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The failed ban

norway pioneers

A pioneering Norwegian fish farm in 1972; no one could have guessed what was to come/Wikimedia Commons

The coming year marks the 30th anniversary of the state of Alaska’s attempt to control world salmon markets by banning fish farming in the 49th state.

It would seem an appropriate time to review what has happened since then:

Marketing mistake?

ASMI once promoted the idea that Alaska wild salmon were a healthier food choice better for the environment and, for a time, had a buy-in from “Seafood Watch” at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

A 2005 Seafood Watch reported concluded “that Alaskan salmon fisheries, which comprise the vast majority ofU.S. Pacific salmon, are very robust, and represent a Best Choice….all California, Oregon and Washington salmon are a Good Alternative.”

At the time, only two sources of farmed salmon were ranked “acceptable,” and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, one of the main funding sources for Seafood Watch, was reported to be in the middle of a program that “granted about $16 million for aquaculture ‘reform’ and demarketing farmed salmon.”

The effort seemed to be working.

“The interest in wild salmon has been boosted by the greater awareness of the health benefits of eating seafood that has arisen from the farmed salmon controversy,” Steve  Wilhelm reported at the Puget Sound Business Journal in 2005.

By 2010, Target was reporting it had eliminated “all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings” and would sell only wild-caught Alaska salmon.

“In consultation with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Target is taking this important step to ensure that its salmon offerings are sourced in a sustainable way that helps to preserve abundance, species health and doesn’t harm local habitats,” the company said in a public statement. 

“Many salmon farms impact the environment in numerous ways – pollution, chemicals, parasites and non-native farmed fish that escape from salmon farms all affect the natural habitat and the native salmon in the surrounding areas.”

The Target ban marked a high point for Alaska wild salmon. Seven years later, Seafood Watch announced it was recognizing as a “good alternative” all farmed salmon certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council,  an independent monitoring group set up by the WWF and the  Sustainable Trade Initiative.

And today?

The Seafood Watch list of “Best Choice” for salmon is headed by net-pen Atlantic salmon from Nordic Blu in Norway and any salmon coming from a RAS farm; net-pen Chinook (king salmon) from New Zealand or anywhere with RAS; coho (silver salmon) from RAS; and wild pink and sockeye salmon from “lift nets” in Washington state.

The “Good Alternative” category is a litany of Atlantic salmon raised in net pens in the Faroe Islands, Chile, Norway, Canada, Scotland and Maine. Not a single Alaska salmon makes the list, although some wild fish from the Pacific Northwest do, but none as a “Best Choice.”

Meanwhile, the RAS farmers are starting to turn the health and environmental issues back on wild fish.

RAS fish are “grown without any antibiotics or pesticides ever. No contaminants or pollutants like you’ll find in the ocean,” Festival Foods, a Wisconsin supermarket chain proclaimed when it rolled out locally grown Superior Fresh farmed, RAS salmon last year, noting their “Best Choice” rating from Seafood Watch, their “organic diet,” their high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, and an “amazing flavor.”

Alaska wild salmon certainly weren’t helped when the Washington Post hosted a blind taste test in 2013 featuring some of the capital city’s best chefs and seafood buyers as tasters and afterward declared “the judgments were definitive, and surprising. Farmed salmon beat wild salmon, hands down. The overall winner was the Costco frozen Atlantic salmon (Norwegian), added to the tasting late in the game — to provide a counterpoint to all that lovely fresh fish, we thought.”

Costco now makes no bones about its attitude toward farmed salmon.

“We believe that farmed seafood should be an integral part of our business, that aquaculture is a critical source of affordable protein now and in the future, and that farming can be done in a sustainable, responsible manner with reduced impacts on the environment and local communities,” the wholesale marketing powerhouse says on its website.

That fish will not be coming from Alaska that boosted its production with “ranched” rather than “farmed” salmon. The difference is simple. Ranched fish are turned free in the ocean rather than contained in pens.

Ranching success

From a pure production standpoint, the Alaska ranching operations have been hugely successful. They have been responsible for about a third of the state record harvests of about 180 million salmon per year for this decade, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) data.

Over the more than 100 year history of Alaska commercial salmon fisheries, the state has never seen decadal average harvests anywhere near this high. Prior to the 1990s, the state and before that the Territory of Alaska never saw a single season harvest of greater than 130 million salmon.

