Astoria Fisheries Auction

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NOAA Fisheries Embarks on Bering Sea Surveys

NOAA Fisheries scientists are scheduled to depart from Dutch Harbor in late May to begin three groundfish and crab bottom trawl surveys and one midwater acoustic-trawl survey to gather data considered crucial to sustainable Alaska fisheries.

What they learn helps them determine sustainable fishery harvest levels.

NOAA scientists conduct groundfish and crab surveys annually in the Eastern Bering Sea continental shelf from May through July, and biennially in the eastern Bering Sea upper continental slope from May through August, and the Aleutian Islands, from June through August.

The midwater survey, from June through August, focuses mainly on walleye Pollock. It is conducted biennially on the Eastern Bering Sea shelf and typically extends into Russian waters.

Doug DeMaster, science and research director of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, noted that understanding how well fish stocks are doing is critical because fishermen and managers rely on such data to set sustainable annual fishing quotas.

During surveys, NOAA scientists sort, weigh and count species collected by each trawl, with an emphasis on biological data for target species. They will also collect specimens and data on a variety of species, as requested by cooperating scientists, agencies and institutions.

NOAA officials also said that information collected as part of these surveys, as well as other available data on oceanographic conditions fisheries and protected species, are integrated to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how marine ecosystems are affected. The Eastern Bering Sea groundfish, and crab shelf survey, for example, is a collaborative effort between NOAA and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Should a trawl bring in rare fishes and invertebrates, scientists would collect and preserve them.

For four decades, NOAA Fisheries has conducted annual bottom trawl surveys of the continental shelf and Eastern Bering Sea. Their focus species include walleye Pollock, Pacific cod, Greenland Turbot, yellowfin sole, northern rock sole, red king , snow, and Tanner crab.

Trident Akutan Facilities Featured on The Science Channel

Trident Seafoods’ processing facility at Akutan, in Alaska’s eastern Aleutian Islands, is featured today on a new program entitled “Alaska Mega Machines”, on The Science Channel, a network created by Discovery.

The “mega” series, focused on impressive machinery in use throughout Alaska, highlights in the Akutan segment, Trident equipment that works at high speed to process seafood quickly, safely and efficiently.

“Akutan is a very remote location,” said John Salle, senior vice president of marketing and innovation at Trident, “and we were honored to showcase the operation and the people that keep this facility processing millions of pounds of seafood day-in and day-out.”

The program, said Salle, highlights the success story of Alaska Pollock and how it is processed into a variety of convenient, quick-frozen products for customers around the world. “This is a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of pollock processing first-hand,” he said.

Trident’s Akutan facility processes Alaska Pollock primarily into individual quick frozen fillets, frozen fillet blocks and surimi. The plant also supports full utilization of virtually the entire fish, including roe products, stomachs, fish meal, bone meal and fish oil.

Trident’s mission, Salle said, “is to make fish the food of the future.

“We are working diligently to make Alaskan Pollock easy to love by turning this incredible, renewable resource into convenient value-added products such as surimi seafood snacks under the Louis Kemp brand, fully cooked ready-to-serve grilled Pollock fillets for food service operators, and of course, our all-new Alaskan Pollock Burgers,” he said.

“Our goal is pretty simple,” he said. “We want more people, eating more fish, more often, and it’s our job to make it delicious and easy for them to do it.”

More information about the show and schedule is online at http://www.sciencechannel.com/schedule/.

Copper River Yields 78,600 Reds, 3,100 Chinook

Harvesters in Alaska’s Copper River salmon fishery delivered a total of 78,600 sockeyes and 3,100 Chinook salmon from their first two openers and began a 48-hour opener on May 23, with harvest reports anticipated by May 25.

Jeremy Botz, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s office in Cordova, said the Bering River District was also opened for a 24-hour commercial fishing period on May 23, with the intent of targeting Copper River sockeyes traveling through the western portion of that district. As overlap with the Bering River sockeye salmon run time increases, the likelihood of future early season opening in the Bering River District would diminish.

Fishmongers at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle are encouraging shoppers to purchase the popular Copper River salmon while it is available. Pike Place is posting $99.96 apiece for whole fresh Copper River sockeyes, $34.99 a pound for Copper River sockeye fillets, $45.99 a pound for whole fresh Copper River kings, $64.99 a pound for fresh Copper River king fillets, $22.99 a pound for other fresh whole wild Alaska kings, and $37.99 a pound for other fresh wild Alaska king fillets.

