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.

Global Effort Launched on Seafood Traceability

The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability has launched a web-based platform inviting companies to join in a collaborative process to adopt voluntary standards and guidelines for interoperable seafood traceability systems.

The announcement during Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium, came from the World Wildlife Fund. “Companies around the world have been looking for ways to lower costs and improve access to reliable seafood traceability without getting trapped into inflexible proprietary systems,” said David Schorr, senior manager of WWF’s Transparent Seas Project. The organization plans to utilize its online platform (http://www.traceability-dialogue.org) to facilitate virtual and face-to-face meetings of working groups tasked with designing a new voluntary seafood traceability framework.

Traceability of seafood is recognized as a way to help meet sustainability commitments, fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and reduce other supply chain risks, including the elimination of slavery at sea. Consumers as well as government entities in the European Union, United States and elsewhere have been increasingly demanding to know the origin of seafood for sale and whether those seafood products for sale in their markets were legally produced.

Organizers are planning a technical workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, in early May, and an informational meeting during the SeaWeb Seafood Summit (www.seafoodsummit.org) in Seattle in June.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Alaska Seafood Ranked Most Popular Protein on US Menus

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s 2016 annual report, celebrates an exciting first, says ASMI Executive Director Alexa Tonkovich.

After years of holding steady in second place among protein brands, Alaska seafood is now the number one ranked most popular protein on US menus among the top 500 restaurant chains, besting Angus beef, Kobe beef, Louisiana seafood and more.

Global currency challenges and a rocky fiscal climate in Alaska notwithstanding, the seafood industry remains an asset in the state’s portfolio, Tonkovich said.

According to the report, some 60,000 resident and non-resident workers in Alaska’s seafood industry earn $1.6 billion in annual wages based on 2013 and 2014 averages. A total of 31,580 harvesters – the majority of whom are Alaskans – earned income as skippers and crew, operating some 8,600 vessels.

Alaska fisheries provided work statewide, -creating in excess of 10,000 full-time-equivalent jobs in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, nearly 10,000 in Southeast Alaska, more than 8,000 in Kodiak, 7,000 in Southcentral Alaska, more than 4,500 in Bristol Bay and nearly 1,000 jobs in the Arctic and Yukon Kuskokwim regions.

America’s increased seafood consumption is partly attributed to federal food assistance programs that distribute surplus canned salmon to food banks nationwide. AMSI was instrumental in coordinating the sale of $77 million in canned salmon to those programs between 2014 and 2015, helping the industry manage inventories after record pink and sockeye salmon harvests.

ASMI expanded domestic market channels for Alaska sockeye, with partnerships with Sam’s Club, Walmart and Red Lobster, thus avoiding significant carryover inventory of frozen sockeye heading into 2016, which could have lowered prices for the 2016 harvest, the report noted.

Meanwhile, Alaska seafood exports to ASMI program destinations maintained value at about the same level as the prior year, despite a strong US dollar and the Russian embargo.

The complete report is available online at https://indd.adobe.com/view/46b34fd5-da1f-4257-ae90-ada17dd5943c

Bill Would Boost Training of Young Fishermen

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the US House in April would establish the first national program to support young men and women entering the commercial fishing industry with educational opportunities through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program.

HR 2079, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act of 2017, would provide grants of up to $200,000 and a total of $2 million annually. The bill is a big step forward in the Fishing Communities Coalition’s effort to establish a coordinated, nationwide effort to train and assist the next generation of commercial harvesters.

“This legislation is about supporting the livelihoods that support entire fishing communities in Alaska and around the country,” said Rep. Don Young, R-AK, who introduced the bill with Rep. Seth Moulton, D-MA. “I am extremely proud to stand up with them.”

“This legislation will help to sustain the fishing industry by ensuring that our young people not only have a future in fishing, but are also empowered with the training and resources necessary to thrive in the 21st-century economy,” Moulton said.

The legislation is backed by the Fishing Communities Coalition, which represents commercial fishermen from New England, Alaska, California and the Gulf Coast.

Sea Lion Predation of Salmon Prompts Legislation

The latest effort to remove sea lions from areas of the Columbia River where they pose the greatest threat of survival of endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species was introduced in the US House in April.

