Astoria Fisheries Auction

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer Crab Survey Has Industry Concerned

Results of the 2016 Eastern Bering Sea continental shelf bottom trawl survey are out, prompting industry concern that while Bristol Bay red king crab is about status quo with last year, the outlook for snow crab and tanner crab may be less rosy.

The standardized survey is conducted every year by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. This year’s technical memorandum on the survey is online at http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/Kodiak/shellfish/crabEBS/2016_tech_memo_final_draft_comp.pdf.

Ruth Christianson, the science and policy analyst for Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers in Seattle, says that in general red king crab stocks have been pretty steady, and while the total allowable catch might be down slightly this year, it should be relatively on par with previous years.

For tanner crab, the survey numbers are down quite dramatically, especially for eastern section mature females, and those numbers haven’t been that low in many, many years, she said. Water temperatures have a dramatic effect on crab behavior and because of that it has a dramatic effect on catchability rates for the survey, because the standardized survey goes to the same locations in the same season every year. An increase or decrease in water temperature will affect where crab are found, and this is one of the warmest years on record, both on the sea surface and ocean bottom, so it is possible the crab are just in a different place, she said. Starting next year and then every other year thereafter, NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center will be doing a northern Bering Sea Arctic survey, she said.

The survey report goes now to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Crab Plan Team, which meets in Seattle Sept. 20-23. It will also be reviewed by the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, during the council’s Anchorage meeting in October.

Christianson said that if the fisheries open for snow and bairdi, the total allowable catch would likely be less than last year, based on thresholds in state regulations.

Dismal Pink Salmon Harvest Prompts Call for Assistance

In what is being described as Alaska’s worst pink salmon season in 40 years, the state is being asked to lend a hand financially. Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, has asked Gov. Bill Walker to issue a disaster declaration for the pink salmon fishery, which has a total harvest to date of just over 36 million fish, compared to the preseason forecast of 90 million humpies. The disaster declaration would open the door to federal disaster aid for those affected.

Stutes also has asked the Alaska Division of Investments for a waiver of payments due this year from state funded loans to fishermen, so that those payments can be put on the end of their loan rather than paid this year.

Stutes, who chairs the Alaska House Fisheries Committee, said the procedure to allow for this is already provided for in existing loans, but because of the number of people likely to apply to skip this year’s payment, it would be more expedient for the state to not have to go through this for each individual loan. She said that those interested in the waiver should call the state at 1-800-478-loan prior to the due date on their loan payment.

Stutes said she approached the state agencies after going door-to-door in Kodiak and speaking with people impacted by the dismal harvest of pink salmon, including cannery workers.

“This has been a financial disaster to coastal communities, not having these fish landing,” she said. “It is affecting processors, fishermen, cannery workers, which affects every business in every one of these communities. We all depend on fishermen, fish, processors and our workers to keep a viable community and the fish are the main ingredient, and we are missing them this year,” she said.

BBRSDA Pilot Branding Project

Alaska’s Bristol Bay fish harvesters are testing the marketing waters of upscale Boulder, Colorado with a branding pilot project aimed at people who value sustainable food choices and want to know where their food really comes from.

To that end, the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents the drift gillnet fleet that harvests the Bay’s famed sockeye salmon, has gone live with a colorful new website promoting the salmon, the region, and the fishermen, with links to 10 distributors and 11 processors of Bristol Bay salmon.

The website, www.bristolbaysockeye.com, designed by Anchorage public relations firm Rising Tide, features photos and videos of Bristol Bay, and recipes with photos for wild Alaska salmon, plus photos and profiles of five Bristol Bay harvesters from Washington State and Alaska. They are Pete Andrew, Dillingham, Alaska; Casey Coupchiak, Soldotna, Alaska; Fran Kaul, Washington State; Elijah Lawson, Seattle, and the O’Laire family, Homer, Alaska.

The campaign’s primary target is people from their mid-20s to late 30s, Millennials drawn to healthy, sustainable food choices and eager to support foods in line with those values. The campaign theme of “wild taste” and “amazing place”, telling the story of the Bay, its salmon and its fishermen, is also designed to appeal to other secondary demographics, including baby boomers in their 50s through early 70s, the BBRSDA said. Boulder is an upper middle class community, where the estimated median family income in 2011 was estimated at $113,681.

