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Tuesday, December 12, 2017
HomeAlaska NewsToyko or bust: Fish office replaced by natural gas office in Japan

Toyko or bust: Fish office replaced by natural gas office in Japan

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The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation has opened an office in Tokyo, Japan to market the state’s wealth of natural gas.

And the State of Alaska has closed down another office — one that represented the trade interests of fishing families in Alaska.

Hawkins

While the Governor’s Office for many years had a seafood office in Japan’s capital, anyone who wants to talk fish now needs to go through the office devoted to talking nat-gas. The office being run by AGDC is a one-stop shop for any of Alaska’s resources, but the person in charge is a natural gas guy.

Oddly, the governor made no mention of the historic change in his State of the State Address on Wednesday, but an invitation to the opening of the new office was making its way around the small circle of media at the Capitol even while the governor spoke. It was dated January 12, six days before the governor’s speech.

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Similarly, no mention was made in the governor’s State of the State speech about the Houston office that AGDC announced it would open back in July.

That office never materialized, and no public discussion has taken place about why, or about the need for the Tokyo office.

On Jan. 11, AGDC President Keith Meyer spoke about the gasline project in Kenai to a group of business and industry leaders, and also made no note of the office he had opened in Japan that week.

And at the most recent board meeting of AGDC took place on January 12 — the same day the Toyko Office opening was quietly introduced to industry — no mention was made.

That meeting was almost entirely held behind closed doors in an executive session, with no written notification before or after the executive session about any topics discussed.

Alaska’s seafood industry is the fourth-largest supplier of seafood imports to Japan, and has been for decades.

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Masatoshi ‘Nick’ Shiratori 

Now, with the fish trade expert gone, a former employee of Mitsubishi Corp. will be Alaska’s representative on all trade matters. He will work with the administration to secure long-term contracts for gas, as well as financing for the gasline project that may cost $65 billion. Masatoshi “Nick” Shiratori is anchoring the new office.

AGDC officially became the sole owner of the giant gas export project on the last day of 2016 after its private partners – Transcanada, BP, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil decided the massive project was not for them. AGDC is a public corporation owned by the State of Alaska.

Alaska seafood in Japan has been a declining market because of changing tastes among younger Japanese, according to the food blog Northwest Asian Weekly.

Not as many millennial Japanese are eating the kinds of seafood that come from Alaska waters, but instead are turning to chicken, pork and beef, the magazine said. Without a robust trade representative, Alaska’s Japanese market position could erode even more as the skills needed to handle and prepare seafood are lost.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has worked to counter that trend by actually teaching the Japanese in Tokyo various time-saving tips, such as its  “Cook It Frozen” campaign.

Read more by Nat Herz at the Alaska Dispatch News about the Tokyo office non-announcement.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comment

  • Okay, let me see if I got this… Walker replaces a much-needed existing fish marketing office with a bunch of flattus. Is he really trying to fill the gas line with his own? Reducing our fish market is not the answer to declining fish stocks – growing more fish is what is needed – this can be done with wild stock through micro-hatcheries in the villages – avoid farmed fish.