Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wild Salmon Deliveries to Processors in Alaska
Top 93 Million Fish

Commercial deliveries of wild salmon to processors in Alaska rose by eight million fish in the past week, bringing the total estimated catch to about 93.6 million fish through August 14.

Deliveries included 48,575,000 sockeyes, 30,919,000 humpies, 12,462,000 chums, 1,440,000 cohos and 202,000 Chinooks.

The state’s central region, Bristol Bay in particular, with Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, brought in nearly 70 million of those salmon. The Bristol Bay harvest alone came to a preliminary harvest estimate of 43.5 million fish, including nearly 42 million sockeyes, while Prince William Sound brought in upwards of 23.7 million fish. However, the catch continued to lag well behind most forecasts.

McDowell Group economist Garrett Evridge noted in his weekly report for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute that the year-to-date catch is five percent behind 2016 and 40 percent below the five-year average. With only three weeks of fishing left, the year-to-date statewide pink salmon volume is roughly equal to 2016, a year in which economic disaster declarations were issued, Evridge said. Pink salmon harvests in Prince William Sound and Kodiak were about double the year-to-date 2016 volume, while Southeast is two-thirds lower.

Keta harvests of 12 million fish so far are about 20 percent lower than the five-year average, and sockeye production continues to be slow in Cook Inlet, Southeast and Chignik fisheries.

On the bright side, sockeye fillets were back in the coolers at Costco stores in Alaska, still at $9.95 a pound. Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash., had plenty of fresh wild caught salmon too, including sockeye fillets at $24.99 a pound, although not saying online where they were caught. Anchorage two top seafood retailers, New Sagaya and 10th & M Seafoods, also had fresh sockeyes for sale. New Sagaya had plenty of whole sockeyes at $5.99 a pound, while 10th & M offered fresh sockeye fillets at $10.95 a pound and fresh wild sockeye steaks for $7.95 a pound.

Hundreds Turn Out in Alaska to Celebrate
Wild Salmon Day

Hundreds of people flocked to events in nine Alaska communities on August 10 to chow down on barbecued wild salmon and learn more about the importance of maintaining healthy fish habitat.

The events, most free of charge, were also in support of an initiative to strengthen fish habitat protection standards.

Anchorage and Palmer events were hosted by The Alaska Center and included a barbecue, live music, family-friendly activities, as well as presentations on the importance of salmon habitat.

Those attending the Trout Unlimited event at Cooper Landing were asked to bring a dish to share. In Fairbanks, Tanana Valley Watershed Association hosted a floating film festival down the Chena River with talks about the importance of salmon to the Alaska lifestyle.

In Homer and Soldotna, a salmon barbecue, local salmon arts and crafts and other family-friendly activities were sponsored by Cook Inletkeeper, while in Juneau Salmon Beyond Borders provided food, libations and a silent auction.

The Sitka Seafood Festival, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust were hosts in Sitka, where the festivities included frilled salmon, a beer garden, and live music, while the Susitna River Coalition at Talkeetna entertained with a taste of wild salmon, games, a river walk and fish screen printing.

Wild Salmon Day was signed into law on May 8, 2016 by Gov. Bill Walker.

“Nearly all Alaskans are impacted by salmon in some way whether through subsistence, recreational, or commercial fishing, or just sheer appreciation for Alaska’s abundant wildlife,” the governor said. “HB 128 (establishing Wild Salmon Day) is intended to celebrate these uniquely Alaskan ways of life and share our appreciation for wild Alaskan salmon with the rest of the world.”

Alaska Supreme Court Approves Putting Salmon Initiative on November Ballot

The Alaska Supreme Court has reversed a lower court decision on the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative and ordered that it be placed on the November 6 general election ballots, except for two provisions that were ruled out by the judges.

In the decision handed down on August 8, the judges deleted two sentences on grounds that they would encroach on the discretion over allocation decisions delegated to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Alaskans are divided in their opinions on the Stand for Salmon initiative, for which proponents turned in some 49,500 signatures to the Division of Elections in Anchorage on January 16.

Initiative backers say it offers stronger protections for fish habitat. Opponents contend that it will have an adverse impact on business development.

Opposition to the initiative is led by Stand for Alaska, which includes eight Alaska Native regional corporations formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and the ANCSA Regional Corp., as well as numbers businesses affiliated with the oil and gas and mining industries. The Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association (BBFA) has also filed a brief in the Alaska Supreme Court opposing the initiative.

A complete list of Stand for Alaska supporters is posted online at https://www.standforak.com/coalition/. Stand for Alaska to date has raised upwards of $8 million, compare to less than $1 million by Stand for Salmon, according to reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Major contributions totaling more than $1 million toward defeating the initiative came from BP Exploration Alaska, Donlin Gold, Teck Alaska (owner of the Red Dog Mine), Kinross Fort Knox and Sumitomo Metal mining, owner of the Pogo Mine.

According to Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, the supreme court decision “confirmed the state’s understanding of the initiative power and its limitations. That limitation extends to the legislature’s power to allocate the state’s resources – including fisheries and waters – among competing uses.”

In this case, said Lindemuth, “It would have prohibited development of any project that would substantially damage anadromous waters (i.e. waters that support migrating fish such as salmon) and presumed that all waters are anadromous unless proven otherwise. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the state that this effectively allocated use of the waters for fish to the exclusion of other uses, such as mining.”

Stand for Alaska meanwhile issued a statement saying the high court’s decision “validates just how flawed and poorly crafted the measure is” and reaffirmed its opposition to the initiative.

“The court severed two sentences on provisions that prohibit certain permitting decisions,” said Valerie Brown, legal director for the nonprofit environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska. “What that means is a decision to deny a permit is not required, but it is within the discretion of Fish and Game to deny a permit. Otherwise the rest of the initiative goes forward.”

Brown added, “If it passes it will mean we will have public notice and public comment and that the court also preserves the habitat protection standard, so for the first time we have standards that the Department of Fish and Game has to apply when they are making permitting decisions.”

UK Website Explores Women in Fisheries

Researchers in the United Kingdom have launched a new website, at https://women-fisheries.com/research/, to explore the role of women in fishing families on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

The study is examining how women contribute to the survival of both fishing families and the fishing industry and aim to shed light on women’s roles, identities and their well-being. Researchers also hope to learn how small-scale fishing families, using boasts under 10 meters (32.8 feet) are adapting to a changing environmental and economic climate.

“Listening to women’s stories is a central part of this research and the new website provides information about how people can sign up and take part,” said Madeleine Gustavsson, a research fellow at the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health, who is leading the study. “We want to hear from as many women involved in fisheries as possible, whatever their roles might be.”

The website features a regularly updated news section where readers can follow the project’s progress, read about the latest research and hear about other efforts to improve recognition of women in fisheries on local and international levels.

Gusatavsson notes that while small scale vessels make up 80 percent of the fishing fleet in the UK they receive only four percent of the national fishing quota.

Project organizers are working closely with small scale fisheries harvesters and advocacy groups, including AKTEA (European network for women in fisheries and aquaculture), LIFE (Low Impact fishers of Europe) and the Coastal Producer Organization.

Those interested in contributing to the discussion are invited to email Gustavsson at m.c.gustavsson@exter.ac.uk, follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mcgustavsson, or contact the Take Part page of the website.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Golden King Crab Fishery Under Way in Aleutians

The 2018–2019 Aleutian Islands golden king crab fisheries is under way, with a quota of 3,470,400 pounds of individual fishing quota (IFQ) and 385,600 pounds of community development quota (CDQ), for a total of 3.9 million pounds east of Adak.

West of Adak, there is a 2.5 million-pound quota, with 2,250,000 pounds for the IFQ harvesters and 250,000 pounds for the Adak community allocation (ACA).

Vessel registration got under way on July 29. The fishery began on August 1 and will remain open until April 30. Fishermen can concurrently harvest IFQ and CDQ golden king crab in the eastern Aleutian Islands or IFQ and ACA golden king crab in the western Aleutian Islands, but they may not be concurrently registered in both the eastern and western Aleutian Islands.

Catcher only vessels are required to carry an observer for 50 percent by weight of their harvested crab during each of three trimesters: August 1 to October 31, November 1 to January 31, and February 1 to April 30.

Last year’s quota for the area east of Adak was 2,979,000 pounds of IFQ and 331,000 pounds of CDQ, for a total of 3.3 million pounds. West of Adak, the 2017 quota was 2.2 million pounds, including 2,011.500 pounds of IFQ and 223,5000 pounds for the Adak Community Allocation.