The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act “is critical because sea lion predation is posing a serious threat to our salmon populations, impacting our efforts to ensure their survival,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-WA, who introduced the bill with Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-OR.

In the last few years there have been a record number of California and Steller sea lions in the Columbia River from Astoria to Bonneville Dam, numbers totally inconsistent with their historic range, Schrader said.

According to a statement released by Schrader, historic recovery efforts of endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River have been compromised by exponentially increasing sea lion predation in recent years.

The issue is a complex one, according to reports issued by NOAA Fisheries, saying that birds, fish and marine mammal predation are a major cause of mortality for Endangered Species Act listed juvenile and adult fish in the Columbia River Basin. California sea lions and Steller sea lions consume substantial numbers of adult spring Chinook salmon, sturgeon and winter steelhead below Bonneville Dam, the agency reported earlier.

Similar legislation was introduced in the last session of Congress.

AFSC Study Examines Bering Sea Fish Populations Over 34 Years

A new study by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center examines how fish populations have changed over the past 34 years of varying climate conditions, and researchers say their work may provide clues to how future changes will affect fisheries.

According to fisheries biologist Steve Barbeaux, lead author of the study, climate variability has increased in recent years in the Bering Sea and the science center will use that information to study how ecosystems respond to change.

Summer bottom trawl surveys provide information fisheries managers need to set quotas for sustainable fishing. Data collected include where fish are, how many and what species are found, sex, size and age, as well as environmental data such as ocean temperature.

Barbeaux analyzed survey data from 1986 through 2015 to explore patterns of fish distribution by species, size and sex in relation to environmental conditions. He mapped that data to create visualizations that show fish life histories unfolding over space and time.

Sufficient data was available for in-depth analyses of 22 groundfish species, from arrowtooth flounder to yellowfin sole. While changes in Bering Sea fish distributions in relation to climate variability have been widely reported, no other study has specifically examined ontogenetic differences in how fish respond to climate variability, Barbeaux said. Ontogeny relates to the origination and development of an organism, usually from the time of fertilization of the egg to the organism’s mature form.

Barbeaux said the studies show that some species prefer relatively cold or warm, shallow or deep waters and this knowledge could help predict where they will go as conditions change. Climate affected middle life stages the most, he said. For species that shifted distribution between warm and cold years, mid-size fish were most affected, he said.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Senators Back National Sea Grant Program

Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley and Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski have introduced a bipartisan Senate resolution expressing the support of the Senate for the National Sea Grant College Program.

The resolution, with 24 co-sponsors, highlights the importance of the program to improving the health of coastal ecosystems, sustaining fisheries and its economic impact in 31 states and two territories. President Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate funding for the Sea Grant College program.

Merkley called the Sea Grant Program “a textbook example of a smart and targeted investment in local communities that helps create economic growth. Our coastal communities are a key part of our economy in Oregon and numerous other states.”

“At a time when coastal ecosystems and infrastructure are under unique stress from a changing climate, it would be a terrible idea to cut back on support that will help our communities adapt and continue to thrive and create jobs,” he said.

Sea Grant plays a vital role in Alaska and throughout the state’s coastal communities, with the programs combining essential aspects of applied research, communication, extension and education, Murkowski said.

“For more than four decades, the National Sea Grant programs have aided in spreading economic sustainability and environmental conservation of our nation’s bountiful marine resources,” she added.

The resolution available online at https://www.merkley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Sos%20Sea%20Grant%20Resolution%20Final.pdf notes than 42 percent of the population of the United States lives or works in coastal areas and that coastal counties contribute over $7.6 trillion annually to the economy.

The resolution also indicates that the National Sea Grant College program had an economic impact of $575 million in 2015 from a Federal investment of $67.3 million, an 854-percent return on investment.

Outlook Issued for Prince William Sound, Bristol Bay Salmon Fisheries

Commercial fishing in the Copper River’s famed wild salmon fishery is expected to begin the week of May 14, with a harvest projection for the Copper River District of 889,000 sockeye, 207,000 coho and 4,000 Chinook salmon.

