Fishermen surveyed about lifestyle and changes in it

FisheriesJune 23, 2012 

If you had your life to live over again, would you choose a career in commercial fishing? That's one question in a survey circulating around Kodiak that aims to reveal a more social view of the fishing life and how the occupation and lifestyle have changed over two decades.

The survey is being sent to a random sample of 700 permit holders and 400 crewmen from all fisheries. It is part of a two-year project by Dr. Courtney Carothers, an assistant professor at UAF's School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Carothers said the project came about after she lived for a year in Kodiak.

"I heard many stories about 'big changes' in fisheries, such as limited entry, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, low salmon prices, halibut IFQs (individual fishing quotas) -- and how these changes affected access to fishing livelihoods," Carothers said. "I wanted to understand how these big changes and transitions are perceived in Kodiak, the most diverse fishing port in Alaska, and how these changes are linked to the well-being of fishing families and communities."

The Kodiak survey asks fishermen to rank how satisfied they are with various aspects of fishing and compare it to 20 years ago.

Some examples: Do you feel more satisfied with the safety of your job, the adventure or the ability to earn money? Would you encourage a young person to get into fishing? Why or why not? What are some things about Kodiak you hope never change?

The surveys, combined with interviews, will provide data often bypassed by fisheries managers and decision-makers.

"Fisheries managers are increasingly called to include social measures of fishing community health and well-being," Carothers said. "By assessing and documenting fishing changes in Kodiak, we will contribute insights into how those changes are linked to the well-being of individuals, families and the community as a whole."

SHIFTING SALMON PRODUCTS

It used to be that Alaska salmon went to world markets frozen whole or in cans. Those are still important products but the fish have taken on different, more trendy forms.

A six-year review of Alaska production shows that canned salmon accounted for just 20 percent of the pack in 2011, down from 26 percent in 2010 and 30 percent in 2009. Nearly two-thirds of all pink salmon caught last year was sold frozen, mostly for export.

Ten percent of Alaska's salmon last year was turned into pricier fillets, an all-time high. For sockeyes, fillet production has doubled since 2007, from 15 million to 30 million pounds.

The state Department of Revenue tracks wholesale volumes and prices for six salmon products by region throughout each year. Sales from January through April show the average price per case of sockeyes in "tall" cans was nearly $190, an increase of about $45 from the same time last year on similar volume. Canned pinks at $96 is an increase of $18 a case.

Wholesale prices for fresh kings dipped by $1.37 to $9.23 a pound, likely due to more kings this year coming from the West Coast. Likewise, frozen kings were down a dollar to $3.10 a pound.

Frozen sockeyes were fetching $3.29 through April, up from $3; chums topped $2 a pound.

Wholesale prices for frozen and fresh fillets dipped a few pennies to $6.25 a pound for reds but increased by nearly 45 cents for cohos to $5.44 a pound. Chum fillets at $4.37 were up by more than a dollar from the same time last year.

Alaska salmon roe prices were up and down. On the down side: Sockeye roe at $5.25 a pound was a drop from $7, and pink roe at $6.20 was a drop of more than $3. On the up side, coho roe jumped $3 to $9.90 a pound, and the big favorite, chum roe, was selling for $15.44 a pound, an increase of nearly $2 from the same time last year.


Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Her Fish Radio programs can be heard on stations around the state. This material is protected by copyright. For information on reprinting, contact msfish@alaska.com.

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