The promotion will include Bristol Bay point of sale materials, including recipe cards, recipe posters, printed fish wrap paper and stickers, branded bibs, and specialty mugs. The campaign will also include retail training and working in partnership with Chefs Collaborative to launch Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon as a leading premium seafood brand.

The test period will run through year’s end with strategic touch points built in to measure retailer participation, effectiveness of training tools, consumer preferences for the branding and, ultimately, will measure sales performance at the retail level.

The BBRSDA plans to produce a year-end project report along with strategic recommendations for launching this effort nationwide in 2017.

Transfer of Alaska CFEC Functions Put on Hold

A plan to move some administrative functions from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has been put on hold to allow for public comment.

The announcement from Alaska Gov. Bill Walker on Aug. 25 came in the wake of the governor’s decision back in February to issue an administrative order to transfer certain CFEC administrative functions to ADF&G as a cost-saving measure. The governor said he felt that in an effort to save on administrative costs he had bypassed an important step in any restructuring of state government- public engagement and feedback.

“The vital stakeholder input will help determine the best course of action needed to find a path forward for the fishing industry, individual Alaskans, and the affected state agencies,” he said.

Alaska is in the midst of a fiscal crisis brought on by a drop in oil prices.

The Walker administration has been looking to cut administrative costs wherever possible, including sharing administrative resources and streamlining services.

The objective of Administrative Order 279 was to streamline administrative and research functions of the agencies, identify cost-saving measures, and provide appropriate support to the commercial fishing industry in Alaska without negatively impacting the fishing industry.

United Fishermen of Alaska and Robert Thorstenson Jr. challenged the administrative order with a lawsuit.

Then on July 21, Alaska Superior Court Judge Louis James Menendez ruled in favor of the state, saying that “at this current time, any alleged conflict between the AO and the CFEC is purely hypothetical.

Walker said the state would now pursue input from Alaska’s commercial fishing industry after the conclusion of the fishing season this fall.

Max Worhatch, president of United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters, and a UFA board member, said he was “very pleased and supportive of the governor’s action and looking forward to working with him on this.

“He is willing to discuss it with us, which is more than refreshing,” Worhatch said.

UFA contended in its lawsuit that the reorganization or transfer of 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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wakefield Fisheries Symposium Will Focus on Climate Change

The 31st Wakefield Fisheries Symposium, set for May 9-12, 2017 in Anchorage, will focus on impacts of the environment on dynamics of Arctic and subarctic species of commercial, subsistence and ecological importance.

Hans-Otto Portner of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany is to be the keynote speaker, Alaska Sea Grant officials said.

Portner heads the Integrative Ecophysiology group at the Institute and was the coordinating lead author of the Ocean Systems chapter of the fifth climate change impact assessment report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change.

The symposium will focus on effects of warming, loss of sea ice, ocean acidification, and oceanographic variability on the distribution, phenology, life history, population dynamics, and interactions of these species, and how a better understanding can inform management of fish and invertebrates in a changing ocean to benefit affected communities, Sea Grant officials said.

Co-chairs of the symposium steering are Franz Mueter, of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and Anne Hollowed, of the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Also invited to speak are Anna Neuheimer, University of Hawaii; Christian Mollmann, University of Hamburg; Brad Seibel, University of South Florida; Charles Stock, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and Kathy Mills, Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

The Alaska Sea Grant College Program coordinates and sponsors the symposium in partnership with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, National Marine Fisheries Service, and North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

More information is online at www.seagrant.uaf.edu/conferences/2017/wakefield-fish-dynamics/.

Icicle Sues Maersk over Damaged Shipment

Icicle Seafoods has filed a lawsuit in US District Court for the Southern District of New York against Maersk for $85,070 in damages, after a shipment of frozen Pacific cod from Dutch Harbor was declared unfit for sale to the customer in Spain.

Icicle contends, in the lawsuit filed in New York on Aug. 12, that there was negligence on the part of the Danish international container shipping firm or its subcontractors regarding the shipment of 810 bags of frozen Pacific cod.

The litigation notes that a consignment of 810 bags of frozen Pacific cod in a refrigerated container was delivered in good condition about Feb. 17, 2015 to Maersk at Dutch Harbor for transport to Vigo, Spain. The shipment left aboard the M/V Lindavis about Feb. 17 and was discharged at Tanjung Pelepas Container Terminal in Malaysia on March 30, due to alleged temperature anomalies.