10th & M Seafoods is Anchorage has fresh Copper River sockeye fillets at $32.95 a pound. New Sagaya, another popular seafood merchant, has not yet posted prices on Copper River salmon.

FishEx, an online seafood company in Anchorage, had fresh Copper River king premium portion fillets for $64.95 a pound, and fresh Copper River premium portion sockeye fillets for $46.95 a pound, plus fresh Copper River sockeye fillets for $36.95 a pound, other fresh Alaska king fillets for $36.95 a pound, and other fresh Alaska sockeye fillets for $25.95 a pound.

GE Salmon Approved by Health Canada

Canadian health officials say that after rigorous scientific reviews they have decided to allow the genetically engineered salmon from AquaBounty Technologies to be sold in Canada.

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a statement released this past week that they found the product as safe and nutritious for humans and livestock as conventional salmon.

The agencies said that genetically modified foods are becoming more common every day and are part of the regular diets of Canadians.

The AquAdvantage Salmon has undergone separate safety and nutrition assessments by Health Canada for use as food and by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for use as livestock feed, and both reviews found the product to be as safe and nutritious as conventional salmon, they said.

The agencies also said there would be no special labeling requirements for the product, which was created from Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon and Arctic Ocean eelpout.

In the US meanwhile, a coalition of environmental, consumer and commercial groups is suing the Food and Drug Administration over its approval of genetically engineered fish. Legislation introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to label the product as such, is before Congress. The Genetically engineered Salmon Labeling Act is co-sponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell, D-WA, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

AquaBounty said it would produce the genetically engineered salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and grow them to market size in Panama, to be processed into fillets and then shipped to the US for sale.

While the product is not yet ready for market, controversy in the US commercial fishing industry and beyond has prompted some major retail outlets, including Costco stores, and numerous restaurants to say they will not sell genetically engineered fish products.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Effort to Halt IIU Fishing Starts June 5

The first ever binding international accord specifically targeting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing will become international law on June 5.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement issued on May 17 that 29 countries and the European Union have formally committed themselves to the Port State Measures Agreement, creating a new era in the effort to combat illegal fishing.

The new treaty requires that parties designate specific ports for use by foreign vessels, making control easier. Those ships must request permission to enter ports ahead of time. They must provide local authorities with information regarding the fish they have on board, and allow inspection of their log book, licenses, fishing gear and actual cargo, among other things.

The agreement calls on these countries to deny entry or inspect vessels that have been involved in IUU fishing, and to take necessary action. To support this, the agreement also includes the obligation for parties to share information regionally and globally, regarding any vessels discovered to be involved in IUU fishing.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization noted that IUU fishing is responsible for annual catches of up to 26 million tons of seafood with a value of up to $23 billion in US dollars. IUU fishing also undermines efforts to ensure sustainable fisheries and responsible fish stock management worldwide, the agency said.

The agreement applies to any use of a port, so even vessels that are just refueling will have to comply with inspection requirements.

Parties to the agreement include Australia, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, European Union-Member Organization, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Iceland, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palau, Republic of Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Tonga, United States of America, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

GOA Trawl Fishery Opens Under Temporary Rule

Harvesters aboard vessels using trawl gear in the Gulf of Alaska are back for now into fishing for several deep-water species, thanks to a temporary rule issued on May 16 by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Federal fisheries officials said the opener was necessary to fully utilize the 2016 groundfish total allowable catch specified for species comprising the deep-water species category in the gulf.

In its announcement in the Federal Register, NMFS determined that there is some 135 metric tons of trawl Pacific halibut prohibited species catch limit remaining in the deep-water fishery and shallow-water fishery seasonal apportionments. To fully utilize the 2016 groundfish total allowable catch available in this category, NMFS opted to terminate the previous closure and reopen directed fishing for species comprising the deep-water fishery category in the gulf.

Council staff said that this was the first time since the North Pacific Fishery Management Council passed Amendment 95 package in 2012 to reduce prohibited species catch of halibut in the Gulf that the deep water complex was closed prior to May 15 because of the amount of halibut PSC taken by that date. But after May 15, Amendment 95 allows for the fishery to reopen to utilize remaining halibut PSC in deep and shallow water sectors for that season for that fishery, until it runs out.

Amendment 95 separated out the halibut PSC limits for the Gulf over five seasons each year, with specific deep and shallow water limits for each season.

