Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Valdez, AK - Too Many Boats in the Harbor

We took a last walk through the small boat harbor in Valdez today and noticed that there were lots of commercial fishing boats here.
These are big hefty boats that go out a long ways and bring back lots of fish.
We hadn’t noticed this many yesterday and we were sure that they had all just arrived while we were here. We found one that had some men on it and asked ‘a stupid tourist question.’

'Why were there so many commercial fishing boats in the harbor?'

He told us that they weren’t catching anything and that there were no fish out there. But, he did imply that they might be able to go back out in a few days.

Bad news.

We met a woman in one of the local museums who used to work in the local hatchery and told us a bit more about this. The hatchery is scientifically run: they know how many little salmon they are allowed to release and thus how many they expect to have swim back in 2 years. 2 years ago they had released enough to have approx. 17,000,000 swim back in this summer. But, for some reason, not known yet, there were only 6,000,000 coming in. Boy, no wonder the fishing is bad. She worries about the families: some could lose their boats, some their jobs, some might not have enough to last the winter, those the packing companies hired to process the fish will lose their jobs too. A devestating impact on the community.

Speaking of packing companies:

Valdez is a major commercial fishing port in the US. A few days ago we walked through the industrial section of town where the food processors have their werehouses, their packing plants and where they house their workers. Peter Pan is a large salmon canning factory and ships all over the US, often using other brand names. They are open only during the salmon runs and hire only for then. Here on the right is what we have heard named ‘man camps’, large quickly erected housing facilities for lots of men to live in while they work on roads, in the oil fields, in canning - whatever needs a temporary force needing basic housing. (Probably called HRA’s now - ’human resource accomodations’ - since there are women too.) On the right is a housing unit and on the left is the mess hall for the people working this summer.
Here are two more housing structures. These people work hard during the season but it is only a temporary job. We met Christi, the woman who manages the store, where they sell convenience items for the workers, tourist items like t-shirts and sweatshirts with the company name on them, lots of canned fish and fresh fish right off the dock. She told us that she works 7 days a week for the 4 - 5 months she’s up here. Long dogged work but the pay is good, she says. In the winter she lives and works in Vegas.
Here’s the rec hall.
And, here is the fresh fish for purchase.
It is a big facility and here are the trucks lined up at the loading dock waiting for the boxes of canned salmon to be shipped.

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