The consignment was then put into a reefer container on March 31 and held for inspection. On April 22, 2015, a cargo inspector at Malaysia deemed the cargo unfit for sale to the intended customer, the lawsuit said.

The cargo was then returned to the Port of Tacoma on Aug. 14, where it was determined to be unfit for human consumption and destroyed.

Meanwhile Icicle submitted a claim to Maersk on April 17 for damages sustained.

On March 23, 2016, Maersk advised Icicle that they considered Aug. 14, 2015 to be the final discharge date and that the one year statue of limitations would expire on Aug. 14, 2016.

According to Icicle, the invoice value of the consignment was $76,152, and additional shipping costs of $8,917 brought the total loss to $85,070.

Saildrone Technology Tracks Pursuit of Pollock by Fur Seals

Fisheries researchers using Saildrones surveyed more than 1,700 miles within the fur seal foraging area of the Bering Sea this summer, measuring and locating walleye pollock that are the main food source for northern fur seals.

The unmanned drones are giving the Alaska Fisheries Science Center new insight into foraging habits of female northern fur seals, whose populations have been dwindling since the 1970s, says Carey Kuhn, an ecologist with the center, who has been blogging the project.

The next step will be analyzing all the data from the fur seal tags and devices on the Saildrones, an effort that will take Kuhn and her colleague, fisheries biologist Alex De Robertis, a couple of months to process. Knowing where the pollock and other prey sought by the fur seals in summer months are available may help unravel the mystery of why the seal population continues to decline, she said.

The researchers tagged 30 adult female fur seals at their breeding grounds during the breeding season and in addition to returning to the breeding grounds in the fall to measure the tagged seals, they get diet analysis from scat in the rookeries and fish bones, Kuhn said.

Reduced prey availability is just one hypothesis for the decline of the fur seal population. Before any decisions are made that would affect related management of the pollock fishery, Center researchers need to understand what is going on with the ecology of the fur seals. “Our goal isn’t to make those types of decisions without strong scientific backing,” Kuhn said.

Once the data is compiled it goes to NOAA’s Alaska regional office, which oversees the northern fur seal conservation plan, and it is there that any management decisions are made.

PCCRC Offers $500,000 for Research Projects

The Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is seeking letters of intent through Sept. 26 for 2017 research projects seeking a portion of the $500,000 available to fund those studies.

The PCCRC was established in 2000 to improve knowledge about the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea through research and education, with a focus on commercial fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

Through the end of 2014, the PCCRC put over $20 million into marine research and education at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

The center provides grants to faculty and research stipends to graduate students for research on pollock, other groundfish, fisheries for these species, and on marine mammals, plus funds for marine education, technical training, and equipment, and for research in the area of marine resource economics.

Details on how to apply for funds and other relevant information on letters of intent for projects can be found online at http://www.npfmc.org/wp-content/PDFdocuments/MISC/PCCRC%202017%20request%20for%20LOI.pdf

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Seafood Harvesters Seek New Executive

A Washington, DC-based non-profit whose mantra is ensuring a plentiful and lasting seafood harvest for America is looking for a new executive director.

Seafood Harvesters of America put the word out this week, asking interested parties with plenty of background in the fisheries industry to read the job description at www.seafoodharvesters.org/harvesters-recruit-for-new-executive-director/.

The application deadline is Sept. 8. Anyone interested is asked to send a cover letter and resume to Recruitment@AssociationOptions.com.

The organization is hoping to attract candidates very well informed about the seafood industry who also have skills in communications, non-profit management, government relations and sustainable seafood.

Current Harvester board members include two with plenty of experience in Alaska’s commercial fisheries, Buck Laukitis of Homer and Brent Paine of Seattle. Laukitis is a veteran harvester who also serves on the board of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation. Paine has served as the executive director of United Catcher Boats since that organization was formed in 1994.

Alaska Board of Fisheries Proposals Online

A total of 276 proposals up for consideration by the Alaska Board of Fisheries during its 2016-2017 meeting cycle are now online in the state board’s proposal book at http://www.boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov.