The value of the catch, however, has been limited because 73 percent of the hatchery harvest of about 62 million salmon per year has been low-value pinks, according to the latest Alaska Salmon Enhancement Fisheries Annual Report from ADF&G. 

And questions have been raised about whether the large number of hatchery pink salmon dumped in Alaska waters every spring could be reducing returns of more valuable sockeye, coho (silver) and Chinook (king) salmon.

Scientists Greg Ruggerone and Jennifer Nielsen in 2005 suggested “that pink salmon may be the dominant competitor among salmon in marine waters.”

“Since a number of studies have recently examined pink salmon interactions with other salmon, we reviewed them in an effort to describe patterns of interaction over broad regions of the ocean.” the wrote in a paper published in Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries. “research consistently indicated that pink salmon significantly altered prey abundance of other salmon species (e.g., zooplankton, squid), leading to altered diet, reduced total prey consumption and growth, delayed maturation, and reduced survival, depending on species and locale.”

The state has ignored the issue of marine survival as too difficult to study and held to the view that correlations do not prove causation. Meanwhile the pink salmon hatcheries of Prince William Sound, in particular, have established themselves as regional, economic powerhouses based on their ability to head and gut large volumes of low-value salmon to be shipped to China for further, cheap processing while the remains in Alaska are converted into fish meal and oil.

Salmon fish meal production in Alaska grew from nothing in 2012 to 13,000 tonnes by 2015, according to a report prepared for ASMI, and has reportedly continued to increase in the years since. 

The result of this “increased utilization” – as the McDowell Group, an economic consultancy called it – has come in the form of an evolving industry now worth nearly $200 million per year, according to a 2018 McDowell report.

Market share

And yet Alaska continues to lose ground to the salmon farmers it sought to out manuever when it banned farming in 1990.

Those salmon farmers show no sign of reducing their steady growth either. While some are moving onland with RAS, Norway Royal Salmon has teamed with Aker to expand farms far offshore into Arctic waters.

“According to both firms, their new ocean aquaculture concept, called Arctic Offshore Farming, facilitates sustainable growth in areas that the aquaculture technology thus far has not been able to exploit,” Norway News reported in December 2017.

Norway Royal provided the salmon farming expertise, the website said, while Aker took the lead on “expertise in offshore facility construction (Aker Solutions) and the environmentally certified fishery operations in extreme water (Aker Marine),” the website reported.

The Federation of Norwegian Industries says its “ambition is for Norway to become the world’s leading seafood nation through a five-fold increase in salmon production and a six-fold increase in value creation between 2010 and 2050.”

Aker built its business on trawling krill in the rough waters of the Antarctic Ocean. Krill oil contains astaxanthin the chemical given farm-raised salmon to turn their flesh pink.

“If it were not for krill meal, most of your store-bought salmon would yield a pale gray meat,” according to WellWise.org, a Netherlands-based nonprofit focused on health and nutrition issues. “The vast majority of krill harvested today (around 98 percent) is turned into meal for fish farming. Only about two percent is used for krill oil in dietary supplements.”

Aker has been trying to broaden the market for its krill products by expanding into supplements for people and for pets. Thus the connection with the Iditarod and other sled dog races.

“You might wonder how professional athletes are related to animal performance,” Aker says on its the website of its Qrill Aqua subsidiary. “Well, we all want to perform: athletes, sled dogs and even salmon. The connections are actually more related than what you might think, as nutrition plays an important role for all of us. Aker BioMarine has identified four positive krill effects across these species when it comes to performance: inflammatory response, heart health, well-being and muscular system.”

Preliminary studies “are encouraging for krill meal supplementation for dogs in general, whether they are performing in long-distance races or taking their leisurely afternoon walk,” the company says.

“But what about salmon? During the past decade, the effect of krill on salmonids health and fillet quality has been investigated. Fat content, fat distribution and fillet quality may be influenced by feed composition. Due to krill inherent advantages i.e. feeding stimulants, omega-3 fatty acids bound to phospholipids and highly digestible peptides, krill improves fillet quality, both in terms of yield and texture.”