State Department of Fish and Game biologists say the initial management strategy will be based on anticipated weekly sockeye and Chinook salmon harvests, with additional assessments of river conditions, fishing effort and harvest consistency. Beginning in early to mid-August, when coho harvest becomes predominant, the Copper and Bering River districts will be managed for coho stocks.

The 2017 pink salmon forecast run for Prince William Sound is 67.16 million fish, of which 58.92 million will be available for commercial harvest. If the natural stock pink salmon forecast is realized it would be the second largest natural run on record, and well above the 1997–2015 odd-year average return of 12.29 million fish. State biologists said the 2017 Prince William Sound pink salmon forecast is the largest on record and liberal fishing time and area is anticipated if returns are as strong as expected.

The 2017 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon forecast is for some 41.5 million fish, with a projected bay-wide harvest of 27.47 million reds. Last year the Bay produced a sockeye harvest of 37.3 million fish from a total run of 51.4 million, exceeding the forecasted 46.55 million fish.

The average ex-vessel price of 76 cents a pound put the total sockeye fishery value at $153.2 million, according to the Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association (formerly the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association).

Forecasters call for a total run of 10.65 million reds into Egegik and projected harvest of 8.56 million fish, while the Naknek-Kvichak district is anticipated to have a run of 16.07 million fish and harvest of 8.29 million.

For the Nushagak district, the anticipated sockeye run is 8.62 million, with a harvest of 6.06 million. The Ugashik district has a forecasted run of 5.46 million reds and harvest of 4.09 million fish, while Togiak’s anticipated run of 0.66 million reds is expected to produce a harvest of 0.48 million fish.

Southeast Alaska Chinook Salmon All-Gear Harvest Limit Set at 209,700 Fish

The preseason Chinook salmon all-gear harvest limit for Southeast Alaska in 2017 has been set at 209,700 fish, under provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced this week.

Southeast Alaska’s treaty harvest limit on Chinooks is determined by the Chinook Technical Committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission. It is based on the forecast of an aggregate abundance of Pacific Coast Chinook salmon stocks subject to management under the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

The allocation is shared by sport and commercial troll and net fisheries, under management plans specified by the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

For 2017, the troll sector will get 154,990 fish, and sport harvesters will get 38,720 fish, both after net gear is subtracted. The purse seiners are allocated 9,020 kings, drift gillnetters 6,080 kings and set gillnetters 1,000 fish.

Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association, said that even though they fish for kings year round right now everybody is fixated on how many fish they will get when they go fishing on July 1.

“Given that we just came off of a difficult winter fishery dominated by bad weather conditions, and we are going to be tightening our belts in the spring to protect local stocks, the quota announcement is extremely disappointing and presents enormous economic challenges for trollers and other fishermen in Southeast Communities,” she said.

NPFMC Take Action on CDQ Ownership Caps

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) has taken final action to establish limitations on ownership and use of limited access privileges to prevent the excessive consolidation of privileges under Community Development Quota (CDQ) caps.

During its spring meeting in Anchorage the council voted to revise the regulations governing the ownership attribution model for CDQ groups for excessive share limitations under the American Fisheries Act (AFA) Program.

The preferred alternative also calls for revision to regulations and to the crab fisheries management plan governing the ownership attribution model for CDQ groups for the processor quota share ownership and individual processor quota use caps under the crab rationalization program, as directed in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

In addition to their allocations under the CDQ program, CDQ groups participate in other limited access privilege programs, including AFA and crab rationalization by purchasing quota shares or thorough vessel ownership and processors participating in these fisheries.

Since the 2006 amendment to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service has implemented the proportional ownership attribution method for CDQ groups to monitor excessive share caps in the AFA and crab rationalization programs. However, these and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands crab fisheries management plan have not been updated to reflect that change. The council’s action would revise regulations and the crab FMP to make them consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and current practice.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Progress Reported in Implementing Pot Cod Fleet Monitoring

An electronic monitoring (EM) project for Alaska’s pot cod fishery is building on two prior pilot projects by North Pacific Fisheries Association (NPFA) and Saltwater Inc. to determine the feasibility of this technology.

