Teaching Old Dawgs New Tricks

It’s been a very interesting season so far. I’ve been
trying to purchase pink salmon, which many processors
won’t even buy when a salmon fishermen brings in his
catch of chum, sockeye, king and coho salmon. They’re
small, and get soft in a hurry if they are not dressed
and chilled soon after they come out of the water.

I know from pressure bleeding, dressing and chilling
them myself that they can make a great product if
handled properly. I’ve been aggressively seeking
fishermen to handle them this way, and willing to buy
the fish at over double what any processor is
currently paying. I figure that conservatively, a
deckhand could dress 30 pinks per hour (more 40 to 60
once they get trained, but 30 should be easy), and
that would translate to $60/hour at least. I’ve
advertised on the radio (not one response). I’ve put
up signs on the bulletin boards (a couple responses).
Yesterday, I went to nearly every gillnet vessel in
the harbor and put my notice to buy in their door, and
got a few more responses.

However, response does not mean anyone said they’ll
sell to us. The price sounds great, but once they
hear we want the fish dressed, etc., the enthusiasm
goes away. And the older the fisherman, it seems like
not just a lack of enthusiasm but almost disgust that
anyone would ask them to dress a pink salmon. Most
fishermen make it out that it’s beneath them – a jab
at their dignity – to clean a pink salmon. Seems most
everyone thinks someone should buy pink salmon, but
only the way they’ve taken them for the past 100 years
– in the round, and maybe chilled – but that’s it. Oh
yeah, and we want a high price for in the round, soft
pink salmon.

Seems few realize these fish are a dime a dozen in the
world of pink salmon commodity markets, and generally
only fit for one product form – the can – of which
there is, and has been, a perennial glut.

I’m definitely going to have to do more leg work this
winter to get someone fishermen interested. It sure
seems like a lot of money to throw overboard,
particularly with the high fuel prices, but it really
is difficult to teach a new dog new tricks.

Mark Stopha and Sara Hannan
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
Wild Salmon and Salmon Pet Treats
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

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