PRINCE RUPERT, British Columbia - Alaska residents attending a conference in Prince Rupert say they're concerned about the future of the fishing industry in their state.
Delegates at the Southeast Alaska Conference have heard that this year's harvested salmon stock is likely to be only 137 million fish, down 75 million from last year.
John Sund, spokesman for the OceansAlaska Marine Science Center, said the major problem facing the industry is not a declining population of fish but the lack of viable jobs for a fewer number of people living in Alaska.
A combination of increasing energy costs for rural areas, federal litigation inhibiting fishing and decreasing fish stocks is keeping fishermen at home.
According to the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, only half the 415 fishing permits issued in 2007 were used.
Sund said the development of a shellfish fishery is one of the ways the industry could become viable again and create up to 600 jobs a year.
"To do that we want to establish a world class research and development facility in Ketchikan," Sund said.
Dan Robinson, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Labor, told delegates that although their state's oil revenues have grown, oil is not a priority in Southeast Alaska, and that's affecting the region's economy.
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