Ordinance calls for Cook Inlet salmon branding project

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- A Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member is sponsoring an ordinance to fund the Cook Inlet Sockeye Branding Project, a program that would tie quality assurance to an inlet brand.

The idea behind the project is to market inlet salmon to high-end niche markets worldwide.

Chris Moss of Homer, an inlet seiner by trade, said to compete in today's marketplace, inlet fishermen must be willing to handle the product more carefully. Then, they have to find a way to market the resulting high-quality fish as more desirable than the farmed variety, he said.

Good fishing practices used to amount largely to filling boat holds with as many salmon as possible in the shortest amount of time. Little care was taken to preserve the best possible quality because there was little competition in the marketplace. However, those days are gone with the high-quality, blemish-free farmed salmon now flooding the marketplace, Moss said.

His ordinance, introduced Feb. 5, would appropriate $305,550 to the Cook Inlet Sockeye Branding Project. The ordinance is scheduled to get a public hearing March 12.

Continuing to operate as the industry does today would be disastrous, Moss said. Prices would sink, fishermen would abandon the occupation, and the local economy would suffer.

''A diligent effort to adapt to the modern seafood marketplace is the only available alternative,'' he said.

Moss said the project would take three to five years to get established. The borough is being asked to front the $305,550 in start-up funds. Subsequent grants would be used to pay back some or all of the money, depending upon the success of the grant applications, Moss said.

The branding project has been estimated to cost more than $1 million over three years. A source of future funding could be the raw fish tax, but that would require state legislative action, he said.

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