Salmonfest Draws 8,000 Lovers of Music and Salmon Habitat

Salmonfest 2018 at Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, brought together more than 8,000 people for three days of music, food, fish and love. The event celebrates the connection of Alaskans to the fish and waters that provide their beloved resource.

Sixty-five bands performed on four stages in this annual late summer event that also promotes information on the importance of healthy salmon habitat and educates festival goers on projects that could potentially have adverse impact on critical habitat.

Salmon themes and signs protesting the Pebble mine were visible festival-wide. Headliner Brandi Carlile’s band and other musicians also sported stickers on their shirts in protest of the proposed Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay watershed area.

“This is the population that can make a difference,” said Sam Snyder, the Wild Salmon Center’s senior campaign manager, whose focus this year is the Stand for Salmon Campaign backing the salmon initiative on the state’s general election ballot in November.

“We’ve got to protect the habitat,” Snyder said. “How do we maintain habitat and balance with resource development? Our fisheries are complicated.” These fish, he said, “are part of our economy, part of our culture.”

The eclectic crowd, from parents with babies in arms to grandparents from the Woodstock generation, meandered in the warm sunshine between informational booths manned by a variety of conservation and environmental entities to vendors hawking food and beverages, crafts and even massages.

“We love salmon,” said Dawnell Smith of Trustees for Alaska, a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with offices in Anchorage, Alaska. “We love clean waters. We want people to know what we do.”

The annual music festival is supported by and benefits two non-profits, the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society and Cook Inletkeeper, both of Homer, Alaska.

Alaska Commercial Salmon Harvest Climbs to
Nearly 85M

Deliveries of commercial wild Alaska salmon to processors reached nearly 85 million fish by August 7, including some 48 million sockeyes, over 24 million humpies, 11.5 million chums, nearly 1.1 million cohos and 198,000 Chinooks.

For the same period a year ago, the harvest included 53.6 million sockeyes, 25 million chums, 5.2 million cohos, and 262,000 kings. The pink salmon catch compared with 39 million caught for the same period in 2016, which was a disaster year for humpies.

“Bristol Bay remains the bright spot in Alaska’s commercial salmon fisheries this summer,” notes Garrett Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group in Juneau, Alaska, in a weekly summary report for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “The Bristol Bay sockeye harvest was one of the best ever,” said Garrett, “but all other sockeye harvests in Alaska are well below the forecast.”

The focus of the industry has shifted to pink salmon, with the current week typically the peak harvest period for humpbacks. “Year-to-date pink harvest volume is comparable to 2016, but very slow by historical standards, particularly in Southeast Alaska,” he said.

With about one month of fishing remaining, year-to-date keta harvests statewide are 42 percent lower than a year ago and 20 percent behind the five-year average, although the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region continues to exceed its five-year average volume.

Evridge also notes that coho production year-to-date is 51 percent lower than 2017 and Chinook production is 15 percent behind as well.

The availability of wild Alaska sockeye salmon is slimming rapidly, not even mentioned online this week by the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash. In Anchorage, they have disappeared from the seafood department at Costco stores and were marked up to $19.95 a pound at Fred Meyer stores, which was $10 over the sale price two weeks earlier. 10th & M Seafoods still had fresh wild sockeye salmon steaks for $7.95 a pound and fresh sockeye salmon fillets for $10.95 a pound, while the online Anchorage purveyor FishEx was offering sockeye fillet portions for $29.95 a pound.

UW Releases Revised Quinn Book on Pacific Salmon and Trout

A revised edition of University of Washington fisheries professor Thomas Quinn’s book “The Behavior and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout” has been published, complete with over 100 new photos and information gained since the first edition in 2005.

“This is a book really about the fish, not about what we have done to them,” said Quinn, whose initial intent was to write “a book specifically about the fish, their behavior, their ecology, their movement, what they eat, what eats them.”

Over the past 13 years since the first edition was published, there has been substantial research on salmon and trout, and Quinn decided it was time for an updated version of the book.

The first edition was mostly about salmon. The revised and updated book covers all aspects of the life cycle of Pacific salmon, trout and char fish in the Pacific with chapters about: homing migration from the open ocean through coastal waters and up rivers to their breeding grounds; courtship and reproduction; the lives of juvenile salmon and trout in rivers and lakes; migration to the sea; the structure of fish populations; and the importance of fish carcasses to the ecosystem. The book also includes information on salmon and trout transplanted outside their ranges.

Almost all the photos in the original book were from slides. The new edition contains several digital images, tables, figures and updated references.

“It’s everything you ever wanted to know about salmon and trout, with beautiful photos, for students, anglers, conservation groups, citizens who want to get involved in stream restoration,” he said.

There is also information throughout the book on the impact of climate change on these fish, with the topic specifically addressed in the last chapter.

What’s important to me is that people realize it is an effort to be informative; to be accurate, but accessible and also visually attractive, so people can pick it up and read it,” he said.

“The last edition came out in 2005. There have been a fair number of things we have learned since then,” he said. That new research includes much on the impact of climate change on fish, which he has been monitoring. “We had an inkling, but things have happened faster than I would have guessed,” he said.

The book may be preordered from the University of Washington press, the nonprofit book and multimedia publishing arm of the university, at https://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/QUIBE2.html.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

New Towing Vessel Regulations in Effect

As of July 20, 2018, all vessels engaged in towing – including fishing vessels towing other fishing vessels – are now required to comply with new towing vessel regulations, the Coast Guard announced. Certificates of inspection are to be issued to towing vessels in phases over the next four years. Coast Guard Sector Juneau and Sector Anchorage personnel worked with towing vessel operators throughout Alaska to prepare them to meet the deadline.

Lt. Cmdr. Mason Wilcox, chief of inspections for Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, noted that the operators they have communicated with have been receptive and working hard to ensure they are all in 100 percent compliance. “We appreciate them being proactive and their dedication to safety,” he said.

The regulations history dates back to passage of the Coast Guard and Marine Transportation Act of 2004. The new regulations, referred to as subchapter M within Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations, boost the existing requirements for firefighting and lifesaving equipment, establish standards for construction and arrangement of new construction vessels, and phase-in machinery and electrical standards over the coming decade.

For further information regarding towing vessel inspection regulations, contact:
• Coast Guard Sector Juneau inspections division – 1-907-463-2477 or email SectorJuneauInspections@USCG.mil;

• Coast Guard Sector Anchorage Inspections Division – 1-907-428-4200 or Anchorage.Inspections@USCG.mil;

• Coast Guard District Seventeen Towing Vessel Coordinator – 1-907-463-2823 or Samuel.E.Hatch2@USCG.mil

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Commercial Salmon Harvest in Alaska
Tops 73 Million Fish

More than 73 million salmon have been commercially harvested in Alaska so far this season, which is a third lower than the 2017 year-to-date harvest of 110 million fish.

The statewide sockeye harvest is seven percent lower than last year and nine percent above the five-year-average, according to Garrett Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group in Juneau, Alaska. These numbers appear in his report for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

“While the Bristol Bay sockeye volume will be one of the highest on record, other sockeye fisheries continue to suffer this year,” Evridge wrote, “Chignik has recorded no landings and Southeast Alaska is 80 percent below the five-year average.”

The year-to-date pink salmon harvest is 15 percent behind 2016, due primarily to lagging harvest in Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound and Kodiak. Harvesters have delivered some 5.8 million salmon to processors in Southeast Alaska, 15.5 million in Prince William Sound, and 1.5 million at Kodiak. The statewide keta harvest of 11 million fish is about 40 percent below 2017 and 14 percent behind the five-year average.

Meanwhile in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, keta salmon fishing is 27 percent above the five-year average. Coho production is 52 percent below the 2017 pace but there are still two more months of steady fishing ahead. The king salmon volume is 16 percent behind a year ago.

In western Alaska, fishermen harvested nearly five million salmon overall in the Alaska Peninsula, with the South Peninsula delivering more than three million fish.

Retail prices for wild Alaska sockeyes this past week ranged from $17.99 a pound for fillets when available at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash., to $7.95 a pound for sockeye steaks and $10.95 a pound for sockeye fillets at 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage.

Economist Advises to Brace for Continuing Change in Seafood Industry

Economic success for specific wild fisheries in the future will depend on management that enables sustainability, efficiency, innovation and market orientation throughout the supply chain, according to fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp.

“Think in terms of the entire supply chain, with everyone in the supply chain depending on everyone else,” he advised during a presentation, in late July, to the biennial meeting of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade in Seattle, Wash. “And think broadly,” said Knapp, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage, citing a World Bank report on the prospects for fisheries and aquaculture through 2030.