The Qrill pitch sums well the problems facing the Alaska salmon industry going forward:

“Flesh quality in salmon is the result of a combination of characteristics of skeletal muscle, which include the muscle chemical composition (fat content and fatty acid profile, glycogen stores, oxidative stability, color) and muscle cellularity and is strongly influenced by a variety of extrinsic factors such as feeding, pre- and post-slaughter handling, processing, and storage procedures. One of the major criteria of flesh quality is texture, which is determined by muscle cellularity (fiber number and distribution) and connective tissue characteristics. Different studies have shown an improvement in gaping and fillet firmness and a decrease of melanin spots in salmon fed krill diets, which are key requirements for the salmon industry.”

The farmers are now in position to fine-tune the body composition of their salmon to suit the taste of salmon buyers, and they are in a much better position to oversee careful pre- and post-slaughter handling, processing and storage than Alaska processors shoveling huge volumes of salmon through their plants for a few months every year.

This might explain why most of the major salmon processors have also diversified into farmed salmon businesses. Thirty years after the ban it’s clear the state did a great job of keeping farms out of the state, but the ban did nothing to maintain wild salmon prices, one of its main goals, and in the long term is appears destined to make Alaska – once the dominate salmon producer – a bit player in global salmon markets.

Correction: An earlier version of this story overstated the tonnage of the Alaska salmon harvest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28 replies »

  1. Craig tell us which countries/states have thriving wild salmon runs and successful pen raised salmon farms? Norway, Chile, Washington state, British Colombia? You talk about production and profit, but my understanding about banning fin fish farming in Alaska had to do with concern for the health of wild salmon and farmed fish. Are you really willing to gamble Alaska’s wild stock for the profits of Norwegian companies farming fish here? Sea lice infestations, diseases, escapes, and privatizing wild areas that a lot of us use for boating and hunting.Try to imagine your favorite anchorage plugged with a salmon farm owned by a multinational corporation. Norwegian companies have made a ton of money world wide selling technology to mom and pops and then taking over their operations when they couldn’t make their payments. Personally I think Alaskans made a wise decision and dodged a bullet and our Alaska wild salmon have done very well. Our runs and markets have are still strong and there have been plenty for sports, subsistence, and personal use. You are welcome to eat as much farmed fish as you want instead of dip netting or sports fishing…I hear it’s great, but I wouldn’t eat it and never plan on it.

    • if we were so concerned with the health of the wild fish, why did we start dumping nearly 2 billion hatchery fish in the ocean every year?

      siting of farms is a legitimate issue, but the state of Alaska never got to that point. it commissioned a thorough analysis of the environmental risks. it concluded they were small.

      the Legislature subsequently decided the financial risks were big and banned salmon farms. that’s the history here.

      Norwegian wild salmon were in trouble due to overfishing long before farming started. salmon are not native to Chile. they were introduced by hatcheries much like ours. farming came later: https://www.currentresults.com/Invasive-Species/Invasive-Water/chinook-709271.php

      Washington state salmon, like those in Oregon, declined because of overfishing, pollution and dams. they too were in trouble before any farms appeared. Oregon took a shot at open-net fishing farming, which is what we do so successfully, and it failed miserably

      there is every reason to believe that happened because of the same ocean problems that caused problems for wild fish there.

      British Columbia stocks remain healthy, but increasingly face environmental issues the least of which might be farms. in the wake of the Cohen Commission report in British Columbia, it is probably safe to say fisheries officials there wish the province’s problems were as simple as farms.

      but it’s all destined to become irrelevant anyway. land-based farms look on the verge of exploding in the U.S. and one can probably expect the same in Canada.

      meanwhile, we annually gamble with wild stocks in Alaska by dropping billions of hatchery fish in state waters every spring. do all those fish have an influence in the statewide declines in Chinook salmon and regional declines in sockeye and coho.

      i don’t know. i do know the question begs for some answers.

  2. I am sure that the Norwegians cannot believe their good fortune. They deplete their wild salmon and start farming. Their main competitor in the free world runs its wild salmon sector responsibly and bans farming. Farming has competitive economic advantages over wild catching, so the Norwegians take over the world. With competitors like Alaska, the Norwegians don’t need friends.

    • With competitors like Alaska, the Norwegians don’t need friends.

      It IS weird. To make a misstep, to zig when you shoulda zagged, momentarily loose track of the ball … sure. For 30 years? Hmm.

      But we have seen, if not ‘this’ movie, certainly one with the same plot-twists & theme-devices, evidently produce by the same Director and Studio. The Arab Oil Embargo.

