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Hjalmar "Ofi" Olson and Robin Samuelsen, Jr., Part 1

Hjalmar "Ofi" Olson and Robin Samuelsen, Jr. were interviewed on July 25, 2013 by Karen Hebert and Mike Davis at Ofi's home in Dillingham, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, Ofi and Robin talk about getting started as fishermen, working for canneries, and discrimination of Native people. They also discuss fisheries management, local involvement in management, the Limited Entry permit system, and their involvement in advocacy for fishing and fishermen.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2016-12-01_PT.1

Project: Fishing and Natural Resources in Bristol Bay
Date of Interview: Jul 25, 2013
Narrator(s): Hjalmar "Ofi" Olson, Robin Samuelsen, Jr.
Interviewer(s): Karen Hebert, Michael E. "Mike" Davis
Transcriber: Landmark Associates, Inc.
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Science Foundation, The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


Growing up in the Dillingham and Kanakanak area

How Ofi started fishing

How Robin started fishing

Hunting and early snowmachines

Fishing for canneries

Working in canneries and discrimination against local Native population

Ofi's grandfather working as a nightwatchman

Organization of the Western Alaska Co-Op Marketing Association (WACMA)

Effects of the Limited Entry permit program

Changes in the relationship between fishermen and processors

Local ownership and sale of permits

Effect on the community of limited local involvement in the fishery

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


KAREN HEBERT: Today is July 25th (2013). My name is Karen Hébert and I’m here with Mike Davis in Dillingham, Alaska. And we are speaking with Robin and Ofi, although I’ll give them a chance to introduce themselves.

Maybe you could start off by saying your full name, the date and place you were born, and where you spent some of your early years.

OFI OLSON: My name is Hjalmar Olson (known as Ofi). I was born at Kanakanak Hospital in the fall of 1939 to a family that was to be eventually 11 children.

And grew up at Kanakanak, had a BIA school down there, went a year to school there.

And my family moved back to the Weary River in 1946, and I stayed there with my aunt up at the fisherman’s co-op store and went to school there for a year. And most of the time I spent at Kanakanak.

1940, my dad was trapping up in Lewis Point in that big slough southwest of Lewis Point, and we stayed there a winter. And then after that, we were up in the Nunachuak (an abandoned village on the Nushagak River located just below the mouth of the Mulchatna River), same thing, trapping beaver in the spring.

I don't remember those years. I was too young. But I guess the village was there then.

And then they closed the BIA school at Kanakanak and my dad went to a Catholic priest, relatively new here, Father Endal, and asked him to teach school at Kanakanak. And so he agreed to do it.

And I went to school there two years at Johnny Nicholson’s house. There must have been 15 kids there, or so. It was really -- I really learned a lot.

He was a good priest, Father Endal. And then he went and built a mission uptown. Of course, the school was closed then, and then we were bused to Dillingham for school.

KAREN HEBERT: How ‘bout you?

ROBIN SAMUELSEN: Yes. My name’s Robin Samuelsen. I was born in 1951 here in Dillingham. I grew up in the city of Dillingham and Kanakanak.

Ofi is my uncle, so Ofi and I were -- besides being related, we were involved in fishing throughout a number of years.

I started off in the fishery as a young boy helping his grandma’s set net. And then we’ll get into what I did later on in the fishery.

KAREN HEBERT: Sounds good, Robin. So Ofi, I was wondering if you could speak to some experiences that you had maybe early on in your life, and also even throughout your life, that you think have most shaped your perspectives on resource issues here in Bristol Bay, whether fishing or a whole range of other activities. Whatever you’d like to talk about.

OFI OLSON: Well, I think fishing was -- fishing was to be my whole life that started off in 1948 down in -- About two miles below Kanakanak, my dad had a set net site there. And, well, 1947.

And then they closed it down, moved the limit stake -- that was the north limit stake. But -- they had set nets all the way up by Dillingham.

So when they closed it, my dad moved to Igushik, 1948. And we were set netting there.

We had a year or two after we moved down that Dad got three set net sites. My mom and my dad and me. And from there, I guess, you kind of catch the bug and I started fishing in a skiff later. And then, eventually, in a drift gill net boat.