A critical goal of this pre-implementation effort is to develop sustainable infrastructure to support long-term implementation of EM in Alaska, says Nancy Munro, of Saltwater Inc., an observer and EM service provider based in Anchorage.

Munro was in Kodiak for ComFish 2017 to discuss the project in a forum with others on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s EM working team.

The project tests a model that focuses on the importance of high quality data and cost effectiveness, and highlights skipper engagement, integration of observers into the EM program, cross training of skilled EM personnel and a streamlined feedback loop between vessels and the data.

Saltwater has been collecting fisheries data via its observer programs for the past 30 years and EM data for the last eight. The firm currently provides EM services in multiple domestic fisheries, including Alaska’s fixed gear fishery.

The concept behind the project reflects the thinking of many industry participants, Munro said. With support from the National Marine Fisheries Service and North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the project is part of the pre-implementation of EM for Alaska’s fixed gear fleet.

“Considering the generic human resistance to change and the process of envisioning a program by a committee of competing interests, I think we’re doing OK,” Munro said. “We have a ways to go to design a program which will be cost effective for the industry, but we are making progress.

“As part of the pre-implementation model, current and prior NMFS observers are reviewing EM data in Anchorage. This has created a tight feedback loop between the boats and the data. With timely results, we are able to provide in-season feedback memos to vessels and correct issues that interfere with collecting good data. We are using open source review software, which decreases costs and encourage innovation,” she said.

Also packed into three days of ComFish were a number of other forums dealing with everything from fish politics to marketing efforts, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s global food aid program, and educational opportunities for young fishermen through the University of Alaska and Alaska Sea Grant programs.

Oil Leak in Cook Inlet Stopped

In the aftermath of Hilcorp Alaska’s agreement with the state of Alaska to a temporary shutdown of its oil and gas production to halt the environmental impact from a gas line leak in Cook Inlet, another spill, this time from oil, was discovered on April 1.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) at first said an unknown amount of Cook Inlet crude oil was released into the environment on April 1, then revised that figure to under 10 gallons. The crude oil came from an 8-inch oil pipeline located in the Upper Cook Inlet near Granite Point.

On April 3, DEC issued an update, to say Hilcorp successfully and safely evacuated all crude oil from the suspected leaking pipeline by displacing it with filtered seawater. That pipeline is an oil gathering line connecting two of Hilcorp’s platforms in the area. The exact cause of the oil release is unknown and remains under investigation.

While Hilcorp activated its response contractor upon discovery of the spill, six oil sheens were observed, the largest being 10 feet by 12 feet, while two of the sheens were three to four feet by 20 to 25 feet in size, DEC said.

DEC also said that marine mammals likely to be present at the time of the spill include endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales, seal lions, harbor seals, other whales and porpoises.

Also present in the area at the time were likely to be Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, Pacific eulachon, Pacific halibut, Pacific herring, Bering cisco, humpback whitefish, American shad, Walleye pollock, sablefish, Pacific and saffron cod, yellowfin sole and smelt, DEC said.

The discharge occurred within designated critical habitat for Cook Inlet beluga whales. The area is also essential fish habitat for all five species of Pacific salmon.

“It has been less than a week since Hilcorp agreed to temporarily shut down oil and gas production as part of its response to a leaking gas supply line, said Alaska Gov. Bill Walker. “Now Hilcorp has reported a separate leaking oil line, which is significantly more harmful than natural gas.” The governor said he is deeply concerned about the potential impact to the environment, and that the state’s spill prevention and response team has responded.

Hilcorp Alaska agreed on March 25 to a temporary shutdown of its oil and gas production to reduce environmental impact and safety risks in the wake of the company’s gas line leak in Cook Inlet.

That decision came after discussions between company executives and Walker, who said “Alaskans want peace of mind that our waters are protected.”

Bipartisan Alliance Formed to Address Marine Debris

Bipartisan legislation to help address the marine debris crisis affecting America’s ocean shorelines and inland waterways has been introduced in the US Senate by Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI and Dan Sullivan, R-AK.

