Potential Partnerships Working with Alaska Native & First Nations
By Terrance H. Booth, Sr. Tsimshian Nation
The Tsimshian Nation and Nisga’a Nation of lower Southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia already are working together as tribes processing salmon for each other. Tsimshian of Metlakatla, Alaska predicts a super huge salmon harvest for summer 2013. The Tsimshian Nation is known as the “People of the Salmon.” Having a strong cultural tie with their seafood and is reflected in the art, dances, music, songs and stories Nisga’a Nation are next door neighbors to the Tsimshian Nation in British Columbia and Alaska.
These partnerships can grow and potential to add other First Nations and Southeast Alaska Tribes. There is potential to gain control of the seafood industry for all the coastal tribes from Southeast Alaska all the way to Washington State. Simplified overview of the Native Seafood Industry is Natives have seafood buyers or a company leases their Native Seafood companies and the buyers or companies reap much more profits by value adding seafood products. Example a noted warehouse grocery store has on sale Sockeye Salmon Fillet being sold for $7 to $13 dollars per pound and Native Fisher sold that sockeye for $9 dollars per pound. One Sockeye Fillet cost last year was $28 dollars. Therefore, with investments to the Native Seafood companies the profit margins can change with Tribes being empowered simply by taking control of sales and marketing their salmon products.
As it is seafood, buyers are reaping huge profit margins from Native Seafood products. For the lower Southeast Alaska and Coastal British Columbia, there is huge potential for potential formation of Native Seafood Alliance and having the potential to corner the seafood industry of this region. The potential Native Seafood Alliance can have a Native Seafood Niche in its marketing strategies for the Seafood Companies are new seafood businesses and Natives will have a marketing advantage because of their cultural ties to their seafood. Their Native cultures perspective in marketing strategies will attract many seafood customers simply because the Native art, dances, music, songs and stories reflect their cultural attachment to their seafood and can readily out do promotional activities of non-native companies.
Each of the Native Companies of lower Southeast Alaska and Coastal British Columbia have an abundance of pink salmon and investments can add canning of the pink salmon and Sockeye salmon for this is what the market is selling. The harvest area of this region has very high numbers in production of pink salmon. One Native Company in lower Southeast Alaska use to can salmon but now goes with the fresh frozen market. Investments for canning of salmon would be an excellent investment for the prices at grocery stores are high for both pink salmon and sockeye salmon. Again, a Native Niche in marketing strategies the selling of canned salmon will come with a Native Perspective and even more attractive would be Native labeling making full use of the Native Artwork. Most grocery store chains have a minority diversification whereby the Native Fishery Alliance can sign up for this as a minority company and start putting Native Seafood Products in several grocery store chains.
An innovative addition to this seafood industry is expanding existing fishing fleet and direct results would be a noticeable improvement in salmon production. For State of Alaska exports 20% of its Salmon production to China and even has an international trade office in China. Investments with Native Companies will definitely create volumes of seafood directly to China. Another way to upscale the salmon market is through value added features complete with Native Marketing Strategies that can directly show the thousands of years of harvesting salmon while the competitors in the industry are only a few decades old.
Port Simpson British Columbia and Metlakatla, Alaska are already working together processing each other’s salmon harvest. Enter Nisga’a Nation with a new seafood processing plant at Port Edward, British Columbia pending negotiation wants to be a partner with both Metlakatla and Port Simpson. Pending funding Nisga’a’s seafood company is in position to become an excellent partner with the ability to canning production are half pound and potential to do one pound canned salmon. With potential partnership, developing between Tsimshian companies with Nisga’a Nation this can set the stage in the formation of a Native Seafood Alliance. Whereby other Natives of the region can join the fisheries alliance to produce volume for the global market places.
In expanding the fishing fleet for these coastal tribes of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, the newly purchased boats need to be retrofitted so that the boats can have the capability to do year around fisheries. This time of year, it is harvesting season for sea urchin, sea cucumber and Geoduck. Early spring is herring and herring roe and start of the harvest for Pacific Salmon and Black Cod. In the area of Pacific Halibut Alaska is divided into fishery districts and many a time each area does not meet their establish quota. Therefore, results are a lowering of the Pacific Halibut quota. What could be available for Alaska is establishment of a community quota and with newly acquired fishing fleet is have the necessary long line equipment for fishing halibut.
There are seafood opportunities in the seafood industry from lower Southeast Alaska to British Columbia to Washington State with shortfall of Japan due to earthquakes and oil spill in Gulf of Mexico there is a demand for seafood and China seafood consumption continues to grow.