But fishing was then pretty well ingrained in me. And I fished every year. And -- and that was a pretty good life, I thought. When I got old enough, we trapped a little bit in the wintertime. Mostly beaver. But, uh --

KAREN HEBERT: And where did you do that? OFI OLSON: That’s what people done around here, long time ago, they either fished or -- fished and trapped.

KAREN HEBERT: Where did you go trapping?

OFI OLSON: Lower Nushagak River or behind Kanakanak. Yeah. Yeah.

KAREN HEBERT: Robin, what about you?

ROBIN SAMUELSEN: I started off, as I stated earlier, set netting in the Snake River with my two grandmas. I was a fish packer, fish puller. I couldn’t even -- I remember I couldn’t even lift fish.

So I’d put a rope to their gills and I’d pull ‘em up to the -- where we were storing them on the beach and then wash -- there was a crick there and we’d wash ‘em and throw ‘em in the skiff.

There was my two grandmas, my sister who’s one year older than me, Wassily Oginuk (sp?), and my other uncle, Pete Olson would come in with his boat.

But started off set netting, and eventually started fishing with my father as a young crewman and learning how to fish. He was fishing for Bendiksen, Bendiksen’s Cannery. East Point Seafood’s no longer operating in Bristol Bay.

And then in about, oh, 1965, I started fishing as a young 13-, 14-year-old.

I started fishing a 22-foot Seymour skiff by myself. 75 fathoms of gear. I rented the skiff from Queen Fisheries. I bought a used motor and my dad gave me gear.

And from there, I graduated into a fish boat and once I had kids, I named my boat Robyn Darleen and it’s been that way for about 32 years, now.

But most of my life I’ve fished, and -- and didn’t do much trapping until later on in life, but I did go trapping. I worked during the winters. Tried to find employment and various jobs within Dillingham.

KAREN HEBERT: And what about hunting? Did you do a lot of that, both of you, growing up?

OFI OLSON: Yeah, I hunted with my dad, my uncles. I really wanted to go hunting when I was a young kid.

And used to go with a skiff to the lower river and hunt moose. Never saw any caribou until the later years. Hunted ducks and geese and hunted a lot of ptarmigan behind Kanakanak.

My dad’s dogteam -- it was dogteam back then, no snowmachines. Didn’t even know snowmachines was coming into existence.

But it was -- it was nice as a young person. I’d drive and my dad would sit in the sled and shoot ptarmigan. Of course, I had to run and go pick ‘em up.

Yeah. Yeah, that moose hunting was pretty good. Usually, got a moose every year.

There was a few hunters, but it don’t seem like there was as many as nowadays. You know, Dillingham back then was probably 700 people, maybe, 600 people. But now there’s 2400 people, so the competition gets pretty fierce. Yeah.

Yeah, we used to stay -- there was cabins all over upriver. Usually, went a little above Portage Creek there. There was a cabin there and a cabin a few bends above that, another cabin above that. Went into the Kokwok, there was another cabin.

So we carried a tent, but fortunately we camped in those cabins. It was more comfortable.

KAREN HEBERT: It sounds like. How about you?

ROBIN SAMUELSEN: The ideal world to live in back then was fish in the summer, hunt in the fall for big game like moose, and then live a subsistence lifestyle throughout the winter. And a lot of people did that, all up and down the river.

In both the Nushagak River and Wood River, we had people camping out.

I was fortunate. I got one of the -- one of the first snowmachines in Dillingham because I had rheumatic fever and I couldn’t walk for about half of the months. So my dad, after a few people got snow-gos, he ordered me an 8 horsepower snowmachine with the engine in the back.

And it was a piece of junk because it kept getting stuck. But if you wanted to ride with me, then you had to push me out of that snow bank. So I usually had a bunch of kids running after me that whenever I got stuck, they’d push me out and I’d give them a little ride. But I think the population back then, Ofi, was about 400, 450, I think. OFI OLSON: More like -- yeah.

KAREN HEBERT: What year do you think that -- what year are you talking about?

ROBIN SAMUELSEN: Oh, this is the early ‘60s. And everybody knew everybody. And Olsonville was a really big place. There was a lot of people that lived in Olsonville. That -- that was the original Dillingham.

And -- and my relatives had a store down there and they kept getting their freight mixed up between Dillingham, where we know Dillingham now, and Kanakanak. And finally, they named Dillingham Snag Point, and then eventually Dillingham, and then Kanakanak, Kanakanak.

But there were stores down in -- in -- in -- the post office was down Kanakanak, main stores were down Kanakanak. And then it all slowly transferred up to Dillingham, the center of town as we know it today.

KAREN HEBERT: Maybe we could talk a bit more about the canneries that were operating at the time, and how those changed things in the summer when they started to operate, and how you were involved and worked for them?

OFI OLSON: Well, I think I was -- I’m one of the fortunate ones, at my age, to see a cannery built from scratch and being a major processor in the bay to virtually nothing right now. There’s nothing left of that cannery but some -- a few old buildings.

Queen Fisheries came here in the late ‘40s on a floating processor, and then bought some land and started out building Queen Fisheries. I think it was a two-line cannery.

But when I was young, they had two canneries operating uptown. There was PAF (Pacific American Fisheries) and Bristol Bay Packers, where Bristol Alliance is now.

And across the river was Clark’s Point, that was Alaska Packers. And then down at Ekuk was Libby McNeil and Libby. That was the four canneries that was operating here. Of course, there was more over in Naknek-Kvichak.

But eventually, they were all operating at full swing. They both had a bunch of boats.

You know, in 1951 we converted to power, and I think Clark’s Point closed about 1950, ’51, somewhere in there.

Of course, Bristol Bay Packers uptown here, where Bristol Alliance, that closed, uh, in the late ‘40s, I think it was.

So there was two majors and then, of course, Queen Fisheries was building. And they would eventually become a major operator. They had a pretty big fleet. I think they had well over 100 and some boats.

And we fished there for many, many years on the Queen Slough. I fished one year with my dad in a sailboat in 1952. He bought a sailboat from Bristol Bay Packers for -- I think, he paid $200 for that boat.

And allowed to use power, so he had an outboard motor in a bracket on the side. When it was calm, we used the motor. And when it was windy, we used the sail.

And -- and that was -- we didn’t know that power was going to come in to what it is today. The people voted for power in 1951. And now them little sailboats look like canoes alongside some of the size of these boats, here.

And early days, you had to work at the cannery in the springtime. Of course, I didn’t have to. I did early in my later years, but it was a requirement back there you had to work run money. What they call run money.

Two weeks getting the cannery ready, which entails hanging nets, painting the boats, working on -- general working around the cannery.

And then in the fall, the fishermen had to load the salmon, canned salmon. And I remember down at Clark’s Point they had these rollers. They were about, oh, 16, 14 inches wide, I guess. All the way from the warehouse down to the end of the dock.

And then they had a shoot down there to a flat scow. And the ladies -- women had to work, too, if they were fishermen. They pushing those cases.

And then the men down on the scow, and then they had a ship crew. Alaska Steam came in here and hauled all the salmon out. And some people were working on the ship crew. And some people lightering back and forth on the tenders. And then the women pushing the salmon on these rollers. So it was pretty busy.

It was -- course we never knew that -- you couldn’t predict the future. Now Clark’s Point is closed. Ekuk’s got a small filleting operation, I guess.

And Peter Pan has -- Peter Pan has got a filleting line and a can line. H&G, too.

And then Icicle, which is a -- came in here in the late ‘70s. They just bought Snopac. Well, they came in here in ’78, I think, in cash buying, and a year or two later they brought the Arctic Star and the Bering Star in here. But they mothballed 'em this year, I guess, and bought an onshore processor.

So we have one, two, three operations. Of course, Trident hauls all their fish to Naknek. I think they don’t have a processor here anymore. They had a processor early – early years. But they handle a lot of fish, yeah.

But years ago it was all canned. All canned. We used to play around the canneries, and if we got hungry we’d just go grab a can. Now if you grab a can, hey, you get arrested, I guess. Yeah.

KAREN HEBERT: Those are great stories. So Robin, maybe you could talk a bit about your involvement in the canneries when you were younger, and also how that’s -- you know, how they’ve changed, those businesses today.

ROBIN SAMUELSEN: Yeah. Well, my family fished for Bendiksen, and my mother worked in -- and my grandma worked in the cook house.

And Bendiksen, my first job was putting cans of salmon in the case because Bendiksen, he was a lowball operator, and he was growing his cannery.

And he didn’t have a packer. So what he’d do is hire all of us kids. And at that time there was no laws against kids working. I mean 8, 9, 10, 11, we worked 16 hours a day for the cannery.

And they’d come over with these big things of canned salmon that was in ‘em and dump them on the floor. And we’d be there with cases and had to load the cases of salmon and ship them out.

But my family goes back to one of the first canneries in -- in Nushagak. John W. Clark was a great-great-great grandfather of mine. And he started one of the first canneries over there above Nushagak.

And he had a saltery at Nushagak. He had a saltery down at Clark’s Point before the cannery was built at Clark’s Point. And he had another one down in Egegik.

And he ran an Alaska Commercial store. My grandma, Mary Olson, she started a processing plant down at Kanakanak.

In fact, an hour ago -- the reason I was late -- I drove over to Olsonville along the beach, and here’s the big old retort that’s getting ready to go over the bank (pressure cookers are often referred to as retorts, meaning "canning retorts", for sterilization under high temperature).

I’m gonna pick it up once it goes over the bank and store it in -- store it in my yard as an ornament because it was my grandma’s retort.

But there was a -- when I was a kid growing up, there was a lot of discrimination against us locals. We were known as the mud people. And there was a lot of discrimination in the canneries if we were local.

Locals didn’t get new boats. Locals got used nets. The outsiders got the new nets. The boats were -- some of them were pretty dangerous, from what I understand. That was hand-me-down boats. When the outsiders said the boat was too dangerous for them, they’d make the local guys go fish for ‘em.

And I grew up in that arena of my dad married my mother. My dad was from Bethel, originally, and married my mother, and then moved over here and became a fisherman.

Started fishing at Clark’s Point in a sailboat, and realized that the locals were really getting taken by the canneries. Especially when fishermen were put on limits, outsiders were given one set of numbers, might be 8,000 pounds. And if you were a local, you got 5,000 pounds.

And at that time, and this was before the Japanese decimated our runs in Bristol Bay, there was quite a few fish. And a lot of the jobs that -- that were in the canneries were cannery workers from here to Nome.

The airlines flew in cannery workers, hundreds and thousands of cannery workers both in Naknek -- all the canneries in Bristol Bay. They were the backbone of the workforce, and they brought their machinists and technical people up.

And when limited entry happened in 1973, them cannery workers were no longer existent. That’s when we started getting college kids. That’s when we started getting the green cards rolling into Bristol Bay.

And the reason why is, one of the main producers in Bristol Bay said we can’t have Native cannery workers in the cannery and have Native fishermen that will go on strike. Because once the Native fishermen go on strike, the Native cannery workers will quit processing our fish.

So we gotta get rid of them Native cannery workers and bring in the green cards and the college kids and whatnot.

And one year’s time, the cannery workers from Bristol Bay all the way up to Nome were done. And it was pretty hard on the people from AYK (Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim) and Kuskokwim because a lot of them people were coming down here like 15, 20, 25 years.

And we knew them, and different canneries -- we knew who they were. They were our friends.

But it was a rough road there for awhile for us here in Bristol Bay, just trying to be treated -- trying to be -- canneries having us treated equal.

I mean, if you were a -- if you were a non-Native, you ate in the blue room. If you were a Native, you ate in the mud room. I mean, the food was completely different in both places. They cooked real good food for white people. Natives didn’t get that good of food.

I mean, there’s all kinds of little things that you don’t see today that happened back then. And that was standard practice.

And down at Bendiksen’s place, there -- there was Norwegians that fished for them, and a good group of Native fishermen that fished for them. And Bendiksen was a Norwegian himself, I think.

And -- and a lot of the folks that -- locals that went down there and fished is because Bendiksen treated them fairly. As an independent, small processor up against the giants in Bristol Bay, he always tried to treat us fair. We still called him a damn crook, though.

KAREN HEBERT: Do you (to Ofi) have stories from this time?

OFI OLSON: Well, when Clark’s Point was operating, my grandpa was night watchman down there in his later years. He was about mid-seventies, I think.

And I was a young person and we had a camp -- we had to live there for awhile while my parents worked in the cannery. But I’d walk around with him. He had this -- he was the night watchman and I guess for insurance requirements, he had to press a key on a time clock throughout different stations in the cannery.

And they had two mess halls down there, just as -- imagine what kind of operation they had two mess halls. They had one out in the front of the cannery there, where -- where the machinists and superintendent and the beach gang, I guess, all ate there.

And then in the back of the cannery was the Native mess hall. And the mess halls were open night and day.

And I remember two women that were there. Every time I went there with my grandpa, they’d stuff a bag full of pastry.

They had a night bak -- most of these canneries had a night bakery and a cook and, you know, it was -- it was a big operation. And they cut all that out, gee whiz.

And I think Queen Fisheries was the last to feed their fisherman when you made a delivery. That was in the ‘70s. ROBIN SAMUELSEN: Early ‘70s.

OFI OLSON: And then they cut it out altogether.

But shortly after the Bay went to power, here, to get a voice for the fishermen, Robin’s dad (Harvey Samuelsen), he was one of the organizers.

And several other fishermen organized what they call the Western Alaska Co-op Marketing Association, WACMA. And at one time I think they had about -- approaching 350 members.

Well, just one instance, in 1970 we went to Naknek-Kvichak to fish. And it was a big -- there was red salmon cannery, CRP (Columbia River Packers), Ekuk, and Queen Fisheries was in that combine, too. Custom canning, I guess.

But there was a lot of fish over there. Oh, every day (A.W.) Brindle (owner of Wards Cove Packing Co.) would come out, and there was no Fish and Game regulating, that time. Every day he’d come out and tell us when to fish, what kind of limit we had.

One time he came out and he said, "All boats from Nushagak are on 1350 fish limit. And -- but if you go back to the Nushagak, you get a 2000 fish limit."

Well, we didn’t want to go home. There was a little bit fish here, but we wanted to catch the full limit over there, and take advantage of the fish over there. And so we -- many of us stayed. A couple of boats went home, but I stayed.

And after fishing, the WACMA board got -- it affected some people in this bay, too. Set netters who were set netting over here. My dad was one of them.

So they hired an attorney and they took the processors to court and they won. So the processors had to pay us for the days that they lowered our limit.

So WACMA was a real good association. I wish -- I wish they would be in existence today.

KAREN HEBERT: So maybe we can start talking about some of the biggest changes to the fishery that you’ve seen over the years? And also how different groups like WACMA were organizing both to see those changes happen and maybe fight against those changes.

I guess you can sort of start anywhere of what you see as the biggest changes and how different groups of people were involved here in those.

ROBIN SAMUELSEN: Well, I think the biggest change that ever happened was the advent of Limited Entry. And there were studies done on the number of permits that we needed to conduct this fishery. And lo and behold, we ended up with 1000 set net permits and 1800 drift permits, which was way, way above the standards that they said we were gonna have (cell phone ringing in background).

They said we were gonna have a heck of a lot less. So if you were a set netter, you know, with the 1000 set nets in Bristol Bay, just about all the districts -- fishing districts has an over capacity of set nets.

And with 1800 drift boats, just too many boats were -- were involved in the fishery.

And we used to be able to survive on two to three million fish coming into Nushagak. Now, we can’t even survive on that because there’s too many boats. There’s too many permits.

And now we’re having the negative effect with permit stacking. Most of -- most of the boats that are permit stacked -- I have dual permits, but most of the boats, local watershed boats, are single permit.

And I can cork a single permit boat out ten times out of ten on ten sets. And so it’s -- it's having a negative effect on the locals.

But the biggest issue that ever happened was -- to me was, in my fishing time, was Limited Entry. Seeing Limited Entry come in.

KAREN HEBERT: What about you, Ofi? What do you think is the biggest change?

OFI OLSON: I think Limited Entry was -- made the most dramatic change in how it affected the Bristol Bay region.

When we first became a state, the ADF&G, Fish and Game (Alaska Department of Fish and Game), managed on a cycle, five-year cycle. They said that fish was gonna come back every five years. And it did for a while. 1960 was a big season over in the Kvichak. Here two, I guess.

And ’65 was a big year. But I think 1965, I’m not sure about this, but I think 1965 had as big a run as we had this year, 2013.

I would have to research that. 1970 was another good year. And I think, in 1965 there was 1250 drift permits, 1300. And in 1970 there was a little less. Not much less.

And along comes Limited Entry a few years later. And they didn’t say there was gonna be an optimum number, but they said those who are in the fishery should be able to make a living fishing.

I agree with that statement, but it didn’t turn out that way. For example, pre-Limited Entry there was 350 set nets in the whole bay. Ugashik, Egegik, Naknek-Kvichak, and here. And probably Togiak was counted, maybe. 350 set nets.

Like now, or even earlier, you could have gone to Nushagak or Clark’s Point and usually those -- those limit-stake set nets were there, two or three people’s set nets.

And you’d lay out there and you could drift to Clark’s Point, clear net. Same way with Coffee Point. I think there was one family down there. Drift all the way to the point.

Along comes Limited Entry, and they said, "We’re going to have an optimum -- optimum 800 permits." Well, we wound up with 1100 set nets.

So the state can cry and talk about this buyback system, but I think the State of Alaska is at fault for issuing all these permits.

In the ‘60s, pre-Limited Entry, there was -- almost every year there’s an accident here, but we had a storm and a boat turned over outside of Ekuk and the people drowned on it.

And the Limited Entry years come by, a year or two after Limited Entry, and I notice a stranger. I says, “How did you get a permit?” And they said, “Remember that boat out here that drowned? Our relatives was on there. We got their permit.” Six, seven years after, dead people were getting permits.

So I think the State of Alaska's liable for something. This reduction in permits. There’s way too many permits. 1800 and some permits, plus 1100 set nets, the pie is going to be divided into smaller pieces.

And now we have a year like this year, which was a year like years ago, and it’s probably been a good year. There’s so many permits and nobody made -- nobody -- not too many people make money.

KAREN HEBERT: How also did Limited Entry change the relationship between the fishing fleet and the processors?

OFI OLSON: Well, if you got Limited Entry permit, you almost got a credit card with the company. They want the effort because they’re not going to issue any more -- I don't think the state’s gonna issue any more permits.

And they want every effort they had because they want the volume. You know, Trident, Icicle, Peter Pan, they want the volume. And I think Peter Pan and Trident’s probably got the majority of the -- of the permits fishing for them.

ROBIN SAMUELSEN: What was the question?

KAREN HEBERT: I said how -- we can take a break soon -- how has Limited Entry changed the relationship of the fishing fleet to the processors?

ROBIN SAMUELSEN: Well, I think -- I concur with Ofi. Depends upon the runs, though. If there’s a big run forecasted, the processors know they’re gonna get their fish. And if there’s a small run forecasted, they need to have as many permits fishing for them as possible because they’ve gotta cover their cap X, their overhead, and operating the cannery.

And operating the cannery is very expensive. It takes -- I think Peter Pan spends a million dollars just turning the key on. That’s before any canning operations happen.

And it’s kinda weird. Some years the companies are really looking for fishermen and some years they won’t take any fishermen. We’ve seen that in just the last few years.

And some of the old habits at the canneries are hard to break. Because if you look at the herring fishery over in Togiak, the herring fishery is the largest herring -- Togiak herring fishery is the largest herring fishery in the State of Alaska.

And know what we have fishing over there? Just a handful of locals. Mostly outside seiners, outside gill netters. And the cannery gets to pick who fishes and who doesn’t. And you look at the price and their price is the lowest in the state.

OFI OLSON: Well, when Limited Entry first came out, when they started issuing permits, I think the watershed residents owned about 40 percent or more?


