ALASKA: America's Top Port Sees Streak Tweaked
September 19, 2012 -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just issued its fisheries report card for 2011, and Alaska is on the honor roll. Last year, 2.3 billion pounds of seafood worth $1.3 billion crossed the state’s docks.
About a third of that fish came through Unalaska. The city has long been proud of its reputation as America’s number #1 fishing port. But as KUCB’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports, Unalaska got a bit of bad news in an otherwise rosy assessment of Alaska’s fisheries.
For more than two decades, Dutch Harbor has held the title of America’s busiest fishing port. At least a half billion pounds of pollock, crab, and other seafood have crossed its docks every year since 1989. But Wednesday, Dutch Harbor got a bit of a surprise. Its streak had actually been interrupted. Here’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson Julie Speegle.
SPEEGLE: This is the 15th year that Dutch Harbor was the top port for volume, and I guess last year we were 22nd.
This isn’t a mathematical error. NOAA’s annual fisheries report card was released Wednesday, and analysis of previously confidential data shows that in 1996, Reedville, Virginia, actually beat out Dutch Harbor by 5 million pounds. It’s like if ten years from today, Michael Phelps had to trade an Olympic gold medal for a silver because of a change in how freestyle races were monitored.
Unalaska Resource Analyst Frank Kelty was among the industry watchers who noticed the change. He says that Reedville isn’t like your usual Alaska fishing port. He says that they don’t deal with seafood and that instead they process: KELTY: Very small menhaden or smelt type of fish that is ground up into fish meal or fertilizer.
For farming, not eating. Kelty is a little perplexed by the change in historical rankings, but he’s taking it in stride. The city is going to have to fix up some of its marketing materials, though.
Listen to the story at KUCB