      What was our response? To shut down our booming nuclear power industry AND permanently bare our throat to OPEC.

      You might also be interested in a fantastic Mohave Desert opportunity, and stock in a famous NYC bridge.

  3. Not mentioned in this piece is the controversy over the Pebble mine. The hysterical opposition to Pebble is all about saving the Bristol Bay salmon fishery from certain doom. Fact is, if Bristol Bay salmon never again appeared in market nobody would care except those living in Dillingham. Inasmuch as the Bristol Bay catch is essentially infinitesimal in terms of world market. It is about time Alaska diversified its economy and developed Pebble as well as fish farming.

    • not exactly, Donald.

      the residency data for the BB gillnet permits would indicate a lot of people in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest and Anchorage would care. a lot more, in fact, than in Dillingham, Naknek or all of SW Alaska which has bled permits to other areas since limited entry was enacted.

      and yes, it would seem Alaska needs to either diversify its economy or go all in at becoming America’s national park and amp up its tourism game because it’s hard for people to survive in the modern age without jobs.

      or maybe we should just start recruiting “climate refuges.” given our new, California-like summers, maybe a bunch of Silicon Valley businesses could be encourage to relocate here before they fry.

      • Craig, You reply reinforces my point that the Bristol Bay (BB) fishing industry is not critical to Alaska’s economy. That said, I do believe the BB fishery is critical to certain people’s economy, but do they live in Alaska? Having traveled the entire country I long ago concluded there are not enough Alaskan salmon caught to legitimately satisfy every menu listing “Alaska salmon.” Transportation cost alone precludes that. So, with confidence one can say that virtually every salmon served at an east, southern or middle American restaurant got there from Norway or Chile. As a country we farm beef, poultry, swine and freshwater fish for food. Here in Alaska we raise hatchery salmon for sport fishing and breed stock for supposedly wild salmon. Yet the notion of fish farming for human consumption is illegal. It is blatant protectionism, and as coal miners discovered eventually the economic alternatives overwhelm.

      • Donald , do some reasearch . Lots of headed and gutted flash froze iced chums silvers reds get shipped to states from norton sound and surrounding areas . 1,000 pound boxes . So many they run out of freezer space . Quality fish . As well as fillets . I’ve seen em . As to your silly statement about Bristol bay – you might as well either be an idiot or a paid propaganda voice . I fished norton sound and Bristol bay . I have many friends who fish there . The permits and boats have a fairly high in state ownership compared to many of the other fisheries . They employ locals and Alaska locals own the set net sites . It’s one of the few fisheries not overtly subsidized by the state . Only a fool would mess with it . Large scale mining should stay off the table until Alaska gets its act together so it can pass laws that help create reasonable profit from its mineral wealth . At least as beneficial as oil . Gold copper ect is just getting more valuable. To let someone into pebble at this stage is alow a theif into the house . Risk of fisheries damage and giving away profit on the minerals . Damn foolish.

  4. I got lost in your math, Craig. If “Norway, a country about the size of Arizona, and once a minor player in the salmon business, now sells more than 1 million tonnes of salmon per year worth more than $7 billion, while Alaska, a state more than five-times bigger than Norway, on average, produces somewhere around 450 million tonnes worth less than $700 million.” what prices are the Norwegians getting for their fish when they sell 450 times less salmon but make a thousand times what Alaska gets for ours?
    Also, you have fallen into the common trap of “bigger is always better.” The size of Alaska is irrelevant in this. Norway has a population of over 5 million people compared to Ak’s 600 thousand.

    • Could part of the answer lie in the fact that a majority of Alaska’s harvest are low value Pink hatchery salmon?
      Are Norwegians focused on Reds and King’s?
      Another part of the equation is Norway’s position on the infrastructure within the EU Community.
      Alaska sells more salmon to China who bids way less per pound for huge quantities they process and sell back to American Consumers in stores like Walmart.
      Globalism has not been good to the U.S. Economy…unless that is you are in the “Defense” Industry.

    • i’m sure the Norwegians are calculating total economic value there, which is more than simply the price of the fish at the dock or what we call ex-vessel value. the Norwegians add value by processing the fish into filets before shipping it, and in many cases they’re shipping direct to retailers which also adds value.

