Commentary

Pie cutting

new harvest numbersWhat would Alaskans think if the state dealt fiscally with the oil industry the way it does with the fishing industry?

The question begs to be asked with the issuance of the latest Alaska Department of Fish and Game report on wildlife and fish harvests in the 49th state.

Of all the fish and wildlife killed for food in Alaska in 2017, the report says the commercial fishing industry accounted for 98.6 percent by volume. About 85 percent of the remaining  1.4 percent went to individual Alaskans. 

Less than half a percent – 0.2 percent to be specific – was harvested by nonresident hunters and fishermen. Those are the folks sometimes criticized for dragging full coolers through Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport on their way out of Alaska though their harvests are lost in the noise of the 98.6 percent share of commercial fish shipped Outside or to China to be processed before being shipped to the Lower 48.

Since fisheries overall are a money loser for the state, according to a study by the University of Alaska’s Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), individual catches and kills of fish and wildlife by Alaskans are the only general public return on the resource except in the approximately 95 communities entitled to a 40 percent share of the state-collected “shared fisheries business” and “fishery resource landing” taxes. 

Those payments in 2018 ranged from a low of zero for the villages of Koyuk, Elim, White Mountain and Teller on the Seward Peninsula to almost $9 million for the city of Unalaska midway along the chains of Aleutian Islands.

A focus for the mass of offshore Alaska fishing, Unalaska pockets about 60 percent of the shared state revenue from fish taxes. Other fishing ports don’t do nearly as well.

And most individual Alaskans benefit from the fish and wildlife resources only if they managed to kill some to eat.  To simplify the comparison to oil, let’s call those harvests the “Royalty Owed Alaska Residents.” (ROAR).

Royalties from oil and gas found on state lands are one of the several ways oil revenue flows to state coffers. Many Alaskans have a minimal or no understanding of the various forms of state oil revenue.

There have been Alaska journalists who didn’t understand. When oil prices were falling and along with them state taxes, at least one thought oil revenue could go to zero. But it doesn’t work that way because of the royalty agreements covering oil found beneath state land.

“Fixed royalty rates (on oil leases) are generally 12.5 percent or 16 and two-thirds percent, although some have been as high as 20 percent,” according to the Department of Revenue.

Basically what this means is that for every 100 barrels of oil pumped out of the ground and shipped south, Alaska gains title to 12.5 to 20 barrels and collects the revenue due on the sale of that oil.

Royalty free

There is no royalty in the fisheries. If there was a similar royalty, Alaska might get the revenue from 12.5 to 20 of every 100 fish caught. The commercial harvest of salmon alone amounted to 114.5 million fish worth $595 million last year.

Some quick and dirty math would indicate an oil-size royalty share of those fish would have delivered the state $74 million to $119 million in 2018 if the state took its royalty at the dock. The price there is what is called the “ex-vessel” value for salmon.

It is the lowest value placed on the fish. By the time a salmon leaves Alaska, it’s trading at various prices for “first wholesale value.”  If the fish is simply headed and gutted (H&G),  the price per pound about triples. 

Theoretically, the state could go all Norwegian, create its own fish processing company, run its royalty share of salmon through an H&G processing plant, and significantly increase that $74 million to $119 million in revenue while adding some jobs.

But salmon are just part of the harvest. There are crab, shrimp, bottomfish, herring and more. The McDowell Group, a respected economic firm, has pegged the first wholesale value of all Alaska seafood at more than $4 billion.

If Alaska were to claim 12.5 to 20 percent of that as royalty –  think Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share (ACES) as former Gov. Sarah Palin and her cronies once described this sort of fiscal management of common property resources – the revenue stream would swell to something in the range of $500 million to $800 million.

The people’s fish

Instead of imposing a royalty on the common-property resources that can be caught or shot in order to collect money that can be used to benefit all residents, the state offers individual Alaskans the opportunity to partake of the common property resource on their own in some strictly regulated ways.

In Cook Inlet, for instance, permit-holding commercial fishermen catch salmon with 150 fathoms (900 feet) gillnets while ordinary Alaskans are restricted to use of a dipnet no larger than 5-feet in diameter, or a rod and reel.

