TRANSCRIPT - Sandro Lane
Lane is the President of Taku smokeries and Taku fisheries
in Juneau, Alaska.
How is the salmon fishery in Alaska doing from your point of view
as a processor?
good from our perspective. A lot of fish coming in and stocks look
pretty healthy and theres record run every year. So our production
and our business is doing good and going up.
Aside from the fact that you run a lean ship, in terms of how the
fishery is managed, why do you think that there is plenty of resource?
I think that
the main reason for that is that the fisheries are well managed.
The state has decided long ago that it needed to invest in its resources
its fishery resources whether it be halibut, black
cod, or salmon. And that investment is definitely paying off now
given that in the last ten years six or seven of them have been
record returns, providing a lot of fish for the fishermen and the
processors and it appears that it will continue to rise. And this
year is no exception. We are having tremendous returns of chump
salmon and the market seems to be pretty strong for it or
at least growing and its making for good business for us.
I think the state has done the right thing by investing in management
and understanding the watersheds and protecting its watersheds so
that these fish can have a chance to go out to the ocean and come
back to a clean and healthy environment so they can reproduce. Thats
really the key.
How important is that from an economic point of view, for you and
for others in Juneau and in other places?
thats a tough question. Juneau has several different things
going on tourism being on of em. But fisheries also. Its
very important. For me its critical that the state continue
to manage. Without their involvement and without you know, real
protective and conservative management measures, we wouldnt
have a business. So. Its essential. And in terms of the economy
here in Juneau, were one of the larger employers here in town
and were an exporter so we bring in revenues and economies
from outside of the state rather than just recirculating dollars
within the state. So its an impetus of new growth. And I think
its critical for Juneau and for the state.
Can you talk a little bit about where youre selling your fish?
Well it depends
on which fish youre talking about. The halibut that you just
saw being unloaded, thats predominantly a US continental marketplace
for us, so that mostly stays in the US, some of it goes to Canada.
Theyre big consumers of halibut. But the salmon is a little
different story. Its predominantly an export. We go to Europe
with a lot of the frozen salmon and we go to the Asian markets with
quite a bit of it. It just depends on which species. They have different
niches. The U.S. market does take quite a bit of the chump salmon
on the fresh and the frozen level. But, thats been heavily
impacted by farmed salmon producing countries and imports of farmed
salmon. That have made it real hard for us to compete there, and
its driven the prices down.
But there is
a trend, you know, all of in the industry feel it and a have been
thinking about it for a number of years, you know the resource that
we have here being produced by nature and not being sustained artificially
is having some kind of a eventual market recognition and therefore
a potentially advantage financially, although financially we havent
seen that, but at least socially and, mentally weve seen a
shift towards people wanting to know where the fish they are eating
is coming from and whether its hostile or neutral to the environment
I guess is the way to put it. And theres a lot of literature
and a lot of information being dispersed at this time. And its
changing now, as we speak, as far as I can see, in the marketplace,
peoples attitudes towards where the fish is coming from.
Whats your take on farmed salmon? Do you have any concerns
as a processor on this part of the industry?
The state passed
a law pretty clearly a number of years ago that salmon farming wasnt
welcome here. I personally think that they did the right thing because
I dont know if we would have ever been able to compete with
the other countries that are way ahead of us in the salmon farming
game. And with the cost of labor and the cost and the remoteness
of getting product to market from Alaska, puts us at a little bit
of an economic disadvantage to the other countries that are farming
salmon like Norway, which is linked by truck to all of the
major European metropolitan areas and we have to put everything
either in airplanes or containers to try to get it to market quick,
which is a cost that other countries wouldnt face.
And the farm
salmon industry has demonstrated that fish do escape the pens. The
fish do spawn with wild fish, which can cause problems. In that
sense, I think we have done a great service to the wild salmon in
this state by not allowing that farming to take place and not allowing
our gene pool to become deteriorated in any way, and same thing
with our environment of spawning. I think it will pay off in the
long run, whether it pays off in the short run, I dont know,
but in the long run I know it will.
Could you speak to the health of the halibut industry?
I think the
halibut fishery in the northwest is another example of an extremely
well and closely managed fishery. It used to be fished on a very
short opening basis back in the 70s and 80s. With one
day of fisheries given and then a tally is taken to see how much
was caught and then other fisheries based on total quota. Today
thats been shifted to what they call an IFQ, individual fishery
quota management which has really done well in terms of the federal
governments ability to manage the catch and allowing enough
to remain to continue to produce a healthy stock.
Right now were
in a little bit of a down cycle. Quotas have been lowered about
15% last year and it looks like another 15-20% this year because
the indicators from the test fisheries are that recruitment is down
a little bit so better ease off on the pressure. Makes it difficult
for the buyers and the customers in the marketplace because 20%
of a 30 million-40 million pound quota is 8 million pounds of fish.
And its 8 million less for the market. But ten years from
now, itll be more. You know, and thats the way you manage
this fishery. So its more of a long term vision rather
than pull it all out of the water. And the fishermen here recognize
that as well, as well as the buyers, and the processors that
you have to make concessions on the short term for an ultimate,
healthy, and long term. Viable business.