Deep-water species open under the temporary rule include Pacific Whiting, Dover sole, English sole, Petrale sole, sablefish, rockfish and other flatfish.

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the gulf’s exclusive economic zone according to the fishery management plan for groundfish in the gulf prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The complete notices is at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/05/16/2016-11492/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-deep-water-species-fishery-by-vessels-using?utm_campaign=subscription+mailing+list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=federalregister.gov.

Bristol Bay Sockeye Promotion Planned

Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association has teamed up with Copper River Seafoods to promote Bristol Bay sockeye salmon.

The BBRSDA announced on May 16 that the association would provide Bristol Bay sockeye labels for 100,000 packages of fresh sockeye salmon in July.

Becky Martello, executive director of the association, said one big marketing challenge is getting consumers to recognize Bristol Bay is having product in the retail market that is actually labeled Bristol Bay.

Copper River Seafoods, with Copper River salmon as its flagship product, purchased the Extreme Seafoods processing facility at Naknek in 2015.

Cassandra Squibb, marketing officer for Copper River Seafoods, said the goal is to increase the value of the Bristol Bay sockeye resource through brand development.

We are feeling positive about the potential for bringing additional customers on board,” she said.

“This season’s fresh sockeye from Bristol Bay will be available at more than 1,500 stores of a major nationwide retailer,” she said.

Martello said that the BBRSDA is also moving forward with a branding pilot project in a target market later this summer. The concept project will focus primarily on marketing refreshed sockeyes as a means to provide Bristol Bay salmon to consumers all year long. Such a program for refreshed sockeyes has the potential to move large volumes of red salmon out of Bristol Bay to consumers, and given the sheer size of that sockeye harvest, moving a high volume of the catch is a priority, she said.

The goal of the BBRSDA, which represents gillnet harvesters, is to maximize the value of the Bristol Bay fishery for the benefit of its members.

Copper River Kicks Off in Seattle and Anchorage

The Copper River salmon fishery is off and running, with first opener harvest of some 22,500 sockeyes and 1,300 kings.

Alaska Airlines officials said they expected to deliver up to 60,000 pounds of that catch on four flights into Seattle by late yesterday, while another Alaska Airlines flight made deliveries into Anchorage.

Upwards of 20,000 pounds of reds and kings arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport shortly after 6 a.m. yesterday for the red carpet event that included the annual Copper Chef Cook-off. Three of the city’s top chefs competed in the tarmac cooking competition to see whose recipes – using portions of a 40-pound Chinook donated by Copper River Seafoods – were the best.

Jason Berry, managing director of Alaska Air Cargo, said his staff works hard to ensure delivery of that first catch from Alaska to Seattle, and on across the country within 24 hours of being caught.

Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologist at Cordova for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the red salmon catch came in a bit below the forecast, while the Chinook catch was about as anticipated. Some 480 fishing vessels were on the grounds for the opener in the Copper River District, Botz said. The sockeyes averaged about five pounds, while kings were weighing in at about 16 pounds, he said.

Seattle’s famed Pike Place Fish Market was advertising whole fresh Copper River sockeyes for $174.95 a fish, fresh Copper River sockeye fillets for $44.99, plus other fresh whole wild Alaska kings for $24.99 a pound and other fresh wild Alaskan king fillets for $39.99 a pound.

The online seafood shop Fishex in Anchorage was offering fresh Copper River king fillet premium center cut portions for $64.95 a pound, and fresh Copper River sockeye fillet center cut premiere portions for $46.95 a pound.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

EPA Pebble Activity Remains Under Scrutiny

A congressional committee looking into the role of the US Environmental Protection Agency in the proposed Pebble mine plans to continue its oversight, after hearing recent testimony from the agency, a congressional aide says.

While the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has no specific plans for additional hearings or depositions at this time, the committee continues to receive documents from the EPA related to the agency’s actions on Pebble and will continue its oversight, said Smith aide Alicia Criscuolo, responding in early May to a query on further hearings.

The committee has focused on examining the EPA’s intention to use section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to block the Pebble Mine from development before the project applies for any permits.

The proposed mine lies near headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. The fishery is crucial to the economy and culture of Bristol Bay, as well as the region’s abundant wildlife.

Proponents of the massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine, which would be built by a subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson Inc. a diversified global mining group in Vancouver, British Columbia, contend that the mine can be constructed and operated in harmony with the multi-million dollar fishery. Opponents contend that the mine could adversely impact habitat critical to millions of salmon.