The comparison with oil would be this:

Rather than the state taking cash for the royalty share, individual Alaskans are allowed a season during which they can daily take from the pipeline a 16-ounce shot of oil or a thimble full while the industry is shipping south approximately 500,000  barrels per day.

The size of the helping depends on the status of the user. A subsistence fisherman on the Kuskokwim River entitled to a subsistence priority and the use of a gillnet would get the 16-ouncer.  Share sizes would range downward from there through the dipnetters to an angler reduced by regulation to fishing with a single hook and required to release any fish hooked elsewhere than in the mouth.

Urban Alaskans, the most retrained of these individual harvesters, collected on average 19 pounds of wild resource per person in 2017, according to that state study. The take grew to 276 pounds per person for rural Alaskans entitled to the subsistence priority. 

Predictably, harvests were lowest in Anchorage – where people have access to the greatest range of alternative resources – and highest in the Arctic – where fish, caribou and marine mammals remain staples of the diet. Anchorage residents harvest 15 pounds per person on average; Arctic residents some 402 pounds, according to the report.

Food security

“The annual (average) rural harvest of 276 pounds per person contains 176 percent of the protein requirements of the rural population (that is, it contains about 81 grams of protein per person per day; about 46 grams is the mean daily requirement),” the authors of the report wrote. “The subsistence harvest contains 25 percent of the caloric
requirements of the rural population (that is, it contains about 518 kcal daily, assuming a 2,100 kcal/day mean daily requirement).”

The state valued all this food at just over $227 million based on a value of $5 per pound.

“…If families did not have subsistence foods, substitutes would have to be purchased,” the report says. “If one assumes a replacement expense of $5.00–$10.00 per pound, the simple ‘replacement value’ of the wild food harvests of communities outside nonsubsistence areas may be estimated at $170–$340 million annually, and at $227–$454
million for all Alaska communities.”

Alaskans can have a lovely debate about “replacement value.” A lot depends on the price of alternative food supplies, and/or equipment purchases and amortization.

Someone living in the city of Kenai within walking distance of the mouth of the Kenai River might be able to stock up on dipnetted salmon for the cost of a dipnet and a backpack. The salmon has a relatively low value under that scenario.

The value would increase, but not by all that much, for a couple people driving a long-ago paid off diesel pickup from Anchorage to Kenai to net fish with gear purchased 20 years ago and used every year since.

And the value could skyrocket for someone just getting into the dipnet fishery in the most expensive way: A powerboat to make the fishing easier, a truck to tow the boat, a boatload of new gear, and more.

“Outside Alaska’s nonsubsistence areas, subsistence is part of an economic system called a ‘mixed, subsistence-market’ economy,” the report says, but some elements of that mixed economy exist in parts of almost every community in the state.

As the report notes, “families invest money into small-scale, efficient technologies to harvest wild foods, such as fish wheels, gillnets, motorized skiffs, and snowmachines. Subsistence food production is directed toward meeting the self-limited needs of families and small communities, not market sale or accumulated profit as in commercial market
production.

“Families follow a prudent economic strategy of using a portion of the household monetary earnings to capitalize in subsistence technologies for producing food. This combination of money from paid employment and subsistence food production
is what characterizes the mixed, subsistence–market economies outside nonsubsistence areas.”

The biggest difference in the nonsubsistence areas – which basically means urban Alaska – is that some people have a lot more cash to spend on technology. Equipment investments sometimes go well past “small-scale” into the world of small planes costing $50,000 and up with the sky the only limit.

These large-scale investments to harvest wild food do help drive a segment of the economy devoted to the sale of outdoor gear. The state report doesn’t get into those economics.

Neither does it explore the costs of managing these resources to provide for Alaska individual and/or commercial harvests.

Ride along

Resource management costs money, and the closer managers push to the edge of maximum sustainable yield, the more it costs. Alaskans are lucky in that a part of this management is paid for by non-residents.

