"An Act relating to regional seafood development associations and to regional seafood development taxes."
"HB 419 creates 12 distinct seafood development regions based on the commercial fishing management areas established by the Board of Fish. Under the bill, all the fishermen in a region may vote to participate in an association or it may be limited to a specific species or gear type."
- Rep. Dan Ogg
House Bill 419, recommended by the Joint Legislative Salmon Industry Task Force, will allow fishermen to form regional seafood development associations to tax themselves, providing a stable funding source for marketing efforts.
Farmed salmon production has increased dramatically over the past decade, exceeding the wild salmon catch and causing prices to plummet. In order to compete in this new market, Alaska's salmon fishermen have sought creative ways to differentiate wild fish from their penned counterparts. One method that has proven effective in distinguishing the two is regional marketing. Copper River fishermen took the lead in establishing a brand for their catch, proving the enormous potential for niche markets. Now several other regional brands have been established, including "Kenai Wild" and "Arctic Keta," and more communities are in the midst of the branding and labeling process.
Most branding organizations are currently dependent on a mix of state and federal grants to fund their marketing efforts. However, these grants are often unreliable, one-time revenue sources. This bill would allow regional seafood development associations to assess themselves between one-half and two percent to provide a steady stream of marketing dollars.
HB 419 creates 12 distinct seafood development regions based on the commercial fishing management areas established by the Board of Fish. Under the bill, all the fishermen in a region may vote to participate in an association or it may be limited to a specific species or gear type. For instance, all salmon fishermen may vote to form an association or, if seiners do not want to participate and gillnetters do, gillnetters may still form an association with a majority vote of the permit holders in that fishery.
As the amount of imported and farmed seafood continues to rise, regional marketing associations will provide a valuable tool for Alaska's commercial fishermen. Regional associations are able to focus on the unique area where the fish is harvested, building on Alaska's reputation for pristine waters that yield superior fish.