The Save our Seas Act would allow the NOAA administrator to declare severe marine debris events and authorize funds to assist with cleanup and response. The governor of an affected state would also be able to request such a declaration from NOAA. The bill would reauthorize NOAA’s Marine Debris Program through fiscal year 2022, to conduct research on the source of marine debris and take action to prevent and clean up that debris.

It would also encourage the executive branch of government to engage with leaders of nations responsible for the bulk of marine debris, examine the causes of ocean debris, discuss effective prevention and mitigation strategies, and economic benefits for treaty nations in addressing the crisis.

The Save our Seas Act, S. 756, would also address other coasts across the globe.

“Marine debris threatens critical species and habitats, litters our shorelines, and hurts coastal businesses,” Booker said. “Our bipartisan bill authorizes NOAA to continue and expand its work to address this problem, and I look forward to working with Senator Sullivan and our other colleagues to secure additional funding for this program.”

“We have a long way to go, but this legislation is a start toward research, international efforts, and responsible trade policies that together will help us better care for the world’s oceans,” Whitehouse said.

Sullivan meanwhile praised the legislation as a way for the US government to hold accountable countries whom he said are responsible for the majority of debris in oceans. “This bill encourages the Trump administration to forge alliances with these countries and to take a stand against the dangerous levels of debris in our oceans and make sure that they do not reach America’s coastlines,” he said.

Harvest Strategy Approved for PWS Tanner Crab

A harvest strategy critical to future tanner crab fisheries in Prince William Sound was approved by the Alaska Board of Fisheries during its statewide king and tanner crab meeting in Anchorage in late March.

Proposal 268, from Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU), amends state regulations for tanner crab in Prince William Sound specifying conditions under which a commercial fishery may occur. It also establishes a sport fishery for tanner crab there as well, when the threshold level is reached for mature male abundance.

The proposal says that a harvest strategy should be formulated from the trawl survey data.

The Cordova commercial fishermen’s group said thresholds above which a commercial fishery could occur, as well as guideline harvest levels, can be determined conservatively using the same format and formulas used for the Eastern Aleutians District tanner crab harvest strategy in the Westward Area, which supports a small commercial tanner crab fishery in most years.

Until the board’s action, Prince William Sound was the only area in Alaska with a stock assessment for tanner crab, but no harvest strategy in regulation.

Tanner crab abundance in Prince William Sound has been increasing and with the harvest strategy in place a commercial fishery there could offer economic opportunity to local fishermen and communities, CDFU said.

There has not been a commercial tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound since the late 1980s because of the lack of abundance, noted Glenn Haight, executive director of the fisheries board.

Proposal 267, from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, also supports creation of a harvest strategy and amending regulations for tanner crab in Prince William Sound specifying conditions under which the commercial fishery could occur and also reducing the legal size limit in the subsistence tanner crab fishery.

The board also approved a number of other proposals, including a 20-pot per vessel limit on the South Peninsula tanner crab fishery.

Haight said that the board planned to take a harder look at the Bering Sea tanner crab harvest strategy during a meeting in mid-May.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

AMSEA Safety Courses Coming Up in April and May

Spaces are still available for a variety of fishing vessel and cold water safety courses from mid- April and through May, offered by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association in Sitka.

The fishing vessel drill conductor workshop at Cordova on April 15 will cover cold-water survival skills, emergency position-indicating radio beacon stations (EPIRBs), flares and maydays; man-overboard recovery and firefighting; immersion suits and personal floatation devices, helicopter rescue, life rafts, abandon ship procedures and emergency drills.

There will be an in-the-water practice session, giving participants practical experience with PFDs and immersion suits, employing survival techniques, and righting and boarding an inflatable life raft.

The same course will be conducted in Dillingham April 20-21. Enrollment for that course in Haines on April 26-27 is already closed, but there are spots left in the marine safety instructor training course at Seward April 25-30.

Other AMSEA courses in Alaska in May include the fishing vessel drill conductor course at Seward May 1, at Anchorage May 6-7, at Sitka May 9, and Unalaska May 26-28.

AMSEA drill conductor workshops meet training requirements for drill conductors on board documented commercial fishing vessels operating beyond the federal boundary line.