The Sport Fish Division of Fish and Game is funded by the Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration Act, which imposes an unseen excise tax on sportfishing gear and motorboat fuel. The federal government redistributes that money to the state in the form of matching grants. The states get $3 for every dollar they pony up.

Alaska uses license fee revenues, most of which come from non-residents, to match the federal funds to cover the cost of sport-fishery management.

A similar program – the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act – funds the Division of Wildlife Conservation in a similar way. The federal funds there come from excise taxes of 11 percent on long guns and ammunition, and 10 percent on handguns, paid by manufacturers, producers, and importers of firearms. The same 75 percent to 25 percent federal to state match applies to funding.

Needless to say, Alaska – because of its size-limited purchasing power – contributes little to these funds, but collects a lot. The two funds funneled more than $51 million to ADF&G last year, according to the Department of the Interior. Only Texas at 54 million collected more. A majority of states received half or less of the Alaska and Texas payments.

There is no federal program to pick up the cost of commercial fishery management in Alaska, and that cost is the biggest item in the Fish and Game budget.  The Division of Commercial Fisheries does, however, receive some federal funding, and there are a variety of state taxes imposed on the commercial industry, but several of them were set up only to help fund the industry.

Thirty-three percent of the taxes on commercial fishermen from 2010 through 2014 were “pass-through taxes” to support marketing, hatcheries, seafood development and more, according to that ISER study. The state has been scaling back support of the industry, but the numbers indicate it is still spending more to manage fish than it collects in taxes.

Newly elected Gov. Mike Dunleavy this year tried to do away with the local share of the fishery taxes and ran into a firestorm of protest.

The ISER report specifically noted “the commercial fishing industry is not managed for maximum revenue to the state” and warned against comparing it to the oil industry because “industries vary, with differing ability to pay, and different management objectives.

“…The State of Alaska has different taxing and management objectives for the commercial fishing industry than it has for other industries. For oil, the state’s objective is arguably to maximize long-term revenue.

“For fish, the objective appears to be to maximize employment, fishing incomes,
community health, and other social objectives. Indeed, the state restricts efficiencies in the fishing industry by prohibiting boats or nets above a certain size.

“The goal of these restrictions appears to be to increase employment. Our point is not that commercial fishery fees and taxes are set correctly. We have no opinion on that point. We believe an understanding of costs and revenue is useful for discussion of management of any industry, but there is no implication by the authors that because state revenue is less than state costs, state policy is necessarily wrong.”

Unfortunately, that conclusion begs the fundamental public policy question:

What use or uses of state fisheries resources best serve Alaskans?

There was a time in territorial days when salmon was Alaska’s oil. Salmon taxes once covered 80 percent of the territorial budget. Salmon processors complained the way the oil industry does today:

salmon tax

A 1923 Alaska newspaper ad lamenting salmon taxes

Sadly, however, the days of an Alaska supported by the fishing industry ended long before oil became the state’s golden goose. Despite this, Alaskans have gone on managing state fisheries as if nothing changed.

Today the fisheries appear to be run in significant part to benefit a handful of Pacific Northwest-based processors and a maybe a third of the state’s reported 30,000 commercial fisherman – about 43 percent of whom are non-residents.

“Alaska fisheries employed an average of 29,200 commercial fishermen in
2015/2016, including 16,500 Alaska residents,” according to an economic analysis completed by the McDowell Group, a respected economics firm, for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Even fewer Alaskans – “an estimated 7,200” – were employed in the processing industry, according to McDowell. That amounted to less than 30 percent of the workforce. There are reasons.

Working conditions are difficult in cold, wet environments sometimes with long hours, and only one in 10 people earn more than $50,000 per year, according to the McDowell report. Processors have been forced to turn to Eastern Europe and Latin America for workers and are shipping more and more salmon to China for processing. 

And it appears only a matter of time before robots and AI replace a whole lot of those processing workers. 

The state continuing to subsidize the fishing industry to support what jobs are left might remain a good idea, but it’s long past time Alaskans had a serious discussion about what is the wisest use of the state’s fish socially, culturally and most of all economically.