OFI OLSON: Yeah. 50 percent of the fed's permits were owned by watershed residents. I’m talking Ugashik, Egegik, Togiak, King Salmon and here. King Salmon, Naknek-Kvichak and here.

And the -- now you go out there, since you could sell the permit, it made it hard on the ones who are in the fishery. Because if I’m out there fishing and I recognize Robin’s boat, I could say, “Robin, you mind towing your buoy? It’s coming a little close and I’ll -- I'll tow my net, too.”

Robin would say, “Yeah, you bet.” 15, 20 minutes, “Oh, we’re all clear. Okay.”

You do that from somebody from San Francisco, they’re gonna cuss at you, and that’s the way they fish. They’re -- they're -- they're fighters and it cost them so much to come up here. Maybe they bought a permit, their partners gotta come up here, they’ve got a large capital investment, and they’re gonna rape and run.

And that was -- that’s the downfall of Limited Entry that I don’t like. Because the locals --

I could remember out here when I recognized just about every boat. Oh, here’s so and so, he’s running north and west. Oh, here’s so and so, he’s going to the east. Oh, another guy, he must gonna try down the line.

Nowadays, you can’t recognize those boats. They got three quarters of a million dollar boats here. Three quarters of a million dollar boats. And the more we sell, the more we can’t compete.

And it’s -- it's gonna be a sad -- a sad, sad day in history one of these days when the locals are not gonna be able to participate in this fishery. Why? They’re selling their permits.

And they’re not selling them for medical reasons, or reasons that you hear. Medical reasons or I had to feed my family.

They’re selling them to get that large chunk of cash. They go to Anchorage, and some of them, six months they’re looking for an airfare back. It’s a sad case. Really a sad case.

I hate to admit it, but that’s the experiences I’ve seen with people selling their permits. I could see -- there’s some isolated cases where older people have sold their permits, and that’s good. Retired.

And a lot of them are selling to maybe their grandchildren, and some of them are giving it to them, and that’s good.

Maybe the grandchildren can help them with living expenses, oil or something. And that’s good. I agree with that 100 percent. But out and outright sell to some stranger from Texas, I don't know.

MIKE DAVIS: What about the -- the relationships -- how -- how the Limited Entry permit has changed kind of the -- the relationships among families and that -- that -- and among crew members. That’s been a big change, too, right?

ROBIN SAMUELSEN: Oh, yeah. And it’s split families.

MIKE DAVIS: Maybe you can talk a little bit about that. What’s -- what's -- What impact has that had on the community in terms of limiting the number of people that could participate within the community?

ROBIN SAMUELSEN: Well, a drift permit usually it’s the permit holder and two other crewmen. And then the set netter operation, it’s usually the permit owner and one or two other crewmen. So it’s usually three to a drift boat, three to a set net operation.

And there’s pretty much standard what you pay a crewman on a drift boat, what you pay a crewman on a set net.

If my father died and there’s three of us brothers, and all three of us brothers fish for dad, he had three crewmen. When he dies, if one of -- if that permit goes to one of the brothers, what happens to the other brothers, either in a set net operation or a drift?

And we’ve seen families split over the ownership of a permit because it wasn’t too many years ago a drift permit was going for 255,000 bucks, you know. And today they’re seeing -- I think a drift permit today is around $95,000 and a set net’s around $38,000 right now.

OFI OLSON: Well, there’s another detriment on Limited Entry. Like I said earlier, we had about 50 percent of the permits. You sell them, and the community hurts. Because those people, after they spend all the money when they sold their permit, they don’t have any money to live on.

And so the community gets a hardship on -- because, there’s no way to make money. There’s instances where a family, a large family's had three or four drift permits, probably as much set net permits, and they’ve got nothing. Absolutely nothing.

A couple of families that I could -- I could name. And it’s a sad situation. But even the community hurts, you know.

You know, you want to buy a snowmachine? Used to be if you got to sign up with the company, even pre-Limited Entry, the superintendents would come in here and they’d buy you a snow-go or give you an advance, or all kinds of stuff. And those days are gone. Those days are gone.

KAREN HEBERT: Maybe we can take a little break and start the second half by talking about how you got to be involved and worked to address some of these issues.