Bristol Bay Fishermen's Association seeks more members, better payouts

Jun 23, 2016

The name isn’t the only thing changing for the group formerly called the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association. Now dubbed the Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association (BBFA), the organization is shifting gears to focus on fair and consistent payment for its membership.

Credit Molly Dischner/KDLG

“The mission [of] the BBFA is to achieve a fair price on the fish tickets when we go fishing,” BBFA member David Kopra said. “That’s our mission, that’s our purpose, that’s why we’re here.”

Kopra, who has been a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay for 37 years, said that the BBFA needs more fishermen to participate in order to be effective.

“I really want us all on the same page when it comes to our price negotiations. We need to stick together,” Kopra said. “The processors stick together. If you’ve noticed, their prices are always the same.”

To that end, the association dropped its membership fee for set-netters this spring. Drifters can join the BBFA for $300, set-netters for $150. Once the group has a few more members, Kopra says they’re set to do another salmon market analysis.

“We’re going to take into account all the markets for all the product forms, from eggs to fillets. We’ll consider run size, wholesale price, retail, domestic price, international price, exchange rates, inventories, farmed fish, processors expenses and our operating costs.” Kopra said. “We’re going to… distill all this data down to what is a fair share to the fishermen.”

With this data in mind, the BBFA wants to negotiate with processors to get a posted price before the start of the fishing season. Kopra said he doesn’t think the group can affect this year’s prices, but said they want to make a difference in the long-term. If necessary, the BBFA will go to the state government for help.

“We’re gonna petition the state of Alaska to use all the laws at their disposal to assure that a fair price is posted on every fish ticket.” Kopra said. “When the state… established the permit system, that was [meant] to put access to this resource in the hands of the fishermen. So these are our fish.”