The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

ASLC exhibits sustainable fisheries


Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Jakob Fultz, of Eagle River and Lucas Devon, of Anchorage play the new ecoOcean game.

An updated exhibit at the Alaska SeaLife Center turns learning about sustainable fisheries into fun and games, and visitors to ASLC have another important Alaska story to consider as they wander the exhibits and ponder the complexities of managing marine resources for healthy oceans.

ASLC unveiled a new exhibit Saturday on World Oceans Day that emphasizes Alaska’s commercial fisheries resources, and explains the need to responsibly manage the ocean’s resources for sustainability. The educational component compliments an existing display that shows Alaska fish products, describes what is caught in Alaska’s waters, where it is caught and with what gear, and offers recipes to take home.

The center now boasts a new, more realistic traditional Alaska commercial fishing vessel for small children to play in. It replaces the former one thanks to funding from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the Rasmuson Foundation and Seward Community Foundation, which sponsored the new exhibits. It’s called the F/V Alaskan Bounty and has a moving steering wheel, throttle and buttons that produce simulated boat sounds.

It carries stuffed animal fish of the kinds caught in Alaska waters, and while little children enjoy playing in it, everybody has a good time taking photographs of their children and themselves with the vessel.

But the coolest new toy, according to the commercial fishing exhibit’s creators and sponsors, is the tabletop educational fishing game called ecoOcean. The goal is to teach players to make sustainable choices while fishing in order to receive the highest possible score, and thus keep the ocean healthy for future fishing.

The game offers several subtle lessons already known to many fishermen and fisheries managers, and the more one plays it, the more one can learn about the challenges of, and reasons for, managing the fisheries, said UAA professor and Alaska fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp, who helped design the game along with Kiel University and Naymspace, a software developer in Kiel, Germany.

The first thing players think, just like many fishermen do, is that the more fish they catch, the more points (money) they can earn. But then they discover that actually, the more fish they leave behind, the faster they are replenished.

“It teaches you to start thinking about the consequences. If you just hammer all the fish, it depletes the ocean and you can’t fish,” said Knapp. Another subtle lesson players learn, he said, is that even if some do their best to act responsibly, and pace their own fishing, they may be joined by new players bent on catching as much fish as possible, thus ruining the future prospects for everyone. They see why fishing rules limiting the take in certain areas, or setting seasons, and managers are needed, said Knapp.

“Also, you have got to have everybody following the rules or it doesn’t work. It’s really, really subtle how to achieve that, like never click more than once in an area or half of the rest will disappear, and divide up the ocean into different areas to fish in. It’s a principle of fisheries management.”

Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

The Alaska SeaLife Center’s new wooden boat, F/V Alaskan Bounty, is larger and more realistic than the former one.

“It does a great job of educating people on some of the challenges that fishermen and fishing managers have in Alaska and around the world, and it helps the center round out their educational piece,” said Tyson Fisk, the communications director with ASMI. The exhibit also explains the “amazing story” of how Alaskans put sustainability of their natural resources, specifically fisheries, into their Constitution when Alaska became a state in 1959, to the present where Alaska is widely regarded as a leader in responsible fishery management, said Fisk.

More than half of all wild fish caught in the U.S. comes from Alaska. All Alaska seafood combined had an “ex-vessel value” or monetary value of the fish brought to shore, totaling $1.8 billion last year, said Fisk. That’s almost five billion pounds of fish, said Fisk. Dutch Harbor and Kodiak are the top two ports in terms of landings, and Seward is typically among the nation’s top 20 seafood ports.


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