Commercial troll boats have been active in local waters of late, and it’s been good to see commercial purse seine and gillnet fishing boats heading out for salmon harvest openings in the region.
There’s something timeless in watching a fishing boat move out of the harbor and on to the open water. The long winter is done, the fishermen are ready and the season of harvest has arrived like it has for so, so many years. Most vessels have worked many seasons. Many captains and crew members are the latest generations of longtime fishing families.
We wish the fleets well, in safety and prosperity.
Commercial fishing continues to be an integral part of life in Ketchikan and the southern Southeast Alaska region. It’s local economic reach extends to the shoreside processors and the host of businesses that support the fleets.
Not too long ago, commercial fishing was seen as one of three “legs” that supported the regional economy. One of the other legs, the timber industry, is but a shadow of its former presence in Southeast Alaska. The third leg — tourism — grew to become the main focus of local economic activity and development. Now it too is a shadow of its former self, a stunning development in terms of speed, magnitude and uncertain duration.
The cruise ships’ absence makes the remaining vessels even more noticeable. Many of these boats are trollers, seiners, gillnetters and tenders. The fact that they’re still here, and still heading out for the fishing grounds should be regarded as the positive sign that it is.
It means that the salmon — and halibut, black cod, geoduck clams, sea cucumbers, Dungeness crab and other species of seafood harvested here — continue to be enjoyed around the world.
It also means, in this summer of 2020, that the local commercial fishing industry, thus far, has found a way to operate during a pandemic. It’s taking much effort on the part of fishermen and processors. We hope that their diligence can carry the industry through to a complete season uninterrupted by COVID-19.
We know it’s possible. The commercial fishing industry has shown remarkable resilience over time as it deals with local factors such as stock strength variablity and fishery management strategies in addition to the farther-flung factors of global markets and political interventions and the growing presence of aquaculture products. The commercial industry is accustomed to adjusting to changing circumstances in close to real time, and it’s doing so now.
Again, it’s good to see the commercial fleets in action, and our best regards to all involved for a safe and successful season.