Marc Van Kerkhoven with his company’s boot product. Kayla Desroches/KMXT
Everyone from marine engine-makers to environmental watchdogs gathered at the Kodiak Harbor Convention Center today for the annual ComFish Alaska fishery trade show. Businesses set out bowls of chocolate that attractedchildren and fishermen alike.
One vendor flew from Belgium for the three-day occasion. Marc Van Kerkhoven represents the boot-making company, Bekina (beh-kee-nah). He says that their product is a good alternative to the “Alaskan sneaker.”
“We have a better boot for the canaries, for the processing plants, compared to those Xtratuf boots,” says Van Kerkhoven. “‘Cause it’s a much, much lighter boot. They have much more comfort. At the same time, it’s a material which is thermal insulating.”
Van Kerkhoven was the lone boot representative on the main floor.
Cook Inletkeeper, a nonprofit group formed to protect the Cook Inlet watershed, manned one of the booths downstairs. Today, you could see pamphlets for the Chuitna Citizens Coalition on the table. The Coalition was founded in 2007 in an effort to protect the Chuitna river 45 miles west of Anchorage from coal mining development.
Kaitlin Vadla,the Central Peninsula Organizer for Inletkeeper says she’s concerned about the industry development in that particular area, but also about the long-term effects of its approval.
“If this project goes through, they have leases to a bunch of other pieces of land and they could develop a whole bunch of wetlands and other salmon spawning areas all over Cook inlet,” says Vadla. “Basically it’s a precedent setting decision. Alaska has never allowed a company to mine through a salmon stream before.”
Forums up the street in the Harbor Room of the Kodiak Inn always attract a good deal of attention. Thursday afternoon Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, Kodiak Rep. Louise Stutes, and the top two officials from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game were there to talk about State and Federal waters fisheries, and the move to merge the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission into Fish and Game.
Forums continue at 10 Friday morning with presentations from the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, North Pacific Research Board and the Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association.
ComFish will continue through Saturday. There is a list of the forums and a map of the exhibitors on comfishalaska.com.