Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Reality Show Series on Bristol Bay Prompts Concerns From Harvesters

 

Bristol Bay fishermen get a bad rap from a new Animal Planet show, according to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. Photo by Rob Rogers.

An Animal Planet reality show series on the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery has a number of factual errors and misrepresentations that have many of its harvesters concerned, says the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

"Alaska: Battle on the Bay," which began airing in January, describes the highly competitive fishery in terms of five captains "preparing to battle the unforgiving bay, the battering ram of boats jockeying for position, and the law, which strictly monitors the season with recon choppers and police squads."

Sue Aspelund, executive director of the BBRSDA, has contacted Animal Planet executive Marjorie Kaplan to point out what she identified as a number of factual errors and misrepresentations in trailers for the series and in the first episode. Aspelund said she got a prompt reply from Kaplan, who said she was looking into the matter and would get back to her.

One area of major concern, and with significant potential to increase costs in the fishery, is that of safety, Aspelund said. She told Kaplan, "you may not be aware that it is illegal for fishermen to ram one another. If your producers are staging rammings for dramatic effect and ratings, then Discovery/Animal Planet may be skirting violation of the law; and even if the rammings are not being staged, the skippers of the vessels at fault are in probable violation."

Aspelund told Kaplan that safety is the number one priority of BBRSDA members and that the show's portrayal of fishermen demeans and insults them. Of greater concern to our members is the likelihood that vessel insurance will become more costly due to Battle on the Bay's portrayal of our fishery," she said.

"The Bristol Bay fleet is comprised of hundreds of small businesses, many of them multi-generational families that have fished for decades," she told Kaplan. "We are the proud stewards of one of the most sustainably managed fisheries on the planet and fishing in Bristol Bay is a tradition. Therefore it is hard to see our fishery so sensationalized and misrepresented."

The reality series leaves viewers with the impression that most, if not all, Bristol Bay salmon fishing occurs on "the lines," boundaries where fish enter terminal fishing districts around the Bay, Aspelund said. Although they make for dramatic television, the lines comprise a tiny percentage of overall fishing area in the Bay. Excellent fishing occurs throughout the districts and most fishermen do not identify as 'line fishermen'," she said.

There are many stories about the Bay as a place of timeless cultural and family values and the BBRSDA would welcome the opportunity to help Animal Planet tell those stories, she told Kaplan.

 
 

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