After hearing testimony on April 28 from Dennis McLerran, administrator for EPA Region 10 in Seattle, and discussing a recent deposition of retired EPA ecologist Phil North, the Texas Republican issued a statement saying that documents obtained by the committee and North’s deposition “make clear that the decision to undertake a pre-emptive action to limit the Pebble mine was not based on sound science.”

North’s deposition, as well as McLerran’s testimony, are posted online at https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/full-committee-hearing-examining-epa-s-predetermined-efforts-block-pebble-mine.

Smith said the committee concludes that EPA employees violated ethical standards and that if they allow the EPA to pursue this path of action “the agency will have set the precedent to tell states, local governments, and even private citizens how they can develop their land before a permit application has ever been filed.”

GOA Trawl Bycatch Back on NPFMC Agenda

Federal fisheries managers meeting in Kodiak the week of June 6 will take up again the issue of a new management structure in the Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawl fisheries.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is set to hear a discussion paper exploring details of proposed alternatives and to hear public testimony from local stakeholders, but no final action on the selection of a preferred alternative is expected at this meeting.

Final action is not likely until the end of 2017, and then the new plan must go to the US Department of Commerce for approval.

The council’s work plan calls for a review of several topics related to the new management plan. These include measures intended to promote community stability, observer program issues and related vessel costs, proposed season date changes for pollock and Pacific cod, and effects of existing and potentially reduced prohibited species catch limits. The council also directed staff in February to bring back some preliminary analysis of new additions to alternative 3, with particular attention paid to PSC allocation based on “dependency” and participation in an inter-coop agreement.

Alternative 3 would allocate only prohibited species catch quotas to harvester-processor cooperatives, based on equal shares, some measure of dependency on, and engagement in the fishery, or some combination of the two.

The council noted at its February meeting that it would continue to analyze all alternatives and that it planned to review a draft environmental impact statement in late 2016.

Based on public comments and council discussion at the February meeting, staff was also asked to provide for the June meeting additional information on several topics, including how the alternatives might affect the value of an LLP (license limitation program) license, and the likelihood of “new entry” by vessels that are not typically engaged in Gulf of Alaska trawling.

Written comments on this and other topics up for discussion at the June meeting should be emailed to the council via npfmc.comments@noaa.gov by May 31.

Canadian Company to Purchase Icicle Seafoods

Cooke Aquaculture, in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, Canada, has announced the signing of a definitive agreement to purchase Icicle Seafoods Inc.

The transaction is anticipated to close in less than 30 days once all regulatory and legal matters are completed, said Chris Ruettgers, chief executive officer of Icicle Seafoods, and Nell Halse, vice president of communications for Cook Seafood Inc.

Once closed, the deal will enhance the Cooke family’s investments in both the wild fishery and aquaculture sectors, making them leaders in the US salmon farming sector and a major player in the Alaskan salmon fishery, they said.

With the acquisition, the Cooke group of companies will produce over 275,000 metric tons of seafood annually and generate $1.8 billion in annual sales, they said.

“The closing of this deal will be an exciting venture for us as it will add a well-respected fishery to our family businesses,” said Glenn Cooke, president of Cooke Seafood. “We have tremendous respect for the Alaska fishery and its highly valued brand in the seafood marketplace.

“Our family and our business is rooted in a small coastal fishing town on the east coast of Canada, and we have become a mainstay to communities in rural and coastal Maine. We look forward to meeting with similar communities in Alaska and supporting them for the long term.”

The deal will include Icicle’s three business units, which harvest and process more than 150,000 metric tons of seafood annually: wild salmon, groundfish and farmed Atlantic salmon. Cooke said that by adding the Atlantic salmon farming operations in Washington State to its current operations in Maine, Cooke will be able to strengthen its leadership role in the US aquaculture sector. It will also become the only company in the world that farms salmon while holding a significant market position in wild salmon.

Through its wholly-owned subsidiaries, Cooke Aquaculture processes and sells 115,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon and 20,000 metric tons of sea bass and sea bream each year, with annual sales valued at nearly $1 billion, according to the company’s website (www.cookeaqua.com).

Christopher Ruettgers, chief executive officer of Icicle Seafoods, said that Cooke provides Icicle with a long -term owner dedicated to the seafood industry.