      Alaska these days largely heads and guts salmon and bulk ships it elsewhere for value-added processing. so we automatically lose all that revenue. and our fisheries don’t generate the associated revenue the farms do in buying feed and employing people year round to feed fish or the tech/infrastructure investments made in Norway.

      we’re basically alow-value op, and the Norwegians are a high-value op.

      as to size, it goes not to population but to available habitat and productivity. a shoreline to shoreline comparison would have better than square miles, but i didn’t have a shoreline number for Norway. still, suffice to say, they are producing a lot more salmon per mile of shoreline than we are.

  5. White wild salmon occur. In the Pacific Northwest, it is a minor curse for traditional trollers & sports fishers alike, that you pull up the occasional handsome King … and the meat is snow white. It’s on what they eat – just like farmed fish – and (thus) presumably, where they’ve been.

    Low value wild salmon, even unmarketable spawners, could be cheaply harvested in rivers, and cheaply processed into high quality feed meal, for high value farmed salmon. Hold that thought.

    A possible overall strategic explanation for Alaska’s salmon farming ban, is that the policy maintains a working claim on the ocean environment used by its fisheries. That ocean homestead then supports more than just the salmon … all of which is part of your claim. If you gloriously fly into the fabulous fish farming future … your wild salmo fishery is kaput and others can start to carve up your former claim to those ocean waters.

    If Alaska did begin managing salmon runs as feed-stock, they would still hold their claim to the wild ocean range.

    Antarctic krill are not necessarily a stable long-term feed-source, especially not for any one player, like Norway (or Russia). There is controversy in creaming off the krill … and WWF, never a disinterested or objective player, appears to be cultivating favorites here.

    Obviously, trash-salmon contain the same magic ingredients as the krill. Salmon oil is also a marketed Human Supplement. Both generic “fish oil” and “kill oil” are being renamed as something more-upbeat & trendy … this won’t be a problem with the salmon source.

    Krill and similar organisms themselves are obvious candidates for aquaculture. With study & experiment, machines can probably extract an intact little morsel of shrimp-meat from them, which could be the base of a super-surimi industry. Plus megatons of top-quality lifestock & aquaculture feedstock.

    Shutting down Alaska fish farming sniffs a good deal like shutting down Pacific Northwest and Southeast AK forestry … and America’s oil patch, to become dependent on the Saudis. Obviously, it can be interpreted as political policy … the only real question being whether it represents shrewd thinking, or something less impressive.

    WWF & Co are elite, anti-democratic operatives who have less business inserting themselves into the policies of nations than corrupt & servile UN agencies. We saw that the writing was on the wall for these ballot box averse gadflies, as Greenpeace and Sea Shepard etc were repeatedly rocked back on the heels, even before the 2016 election. If Trump & the GOP win in ’20, those Eco-activist stocks aren’t going to be worth their cellulose.

    RAS is potentially the floodgates for vastly more than fancy salmon. For quite a few generations we’ve known, slam-dunk, that nothing matches much less beats aquaculture.

    Low value wild salmon could be cheaply harvested in rivers, and cheaply processed into feed meal, for high value farmed salmon. Hold that thought.

    A possible overall strategic explanation for Alaska’s salmon farming ban, is that the policy maintains a working claim on the ocean enviroment used by those fisheries. If you gloriously fly into the fabulous fish farming future … your wild fishery is kaput and others can start to carve your natural claim to those ocean waters.

    If Alaska did begin managing the returns as feed-stock, they would still hold their claim to the wild ocean range.

    Antarctic krill are not necessarily a stable long-term feed-source, especially not for any one player, like Norway. There is controversy in creaming off the krill … and WWF, never a disinterested or objective player, appears to be cultivating favorites here.

    Obviously, trash-salmon contain the same magic ingredients as the krill.

    Krill and similar organisms themselves are obvious candiates for aquaculture.

    Shutting down Alaska fish farming sniffs a good deal like shutting down Pacific Northwest and Southeast AK forestry … and America’s oil patch, to become dependent on the Saudis. Obviously, it can be interpreted as political policy … the only real question being whether it was sagacious or bone-headed.

    WWF & Co are elite, anti-democratic operations who have less business inserting themselves into the policies of nations than corrupt & servile UN agencies. We saw that the writing was on the wall for these ballot box averse gadflies, as Greenpeace and Sea Shepard etc were repeatedly rocked back on the heels, even before the 2016 election. If Trump & the GOP win in ’20, those Eco-activist stocks aren’t going to worth their cellulose.

