Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pinbone Removal Tech Sparks Interest

Technology that detects the bones in filleted fish and suggests an optimal cut based on processors’ pre-defined specifications is already installed in several European countries and is now drawing more interest in the United States.

A spokeswoman for Marel, in Reykjavik, Iceland, says that Alaskan and Seattle processors are looking into the benefits of such systems for their operations both onshore and offshore. At least one FleXicut system designed by Marel was installed on the US East Coast earlier this year, said Stella Bjorg Kristinsdottir, marketing manager for the Icelandic firm.

Pinbones are located at the most valuable part of the fillet and these bones are usually removed from the fillet by manual cutting, a labor-intensive process that requires skill that takes time and practice to develop. It is also critical that the cutting, whether manual or automatic, does not leave bone or bone fragments in the fillet, and that the amount of high value raw material cut away with the pinbone removal is minimal, she said.

The FleXicut combines waterjet cutters and traditional cutting blades to remove the pinbone and portion the fillet in an optimal way. Along with labor reduction, the FleXicut system also improves productivity, raw material utilization, and uniformity of end product, while reducing product handling.. “We believe that processors that install an integrated FleXicut system are taking an important step into the future and will gain a competitive edge in today’s challenging business environment,” she said. “We also know that the combination of shorter production time and less manual product handling will result in higher quality end product with less bones, that also will be appreciated by the end consumer.”

The technology stems from APRICOT (automated pinbone removal in cod and whitefish) which was the working name of a collaborative project initiated several years ago by Nordic Innovation, Marel, Norway Seafood, Faroe Origin and Sintef.

Watch a video of the overall benefits of an integrated Marel system, online at http://player.vimeo.com/video/198822203?badge=0&autoplay=1

Alaska Salmon Catch Exceeds 75 Million Fish

Alaska’s wild salmon catch now exceeds 75 million fish, up from some 48 million salmon caught commercially through last week.

The latest preliminary harvest figures compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) break down the catch to date to 43.5 million sockeyes, 18.7 million pinks, 12.2 million chums, 506,000 cohos and 221,000 Chinook salmon.

Of that total more than 35 million fish have come from Bristol Bay, including 34 million red salmon. The Nushagak District had the highest harvest boastingmore than 11.3 million salmon, followed closely by the Egegik district with 10.5 million and the Ugashik district at 4.6 million salmon.

The Cook Inlet fisheries have delivered 1.7 million salmon to processors, including 1.4 million sockeyes, 152,000 chums, 132,000 pinks, 11, 000 cohos and 5,000 kings, while in Prince William Sound the commercial catch of 17.5 million salmon broke down to over 12 million humpies, 4.3 million chums, over one thousand red and 13,000 king salmon.

On the Lower Yukon River, the catch of oil rich keta salmon was at 441,000 fish, with another 127,000 chums brought in from the Upper Yukon River.

In Southeast Alaska, commercial harvesters have delivered nearly 4 million fish, including 3.8 million chums, nearly 3 million pinks, 419,000 cohos, 179,000 reds and 153,000 kings.

Processors in Alaska’s Western region have receive an estimated 12.3 million fish, of which 6.8 million were reds, 3.4 million were humpies and 1.9 million were chum salmon.

Changes Coming in Alaska Symphony of Seafood

In order to better serve the industry, the upcoming Alaska Symphony of Seafood events will be held during Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, Washington, in November and in mid-February in Juneau, Alaska.

According to Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF), the change of locations and scheduling are coming at the request of the industry, to provide more lead time for entries into the competition and allow winning products to also be included in national and international competitions, giving them greater exposure.

The call for product is to be released in mid-August, with all entry forms and fees due by October 6. Entries will be accepted into one of four categories: Retail (including smoked product), Food Service, Beyond the Plate and Beyond the Egg.

Winners will have the opportunity to display their products at the Seafood Expo North American in Boston March 11-13, 2018. For the first time, winning entries will also be entered into SENA’s Seafood Excellence Awards competition.

Information will be posted online at www.afdf.org/symphony-of-seafood/

The Symphony, now in its 25th year, will hold a unique sponsorship at Pacific Marine Expo from November 16−19, with activities to include a “Hall of Fame” displaying 25 years of winning products, a panel presentation about the importance of produce development for the seafood industry, an announcement of the Seattle People’s Choice winner, and other promotional activities, Decker said.

Guests at the February’s event are to include legislators in session in Juneau.

AFDF, a private, non-profit entity, depends on sponsors to fund the event.

Major sponsors from the 2016 symphony were the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Alaska Air Cargo, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, At-sea Processors Association, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Alaskan Brewing Co., Marel, Northwest Fisheries Association, Kwik’Pak Fisheries LLC, Trident Seafoods, UniSea and United Fishermen of Alaska.

New GE Salmon Leveling Bill Introduced in Senate

New legislation mandating the labeling of genetically engineered salmon introduced in the US Senate would require specific labeling of that product to assure that consumers have all the facts about what they are buying.

“The primary purpose of this bill is to ensure that consumers have all the facts and can make an informed decision when they are purchasing salmon,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, sponsor of the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act.

“There is a huge difference between ‘Frankenfish’ and the wild, healthy, sustainably-caught, delicious real thing, and I want to make sure folks are aware of that,” Murkowski said. “The potential for escapement from pens to occur from hatcheries and any facility where fish are grown would decrease the immense value of our fisheries,” she said.

“These Frankenfish could wreak havoc upon wild stocks and pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of fishermen everywhere,” she added.

The bill would also require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure a third party independent scientific review of the federal Food and Drug Administration’s environmental assessment for all genetically modified finfish, including GE salmon, for human consumption.

Co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Maria Cantwell, D-WA.; Jeff Merkley, D-OR; and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New Freezer for Bristol Bay Salmon in 2018

Two commercial fisheries veterans are renovating a former helicopter logging barge in Sitka,Alaska, with plans to use it as a floating processor in Bristol Bay in 2018.

“We’re looking to start in the Ugashik [River],” said Pat Glaab, who is partnering with Ben Blakey in Northline Seafoods, to offer harvesters not equipped with cooling systems on their fishing vessels a method of delivering consistently high quality fish.

“The Bay is still struggling with getting refrigeration to fish,” said Glaab. “Our model is the fish is never better than when they come out of the water. We will park the barge where you would normally park a tender. We will give them slush ice, and all the fish they catch will go into the slush ice.”

Once the catch is delivered back to the barge, it will be flash frozen immediately.

By providing ice to their fishermen, Northline also hopes to substantially increase the incomes of those delivering to them.

“We’re talking about 50 percent more for the same fish because they will have access to cooling,” Blakey said. “Our process makes that available to everybody who fishes for us.”

Glaab and Blakey said they are confident that the barge, once renovation is completed, will have the capacity to freeze up to 300,000 pounds, or some 50,000 salmon, every day.

“Last summer we frozen 10,000 to15,000 pounds a day of pink, chum and sockeye salmon from Southeast Alaska,” Blakey said. “When our fish were compared with other product on the market, ours was consistently higher quality than other headed and gutted coming out of Alaska at the time.

This summer in Sitka, Northline anticipates freezing a smaller volume of pink and chum salmon, as renovation of the barge continues. “We are producing a product and proving you can preserve the quality of the roe and the fish,” Glaab said.

Flash freezing will also maintain the quality of the head, guts and fish oil, all with potential marketability in products including fishmeal and pet foods.

“This can’t be anything but helpful,” said Norm Van Vactor, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. at Dillingham, Alaska, who is also a seafood industry veteran.

“In rural locations the cost of production is significantly higher than doing it in other places,” he said. “Freezing fish appropriately in the round means you can process the fish in a preliminary stage with minimum cost.”

It’s not for everyone, but it will certainly be a viable solution and a positive forward step for certain areas, areas that might not be able to justify a large shore based processing facility and the cost of tendering with it.

Alaska’s Salmon Harvest Nears 48 Million Fish

Preliminary harvest data show the catch in Alaska’s wild salmon fisheries is nearing the 48 million fish mark. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ASF&G) count includes 31.6 million sockeyes, 8.4 million chums, 7.6 million pinks, 198,000 silvers and 193,000 Chinook salmon.