The report projects that aquaculture will produce about two-thirds of food fish, that China will consume nearly 40 percent of all seafood, and the production of tilapia and shrimp will more than double., In addition, it predicts that aquaculture will more than double in India, Latin America and Southeast Asia, while per capita consumption of fish in Sub-Sahara Africa will decline.

“The question is not just how much fish can we catch or grow, but how much fish do people want to buy,” he said. To that end he compared the differences between wild fisheries and aquaculture, noting for example that the potential for growth in aquaculture is high, while the potential for growth in wild fisheries is low. “There are also more communities historically dependent on wild fisheries who would be less receptive to innovation, compared to those historically less dependent, and more receptive to innovation,” he noted.

“Economic factors, particularly population and income growth, are likely to drive growth in aquaculture production and consumption and changes in the geographic distribution of production and consumption. Fish politics, meanwhile, will figure in total allowable catches, open access versus rights-based management, marine protected areas and quota allocations, while “regular” politics will impact trade, labor, immigration, environmental regulation and food safety” he added.

“My guess is that globally fish and aquaculture politics will gradually shift to enable fisheries and aquaculture to better respond to future opportunities and challenges” Knapp said.

He also added that changes in ocean conditions, including temperatures, currents and acidification, will also directly impact wild fisheries and aquaculture, as well as global food markets. And while resource uncertainty will remain a fundamental and possibly growing constraint to wild fisheries, aquaculture will be relatively less vulnerable to nature-driven changes.

Investigation Underway into Sinking of Fishing Tender in Bristol Bay

An investigation into the sinking of the 58-foot F/V Pacific Knight near Clark’s Point in Bristol Bay, Alaska – an incident in which one crew member was lost, while two others were rescued by good Samaritans from the F/V Amanda C – is underway.

According to the US Coast Guard an estimated 800 gallons of diesel and 300 gallons of hydraulic fluid were on board when the vessel sank on July 25. How much of that fuel spilled, creating a sheen on the water that prompted closure of the Nushagak district of Bristol Bay, is still undetermined.

The fishery was reopened on the afternoon of July 31, after two days of aerial surveys showed no visible sheen, according to Tim Sands, area management biologist at Dillingham for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

According to Todd Duke, general manager for Resolve Magone Marine Services (Alaska) Corp. in Anchorage, Alaska, it will take several weeks to remove the vessel. Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) plans to attempt to refloat the vessel in future dive operations. Poor visibility, severe currents and deck gear have restricted dive operations.

Lone Fisherman, Inc. was identified as the responsible party for the Pacific Knight.

DEC officials said the vessel owner was working with the Coast Guard and had hired Resolve Magone. Sockeyes are still plentiful in the Nushagak district, with nearly 24 million of the red salmon harvested so far this season, and fishing still underway for pink and silver salmon.

At this time of year Nushagak Bay supports all five species of Pacific salmon, several commercially important ground fish species, marine mammals, sea birds, shorebirds, waterfowl and eagles. The shorelines west of Nushagak Bay are part of Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Alaska’s Wild Salmon Harvest Tops 60M in July

Commercial harvests of wild salmon in Alaska rose by more than 10 million fish between July 17 and July 22, bringing the total preliminary catch estimate to 60,530,000 fish.

That included nearly 43 million sockeyes, 9.1 million chums, roughly 8 million pink, 356,000 silver and 179 Chinooks, according to estimates by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The harvest surge brought more sockeyes quickly into retail markets in the Pacific Northwest, including some areas that just weeks earlier were offering only refreshed fillets from the 2017 harvest.

Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market had wild Alaska sockeye fillets for $17.99 a pound. Whole sockeyes for $54.99 apiece, and quarter pound Copper River salmon burgers for $4.99. Costco stores in Anchorage offered wild Alaska sockeye fillets for $9.99 a pound, which was the same price as Safeway’s weekly special for shoppers with the store card, while at Fred Meyers the sockeye fillets were $12.99 a pound.

Anchorage seafood specialists 10th & M Seafoods was advertising online its wild Alaska sockeye steaks for $7.95 a pound and wild king salmon fillets at $23.95 a pound. Online Anchorage retailer FishEx was offering wild Alaska king fillets for $59.95 a pound and $29.95 a pound for wild sockeye fillets. FishEx’s Yukon king fillets were $89.95 a pound and Copper River king fillets were $79.95 a pound, but they were sold out on July 22.

In Bristol Bay, where processors were paying $1.25 a pound for sockeyes, not including bonuses, the harvest in the Nushagak district led all others with an estimated harvest of 24.6 million salmon, including 23.4 million reds, 1.2 million chums and 35,000 Chinooks. The Naknek-Kvichak district saw over 7 million salmon, all sockeyes except for about 1,000 kings. Harvesters in the Egegik district brought in 4.7 million reds, while in the Ugashik district the catch included 2.1 million sockeyes and 1,000 kings.

Processors in the Alaska Peninsula received more than 4 million salmon through July 22, and Prince William Sound processors handled over 11 million salmon. In Southeast Alaska deliveries included over 3 million fish while some 1.3 million were received in Cook Inlet.

On the Lower Yukon the harvest climbed to 465,000 keta salmon and 36,000 humpies. The Lower Yukon River districts transitioned to the fall season management on July 16, with the run of chums projected to be 700,000 to 900,000 fish. Jack Schultheis of Kwik’Pak Fisheries, with processing facilities in Emmonak, said that small boat fishery was going well.

Coast Guard Cutter Healy Deploys to the Arctic Ocean

The Coast Guard Cutter Healy has begun a four-month deployment to the Arctic Ocean to conduct several science research missions.

Coast Guard officials in Seattle, Washington, said Healy’s first mission will be for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to increase understanding of biological processes along Alaska’s Continental Shelf. The second mission, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, will focus on understanding how upper-level ocean stratification and sea ice in the Beaufort Sea is responding to inflow and surface forcing changes.

The goal of the Stratified Ocean Dynamics of the Arctic project is to raise understanding by deploying subsurface moorings and specialized on-ice instruments to observe the fluctuations across an annual cycle.

Healy’s final mission, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, will examine the effects of the Pacific water inflow into the Arctic and its associated boundary current on the ecosystem. This study is part of a multi-year effort that combines shipboard measurements taken in the spring and fall with measurements from a subsea mooring deployed in the center of the boundary current.

Healy is a premiere high-latitude research vessel and one of the only US military surface vessels that deploys to and can operate in the ice-covered waters of the Arctic. In addition to the research mission, the crew of the Healy can also conduct search and rescue operations, ship escorts, environmental protection and enforcement of laws and treaties in the polar regions. Homeported in Seattle, the 420-foot long vessel provides access and presence throughout the Arctic region to protect national maritime borders and to safeguard the maritime economy.

US Army Corps of Engineers to Offer Update on Pebble Project EIS

Officials with the US Army Corps of Engineers are planning a teleconference in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday, July 26 to provide an update on their work on the Pebble project environmental impact statement (EIS).

Meanwhile, groups opposed to the development of the controversial plan to mine copper, gold and molybdenum in the Bristol Bay watershed area have raised new concerns related to proposed infrastructure mine developers are hoping to get permitted.

The Pebble Limited Partnership plan includes development of a port near Amakdedori Creek, which drains into Kamishak Bay on the western shore of Cook Inlet, some 190 miles southwest of Anchorage, for ships to transport ore from the mine to foreign smelting facilities. That ort site would include shore-based and marine facilities to ship concentrate, freight and fuel for the project. Other port facilities would include fuel storage and transfer facilities, power generation and distribution facilities, maintenance facilities, employee accommodations and offices.

Tribal groups from the Bristol Bay region have written to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to voice concerns that geotechnical drilling at the site would put at risk graves, cultural resources and important subsistence fishing sites.

Salmonfest Weekend Starts August 3

Salmonfest, the three-day weekend music festival aimed at entertaining and educating participants about the importance of salmon habitat, begins August 3 at Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska.

The event, which attracts several thousand visitors, emphasizes the connection of all Alaskans to the salmon and waters that provide a sustainable food resource for the commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence harvesters. It began several years ago as Salmonstock, to educate the public about potential adverse environmental impacts of building the proposed Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed. Its goal is to educate more people about the need to protect and promote the abundant habitat that are spawning grounds and a transportation route for wild salmon.

