A federal program is offering support for fishermen hurt by competition from foreign shrimp farms and harvesters. About 300 people have commercial shrimp permits for Alaska waters, but only a third of them still fish. Most shrimpers live in Southeast.
Glenn Haight of the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program says eligible shrimpers will be trained in business planning and financial management.
“We’ll touch on direct marketing of shrimp products,” he says. “We’ll look at production and operation considerations, what kind of equipment is going to make useful products to compete in this environment. We’ll look at seafood markets and the shrimp market specifically to see what the competition is up to. And we’ll take a look at fisheries management issues, perhaps some organizational development that might help the group as a whole.”
Fishermen must have caught and landed shrimp in either the pot or beam trawl commercial fishery in 2008 to be eligible. They must also have shrimped during one of the three previous years. Crew and spouses may also qualify.
Haight says the federal assistance could be used to purchase equipment or market shrimp.
“A number of the shrimpers have turned to local markets as an option,” he says. “So you see people selling to their towns. And that may be something we could see a little bit more of. And beyond that there’s probably some other opportunities in the export market that we could explore with people.”
Those interested in the program must apply by December 23rd. Information is available from the Alaska USDA Farm Service Agency. Links are posted with this report on our website.
Shrimpers can get up to $4,000 for attending at least 16 hours of training. Up to another $8,000 will be available for those developing a business plan.
Haight says the full amount may not be available due to competition from other regions.
“Unfortunately for our folks here in Southeast, the gulf shrimpers, south Atlantic shrimpers and Maine lobstermen have all been found eligible,” he says. “We don’t know how many of those folks will be deemed eligible. It will be several thousand, likely enough. But we expect it will be worth someone’s time to join for these things.”
Haight says only about 10 Alaska fishermen have signed up for the program so far.
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau