Reality Show Series on Bristol Bay Prompts Concerns From Harvesters

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 Bristol Bay Regional
Seafood Development Association, has contacted Animal Planet executive Marjorie
Kaplan to point out 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 one with significant
potential to increase costs in the fishery, is that of safety, Aspelund said. “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.”

Aspelund 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.