Direct fish marketplace could be upcoming option

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010

If you're new in town, don't fish, but would like to buy fresh caught Alaska salmon directly from fishermen, it's hard to figure out where to go.

Juneau currently lacks a definitive direct-consumer purchase option for the wild foods found in the water. Gary Gillette, port engineer, applied for a grant from the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and told the Docks and Harbors board Thursday they received unofficial notice that they will get a $25,000 grant to develop an approach to offer a single marketplace for fishermen to offer their catches and improve access for residents and visitors. It also would cut down on the signs taped around town.

Board member Mike Williams said this would improve the issue of people speeding into the docks parking lots and parking inappropriately. He felt it would also give the "fisherpeople" a direct marketing area. He gave the example of advertising for a specific day of the week that fishermen would be selling a given product on a given day. Williams also wanted to see a design for a possible dock or waterfront and a crane or lift.

Three harbors are listed in the grant request for consideration: Don D. Statter Harbor in Auke Bay, along with the downtown Harris or Aurora Harbors. The proposal suggests at least one, possibly two locations for the facility.

Docks and Harbors will be working with the Juneau Fisheries Development Committee to bring a proposal to the Assembly.

Port Director John Stone said an issue with Harris Harbor could be corrected with this idea as well. He said currently there is a fish-filleting table at Harris and a significant number of fish are cleaned there. However, the problem is those fish end up being dumped right below the table into the harbor. This causes not only water quality issues, but also fill that will be difficult to remove.

Board member Greg Busch asked if this would be specific to salmon or if it would include halibut and crab as well.

Gillette said the proposal wasn't species specific and the intent is to include all kinds.

Cheryl Jebe, board member, suggested fishermen might not be interested in purchasing advertising if they're essentially doing it for free now.

Williams disagreed. He said while Alaska fishermen are extremely independent, they are also really busy spending several days out on the water, getting ice and taking care of many other details.

"If they can see the opportunity and benefit from it, I think they'll buy in," he said. "It could alleviate some of that pressure and also having it in a professional format for them. I think they could see the value. Being in the industry that got me through college, I think they'd jump on it."

Board chairman Jim Preston said so far this grant is for a study into realistic options. He added that there is a question of whether to charge commercial fishermen to pay a fee to sell their wares, when others pay a fee to use docks facilities. Preston said the board has consistently declined to do so with the fishermen because they're paying a fish tax.

The board unanimously approved allocation of the upcoming grant and when they receive official notice it will go to the Assembly.

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