QUINHAGAK — Expensive fishing nets sit on the hardware store shelves, unsold. Families struggle to buy baby diapers, back-to-school clothes and gasoline for boats that take them to favorite berry-picking spots. Some people have seen their water cut off for lack of payment.
Normal life is being upended in Quinhagak, a Southwest Alaska fishing village with no fishing this year for the commercial fleet. Skiffs are ready, kings were plentiful, silvers are starting to show up and brokers from the Seattle area who flew to the village say markets are eager for wild Alaska salmon.
Frustrated fishermen and village leaders say the problem is their region's community development nonprofit, which they say provides high salaries for executives and generous stipends for board members but no extra relief for this new stress in what's already one of the poorest parts of the United States.
Coastal Villages Region Fund this year suspended all of its Kuskokwim-area fish processing and buying, saying the operation was losing more than $6 million a year. It mothballed its salmon processing plant in the village of Platinum, closed down its Quinhagak fish station and has refused to lease dockside equipment such as icemakers and deck cranes to a Seattle buyer. Earlier, it closed its halibut processing plants in the region.