Salmonfest is also recognized as a family-friendly occasion to enjoy music by nationally known and Alaska bands playing on four stages. This year’s headliners include Grammy winner Brandi Carlile, an American folk rock and Americana singer-songwriter from Ravensdale, Washington. Other popular bands on tap include Michael Franti and Spearhead, Fruition, Front Country, Gasoline Lollipops and Great American Taxi.

Many environmental entities participate in the annual event, with booths to share information on fisheries related issues.

Visit www.salmonfestalaska.org for the complete schedule, ticket prices, volunteer opportunities, and more.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Alaska Commercial Salmon Harvests Near 50 Million Fish

Commercial fish harvesters delivered nearly 50 million salmon to processors through July 17, including an estimated 36 million sockeyes, more than eight million chums, in excess of five million humpies, 261,000 silvers and 158,000 Chinooks. Harvest figures are compiled daily by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The largest harvests, more than 42 million fish, are coming in from Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound in the state’s central region. Bristol Bay’s Nushagak District so far has produced some 22.5 million salmon, including more than 21 million sockeyes, over a million chums and 35,000 king salmon. The sockeye harvest has been well above forecast, and state fisheries biologists confirmed that a new record is being set every day. The Nushagak’s Wood River Special Harvest Area is open and transfer time has been waived, with the total run and harvest in record territory.

Prince William Sound fisheries have captured 8.3 million salmon, including some four million pinks, three million chums and more than one million sockeyes, with the bulk of those humpies from the Prince William Sound general seine fishery.

Kodiak harvesters have delivered an estimated 841,000 salmon, mostly sockeyes and chums. Biologists noted that as of July 12 the sockeye harvest was approximately 287,000 fish, compared to a typical July 12 cumulative harvest of 900,000 to 950,000 reds.

On the Lower Yukon, some 420,000 keta salmon and 35,000 pinks were delivered to processors through July 17. Jack Schultheis of Kwik’Pak Fisheries, with processing facilities in Emmonak, said that small boat fishery is going well. “We had to stay on dip nets until July 4 because of king (salmon) conservation claims by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which caused us to lose a lot of production,” he explained. “But the run has been good, the markets (are) good and demand (is) stronger than last year. Some of that is driven by the high price of sockeyes, but the ongoing tariff war hasn’t affected Kwik’Pak, which sells fish into the European Union but not to China, he noted.

Fisheries Board Decision Gives Go-Ahead for Increase in Hatchery Humpies

In an emergency meeting in Anchorage, Alaska on July 17, the Alaska Board of Fisheries, in a 4-3 vote, declined to reverse an earlier decision allowing for an increase of 20 million pink salmon eggs for the Solomon Gulch Hatchery near Valdez.

The meeting was called to discuss several proposals, including one brought by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) to stop the Valdez Fishery Development Association from raising its take and incubation of eggs. The action was opposed by commercial fishermen, who were also critical of the timing of the emergency meeting when most harvesters who would be affected were out fishing.

In a commentary about the issue published in The Cordova Times, President Jerry McCune of Cordova District Fishermen United, called upon all stakeholders, to “band together to support sensible habitat protection, sustainable management, and continued research. We can’t afford the distraction of quibbling over a time-tested, well-managed, intensely studied program that feeds thousands of Alaska families.”

Marty Weiser, chief development officer for Copper River Seafoods, said the success of Prince William Sound (PWS) is reliant on these hatcheries. “If the science says we are not damaging wild stocks then we should continue to provide the stability to our fishermen and the market that these hatcheries provide.”

The sportfishing association contended in its petition to the board that in some streams across Lower Cook Inlet last year up to 70- percent of the humpies were released from Prince William Sound hatcheries.

“In addition to the straying issues of PWS hatchery-origin pink salmon observed in Lower Cook Inlet, recent scientific publications have provided cause for concern over the biological impacts associated with continued release of very large numbers of hatchery salmon into the North Pacific Ocean, including the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska,” the KRSA petition states.

Hatchery issues are set to be taken up again by the Alaska fisheries board during a work session in Anchorage in October.

Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization in House Draws Criticism

Passage of Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act reauthorization legislation in the US House is drawing criticism from the Marine Fish Conservation Network.

The legislation, which now moves to the Senate, passed on July 11 as H.R. 200, “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act of 2017.”

According to Robert C. Vandemark, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation network, the legislation puts short-term economic gains above the long-term health of US fisheries that commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, seafood consumers, businesses and coastal communities across the US depend upon. The bill undermines “the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s science-based conservation principles that keep oceans and fisheries healthy and productive. By passing H.R. 200, the House put the future of coastal communities and working waterfronts at risk,” he said.

Reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens legislation “must prioritize and promote community-based recreational and commercial fishing interests, ensure healthy ocean ecosystems and environments, support and strengthen catch accounting and data management, and manage recreational and commercial fisheries for abundance,” he added.

Military Says Planning Has Begun for Northern Edge 2019 War Games

With less than a year to go before the scheduled Exercise Northern Edge 2019 war games in Alaska, military officials confirmed they are planning to host the event in May, but so far declined to confirm exact dates.

The biennial military exercises prompt great concern from Alaska’s coastal fishing communities about the potential adverse impact on their fisheries and the marine environment. Beyond the actual exercises themselves, these communities want the exercises moved to times when they feel the games are less likely to have a potential adverse impact.

Officials from the Eyak Preservation Council in Cordova said they have learned from military sources that the 2019 exercises in the Gulf of Alaska will be held from May 13 through May 24, right when important salmon fisheries are getting underway in Prince William Sound.

“Although planning is still in the early stages and participants and activities have not been determined, the exercise is expected to be similar in size to Northern Edge 2017, which comprised of approximately 6,000 military personnel, 160 aircraft and three ships,” said Air Force Capt. P. Bryant Davis Jr., director of public affairs for Alaskan NORAD Region/Alaskan Command/11th Air Force, in response to an inquiry on the exercise. Davis declined to give exact dates for the exercise, citing operational security considerations.

The exercises involve several thousand troops from the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy and National Guard who engage in training on land, in the air and at sea over a wide area of Alaska, including the Gulf.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Eligibility Still Undetermined for Pink Salmon Disaster Relief Funds

Federal funds totaling more than $56 million out of some $200 million for fisheries disasters nationwide have been appropriated for those impacted by the 2016 pink salmon disaster in Alaska, but it could be months before it is paid out.

Alaska Rep. Louise Stutues of Kodiak said in a recent update on the relief appropriation that one of her concerns is who will be eligible. “What types of entities will be eligible and how much each category will receive remains unknown,” she told constituents in a recent newspaper column.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has identified shoreside infrastructure as a potential recipient category. Stutes said she is working with the state to ensure that along with the fishermen that processing workers and direct support businesses are afforded the relief that they are entitled to. The legislator said she is in daily communication with the office of Gov. Bill Walker and Alaska Department of Fish and Game to offer input and stay as up-to-date as possible on the timeline and details of those relief funds.

Alaska Commercial Salmon Catch Reaches
29.4 Million Fish

The Nushagak district of Bristol Bay is the hot spot in an Alaska commercial salmon fishing season that is otherwise falling far below last year’s harvests for king, sockeye, chum and pink salmon catches.

Some 698 drift gillnetters were fishing in the Nushagak district on July 10 and Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) officials said they expected that number to rise to 725 boats by July 12.

The harvest in the Nushagak is to date the third highest on record, setting a new single day harvest record of 1.69 million sockeyes, which state biologists expected to be exceeded by July 11. A new record for single day escapement was also set for the Wood River at 1.13 million salmon on July 2, with the Nushagak district marking three straight days of harvests in excess of one million reds.

Preliminary commercial harvest reports compiled by ADF&G show that through July 10 Bristol Bay fishermen delivered nearly 20 million salmon to processors, including 18.9 million sockeyes, 985,000 chums, and 38,000 kings.

Although the Bristol Bay fishery is robust, the overall pace of the statewide fishery is slower than expected. Statewide harvest has reached 29.4 million salmon, with an estimated 22 million reds, over 6 million chums, 1.2 million humpies, 111,000 kings and 51,000 cohos. The forecast calls for 51.6 million sockeyes, 21 million chums, 69.7 million humpies, 4.9 million silvers and 218,000 kings.

A report by the McDowell Group for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute notes that the statewide sockeye harvest is 31 percent below 2017 year-to-date due mainly to weak returns in Prince William Sound, Chignik, and Kodiak, although similar to the five-year average. Statewide keta harvests are about one quarter lower than a year ago, with particularly slow production in Southeast Alaska. Year-to-date pink salmon harvest slow production is anticipated to increase as Prince William Sound and Southeast harvests begin. Some 100,000 kings have been harvested so far in 2018, compared to roughly 180,000 kings by this time a year ago.