They may be downloaded individually, or in sections or for entire meetings from that website. A total of 46 proposals are online for the Lower Cook Inlet finish meeting, to be held Nov. 30 through Dec. 3 at the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitor’s Center in Homer, including amendments to the Cook Inlet sablefish management plan and Cook Inlet rockfish management plan, both from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Another 23 proposals will be up for discussion when the board meets at the Kodiak Convention Center Jan. 10 through Jan. 13 on Kodiak finfish issues, including rockfish, Pacific cod and salmon management plans.

At the Upper Cook Inlet finfish meeting in Anchorage Feb. 23 through March 8, the board will consider 170 proposals, including some related to the Central District drift gillnet fishery management plan, Kasilof River salmon management plan, and Kenai River late-run sockeye salmon management plan.

The last 34 proposals will be taken up by the board during its meeting on statewide king and tanner crab and supplemental issues, except Southeast Alaska and Yakutat, from March 20 through March 24 in Anchorage. These include issues such as the fishing seasons for the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands, and the shellfish onboard observer program.

Alaska’s Pink Salmon Numbers Way Down

Alaska salmon harvests reached the 99 million fish mark through Aug. 16, with the preliminary harvest of 52 million sockeyes exceeding a forecast of 47.7 million reds, while the 33 million pinks caught was far below the forecast of 90 million humpies.

The humpies, said a spokesman for one major processor, are big, but the numbers are way down. Even for an even numbered year, when the harvest of pink salmon traditionally falls far below odd numbered year harvests, this harvest is looking to be one of the worst humpy harvests in years.

Just what is behind the low return of pink salmon, nobody is sure, but given the income they contribute to paying the overhead in processing plants, the low catch is raising some concerns.

A year ago, the harvest of pink salmon in Alaska reached 190.5 million fish, and the projection for 2016 was 90.1 million, this being an even year, to bring the projected total statewide commercial salmon harvest to 161 million fish.

In 2014, the last even year, pink salmon harvests reached 95.8 million fish, on the heels of the record pink salmon harvest of 219 million humpies in 2013 was worth $277 million.

There are surprises every year in Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, and among the pleasant ones this year were the late, but then steady harvest of sockeyes in Bristol Bay. The Chinook salmon projection for this year was 99,000 kings in areas outside of Southeast, but to date the 337,000 kings caught have included 250,000 from Southeast, leaving the overall total some 12,000 short of the forecast.

The coho salmon projected harvest this year is 4.4 million silvers, and the chum projection is for 18.7 million fish. Those fisheries are now underway, with preliminary harvests of 1.9 million and 11.7 million fish respectively.

A harvest to date report released this week by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute showed that harvests of all five salmon species were lingering below the harvest pace of a year ago, sockeyes by 3 percent, kings by 42 percent, cohos by 20 percent, and chums by 25 percent, while humpy harvests were 63 percent behind the last even year, 2014.

Feds Still Seeking Comment on Cook Inlet Lease

Officials with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management are seeking public comment through Sept. 6 on a proposed 1.7 million acre oil and gas lease sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. BOEM plans to have its final environmental impact statement completed by early 2017 and the sale, if held, would be in June 2017.

BOEM announced a 45-day comment period back on July 22, and the conservation organization Cook Inletkeeper is now asking BOEM to extend that comment period on Lease Sale 244 for an additional 60 days.

Bob Shavelson, executive director of Cook Inletkeeper, in Homer, Alaska, told BOEM that by opening the comment period in the middle of Cook Inlet’s commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries many harvesters would not have enough time to read, digest and submit comments on the draft environmental impact statement released on July 22.

Mark Storzer, regional supervisor at BOEM’s Office of Environment, said the oil and gas industry’s level of interest in the sale was hard to tell at this time.

Industry spokesman Carl Portman, deputy director of the Resource Development Council, and a supporter of the lease sale, said that while industry investment is slowed due to low prices, no one can accurately predict what the price of oil and gas will be when the lease sale occurs. Portman said if there is no interest, the government doesn’t have to hold the sale. But BOEM should let market dynamics decide the fate of that lease sale, he said.

Portman was one of several people who testified at BOEM’s hearing in Anchorage earlier this week. BOEM has scheduled hearings at Homer today and at Kenai on Aug. 18 to gather more public comment.

