Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Salmonfest Celebration August 5-7

Salmonfest, a celebration of the connection of Alaskans to salmon and its habitat, is back at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds at Ninilchik for three days of fish, love and music August 5-7.

Headliners this year include the Grammy Award winning folk rock duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, plus several dozen other musical groups.

Salmonfest is supported by and benefits The Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, a Homer-based nonprofit organization whose goal is to educate the public, and both protect and promote Alaska's fish-filled waters. A second conservation entity, Cook Inletkeeper has joined the festival this year also as a primary sponsor and partner in “fish first” advocacy, to coordinate educational and outreach components of the event.

Speakers will include Maria Finn, author of “The Whole Fish: How Adventurous Eating of Seafood Can Make You Healthier, Sexier, and Help Save the Ocean.” Finn is scheduled to speak on how to eat the entire fish, from gill to adipose fin.

Also on the speaker’s platform will be Emily Stolarcyk, of the Eyak Preservation Council in Cordova, Alaska, who will talk about the council’s campaign to get the US Navy to conduct military training exercises in the Gulf of Alaska in the fall rather than during the summer fishing season.

Salmonfest got its start several years ago as Salmonstock, as effort of the Renewable Resources Coalition to preserve and protect the viability of Alaska’s abundant fishing and hunting resources in the face of efforts by Canadian mining interests to build a massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed. The Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of Northern Dynasty, which is a subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson Inc., a diversified global mining group based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has yet to file for permits for the development of the mine, but has made clear its plans to do so.

The US Environmental Protection Agency, after hearing extensive testimony from the public, environmental and mining industry entities, has said development of a large open pit copper mine at this location would threaten one of the world’s most productive salmon fisheries.

The Bristol Bay watershed, said the EPA, is an area of exceptional ecological value with salmon productivity unrivaled anywhere in North America, and its salmon populations are critical to the health of the area’s entire ecosystem, home to more than 20 other fish species, and 190 bird species, as well as bears, moose and caribou. Mining interests contend that the mine can be developed and operated in harmony with the fishery.

Draft EIS on Potential Cook Inlet Lease

Public comment is being sought through Sept. 6 on a draft environmental impact statement analyzing possible environmental impact of a potential oil and gas lease sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, a major commercial salmon harvest area.

A notice of availability of the draft EIS was scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on July 22, opening a 45-day public comment period.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management also has scheduled meetings in Anchorage on Aug. 15, Homer on Aug. 17, and Kenai/Soldotna on Aug. 18.

The draft EIS and directions for providing public comment online are available at www.boem.gov/ak244/ While recognizing that interest in exploration and development in Cook Inlet may be limited at this time, BOEM officials said they were conducting the necessary environmental review to aid in decision on whether or how to proceed with lease sale 244, currently scheduled for June 2017.

The draft EIS analyzes important environmental resources, commercial fishing of Pacific salmon and halibut, subsistence activities, sea otter and beluga whale populations, and more that currently exist within the Cook Inlet planning area, and identifies robust mitigation measures to be considered in leasing the area. The draft EIS also analyzes a range of alternatives to be considered for leasing.

Abigail Ross Hopper, BOEM’s director said that while Cook Inlet has oil and gas potential, there are sensitive marine and coastal resources that Alaska Native communities depend on for subsistence. Once the EIS is finalized, the Department of the Interior will then make its decision on whether to hold the lease sale.

Bristol Bay Salmon Tops Forecast

Bristol Bay’s wild salmon harvest has reached upwards of 33 million fish, surpassing the harvest forecast of 29.52 million fish, and the preliminary commercial salmon harvest for Alaska statewide is climbing toward 64 million fish.

Processors in Bristol Bay are offering a base price of 75 cents a pound, plus another 15 cents for salmon iced or in refrigerated seawater.

“This run came in so picture perfect for the processors, you couldn’t have asked for better for the daily catch volume,” said Shawn Dochtermann, a veteran Bristol Bay harvester, aboard the F/V Isanotski at Egegik. After the long wait, the sockeyes have been arriving in the Bay at the rate of several thousand a day. The preliminary harvest breakdown through July 19 was 11.2 million fish for the Naknek-Kvichak District, 7.5 million fish each in the Nushagak and Egegik districts, 5.7 million fish in the Ugashik District, and 508,000 fish in the Togiak District.

Harvests were also on the upswing statewide.