Mainly due to slow pink and keta production, the overall year-to-date harvest of Alaska salmon is about one third below that of 2017 and about 40 percent below the adjusted five-year average, the McDowell group noted.

Alaska Board of Fisheries Holds Emergency Meeting on Hatchery Issues

Alaska’s Board of Fishery will meet for several hours in Anchorage, Alaska, on the afternoon of July 17 to take up emergency petitions, including one regarding additional hatchery production in Prince William Sound.

Nine Alaska outdoor sporting groups signed an emergency petition submitted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association seeking to delay an increase in the number of pink salmon eggs in a Prince William Sound hatchery, citing concerns that the release of millions of additional hatchery-produced humpies threatens the biological integrity of wild stocks of pink salmon in Lower Cook Inlet.

The fisheries board will also consider resolutions and petitions related to sockeye salmon regulations for the Chignik, Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula management areas, and regulations regarding drift gillnet chum fishing on the Yukon River for the Native villages of Grayling, Anvik, Shageluk and Holy Cross.

The hatchery program has support from Cordova District Fishermen United’s Jerry McCune, who wrote in a recent commentary published in Alaska newspapers that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) manages the hatchery program to avoid affecting wild stocks. McCune noted that in 2012 ADF&G, in collaboration with other agencies, initiated a multi-year study to map the genetic structure of Prince William Sound salmon stocks, quantify straining rates and collect stream samples over multiple generations. “Once that study is complete, it will provide a never-before-available look into interactions between hatchery salmon and wild stocks,” McCune indicated.

Army Corps of Engineers Urged to Suspend EIS Process of Proposed Mine

The state of Alaska is asking the US Army Corps of Engineers to suspend its environmental impact statement (EIS) process for a massive mine proposed in Southwest Alaska by the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP).

Their concern, said Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott in a joint statement, is the potential adverse impact of the mine and related infrastructure on the multi-million-dollar fishery and area wildlife, as well as public access for fish harvesters, hunters, and recreationists.

“The Bristol Bay region is unique,” they wrote. “It supports the largest wild sockeye salmon fishery in the world – supplying almost half of the global wild sockeye and sustaining over 10,000 jobs. For many communities in the region, abundant salmon runs, clean water, and ecologically intact landscapes provide more than a paycheck, they sustain a treasured way of life that has existed for generations.”

Their administration believes the review should not advance now because Pebble has not demonstrated to Alaskans that the proposed mine is feasible and realistic. In their letter to the Corps, Walker and Mallott noted that beyond the mine itself, the PLP’s plan calls for construction and operation of a port and associated infrastructure that has the potential to adversely impact coastal wildlife and marine mammals. Construction, dredging, and port operations are likely to impact shoreline habitats, intertidal and offshore resources, they said.

Tom Collier, chief executive officer of the PLP, disagreed, saying that Walker’s request to suspend the National Environmental Policy Act process nearly mirrored that brought forward by mine opponents. He said the PLP feels its technical and environmental work would meet the state’s standards for development.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Fishing Vessel Nabbed With 80 Tons of Suspected Illegally Caught Salmon

A fishing vessel suspected of illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing activity in international waters was detained this past week by US and Chinese Coast Guard crews, along with one ton of squid and 80 tons of chum salmon on board.

The boarding of the Chinese-flagged fishing vessel Run Da in international waters 860 miles east of Hokkaido, Japan, was the result of a joint international effort of the US Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley crew homeported in Kodiak, Alaska, and the People’s Republic of China Coast Guard.

According to Capt. Darran McLenon, chief of response for the 17th Coast Guard District, detention of the Run Da was “the first apprehension of a large-scale, high seas driftnet vessel since 2014 and highlights the successful fisheries enforcement cooperation and patrols of the US, Canada, China, Japan, Russia and the Republic of Korea, including the force multiplying value of shiprider agreements, which enables joint high seas boarding and inspections to detect and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”

The Run Da is suspected of violating the worldwide driftnet moratorium called for by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 46/215, which calls for full implementation of a global moratorium on all large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing on the high seas. US Coast Guard officials said the captain of the Run Da admitted to fishing with driftnets up to 5.6 miles in length.

Custody of the Run Da and its crew were transferred to PRC Coast Guard vessel 2301 in the Sea of Japan some 92 miles west of Japan, for escort to China to face prosecution. The PRC has jurisdiction for any enforcement actions taken on the vessel, master and owner.

Resolution 46/215, approved on December 20, 1991, established boarding procedures for law enforcement officials of either country to board and inspect US or Chinese-flagged vessels suspected of high seas driftnet fishing. The memorandum of understanding also established a shiprider program that allows Chinese fisheries enforcement officials to embark on US Coast Guard vessels or aircraft.

Luke Fanning Named to Succeed Larry Cotter as CEO of APICDA

Luke Fanning, chief financial officer for the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association (APICDA), will become the organization’s chief executive officer with the retirement of long time CEO Larry Cotter in July.

The announcement was made on June 26 by APICDA board of directors in the wake of a six-month search process.

Prior to joining APICDA, Fanning was the vice president and regional manager for First National Bank Alaska. He is a lifelong Alaskan whose seafood industry experience began in the 1990s when he crewed on a halibut longliner and salmon seiner. In his spare time, Fanning captains the 32-foot F/V Triton, gillnetting for salmon and longlining for halibut.

said the impact of Cotter’s work and unwavering commitment to the CDQ program will be felt for years to come within the region, state and industry.

APICDA is one of six western Alaska CDQ groups within a program that allocates a percentage of all Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands quotas for groundfish, halibut and crab. The CDQ program was established to provide economically disadvantaged coastal communities with an opportunity to improve economies based on the fishing industry. APICDA and its subsidiaries generate proceeds of their management of quotas of seafood to support the villages of Akutan, Atka, False Pass, Nelson Lagoon, Nikolski and St. George.

Find out more about APICA online at www.apicda.com.

Government Subsidizes Much of Global High Seas Fishing Industry

A study of fishing on the high seas – those marine waters beyond national jurisdiction –says most of these fisheries would be unprofitable at current rates without government subsidies.

The collaborative study published in the journal Science Advances in June was compiled by researchers from the National Geographic Society, the University of California Santa Barbara, Global Fishing Watch, the Sea Around Us project of the University of British Columbia, and the University of Western Australia.

They concluded that the global cost of fishing in the high seas ranged from between $6.2 and $8 billion in US dollars in 2014, while profits ranged from a loss of $364 million and a profit of $1.4 billion.

These fisheries on the high seas, which cover 64 percent of the ocean surface, are dominated by a small number of fishing countries, which reap most of the benefits of fishing in these waters.

The environmental impacts of fishing on the high seas are well studied, researchers said. Still, a high level of secrecy around distant water fishing had previously precluded reliable estimates of the economic costs and benefits of high seas fishing.

Newly compiled satellite data and machine learning have revealed a far more accurate picture of this fishing effort at the level of individual vessels, they said.

According to the lead author of the study, Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, these fleets continue to operate in the high seas because they receive government subsidies. “Without subsidies and the forced labor some of them are known for, fishing would be unprofitable in over half of the high seas fishing grounds,” Sala said.

Researchers used automatic identification systems and vessel monitoring systems to track individual behavior, fishing activity and other characteristics of 3,620 vessels in near-real time. They combined that information with global catch data from the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us project to determine effort expanded by the vessels, the size of their catch, and how much profit the catch generated.

They estimated that almost 10 million hours of fishing occur annually across 132 million square kilometers, or 57 percent, of the high seas. Fishing hot spots found near Peru, Argentina and Japan were dominated by Chinese, Taiwanese and South Korean squid fishing fleets. The study also found that beyond subsidies, unfair labor compensation or no compensation at all are key cost-reducing factors in long-distance fishing.

Murkowski Praised for Defense of Transboundary Rivers

Salmon Beyond Borders is offering kudos to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, for her efforts to develop a water quality strategy for transboundary rivers in Southeast Alaska impacted by mining activities.

“Eighty percent of Southeast Alaska king salmon come from the transboundary Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers, yet British Columbia is pushing “go” on more than a dozen mines in these watersheds,” said Salmon Beyond Borders Director Jill Weitz. “It’s imperative we have good, reliable science documenting the quality of these rivers so that we can hold the Canadian government accountable for downstream impacts to US resources,” Weitz said.