Shavelson said that Cook Inletkeeper would present testimony at the Homer hearing.

He noted that back in 2009 Congress charged BOEM with promoting renewable energy development in federal waters and said BOEM should pursue renewable energy programs for Alaska rather then spending money on fossil fuel leasing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Salmonfest Brings Music, Education

Rain clouds pouring down on Salmonfest on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula failed to dampen the spirits of some 6,500 participants, who turned out for three days of fish, love and music. In rubber boots, sandals and bare feet, they danced to the music of Indigo girls, Dead Winter Carpenters, Trampled by Turtles and dozens of other musicians, and learned from conservation groups on hand for the event, Aug. 5, 6 and 7th, about the importance of protecting fisheries environment in Alaska.

The effort to educate the public on how critical clean habitat is to fish was led by the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, with support from Cook Inletkeeper, who arranged for Maria Finn, author of “The Whole Fish,” to give workshops on how to utilize the whole salmon.

StandforSalmon.org had leaflets talking about the importance of Cook Inlet salmon to the economy of the Kenai Peninsula, noting that while the price of a barrel of oil is about $30, the price of a single king salmon is $73. The group warned against permitting resource projects that fail to protect salmon habitat.

A spokeswoman for the Eyak Preservation Council in Cordova offered information on how to join in a letter writing campaign urging the US Navy to move the location of its Northern Edge military training exercise, set for 2017 in Prince William Sound.

Others spoke about the potential adverse impact of a proposed hydropower project in the Susitna River on salmon habitat and the need to protect salmon runs in Bristol Bay from mining and salmon runs in Southeast Alaska from the impact of logging.

Salmonfest, which began six years ago as Salmonstock, was organized to educate the public about the potential adverse impact of the proposed Pebble mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed. It has since attracted thousands of visitors to hear nationally known bands, and learn about fish habitat issues in a family friendly atmosphere somewhat reminiscent of Woodstock.

Wild Salmon Catch Hits 93 Million, Humpies Slow

Alaska’s preliminary wild salmon forecast, compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, has reached 93 million fish, but the humpy harvest, projected to be below average this year, is dragging.

Through Aug. 9, the total preliminary catch added up to 51.6 million sockeyes, 28.4 million humpies, 11 million chums, 1.6 million cohos, and 333,000 kings.

Some 12 million pink salmon have been harvested in Southeast Alaska, out of a forecast of 34 million humpies.

ADF&G noted in a discussion paper that their forecast of 34 million pinks was below the recent 10-year average harvest of 38 million pink salmon, saying that perhaps the largest potential source of uncertainty are anomalously warm sea surface temperatures that have persisted throughout the Gulf of Alaska since fall 2013.

Pink salmon that went to sea in 2014 returned in numbers well below expectation in 2015, particularly in the southern half of the region, and pink salmon that went to sea in 2015, and were set to return in 2016, experienced similar above-average sea surface temperatures, biologists said.

There were also widespread reports of more southern species in the eastern Gulf of Alaska in 2015, suggesting pink salmon could experience more competition or predation than normal. Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologist for ADF&G in Cordova, said that hatchery returns were looking weak so far, and that there appeared to be weak pink salmon returns across the Gulf. The Prince William Sound Aquaculture Association was busy conducting cost recovery at three hatcheries, with management priorities to meet cost recovery and brood stock needs.

Botz said that water temperatures had been above average for most of the summer. On the Yukon River, meanwhile, in the wake of a very healthy summer chum salmon run, the fall run of chums appeared to be coming in stronger than forecast.

Yukon River fall season manager Jeff Estensen in Fairbanks said so far the fall chum run was looking good, with a strong pulse at the start of the fall season, and biologists were anticipating the run would come in at or above the forecast.

Managers on the Yukon, Estensen noted, are tasked with spreading out the harvest over the entire run, to provide enough opportunity for commercial harvesters and enough fish upriver for subsistence users.

Other preliminary commercial salmon harvest totals include catches of 39 million fish in Bristol Bay, 3.4 million fish in Cook Inlet, 9.4 million fish in the Alaska Peninsula, 1.6 million fish at Chignik and 4.3 million fish at Kodiak.

Happy Wild Salmon Day!

