ComFish Alaska 2020 will be held as a virtual event due to pandemic-related safety concerns, according to an announcement released Thursday by the ComFish Alaska 2020 Committee and Kodiak Chamber of Commerce.
This year’s event, scheduled for Sept. 17-19, will consist of forums streamed online, but will not include the popular trade show, which normally hosts commercial fishery vendors from Kodiak, around the state of Alaska, and beyond.
The theme of ComFish is “Sea What Matters,” the same as this year’s Crab Festival, which took place earlier this month.
Attendees tuning in to ComFish will have access to forums about COVID-19 policies and what to expect from funding sources in the future.
The event will cover a range of topics, from boat safety and electronic monitoring to market updates from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Talks will also include federal, regional and state legislative updates, as well as other informational presentations.
“A virtual debate between U.S. Senate candidates Dan Sullivan and Al Gross is pending confirmation and will be presented in the same format as forums if scheduling and planning is fully realized,” said the press release.
Sarah Phillips, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said switching to a virtual format was straightforward, since the organizers had already wanted to add a virtual component to ComFish.
Because of the importance of ComFish to the community, videos of the forums and classes will be available online after the event.
“We understand that a lot of our fishing community will be out and about doing fishery work and keeping our economy afloat,” Phillips said. “They can view those videos any time after the season.”
According to the press release, ComFish Alaska 2021 dates have not yet been finalized, but the program is expected to include the first-ever fisheries-themed fashion show, hosted in conjunction with the Kodiak Arts Council, as well as the tried-and-true rockfish taco feed, public receptions, processor recognition events and fishermen’s showcase.
The first edition of ComFish was a marine trade fair held during the 1980 Crab Festival in a borrowed National Guard wall tent.
The following year it was moved to the National Guard Armory and was again held during Crab Fest, but in 1982 it was moved to March and hosted 33 vendors’ booths.
The event eventually outgrew the space and moved to larger facilities in 1986, and by 1989 the show had 133 booths. It continued to grow and moved into different spaces, including Coast Guard hangars, Kodiak High School and finally the Best Western Convention Center.