More than 25 million of those sockeyes were caught in the Bristol Bay fishery, including 9.6 million in the Nushagak district, 8 million in the Egegik district, in excess of 4 million in the Naknek-Kvichak district and 2.2 million in the Ugashik district.

State fisheries biologist Tim Sands, Dillingham, Alaska, described the sockeye fishery in the Nushagak district as “gangbusters,” as fishermen there brought in a record 1.2 million salmon on July 3. It was the second time this year, and in the history of the Nushagak district, that the daily sockeye salmon harvest exceeded one million reds, Sands said.

Processors on the Lower Yukon have taken deliver of some 331,000 oil rich keta salmon, and another 66,000 keta salmon were caught on the Upper Yukon.

Processors in Prince William Sound have received 7.9 million fish, including 482,000 Copper River reds and another 417,000 sockeyes from the Eshamy District, 51,000 from the Coghill District, 33,000 from the PWS general seine fishery, 2,000 from the Bering River drift and 1,000 from the Unakwik District drift fisheries.

PWS also had 2.9 million chums, nearly 4 million pinks and 13,000 king salmon.

Cook Inlet harvesters have brought in some 777,000 fish, including 671,000 reds, 61,000 chums, 40,000 pinks, 3,000 kings and 2,000 silver salmon.

Harvesters in the Western region have an overall catch of 9.4 million salmon, including 6.7 million in the Alaska Peninsula, 1.5 million more at Kodiak and more than 1 million at Chignik. The breakdown for the Western region was 5.7 million reds, 2.4 million pinks, 1.3 million chums, 12,000 kings and 14,000 coho salmon.

EPA Restriction Withdrawal Proposed for Pebble Mine

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials says that they are proposing to withdraw their July 2014 Clean Water Act proposed determination for the Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. That determination would, if finalized, impose restrictions on the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with the mine.

EPA agreed to initiate the proposed withdrawal as part of a May 11, 2017 settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership.The matter is to be posted by mid-July in the Federal Register, after which the EPA has set a 90-day period for public comment on the proposed withdrawal of those restrictions. All comments must be received on or before the end of that timeframe.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said on June 27 that she had raised concerns with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that a public comment period during the midst of the commercial fishing season would not allow enough time for all relevant stakeholders to weigh in. Murkowski said she requested the 90-day comment period to allow for local stakeholders to be heard in the process.

The Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) is urging the EPA to extend the comment period to no less than 120 days and to hold hearings in the Bristol Bay region, so its residents can express their opinions.

“Thousands of fishermen and women are currently in Bristol Bay participating in what is proving to be a tremendously successful commercial fishing season,” said Jason Metrokin, chief executive officer of BBNC, “That the EPA is now proposing to withdraw potential protections for this world class billion-dollar resource is not sound economic or environmental policy.”

More information, including the pre-publication Federal Register Notice announcing the public comment period, is available online at https://www.epa.gov/bristolbay

Comments may be emailed to: ow-docket@epa.gov with docket number EPA-R10-OW-2017-0369 in the subject line.

Increasing Risk of Oil Spills in North Pacific Basin

New reports in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology outline how the increase in marine vessel traffic, and oil and gas exploration and development in the North Pacific basin pose increased risks of oil spills.

The leading journal of studies on environmental pollution, released a special issue on July 10 devoted to monitoring and evaluating effects and repercussions of oil spills It can be found at https://link.springer.com/journal/244/onlineFirst/page/1.

Original research featured in this issue includes major discoveries from scientific studies of oil spill effects on marine ecosystems and environments, beginning with the 1989 Exxon Valdez, and increasing recognition on the limited ability of scientists to evaluate the damage caused by those events.

The articles offer a framework for assessing oil spill risks to marine mammals that considers length of exposure, potential for oil adhesion, inhalation, direct and indirect ingestion, in addition to the likelihood of population-level effects of an oil spill determined by population size, distribution, diversity of diet and susceptibility of prey to decline.

The Trump administration has opened a public comment period on a new five-year (2017-2022) offshore drilling program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, which would allow for the expansion of drilling efforts into environmentally significant areas.

The 45-day comment period began with the publication of the notice in the Federal Register on July 3, and ends on August 17.

Opinions can be submitted electronically at https://www.boem.gov/Public-Engagement-Opportunities/ by clicking on the “open comment document” link and following the instructions to view the relevant documents prior to submission All comments must be received on or before August 17.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Alaska’s Salmon Harvest Nears 23 Million Fish

Preliminary harvest data shows the catch in Alaska’s wild salmon fisheries rose to over 22.7 million fish through July 4, including a record 1.2 million salmon caught on July 3 in Bristol Bay’s Nushagak District. It was the second time this year, and in the history of the Nushagak District, that the daily sockeye salmon harvest exceeded one million reds, noted Tim Sands, an area biologist at Dillingham for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who described the sockeye fishery as “gangbusters.”

As of July 4, the cumulative Nushagak District harvest stood at 5.2 million sockeyes, with 542 permits and 421 vessels registered to fish there. The strength of the run has been such that Peter Pan Seafoods still had its harvesters on limits, and two other processors, Silver Bay and Ekuk Fisheries had suspended buying on the morning of Independence Day, Sands said.

The surge of reds aside, four vessels harvesting in the Nushagak were partially submerged after taking on water, but good Samaritan boats assisted everyone on board and no injuries were reported. “More than one boat out there was deck loaded with lots of fish on board and you throw weather into that mix and it can go fast,” Sands said. One of the vessels involved was reported to have about 14,000 pounds of fish on board, far exceeding its capacity.

The preliminary Bristol Bay harvest, totaling 10.5 million salmon, including 9.6 million reds, also includes 3.5 million sockeyes harvested in the Egegik District, 720,000 in the Naknek-Kvichak, 140,000 in the Ugashik and 40,000 at Togiak.

Processors in Prince William Sound have received nearly 14 million fish, including 445,000 Copper River reds and another 331,000 sockeyes from the Eshamy District. Cook Inlet harvesters have brought in some 270,000 fish, including 253,000 reds.

Harvests mounted too in the Western Region with a catch of 5.7 million salmon in the Alaska Peninsula, 829,000 more at Kodiak and 752,000 at Chignik.

Harvests of oil-rich keta salmon have reached 204,000 on the Lower Yukon River and 31,000 on the Upper Yukon.

Witherell Succeeds Oliver at NPFMC

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) in Anchorage, Alaska has announced the appointment of David Witherell as its new executive director.

Witherell joined the council in 1992, first as a plan coordinator, then in 2002 became deputy director. Prior to being hired by the council, he was a marine biologist for the state of Massachusetts, working on resource surveys and stock assessments. He earned a master’s degree in fisheries biology from the University of Massachusetts.

Council chairman Dan Hull said that Witherell “brings a long history of council experience and proven leadership skills as deputy director. We’re very pleased and fortunate that he has accepted the executive director position.”

Oliver was named on June 19 as the new assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, taking the helm from acting assistant administrator Samuel Rauch, who then returned to his post as deputy assistant administrator for regulatory programs.

Concerns in Southeast Alaska Over Transboundary Mine

Concerns are growing again in Southeast Alaska over the potential purchase of a British Columbia mine that has been leaking acid drainage into the salmon rich Taku watershed for more than 50 years, which has not been cleaned up as promised.

In a statement issued this past week, Frederick Olsen Jr., chairman of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, said he found it shocking that British Columbia has not discussed the implications of a new buyer for the Tulsequah Chief mine with the state of Alaska through the statement of cooperation signed last year. “Alaska needs to seek the help of the U.S. federal government to hold British Columbia accountable for its environmental responsibilities at Tulsequah Chief,” Olsen said.

Nearly two years ago B.C.’s then Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett came to Juneau, Alaska, flew over the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine, and promised to clean up the ongoing acid mine drainage, said Chris Zimmer, of Rivers Without Borders.

The current mine owner, Chieftain Metals, declared bankruptcy in September 2016 and the company was placed in receivership. On June 2, the receiver, Grant Thornton, posted documents on its website showing a new company was interested in purchasing the mine, with the company’s name redacted from the documents, Zimmer said.

Asked for comment on the issue, Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott said the state’s BC counterparts are aware that “we are concerned over the potential sale of the Tulsequah Chief mine and we will have the opportunity to reengage with our bilateral workgroup once their new provincial leadership takes office. Mallott also said he plans to meet in Washington, DC in July with the State Department, International Joint Commission and Alaska’s congressional delegation about the issue.

BC officials have so far declined to comment, noting that any statement regarding the future of the Tulsequah Chief mine won’t be forthcoming at least until its new government is sworn in.

Juvenile Pollock Survival Better Than Expected

A new federal study suggests that young Pollock survived at a rate better than anticipated during the most recent warm phase in the Bering Sea, having found alternative resources not available during the last warming phase.

With 2017 showing signs of cooling, Pollock populations may have successfully weathered the warm years of 2014 though 2016, according to a report by scientists with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center published in the journal PLOS on June 28.

Juvenile Pollock need energy-rich prey to survive winter in the Bering Sea.

The study led by NOAA Fisheries scientist Janet Duffy-Anderson showed that Arctic algae are attached to the sea ice. When the ice melts, said Duffy-Anderson, “these algae are released into the water column to be eaten by larger, oil-rich zooplankton, which are in turn eaten by young Pollock fattening up to prepare for the Bering Sea’s harsh winter. This chain of events is critical to Pollock success.”

The 2001-2005 warm stanza triggered ecological changes that resulted in a decline in the number of walleye Pollock, ultimately leading to a 40 percent reduction in the fishing quota. Sea ice eventually returned to the southeast Bering Sea shelf, bringing cold sea temperatures from 2007 to 2013, with oil-rich prey. By 2013, recruitment to the Pollock fishery recovered completely.

When ocean conditions turned warm again in 2014, scientists were concerned this was the start of a new warm stanza. Pollock survival declined, as expected after 2014, and 2015 proved to be even warmer, but scientists said it was warm for a reason not seen before.

The year 2015 acted like a cold year, with strong winds from the north pushing Arctic sea ice southward to the southern Bering Sea, but the sea ice was stopped by “the Blob,” a mass of warm water from the Gulf of Alaska invading the Bering Sea.

By 2016, with sea ice absent, the water was very warm over the southern shelf, and while large copepod preys were scarce, krill remains in the area.

Young Pollock from the southern shelf may have taken refuge in the northern cold pool in 2015, feeding on fat-rich copepods or krill, and then in 2016 they consumed large numbers of krill, possibly remnant populations from 2015. This suggests that switching prey sources figured in their survival, said Duffy-Anderson. Successive warm years due to reduced Arctic winds, weak sea ice advance and warm ocean temperatures still, however, spell trouble for Pollock, she said.

The complete study appears online at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0178955

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Alaska Salmon Harvest Near Nine Million Fish

Bristol Bay’s famed sockeye salmon fishery is off and running, with 1.5 million red salmon so far – mainly from the Egegik District – helping to boost the statewide preliminary harvest to 8,974,000 fish.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) latest data report shows deliveries in the Egegik District of 1.4 million sockeyes, followed by 138,000 reds in the Ugashik District and 37,000 in the Naknek-Kvichak. Togiak district harvesters have brought in another 10,000 reds, plus 7,000 chum salmon.

Prince William Sound processors now have delivery of 1.8 million salmon, including 1.1 million chum, 595,000 reds, 17,000 pinks and 13,000 Chinook salmon. The Copper River drift fishery’s catch has reached 434,000 fish, including 411,000 sockeye, 13,000 kings and 10,000 chum salmon. The king harvest was above the preseason forecast, while sockeyes were still tracking well below the forecast, although still within the bounds of what to expect, said Jeremy Botz, gillnet area manager at Cordova for ADF&G.

Chinook average weights for the Copper River fishery were up by two to three pounds over last year, and sockeyes by half a pound, putting the overall average at 20.5 pounds for kings and 5.5 pounds for red salmon. Botz said foraging must have been better in the ocean this year to help with that overall gain. Cook Inlet’s preliminary numbers includes 125,000 sockeye, 2,000 kings, 2,000 chum and about one thousand pink salmon.

In Alaska’s westward region, the preliminary catch data shows nearly four million salmon taken by fishermen in the Alaska Peninsula, including 2.4 million reds, 1.1 million humpies, 489,000 chum and 4,000 kings.

Kodiak harvesters have delivered 668,000 fish, bringing processors 548,000 sockeye, 78,000 chum, 40,000 pinks and 2,000 kings.

In Southeast Alaska the harvest is at 277,000 fish, with 172,000 chum, 68,000 Chinook, 33,000 reds and 4,000 humpies.

The Lower Yukon harvest of succulent Yukon keta has reached 97,000 fish.

Commercial Fish Dumped Nears 10 Million Tons

A study by Canadian and Australian university researchers concludes that industrial fishing fleets worldwide are dumping nearly 10 million tons of good fish back into the ocean annually, due to poor fishing practices and inadequate management.

The report comes from researchers with Sea Around Us, an initiative at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and the University of Western Australia.

The paper, “Global marine fisheries discards: a synthesis of reconstructed data,” was published on June 26 in the journal Fish & Fisheries, online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/faf.12233/full The loss of good fish is equivalent to throwing back enough fish to fill about 4,500 Olympic sized swimming pools every year, the report said.

“While indeed discard mortality rates vary by location, species and gear type used, our numbers are all dead discards,” said Dirk Zeller, a professor of marine conservation with the University of Western Australia’s School of Biological Sciences, in response to an email query.

In cases such as the United States, where total discard rates as well as discard mortality rates are known, we take this into account, but the US is an exception, and for most countries and thus most fisheries, this is not known, recorded or studied, Zeller said.

Given that the researchers only estimate major discards in each country, and thus are missing discards from many other gear types in each country, our discard estimates are conservative, he said.

Given the current era of increasing food insecurity and human nutritional health concerns, these findings are important, said Zeller, lead author for the study and senior research partner with the Sea Around Us. “The discarded fish could have been put to better use.”

Zeller and his colleagues Tim Cashion, Maria Palomares and Daniel Pauly said they study also showed how industrial fleets move to new waters once certain fisheries decline.

“The shift of discards from Atlantic to Pacific waters shows a dangerous trend in fisheries of exporting our fishing needs and fishing problems to new areas, Cashion said.

While the study showed a decline in discards in recent years that could be attributed to improved fisheries management and new technology, Zeller and his colleagues say it’s likely also an indicator of depleted fish stocks.

“Discards are now declining because we have already fished these species down so much that fishing operations are catching less and less each year, and therefore there’s less for them to throw away,” Zeller said.

New Seafood Plant at Hydaburg in Southeast Alaska

Haida Wild Alaska Seafood has opened a new 7,000-square-feet fish plant in the Southeast Alaska village of Hydaburg, on Prince of Wales Island, with a goal of boosting the local economy by processing troll caught salmon.

In an interview with Alaska Sea Grant, plant manager Jess Dilts said the owners – the Hydaburg Cooperative Association and city of Hydaburg – also hope to eventually include a retail section and smoker. Meanwhile, “as soon as the trollers come in, we’re ready,” he added.

In preparation for the plant opening, Dilts flew to Kodiak to get certified by Alaska Sea Grant in safe food handling practices and sanitation at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Chris Sannito, an Alaska Sea Grant seafood technology specialist at Kodiak, was one of the lead consultants on the Hydaburg plant, and traveled twice to Hydaburg to help install sanitation equipment in the former cold storage facility and advise on the project.

Depending on the volume of salmon delivered, the catch will either be flown to Seattle from the airport at neighboring Klawock, or sent in a freezer container via ferry to Ketchikan and then on to Seattle.

Dilts told Alaska Sea Grant that Haida Wild Alaska Seafood is working with a broker in Seattle, who has markets in Boston, Denver, Oregon and elsewhere.

Survey to Determine Path for King Cove Road

The Alaska Department of Transportation, armed with a federal permit to proceed, plans to complete by mid-July a survey to determine the route of least environmental impact for an emergency medical ground route between King Cove and the Cold Bay airport.

Residents of King Cove, home of year-round Peter Pan Seafoods processing plant, have been lobbying for 35 years for a road connection to the all weather airport at Cold Bay, to transport people facing medical emergencies to hospitals in Anchorage.

Environmental entities, including The Wilderness Society, oppose the road claiming that it would have an adverse impact on wildfowl habitat in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker announced the initial steps to build the road on June 26, after learning that the Interior Department had issued the permit to survey. Walker said that for far too long King Cove residents facing medical emergencies had had to brave harsh weather conditions just to get health care. At times they have had to travel by boat or helicopter in inclement weather just to access the Cold Bay airport to be medevaced out, he said. At the King Cove Corp., the Alaska Native village corporation in this Aleutian fishing community, finance manager Della Trumble said that while it’s still not a done deal, it is a step in the right direction and they remain hopeful.

The Wilderness Society, contending that the road is really for commercial and socioeconomic opportunity, said it would fight what spokeswoman Nicole Whittington-Evans called “the Trump administration’s assault on America’s public lands.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Salmon Harvests in Alaska Top 4 Million Fish

Wild salmon harvests jumped to 4.1 million fish through June 20, with fishermen delivering 2.7 million sockeyes, more than a million chum, 247,000 humpies and 75,000 kings to processors.

In the western region, the catch at Kodiak rose to almost 2.8 million fish, including nearly two million reds, 419,000 chum, 346,000 pink and 4,000 Chinook salmon.

In the South Alaska Peninsula the catch rose to roughly two million fish, including 1.3 million sockeyes, 361,000 chum, 332,000 pink and 3,000 kings.

Prince William Sound’s catch of 1.3 million salmons includes 701,000 sockeye, 549,000 chum, 15,000 kings and about 1,000 pink. For the Copper River drift district only 378,000 sockeyes have been harvested, along with 13,000 kings and 9,000 chum. State gillnet area management biologist Jeremy Botz, in Cordova, said the sockeyes are continuing to trend consistently below the forecasted run and the commercial harvest is not as good as expected. The king salmon meanwhile has been running above anticipated levels, and both sockeyes and kings appear to be in great condition and larger than average, he said.

Copper River sockeyes are averaging 5.6-5.7 pounds each, while the Chinooks are averaging about 21 pounds, compared to recent year weights of 18 pounds, he said.

The weather in Prince William Sound, where about 225 boats are harvesting, has been pretty decent, Botz said.

Bristol Bay districts opened on June 1 and so far have delivered 193,000 sockeyes, including 182,000 from the Egegik district, 7,000 from the Ugashik, 3,000 from the Naknek-Kvichak and 1,000 from Togiak District. The Bay typically has its peak runs around the Fourth of July holiday period.

Cook Inlet fishermen have brought in 52,000 salmon, including 50,000 red and 2,000 Chinook. Of that total 29,000 reds came from Lower Cook Inlet and 21,000 from Upper Cook Inlet, and the kings from the northern district of Cook Inlet, which opened on May 29.

Also open now is the chum salmon run on the Lower Yukon River, an area where the chum are known for their particularly high oil content. That harvest has already reached 51,000 fish.

In the Southeast region, the total shows 82,000 fish, mostly king salmon.Most of the kings, 44,000 out of a total of 56,000 kings, are however from the winter troll fishery that opened in October.

The preliminary harvest figures are produced on a daily basis by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and appear on the online Blue Sheet report available at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyfisherysalmon.bluesheet

New Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries

Chris Oliver, who served for 16 years as executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage, Alaska, takes office this week as assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Oliver’s background and expertise would be an asset to NOAA Fisheries in working to reduce the nation’s $11 billion seafood trade deficit.

Oliver, a native of Texas, is himself a fisherman who has gained extensive knowledge of national and international fisheries issues. He worked on Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery management issues prior to his move to Alaska in 1990.

Oliver said he intends to focus many of NOAA’s resources on the agency’s core science and management mission, and to seek opportunities for efficiencies in fisheries regulatory processes. Oliver said NOAA would continue to make long term sustainability the top priority, while looking for ways to maximize fishing opportunities for the benefit of recreational and commercial fishermen, processors, coastal communities and economies which depend on them.

NOAA Fisheries has offices in 15 states and US territories, including five regional offices, six science centers and 24 labs and fish stations. In addition to managing productive and sustainable domestic fisheries, including some aspects of marine aquaculture, the agency is tasked to work in conservation of protected resources including whales, sea turtles and corals.

NPFMC Takes Final Action on IFQ Leasing

Federal fisheries managers have taken final action on a regulatory amendment to allow community development quota groups to lease halibut quota shares in lease area 4B, 4C and 4D in years when catch limits are below certain thresholds.

The action came during the June meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Juneau, Alaska.

In Area 4B, this option would be available to groups if the catch limit was one million pounds or less. For Area 4C and 4D, it would be permitted when the catch limit in Area 4CDE was at or below 1.5 million pounds. The council said leased IFQ would be available to vessels less than or equal to 51 feet length overall, subject to the groups’ internal management. This action would not, however, convert IFQ to CDQ quota.

The council ruled that vessels harvesting leased halibut IFQ must follow all halibut IFQ regulations, with one exception—in Area 4D IFQ leased by a CDQ group would be permitted to be fished in Area 4E.

In addition, council members added some restrictive provisions to mitigate adverse impacts on other IFQ stakeholders and the quota share market and also acted to prevent individuals form buying quota shares with the specific intent of leasing it. This provision will not allow any individual to lease IFQ within the first three years after they have acquired it.

Finally, to discourage reliance on leasing of Area 4 quota share, quota share holders may not lease halibut IFQ on a consecutive basis for more than two years. The action intends that IFQ be leased by non-residents of CDQ communities for use by residents.

Werner to Head NOAA Scientific Programs

Cisco Werner, whose work has focused on the oceanic environment in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, has been appointed as director of scientific programs and chief science advisor for NOAA Fisheries effective June 12.

In his new post Werner will continue working on planning, developing and managing a multidisciplinary scientific enterprise of basic and applied research on living marine resources, NOAA officials said.

Prior to this appointment, Werner was the director of NOAA Fisheries’ southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC). From 2011 through 2017, he led SWFSC in research including the California Current, the US West Coast watershed and parts of the North Pacific, the Eastern Tropical Pacific and the Antarctic.

As director of the SWFSC, Werner headed the NOAA Fisheries’ US science delegation in bilateral meetings with Mexico and Argentina, and was US/NOAA fisheries lead for meetings of the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like species in the North Pacific Ocean, from 2013-2015.

His research has focused on the oceanic environment through numerical models of ocean circulation and marine ecosystems in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He has studied effects of physical forcing on lower trophic levels and the subsequent effect on the structure, function and abundance of commercially and ecologically important species. He is the author and co-author of over 100 papers in scientific journals and book chapters.

Prior to joining NOAA he held several academic posts, as director and professor of Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences and as chairman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of Marine Sciences.

Cisco holds a doctorate in oceanography, a master of science in oceanography, and a bachelor of science in mathematics, all from the University of Washington.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Potential Alaska Government Shutdown Threatens Fisheries

As Alaska legislators struggle to pass a budget, state agencies, including the Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), are analyzing the impact of a potential discontinuation of services on the state’s multi-billion dollar salmon industry. Should a government shutdown occur, it would come at the peak of the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon season, in early July.

ADF&G officials say that not only would fisheries in progress be potentially impacted, but also the agency’s ability to forecast future escapement goal analyses and data collection could be significantly compromised. Lack of sufficient sampling would hurt assessment of the state’s performance for Pacific Salmon Treaty obligations, the department’s ability to manage allocations set by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and have an impact on the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s stock assessment program.

The two state-owned hatcheries annually produce over 4.5 million salmon, rainbow trout and Arctic Char. While ADF&G would take all actions within its power to avoid adverse consequences for the hatcheries, a shutdown could threaten the 2.5 million fish now housed at the hatcheries and prevent collection of Chinook and coho broodstock. Such potential losses could be long-term, surpassing the three to four years required to rebuild the basic broodstock.

With the state’s executive branch hopeful that a budget will pass before July 1, programs and services at ADF&G are continuing as usual. Should a shutdown occur on July 1, ADF&G will start pulling staff back from the field and begin closures as necessary. Meanwhile the state’s Law Department is looking into what money could be spent to continue vital services if a budget is not passed on time.

House Oceans Caucus Moves to Address Marine Debris

House Oceans Caucus co-chairs Don Young, R-Alaska, and Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, have introduced legislation to address the global marine debris crisis affecting oceans and coastal communities.

H.R. 2748, the Save Our Seas Act of 2017, would reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program through fiscal year 2022. Reauthorization would allow NOAA, in coordination with state governors, to declare severe marine debris events and to approve funds to assist with cleanup and response, and encourage international engagement to address the growing adverse impact of marine waste. Companion legislation has been filed in the Senate.

Marine debris is considered to be a growing global crisis requiring collaborative work with partners across the world. H.R. 2748 would assist local communities, states and the federal government in responding to influxes of debris in the ocean and along the nation’s coastlines.

The Japanese tsunami in March 2011 brought a huge amount of debris to the Pacific Coast. Young noted that it is estimated that up to 12.7 million metric tons of waste entered the ocean in 2012 and that number is expected to increase if waste management infrastructure improvements are not implemented by 2025. Current authorizations for marine debris removal programs have expired, and without this legislation, there will continue to be a lack of resources to address the problem, Young said.

Commercial Salmon Harvests in Alaska
Now at 1.5 Million Fish

It’s salmon season in Alaska, with the preliminary harvest count now at 1.5 million fish, including upwards of 1.1 million sockeyes, 227,000 chum, 66,000 kings and 52,000 humpies.

The fanfare over those famed Copper River sockeyes and Chinooks has quieted down as other salmon fisheries open up. In Prince William Sound alone, upwards of 477,000 salmon have been delivered to processors, including 343,000 reds, 122,000 chums and some 12,000 kings.

Bristol Bay opened for harvest on June 1, with only 14,000 sockeyes delivered to date, predominantly from the Egegik district. Kodiak processors have received 237,000 salmon, including 226,000 reds, 10,000 chum and 1,000 kings, and Chignik harvesters have caught 132,000 fish, including 122,000 sockeye and 9,000 chum. For the Alaska Peninsula, the catch totals more than half a million fish with 363,000 reds, 86,000 chum, 51,000 humpies and 1,000 kings.

In Cook Inlet’s southern district, fishermen have delivered more than 3,000 sockeyes.

Retail prices are dropping as more fisheries open. At 10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage, Alaska, sockeye salmon fillets are now $17.95 a pound and king fillets are $29.95 a pound. With fish coming from Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula, whole red salmon are $12.95 a pound.

Costco wholesale stores in Anchorage have been selling their whole red salmon at $9.99 a pound. Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash., is still offering whole Copper River kings and sockeyes, plus fillets of both, although prices went down considerably from the first run fish.Online prices for Pike’s Copper River king fillets are now $42.99 a pound, and whole kings are $37.99 a pound. Copper River reds are 29.99 and whole reds are $79.86 per fish.

Bipartisan Legislation Pushes to Help Young Fishermen

A bipartisan, bicoastal effort is under way in the US Senate to provide young fishermen with more training opportunities, including an apprenticeship program.

The Young Fishermen’s Development Program legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Maria Cantwell, D-Washington. Similar legislation was introduced earlier in the House by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

The legislation has support from the Fishing Communities Coalition, an association of community-based small boat commercial fishing groups representing more than 1,000 independent fish harvesters and business owners from Maine to Alaska.

FCC member organizations include the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, who have joined the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance in support of the legislation.

“From what we have seen in Alaska, we believe that the kind of mentorship and training opportunity that this bill would provide is key to helping new fishing operations get off the ground and onto the water,” said Linda Behnken, a veteran longline harvester from Sitka, and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

The Young Fishermen’s Development Program would offer competitive grants for collaborative state, tribal, local or regionally based networks or partnerships, and a mentoring/apprenticeship program to connect retiring fishermen and vessel owners with young fishermen.

The bill would also provide financial support for local and regional training and education in sustainable and accountable fishing practices and marine stewardship, business practices and technical initiatives that address the needs of beginning fishermen. Also included would be a $2 million annual authorization for six years for program implementation.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

NPFMC Meeting Underway in Juneau

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s June meeting is underway in Juneau, Alaska today, June 7, with final action scheduled on several matters including halibut issues.

For the complete agenda and schedule, log on to www.npfmc.org and click on the highlighted “agenda” and “schedule” under the June meeting. Documents for the meeting are being posted to the agenda as they become available. Approved motions will be posted online following the session.

Follow the live broadcast at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/june2017

The council and the International Pacific Halibut Commission are meeting jointly today as well, at Centennial Hall Convention Center in Juneau, Alaska. The council is to review the analysis and take final action as necessary to allow for Community Development Quota group 4B, 4C and 4D to lease halibut individual fishing quota in years with low halibut catch limits in Area 4B and 4CDE. Council staff said the purpose of such action is to keep CDQ residents fishing in years where the halibut CDQ may not be large enough to present a viable fishery for participants.

Under the proposed action, any leased halibut IFQ would be available for use by the halibut CDQ fleet on vessels less than or equal to 51 feet length overall, subject to the group’s internal halibut management. The meeting agenda is posted online at www.npfmc.org

Five of the six Alaska’s Community Development Quota groups have issued an invitation for an Alaska seafood dinner scheduled for tomorrow, June 8, to honor the council and celebrate the bounty of the ocean.

Hosts includes the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Community Development Association, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., and the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association. The sixth CDQ group, Coastal Village Region Fund, is not participating.

The menu includes Norton Sound red king crab, Bering Sea halibut, Copper River sockeye salmon, Yukon River smoked chum salmon, Southeast Alaska black cod, sidestripe shrimp and oysters.

Early Alaska Wild Salmon Harvests Total 444,000 Fish

Preliminary reports from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) show that wild salmon commercial fisheries in Alaska that began in mid-May delivered some 444,000 fish through June 6.

That includes 60,000 kings, 14,000 chums and 370,000 sockeye salmon.

Most of the harvest, 297,000 fish, came from Prince William Sound fisheries. That catch consisted of 273,000 reds, 11,000 kings and 13,000 chum salmon, including the famed Copper River drift fishery, which landed 253,000 sockeyes, 10,000 kings and 3,000 chums, according to ADF&G’s count.

In Southeast Alaska, the spring troll fishery that began May 1 has landed some 5,000 kings, and at Kodiak, 96,000 sockeyes and 1,000 chum salmon.

The Bristol Bay salmon fishery opens on June 1, along with the central and lower Cook Inlet areas. Retail markets and restaurants were paying top dollar for first run Copper River fish, amidst the celebration in Seattle and Anchorage that accompanied the arrival of those sockeyes and kings.

Seattle hosted the Copper Chef competition at Sea-Tac where three of the city’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, while in Anchorage a sampling of gourmet appetizers topped with fresh wild sockeye salmon, courtesy of Copper River Seafoods, rounded the activities. A 45-pound king salmon donated by Ocean Beauty Seafoods was declared the season’s first fish and the catch of the day.

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 Alaska Air Cargo partners with Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Trident Seafoods and Copper River Seafoods to deliver the salmon catch to Seattle, Anchorage and beyond.

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.

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

North Pacific Salmon Harvest High in West, Decline in East

Preliminary findings on total salmon harvests in 2016 indicate that Pacific salmon abundance in the North Pacific remains at near all-time high levels.

Those findings, released by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC), during its 25th annual meeting in Victoria, British Columbia, in mid-May, are based on reports from member countries Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States.

The NPAFC said a total of 0.85 million metric tons (439.5 million fish) was captured in 2016, slightly less than previous even-numbered years.

Salmon harvests tend to be less in even than odd-numbered years, because the most frequent species in the catch, pink salmon, are less abundant in even-numbered years.

Member nation’s percentages of the total catch included Russia, 51 percent or 439.5 thousand metric tons; United States, 33 percent, 280.4 thousand metric tons of which Alaska contributed 271.8 thousand metric tons; Japan, 13 percent, 111.3 thousand metric tons; Canada, 3 percent, 21.5 thousand metric tons; and Korea, less than 1 percent, 256 metric tons.

Pink salmon constituted the bulk of the total commercial catch, 41 percent by weight, followed by chum at 33 percent, and sockeye at 21 percent. Coho comprised 3 percent; kings, 1 percent; and each of cherry salmon and steelhead trout were less than 1 percent of the catch by weight.

Pink and chum salmon dominate the harvests in Asia, and generally those harvests remain high. In 2016, they were within the range of catches for recent even-numbered years.

The relative abundance of salmon species in North America varies from north to south, the NPAFC report said. Pink and sockeye salmon are the primary species for Alaska, followed by chum salmon. In Canada, sockeye, pink and chum salmon have historically comprised the largest catch. In Washington, Oregon and California, king, chum and coho salmon are most abundant species. Unusually low catches of pink salmon in 2016 resulted in relatively low total catches of salmon in North America.

Hatchery releases of salmon and steelhead from NPAFC member countries totaled some 5.1 billion fish in 2016, similar to those of the past three decades. Sixty-five percent of those hatchery releases were chum, while pink salmon accounted for 24 percent, followed by kings at 5 percent, sockeyes at 4 percent, and 2 percent of coho.

The NPAFC also honored retired federal fisheries scientist Loh-Lee Low with the 2017 NPAFC Award in recognition of his sustained scientific contributions to the commission’s mission to conserve and manage anadromous salmon and steelhead stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas.

Low is retiring from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center of the National Marine Fisheries Service. He contributed substantially to the functioning of the commission’s committee on scientific research and statistics, and chaired the deliberations of that committee for three two-year terms.

Low fostered cooperation and scientific achievements of the salmon scientists through his guidance and improvement of salmon research activities on the high seas of the North Pacific, the NPAFC said.

ADF&G Estimates Togiak Herring Ex-Vessel at $1.74 Million

A season summary on the Togiak, Alaska, herring season says the cumulative harvest of the Togiak purse seine fleet in 2017 was 15,975 tons, or about 99.3 percent of the 16,085 quota set by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The gillnet harvest was 1,428 tons of the 6,883 ton quota.

The ADF&G report out on June 6 documented 19 vessels in the purse seine fishery, up from 17 a year ago, and 15 vessels in the gillnet fishery, up from 3 a year ago.

No companies registered to by herring spawn-on-kelp in 2017, so no openings or commercial harvest occurred.

ADF&G placed the projected ex-vessel value of the 2017 Togiak herring fishery at about $1.74 million.

That’s based on an advance price estimate of $100 per ton, and does not include any postseason adjustments.

The fisheries, this year, were managed for a maximum exploitation rate of 20 percent of the preseason biomass estimate. The purse seine harvest had an average roe content of 11 percent and the average reported weight was 408 grams. The gillnet harvest had a 12 percent roe content and 415 gram average weight. The combined harvest equals 17,403 tons of 12 percent roe content and 409 gram, 11 percent roe content herring. The Dutch Harbor food and bait fishery has not yet occurred.

ADF&G said that if the Dutch Harbor fishery harvest is equal to the quote of 1,727 tons, then the total harvest for 2017 would be estimated at 19,130 tons, and based on the preseason biomass estimate of 130,852 tons, the 2017 exploitation rate would be about 15 percent.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Copper River Salmon Harvests Approach 7,000 Kings

Harvests of wild salmon in Alaska’s Copper River district have yielded some 6,868 Chinook salmon since the season opened on May 18, along with 164,443 sockeyes.

By this time a year ago the king salmon harvest stood at 8,400 fish, but with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) managing for conservation of king salmon, the commercial fishery skipped what would have been the normal opener on May 15.

On May 18, and again on May 22, fishermen had 12-hour openers, then a 9-hour and a 10-hour opener on May 25 and 29 respectively, noted Jeremy Botz, ADF&G’s gillnet area manager for Prince William Sound. As the commercial catch of kings so far exceeding this year’s forecast, Botz said the harvest appears now “to be indicative of what we’re hoping will be a larger run than forecast.”

Overall average weight of the Copper River Chinooks is about 20 pounds, while the sockeyes are averaging 5.4 pounds, according to ADF&G.

After initial inclement weather, skies were sunny and winds simply breezy for some 450 drift gillnet crews engaged in the Copper River fishery. Setnetting in the Eshamy District opens tomorrow.

Retail prices for the Copper River fish are starting to drop as more fish come to the market and other commercial salmon fisheries in Alaska prepare to open.

Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle has reduced the per pound price of whole Copper River kings from $55.99 to $29.99, and whole sockeyes from $143.96 per fish to $79.96. Pike Place Copper River king fillets dropped from $74.99 a pound to $44.99. Red salmon fillets from the Copper River saw the price being cut to $29.99 from its original $47.99.

At 10th & M Seafood in Anchorage, the price of fresh Copper River king fillets dropped from $59.95 to $49.95, and red salmon fillets from $38.95 to $31.69.

10th & M’s retail store said that the sockeye fillets were moving faster than the kings, with average fillet purchases of two pounds.

Alaska Herring Week Comes to Seattle June 19-25

Several dozen Seattle area restaurants and grocers have teamed up with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to celebrate Alaska Herring Week June 19-25. For the occasion, the restaurant Luc has created a cold poached herring appetizer with pickled vegetable, potato salad, olive and petit pepper tapenade, while the Purple Café and Wine Bar in Woodinville planned to serve grilled herring with smoked shiitake, asparagus, lobster consommé and scallions.

“It is very exciting,” said Bruce Schactler, food aid and development director for ASMI. “We have eight different James Beard award winners taking part this year.”

North Pacific Seafoods, which has five shore-based production facilities in Alaska, including Togiak and Sitka, is for the second year running donating 5,000 pounds of herring fillets for the event. ASMI’s hope is that stepped up promotion of herring will boost demand and prices for the small, easy to prepare fish, which is rich in Omega 3 oils, and hails from a sustainable fishery in Alaska.

“This is still at the promotional level,” Schactler said of the herring development project. “To put a product up in volume, you have to be sure you are going to be selling it.” Once the demand reaches that critical mass, processors will start producing herring fillets as the fish is harvested to meet that demand, he explained.

With three million tons of herring eaten around the world, the herring fishery in the North Atlantic is bigger than the Bering Sea Pollock fishery, he said.

The Togiak herring fishery is managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, with the harvest based on a maximum of 15 percent of the spawning biomass. When the biomass is at the lower end of the historical scale, the harvest level will usually be closer to a very conservative 10 percent.

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 is to 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, WA. 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.

USDA Purchases Pollock for Domestic Food Aid

The US Department of Agriculture has announced the purchase of nearly 4.5 million pounds of Pollock products, including some 1.5 million pounds of fish sticks, for use in child nutrition and related domestic food assistance programs.

The successful bidder in the $6.5 million solicitation offered on May 5 was Trident Seafoods Corp. in Seattle.

The 2.97 million pounds in bulk fish purchases were valued at $3,233,736, and the 1.5 million pounds of fish sticks garnered Trident $3,264,960.

Deliveries are to be made from September 1 through February 28, 2018, federal agriculture officials said.

The frozen bulk Pollock will be distributed to various entities in Gloucester, Mass.; Peabody, Mass.; Portsmouth, N.H.; Newport News, Va.; and Anacortes, Wash.

The Pollock fish sticks will go to distribution points in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, , Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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.

EPA Settlement Agreement Allows Pebble Permitting to Proceed

A settlement reached this week between the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) allows the permitting process for the development of a mine near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed to begin.

The settlement opens the door for mine backers to apply for a Clean Water Act permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers before the EPA move forward with its Clean Water Act process to specify limits on disposal of certain material in connection with the mine.

In turn, PLP agreed to drop lawsuits and requests for fees from the EPA related to Clean Water Act restrictions. The settlement has enraged many groups who harvest wild salmon from the Bristol Bay watershed, including commercial fishermen. Bristol Bay, famed for its run of millions of wild sockeye salmon, is a multi-million dollar commercial fishery also valuable to sport anglers, subsistence fishermen and the region’s abundant wildlife. The Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining entity Northern Dynasty Minerals, meanwhile is hailing the settlement as a major step forward for the project.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a statement saying that the agreement “will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time consuming litigation.”

