Facing hard times, South Carolina shrimpers look to Alaska for help

03/06/2009

Contacts:

NR: SG-2009/NR287

Petersburg, Alaska—While Americans consume ever-increasing quantities of imported farmed shrimp, shrimp fishermen in places like South Carolina—who have for generations relied on wild shrimp harvests—are finding themselves locked out of markets and undercut in price.

“Shrimpers all over the country have felt the same financial strain from cheaper shrimp imports that fishermen here in Alaska have felt from farmed salmon coming into the country,” said Glenn Haight, fisheries business specialist with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program.

But Alaska fishermen have fought back. And some are winning. The solution, they say, is becoming more knowledgeable and efficient business people. Some have taken this to an extreme, diving into direct marketing as a way to stay in business. Such fishermen catch, process, market and sell their catch directly to tightly held lists of clients that include local restaurants, food services, and individuals. This Alaskan approach can work elsewhere, they say, even in places like South Carolina.

Later this month, six shrimp fishermen from South Carolina will come to Alaska to take part in a unique exchange with Alaska fishermen, biologists, and fisheries business experts. The March 18–22 event in Juneau and Petersburg is aimed at showing South Carolina fishermen how Alaska’s fisheries work, and sharing with them strategies to improve their bottom line.

The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program offices in Juneau and Petersburg are organizing the event.

“It’s a full agenda that will help our South Carolina fishermen understand how some Alaska fishermen are forging a new way of doing business,” said Amber Von Harten, fisheries specialist with the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. “There are aspects of Alaska’s seafood industry that we may want to emulate in South Carolina.”

The fisheries exchange includes a tour of Alaska commercial fishing operations and participation in a range of workshops on topics including direct marketing, fisheries cooperatives, and building leadership skills, among others. Fishermen will learn about state and federal programs that help fishermen improve their business practices, and will meet with state fishery officials.

The USDA Trade Adjustment Assistance program is funding the exchange through a grant to the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service and the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium.