ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Cordova fishermen are teaming with the Anchorage Fire Department for an Alaska-style fund-raiser to benefit New York City firefighters: a salmon sale.
Fishermen in Cordova caught 31,500 pounds of silver salmon last week to help families of an estimated 300 New York City firefighters lost in the Sept. 11 terror attack on the World Trade Center.
The original idea was to catch a bunch of silvers, clean and freeze them and then ship them off to New York to help feed firefighters and rescue workers staffing their stations and the disaster site. The fishermen got an enthusiastic response from emergency officials in New York and on Monday morning a fleet of 19 boats lit out for the Copper River flats to net the fish.
Fishing was slow at first and the state Department of Fish and Game extended the opener to let the fishing continue deep into the night Monday and into Tuesday morning. Back on the dock, packing companies NorQuest, Copper River Seafoods, Ocean Beauty and North Pacific Processors -- usually feisty rivals -- combined their end-of-season skeleton crews to process the salmon. Another packer, Prime Select Seafoods, donated boxes.
Unfortunately, by Wednesday, the relief folks in New York were saying, ''Don't send fish, send money,'' said Sue Aspelund, executive director of Cordova District Fishermen United. Too many donated goods were already flowing into New York, she said.
By Friday evening, Aspelund, the fishermen and Cordova Mayor Margy Johnson had put together Plan B: The fish will be shipped, courtesy of Totem Ocean Trailer Express, to Anchorage, where next Saturday they'll be sold out of refrigerated trailers at two Carrs grocery stores in Anchorage and one in Wasilla. The fish, averaging 7 pounds, will be sold whole, headed and gutted, for $10 apiece.
Cordova fisherman Per Nolan, who helped organize the benefit fishery, said he thought of his 31-foot fishing boat, the Terminal Harvest, as a front-end loader on Lower Manhattan: He just wanted to put his equipment to work to help deal with the tragedy.
Although the salmon season was essentially wrapped up, some silver salmon were still swimming out in Prince William Sound. One fishermen who had pulled his boat and removed its net for the winter relaunched his vessel to help, Nolan said.
''I feel so much better to end the season this way,'' he said, noting it was a tough summer of weak market demand and low prices for salmon fishermen.
Anchorage fire Capt. Mark Hall, president of Firefighters Local 1264, said Anchorage firefighters and probably some from Cordova would be on hand at the Carrs stores to help sell the silvers. He praised the fishermen for ''getting out there and busting their butts to catch these fish.''
The 345 Anchorage firefighters have a bigger goal of raising $100,000 for the families of fallen New York firefighters, as well as 100,000 sympathy cards, Hall said.
''If we lost over 300 firemen, it would basically wipe out the fire department for Anchorage,'' he said.
The silver salmon will be sold complete with recipe cards supplied by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Aspelund said. At less than $2 a pound, these fish will be good eating for a good cause at a good price, she said.
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