  6. State Income Tax….. 740,000 people live in Alaska. 600,000 people visit Denali annually. You do that the math.

    • Yes Bryan,
      But the median income is over $ 55 K on those 740,000 people so say a 3 percent income tax will yield much more than taxing those tourists on their fried halibut meals and t shirts they buy while in Alaska.
      Not too mention the 25 percent additional who live out of state and make their income in AK.
      Many of them like Dunleavy’s budget director Arduin live out of state and make nearly $200,000 a year TAX FREE?
      On top of that many municipalities like Wasilla already have a sales tax.
      A small income tax in the 21st century is not only plausible…it is wise to maintain infrastructure, local jobs and services like LE.

      • Steve, my point, which I wasn’t very clear on was taxing both residents and tourists alike. I was passing through Talkeetna and started talking to a family from back East. There were 6 of them. They said they were doing a Mt McKinnley/Glacier landing. I think it was around $500 each ($3,000, for ONE activity of many for them I am sure). Not to mention their rental motorhome, dog sled adventures, Kenai Fjords Tour, Denali NPP tickets, and all this from ONE family. I’d say they spent $10,000 in add-ons. So, when you say ” taxing a $28 Halubut sandwich” you miss the greater picture. Like you said, $3% isnt asking for much, 4-5% is even better. The problem is the state gov gets elected on running a welfare state off oil and salmon. That party is currently over.

      • Bryan,
        One example of a family who spends 10K on Glacier flights is the outlier in this equation.
        Most tourists are locked into their “Princess Package” and do not spend much $ outside of the “system”.
        The cruise, bus ride, train rides and meals are all inclusive and go right to corporate headquarters in Seattle…
        Municipalities in AK already have the right to pass sales taxes and several have already done that.
        Most tourists get off the bus to use the rest room, buy some junkfood and wine and get back on the bus in time for the “all U can” eat buffet back at Princess Lodge.
        You are missing the thousands of “slopers” who leave for two weeks at a time and take home 150K back to the outside…completely untaxed.
        This is on top of state subsidies like oil tax credits that are dolled out at nearly a billion a year.
        Alaskans are forced to pick up the tab for many expenses through higher property taxes in light of lower real estate values in many areas.

      • Roughly speaking only about 300,000 people are considered employed in Alaska. Go ahead and cut that 3% income tax total in more than half. Since statistically around half of income earners do not pay a Federal Income Tax we can knock off about another half of that. Taxing about 150,000 people to pay for an entire state is absurd. The failed former Governor Walker tried to get an income tax passed, the total was around $200-$300 million. An income tax is barely a drop in the bucket. A modest sales tax would generate far more revenue for the state than an income tax, if we decide giving more money to people who have shown they are really good at spending it irresponsibly.

      • Steve-O, my bad as meant to say Sales Tax but, I also think some % on Income Tax would benefit. I also agree the hucksters in power abuse this return.
        So, we are back to step one. I do know 2 million tourists visit the state each year and bring lots of cash with them. Steve S. seems to think they are all on Princess Packages and I say charge the cruiselines on the packages like most other states. Throw in a state and bourough sales tax. I mean, it shouldn’t take much to get creative and gen something with very impact on state residents and modest returns. Since Alaska infrastructure is supporting 10x (your #’s) the tourists compared to residents.

      • Hi Steve,
        I hope all is well with you. I would have to say that your outlier tourist comment is suspect at best. Where are you getting your tourist spending information? I live in a community that lives off of tourism (Talkeetna). A large percentage of these folks are Princess / RCT passengers. Flight companies, boat tours, fishing guides, restaurants, gift shops, nature guides, etc. all make a living off of these tourists. In turn, these businesses and employees hire people like me to build homes and infrastructure – however, this all comes from tourists – even Princess / RCT folks. As someone who is ‘in the weeds’ with tourists, I would love to see the financial numbers from this market. I definitely wouldn’t poo poo it though, I believe that tourism is going to be the states largest economy driver in the next 10 years… It’s currently #2 behind oil. Now the state needs to figure out a way to monetize these visitors to our wonderful state so we can avoid that income tax that the takers always bring up while still providing the services our citizens need (and not just want).
        Cheers sir!

