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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Copper River Salmon Fishery Delivers Record Opener Prices


Harvesters in the Copper River fishery, braving opening day rain and temperatures in the low 40s, made 481 deliveries for the season opener on May 18, including 1,879 Chinooks and 36,066 sockeye salmon.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Cordova office said average weights for the opener were 19.9 pounds for kings and 5.2 pounds for reds. Those weights rose to 20.8 pounds on average for kings and 5.3 pounds for reds on the second opener May 22, with 439 deliveries to processors, including 1,737 kings and 51,860 reds.

That brought the total for the first two openers to 920 deliveries, 3,616 kings and 87,926 red salmon. Harvesters have also delivered 1,047 chum salmon whose weight averaged 6.9 pounds on the first opener and 7.4 pounds on the second.

The Copper River fishery got underway a week later than usual because of Chinook salmon conservation efforts. Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management for Prince William Sound, cautioned against comparing the first run 2017 harvest to that of a year ago, which brought in some 2,000 kings and 59,000 sockeyes.

The king salmon forecast for the Copper River this year is 29,000 fish, the smallest since 1985. An Alaska Airlines 737 delivered 22,000 pounds of fresh Copper River salmon to Seattle on May 19, one the first of four scheduled flights from Cordova that day. By day’s end, the airline had delivered 77,000 pounds of fresh reds and kings to markets in Seattle and Anchorage.

Every year the airline partners with Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Trident Seafoods and Copper River Seafoods to deliver the salmon catch to Seattle, Anchorage and beyond.

The arrival of the first Copper River salmon of the season was celebrated in Seattle with much hoopla. Three of Seattle’s best chefs competed in the eighth annual Copper Chef Cook-off for the best salmon recipe. The winner was executive chef John Sundstrom of Lark restaurant. In Anchorage, celebration included the sampling of gourmet appetizers topped with fresh wild sockeye salmon, courtesy of Copper River Seafoods. A 45-pound king salmon donated by Ocean Beauty Seafoods was declared the season’s first fish, the catch of the day.

Opener prices to fishermen were $8 a pound for sockeyes and $11 for Chinooks, up from $7 and $9 respectively a year ago, said Scott Blake, president and chief executive officer of Copper River Seafoods.

High retail prices aside for first run Copper River salmon failed, as usual, to deter consumers eager for the first fresh salmon of the season.

At 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage, fillets were $38.95 a pound for sockeyes and $59.95 a pound for kings.Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle hailed the fresh Copper River fish on its website, which pictured its fishmongers whole kings, going for $55.99 a pound and whole reds, at $143.96 a fish. Pike Place also had Copper River king fillets for $74.99 a pound and Copper River sockeye fillets for $47.99 a pound.

Prices will decline rapidly as more fish come in from the Copper River district and soon from other areas in Alaska.

Updates on Alaska’s commercial wild salmon harvest are online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyfisherysalmon.bluesheet

NOAA Fisheries Surveys Underway for Alaska Coast


Federal fisheries scientists are off to their surveys of Alaska’s coastline, monitoring for distribution and abundance of groundfish, crabs and other bottom dwelling species, and measuring various biological and environmental data.

“Long term, scientific surveys like this are really important,” said Doug DeMaster, director of the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

While the surveys sample a very small percentage of the ocean, biologists are able to detect changes to marine ecosystems over broad areas over time with the help of a little math,” DeMaster said. NOAA scientists and their collaborators sort, weigh and count species collected by each trawl. They will also gather specimens and data on various species, including a Gulf of Alaska project that involves deploying a camera and plankton pump to test whether or not larval rockfish associate with deep-sea corals.

The Gulf of Alaska continental shelf and upper continental slope survey includes two chartered fishing vessels, the F/V Sea Storm and F/V Ocean Explorer. Estimates of fish biomass and population derived from this survey will be used in annual stock assessments of Gulf of Alaska groundfish and ecosystem models. The survey began at Dutch Harbor on May 23 and runs through August 6, ending in Ketchikan.

The annual Eastern Bering Sea continental shelf bottom trawl survey, aboard the fishing vessels Alaska Knight and Vesteraalen, May 30 through August 8, monitors the status and trends in commercial fish and shellfish stocks, with the focus on walleye Pollock, Pacific cod, Greenland turbot, yellowfin sole, northern rock sole, red king crab, snow and Tanner crab. The survey begins and concludes at Dutch Harbor.

The Northern Bering Sea survey departs from Nome on August 8 aboard the Alaska Knight and Vesteraalen, and concludes August 30, with the vessels returning to Dutch Harbor. This survey monitors fish, crab and other bottom dwelling marine life in response to changing environmental conditions and loss of seasonal sea ice. This survey was last conducted in 2010, but scientists hope to conduct the survey biennially to more carefully monitor ecosystem changes.

The Gulf of Alaska surface trawl assessment survey and Southeast Alaska coastal monitoring, within the southeastern region of the Gulf aims to provide ecological data on pelagic ecosystems, examine oceanographic transport mechanisms, measure lower trophic level production and quantify age-0 marine fish, and juvenile salmon distribution and ecology. Plans are to repeat in August the pilot age-0 sablefish survey, NOAA officials said.

