The devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina
and Rita shocked us all, and Americans everywhere want to
help. That's certainly true for the Alaska fishing industry,
which has experienced its own natural disasters -- such as
our 1964 earthquake and tsunami.
Alaska and the Gulf Coast are the two most productive
sources of wild seafood in the U.S. We have much more "in
common" than "in competition." We believe that
anything that weakens the domestic seafood industry weakens
the economic and social fabric of both our regions.
Immediately after Katrina, I was contacted by Alaskans
who asked me to help establish an Alaskan-based "fishing industry
to fishing community" aid effort. Of course, I said yes. We
call it "AFIRM." It exists solely to bring our industry
together in a group effort to help Gulf Coast fishing communities
get back into action as quickly as possible.
AFIRM has been incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit
entity under the laws of the State of Alaska. AFIRM's full board
of directors consists of leaders in the fishing, seafood processing,
banking and transportation industries. In addition, AFIRM Advisors
are being drawn from prominent figures in Alaska and the Gulf Coast.
I am honored to serve as the honorary chair of this group.
Even before AFIRM was born, Alaska seafood processors
had already donated large quantities of shelf-stable products such
as canned and pouched salmon, to be distributed in the Gulf region
by America's Second Harvest and other groups. AFIRM will continue
encouraging such donations during the current emergency.
In the longer term, AFIRM also will solicit cash donations
for trustworthy Gulf Coast institutions that can direct assistance
to fishing communities. Fishermen in Alaska communities have already
started organizing benefit events for this purpose. We will keep
administrative costs to the minimum possible, most staff time and
office expenses donated.
AFIRM is mission-specific and goal-oriented.
I hope you will join me in building this important bridge between
Alaska and the Gulf Coast. We look forward to hearing from you.
United States Senator