Jobs are being put on the fast track in Bristol Bay, with a focus on careers that go hand in hand with the region's culture and economy: commercial fishing and seafood processing.
"The fishery is our largest industry; it's the backbone of the economy here," said Patty Heyano, program development director for the Bristol Bay Native Association in Dillingham. "So it made a whole lot of sense to concentrate on that. It seemed like we could make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time because the industry is already here."
Heyano is referring to a $405,000 Rural Development grant that BBNA has received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In collaboration with the Southwest Alaska Vocational and Education Center (SWAVEC), the money will help ramp up industry related training programs.
"The Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge can be summed up to say job accelerator," said Larry Yerich, public information coordinator at the USDA Rural Development office in Anchorage.
BBNA was one of just 13 out of 62 applicants nationwide to win a Challenge grant, which allow recipients to craft programs designed to fill the needs of their own regions. It is also the first award of its type in Alaska.
"The first one in Alaska, and the first in the nation to a Native organization," Heyano noted proudly.
The grant will be used to develop curricula and a cluster of training and certification programs at the Voc/Ed Center focused on two tracks: helping more people enter the region's fisheries or start small fish processing operations.
"They will teach a wide range of things fishermen need -- navigation, boat maintenance, engine repair ... and then there's things like compliance with management and US Coast Guard regulations," Heyano said, adding that the program will also help existing fishermen with their operations. BBEDC also has a salmon permit loan program and training will help people meet the requirements for loans.
The grant money also will enable instructors to be based in the Bristol Bay region.
"They have a state of the art facility for training, but they don't have instructors and their own curriculum. Other training programs bring their programs to SAVEC," explained Heyano.
Developing the curricula and training clusters for the jobs accelerator program will begin this fall, she said, and it should be up and running by next year.
"They didn't call it a challenge for nothing, because implementing this program is going to be a big challenge. But I think it's going to be great because with SAVEC being located here in the region, they are in a really good position to be responsive to the needs of the people."
The world's oceans get a grade of 60 out of 100 according to new Ocean Health Index (OHI). The mediocre grate indicates we are not "managing our use of the oceans in an optimal way," according to index creators at Conservation International, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on "a healthy and productive planet and smarter paths to development." Its members include a who's who of planet advocates such as National Geographic.
The OHI "provides for the first time a comprehensive, science based measurement of what's happening in our oceans and a global platform from which to evaluate the implications of human action or inaction," said Dr. Greg Stone, a co-author of the paper in Nature.
The index evaluates the health of the oceans adjacent to 171 countries and territories out to 200 miles. The rankings are based on an average of 10 ecological, social and economic "goals" such as fishing opportunities, clean water and coastal protection.
The U.S. ranked at No. 26 with an OHI of 63. Positive upward trends for U.S. oceans were providing a "sense of place," food provision, natural products and local fishing opportunities. Trending down in US oceans were carbon storage, biodiversity, clean waters, coastal protection and coastal livelihoods and economies.
Coming in at No. 1 with an index of 86 was uninhabited Jarvis Island in the South Pacific. Germany ranked No. 4, the Netherlands and Canada both came in at No. 9, Japan at No. 11 and Australia raned No. 14 for the health of oceans off its coasts. Find the report at OceanHealthIndex.org.
The statewide salmon catch topped 107 million fish by Aug. 17 (up by 16 million fish from last week) on its way to a preseason forecast of 132 million salmon. Pink catches will tell the tale -- they were nearing 55 million (a weekly increase of 16 million fish); a catch of 70 million is projected. Other tallies: 217,000 kings, 15.7 million chums, 1.4 million coho and 35 million sockeye.
GOLF FIGHTS HUNGER
America's food banks were the big winners in the annual Ocean Beauty Benefit Golf Tournament, which raised $10,000 last week to help feed hungry families. The money goes directly to SeaShare, which has linked the seafood industry and suppliers to food banks across the country since 1994. Through SeaShare the seafood industry has become one of the largest private sources of protein for hunger relief in the nation.
Barrick Gold Corp., parent company of Donlin Creek LLC and its proposed Donlin Gold mine, has not contributed any money to the Vote No on 2 coastal management initiative, as stated in last week's column. Also, Barrick is not now, nor has never been, a backer of the Chuitna coal project in Upper Cook Inlet. Fish Factor regrets the error.
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 email@example.com.