NOAA Fisheries and partners will conduct a fisheries and oceanography survey this summer and fall in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, from August 1 to late September. They will assess distribution, relative abundance, diet, energy density, size and potential predators of juvenile salmon, other commercial fish, and forage fish.

Alaska Legislature Confirms Board of Fisheries Appointments


The Alaska Legislature has confirmed the reappointments of two incumbents and one former member to the Alaska Board of Fisheries for terms to run through June 30, 2020.

Returning are chairman John Jensen of Petersburg and member Reed Moriski of Fairbanks. Former member Fritz Johnson of Dillingham, who holds a harvester seat on the board of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, will replace Sue Jeffrey of Kodiak, appointed in 2011. Jeffrey, the board’s vice chair, opted not to return. Their terms begin on July 1, 2017.

Emergency Copper River Petition Fails Before Board of Fisheries


The Alaska Board of Fisheries defeated an emergency petition that would have resulted in more closures and restrictions on the Copper River salmon fishery. The decision taken during a special meeting of the fisheries board in Anchorage came just a day before the famed fishery begins.

Members of the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee had proposed in their petition additional emergency action on the commercial fishery to assure a sustainable escapement goal for king salmon for the Copper River.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Commissioner Sam Cotten noted that the Copper River Fishery is a directed sockeye commercial fishery, with incidental harvest of other salmon.

ADF&G officials have said they do not expect this year’s king salmon run forecast and anticipated low level of Chinook harvests to affect the long-term sustainability of Copper River king stocks.

Cotten told the Board of Fisheries that the agency has the tools with the existing management plan and its emergency order authority to manage the king salmon stocks in the Copper River in 2017 to meet the sustainable escapement goal.

O’Bryant Named President of Cannon Fish Company

Fisheries industry veteran Bob O’Bryant has been appointed as president of Cannon Fish Company (CFC), a seafood processing and marketing firm in Kent, Washington, and subsidiary of the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association (APICDA).

He succeeds Pat Rogan, who will continue with Cannon Fish through the transition period in June.

O’Bryant most recently served as vice president of sales and marketing for Bornstein seafood in Bellingham, Washington. The majority of O’Bryant’s career was with Pacific Seafood Group, where his many responsibilities included serving as general manager of Starfish, a consumer packaged goods brand known for developing and launching a successful gluten-free breaded seafood line. He was also general manager of Salmolux, the smoked salmon division, and as the marketing director for Pacific Seafood Group.

Larry Cotter, chief executive officer of APICDA, said CFC has matured since acquisition in 2013 and now was the right time for new leadership to maximize the company’s potential.

APICDA is one of six Western Alaska community development quota corporations established in 1992, with allocations of a percentage of all Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands quotas for groundfish, halibut and crab.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Fish Sticks Donated to Bristol Bay Region

More than 7,000 pounds of Alaska Pollock fish sticks have been delivered to Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, for hunger relief in Dillingham and surrounding communities.

The donation from SeaShare, a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides seafood to food banks, comes via a combined effort with the Bristol Bay Native Association, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, Trident Seafoods, and AML/Lynden.

Trident Seafoods, a longtime SeaShare partner, donated the Pollock, and AML/Lynden donated the cost of freight to Dillingham.

The fish sticks will be stored in a freezer container that SeaShare installed in partnership with the Port of Dillingham this past year. This is the third time the container has been filled, with more than 20,000 pounds of seafood donated by SeaShare in Bristol Bay over the past year.

The Bristol Bay Native Association will distribute the Pollock to people struggling with hunger throughout the region, with Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation providing a grant to assist with the cost of labor.

Barbara Nunn, food bank manager for BBNA, said the fish sticks will feed many low income families. The food bank currently feeds roughly 272 households in 15 communities in the Bristol Bay region, and many people depend on this seafood to help them get by, Nunn said.

Seashare donated more than 185,000 pounds of high protein seafood throughout Alaska last year, and 30,000 pounds went to remote villages in Western Alaska. SeaShare is the only domestic non-profit dedicated to bringing seafood to food banks. Founded in 1994, SeaShare has to date donated over 210 million servings of seafood to food banks across the United States.

Additional Requirements Sought for Bering Sea

Increased vessel traffic in the Bering Sea has prompted the Alaska House of Representatives to call for additional spill prevention measures and vessel monitoring requirements.

House Joint Resolution 19, which passed last night in Juneau by a vote of 33-6, urges Gov. Bill Walker and the state’s congressional delegation, to include Arctic Marine Safety Agreements in international agreements with Alaska’s coastal neighbors.

Rep. Dean Westlake, a Democrat from the Northwest Alaska community of Kiana, is the sponsor of the resolution. Westlake said the Arctic presents tremendous opportunity, but also challenges.

Vessels transiting the Bering Sea that don’t call on US ports are not subject to US and Alaska safety or spill prevention measures. The inclusion of Arctic Marine Safety Agreements, which may include spill prevention measures and vessel monitoring requirements, has support from the Arctic Waterways Safety Commission, with representatives from Arctic municipalities, marine mammal hunting groups, and ship operators.

Westlake said he supports development of the region and shipping that lowers the costs of goods worldwide, but wants to make sure it is done as safely as possible.

The resolution now goes to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.

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