PETERSBURG - Several Southeast Alaska fish processors are scaling back plans for the upcoming pink salmon season.
The change will leave some salmon fishermen without a place to sell their catch.
Washington-based Alaska General Seafoods, which operates a plant in Ketchikan, has reduced its fleet. AGS General Manager Gordon Lindquist said it's a matter of economics and market conditions.
Lindquist said he hopes the cutbacks are temporary, but believes the problems facing the industry will not be short-lived.
"The salmon industry is facing some pretty significant problems," he said. "I think that they will lead to a fundamental restructuring of the business both on the harvesting and the processing side over the course of time in order to get to the point where there's some economic efficiency back in the business."
Processors aren't taking the risks they once did because the market is more unstable.
Norquest Seafoods President Terry Gardiner said Alaska's industry is being forced to change quickly.
"It's a direct corollary to the ramped-up farm salmon production which increased 30 percent last year and glutted the market driving down farmed salmon prices," he said.
Dave Forbrush Jr., vice president of Wards Cove packing plant in Ketchikan, said the company has sent notice to some of its fishermen that it will not be buying from them this year.
Karl Demmert, who has been selling to Wards Cove for 13 years, said he won't be allowed to deliver his fish this year. He plans to work construction instead of fish this summer.
"That's what I do in the winter so I guess I'll keep doing that this summer," Demmert said.
Processors say it costs too much to tender fish from the grounds to the plants. Traditionally buyers have contracted to larger boats that travel to and from the fishing grounds bringing in fish so seiners can keep fishing for the entire 48-hour opening.
Processors want to find ways to reduce the costs by using one boat to bring in fish for two or more canneries, or by having a fishing schedule that allows fishermen to bring in their catch on a regular basis.
Icicle Seafoods President Don Giles said his company plans to scale back on tenders to reduce costs.
Most processors hope to have final plans for the 2002 season shortly after the Purse Seine Task Force meets Feb. 19 in Ketchikan.
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