FISH FACTOR: Bristol Bay business boot camp set for September
Investment that comes from within, not from without, is the motivation behind a boot camp that will jump start and nurture businesses in communities throughout Bristol Bay.
Through Sept. 15 locals with good ideas, start-ups or existing businesses across the region will compete to attend a three-day boot camp that provides in-depth business education, networking and advice.
First, they must make the grade in a simple application process. The 10 or 12 who make that cut will go to the boot camp and be judged on business feasibility and contributions to their community. Three winners will receive up to $20,000 in grants for consulting and technical assistance.
The business boosters include the Bristol Bay Native Corp., The Nature Conservancy of Alaska and the Bristol Bay Development Fund, a subsidiary of BBNC that is infusing $5 million of “nurture capital” into local businesses that benefit its nearly 10,000 shareholders.
“Guided by our traditions, we also know that investing in the culture, education, and sustainable future of our communities pays off for all of us,” BBNC states on its website.
The group has partnered with the Path to Prosperity, or P2P, program by Spruce Roots Inc., an arm of the Juneau-based Sealaska Corp. that focuses on business coaching, technical assistance and tailored loans.
Over six years P2P has provided management training and mentoring to nearly 80 Southeast businesses. The Coppa ice cream shop in Juneau, for example, went on to win top honors at the Symphony of Seafood and jars of Barnacle Foods kelp salsa varieties are in stores throughout Alaska and nationwide.
Path to Prosperity received the Silver Award for Excellence in Economic Development by the International Economic Development Council in 2015.
“They provide assistance all along the way, even if you just want some feedback on your application. It only asks about six questions to see if your business concept has any legs,” said Doug Griffin, executive director of the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference, or SWAMC, which represents the Bristol Bay region.
“It’s all about the sustainability of small communities,” Griffin added. “It’s also a way to show entrepreneurial spirit in a community. If you see a small business startup and it’s successful, it gives something for the next generation. They see that if they want to stay in their community where jobs are so limited, they can make their own job by starting a business. It’s something they can take pride in. And it’s kind of the American way to be a small businessperson doing well.”
Fall fish board call
The state Board of Fisheries is organizing its lineup for the upcoming meeting cycle through March that will include Lower and Upper Cook Inlet, Kodiak and statewide crab and supplemental issues.
Anyone wanting consideration of a fish issue from any other regions can submit an Agenda Change Request, or ACR, through Aug. 26.
“The board recognizes that some of the other subjects that are important but aren’t in cycle so this is an opportunity for the public to submit proposals for the board to review at its October work session,” said board Executive Director Glenn Haight.
The agenda change requests must fall under one of three criteria to be considered.
“If the request is for a fishery conservation purpose or reason, if it is to correct an error in regulation, or if it is to correct an effect on a fishery that was unforeseen when the regulation was adopted,” Haight explained, adding that the board avoids requests that deal with out of cycle allocation disputes
The board will consider the agenda change requests at its work session, Oct. 23 and 24 at the Egan Center in Anchorage.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries includes seven members who set policy for Alaska’s subsistence, commercial, sport, guided sport, and personal use fisheries, and management is based on their decisions.
Alaska fishery managers closely track everything that comes and goes over the rails on boats in the Gulf and Bering Sea, including halibut taken as bycatch. The National Marine Fisheries Service posts all the catch data by gear type, region and fishery in federal waters (three to 200 miles out), down to the name of the boats.
A few months ago, that caught the attention of longtime fisherman turned broadcaster Jeff Lockwood, who has turned the bycatch numbers into weekly reports on KBBI in Homer, the nation’s top halibut port.
“I thought this is kind of interesting. Everybody talks about and knows about halibut bycatch, but as fishermen none of us really knew what was going on,” Lockwood said. “When I saw this information was there and just a week or 10 days behind what’s actually happening, I decided to compile and organize it. With any kind of numbers like that they’re kind of buried and you have to put in some work to sift through it.
A 2018 halibut catch summary by the International Pacific Halibut Commission showed that coastwide landings of Pacific halibut from California to the Bering Sea totaled 23.5 million pounds, a low for the last decade.
Commercial fisheries took 61 percent of the halibut catch, recreational users took 19 percent and 3 percent went for subsistence. Halibut bycatch in other fisheries accounted for 16 percent of the total catch limit.
Lockwood said he is concerned about the bycatch impacts on a fragile Pacific stock and he hopes his reports create more understanding, especially between dueling halibut users.
“In Homer the halibut longliners and charter operators tend to get at each other’s throats over who’s taking all of the fish,” he said. “It’s sort of hey guys, stop fighting amongst yourselves and look at this other stuff going on.”
The reports also list bycatch of chinook and other salmon and crabs.