The rest of the fish story UCIDAL: KRSA economic analysis contains fatal flaws

Voices of the Peninsula

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2006

Several economic facts were selectively picked, altered or omitted concerning the commercial fishing industry as reported by Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA). Following are the 2005 commercial landings and ex-vessel payments in the Kenai Peninsula Borough: salmon — 34,615,000 pounds generated over $33 million; halibut — 16,439,721 pounds generated over $49 million; black cod — 8,459,797 pounds generated over $34 million; and gray cod — 2,560,000 pounds generated over $1.5 million.

These four fisheries collectively landed 62,074,518 pounds of fish generating ex-vessel payments in excess of $113 million in 2005. These $113 million are spent directly into the Kenai/Alaska economic community for crew wages, fish taxes, vessel purchases, vessel repairs, gasoline, diesel, auto and truck fuels, homes, property taxes, repairs, supplies, clothing, food and transportation services.

As we spend our fishing incomes, these dollars circulate in and through our economic community about five times, growing to over $500 million of economic activity. However, when KRSA made its economic analysis, the comparison was between all forms of sportfishing to just the ex-vessel payments of salmon (they conveniently chose to omit these other species and commercial economic activity as these ex-vessel payments circulate in an economy).

Additionally, KRSA conveniently omitted the economic activity due to over 100 vessel owners and crews that make the peninsula home, but commercially fish in Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Bristol Bay and the Aleutian Chain. These fishermen bring their cash back home to spend on the Kenai Peninsula, which brings additional tens of millions of dollars into our economic community.

The four fisheries mentioned above do not include additional fisheries such as herring, pollock, bottom fish, scallops or octopus commercial landing, which add millions to the ex-vessel payments. Most commercial fishermen are multispecies, multiarea fishermen.

The KRSA’s so called “economic report” does not cover the entire scope or breadth of commercial fishing. Rather, they selected one fishery, salmon, to compare against the entire economic scope and breadth of sportfishing.

Each year it takes over 1,200 semi trucks to carry the millions of pounds of seafood produced on the Kenai to markets. It costs about $12,000 for a semi truck to leave the Lower 48 to come to the Kenai and return south. If the freight being hauled north (such as bananas, lettuce, carrots or fruits) has to pay the entire $12,000 trucking costs, the freight cost per pound is 33 to 34 cents. However, if the same semi can pick up a load of fish destined for the Lower 48, the freight is cut by about half to 16 to 17 cents per pound.

The Lower 48 destined fish will cover half the $12,000 round trip costs, or about $6,000. Everybody wins with semis loaded both ways. These 1,200 semis each provide a $6,000 freight subsidy (totals to over a $7,200,000 annually) on the goods we all consume. The KRSA study conveniently omitted this and similar commercial fishing economic benefits.

The commercial gillnet fishing industry consume over 100,000 gallons of gas/diesel fuels during every opening. At $2.50 per gallon, that equates to $250,000 for fuels for each opening. The commercial gillnet fishermen utilize far in excess of 1 million gallons of fuels per year, and that’s just on salmon. Additionally, many of these commercial fisheries provide fish eggs and egg products that are worth millions of dollars per year. The KRSA economic analysis also conveniently omitted to consider these products. By now the rest of the fish story starts to come into focus.

Over the years, KRSA has demanded the commercial fishing industry disappear in order for them to achieve their self-interests. It should be readily apparent that KRSA doesn’t want to share any fish with anyone and wants to steal the fishery resources “fish by fish.” No compensation to the commercial fishing industry; just take the fishery “fish by fish.”

What kind of community neighbor is KRSA anyway? The only justification KRSA has ever offered for the “fish by fish policy” is that these fish are valuable to KRSA. What an economic policy for our neighborhood, “If something is more important to me than you — I’m going to go ahead and take it!”

With this take “fish by fish” practice, KRSA has created a culture of conflict supported by conveniently misleading economic analysis and intentionally distorting the facts. The so-called economic analysis has no author identified; this leaves the public to assume that Ron Rainey and/or Ricky Gease are the authors.

KRSA, would you please identify the author of your recent economic analysis report so we can publicly debate this unnamed individual?

In building a strong and diversified economic community we need an economy that includes the medical, oil and gas, professional services, transportation, commercial fishing, education, governmental, retail and tourism sectors. KRSA is the only sector that actively promotes the demise of an economic neighbor. The commercial fishing industry and a great number of your economic neighbors want, deserve and expect better treatment.

KRSA, you have sorely tempted the commercial fishing industry, but we resisted the urge to go after you because of your poor neighbor skills. KRSA, if you want to become a full economic neighbor, then you must tell the truth, show respect and be a supporter of all the community economic sectors.

Dr. Roland R. Maw is the executive director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA).

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