Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association Board Member Update - P.O.W. Report

Friday, March 6, 2020

Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association Board Member Update

The following is from Chris Guggenbickler an SSRA Gillnet Representative:

As I return from a recent SSRAA board meeting in Ketchikan I would like to reach out and inform the fleet of some recent discussions the board made.

As many of us are aware we had a pretty severe run failure of summer chum in Neets bay in 2019, as well as poor survivals at remote releases. This left SSRAA with a considerable shortfall in which we elected to borrow from the revolving loan fund $5.2 million. This has kept our reserves of around $8 million intact for the most part. Some of these reserves we will need to be retained in the event of a serious capital breakdown (we deferred $1.4 million of capital expenses in 19’).

As we are in a situation of low survivals and unsteady ocean conditions as well as likely poor market situations due to the Coronavirus it leaves us even more unsure of future run projections and pricing predictions. As SSRAA has increased releases solely dedicated to cost recovery and broodstock (20 million at Burnett Inlet to a 30 Million total and 20 million at Port Assumption) numbers show that we will have the cost recovery available to pay the increased loans and rising operational costs with these ”new”fish.

The problem is a rising uncertainty of future survivals coupled with a larger debt load ($14M). We recently viewed run predictions for 2020 on chum salmon at SSRAA sites, these predictions are lower than normal based on poor survivals recently and a low percentage of 3 year old fish that returned. SSRAA staff has cut all unnecessary expenses and reduced the operational budget over 20% and our capital budget minimized to only the essentials which is only 10% of what we should be replacing.

I have struggled with responsibilities as a SSRAA representative and the needs of individuals in my gear group. Certainly we don’t want SSRAA to have a flush bank account and have fishermen to share the burden yet be financially responsible with SSRAA’s future.

The projected budget for 20/21 shows at bare bones we are still predicted to have a shortfall in the upcoming budget. In January the SSRAA board decided to move forward with non traditional cost recovery options likely to increase revenues by $1.2 million by taking increased cost recovery at remote release sites. In consultations with processors in January it appears the most likely option to create an acceptable bid price would be to carve a large block of time in Anita Bay during the summer chum return.

In between our January and March meetings there was some consultations with NSRAA board members that there may be a willingness for a NSRAA grant to help offset this loss of opportunity as fleet congestion and distribution will effect harvest sharing at NSRAA sites. With this in mind the SSRAA board generated a grant request letter to the NSRAA board. There was also the discussion at the SSRAA executive board level while drafting this letter that a NSRAA grant to create opportunity at Anita Bay would only create net opportunity and due to allocation imbalances it would be prudent if a grant was received to also create troll opportunity in Neets Bay.

On March 3rd and 4th the SSRAA board passed motions that if a grant was received from NSRAA a troll target of 50,000 chum would be allowed inside the Neets Bay THA and rotations for all users would not be interrupted for cost recovery in Anita Bay, if a grant was not received there would be no troll opportunity in Neets Bay on summer chum and the Anita Bay THA rotations for all users would be interrupted for cost recovery purposes from July 13th thru August 9th unless $1.2M in cost recovery was generated prior to August 9th.

SSRAA has not received official correspondence from NSRAA on the grant request but I am told it has failed. I write this to inform the fleets of pending summer schedules and some of the circumstances surrounding our decision.

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