Pebble officials say they now have a clear path to proceed with a normal permitting and review process, removing a major stumbling block to finding new investors.

Mine opponents, from Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA, to Norm Van Vactor, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. say the EPA’s decision was wrong. “We will do whatever it takes to protect Bristol Bay,” Van Vactor said during a news conference in Dillingham, Alaska, after the EPA decision was made public.

“Bristol Bay needs and deserves certainty that our sustainable industries and world class salmon fishery will continue,” said Joseph Chythlook, chairman of the Bristol Bay Native Corp. “Any settlement between EPA and Pebble moves us further away from that potential result."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Federal Report Details Drop in Seafood Revenues
in 2015

New federal reports on fisheries economics in the United States released on May 9 show that the seafood industry generated $144 million in sales in 2015, including imports, a 6 percent decline from the previous year. The industry also supported 1.2 million jobs, a decline of 15 percent from 2014, but still above the five-year average.

In Alaska alone, the industry provided a total of 53,441 jobs in 2015— 37,762 commercial harvesters, 12,384 seafood processors and dealers, 24 importers, 365 seafood wholesalers and distributors and 2,905 jobs in retail trade. Imports included, the Alaska seafood industry had $4.4 million in sales and $1.8 million in income.

Factors such as the “warm blob,” marine toxins and El Nino affected the Pacific marine environment in 2015, and West Coast fishermen saw lower landings and revenue for several key commercial species.

The reports also note that US fisheries continued to rebuild in 2016, with the number of stocks on the overfishing and overfished lists remaining near all-time lows. A stock appears on the overfishing list when the catch rate is too high, and as overfished when the population size of a stock is too low, either because of fishing or other causes such as environmental changes. “These reports show that the U.S. is on the right track when it comes to sustainably managing our fisheries, said Sam Rauch, acting assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

“Rebuilding and keeping stocks at sustainable levels will help us address the growing challenge of increasing our nation’s seafood supply and keep us competitive in a global marketplace.”

Combined commercial and recreational fishing generated $208 billion in sales, contributing $97 billion to the gross domestic product in 2015 while supporting 1.6 million full-time and part-time jobs, which was above the five-year average.

The complete “NOAA’s Fisheries Economics of the United States” is available online at https://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/economics/publications/feus/fisheries_economics_2015/index. NOAA Fisheries annual stock status update was also released on May 9 and can be found at http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/sfa/fisheries_eco/status_of_fisheries/status_updates.html

Togiak Herring Fishery Winds Down

The Togiak herring fishery, which opened on April 28, closed to purse seiners on May 7, while the gillnet fishery area increased westward to the longitude of Anchor Point, according to area biologist Tim Sands with Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).

Through May 6, the purse seine harvest showed 1,830 tons after subtracting documented dead loss, but ADF&G determined there is not enough quota remaining to justify additional fishing.

The gillnet fleet’s harvest has so far remained confidential.

ADF&G thanked processors for assistance collecting herring samples used to generate age composition estimates of the harvest and future biomass estimates.

“We would also like to thank the spotter pilots for all the updates they provided,” Sands said. The purse seine harvest for May 4 was 2,805 tons and 445 tons for May 5 , bringing the cumulative purse seine harvest to 14,145 tons with a reported roe percentage of 11.3 percent and an average size of 413 grams through May 6, according to ADF&G.

The season opened on April 28, with an allocation of 16,060 tons for seiners and 6,883 tons for gillnetters, but the fish were not yet mature enough to harvest.

As the fishery got underway, there were eight gillnetters and 19 seiners fishing, but Sands said he expects that by season’s end there will be 19 gillnetters out there too.

Last year just three gillnetters participated in the Togiak herring district.

The reason for the potential increase in participating gillnetters is optimism about the price. “They are hoping for a better price than last year,” Sands said.

The estimated value of the 2016 fishery was $1.52 million, based on $100 per ton, not counting post-season adjustments.

ADF&G officials said department staff flew a survey of the Togiak herring district on April 28 under poor conditions and saw herring along Cape Constantine, outside of Kulukak Bay, in the northeast corner of Togiak Bay and along the east face of Hagemeiter Island. The biologists were able to document a threshold biomass of 35,000 tons of herring on that survey.

Omnibus Bill Includes Benefits for Alaska Fisheries

The omnibus bill passed by the US Senate on May 5 to keep the federal government running through September includes components to help sustainably maintain Alaska’s world-class fisheries, says Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

The senator, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, was successful in including a provision that blocks the Food and Drug Administration from introducing genetically engineers salmon into the market until the FDA publishes labeling guidelines so customers know exactly what they are buying.

Murkowski also secured language to amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to update the FDA’s seafood list to change the acceptable market name of brown king crab to golden king crab.

The bill also includes millions of dollars in funding for upgrades to the U.S. Coast Guard base at Kodiak, materials for construction of a polar icebreaker, offshore patrol cutters, and fast response cutters.

Also included in the bill for fisheries science, research and management on a national scale is $164 million for fisheries data collection, surveys and assessments; $34.3 million for regional councils and fisheries commissions, $33.5 million for salon management activities, $10.5 million for integrated ocean acidification research, $65 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, $12 million to fulfill obligations under the Pacific Salmon Treaty, and $130 million in Saltonstall-Kennedy funds to promote and develop fishery products and research pertaining to American fisheries.

The National Sea Grant College Program was allocated $63 million, hydrographic surveys of the nation’s coastline $27 million, and the National Weather Service $979.8 million.

Werner Named to Northwest Fisheries Science Center

NOAA Fisheries has announced the appointment of Kevin Werner as the new science and research director for NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, effective May 14.

As director, Werner will continue the work of planning, developing and managing a multidisciplinary program of basic and applied research on the living marine resources in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Washington, Oregon and Northern California coasts, and in freshwater rivers of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

A former NOAA Corps officer who has held various positions with the organization for nearly two decades, Werner has won multiple awards for his leadership and administrative accomplishments.

Prior to being named director of the Northwest Center, he was the director of NOAA’s National Weather Service Office of Organizational Excellence, coordinating NOAA’s climate services investments in an eight-state region of the Western US.

Werner holds a doctorate in political science and master’s in public administration from the University of Utah, and masters in atmospheric sciences and bachelor’s degree in atmospheric sciences and mathematics from the University of Washington.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Northern Edge Exercises Under Way in Gulf of Alaska

Biennial military training exercises known as Northern Edge are underway in Alaska, including the Gulf of Alaska, where commercial fisheries critical to many coastal communities are also about to begin.

Major participants, there to sharpen their tactical combat skills and communication relationships, include the US Pacific Command, Alaskan Command, US Pacific Fleet, Air National Guard, and other military units.

Their presence is again raising concerns among fishermen and environmentalists worried about potential adverse impact of training exercises.

Marine conservation biologist Rick Steiner, of Anchorage, cites a National Marine Fisheries Service report that says species expected to be adversely impacted by the Navy exercises include several species of whales, sea lions and seals, as well as threatened runs of coho and chum salmon and steelhead trout. While the NMFS biological opinion and an environmental impact study by the Navy simply predict impact, based on existing scientific literature, the actual impact of these exercises needs to be measured with a real time environmental monitoring program conducted during the exercise, but the Navy has refused a request that it conduct such studies, Steiner said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, recently urged the US Pacific Command to give serious thought to conducting the Gulf of Alaska component of Northern Edge 2019 in the fall. The senator said she understood that this alternative is under consideration and noted that it is important that the Navy’s consideration of this alternative be transparent to affected communities.

In spite of the Navy’s improved outreach, there remains dissatisfaction with respect to the timing of the exercise, specifically its proximity to the fishing season in the Gulf of Alaska. “Some stakeholders argue that scientific knowledge is insufficient to assure that the Navy’s activities during this sensitive time are fully compatible with the region’s commercial fishing economy,” she said.

She also urged the Navy to continue working with communities and stakeholders during and after Northern Edge 2017. “If adverse environmental impacts are identified in the course of the exercise, it is important that they be immediately addressed,” she said.

