Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 7:31 PM on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Japanese crisis heads list of topics to be discussed at ComFish Alaska

By Andrew Jensen
Morris News Service - alaska

The tragedy in Japan will likely be the talk of Alaska's fishing capital today through Saturday as Kodiak hosts the annual ComFish Alaska trade show.

The March 11 quake devastated Japan's northeast coast, killing thousands of people and destroying the major infrastructure in and around the fishing hub of Sendai. Radiation fears continue as the nuclear crisis at Fukushima has yet to be contained.

Alaska's herring roe season is just under way, and the pollock fleet is harvesting a quota that is 50 percent higher than last year, at more than 1.2 million metric tons. Japan imports nearly all of Alaska's herring roe, 50 percent of its pollock roe and is a major market for surimi, produced in blocks from pollock and used for a variety of items such as imitation crab legs.

There is still tremendous uncertainty about the logistics of delivering to Japanese ports, whether the reprocessing facilities are operating and if demand for higher-end products like herring roe and king crab will be affected.

The yen also has come off its 16-year high against the dollar and was at a six-month low as of April 6, which still gives the Japanese good buying power for now. However, if the trend continues and the yen further weakens, that will mean lower prices to Alaska fishermen who enjoyed high prices for salmon last year and a near-record price of $7.25 per pound of king crab.

The Japanese crisis and its affect on the Alaska economy will be one of several fishing forums, including a visit from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, at the Best Western Harbor Room taking place alongside the trade show across the street at the Harbor Convention Center.

A rundown of the forums:

• Salmon report cards: New fish handling techniques and better prices for fishermen in Bristol Bay.

• New regulations for dockside exams.

• T-landings: Tracking tendered deliveries from your laptop.

• Chuitna coal mine update.

• Off the grid: Energy alternatives for homes, remote sites and boats.

• New life for Kodiak lakes: revitalizing sockeye salmon.

• Seafood byproducts to new products.

• Personal floatation device fashion show: update on new safety devices.

• Pebble mine update.

• Tsunamis in Alaska: Award-winning film about the 1964 Good Friday quake.