Consider this: If you buy the Fish and Game claim that wild resources are worth $5- to $10-pound to the average Alaskan – a sockeye salmon caught in the much-debated Kenai dipnet fishery is worth three to seven times as much as a Kenai salmon caught in a commercial gillnet in Cook Inlet.

CORRECTION: An early version of this story failed to note the Division of Commercial Fisheries does receive some federal funding and underreported the revenue flowing to Unalaska.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

38 replies »

  1. Returned from a guided dipnet trip out of Kenai CIty Dock this morning. We got 32 in 4 yours, which was about all out coolers could hold.

    But there are some things going on that need to be addressed. I plan the dipnet trip based on commercial openings. For a long time, had fished Monday afternoons, only to get hammered by commfish openings Monday morning. This trip was Monday morning and I got hammered by an 18-hour EO Sunday which only allowed a 6 hour gate for reds to escape. Question for commfish: so like how do I plan my yearly trip when you clowns can fish around the clock at the drop of the hat? Hint: Sucks to be you is not an answer, as that door swings both ways.

    Worse, looks like second run kings will not meet their minimum escapement, somewhere north of 13k fish with an expected 10k second run kings into the river. NONE of the management tools intended to ensure those kings hit the river are being used, as ADF&G commfish is focusing entirely on the nice red run, which kills the second run kings and will impact silver runs in the Kenai and UCI.

    We will see what the BoF has to say this week. But we have a large brewing problem. Cheers –

      • You misunderstand me, probably intentionally. We got out fish and the kid had a good time.

        With the demise of Klondike Kid’s Alaska Outdoor Journal Fakebook page, this comment string is the best source of current intel about the Kenai that I know of.

        The guides down there are real concerned about the second run king return and the refusal of ADF&G to do anything about it. Best guess is it will come in about 3,000 kings short of escapement. With the commfish fleet fishing hard chasing a decent second run red return, that result is all but guaranteed. The longer it goes, it will start scooping up silvers bound for the MatSu, Anchorage, Kenai and Turnagain Arm just like it has the last several years.

        The guide had not seen any additional pinks outside the odd first push of them into the Kenai.

        Fishing in SouthCentral is like sweeping water with a broom, the more you try to send it one direction, the more it moves the other direction. I used to fill my freezer with silvers caught mid-July – early Sept, mostly from ANC, Turnagain Arm and the MatSu. Those returns have been sufficiently problematic over the decade, that I put Kenai dipnet on my schedule which is where it will stay until there is a significant change in management priorities in Cook Inlet. Enough silvers = no dipnetting. Expect I am not the only one who does this.

        ADF&G is managing a shared resource for the maximum benefit of one user group – commfish. Sooner or later, that must stop. And it will, though the longer it goes on, the harsher that stop will be. And if you guys want a political war, you got one. You will be treated with the same tender mercy commfish has treated miners, loggers, oilies, other resource development people, and sportfish guides. Cheers –

    • your post was pretty clear. The emergency order adversely affected you. Maybe some sport fisherman will post here whining about the personal use emergency order. Took to long to catch their 6. Or maybe some guides will complain. Had to spend too much time with the clients. Real Alaskan it’s all about me. Everyone else is a socialist or commercial fisherman.

  2. Craig, thank you so much for this thoughtful narrative!! I’m tired of the campfire chat that are frankly rants without facts. If you come to my fire bring this article!!!!

    • That makes absolutely no sense. Nor does it add anything constructive to the debate. Renewable resources development is in Alaska’s long term best economical interest.

      • There are a lot of people who do not understand just how much we actually tax the oil companies. If we were to tax commercial fishing, including commercial guided fishing, at the rate we tax oil there would be no commercial fishing in this state. Just charging the royalty rate oil companies are charged would put put every commercial fisherman, including commercial guides, out of business…that is if you believe them and how tight the margins they run are.

        I’m not saying that commercial fishermen, including commercial guides should not be taxed, they should for using our common resource. I’m simply pointing out the taxes paid by oil companies is grossly underestimated, it doesn’t help that we have elected officials who are either completely ignorant or just lie about the subject.

