Story last updated at 2:58 p.m. Thursday, September 12, 2002

Fishing industry needs help
The future of our Cook Inlet drift fishery looks pretty bleak. One would think that with such a wild, organic and great eating product that fishermen would at least be able to tread water, but rising expenses and the marketplace are drowning many.

I read about how millions are spent to improve the market position of Alaska salmon. But for all the higher demand and prices, I can only guess this money is lining the pockets of a few marketing and advertising spin doctors. What can be done?

Slashing Department of Environmental Conservation red tape and enabling fishermen to process their catch as it is caught could be a start. So would matching fund grants for fishermen who want to set up a heading and gutting station on board. In under a minute, with the proper cuts, a salmon can be headed and gutted, leaving no membranes or blood balls, and put on ice before it begins to slime. Some boats might require another deckhand, but consider you now have a product worth at least two-to-three dollars a pound rather than what some processor feels like paying.

Is it really true that antibiotic- and growth-hormone-fed farmed salmon with bland and mushy flesh can compete with wild Kenai reds, cohos or even a silver-brite keta in high-end markets?

Nowadays in the big cities, chefs in trendy restaurants are reaching sports star status. It seems to me an enterprising fisherman could place a Web-cam on board and sell directly to those chefs and the privileged people they feed. Many people might enjoy watching and selecting the fish they want to buy as it is being caught.

Our government is quick to give settlements to big business. You could bet your bottom line that if the fishing division of a large business conglomerate was in trouble, that conglomerate would figure a way to get the government to buy back the permits, ships and gear, plus a tidy sum for the future profits lost.

Mom and Pop lost the farm and large corporations took over and make money thanks to the subsidies their political contributions paid for. What could be wrong with helping the Cook Inlet fishing industry?

If the day comes when local fishermen can no longer afford to fish Cook Inlet for those silvery and tasty fish, and giant catcher-processor ships with Third World labor take over, I will join al-Qaida in their war against U.S. corporations, who neither represent the average American citizen nor a free market economy. I should fit right in as one of Uncle Sam's misguided children.

Semper fi.

Chris Lowry

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