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Alaska Fish Factor: 'Fish First' Policy Tops List of Priorities

Sustainability Economics Politics +4 more

US - The need for a clear fish first policy in Alaska tops the list of priorities compiled by the Fisheries Transition Team for Governor Walker. The group also stated that fish and fishermen in Alaska are viewed as barriers to development, and that there is irreplaceable optimism that fish can coexist with development at any scale.

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Fisheries was just one of the topics that 250 Alaskans brainstormed about in 17 teams that newly elected Walker convened in late November. Their task was to identify the top five priorities in diverse categories, as well as the barriers to success and ways to overcome them. Their reports were released to the public last week.

The 25 member Fisheries Team, which included commercial, sport, subsistence and science stakeholders, strongly recommended re-enacting the Coastal Zone Management Program in its “fish first” priority list. They also said that no significant loss of fish habitat should knowingly be permitted in the state.

Roadblocks to success are cited as lack of scientific data due to lack of money, and “subversion of science to politics.” They called it a “myth” that fish, nature or habitat can be recreated, or that wild runs can be replaced with hatchery fish. The transition report also said that “the economic value of fisheries is undervalued and not understood, and the monetary dollar value of clean water and habitat is not understood.”

Number two on the transition list is to “prioritize and improve fishery access for Alaskans.” That includes creating state funds or Fishery Trusts to recapture fishing licenses, permits or IFQs (with a subset for young entries), and allowing “community entities” to do the same. The report also recommends making it easier for small scale processors and marketers to operate, and eating more locally caught seafood.

Adequate funding for ADF&G and fisheries science is ranked as the #3 priority.

Number four is that fisheries should be managed based on science over politics, with several suggestions for Board of Fish reforms.

Finally, the team prioritized locally based, adaptive fisheries management. They recommend that area managers be based year round in the regions they manage, and that lawmakers and administrators get out and listen to Alaskans in far flung places. Find the Transition Team reports at

Iceland leads in adding value - Iceland is a top fishing nation and it leads the world in turning fish parts into high value marine products. State and Alaska seafood company reps visited recently to learn more about how Iceland does it.

“The purpose was to increase our knowledge about the new full utilization technologies that Iceland companies are using to produce a variety of high value marine goods. It’s what they’re known for,” said Matt Catterson, an economist with the Alaska Dept. of Commerce and Economic Development which organized the trade mission. Also participating were the Iceland Ocean Cluster, Juneau Economic Development Council and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The two countries share similar challenges in developing high value products from fish parts, Catterson said, but Iceland has some clear advantages.

“Iceland is a unique place in a lot of ways. They have really abundant and inexpensive energy from all their geo-thermal resources. They also have great logistic connections within their country and to the European market,” he said.

One thing that really stood out was Iceland’s “collaborative culture,” especially with biotech companies and academia.

“It’s a model that doesn’t really exist yet in Alaska yet, where smaller biotech companies that are associated with the university in Iceland have partnered with some of the larger seafood companies to produce these high value marine products from fish wastes,” Catterson said. “They include a variety of pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, as well as basic marine ingredients like collagen or other enzymes that have really valuable commercial applications worldwide.”

Nine Alaska seafood companies are currently producing fish oils and meals, which is nothing new, and the volume and value has ticked upwards steadily since 2010. The value of 25 million pounds of fish oils produced in 2013, for example, was $15 million, a $3 million increase since 2010. Many large and small companies already are creating products from fish parts, such as Trident’s oil supplements and pet treats. Bering Select in Dutch Harbor last week began producing omega-3 products from cod, and the Alyeska Plant in Dutch (a Pacific Seafoods subsidiary) has started to produce collagen.

“The global trend is utilizing all of the resources,” Catterson said. “There isn’t necessarily going to be more fish available to catch and process, so increasing the value of what you catch and process is how the industry will grow in Alaska. And this is not news to any of the seafood companies operating here.”

Salmon milt magic - Salmon sperm, or milt, is being called a miracle product by Japanese researchers for its ability to extract rare earth elements from various wastes.

It turns out that salmon sperm has phosphate in its DNA, and previous studies showed that phosphate on the surface of some bacteria extracted rare earth elements (REEs). To test the idea, the researchers poured dried salmon milt into a beaker containing liquid ore waste. The semen did indeed absorb several rare elements from the solution, which were easily extracted using a centrifuge, and did it 10 times more efficiently than conventional methods.

The scientists claim salmon sperm could someday replace the hazardous chemicals that are currently used to extract rare earth elements. And take note Alaska: the Japanese researchers said that before salmon milt can replace industrial pollutants, “cooperation from commercial fisheries will be required”... and “infrastructure will have to be set up for capturing and processing it at its source.”

The scientists noted that in its dried form, milt is very easily stored.

It’s not the first time salmon sperm DNA has been called a miracle. It was the first biological material ever used in LED lighting, found everywhere.

Photonics expert Dr. Andrew Steckl at the University of Cincinnati said it is the unique shape of the salmon DNA that produces the bio-magic. He added that the semi-conductor and flat panel display industries fear that the rare specialty metals they need to make their devices will soon run out. Steckl believes plentiful biomaterials will help save the day.

“We have one of the biggest and most competitive industries in America with agriculture and fishing,” he said, “and it produces huge amounts of biomaterials which can be used in many different ways.”

Fish corrections: The new Juneau Resources Weekly publication began distribution by email on January 23 and not in February as was wrongly noted. The JRW covers fisheries and environmental issues during the Alaska legislative session. Visit or

Also, the date of the Symphony of Seafood event in Seattle is Feb. 5.