Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
Your voice in the Aleutians.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
The KUCB Newsroom provides newscasts Monday through Thursday at noon and 5 PM on KUCB Radio. You can find many of our local news stories here.

‘They’re in real dire need’: Aleutian mayors weigh in on fishing crisis

King Cove August 2023
Theo Greenly
King Cove August 2023

The mayors of Unalaska and the Aleutians East Borough traveled to Washington, D.C. last month, sounding the alarm on the challenges jeopardizing Alaska’s fisheries.

Unalaska Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr. and Aleutians East Borough Mayor Alvin Osterback attended an invite-only conference May 22 and 23 in the nation’s capital. There, they filled state and federal officials in on the severity of the fishing industry crash and its impact on rural communities.

“Right now they have a crisis going on in King Cove,” Tutiakoff said during an Unalaska City Council meeting in late May, referencing the recent closure of Peter Pan — King Cove’s main economic driver. “They will not have a processing plant and they will not have a salmon season. They don’t have a crab season. They’re in real dire need.”

The closure of Peter Pan and sell-offs within Trident have sent shock waves through coastal towns who rely on the fishing industry.

Tutiakoff said federal officials he spoke with were interested in the issue but weren’t aware of the whole situation.

“My comments to the Secretary of Commerce were that we need help,” he said. “We need it soon. Unlike some communities, we do have some revenues but it’s not going to carry us very long before we start to feel the impact.”

Tutiakoff said the main issue brought forward at the meeting was that Alaska’s fish can’t compete with loopholes in global markets. He said Russian-caught fish is being transferred to countries like China and then sold on the American market as an Alaska product.

He called for federal officials to close loopholes that benefit the Russian fishing industry, warning that if help didn’t come soon, “Russian fish will be on everybody’s plate.”

Osterback agreed with Tutiakoff, emphasizing the region’s reliance on the success of its fisheries.

“We told them that we are fishing communities,” said Osterback. “We don’t do anything else. We don’t have anything else. Every business in our communities depends on the fisheries.”

Osterback noted that Sen. Dan Sullivan is working to add fisheries into renewal of the Farm Bill, a set of programs that support American agriculture. Including fisheries in the bill could insulate the industry from fluctuating markets.

“Whether you’re growing crops on land or you’re harvesting in the sea, you’re still a harvester,” Osterback said. “The fishermen, the municipalities, the processors — we’re all tied together pretty tight. If one fails, we all fail.”

Sens. Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski are expected to present a strategic plan to the Secretary of Commerce this summer.

Born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, Andy Lusk is a writer, travel enthusiast and seafood aficionado who won the jackpot by landing in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. When he's not hiking or working on his latest story, you can find him curled up with his cats and a good book. Andy is a Report for America corps member and an alumnus of New York University.
Related Content