ComFish Alaska marks its 40th year

Annual forums and trade show offer updates on marketing, legislation and new gear

A variety of freshly caught, but frozen, seafood harvested in the Kodiak area, including Pacific halibut, were on display at the Fish Showcase during the final day of ComFish 2017 at Kodiak on April 1. (Photo by Margaret Bauman/The Cordova Times)

Alaska’s seafood industry is gathered in Kodiak March 27-30, for the 40th year running, to talk all things fish, from state and federal legislation to legal challenges, preventing fatal falls overboard, energy audits and vessel upgrades.

The annual gathering also includes a trade show that attracts gear vendors, government agencies and environmental entities with ties to the commercial fishing industry.

The agenda for Friday, March 29, includes presentations on marketing, the impact of space operations, discussion on permitting of the Pebble mine, and repurposing retired fish nets and an update on federal fisheries legislation.

Jeremy Woodrow, interim executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, and Garrett Evidge, an economist with the McDowell Group in Juneau, are teamed up to update harvesters about global markets for Alaska’s wild seafood, the value of that seafood in domestic and foreign markets, and how global economics create challenges and opportunities for Alaska seafood.

Mark Lester, president of the Alaska Aerospace Corp., will talk about that agency’s need for waterway and air space closures, and solicit feedback on the spaceport’s approach to closures, in an effort to improve the agency’s relationship with fishermen.

Nicole Baker of Net Your Problem will discuss efforts to recycle retired fishing gear, giving that net new purpose while keeping it out of landfills, to make many useful new products.

On the agenda for Saturday, March 30, are the community-oriented fun with fish and processor games, with a large display of many species of commercially harvested fish. Processor specific events will include a fish toss, with “catch and keep” competition to see which team of processor workers can throw and catch different species the farthest.

During the fishermen’s showcase, harvesters will compete, while the crowd cheers them on, in coiling, knot tying, hook throwing, the rail tie/hitch and donning survival suits.

ComFish began March 27 in downtown Kodiak with the annual fish taco night at the Kodiak Island Brewery, a fund raiser to support recertification for Pacific cod harvested by the Alaska jig sector in the Marine Stewardship Council and Responsible Alaska Fisheries Management programs. The popular event includes tacos prepared by the Association of Latin Women in Alaska with fish harvested by local jig fishermen.

The first full day of ComFish included forums on Coast Guard helicopter rescues at sea, a safety presentation by representatives of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on preventing fatal falls overboard, legal issues, business investing and vessel upgrades, and a fisheries update from the Dunleavy administration.