The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute kicked off its annual All-Hands meeting at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage Tuesday morning with an emphasis on state budget constraints and the effects of climate change on the state’s fishery resources.

Executive Director Alexa Tonkovich acknowledged the state’s fiscal difficulties in her opening remarks, urging industry representatives think beyond the limits of the state budget.

She introduced Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who lauded the value of Alaska’s fishery resources for every community in the state.

“In too many Alaskan communities, the seafood industry is but a memory,” Mallott said. “The resource belongs to every Alaskan.”

Mallott was proud to promote Gov. Bill Walker’s leadership in taking action to combat climate change, “to inform, assist and hopefully provide — as ASMI does — global involvement and leadership in an area of critical importance to our state.”

Mallott noted that his son fishes commercially in the Gulf of Alaska. “He said nothing feels right anymore. He said everything’s changing.”

“Alaska needs to be at the forefront and engaged with the science, research and the policy-making,” Mallott added.

“Climate change got real really fast for us,” said Andy Wink, a longtime Alaska fisheries and seafood data guru with McDowell Group. “We’re seeing it with cod. I guess we’re seeing it with blackcod, as well. Japan is seeing it with their chum [salmon] harvests. These are not abstract things anymore.”

ASMI’s All-Hands gathering serves as a planning session and public overview of the marketing group’s efforts to promote Alaska fisheries and seafood products domestically and globally. The 2017 meeting runs through Thursday, Nov. 30.

Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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