Bristol Bay set net fishers voted not to join the region’s seafood development association last month. On Nov. 3, the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association announced on its website that setnetters rejected joining by a margin of just 19 votes.
A “yes” vote would have granted all Bristol Bay setnetters membership in the association at the cost of a 1% tax to help fund its marketing and outreach efforts.
Kevin McCambly is a setnetter in the Nushagak district. He said he was against joining the association, because he didn’t think paying into it would result in high payouts from processors.
“Joining the BBRSDA was going to, on some level, tax the fishermen to help promote a finished product that would benefit the processors,” he said. “We were almost doing their work for them through taxing ourselves.”
In a September information session, the BBRSDA stated that they helped members improve the quality of their fish through resources like ice barges and funding research efforts like those at the Port Moller Test Fishery.
But McCambly said grant opportunities by other organizations like the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation have improved the quality of setnetters’ fish without the association’s support.
“I feel like the BBEDC is doing a great job to help local residents with quality improvement products and purchases like slushy ice bags, insulated totes and tote bags, flexible foam insulation, landing for fish holds” and deck mats, he said.
McCambly said he thought there were other methods of taxing fishermen, like a general fish tax that would help promote individual operations and support the region financially, as some of the association’s budget goes to out-of-state salaries and expenses.
Setnetter David Nicols said that while he didn’t think the organization was perfect, he voted “yes” to joining the association.
“We need to take what already exists and shape it into something that we can use to protect the future of the fishery,” he said in a social media message.
The association’s executive director, Andy Wink, said staff were disappointed in the outcome.
“Unfortunately, for now the issue appears settled,” he said. “However, a lot of groundwork was done to set up bylaws and policies for integrating setnetters into the BBRSDA, so the door is still open in the future.”
Wink said that the association believed the fishery was stronger together and that they held the vote at the request of many setnetters.
The election results were certified on Oct. 31.
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