The partnership with Cooke also means access to capital to further modernize our platform, expanded market access for the products harvested by our fleets and a broader product offering for our customer base, he said.

Copper River Salmon Fishery Opens on May 16

Seafood aficionados in Seattle and Anchorage are getting ready to roll out the red carpet May 17 to welcome the arrival of first of the season Copper River salmon.

The celebrated fishery opens at 7 a.m. on May 16 and plans are to fly the first harvest of kings and sockeyes out to Seattle and Anchorage the next day.

While most retailers have not announced prices yet, one online Anchorage seafood retailer is advertising fresh Copper River king salmon center cut fillets at $51.96 a pound and fresh Copper River sockeye salmon center cut fillets for $37.56 a pound.

When the Alaska Airlines flight with the first of the season catch arrives in Seattle on the morning of May 17, greeters will include several of Seattle’s top executive chefs, who will compete in the annual Copper Chef Cook-off to determine who has the best salmon recipe.

This year’s competing chefs include 2015 champion Ethan Stowell, executive chef and owner of Tavolata, Anchovies & Olive, John Howie of Seastar Restaurant & Bar and the John Howie SteakHouse, and Sam Burkhart of Etta’s and Seatown Seabar Restaurant.

In Anchorage a few hours later, Copper River Seafoods will host its annual First Fish event at the Alaska Air Cargo Center, welcoming the arrival of king and sockeye salmon headed for retail shops and restaurants, and hosting a cookout featuring fishes from two Anchorage restaurants known for their seafood entrees.

The first Copper River opener in May 2015 produced far fewer reds and a few more Chinooks than anticipated, and first run Chinooks and sockeyes were commanding prices of up to $31.95 a pound and $24.99 a pound respectively.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

SEAFA Promotes Whale Avoidance

Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance has announced a rebate program for whale pingers in Alaska salmon fisheries, funded through a grant from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, in an effort to reduce whale entanglements in fishing nets.

The pingers emit a sound to alert baleen whales that there is something in front of them. That sound, said SEAFA’s Kathy Hansen, is not harmful to the whales, but just provides them a notice to watch out. How big a problem is whale entanglement in salmon nets?

The number of entanglements varies, with this being a big issue some years, but not in others. “It’s huge, if you are the ones with the whale in your net,” Hansen said.

The $2,500 grant should cover $25 rebates for approximately 860 pingers, plus other costs associated with the grant, she said.

Commercial fishermen are eligible for rebates for up to five whale pingers per permit/vessel. Fishermen may submit the original receipt for pingers dated later than May 1, 2016 with the rebate form, which is online at www.seafa.org.

By signing the rebate form, harvesters agree for their contact information to be stored and if asked, to answer questions by scientists regarding their pinger use.

SEAFA, based in Juneau, Alaska, is a non-profit, membership based, multi-gear commercial fishing organization. Its stated mission is to preserve, promote, protect and perpetuate the fishing industry, for salmon, crab, shrimp and longline fisheries of Southeast Alaska, and promote legislation, conservation, management, safety at sea and the general welfare for the benefit of its members.

Transfer of Alaska CFEC Functions Challenged

An administrative order to transfer administrative and research functions of the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission to the state’s Department of Fish and Game is being challenged in court.

According to plaintiffs – United Fishermen of Alaska and Robert M Thorstenson Jr., a commercial fisherman and lobbyist who owns a CFEC permit – the administrative order signed by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker on Feb. 16 is invalid and unconstitutional.

Members of UFA, an umbrella organization that represents 33 Alaska commercial fishing associations and their individual members, who also own CFEC-issued permits, make annual fee payments and participate in limited entry fisheries.

The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in Juneau in April, seeks to enjoin the state from implementing that executive order. The plaintiffs contend that the reorganization or transfer of the CFEC’s functions and duties established in statute by the Legislature are outside of the control of the governor and cannot be accomplished without an executive order or a bill adopted by the Legislature.

The lawsuit notes that the Legislature mandated that the CFEC must be the entity issuing vessel licenses, and establishing fees, and also established the CFEC as a regulatory and quasi-judicial agency of the state, with three commissioners appointed by the governor and confirmed by legislators in joint session. With broad powers to regulator entry into the state’s commercial fisheries, and issue permits.

The effect of Walker’s administrative order 279 is to transfer offices and employees from the CFEC to ADF&G, and change their duties and their ability to carry out the statutory responsibilities legislatively imposed on the CFEC, the lawsuit said.

