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Up and coming fishermen learn from summit

February 24th, 2012 | Hannah Heimbuch Print this article   Email this article  

A dynamic and information-packed fisheries summit completed its fourth cycle this month as entrepreneurs from around the state gathered in Juneau to bulk up on fishing-industry knowledge.

Nine young people from the Bristol Bay region joined the two-day Young Fishermen's Summit, hosted by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program.

The program is the education outreach arm for the University of Alaska Fairbanks' School of Fisheries, and has offices around the state.

"It's a really fast-paced, very interactive, very energizing two-and-a-half days," said program representative Torie Baker.

The summit covers vital industry topics in the hopes of giving young fishermen - mostly in their 20s - access to the wisdom of the industry as a whole. Business practices, world seafood markets, fisheries management, loan and tax information, the Board of Fish and the North Pacific Management Council are all brought up in session.

"It's for people that are established in the fisheries but at the front end of their career," Baker said.

Lifelong Dillingham resident Sam Wright found the financial advice the most useful. Wright is 19, and though he was one of the youngest fishermen there, he has owned his Bristol Bay set net permit since the age of 14. Like many locals he grew up on his family's set net site, and plans to make his future living from it. And while he's surely old hat at skiff operating, fish-picking and site maintenance, he is just now entering the world of taxes, loans and fish politics.

"I've had this site and my operation longer than I've had to do my own taxes," Wright said. That makes him the perfect candidate for this program, which gives young investors who need to round out their understanding of industry a chance to do just that.

"We bring in speakers from all over the state, and other times all over the world," Baker said. "We mix it up with stellar resources and experienced fishermen."

This year's keynote speaker was Sam Cotton, a commercial fisherman and former Speaker of the House who serves on the North Pacific Management Council.

"It was cool to hear from a lot of the older people (about) their experiences," Wright said.

A new summit is held about every year and a half, Baker said, and the program has now passed more than 300 young Alaska fishermen through its paces. Local organizations, individual boats or industry businesses often sponsor participants.

The Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation sponsored eight of the nine local participants, with financial help from the seafood companies Leader Creek, Trident, Icicle, Peter Pan and Ocean Beauty.

This is the first time the summit has been held in Juneau. Past summits took place in Anchorage, but MAP wanted to align this year's event with legislative action affecting the fishing industry at this time.

"It was a great success," said Baker. "We'll probably do every other cycle in Juneau."


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