Centennial Hall this week was full of fishing-related businesses and services offering free tide tables, glossy pamphlets, baseball caps - and dirt.
Among the businesses setting up shop at the first Southeast Seafood Industry Trade Show was Kake Tribal, whose table featured a glass bowl full of its new gardening compost, Totem Soil, and a box of plastic bags so people could take samples with them.
The compost is made of wood chips and salmon carcasses - what remains of pink and chum salmon after the roe has been stripped out - and will be sold at stores in Southeast, Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley and Seattle this spring, said Duff Mitchell, chief operating officer of Kake Tribal.
"We feel that we've got a unique opportunity to help the entire seafood industry," Mitchell said.
He said the compost business offers fishermen a way to get rid of low-quality salmon without having to sell it for human consumption.
"By eliminating the low-grade fish out of the market, you're doing two things. You don't have an upset consumer because they say, 'This is Alaska salmon and look how lousy it is.' And the cost of processing, freezing and canning the low-quality fish actually exceeds the (fish's) value. We have an opportunity to mitigate the freezing costs, processing cost and handling cost of that fish by diverting it to an industrial product," Mitchell said.
Kake uses carcasses from its own processor, Kake Foods, and three other processors in Juneau and Petersburg.
Trade show organizer Tom Gemmell said the two-day event allowed fishing-related businesses to interact under one roof and keep informed of developments.
"It's a chance to talk one-on-one with people," he said.
The trade show, which began Tuesday, also offered seminars, including six sessions offering technical help with federal Trade Adjustment Assistance. Those sessions are mandatory for fishermen who have demonstrated their businesses are adversely affected by farmed fish and are applying for TAA benefits. Gemmell said the TAA sessions were packed.
The Alaska Manufacturers' Association presented a seminar on its Alaska salmon certification program. Trade show participants also had the opportunity to attend sessions about using computers at sea, financing a seafood business and using salmon by-products, among other topics.
The Alaska Division of Investments operated a booth with information on commercial fishing loans. Michelle Kern of the Alaska Business Development Center, who staffed the booth, said quite a few fishermen asked for information, particularly about product quality improvement loans.
Mike Woodruff of Taku Fisheries said a seminar on electronic logbooks was informative and that the trade show itself was helpful for the industry.
"You get more people interacting with each other and I think it's good for the fisheries, too, because they have everyone here in one place," Woodruff said.
Jamie Letterman of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau didn't have firm attendance numbers Wednesday morning, but estimated several hundred people came to the show.
Masha Herbst can be reached at email@example.com.
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