The governor stated in his administrative order that the objective of the transfer was to streamline administrative and research functions of state agencies, identify cost-saving measures, and provide appropriate support to the commercial fishing industry in Alaska.

High Togiak Herring Roe Percentage

Caught by surprise by an early spawn, harvesters in the Togiak herring fishery delivered a harvest exceeding 15,000 tons in 14 days, with a roe percentage that exceeded expectations of processors. “The roe percentage was perhaps the best Icicle has ever seen for the seine fishery,” said Warner Lew, fleet manager for Western Alaska for Icicle Seafoods.

“I think everyone was surprised at the percentage of the roe,” Lew said in an interview May 3. “The roe percentage was extremely high for a seine fishery. It rivaled that of a typical gillnet fishery.”

The fishery got off to its earliest start on record on April 17, after management with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game flew a survey of the state’s largest herring fishery, and observed 37 miles of spawn. Neither fishermen nor harvesters were prepared for what is by and large a May fishery, and then as they got to the grounds, harvesting was hampered by high winds that made it difficult to locate the herring, slowed fishing vessels and made it difficult to set gear.

Tim Sands, the ADF&G management biologist at Dillingham, said as of May 2 that the preliminary seine harvest was estimated at 15,171 tons, which was below the 20-year average of 16,000 tons. That total was expected to rise once final deliveries were added in. The gillnet harvest was kept confidential because of the limited number of participating vessels.

State budget cuts last year included a decision to zero out the Togiak herring budget, and it was only thanks to a donation of several thousand dollars from private industry that survey flights were able to document the spawn, which had been noted earlier by private pilots.

Sands said that the decision to end the fishery on April 30 was necessary to err on the side of conservation. “Normally we sample about 6,000 fish throughout the course of the fishery and we didn’t have the budget to do it,” he said.

Processors running the catch through processing plants do their own sampling.

“We catch all ages, but 8, 9, and 10 year olds, and 10-plus are probably the biggest drivers in the fishery,” he said.

A year ago, it wasn’t until April 27 that 63,382 tons of herring was documented, exceeding the threshold biomass of 35,000 tons, and prompting the opener.

Managing the fishery is more challenging this year because of across the board state budget cuts that resulted in the budget for Togiak herring being zeroed out.

ADF&G estimated that 20 to 25 seine vessels and three gillnet vessels would participate in this year’s fishery, delivering to Icicle Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, North Pacific Seafoods and Silver Bay Seafoods.

The Sitka Sound herring fishery, which opened March 17, and ended on March 23, also had the earliest spawn since monitoring began in the 1960s, said Dave Gordon, a state fisheries biologist at Sitka. The final harvest of 9,758 tons included overall mature roe recovery of 10.7 percent, based on fish ticket information. This year’s allowed quota was 14,741 tons.

GOA Trawl Bycatch Management on June NPFMC Agenda

Federal fisheries managers meeting at the Kodiak Harbor Convention Center in Kodiak the week of June 6 will take up again the issue of a new management structure in the Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawl fisheries.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is set to hear a discussion paper exploring details of proposed alternatives and to hear public testimony from local stakeholders, but no final action on the selection of a preferred alternative is expected at this meeting.

The council’s work plan calls for a review of several topics related to the new management plan. These include measures intended to promote community stability, observer program issues and related vessel costs, proposed season date changes for pollock and Pacific cod, and effects of existing and potentially reduced prohibited species catch limits. The council also directed staff in February to bring back some preliminary analysis of new additions to alternative 3, with particular attention paid to PSC allocation based on “dependency” and participation in an inter-coop agreement. Alternative 3 would allocate only PSC quotas to harvester-processor cooperatives, based on equal shares, some measure of dependency on, and engagement in the fishery, or some combination of the two.

The council noted at its February meeting that it would continue to analyze all alternatives and that it planned to review a draft environmental impact statement in late 2016.

Based on public comments and council discussion at the February meeting, staff was also asked to provide for the June meeting additional information on several topics, including how the alternatives might affect the value of an LLP (license limitation program) license, and the likelihood of “new entry” by vessels that are not typically engaged in Gulf of Alaska trawling.

Written comments on these and other topics up for discussion at the June meeting should be emailed to the council via npfmc.comments@noaa.gov by May 31.

The council meeting will be aired at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/june2016 and all motions will be posted following the meeting.

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