      • Steve-O…
        An easy solution to make the oil taxes easier to understand is moving to a flat “per barrel” rate and doing away with the complicated “tax credit” system.
        I agree all commercial users should be taxed, but this would be easiest and most fairly accomplished with a state wide Income Tax.

      • Steve,

        People or companies who use a common good like oil, minerals, fish, and timber for commercial gain should be required to pay for the use of the common resource they are using. We are a long ways from needing to tax the income of people, a blanket income tax would not be the best, it wouldn’t even be in the top 10 best ways to “fairly” impose a fee on users of our common resources. Income taxes punish those who work for a living and reward those who do not.

      • Steve-O,
        This statement:
        “Income taxes punish those who work for a living and reward those who do not.”
        Is totally false.
        The reality is many of us property owners are “punished” with higher tax rates as a result of so many out of state workers who pay nothing back.
        You can also set up an “Income tax” that does not punish workers, but taxes dividends and interest income…
        “In New Hampshire and Tennessee, for example, regular income is generally not subject to state tax, but a flat tax rate applies to dividends and interest income.”
        There are many ways to set it up so all the wealthy “non workers” who benifit from services like highways and ports, etc can pay their fair share.
        Saying an Income tax is not fair is asinine as we can see how much better off states are that have this extra revenue stream…more jobs, and less welfare needed to maintain society.

      • Steve , sorry I disagree. Income tax is to easily avoided except by wage earners . Thus everyone doesn’t pay their share per useage . Not fair. I suspect you know that though? As you owned a business? Most Wage earners are already taxed to much . Tough for many to get ahead. Now let’s say you didn’t start the tax until 100g plus per family I might see that as financially functional but completely unfair as high earners have often invested more time to put themselves into a high earner position- experience, school , dangerous jobs or sacrificing more hours or heavier effort to earn that money. Income tax is not an American way in my opinion. Now maybe a compromise Should Be Done . A capped income tax based on percentages. Say 1% per dollar earned till 50k then 2% till 100 k. Buisness owners have to pay a quarter percent per dollar that goes through their business for every dollar . Anyone getting a pfd has to file . Anyone working in the state but filing residency out of state has to buy a license to be employed in state at 1,000 $ plus pay at same rate as residents. This covers extra paperwork involved with tracking their irs fillings . Or some such configuration. Out of state buisness men/ women companies , Fishermen , miners ect ect ect have to pay 5k license fee plus point 25 percentage per dollar that goes through their business on top of whatever fees are already in existence. There’s an idea . 1/4 can go to administration,1/4 to running government programs 1/4 to infrastructural development or a very low interest loan fund for buisness and home buyers. 1/4 to be reinvested into permanent fund portfolio. How’s that for beginning of an idea .

      • Steve I meant to say individual non buisness owners had their tax capped after say 100 g or so . Basically so it’s a flat tax but mixed so it’s more payable by someone in a bind without much money yet doesn’t punish ultra high earners . Just a thought. Same method would not be used for buisness owners. Currently some cities have sales tax bs that allows a company to pay a small flat fee to avoid reaccuring charges . Don’t allow that as big biz takes advantage wisely 😉

      • Steve I also think a state sales tax should be implemented on everything immediately. Say at 100 percent. But implemented with a special state I’d that when presented says proof that you have filed taxes through the state and when it’s used while purchasing alows all holders to get a discount of 99.5% percent so people who don’t file taxes pay their share to . Just a thought. Or some such wild idea .

      • Steve, obviously kidding on that last one . A 2% for non state tax filers .legal buisness can’t avoid as their tax information would be taken when they file for state licensing ,permits , ect . and a .25% for people with state tax filing I’d . Or some such . To be a legal worker or buisness in Alaska proof of paying state tax income tax and appropriate permits would be required. Especially for out of state fishermen 😳😳😳😜

      • Steve,

        Equating getting “punished” because you are a property owner and thus pay a property tax with an income tax is what is false equivalency and asinine. You do not pay the state a property tax, people who live out of state and pay no income tax do not affect how your local borough or city tax your property.

