Story last updated at 2:51 p.m. Thursday, September 12, 2002

Governor seeks tariffs on Chilean fish
Sepp Jannotta

GOV. TONY KNOWLES IS SEEKING HELP from U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans on the issue of maintaining tariffs on Chilean companies for the illegal dumping of farmed salmon in U.S. markets. In a letter to Evans last week, Knowles suggested that the International Trade Administration (ITA) investigations of Chilean exporters are flawed and will unfairly damage Alaska fishermen. "In recent years, Alaska salmon has come into direct competition with Chilean salmon because consumers do not currently distinguish Chilean farmed Atlantic salmon and Alaska wild Pacific salmon," Knowles said in his letter. "This competition is evidenced by the fact that prices of Alaska salmon have been pushed downward as Chilean dumping led to a glut of low-priced salmon in the U.S. market." As a result of these practices, Knowles contended, record-low prices have made conditions so bad in certain fishing-dependent communities in Western Alaska that he was forced to declare an economic disaster in the region for the fifth time in six years. "Many of Alaska's remote coastal and Native communities are economically dependent on fishing," the governor added. "Low salmon prices and unemployed fishermen have crushed these economies and left the communities without tax revenues, which they use to provide municipal and social services."

CHILEAN EXPORT PRACTICES have harmed all of Alaska's estimated 17,000 salmon fishermen, Knowles said. At the heart of the governor's complaint is the ITA's preliminary finding that exonerated the four biggest Chilean salmon-producing companies, a report Knowles said was based on incomplete information. Knowles complained that the most damning information, which comes from a review of industry numbers from a six-month period after June 2001, was watered down with the inclusion of the previously reviewed six-month period prior to June 2001. This "error" could bias the ITA's final analysis of the Chilean salmon export industry, Knowles said in a press release last week. If the ITA finds that the Chileans are exporting within the bounds of fair trade practices, these four Chilean companies, which comprise the majority of the industry there, would no longer be subject to dumping duties and, under the dumping law, be excluded from further reviews. Knowles asked the secretary to press ITA to discard the data from the period prior to June 2001, a period that had already been subjected to a review. "I am confident that the post June 2001 evidence will demonstrate substantial dumping by each of these exporters, which will prevent them from being excused from the order," Knowles said. "These companies should be held accountable for their most recent practices, and the duties levied on Chilean salmon exports should be maintained to protect American salmon producers against unfair Chilean trade practices."

MEMBERS OF THE CHIGNIK Seafood Producers Alliance will receive paychecks of $20,000-$60,000, depending on whether they actually participated in the harvesting of salmon this season, according to an Anchorage Daily News report. The salmon-fishing cooperative, which formed after getting a nod of approval from the Board of Fisheries last winter, only hired 17 of its 77 members to do the catching for the group. The remainder of the co-op's boats stayed out of the fishery in order to cut down on expenses. Despite a poor sockeye run, co-op organizers were pleased with how the experimental approach worked in its first season, the Daily News reported. "We're all a little disappointed with Mother Nature's performance, but we're pretty happy with the co-op's performance," said Jamie Ross, one of the co-op's original advocates before the Fish Board. There were 23 permit-holders in Chignik who opted not to be part of the co-op, and by all accounts the poor fishing hit them harder because they were allocated less fishing time than their co-op counterparts.

THERE WILL BE NO SAC-ROE HERRING fishery for the Kamishak Bay district for the 2003 season, marking the fifth-straight year the district is off limits to sac-roe herring fishermen. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a press release that the closure was necessary because the projected return of herring to the area is expected to be below a spawning biomass minimum of 6,000 short tons required to allow commercial fishing to go forward. The closure will also likely affect harvest levels for Kodiak's food and bait fishery because the Kamishak and Kodiak stocks often mix. The closure should allow the Kamishak stocks to rebuild, the department press release said. The disappointing aerial survey numbers from Kamishak from the past two years are puzzling to Fish and Game biologists because the 2000 census showed a relatively large biomass in Kamishak. The Kamishak herring fishery, which first came on line commercially in 1973, also experienced closures from 1980-84.

THE ALASKA DIVISION OF INVESTMENTS will conduct an outreach session for members of the commercial fishing community at the Homer City Council chambers on Sept. 18-19 from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. each day. Fishermen looking to file for an extension application are asked to make appointments with the division at 800-478-5626 and should bring their 2001 tax returns and 2002 fish statements.

A NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES ASSOCIATION meeting is scheduled for Monday from 1-5 p.m. at Homer City Hall. On the agenda will be various items of business that are expected to come up at the United Fishermen of Alaska meetings set for Sept. 22-25 in Anchorage. Anyone with questions can call Dan Winn at 235-8712.

A U.S. COAST GUARD BOARDING TEAM from the cutter Maple terminated the voyages of two fishing vessels near Chichagof Island on Monday, citing the vessels for operating with unserviceable safety equipment. The 39-foot fishing vessel J-Jireh was in the vicinity of Elfin Cove when the Coast Guard boarding team conducted a safety and law enforcement boarding, discovering the vessel's life raft expired in 1996. The Maple crew also conducted a boarding of the fishing vessel Ellie IV, also in the vicinity of Elfin Cove. Boarding team members discovered the fishing vessel had expired distress signals, an expired life raft, and no buoyant apparatus. Both vessels were escorted into Elfin Cove and will remain there until all of the discrepancies are corrected.