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.

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