Herring Fishery Begins at Togiak

The Togiak herring fishery is under way in Southwest Alaska, with a cumulative purse seine harvest through May 2 of 7,980 tons, with a reported roe percentage of 10.8 percent and an average size of 424 grams.

Area biologist Tim Sands, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at Dillingham, said the purse seine harvest for May 1 was 3,375 tons and for May 2 was 2,325 tons.

The gillnet fleet has started fishing, but that harvest will remain confidential for now, Sands said. The fishery remains open with no new changes to the accessible areas.

The season began on April 28, with an allocation of 16,060 tons for seiners and 6,883 tons for gillnetters, but the fish were not yet mature enough to harvest.

As the fishery got underway, there were eight gillnetters and 19 seiners fishing, but Sands said he expects that by season’s end there will be 19 gillnetters out there too.

Last year only three gillnetters participated in the Togiak herring district. The reason for the potential increase in participating gillnetters is optimism about the price. “They are hoping for a better price than last year,” Sands said.

The estimated value of the 2016 fishery was $1.52 million, based on $100 per ton, not counting post-season adjustments.

ADF&G officials said department staff flew a survey of the Togiak herring district on April 28 under poor conditions and saw herring along Cape Constantine, outside of Kulukak Bay, in the northeast corner of Togiak Bay and along the east face of Hagemeiter Island. The biologists were able to document a threshold biomass of 35,000 tons of herring on that survey.

Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium Set for May 9–11 in Anchorage

Discussion on the latest research on changing fisheries is on tap for the 31st annual Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium, May 9-11 at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. This year’s symposium will examine the impact of a changing environment on the dynamics of high-latitude fish and fisheries.

“What we learn at the meeting will provide strategic advice to managers about how to manage fish stocks in a changing environment,” said Franz Mueter, a fisheries professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and symposium co-chair.

Professor Hans-Otto Portner of the Alfred Wegener Institute of Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, is the symposium’s keynote speaker.

Other invited speakers include Anna Neuheimer, University of Hawaii; Christian Mollmann, University of Hamburg; Brad Seibel, University of South Florida; Charles Sock, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory; Cody Szuwalski, University of California Santa Barbara, and Kathy Mills, Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

The focus will be on the effects of warming, loss of sea ice, ocean acidification, and oceanographic variability on the distribution, phenology, life history, population dynamics and interactions of artic and sub-artic species.

Symposium topics will include the influence of ocean temperatures on Chinook salmon, the Blob and walleye Pollock, effects of ocean acidification on Pacific cod, an evaluation of management strategies under projected environmental changes, as well as coastal community adaptation to climate change and environmental variability.

Register online at https://seagrant.uaf.edu/events/ssl/register.php?id=269

NPFMC Meets in Juneau, Alaska June 5-14

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has posted the agenda and schedule for its Juneau June 5-14 meeting online. The agenda includes finalizing five-year research priorities, and final action on Area 4 halibut IFQ leasing by community development quota groups. Also on the agenda for final action are the Bering Sea yellowfin sole trawl limited access fishery and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands crab harvest specifications for three stocks and plan team report. Federal fisheries managers will also hear discussion papers on American Fisheries Act and non-AFA small sideboard elimination, Gulf of Alaska crab habitat conservation measures and allocation review triggers.

All NPFMC meetings are open to the public, except for executive sessions. The deadline for written comments is May 30. They should be sent via email to npfmc.comments@noaa.gov.

The council meeting will be broadcast at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/june2017 All motions will be posted online following the meeting.

The meeting schedule is available at: http://www.npfmc.org/wp-content/PDFdocuments/meetings/SCHEDULE0617.pdf

The agenda can be found at: http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2017/6/957_A_North_Pacific_Council_17-06-05_Meeting_Agenda.pdf

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Copper River Fishery Faces Escapement Challenges

With the opening of Alaska’s famed Copper River sockeye salmon fishery coming up in three weeks, commercial fishermen are trying to figure out ways to fish on the reds while assuring that escapement goals on the kings are met.

Harvesters with Cordova District Fishermen United met this week to discuss the issue with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and another session is slated for April 28.

“While the commercial harvests of sockeyes has been good over the past five years, the escapement goals upriver for kings were not met in 2015 or 2016,” says Jeremy Botz, area management biologist in Cordova for ADF&G. This year, with a forecast of a weak run of some 29,000 kings to the Copper River district, the allowable commercial harvest has been set at 4,000 Chinook, and the minimum threshold escapement goal for the kings is 24,000 fish. That is the preseason plan, based on the forecast. While the run could turn out to be stronger or weaker, state fisheries biologists won’t have enough information to assess the strength of the king run until the second week of the salmon fishery, which is expected to open May 15 or May 18.

Meanwhile ADF&G plans to substantially expand the inside closure area to the eastern end of the district to help assure that kings migrating through with the sockeyes are included in the escapement.

ADF&G is anticipating the possibility of the lowest Chinook harvest in that district since statehood. Management actions anticipated are above and beyond anything they’ve done before, to assure the required escapement of kings this year.

Jerry McCune, president of CDFU and a veteran commercial harvester from Cordova, said that the fleet will do its part to assure that the king salmon escapement is met, but he hopes that won’t mean losing the chance to harvest most of the sockeyes. McCune also expressed concern for the safety of smaller fishing vessels outside of the barrier islands in the gulf, where there is little protection from stormy weather.

AYFN Seeks to Connect the Next Generation of Fishermen

A spring shindig celebrating Alaska’s fishing traditions and the upcoming fishing season is on tap tonight (April 26, 2017) in Anchorage, the latest effort of the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network to help the next generation of fishermen network.

AYFN is finding that social gatherings, such as this one hosted at the 49th State Brewing Co. in downtown Anchorage, are drawing young harvesters and their mentors together to share stories of their adventures at sea, and to learn about everything from harvesting to fish policy management.

AYFN’s Fishmas party in Homer this past winter drew some 200 people.

“Building these connections with each other is very important,” says Hannah Heimbuch, coordinator for AYFN, and a community organizer in Homer for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. While young fishermen are technically defined as those under the age of 40, the group spread includes folks from their mid 20s to those with years in fisheries. “It takes all ages to make this industry set the next generation up for success, and mentorship should be part of the network as well,” she said.

Since AMCC initiated AYFN back in December of 2013 the network has introduced an array of projects and activities to support and educate young fishermen. In March of 2016, AYFN led a cross-country educational tour of 11 young fishermen to the Boston Seafood Show, to Washington DC to learn about the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management act, and then to New Orleans for the Slow Fish gathering. This past January a group of young halibut fishermen traveled to the first British Columbia Young Fishermen’s Gathering and to the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting in Victoria, BC.

“As much as we need young people building strong businesses on the water, we need them learning to navigate the policy arena, advocating for their fisheries and communities,” Heimbuch said.

AYFN wanted to serve as a connector between young people and their mentors, and to important resources and opportunities around the state. “We are building a source for connection, information and inspiration,” she said.

AYFN’s activities, including fishing fellowships by host organizations, are funded by a two-year grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

More information is online at https://www.akyoungfishermen.org/

Upper Cook Inlet Salmon Outlook

A run of some 4 million sockeye salmon is the forecast for Alaska’s Upper Cook Inlet this summer, with a harvest by all user groups of 2.6 million reds. That would include about 1.7 million sockeyes, which is 1.2 million fewer fish than the most recent 10-year average annual commercial sockeye harvest of 2.9 million fish.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has put the run forecast for the Kenai River at 2.2 million sockeyes, which is 1.4 million less than the 20-year average run of 3.6 million. For the Kasilof River, the sockeye run is predicted to be 825,000 fish, or 16 percent less than the 20-year average annual run of 987,000 fish. For the Susitna River, ADF&G is predicting a run of 366,000 reds, which would be 5 percent less than the 10-year average of 387,000 fish.

Several regulatory changes made by the Alaska Board of Fisheries at the board’s February-March meeting will be implemented during the upcoming season.

The regulatory booklets are to be published after the new regulations become law, which should occur in early June, ADF&G officials said.

FN Online Advertising