CoastWise Alaska

FishBiz: One-Stop Training for Alaska Fishermen

Length with intro/outro: 3:00

Download mp3 file: FishBiz [2.8 MB]

Intro

As more and more Alaska commercial fishermen begin to see their operations in a business light, they’re wanting to learn how to best run those businesses. Today’s CoastWise Alaska speaks with one expert who’s showing them the way.

Story

Glenn Haight recalls an experience many years ago that helped him to understand how many Alaska fishermen see themselves.

Haight, who is now a fisheries business specialist with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, was speaking to a group of about 30 fishermen in Yakutat at the time, a picturesque town in Southeast Alaska.

Like many coastal Alaska towns, Yakutat is home to a tight-knit group of commercial fishermen. Most have coveted fishing permits, some worth many thousands of dollars, to catch salmon. Haight picks up the story.

HAIGHT: “I asked them: ‘Has anyone here ever owned a business?’ And one or two shot their hands up. And then I said, ‘Who here has a permit,’ and they all raised their hands.”

Haight’s encounter occurred around the time that Alaska’s fishing industry was suffering from rapidly declining salmon prices and global competition from farmed salmon. He says the experience made him realize that Alaska fishermen saw themselves simply as people who caught and sold fish.

HAIGHT: “The management structure of our fisheries in this state—certainly the state fisheries—has always been in support of small boat fisheries—one person owning the boat, catching the fish, and making a living—which personally I believe in, and I think that’s great. It creates a kind of interesting community ethic. But it also creates a sort of people in the business as a lifestyle venture, and they don’t really recognize it as a business so much.”

In the years since, Haight has tried to change that perspective. He says a Marine Advisory Program project called FishBiz is all about teaching fishermen how to be profitable businessmen and women.

HAIGHT: “FishBiz is looking at improving and strengthening the professionalization of the fishing fleet, so that it recognizes itself as a business, and that individuals in Alaska who fish are given a stronger position economically, so that they can actually reinvest in other fisheries if they choose to, and that what you see over time, perhaps, is a greater ownership and involvement in Alaska fisheries by Alaskans, particularly rural Alaskans.”

MAP’s FishBiz Web site lists training seminars and workshop schedules on topics ranging from product quality, independent marketing, and business management.

Haight says things are looking better these days for Alaska’s salmon fishing industry. Fishermen and processors have improved the quality of their products, prices have rebounded somewhat, and many fishermen have launched successful businesses tied to their harvest of salmon.

Outro

CoastWise Alaska is a production of the Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks, which offers outreach and technical assistance to help Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy the state's marine and coastal resources. You can visit the FishBiz web site at AlaskaFishBiz.org.

For more information