Fishermen Unite to Talk to Lawmakers

January 29 , 2007
LAINE WELCH
FISHERIES

KODIAK -- The United Fishermen of Alaska this week selected a slate of fish issues it will bring before Alaska lawmakers this year.

Topping the commercial-fishing group's list is support for restricting sport halibut charters by imposing quota shares on the industry, whose catches have skyrocketed in some regions.

"We feel that the sport charter halibut sector needs to pony up and sit at the table with us and take some responsibility for conservation and longer-term allocations," said outgoing UFA president Bobby Thorstenson Jr.

Alaska commercial fishermen are also going to bat for the Department of Fish and Game budget. "We feel that the Fish and Game budget has been woefully underfunded for at least two decades. Meanwhile, the fishing industry has taken on more responsibility and paid more taxes and fees. Cutting the Fish and Game budget is unacceptable," Thorstenson said, adding that UFA will be pushing for a $4 million increase for the department.

UFA also strongly opposes a bill that would impose a fee on all shipping containers. A measure proposed in the Washington state legislature would create and fund a "freight congestion relief account," said UFA statewide chair, Kathy Hansen.

"The fee would be $50 per 20-foot container. So a 40-foot container (the shipping standard) would be $100. That's for both directions -- inbound and outbound -- on all products," Hansen said.

David Otte of the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association hatchery group said his association sends almost 1,800 vans to or from Washington each year. The container fee would add $180,000 in costs.

"It may seem like a kind of innocuous bill, but it has huge ramifications for Alaska," he said.

UFA also elected a new president: Joe Childers of Juneau. He replaces Thorstenson, who is stepping down after seven years at the UFA helm. United Fishermen of Alaska represents 35 regional fishing groups and several thousand members.

Oh, my, those omega-3s. Omega- 3 fatty acids will be the most popular food additive this year, according to USA Today. Omega-3s are credited with helping to prevent heart disease, strokes, arthritis and Alzheimer's, to name a few conditions. Four in 10 adults are seeking more omega-3s in their diets, a USA Health Trend Survey revealed, especially the nation's 80 million baby boomers.

Omegas can't be produced by our bodies and must be obtained from foods, notably fish and some plant sources.

"It has just been in the last few decades as we've industrialized our food supply that we've almost eradicated this nutrient from our diet. When you don't get it, all kinds of bad things start happening," said Randy Hartnell of Vital Choice Seafoods.

Studies now show that not all omegas are created equal. Nutrition experts claim that the most essential omega-3 fatty acid -- called DHA -- is far more abundant in fish oils than in any other food source.

Omega-3s were added to 250 U.S. food products last year. This month, Tropicana is launching the first orange juice fortified with omega-3s and Kellogg is adding it to some cereals. Natural food company Earth's Best will include omega-3s in its infant formula to help enhance brain development.

Fish spotlights. Hartley's Northwest Seafood won the "People's Choice" award for its entry -- halibut with blue cheese and hazelnut crust -- at the Symphony of Seafood last Thursday in Seattle. All other winners will be announced at a gala soiree on Feb. 17 in Anchorage.

Fact or fiction? Alaska historians hope to track down a plaque supposedly given to members of a so-called "50-50 Club" -- an elite group of fishermen who weathered 50 storms in which there were 50-foot seas. Sources in Dutch Harbor, Kodiak and Ballard claim not to have heard of the club. Is it merely rural legend or is it real, and if so, does the plaque really exist? Contact rwking@gci.net .

Fish funds. American Seafoods Co. is accepting applications for its Alaska community-grant program. In late February an advisory board will award $30,000 total to projects devoted to hunger relief, housing, safety, education, natural resources and cultural activities. In all, American Seafoods will distribute $75,000 to Alaska projects and programs in 2007. Submit applications by Feb. 19 to Kim Lynch at kim. lynch@americanseafoods.com or 1-206-256-2659.

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