Bristol Bay Borough incentivizes RSW upgrades with fish tax rebate

Jun 8, 2017

Assembly voted 3-1 Monday night in favor of offering a $1500 rebate to skippers installing refrigerated seawater systems on their vessels. Proponents say the chilled catch will bring higher overall value.

Bags of bled, chilled, floating sockeye being delivered in Ugashik in July 2016. RSW systems are expensive upgrades, but chilling bonuses and other incentives are encouraging more use in Bristol Bay.
Credit KDLG

Fishermen in the Naknek-Kvichak District who install a chilling system by the end of next year will be eligible for a $1,500 rebate from the three percent raw fish tax paid in the Borough's waters.

The Bristol Bay drift fleet sold more chilled salmon than ever before to processors last year, but some vessels are still not equipped with RSW chilling systems. On Monday, the Bristol Bay Borough Assembly voted in favor of enacting an incentive for those who still have yet to make the upgrade.

“It’s a way to put a little money back into the fishermen’s pocket; help improve—or give incentive to improve—the quality of salmon caught in Bristol Bay,” said borough manager John Fulton.

Effective from January 1 of 2017 until the end of 2018, fisherman with proof of purchase of an RSW system will get a one-time rebate of $1,500 from their fish tax.

“They would have to prove to the Borough that they had made these purchases—so invoices, receipts. Then the borough would issue a voucher, and then the fisherman could turn the voucher over to their processor,” said Fulton.

The vouchers are good for up to $1,500 off the three percent Bristol Bay Borough fish tax charged to drifters every year—the total rebate depending on how much the fish the fisherman in question sells in the Naknek-Kvichak District.

RSW chilled sockeye being delivered, with a quality control agent sampling temperatures on random fish.
Credit KDLG

Mary Swain wrote the ordinance change. She was approached in Anchorage this spring by Bristol Bay skipper Buck Gibbons who helped spearhead the plan. Both feel the incentive will help add to the overall value of the fishery. Fisherman will receive bonuses for selling chilled fish, and processors will have more opportunity to vend the more valuable fillets, and head and gutted salmon, instead of canning the fish.

“Well the fishery, of course, is pushing a value-added product, and that’s, of course, what we want to see come out of our Bristol Bay Borough waters is value-added product,” said Swain. Her proposal is part of what some are calling a ‘revolution’ in Bristol Bay, to make chilled fish the standard throughout to drift fleet. “Those fisherman that are a little reluctant to go forward and put the RSW in their boats, that’s what this is for,” she said.

The Bristol Bay Borough Assembly voted three to one in favor of the measure. Swain says there are plans in the work to add additional incentives for fisherman who already have RSW systems.

Reach the author at fish@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281.

Bristol Bay Borough Ordinance 2014-04

AN ORDINANCE OF THE BRISTOL BAY BOROUGH CREATING A LIMITED EXEMPTION FROM RAW
FISH TAXES FOR THE OWNERS OF COMMERCIAL FISHING VESSELS WHO INSTALL
REFREGERATED SEAWATER SYSTEMS AFTER DECEMBER 31, 2016.

WHEREAS, the Bristol Bay Borough has levied a fish tax upon the sale of raw fish within
the Borough, codified at § 3.16 et seq. of the Bristol Bay Borough Code of Ordinances; and,

WHEREAS, the Borough Assembly is authorized to by ordinance create exemptions from
the taxes levies within the Borough; and,

WHEREAS, it has become industry standard to use Refrigerated Seawater Systems by
commercial fishermen to preserve the freshness of seafood harvested from Alaska waters; and,

WHEREAS, the adoption and use of Refrigerated Seawater Systems by those commercial
fishermen who harvest seafood within the Borough will increase the value and quality of the
fishery; and,

WHEREAS, processors in Bristol Bay Borough are investing millions of dollars into their
value-added processing infrastructure; and

WHEREAS, the Borough has a vested interest in the value and quality of the fishery in
Borough taxable waters; and,

WHEREAS, the cost of installing a Refrigerated Seawater System requires a considerable
investment; and,

WHEREAS, a tax credit will help the investment become more affordable for those
fishermen who are reluctant to invest in a new Refrigerated Seawater Systems; and,

WHEREAS, the Bristol Bay Borough Assembly believes that the creation of a limited raw
fish tax exemption will serve to incentivize the owners to adopt the use of Refrigerated
Seawater Systems on commercial fishing vessels within the Borough.

BE IT ORDAINED AND ENACTED BY THE BRISTOL BAY BOROUGH ASSEMBLY:

SECTION I: CLASSIFICATION. This is a non-code ordinance, and is temporary in nature.

SECTION II: SEVERABILITY. Should any provisions of this ordinance or any application to any
person or circumstances be held invalid, the remainder of this ordinance and the application to
all other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.

SECTION III: LIMITED EXEMPTION FROM RAW FISH TAXES. The owners of commercial fishing
vessels who engage in the sale of raw fish within the Borough, and are therefore subject to the
tax levied by the Borough upon such sales pursuant to BBBC 03.16.020, shall be eligible for a
one-time exemption in the amount of up to $1,500.00 if they provide the Borough Tax Clerk
with proof, in a form and at a time satisfactory to the Borough, that they have installed a new
Refrigerated Seawater System after December 31, 2016. Owners who have not installed wholly
new systems, but have upgraded existing systems, shall not be eligible for the exemption.

SECTION IV: SUNSET DATE. Unless renewed by the Bristol Bay Borough Assembly, the
exemption shall expire on December 31, 2018

SECTION V: EFFECTIVE DATE. This ordinance shall become effective on January 1, 2017.
ADOPTED by the Bristol Bay Borough Assembly this 5th day of June, 2017.