a mechanism to improve quality in Bristol Bay:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Waste Not Want Not

Waste Not, Want Not
By Izetta Chambers

The seafood industry in Alaska is ripe to start embracing some of the changes that are rapidly materializing in the rest of the world. I have been preparing an abstract on a workshop presentation that I am proposing to offer at the upcoming Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference in Unalaska on March 24-27th, (information online at and I got to thinking about marketing. Yes, marketing is everything when you are selling something, but also when you are trying to get rid of something as well. How can the Alaska seafood industry make the shift away from thinking of seafood “waste” as a “resource?”

This past summer I was involved in an endeavor called Alaska Bounty – a company I created to handle some of our waste stream generated at Naknek Family Fisheries. Because our small fish plant was not on the river system, and therefore it was not feasible to simply grind up the waste and dump it back into the river, we had to think up alternatives to the grind-and-dump scenario that is the industry norm in the Bristol Bay region. We were told that the Bristol Bay Borough fish grinder hadn’t been lawfully permitted by EPA since 1994, and therefore, we were legally precluded from using the grinder by DEC as our approved disposal site. Therefore, I was forced to come up with an alternative solution, or risk having our small, family-owned seasonal business shut down. The solution that I presented at the Alaska Marketplace was to utilize the resource in compost, and also to produce a liquid fish fertilizer. We employed our plant workers to think about the resource differently. This is because we couldn’t just think of the leftovers as “stinky fish guts” or some other such negative label, because this was another resource that we had to take care of. In order to make the best possible fertilizer, we needed to process the material fresh, not after it had been sitting around. A big part of the re-thinking came in the form of reframing or rephrasing. I discouraged the term “guts” and “waste,” instead encouraging use of the term “protein” or “material.” Although some might argue that this makes no difference, I beg to argue that it does.

In many parts of Asia, the seafood industry is actively involved in the processing and reprocessing of parts of fish that we in the Western worlds would not think twice about. Take fish sauce, for example. It is essentially fermented fish parts, liquefied and stabilized. However, one cannot think of certain ethnic cuisines, such as Thai food, without that particular flavor.

Underutilized seafood materials are currently finding uses in agriculture, food sciences, biomedicine, pet food, fish farming, and cosmetics. Some other little-used parts are being bought and sold as delicacies in the trendy restaurant and exotic food markets. Mainstream outlets, such as the Travel Channel’s show “Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods” has brought strange and exotic delicacies to the living rooms of people that may have never considered eating such things as grasshoppers, worms, snakes, bird’s nest soup, or live octopus. In fact, this summer, we provided 100 fish heads to a chef in Seattle for the annual Burning Beast event. The fish heads were a big hit and we had numerous bloggers writing about the delicate flavor of something most Bristol Bay Natives have enjoyed for centuries as a way to commemorate the beginning of the salmon season.

100% seafood utilization can be a tremendous marketing tool as well. Here is what one of our company’s customers writes on their website about where they source their salmon:
Our fish is currently a part of a local venture to compost fish carcasses, rather than throwing them away. This reduces pollution [sic] in Bristol Bay, and instead goes to growing food. Read more about it on our site, here, or at the company, Alaska Bounty’s website, here (

Whether we like how these things smell or look, we all here in coastal Alaska need to consider the intrinsic qualities of the materials that the seafood industry currently considers “waste.” The only waste is that what we make of it.

If you would like more information on how to compost using seafood carcasses or other seafood proteins, please call (907) 842-8323 or contact me via email at I can help direct you to the best scientific research on the topic, and help to provide resources on doing it safely – including bear fence installation and Alaska statutes on the subject.