AMSEA advises that this is an excellent opportunity for commercial fishermen and other mariners to gain hands-on training with marine safety equipment and learn best practices for surviving emergencies at sea.

Interested mariners may register at www.amsea.org or call 1-907-747-3287.

Togiak Herring Sac Roe Harvest Set

Harvest allocations for the 2017 Togiak, Alaska, herring sac roe fishery are set at 22,943 tons, with 19,060 tons, or 70 percent for the purse seine vessels, and 6,883 tons, or 30 percent for gillnet harvesters.

The spawn-on-kelp harvest allocation was set at 1,500 tons and the Dutch Harbor food and bait allocation at 1,727 tons.

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) said that the allocation decision, which is usually based on the spawning biomass forecast, this year is based on the average spawning biomass for all years for which they have data, 1978 -2015, less 10 percent in order to be conservative.

Traditionally the department has used an age structured assessment model to forecast the spawning biomass of Togiak herring, which requires estimates of the spawning biomass as well as estimates of the age composition of the spawning biomass and the harvest, ADF&G biologists said on March 28.

The Pacific herring spawning biomass for the Togiak District was not estimated in 2016 nor was any estimate made of the age composition of the 2016 harvest due to state budget cuts, hence the decision to use data averages, they said.

The Bristol Bay Herring Management Plan sets a maximum 20 percent exploitation rate for Togiak District stock. Based on the forecast of 130,852 tons, 26,170 tons of herring will be available for harvest this year.

The management strategy for the Togiak herring fishery is designed to provide for maximum sustained yield. This year the sac roe fisheries will again be managed to maximize product quality through long openings, which allow permit holders to make smaller sets and harvest the highest quality fish, biologists said. Long openings also allow processors to have flexible control of harvest volume so that holding time between harvest and processing is optimal.

Based on a preseason poll, processing capacity is expected to be about 2,150 tons a day. The poll also indicates that four processors will participate in the Togiak sac roe herring fishery with a fleet size of 16 gillnet and 19 purse seine vessels.

For the last decade, ADF&G has opened the herring fishery as soon as the threshold biomass of 35,000 tons has been documented and will use this strategy again in 2017. The strategy allows individual companies to maximize their processing capacity and decide what quality fish is suitable for their individual markets.

ADF&G uses a sea surface temperature model based on temperatures near Unalaska to predict Togiak herring run timing. Based on that model, the fishery should commence around the first week of May, but harvesters and processors are cautioned that this timing model has not performed very well the last couple of years, biologists said.

The department has secured funds sufficient to fly aerial surveys and process herring for age, sex and length samples, which will allow staff to resume use of the age structured assessment model for forecasting herring biomass, biologists said.

MCA Offers New Website on Sustainability

An interactive website developed by the Marine Conservation Alliance now offers its “Seven Principles of Sustainability,” a comprehensive overview from MCA’s perspective on federal fisheries management in the ocean off of Alaska.

Included on the site are sections on habitat protection, by catch management, food webs and environmental change.

The site (www.ebfm.marineconservaitonalliance.org) also has sections on community protections and protections against overfishing. Interactive tools allow users to view areas closed to fishing in the North Pacific, explaining how each closure applies and why it was developed.

“There is nothing else like this available to illustrate the complexity of North Pacific fisheries regulations, interactions, and their impacts,” said Lori Swanson, MCA executive director.

“Ecosystem-based fishery management continues to evolve in this area. Managers are doing a lot of things right.”

MCA is a consortium of stakeholders including harvesters, processors and communities. Its purpose is to promote sustainable fisheries through science-based management.

The MCA board is made up of 10 seats, each representing a segment of the North Pacific and Bering Sea fishing industry.

Member organizations include the Adak Community Development Corp., Alaska Longline Co., Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association; Alaska Groundfish Data Bank, Alaska Scallop Association, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, Arctic Storm Management Group, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, the city of Unalaska, Glacier Fish Co., Groundfish Forum, High Seas Catcher Vessels, Icicle Seafoods, Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., Pacific Seafood, Pacific Seafood Processors Association and United Catcher Boats.

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