        I’ve never understood people who think taxation is the only answer to every problem. Feel free to move to New Hampshire or Tennessee if you like their taxation structure, that’s one of the great things about our country if you don’t like the laws in your state you are free to move to another. We don’t need an income tax in Alaska, but it would be good to see the end user of our common resource pay for the use of that common resource, or at least have their fees balance out instead of cost the state money.

  3. The SOA’s Constitution is suboptimal in many areas, but it is what it is. Regardless of country or century, fisheries have always been and will always be political. Dominant control of AK salmon by Seattle interests was pivotal in Alaska Statehood. Good news, Seattle no longer has dominant control of Alaska salmon – it is now shared with Japan and Canada.

  4. The amazing thing about the fish and game harvest pie-cutting chart economically is that the only group of users actually paying their own way are non-residents “sport” hunters and anglers and they are most likely to continue losing opportunity.
    Even Governor Dunleavy’s Office of Management and Budget can’t get it right. Why cut $416,000 out of the budget that came entirely from the sale of hunting and fishing license when it would bring in $1.2 million in matching PR funds for management at no cost to the state?
    Educating Alaska’s leaders (and the public) regarding who pays for fish and game management is a daunting task.

  5. Hi Craig
    The vast majority of comically caught fish are taken out side of state waters . Also the above named communities of the Seward peninsula do in fact recieve royalties because they are members of the cdq program . Community Development Quota .
    Nice article
    Adem

    • there is no doubt the CDQ programs do well, Adem. they do better than the state.

      and yes, a lot of that fish is caught outside of state waters, and a lot of it never lands in Alaska.

      is that a good thing for the state? what would be our reaction if in a melting Arctic the oil industry built an LNG plant just past the three mile limit on the North Slope and started shipping LNG out in tankers that never entered state waters, and thus avoided state taxation?

      • Craig,
        Sounds like you have a good handle on things to come in the Arctic.
        Currently the Russians comissioned a floating nuclear reactor that can power up to 30,000 residents at once…
        (A floating “Chernobyl” per se in our back yard)
        I also watched a movie where a small russian sub planted a small metal russian flag on the north pole under the Ocean?
        It seems like a new frontier for “the wild wild west” in the Arctic and those with nuclear weaponized ice breakers will probably fair best.

      • I think it’s a matter of where the fish habitat is located regarding where the fish is caught . Im unsure what legal rights the state has outside the 3 mile state waters. I believe there are landing taxes applied to fish deliveries to state docks. Like I said nice article it’s thought provoking. Another subject might be what the state of Alaska would gain if ANWR comes on line . Would we see any royalty from oil in federally owned land ?
        Thanks for your reply
        Adem

  6. Craig–I’m fine with 98.6% of what you write in this article, at least as a statement of very valid topics for discussion (although I don’t agree with you on some of them). But I am not OK with your graph and the statement that commercial fishing accounts for 98.6% of the volume of fish and game harvested for food. It’s a totally correct statement–but also totally misleading in the context of allocation issues between various user groups. Why is it misleading? Because an enormous share of that commercial fish harvest volume is Bering Sea pollock–for which there is zero sport, personal use, or subsistence demand. If you want to compare the shares taken by different user groups, do so by species and region. By all means, do it for Cook Inlet sockeye, or SE chinook, or Gulf of Alaska halibut or whatever. But for a journalist of your knowledge and insight, it’s beneath you to open your argument with this simplistic and misleading comparison.