Alaska celebrates its first Wild Salmon Day today, and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is asking everyone in the state to celebrate by cooking, eating, catching, photographing and sharing their favorite photos of wild salmon on social media.

Bristol Bay Native Corp. will mark the occasion with a public salmon bake, featuring fresh wild Bristol Bay salmon, guest speakers and live entertainment in Anchorage. BBNC will also be a supporting partner at events taking place today in Dillingham, Naknek, New Stuyahok, Nondalton and Togiak.

And The Alaska Center, in partnership with Cook Inletkeeper, Trout Unlimited and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, will host a barbecue, with grilled salmon and scoops of ice cream at Cuddy Park in midtown Anchorage.

In Fairbanks, a forum is planned on “Local connections to Chinook Salmon” House Bill 128 signed into law on May 8 by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, designates Aug. 10 of every year as Alaska Wild Salmon Day, to celebrate the enormous bounty of wild king, sockeye, coho, chum and pinks salmon harvested in the state annually.

Drafters of the bill are encouraging all Alaskans to observe the day with educational and celebratory events, projects and activities.

20 New Fish Species Identified in Chukchi,
Beaufort Seas

A new federal report on Arctic fish species includes descriptions of 109 marine fish species from the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, including 20 newly confirmed species, providing planners much new information for managing fish populations.

“Alaska Arctic Marine Fish Ecology Catalog: Beaufort and Chukchi Seas,” is a major synthesis and compendium of biological information about marine fishes in the US Arctic. The study focuses on new information collected since the publication of the “Fishes of Alaska” in 2002.

Lead author Lyman Thorsteinson, an emeritus scientist with the US Geological survey, notes that Alaska’s rapidly changing climate is affecting the region’s ecology and economic opportunities in the Arctic.

“The physical and biological qualities of hospitable marine habitats are developing in warming Arctic waters, and, with respect to human developments, previously ice-covered areas are opening and becoming accessible to new exploration,” he said.

The research results from investigators from USGS and the University of California at Santa Barbara was released by USGS and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. It summarizes what is known about the natural history of each species and explores adaptations and limitations of fish populations to Arctic environments. The goal is for this information to be useful in directing future research needs and informing natural resource managers about high priority marine fish species, the authors said.

Thorsteinson noted in an email response to questions on the connection between climate change and the 20 newly confirmed species that it would be difficult to assert that newly identified species in the last decade are due to climate changes.

“This is a frontier area where sampling has been largely located in the very nearshore with only very recent systematic surveys conducted very far offshore,” Thorsteinson said. “What we know about species presence and zoogeography are derived from a variety of surveys which have often been conducted for environmental assessment of offshore oil and gas exploration and development,” he said.

It is a region devoid of commercial fisheries and the present lack of long-term data. New information is development though from recent research supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. New confirmations included in the report came from fieldwork and museum studies conducted in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas since around 2002.

Thorsteinson noted that Pacific influences on the physical and biological oceanography of the region are great. “They include advection of water and biogenic materials and it is likely that certain Bering Sea species associated with the different water masses transported into the region are shifting in their distributions to the north,” he said.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Draft EIS on Potential Cook Inlet Lease Sale

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 published 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.

Wild Salmon Harvest in Alaska Nears 84 Million Fish

Commercial pink salmon harvests in Alaska rose by nearly 7 million fish this past week, pushing the overall humpy catch to 21,324,000 fish, and the statewide total of all five species of salmon to 83.9 million fish.

In Southeast Alaska deliveries of 13,504,000 fish included 7.4 million humpies, 4.5 million chums, 816,000 silvers, 628,000 sockeyes, and 240,000 Chinooks, up from last week’s overall catch of 8.9 million salmon.

Bristol Bay harvests reached 38.5 million salmon, up by about 1 million fish from the previous week, including 37.5 million reds, while Prince William Sound saw its deliveries to processors reach 13.8 million salmon, up from 11.9 million salmon just a week earlier.

And the chums and humpies kept coming on the Lower Yukon, pushing the harvest total there to 658,000 chums, 127,000 humpies and 2,000 cohos, up from 599,000 chums, and 127,000 pinks on July 26.

On the Alaska Peninsula, deliveries to processors climbed to a total of 9.3 million fish, including 5.6 million sockeyes, 3 million pinks, 458,000 chums, 174,000 silvers and 9,000 kings. Chignik’s overall catch rose from 1.2 million to 1.4 million fish, including more than 1 million reds, 83,000 chums, 80,000 humpies, 46,000 cohos and 14,000 kings.