As chair of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Committee, Murkowski recently announced a series of provisions within the fiscal year 2019 Interior Appropriations bill. They included increased funding of $1.5 million for transboundary river stream gauges, including a gauge along the Unuk River near Ketchikan, where Seabridge Gold’s proposed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell project poses potential adverse impact to the river.

The provisions also directed the US Geological Survey to enter into a formal partnership with local tribes and other agencies to help develop a water quality strategy for transboundary rivers.

The fiscal year 2019 bill is now headed to the Senate floor or final consideration.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Study Identifies Chronic Health Risks in Commercial Harvesters

A newly released study on chronic health risks in commercial seafood harvesting in Cordova, Alaska, found a prevalence of hearing loss, upper extremity disorders and sleep apnea risk factors higher in the fishing industry workers than in the community’s general population.

Occupational factors including exposure to noise, upper extremity demands of gillnetting and long working hours while fishing exacerbate these chronic health issues.

Authors of the study said health promotion programs targeted toward these conditions may present opportunities for improving total worker health.

The research was conducted by Carly Eckert of the University of Washington School of Public Health, Torie Baker of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska, and Debra Cherry, an occupational health physician at the UW School of Medicine.

The study was carried out in the gillnetting fishery in the Copper River salmon fishery. Sixty-six fishermen participated in the pre-season survey and 38 in the mid-season one. Researchers said the overwhelming majority of participants were white males with an average age of 49, and that 70 percent of respondents were overweight or obese but considered their health to be good or better. They reported longer working hours, less sleep and less aerobic exercise during the fishing season.

Researchers said they characterized a small sample of gillnet fishermen in Alaska to better understand their chronic health risks. They noted that these harvesters are accustomed to episodic work in a cramped, pressured setting, which takes place on gillnetters that are 28 to 34 feet in length with little space for exercise.

Researchers also noted that compared to the general Alaskan population study participants reported less tobacco use, more frequent health maintenance visits to health professionals and higher rates of health insurance. They also said that the prevalence of overweight or obesity in their sample was consistent with that of the general adult population of Alaska.

Study results were published in the Journal of Agromedicine.

Too Early to Tell on Impact of Tariffs

While the US and China are in a war of words involving tariffs on billions of dollars in imports to each country, the seafood industry in the Pacific Northwest is still uncertain where the chips may fall.

“This is a huge deal,” says Garrett Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group, a Juneau, Alaska based research and consulting services firm whose clients include the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (AMSI). “China is our most important trading partner. A lot of seafood harvested in Alaska is reprocessed and distributed globally.”

Still, Evridge said, “There is a lot of diplomacy happening behind the scenes that we are not aware of … and in terms of actual economic impact, it is too early to say.”

ASMI’s Executive Director, Alexa Tonkovich, said that the institute is working with other US seafood industry trade groups and its own China office to evaluate the situation. ASMI has been active in the Chinese marketplace for more than 20 years.

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) also spoke out, saying that it is reviewing China’s announcement to determine its impact on US seafood exports. NFI President John Connelly said “We are deeply disappointed in these retaliatory tariffs. There is no connection between the products targeted by the US and the tariffs Beijing plans to impose on exported American seafood. It is not clear where these trade actions will ultimately lead; what is clear is that they will negatively impact American seafood jobs.”

Products that are covered by the tariffs include frozen Alaska Pollock, Pacific cod, humpies and sockeye salmon and herring. It is uncertain whether the tariff would include reprocessed fish.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she is very concerned about the impact of the Chinese tariffs on Alaska’s economy.

“In 2017 alone, Alaskan seafood exports were worth $3.45 billion, and of that, nearly $1 billion was exported to China,” she explained. “It’s imperative that our seafood industry, one of the economic drivers of our state, has the ability to continue competitively exporting their products all over the world” Murkowski said she is urging Trump to work toward a trade policy with China “that protects these critical markets for our seafood industry.”

Commission Appoints Susewind to Head WDFW

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission (WDFW), a citizen panel appointed by the governor, has chosen Kelly Susewind of Olympia as the new director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, effective August 1, at an annual salary of $165,000.

His appointment came after the commission interviewed seven candidates in May and narrowed the field to three finalists, who were interviewed in mid-June.

Susewind has been employed at the Washington Department of Ecology since 1990 in several jobs. He served most recently as director of administrative services and environmental policy. He also worked for several years in the 1980s as a private sector environmental consultant.

Susewind holds a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from Washington State University and an associate degree in engineering from Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, Wash. He grew up in the Grays Harbor area.

The commission thanked Acting director Joe Stohr for his service in the wake of the resignation of former director Jim Unsworth in early February.

BBRSDA Selects Andy Wink as New Executive Director

Economist Andy Wink, who has analyzed Alaska’s seafood industry for nearly a decade, will come on board as executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) on July 23.

When announcing his appointment, the BBRSDA said Wink’s past work with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and many other industry groups would benefit its mission and membership. His work will focus mainly on improving the quality and appreciation of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon in the marketplace.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse, where he majored in economics and finance, Wink worked for the state of Alaska for seven years as a labor economist, seafood development specialist and investment officer. In 2010 he began working for the McDowell Group, a Juneau, Alaska based research and consulting firm, where he was the primary industry research analyst from 2012 through 2017 for Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Wink left McDowell in January to start his own business as an independent research contractor but has now joined the BBRSDA.

In addition to his work in the seafood industry, Wink has written economic impact studies on oil and gas projects in Africa, done education/training program analysis, administered a large seafood marketing grant program in Alaska, conducted investment research for a $30 billion plus fund, and contributed to local economic planning projects.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Copper River Still Closed to Commercial Salmon Fishing

The Copper River District on Alaska’s Prince William Sound remained closed to commercial fishing again this week, although open for subsistence fishing.

The only bright spot was the strength of the chum salmon run in the Coghill district, where the preliminary harvest estimate from a 36-hour opener on June 7 yielded 1,700 sockeyes and 48,200 chums, with 631 deliveries reported, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). The chums being caught in the Coghill district were averaging nine pounds.

Meanwhile, in western Alaska, commercial fishing with dip nets and beach seines was scheduled for a 12-hour opener from noon today through midnight and a 24-hour opener from noon on June 14 through noon on June 15.

Dip nets were required to assure escapement of king salmon to the Canadian border to comply with treaty obligations. Any Chinooks caught are required to be released immediately and recorded on fish tickets.

A directed commercial fishery for lingcod in Prince William Sound will open July 1 and will run through December 31 or earlier by emergency order. State fisheries officials reminds everyone that directed fishing for all groundfish species, including lingcod, is closed in waters within three nautical miles of two Steller sea lion rookeries within Prince William Sound, at Seal Rocks and Wooded Island.

In Norton Sound, the summer red king crab commercial fishery gets under way on June 24, with a guideline harvest level (GHL) of 290,282 pounds. Last year’s GHL for the Norton Sound fishery was 419,000 pounds.

BBEDC Backs Salmon Ballot Initiative

Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. (BBEDC) has added its support to an initiative on Alaska’s 2018 general election ballot to update a 60-year-old law aimed at protecting salmon habitat.

“Critical salmon spawning and rearing habitat in Alaska, particularly the Bristol Bay region, face many threats, and protecting it for future generations is a major priority,” BBEDC’s directors said in a statement issued in Dillingham, Alaska, June 7.

The board has concluded that the current law falls short of protecting Alaska salmon and believes that this ballot initiative is the right step toward strengthening systems that not only support traditional life ways of Bristol Bay, but also support tens of thousands of Alaska’s jobs.

With the unanimous vote of support from its board, BBEDC joined many Bristol Bay tribes, the Bristol Bay Native Association and hundreds of Alaska owned businesses, commercial fishermen and organizations statewide in support of the Yes for Salmon ballot initiative.

BBEDC is one of six Western Alaska Community Development Quota entities organized under the CDQ program in 1992 to promote economic growth and opportunities within their region.

Backers of the initiative say the existing legal provision protecting salmon habitat is so ambiguous that it is vulnerable to political interference to allow pet projects to be permitted despite scientific research that shows such projects pose potential adverse impact to fish.

Meanwhile a coalition of other business and industry organization, Stand for Alaska, contends that the initiative poses a threat to Alaska jobs and communities and the Alaska way of life. Major contributors to Stand for Alaska include BP Alaska, Teck Alaska and ConocoPhillips Alaska.

The Yes for Salmon ballot initiative would update Title 16 of Alaska Statutes to give the state’s Department of Fish and Game authority to enforce scientific standards during the permitting process for development round salmon streams and allow Alaskans to voice their perspectives during the process.

