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Alaska fish processors get big pay increase

Carey Restino | Bristol Bay Times
Last year, 83 percent of the Coastal Villages Seafood's employees were from villages served by the nonprofit. Some 304 Alaskans worked in the seafood company's plants in western Alaska in 2012, with a total of 356 employees earning salaries from the plants. Loren Holmes photo

Entry-level fish processors working at Coastal Villages Seafood's plants will get $10 an hour to handle fish crossing its lines, the company announced this week, believed to be the highest starting wage for processors in the history of Alaska's seafood industry, the company said in a release.

"We hire Alaskans, and we pay more," said Coastal Villages Region Fund Executive Director Morgen Crow. The seafood company is a subsidiary of the fund, a nonprofit corporation with 20 member villages along the west coast of Alaska from Scammon Bay to Platinum. "But the best thing we are doing is providing hundreds of jobs right in our region."

The company is celebrating its 15th straight year providing a commercial salmon market for resident fishermen in the Kuskokwim Bay area. Last year, 83 percent of the seafood company employees were from villages served by the nonprofit. Some 304 Alaskans worked in the seafood company's plants in western Alaska in 2012, with a total of 356 employees earning salaries from the plants.

The company also announced an opening 2013 salmon price of $1 per pound for all species, up from 85 cents a pound in 2012.

"There are challenges this year in the world seafood market, but our diversified and wholly-owned fleet in the Bering Sea continues to provide a very solid financial base for economic development in our region, including through our in-region salmon and halibut operations, " said Crow.

The nonprofit has been a longtime advocate for redistribution of Community Development Quota allocations, which it says were allocated disproportionally to smaller CDQ groups when they were distributed in the early 1990s.

"Although we have been successful in providing these much-needed opportunities," CVRF could and should be doing more if the CDQ allocations were fair and based purely on population," said nonprofit Communications Coordinator Dawson Hoover. "I cannot stress enough the importance of fixing the CDQ allocations."

The nonprofit represents roughly more than a third of the 28,000 residents who live in CDQ villages, a population with some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the state.

This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times.