Borough incentivises RSW upgrades with fish tax rebate
Fishermen in the Naknek-Kvichak District who install a chilling system by the end of next year will be eligible for a $1,500 rebate from the 3 percent raw fish tax paid in the Borough's waters.
The Bristol Bay drift fleet sold more chilled salmon than ever before to processors last year, but some vessels are still not equipped with RSW chilling systems. On Monday, the Bristol Bay Borough Assembly voted in favor of enacting an incentive for those who still have yet to make the upgrade.
"It's a way to put a little money back into the fishermen's pocket; help improve — or give incentive to improve — the quality of salmon caught in Bristol Bay," said Borough Manager John Fulton.
Effective from Jan. 1 of 2017 until the end of 2018, fisherman with proof of purchase of an RSW system will get a one-time rebate of $1,500 from their fish tax.
"They would have to prove to the Borough that they had made these purchases with invoices or receipts. Then the borough would issue a voucher, and then the fisherman could turn the voucher over to their processor," said Fulton.
The vouchers are good for up to $1,500 off the 3 percent Bristol Bay Borough fish tax charged to drifters every year — the total rebate depending on how much the fish the fisherman in question sells in the Naknek-Kvichak District.
Mary Swain wrote the ordinance change. She was approached in Anchorage this spring by Bristol Bay Skipper Buck Gibbons, who helped spearhead the plan. Both feel the incentive will help add to the overall value of the fishery. Fisherman will receive bonuses for selling chilled fish and processors will have more opportunity to vend the more valuable fillets and head and gutted salmon, instead of canning the fish.
"Well the fishery, of course, is pushing a value-added product, and that's, of course, what we want to see come out of our Bristol Bay Borough waters is value-added product," said Swain.
Her proposal is part of what some are calling a 'revolution' in Bristol Bay, to make chilled fish the standard throughout the drift fleet.
"Those fisherman that are a little reluctant to go forward and put the RSW in their boats, that's what this is for," she said.
The Bristol Bay Borough Assembly voted three to one in favor of the measure. Swain says there are plans in the work to add additional incentives for fisherman who already have RSW systems.