The initiative itself makes no reference to specific resource development projects but is aimed at protecting fish habitat from potential adverse environmental impact from development of oil and gas and mining projects, including the proposed Pebble mine within the Bristol Bay watershed region.

Small Amounts of Water Make a Big Difference for Endangered Salmon

A University of California San Diego study says even small amounts of running water could mean the difference between life and death for juvenile coho salmon in coastal California streams.

The study, published in early June in the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, shows that during dry periods less than a gallon of water per second was enough to keep pools interconnected, allowing young salmon to survive through the hot, dry summer months.

“The good news is that if we can get just a little bit of water back in these streams, we can make a really big difference,” said Marika Obedzinski, a California Sea Grant extension specialist. Obedzinski is the lead in a monitoring program for endangered coho salmon and steelhead in small streams of Sonoma County that flow into the Russian River.

Russian River coho salmon were listed as threatened in 1996, but despite efforts to improve habitat, the species hit crisis levels by the early 2000’s and became endangered in 2005 when scientists noted fewer than 10 fish returning to the Russian River annually to spawn. Local, state and federal agencies teamed up to start a conservation hatchery program to breed and release the fish. The Sea Grant monitoring program was set up to track the success of the hatchery releases and to better understand factors that were preventing recovery of the species. Researchers found that low streamflow in summer is one of the biggest blockers to coho recovery.

“After the hatchery fish are released, we see them migrating out to the ocean and coming back as adults to spawn,” Obedzinski said. “We even see their offspring in creeks in the early summer, but by late summer the creeks dry out, the young salmon die, and the next generation is not surviving.”

Water is a limited resource in central California, an area impacted by population growth, development and climate change. While intermittent streams may overflow their banks in wet winter months, they may dwindle to a trickle or dry up in sections during the summer.

The new study offers a clearer link between salmon survival and water flow rates in Russian River tributaries, which could be useful for resource agencies and organizations working on salmon recovery, and land owners who want to help restore endangered salmon populations.

House Oceans Caucus Urges More Understanding of Ocean Stressors

Co-chairs Suzanne Bonamici, D- Oregon and Don Young, R-Alaska of the House Oceans Committee say environmental stressors impacting oceans threaten the economy and the livelihood of millions of people.

These stressors, they said, include harmful algal blooms and hypoxia, marine debris, warming and more acidic ocean waters, overfishing and rising sea levels.

The recent World Oceans Day served as a reminder that regardless of where people live or their political affiliation, they must remain committed to protect, conserve, maintain and rebuild ocean resources.

Research emerging in Alaska indicates that ocean acidification could have devastating effects on commercially valuable red king crab and Tanner crab populations, they said. Across the country consumers, groceries and the restaurant industry will be affected by changes in ocean chemistry when stable supplies of seafood and shellfish are threatened.

Bonamici and Young said they support funding for the Sea Grant program and are advocating for programs to help rebuild commercial and recreational fisheries and recovery of Pacific wild salmon and steelhead stocks. They are also working on legislation to expand scientific research and monitoring to improve understanding of ocean acidification.

These efforts, they said, will help vulnerable communities and industries to understand, prepare for and, where possible, adapt to changing ocean conditions.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Second Annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo Kicks Off June 8

The second annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo begins June 8 in Naknek, Alaska, complete with a trade show, fashion show, auction, speed-hiring and an Alaska gubernatorial debate focused on rural issues, including the state’s fisheries.

The trade show, featuring 55 vendors, is designed for those offering products and services along the supply chain to be featured at a one-stop shop for the industry.

The vendor list includes Boats & Permits, Pacific Boat Brokers, Alaska General Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, Leader Creek Seafoods, Alaska Marine Lines, PenAir, NOMAR, Grundens, Kodiak Fish Co., Cummins, ZF Marine, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC) The BBEDC, the Wild Salmon Center, ASMI and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources are also scheduled for presentations.

The featured keynote speaker will be historian Katherine Ringsmuth, who teaches world, US and Alaska history at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her current work includes a project to capture the history and stories tied to the 128-year-old Cannery at Naknek. For more information on the project visit https://nncanneryproject.com

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) will be holding its member and board of directors meeting at Naknek during the fish expo, with a booth at the event on June 8. During its member meeting for Bristol Bay’s gillnet fleet, there will be presentations from Rising Tide Communications, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and Andy Wink of Wink Research & Consulting, who will present the June 2018 Bristol Bay Sockeye Market Report. The next day, there will be a BBRSDA sponsored buyers panel, where harvesters and others can hear directly from commercial seafood buyers who source, purchase, distribute and market Bristol Bay salmon in regional and national markets.

The two-day event is a fundraiser for Little Angels Childcare Academy, which offers early education and childcare to the economic and social benefit of this fisheries community.

More information is Bristol Bay Fish Expo is online at www.bristolbayfishexpo.com

Inshore Processing Contributes Millions to Economy

A new study by the McDowell Group concludes that the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) inshore processing sector packed a $1.56 billion punch into the Alaska economy in 2016.

Key findings of the study, prepared for Icicle Seafoods, Peter Pan Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, UniSea, Westward Seafoods and Alyeska Seafoods, include efforts of these processors that contributed millions of dollars to Alaska’s economy through several thousand jobs, the purchase of goods and services, payment of state and local taxes and investment in capital improvements.

Data sources for the study came from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Alaska Fisheries Information Network.

Researchers found that the BSAI inshore sector accounted for about 28 percent of Alaska’s total first wholesale volume of some 2.7 billion pounds and 26 percent of the total Alaska first wholesale value of nearly $4.2 billion.

Inshore processing accounted for a monthly average of 3,750 jobs in the BSAI region, with total annual wages of $194 million. The workforce included some 1,400 Alaskans who earned $48 million in wages and directly accounted for more than 40 percent of all local resident employment in the region. When including multiplier effects, BSAI inshore processing accounted for 2,627 Alaska resident jobs and $112 million in Alaska resident wages.

Shoreside processors in the BSAI spent $220 million in 2016, including shipping, fuel, construction, air transport and utilities. They also paid more than $32.7 million to state and local communities in the form of fisheries taxes, comprising 56 percent of all fish taxes paid in Alaska. Local fish taxes paid to BSAI communities represented 25 percent to 70 percent of operating revenue. Property and sales tax revenues are also important to these communities.

These inshore processors also made capital improvements from 2015 to 2017 totaling $175 million. Investments included expanding capacity to process and add value to Pacific cod, increased capacity for surimi production, dock improvements, increased freezer capacity, land purchases, and other projects.

Total first wholesale value of some 745 million pounds of seafood products processed by the BSAI inshore sector were valued at $1.1 billion, with Pollock products contributing 78 percent of the volume and 53 percent of the first wholesale value.

Pacific cod products and opilio/tanner crab products contributed 12 and five percent respectively in volume, with Pacific cod products bringing in 14 percent of first wholesale value. Low volume and high value opilio/tanner and king crab accounted for 16 and 11 percent respectively of total value.

The full report is available online at http://www.mcdowellgroup.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/mcdowell-group-final-bsai-inshore-processing-economic-impact-study-5.21.2018.pdf

Cantwell Offers Input on Proposed Pebble Mine

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, is calling for expansion of the latest public comment period to the proposed Pebble mine to include Washington state fishermen, shipbuilders, sportsmen, small businesses and other stakeholders.

Cantwell noted in a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers on May 31 that in addition to the 90-day public comment period for the scoping process, the Corps had only nine public scoping meetings, all in Alaska. “This expedited process is grossly insufficient and does not allow my constituents the opportunity to participate in the permitting process in person,” she said. “Washington fishermen, suppliers and businesses have an enormous interest in ensuring that Bristol Bay salmon continue to thrive for generations.”

They have built an economy around this one-of-a-kind sustainable fishery and they “deserve a seat at the table as the Army Corps considers the proposed Pebble mine,” said Cantwell. “The stakes are too high to leave out these important voices,” for a fishery that includes thousands of jobs in Washington state.

“In addition to commercial fisheries, private anglers take an estimated 37,000 fishing trips every year to Bristol Bay, generating $60 million in economic activity and supporting another 850 full and part time jobs.”

Cantwell said the proposed mine threatens to irreparably harm the Bristol Bay watershed, the 40-60 million salmon that return there every year, and the fishermen and industries that rely on these salmon.

A three-year study by the US Environmental Protection Agency released in 2014 found that the mine as proposed would, even during normal, safe mine operations, destroy 24 to 94 miles of pristine waterways and salmon habitat and contaminate an additional 48-62 miles of streams with toxic mine waste.