    • Gunnar: i agree, and i disagree.

      how can that be? well, the microview also misleads in that it suggests shifting allocations in Cook Inlet sockeye, SE Chinook or Gulf of Alaska halibut has a significant impact on the commercial fishing industry.

      it doesn’t. in the big picture, the allocation fights you mention reflect a tiny corner of the commercial fishing economy involving a small number of fishermen and a few processors who make a lot of noise.

      and yet we have for years treated these fisheries as if any allocation shift is some sort of attack on commercial fishing in Alaska. it’s not. we could allocate every last salmon in Cook Inlet to dipnetters and anglers, plus give a third of the state’s halibut to charters, and the commercial catch would still be 98 percent or better.

      i’m not advocating either of the latter. the personal-use and recreational fisheries can’t begin to stem the tide of Cook Inlet sockeye for management purposes, and the halibut fishery couldn’t catch a third.

      not to mention that i have no problem with commercial fisheries taking most of the fish. that said, i have two issues:

      1.) Alaska should get a fair share on the harvest of ALL its resources. i’m not sure what constitutes fair, but there is a huge fiscal disparity between how we treat the oil industry and how we treat fisheries. there are also ways fairness can be achieved with fish that don’t exist with oil. providing enough fish for the personal use of Alaskans is really just another form of economic compensation, which is what the subsistence priority was/is all about.

      2.) and here i’ll admit to huge personal bias. in those places where there are big allocation fights – Cook Inlet, SE, halibut – we should be managing for economics the same way we manage for biology. we should be trying to find the maximum yield for the state and local economies. we should have an economist or two in ADF&G crunching numbers the same way the bios do. i really don’t give a damn who catches the fish – commercial netters, dipnetters, non-resident anglers, Aunt Mable and Uncle Charlie. but if fish are worth $5 to $10 (or sometimes significantly more) per pound in fishery X, we should be trying to steer fish into that fishery instead of making the priority a harvest at $1.50 to $2 per pound in fishery Y.

      i’m even willing to accept that in some of these cases the high economic values in some sport fisheries might trump personal-use and even subsistence values. i dipnetted a Copper River king this year. given the limited harvest of those fish by dipnetters, i guess i can see letting them harvest one per person per year. but i’ll admit that recognizing the value of these fish downstream in the Copper River commercial fishery, i felt a little guilty about keeping that king. with the high, early-season dock price for Chinook in Cordova, there is a strong argument to be made for trying to maximize the early commercial harvest.

      but, alas, no one really wants to talk about the economics of allocation. the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, as you well know, specifically refused to look at the financials before allocating halibut away from charter businesses, and it’s been a long time since the state has valued the Cook Inlet sport fishery for Chinook and sockeye salmon.

      meanwhile, no one has ever calculated the economic value of the dipnet fishery. i long thought it the least valuable fishery in the Inlet and would have argued for reducing the fishing limits accordingly, but some commercial fishing friends have convinced me that fishery might have a higher economic value than i thought. i’d love to know what the value.

      • In PWS, there is more than enough opportunity, for all user groups (subsistence, PU, sports & comm fish), to harvest sockeye, King, chum, coho and pink salmon that are produced by PWSAC. Come on out and catch loads of fish every day, 7 days a week.
        The user groups in the Upper Copper River Basin, besides the wild stock, harvest the sockeyes returning to the Gulkana Hatchery (which is funded by the.commercial drift fleet).

        BTW, 70 %, of the 545 PWS/CR drift permits, are held by AK residents.
        Every dollar earned by the PWS fleet is given back to the communities, villages and municipalities, by a multilple of 4.
        Cordova, Tatitlek, Valdez, Chenega, Whittier, Seward, Homer & Anchorage, to name a few, all share in this economic revenue.
        The CDQ program has been a huge economic engine for the Alaskans living on either side of the Aleutian Chain and Bering Sea. Lots of money, jobs and opportunity, because of the commercial fishery.

      • James: if the state is responsible for such a powerful economic engine, shouldn’t it at least be breaking even on the cost of running it? if this is all working so well, why in the world does the state need to subsidize the cost of managing the commercial fisheries?

      • “Alaska should get a fair share on the harvest of ALL its resources. i’m not sure what constitutes fair, but there is a huge fiscal disparity between how we treat the oil industry and how we treat fisheries.”

        Because the oil will be gone.The fish, not so much. I say make the oilcos scream mercy. Extract (like that term?) every penny near as possible to the point of marginality. Why? Because when they leave they will just say adios! And by the way, we are gonna fight, in the courts, tearing out the pipeline for fifty years. After all, we were just joking about that being our responsibility. “Thank you for letting us have the most profitable of situations, now, all you rubes, just go freeze in the dark!”