      • Steve O,
        Just remember you do not need a job to pay an income tax in a state.
        Although all of those who work here and live in other states would contribute.
        This is over 25 percent of Alaska’s workforce.
        Retired state employees on pension with a monthly “income” would also pay.
        So too would Affluent Alaskans who live off of their stocks and shares of corporate wealth.
        Overall if you look at the earnings for the top 10 percent in Alaska (hundreds of thousands each year)…you would see a modest income tax of say 3 percent would help the state a bunch.
        This is not the only solution, just one of the ways to move AK into the 21st century.

      • Jack,
        Things work for Talkeetna for many reasons…
        Number one being “old money” that fuels many small businesses.
        Focusing on tourism too heavily is dangerous for an un diversified economy .
        I saw that first hand as king salmon was closed year after year here in SC and none of the past clients I knew even wanted to come to Alaska.
        Some even chose to invest in property in Canada where they thought sport fishing might be better.
        Sure the “window lickers” still arrive at the end of the road and 1,200 climbers eat and drink at the West Rib every year…but the clients who pay top dollar for a week or two in the bush fishing are fewer and far between these days.
        Tourism is a double edged sword to me…good business to be in if you have a lot of money in the bank….not so good if you need an income 12 months out of every year.

      • Howdy Steve,
        I’m going to have to disagree with you regarding the ‘old money’ factor in Talkeetna (and elsewhere in AK). While there are several ‘established’ companies around here (flight companies, a couple of restaurants, river boat company), MANY successful companies have been started by normal people. Here are some examples: DBC (2nd largest brewery in AK!), Moore’s Hardware, fishing guide businesses, Denali Zip Line, Wildflower Café, Kahiltna Bistro, Conscious Coffee, Spinach Bread, Aurora Dora, several small flight companies, Twister Creek, DeeDeeDaDa, High Expedition, Royal Mountain Inc, Susitna Valley Naturals, Silverbear Sundries, Denali Hemp Products, EVERY SINGLE CONTRACTOR in the area (about 20 of us), AK Nature Guides, HUNDREDS of Airbnb’s, North Shore Cyclery, dog mushing businesses, Snow Machine Tours, etc. That’s just of the top of my head with 1 cup of coffee in me. There are many more. In a community of less than 1000.
        As far as the nice in the summer, but it sucks for the rest of the year part: I (and every solid contractor I know) works year round. Year round. I have to schedule breaks in my work load to go fishing or visit my family (or both at the same time!). My wife works at a company that employs at least 17 people over the winter. 17. The local brewery employs around 50 employees year round. Nearly every contractor has at least 1 employee, but most have more to keep up with the workload. The local restaurants are now staying open year round and employing dishwashers, cooks and waiters. I would love to sit here for the next 2 hours and cite example after example of how our local economy consists of new businesses run by regular folks who just want to take their financial future into their own hands, however, I’ve got to go to work (drywall job in TC for a hunting guide – yeah, he also takes out tourists)…
        Basically, if you want to work in Talkeetna (and actually want to work), businesses are hiring, Year Round. We have a thriving local economy thanks to…… Tourism. It’s sustainable (the cruise companies are committed to at least the next 10 years) and expanding. The rest of the state should wake up and realize that resource extraction isn’t the only way to have a sustainable economy.
        Cheers sir!
        PS – quit poopooing the tourists!

      • Steve Stein

        Focusing on tourism too heavily is dangerous for an un diversified economy .
        I saw that first hand as king salmon was closed year after year here in SC and none of the past clients I knew even wanted to come to Alaska.
        Some even chose to invest in property in Canada where they thought sport fishing might be better.

        A clearly defined & self-identifying Tourism Industry is well documented, going back thousands of years. Easily argued is the less-documented position that it runs in the blood; it’s genetic. Archaeologists have recently been zeroing in on what look like tourism venues of the Late Paleolithic.

        The Crusades of the Middle Ages were a kind of high-stakes tourism … like rock climbing without ropes, and base jumpers.

        No tourist trap can coast or kick back on its laurels. Denali is a conspicuous example; the draw is a mystique, which can magically lose its luster … and reappear elsewhere.

        That you lost your King salmon crowd doesn’t say tourism failed to pull through for Alaska. Long-term captive crowds are the exception, not the rule. A crowd can sometimes leave you high & dry, even when the Kings are on, or the Grizz are big.

        Lots of different angles & venues, like Jack Smothers describes, is the right way.

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