At Kodiak, processors received nearly 1 million more fish, bringing Kodiak’s total catch to 14 million salmon, including 8.3 million sockeyes.

With the Copper River season winding down, Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle was still offering whole fresh Copper River sockeyes for $43.96 per fish, and fresh Copper River sockeye fillets for $20.99 a pound, plus fresh whole wild Alaskan king salmon for $20.99 a pound and fresh wild Alaskan king fillets for $35.99 a pound. Tenth & M Seafoods in Anchorage had fresh wild sockeye fillets for $8.95 a pound, fresh wild Chinook steaks for $13.95 a pound, fresh wild king fillets for $16.95 a pound, and fresh wild sockeye steaks for $7.95 a pound.

Alaska Pink Salmon for Food Aid Programs

The US Department of Agriculture announced on Aug. 2 the purchase of more than $9 million in canned Alaska pink salmon for distribution in child nutrition and other related domestic food assistance programs.

The product bid for more than 250,000 cases of kosher and regular canned pink salmon was split between three processors: Icicle Seafoods at Seward, and the Cordova processing facilities of Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Trident Seafoods.

The canned pinks are slated for delivery to food banks all over America.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute said that ASMI is looking forward to additional purchase of frozen four-ounce portions of coho or sockeye salmon for use in a program that aims to put more “traditional foods” into the diet offered to people living on Indian reservations.

ASMI promotes the purchase of wild Alaska seafood products - including canned salmon and herring - through its Alaska Global Food Aid Program, in partnership with the state of Alaska and the fishing industry. The program promotes healthy proteins for domestic and international food programs, and an outlet for thousands of cases of canned salmon and herring produced by Alaska processors.

Search Ends for Alaska Juris

The unified command formed to respond to the sinking fishing vessel Alaska Juris in the Bering Sea has called off the search for the 218-foot boat, which is presumed to have sunk in 5,400 feet of water.

Federal on-scene coordinator Lt. Todd Bagetis said searchers had been unable to locate the vessel owned by the Alaska Fishing Company in Seattle.

A search of the area northwest of Adak, 41 miles northeast of Segula Island in the Aleutians showed no trace of the Alaska Juris, according to the US Coast Guard and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

Cause of the sinking is under investigation.

Forty-six crewmembers aboard the Alaska Juris had to abandon ship into three life rafts on July 26 after the vessel began taking on water. The Coast Guard’s 17th District picked up an electronic distress call and issued an urgent message to merchant ships in the area. Good Samaritans aboard the Norwegian flagged bulk carrier Spar Canis rescued 28 of the crewmembers in two life boats and the German-flagged container ship Vienna Express rescued 18 others aboard the third life boat.

All were wearing survival suits and there were no injuries.

The Fishing Company of Alaska also owned the factory trawler Alaska Ranger, which sank in the Bering Sea on March 23, 2008. Five of the 47 men on board the Alaska Ranger died in that incident, but only four bodies were recovered.

Salmon Sisters See Success with Wild Salmon Donation

Owners of the apparel company Salmon Sisters, in Homer, Alaska, have donated 14,688 cans of wild Alaska salmon to the Food Bank of Alaska – one can for every product sold through their online store and wholesale accounts.

The delivery represents a donation from the first quarter of the Give: Fish Project established by co-founders Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton, daughters of veteran Homer commercial fisherman Buck Laukitis, president of the Magic Fish Co. and recently appointed member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Silver Bay Seafoods, the Sitka-based seafood processor to which the Neaton and Laukitis family fishing boats deliver, provided discounted canned salmon to further aid the project. Silver Bay CEO Richard Riggs said his company takes great pride in being proactive community stewards, and is proud to have Silver Bay’s canned salmon products reaching those with needs in communities across Alaska.

Complimentary air freight to transport the cans from Sitka to Anchorage was provided by Alaska Airlines.

The Salmon Sisters, both commercial harvesters, offer in their product line sockeye salmon portions and halibut sourced from sustainable fisheries. They also sell a colorful range of hoodies and tee shirts, leggings, mugs, salmon leather wallets, tote bags, and aprons.

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