Fish Factor: NFI project shows trickle down effects of tariffs

Project takes its message on trade to those making policy decisions

Seafood faces and placesA Seafood, Sea Jobs video campaign is taking its message on trade to the people who make policy decisions. The project was launched by the National Fisheries Institute to show the trickle- down effects of the steep tariffs on U.S. seafood in Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

“It’s meant to showcase the faces and places of seafood jobs around America,” said Lynsee Fowler, NFI communications manager. “Whether it’s a fisherman or a processor, cold storage, sales and procurement, a restaurant server or a trucker, the seafood community has diverse impacts that not everyone knows about.”

Fowler has traveled the country capturing people at work from coffee shops in coastal towns to truck stops and food making factories in the mid-west.

“It’s a lot further down the supply chain where you see the impacts and a lot of those jobs are in the heartland,” she said during a podcast at SeafoodNews.com

The project has produced 34 videos so far, which are delivered to policy makers and key opinion leaders on trade in Washington, DC.

“We want to make sure they are talking about seafood when they talk about industries that are hurt by tariffs,” Fowler said.

A 25 percent tariff on U.S. seafood exported to China began in September; another 25 percent on seafood coming from China to the U.S. is set to hit in January. Fowler said NFI’s hundreds of member companies already are paying that rate.

“It takes our members anywhere from 8 to 15 weeks to put in an order to China and get it here,” she said, “so they are operating under that 25 percent tariff and it has a big impact.”

NFI is the nation’s largest industry trade group representing member companies from fishing vessel operators to seafood restaurants for nearly 75 years.

Captain’s crab recollections – Trying to outwit killer whales … fights aboard 300 foot factory trawlers … falling overboard …  waves in the wheelhouse –   lots of fish stories stem from a life at sea. A new book titled “Chronicles of a Bering Sea Captain” captures five decades of fishing in the Bering Sea.

The motivation for the book came from a health scare 20 years ago at sea, said author Jake Jacobsen.

“The thought struck me that I have six kids and they know very little about what I have done out at sea, and I wanted to leave some stories for them,” he said in a phone interview.

Jacobsen began jotting down stories in fits and starts, put them down for about a decade, and became inspired again when he came upon old notebooks and photos.

One of Jacobsen’s favorite stories describes trying to outwit killer whales, what he calls “the most organized and intelligent adversaries,” from robbing fish from longline hooks.

“You try and develop strategies,” he said. “You cut your line, anchor it off, run away for a while and stop the engines and then come back. The whales leave sentries around at your strings, and then they call each other. So you can’t get very far hauling gear again because here come the whales.”

Jacobsen said in writing the book he also wanted to correct misconceptions people might have about fishing the Bering Sea.

“It’s hard and dangerous work and we are very competitive, but I want people to understand about sustainable fisheries,” he said. “When I tell these stories about staying up for three days in a row without sleep, we are not talking about decimating the resource. We are talking about a fishery that takes a small percentage of the available biomass, and it is all controlled by the best science available. In Alaska we are very proud of the sustainable seafood program we have.”

Find Chronicles of a Bering Sea Captain at Amazon, and more information at www.beringseacaptain.com/

Fish funds – American Seafoods has issued a call for grant applications targeting community programs in Kodiak, the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands, Western Alaska Peninsula, Bristol Bay, Lower Kuskokwim, Lower Yukon, Norton Sound and regions north.

A total of $90,000 will be allocated in grants that range from $2,000 to $15,000 each for

projects that focus on hunger, housing, safety, education, research, natural resources and cultural activities.

Since 1997 American Seafoods has given over $1.5 million to Alaska organizations and programs through its grant program.

Grant request forms are available online at www.americanseafoods.com or by contacting Kim Lynch at kim.lynch@americanseafoods.com or 206-256-2659. The deadline to submit applications is Dec. 10. The company’s Western Alaska Community Grant Board will select recipients on Dec. 19.

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Laine Welch of Kodiak has been covering news of Alaska’s seafood industry for print and broadcast since 1991. Visit her website at www.alaskafishradio.com.