and processing have been two separate business sectors. Most small
to mid-scale fishing vessels in Alaska are owner operated "wet
fish" vessels - that is, they catch fish and deliver raw to
a processing facility under entirely separate ownership. This is
often an entirely satisfactory arrangement. It allows the fisherman
to concentrate on catching.
However, the business climate is changing rapidly. Some processors are going out of business. Others are putting fishermen on limits, or shortening the list of fishermen from whom they will buy. Dock prices recently plummeted and are only beginning to recover. On the positive side, improvements in logistics, the emergence of the internet as a selling tool, and generally strong retail-level markets have created opportunities for innovative direct marketing. This has prompted many fishermen to examine the potential for direct marketing some or all of their fish catches. This segment of the processing sector carries tremendous energy and innovation. Many of the major American fish processors started out as fishermen and our future industry leaders could well be among the ranks of today's small-scale direct marketers.
One of the benefits
of processing and marketing one's own catch is the ability to sell
to buyers high in the production chain by bypassing costly middlemen,
(processors, wholesalers, etc.). Direct marketers can cater to niche
markets with their small-scale operations, high value product and compelling
stories. With that said, it is also recognized that avoiding the "middleman" means
greater duties and responsibilities. (See the Office
of Fisheries Development's, seafood
marketing presentation for an overview
of the responsibilities in the seafood market.)
The Office of Fisheries
Developments takes part in a number of efforts underway to support
direct marketing. These include provision of market and technical information,
support for marketing education/seminars, advice and support in obtaining
funding from federal and other sources and participation in a value-added
marketing grant program that ended in 2002. OFD also periodically coordinates
direct marketing seminars for interested fishermen and is currently
developing a joint program with the University's Marine Advisory Program.
This latter project will provide improved business start-up and technical
information for direct marketers, be they fishermen retailing directly
from their boats, small-scale catcher processors, or operators of "mini" processing
For more information
on direct marketing, read the Alaska
Fisherman's Direct Marketing Manual.
For more information
on marketing, visit the Seafood
Marketing section of our web site.
Seafood processing licenses and permits are available at the Alaska Tax Division’s Online Permit and License Application System. The online application includes the Intent to Operate and the DOR license application.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s “Seafood Processing Application” is available online.
You may also wish
to study the recovery and yield rates for
the species you’re interested in processing.
If you’re looking
for a direct marketer in Alaska, the map below contains contact information
and locations for most licensed catcher-processors
in Alaska in 2003. Updated lists are available at Department
of Environmental Conservation’s web site.
Map of seafood catcher-processor vessels in Alaska