On the Lower Yukon, small boat fishermen have delivered 521,000 chums and 109,000 humpies for processing. And in Cook Inlet processors have received more than 2 million salmon, including 1.7 million sockeyes. On the north side of the Alaska Peninsula, 2.7 million salmon have been harvested, while on the south side of the Peninsula, deliveries to processors have reached more than 5 million fish.

In Chignik, the catch has reached over 1 million salmon, at Kodiak, upwards of 1.6 million fish, and in Southeast Alaska, 9 million fish.

AK Certification Recognized by UK Coalition

A sustainable fisheries coalition based in the United Kingdom has recognized Alaska’s Responsible Fisheries Management certification program for alignment with the performance standards held by the coalition.

The Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative Steering Board made the announcement this past week during the 32nd session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Committee on Fisheries meeting in Rome.

Alaska RFM is the first certification scheme to be benchmarked against GSSI’s Global Benchmark Tool and to achieve recognition demonstrating alignment. This recognition came after a seven-month rigorous benchmark process, including a 30-day public consultation, before approval by the GSSI Steering Board.

Audun Lem, deputy director of fisheries and aquaculture policy and economics division of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, noted that the GSSI’s Global Benchmark Tool is grounded in the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and related instruments.

“The recognition of robust certification programs by GSSI will improve transparency in seafood certification and increase confidence in the seafood market, objectives FAO fully supports,” he said.

Susan Marks, sustainability director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, said that with more than 40 entities worldwide supporting GSSI, including retailers and the seafood industry, ASMI is pleased to have its RFM recognized for meeting the GSSI Benchmark Tool components.

“Seafood buyers want to make informed choices and GSSI provides a tool for them to identify credible certification programs,” Marks said. “We look forward to seeing how this will help resolve some of the challenges faced by those in the seafood industry,” she said.

The RFM program was developed by ASMI in 2010 to offer seafood buyers and sellers a credible, cost-effective choice in seafood certification. The voluntary, internationally accredited, third party certification RFM program was based on existing and widely accepted fisheries management models and guidance documents of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

St. Paul Offers Crab Tax Incentive

St. Paul’s City Council has created a community development tax incentive for the Pribilof Island community that reduces the sales tax for delivery of quota shares not regionalized under the federal crab rationalization program.

The plan is open to holders of B, C, processor and community development quota share, including the newly reopened bairdi/tanner crab fishery, one of the few crab fisheries not regionalized under the crab rationalization program.

Deliveries of Bristol Bay red king crab, as well as Pribilof red king and blue king crab, both of which are currently closed, would also benefit from the sales tax incentive plan, said St. Paul Mayor Simeon Swetzof Jr.

And St. Paul could use the business.

“The community has faced a double whammy of reduced opilio/snow crab TACS (total allowable catches) and reduced halibut quotas, which have severely affected the local economy,” Swetzof said.

St. Paul was hard hit economically when the snow crab total allowable catch dropped from 67.9 million pounds in the 2014-2015 season to 40.6 million pounds in the 2015-2016 season. Then there was the recommended halibut quota for management area 4CDE, which includes St. Paul Island, a drop from 3.7 million pounds in 2011 to 1.28 million pounds in 2014 and 2015, and just a slight increase to 1.6 million pounds in 2016.

The city has had to lay off personnel, cut its budget and dip into its rainy day account to make ends meet and keep its existing commitments,” Swetzof said. To keep their economy in good health, residents of St. Paul, who have not raised their sales tax in 45 years, voted to boost that tax from 3 percent to 3.5 percent, to bring the sales tax to levels comparable to those of Akutan and King Cove. Then during a final reading on a second ordinance on June 29, the St. Paul City Council voted unanimously to adopt the community development tax incentive plan for specific crab shares and species. “It’s a good plan,” said Swetzof. “The city council wanted to generate more revenue, because we took a 40 percent cut in quota of snow crab.”

The Bering Sea commercial fisheries, in particular the snow crab fishery, have benefitted greatly from investments made by the communities in fisheries in related infrastructure, he said. “It shouldn’t have to be just the local residents, who pay for the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure and providing services that benefit the crab harvesting and processing sectors,” he said.

Bristol Bay Sees 2 Billionth Salmon

Gary Isaksen, of Lake Stevens, Washington, has claimed the honor of harvesting the 2 billionth salmon caught commercially in the Bristol Bay fishery.

Isaksen owns and operates the F/V Heidi of Norway, and is a veteran of more than four decades as a commercial fisherman in the Bay. He decided to answer the call on July 6 when a reporter on Alaska public radio KDLG in Dillingham said the station was looking for someone to deliver the 2 billionth salmon.

