Articles Posted in Maritime Economy

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Alaska_fishermen_working_with_net-300x225In an effort to lower the barrier to entry in the fishing industry, to retire a “graying fleet” of vessels, and to attract a younger group of fishers into the industry, the Local Fish Fund has announced a new and innovative loan program. Loans are structured based on quotas and shares rather than fixed payments, which creates a system that is flexible and spreads risk.

“The cost and risk involved in accessing Alaska’s quota share fisheries are comparable to purchasing a hotel as a first step in home ownership,” said Linda Behnken, founder of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust and director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka. “We’re looking for ways to help the next generation of fishing families get that start and build sufficient equity to eventually access conventional loans. Part of what has made it really challenging to buy into the fisheries is the uncertainty and how that will affect their ability to make fixed payments that don’t fluctuate as catches or fish prices drop,” Behnken said. “We share and reduce that risk, so the payments are based on what fishermen are paid at the dock. If the price falls, so does the payment; conversely, if they go up, it’s a bigger share.”

A recent survey reported that the average age of an Alaska fisherman is 50. Fewer young people are entering the field due to financial barriers such as a limited number of permits available as well as high vessel and equipment costs. Participants in the new Local Fish Fund loan program must be willing to participate in fishery conservation programs and agree to a variable repayment structure based on the value of their catch. As young fishers work to repay these loans, they build equity as well as credit history, making future loans and refinancing with traditional lenders an option. The “quota shares” will act as collateral for the borrower.

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Coast-Guard-RescueWhile Monday was the first day back to work for hundreds of thousands of workers around the country, it was just another day for the U.S. Coast Guard; they have been working without pay since the partial government shutdown began on December 22, 2018. Most service members received a check for back-pay on Monday, but the possibility of another shutdown on February 15th is making families nervous, keeping pop-up food pantries open, and has Brett Reistad, national commander of the American Legion, looking for ways to replenish the organization’s Temporary Assistance Fund, which has been severely depleted after over $1 million in grants of $500 to $1500 were distributed to needy Coast Guard families. In a statement, Reistad said, “I’ve been in the Legion 38 years, and I’ve not experienced an instance like this.” Approximately 1,500 grants have been distributed to 1,713 Coast Guard families since January 15th. Specifically, 3,170 children of Coast Guard workers were helped by these grants.

“We try to stay out of politics,” Reistad said, “but we have to recognize the possibility of this happening again. These are our brothers and sisters,” he said of Coast Guard members. “They were out there risking their lives, saving lives.” If Congress and the White House are unable to compromise, another government shutdown could ensue on February 15th.

Since the U.S. Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, they are one of the government agencies not paid during a shutdown but are still required to show up for work. Many politicians are working towards legislation that would ensure that Coast Guard workers get paid just as other branches of the military during a government shutdown.

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Pink-SalmonSalmon season is always an anxious time for fisherman, as everyone waits to see how accurate catch predictions will be. But this year has proven to be quite disappointing as Alaska’s statewide salmon catch is expected to fall 31 percent below pre-season predictions. All species of salmon catches are down except for sockeye.

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the total shortfall can be blamed on the poor returns of one specific species, pink salmon, to the Gulf of Alaska. Initial forecasting predicted a pink salmon catch of approximately 70 million, but current numbers are at 38 million. This small salmon species, also known as “Humpback Salmon” for the distinctive large hump that males develop on their backs during spawning season, usually weigh just 2 to 6 pounds as adults. Since the fish are flakey and low in oil content, they are generally processed and sold as value-added products such as salmon patties or frozen marinated steaks. Most pink salmon is canned, which yields a final product with a long shelf life that can be easily transported.

It was expected that the pink salmon run would be low this year, as the fish returning are the offspring of those that spawned in 2016, a devastatingly low year for pink salmon. Alaska issued a federal disaster declaration in several regions due to the low 2016 harvest and was subsequently issued $56 million in aid. However, these 2018 yields are far lower than anyone predicted.

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Seafood-300x256Commercial fishing is full of variables and risk; extreme weather, aging fleets, dwindling stocks, fish migration, and climate change to name just a few. However, economic issues have a way of overshadowing everything when they arise. This summer, commercial fishermen are worried that they may have been dealt a serious blow in the form of retaliatory tariffs. To punish the U.S. for its evolving trade policies, China has imposed a 25 percent tariff on Pacific Northwest seafood. According to many commercial fishermen and politicians, this could be a devastating blow to the fragile seafood industry.

How did we get here? Originally, seafood was not on the list of exports that would be targeted with tariffs. However, in response to the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods, the Chinese government has reacted by issuing a 25 percent tariff on all Pacific Northwest seafood. This could be particularly damaging for Alaska, as China purchases an estimated $1 billion a year in Alaskan seafood, making seafood the state’s largest export.

President Trump has placed $34 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods and plans to implement an additional $16 billion on Thursday, August 23rd if no new agreement is reached. China has guaranteed that they will respond with retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products.

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WashingtonStatePilotageThe 150-year anniversary of the Washington Pilotage Act was celebrated last week at the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Washington. Elected officials Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Kevin Van De Wege and Mayor Deborah Stinson were all in attendance.

Mayor Stinson welcomed all pilots to the Northwest Maritime Center and praised them for their leadership in safeguarding our state’s maritime economy as well as the environmental health of our waterways.

According to historian Alice Alexander, the original pilotage program was created in 1868 by a territorial act. It was later repealed, then replaced with the Puget Sound Pilots organization, which requires all foreign vessels traveling in the Puget Sound and adjacent waters that engaged in foreign trade, have professional piloting services. This requirement was initiated to protect Puget Sound waterways against loss of life, loss or damage to vessels or property, and to protect the environment.

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Fishery_ObserverCommercial fishermen are familiar with the Fisheries Observer Program. Launched in 1972 by NOAA, there are between 450 and 1000 observers working on commercial fishing vessels alongside fishermen collecting data at any given time. They are trained scientists (often marine biologists) who collect information that is used to estimate stock levels, protect endangered species, and manage fisheries. Data obtained includes:

• estimates of catch and discards

• biological sampling of the catch

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Community Attributes, a Seattle-based research firm, has just released their “Washington State Maritime Cluster Economic Impact Study.” Maritime history in our region, most notably fishing and trade, began when the first people settled here many thousands of years ago, followed by European and American expansion, and since then, we’ve experienced an infusion of cultural influence from around the world, creating a background for success.

While there is no question that our maritime industry is deep-rooted and essential to the economy of Washington State, this past May, the Economic Development Council (EDC) of Seattle and King County issued their “Request for Proposals for a Maritime Industry Economic Impact and Cluster Analysis for the Puget Sound Region and Washington State” in order to collect and provide facts supporting the importance of maritime industry here.

The task of Community Attributes, which was awarded the research work, was to identify and assess the contributions of the maritime industry and its connections with the community, as well as its economic impact and growth potential based on qualified, quantifiable data. The study requirements included:
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