How bout this for some P.R...
It'll be interesting when this takes off just how the government alienates the sportsmen even more... Muckleshoots begin selling tribe salmon - Market competitive, but group hopes to find its own niche
by Mike Archbold, Journal Reporter
September 16, 2003 - The Muckleshoot Tribe is making fishing history this week on the Duwamish River, becoming the first local tribe to catch and market its own brand of wild salmon.
The fresh coho, also called silver salmon, will be available at area markets, the tribe says.
A radio advertisement touting the quality of Muckleshoot coho began running Monday.
The fishermen were in good spirits Monday, too, though tired from the previous night's work.
John Halladay, who heads the year-old Muckleshoot Seafood Products, said that over the next few days the catch will end up in a number of stores, each with a special tag declaring it ``Wild Fresh #1 Salmon'' from the Muckleshoot Tribe, which is based south of Auburn. Odin Foods Inc. of Renton is distributing the fish to retailers.
Quality isn't an accident, Halladay said. The direction to tribal fishermen on the river is, ``handle with care.''
The net-caught salmon are bled and iced on the river as soon as they are caught to prevent bleeding into the meat and easy bruising. Boats carry crushed ice.
They aren't hauled in by their tails, either, which can pop blood vessels along a fish's spine and cause bleeding, which lowers the quality of the salmon. They are handled with two hands, one under the head and one under the belly.
Dockside, the salmon are gently loaded into the hold of a large fishing boat with a refrigerated sea-water system to keep the fish pristine.
First, each one is checked with an electronic wand to separate out those with a metal tag inserted in their snout as hatchery fry. Their snouts are cut off and bagged for later reading, to see where the fish came from and when they were released.
The salmon are then driven by boat across the river to a nearby fish-processing plant and turned over to a distributor. Both processing and distribution is by contract -- for now.
Carving out a niche in the competitive salmon market will take time, but Halladay said the tribe is investing in the its future to build a name for Muckleshoot fish. Its fishermen have been on the river for centuries, he said, and they will be there for centuries more.
Coho are the bread-and-butter catch of the year. It's a five-day-a-week fishery, compared to a couple of 12-hour fisheries for chinook salmon.
Last year, the first day's catch was 80,000 pounds. Sunday night's catch was about 11,000 pounds. Tribal biologists say the run could be late and hasn't peaked yet, though they are keeping their eye on the catch numbers.
Like all commercial fishermen, tribal members on Monday wished the price-per-pound was higher. Muckleshoot Seafood Products is paying 60 cents per pound.
Ralph Elkin Jr. and his cousin, John Jansen, said they hoped the harvest picks up soon.
``It's pretty slow yet,'' said Jansen, but with rain forecast, he hoped the coho might start moving around more.
John Starr, who said he has been fishing since he was 8, said there was a time when fishermen could make a living -- but not anymore.
``You can get by,'' he said. ``Usually I just do it because I like to do it. It's in my blood.''
By early Monday morning, he had pulled in 73 coho and no humpies, or pink salmon, which aren't worth much on the market. It is a big pink salmon year, too.
Only about half of the 30-40 boats in the tribe's fishing fleet showed up for opening day. The coho were coming in at between 6 and 7 pounds, although a few fishermen were getting larger ones.
Starr and the other fishermen also hold out salmon to sell from the back of their trucks lined up at 121 S. River St. under the First Avenue Bridge. Do the math, he said: $2 a pound is better than 60 cents a pound. He has one restaurant owner who usually buys between 50 and 60 fish each year.
Stanley Moses, a longtime Tribal Council member and head of the tribe's fishery committee, said the tribe has owned the Duwamish River boat launch and docking facility for 38 years. It is now in trust status. The site has grown and today represents at least a $3 million investment by the tribe, including docking facilities and buildings.
He said it would be great if the Muckleshoot Seafoods Products could pay fishermen more for the fish but it simply depends on pricing trends that begin in Canada and Alaska. The tribal company has to at least break even, he said.
Halladay said the company already markets smoked salmon in special box sets as well as canned salmon. To further that end of the business, the tribe is planning a 13,000-square-foot cannery which may be built on the Duwamish site.
Eventually, he said, Muckleshoot Seafood Products -- fresh smoked and canned -- will be in every store in the state.