So Isaksen delivered a 5.5-pound sockeye salmon to Casey McManus, captain and owner of the F/V Cornelia Marie, who was tendering for Peter Pan Seafoods in the Nushagak district of Bristol Bay.

“It was just fun,” he said.

Word got out a year ago that delivery of the 2 billionth salmon caught in Bristol Bay’s 133-year fishing history was expected in the summer of 2016. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game notes that since the inception of Bristol Bay’s canned salmon industry in 1884, fishermen had landed 1.99 billion salmon, 93 percent of which were sockeyes.

The catch officially declared to be the 1 billionth salmon was caught on the afternoon of June 28, 1978, also in the Nushagak River district.

Isaksen is the son of Bert Isaksen, who was born in Norway in 1928, and came to America to fish in the 1940s, after the end of World War Two.

“Dad started in the sailboat days,” said Gary Isaksen, who fishes these days with his son, Anders, his older brother Karl, and Dustin Gust, who recently graduated from high school in New Stuyahok, a Bristol Bay village.

The best part of fishing in Bristol Bay, he said, is fishing with his son, his brother, and Gust, who joined the crew a year ago. The Isaksen brothers have been fishing the Bay for over four decades and Anders for the past 14 years.

When he’s not fishing, Gary Isaksen stays busy building scale models of fishing boats, yachts and other vessels, through his company, Isaksen Scale Models, (www.isaksenscalemodels.com).

The family owned business of more than 22 years produces models that range from building prototype interior rooms, that display all furniture and details, to finished detailed exterior models showing all shapes, equipment and features.

The models aren’t just for show. Many builders order models early in the concept and design phase, to provide their client a tangible representation of what the finished product will be, the company said.

Wild Salmon Harvest Rises, Bristol Bay Waits

Alaska’s wild salmon commercial harvests more than doubled from July 4 through July 12, with deliveries to processors rising from 18.3 million to 42 million fish, in another late run year that left Bristol Bay driftnetters waiting for the surge.

As of July 12, the state’s preliminary commercial salmon harvest report showed a total Bristol Bay harvest of 20 million salmon, including 19.4 million reds, up from 6.8 million reds a week earlier, but the run was indeed late, said Greg Buck, the state Department of Fish and Game’s Bristol Bay area research biologist.

On one hand, it is uncertain whether the run will make the sockeye forecast, a run of some 46.55 million fish, with a Bristol Bay harvest of 29.52 million reds, Buck said. On the other hand, the situation isn’t all that unusual, he said.

Water temperatures have been very warm the last two years, and last year was a late run as well.

“The consensus is we are definitely late, but the question is how much,” he said. There are large scale ocean processes that go through long time series oscillations, such as the Pacific Decadal oscillation, and it is thought that some of these processes are related to the timing of returns,” he said.

Meanwhile, the overall statewide harvest continued to grow through July, bringing in 42,048,000 salmon through July 11, including 27.1 million sockeyes, 8.9 million humpies, 5.6 million chums, 256,000 kings and 244,000 silvers.

The bulk of the harvest was in the central region, including Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, following by the Westward region, the Southeast region and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

Bristol Bay driftnet deliveries to processors included 19.4 million reds, 548,000 chums, 26,000 kings, 6,000 pinks and fewer than 1,000 cohos.

Cook Inlet fishermen brought in 950,000 salmon, including 802,000 reds, 108,000 pinks, 23,000 chums, 5,000 kings and 12,000 cohos.

In Prince William Sound, processors had received 9.6 million salmon, including 5 million humpies, 2.9 million chums, 1.6 million sockeyes, 12,000 Chinooks and fewer than 1,000 silvers.

On the Lower Yukon, fishermen delivered 405,000 Yukon River chums and 87,000 humpies, and Norton Sound fishermen brought in 23,000 pink salmon.

The north side of the Alaska Peninsula had a catch of 1.9 million reds, 15,000 chums and 2,000 kings, while the south side of the Alaska Peninsula brought in 2.7 million pinks, 1.7 million reds, 301,000 chums, 5,000 kings and 5,700 silvers.

Kodiak processors saw delivery of 655,000 reds, 207,000 chums, 121,000 pinks, 15,000 cohos and 4,000 kings, and Chignik delivered 768,000 sockeyes, 44,000 chums, 35,000 humpies, 7,000 cohos and 4,000 kings.

Southeast Alaska harvest totals added up to 1.1 million chums, 689,000 humpies, 180,000 reds, 170,000 kings and 111,000 silvers.

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