        That’s why.

    • Gunner , interesting that you consider it misleading yet accurate. As to allocation quotas . I consider current allocation social theft . Let the comm fish utilize non historical use fisheries such as pollock and fish outside shore boundaries. When commercial fishermen enter near shore waters and take a high percentage they steal the locals ability for dependency on a resource . Consolidating to a few towns leaves others in the lurch . This has led to total cultural and social destruction. A sin of the highest order – financial dependency on momma fed . Which has created a culture of alcoholism drug dependency and depression within many native groups . Sure – Sitka – Valdez – dilingham and a few others have benifited but many have been damaged all the way up the Yukon into Canada people can’t rely on their traditional harvests and cultural way of life . Totally undermined the social fabric . That’s the flip side of what this chart doesn’t acknowledge that equals out the minor over example of outer waters fishing. Sport and subsistence are imperative for the social fabric of Alaska both individuals financially, state fiscally and residents cultural . As our state has little infrastructure and fewer bush opertunities . More equatable fish taxation and resource allocation is an emergency in this state . Oil has shouldered the burden to long . This goes for every cultural group within our state . From biggest city to smallest camp . There is inherent value in supporting yourself and directly catching your own food . A probable constitutional right . That each individual needs as an expierence and for self respect.

    • Reading the text in the state’s allocation criteria for harvesting fish in Alaska, AS 16.05.251, is not that difficult. The state and many other “bean counting” services have more than enough data that they make available to the AK Board of Fisheries to analyze each of the 7 criteria. Maybe the state just needs to replace all Board of Fisheries members with computers, that would help take the politics out of fisheries management.

  7. Clearly we need a complete and total review and overhaul of our fishing rules and extraction/taxation rules.

    • Joe,
      I agree.
      As for oil we should be more in line with other “states” who have a flat (per barrel) tax on all petroleum exported from their land.
      It does not seem fair that companies like ConocoPhillips have taken over our “government” by “bank rolling” of their executives into Alaskan politics.
      Producers are profiting $25 dollars a barrel in AK when the global average is closer to $ 13 dollars a barrel?
      Obviously the $8 dollars a barrel in “tax credits” contributes greatly to this disparity (SB21).
      Sarah Palin tried to fix this imbalanced system with ACES, but the GOP saw her as a threat to profit so they pulled her out and replaced her with another oil executive (Parnell).
      Kleptocracy is alive and thriving in AK these days and most residents see it for the hypocrisy that it has become.

  8. What percent of the 98% of fish caught commercially as shown on the pie chart is pollock and drag caught fish?
    Why doesn’t the state get an income tax?
    The answer is simple. If you want to get more income from commercially caught fish you just tax the fishermen who catch it. Otherwise quit complaining.
    Of course this would mean everyone in the state would be taxed but so what. We could also rake in a little money from the oil workers who haul their loot out of state.

    • why not just impose a property tax on the value of limited entry permits, Ottokar? the tax could be structured so that those in the high-value fisheries (of which there are a few) pay for the resource they harvest and the people in the low-value fisheries pay little.

      and, if necessary and Alaskans agree, you could add an income tax, too.

  9. In March of this year the Alaska Board of Fisheries heard a proposal submitted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. The proposal consisted of a list of seven prioritized criteria that, if adopted, would help guide, not mandate, deliberations involving the allocation of the State’s salmon resource in the non subsistence areas. If adopted, the proposal would have no impact on the State’s subsistence priority. Personal Use by Alaska residents and Economic value topped the list of criteria. Historical use was included in the list but this “default” priority would no longer drive most if not all decisions. Predictably, the proposal was widely opposed by the commercial fishing community including a number of large processors. Many were visibly angry that historical use would have to compete in the modern world. The proposal failed.

    • I would be skeptical of any proposal submitted by krsa,the very organization that is responsible for the almost total demise of the magnificent kenai chinook run.

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