Bristol Bay Sockeye Market Report Offers Outlook on the 2018 Fishery

The spring edition of the Bristol Bay Sockeye Market Report predicts a commercial harvest of 27.6 million sockeye salmon, similar to harvests of each of the past three seasons. “Projected harvest in the Nushagak district are particularly large,” said Andy Wink of Wink Research & Consulting. The report was prepared for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

Wink noted that global sockeye supply is projected to increase by about seven percent this year, due to a larger run of Fraser River sockeyes in western Canada. Many Fraser River salmon who were subjected to the impact of the 2014 Mount Polley mine disaster will be returning this year as adults.

“The shift towards frozen and fresh products has intensified over the past two years,” Wink noted. “Despite a large harvest last season, canned sockeye production in the Bay was the lowest since 1998 and only three companies operated canning lines in 2017” he said.

Wink’s report also notes that currency fluctuations have been generally favorable for Bristol Bay salmon producers for the past year, with the US dollar index weakening by five percent.

Shortages in processing labor and a large run resulted in many fishermen being put on limits last year. With another large harvest expected, the number of processing workers will be key to determining seasonal performance for both fishermen and processors.

The report also mentions that Bristol Bay fishermen chilled 73 percent of their catch. Improved quality has brought increasing average prices and better sales performance.

The current market for Bristol Bay drifnet gillnet salmon permits is about $150,000 per permit. This is relatively high compared to the past 20 years. Average gross earnings per permit were outstanding last year and expected to be strong again this year.

The complete report is available online at https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4996590c5577f14c1b17862a1/files/4414dd9a-a535-45f5-8c4a-df54acc6deaa/2018_Spring_BBRSDA_Sockeye_Market_Report_Final_Color.pdf

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Pebble Project Losing Financial Footing

Efforts to finance a highly controversial mining project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region have hit another stumbling block, with a potential substantial financial backer pulling out of the deal.

News that Northern Dynasty Minerals was unable to reach an agreement with First Quantum Minerals Ltd. was cheered by opponents of the copper, gold and molybdenum mines slated for construction near the world’s sockeye salmon producing fishery, even while a spokesman for the project said he was sure they would secure the funds necessary to continue the permitting process.

An announcement from Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., on May 25, confirmed that the two companies were unable to reach an agreement on a proposed deal that would have given First Quantum Minerals Ltd. an option to earn a 50 percent interest in the Pebble mine in return for First Quantum’s investment of $150 million to fund permitting. First Quantum is a leading producer of copper, gold, nickel and zinc. Northern Dynasty, whose whole focus is advancing the Pebble project, is a subsidiary of Hunter Dickenson Inc. (HDI), a diversified, global mining group. The companies are based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Our project is well defined and we are going to continue communicating with Alaskans about why we believe in the opportunity it represents,” said Tom Collier, chief executive officer for the Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage, Alaska, a subsidiary of Northern Dynasty.

HDI declined any further comment.

Bloomberg News meanwhile reported that Northern Dynasty stock plummeted after the collapse of the deal that would have helped finance the project. Bloomberg also noted that earlier in May backlash against the mine disrupted First Quantum’s annual meeting in Toronto, Ontario, with mine opponents taking out a full-page ad in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper vowing to continue fighting the project.

Opponents of the mine had plenty to say though, even as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Anchorage continued to work with a third-party firm to produce a draft environmental impact statement for the project.

“This news could not have come at a more opportune time,” said Jason Metrokin, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Native Corp. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is again forecasting strong salmon runs for Bristol Bay this year.”

“This is the fourth major company that’s pulled out of Pebble because of the massive environmental risks, lack of economic feasibility and widespread local opposition,” said Robin Samuelsen, a lifelong Bristol Bay harvester and regional leader.

“The governor needs to call for a moratorium on mineral exploration in the watershed and just let people go fishing,” said Mark Niver of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. “We need a year where we don’t have this sword hanging over our head,” he said.

Copper River Openers Send Prices Soaring

By the third opener of the Copper River salmon fishery, the harvest was climbing, but nowhere near what the forecast anticipated, and market prices for those sockeyes and Chinooks remained high.

“We were expecting close to 100,000 sockeyes just for the third period, based on the forecast,” said Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologist in Cordova for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).

While cool ocean temperatures could be playing a role, making the run a little later than anticipated, biologists don’t know for certain why the preliminary catch numbers are so low. ADF&G preliminary catch estimates from the May 28 opener showed 1,166 deliveries, including 3,140 kings, 19,979 sockeyes and 2,657 chums, for a total of 7,330 kings, 25,745 reds and 3,029 chums, weighing an average of 16 pounds, 5 pounds and 7.3 pounds respectively.

The fishery began in drizzly rain on May 17, with 384 deliveries totaling a catch of only 2,800 kings and 1,900 reds. Prices at the dock soared to $15.50 and $10.50 a pound respectively, with processors offering an additional 50 cents for dock delivery.

“It was a good start for Chinooks and exceptionally low for sockeyes,” said Botz Preliminary data for the second 12-hour opener on May 21 showed a catch of 1,436 kings and 3,868 sockeyes, averaging at 16.6 pounds and 5.1 pounds respectively. Harvesters made 289 deliveries, as weather conditions declined, said ADF&G officials in Cordova, Alaska.

Pike Place Fish Market’s online prices for fresh Copper River salmon as of May 29 had dropped from $54.99 to $39.99 a pound for whole kings, from $74.99 to $54.99 a pound for king fillets, but still at $159.96 a pound for whole sockeyes and $49.99 a pound for sockeye fillets.

Online marketer FishEx in Anchorage was offering Copper River king fillet portions for $79.95 a pound and Copper River sockeye portions for $46.95 a pound, while 10th and M Seafoods, a top seafood retailer in Anchorage, posted $65.95 a pound for Copper River king fillets and was offering king fillets for $58.95 a pound and sockeye fillets at $45.95 a pound.

Fred Meyer stores in the Anchorage area were offering king salmon fillets for $49.99 a pound and were out of reds, while Carrs-Safeway had king fillets for $45.99 a pound and sockeye fillets for $32.95 a pound.

NPAFC Plans for International Year of the Salmon

Planning is underway for the 2019 International Year of the Salmon. In the coming months, core partners from Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States will be working with the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) to plan and announce details of a North Pacific opening event in Vancouver, BC in October of 2018, as well as a Gulf of Alaska signature project scheduled for March 2019 and detailed research plans. Research and outreach projects and events started in 2018 will continue through 2022.

Organizations and individuals concerned with salmon and interested in participating in this initiative are encouraged to contact the NPAFC.

The announcement came in the wake of the May 21-25 NPAFC 26th annual meeting in Khabarovsk, Russia. The organization also introduced its incoming two-year term officers President Suam Kim, Korea; Vice President James Balsiger, USA; and three committee chairpersons: Mike Carlson, Canada; Masa-aki Fukuwaka, Japan, and Vladimir Belyaev, Russia.

Balsiger is the administrator for NOAA Fisheries Alaska regional office, based in Juneau, Alaska. NPAFC’s current 2016-2020 science plan supports the organization’s primary objective of promoting conservation of anadromous populations of Pacific salmon and steelhead trout within the convention area and is integrated with the International Year of the Salmon initiative.

To review the progress of research and to promote International Year of the Salmon activities and outreach in member countries, a workshop is planned on “Salmon Ocean Ecology in a Changing Climate,” in Portland, Oregon on May 18-20, 2019, following the 27th annual meeting of NPAFC.

Workshop objectives include improving knowledge of the migration, distribution, growth and survival of salmon and their environment in the ocean and increasing understanding of the causes of variations in salmon production. The focus will also be on anticipating future changes in distribution and abundance of salmon and their marine ecosystems, as well as promoting International Year of the Salmon activities and outreach in salmon homing countries.

Salmon research cruise plans for the current year include surveys in the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea, the southern Chukchi Sea, the northwestern and central North Pacific, and the southern Sea of Okhotsk.

NPAFC’s aim is that improved understanding of mechanisms that regulate the distribution and abundance of salmon will promote the conservation of anadromous populations, allow for better forecasts of salmon production trends in the future, and enhance sustainable fisheries management, food security and economic security. NPAFC officials said that with increasingly variable aquatic conditions, a more responsive and efficient approach to understanding and responding to changes is needed.

New Book Explores Natural Resources of Bristol Bay

A new natural resources book on Bristol Bay, supported by the Bristol Bay Partnership, explores in depth the diversity of the region’s ecosystem and its role as habitat for the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon.

“Bristol Bay Alaska: Natural Resources of the Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems,” edited by fisheries biologist Carol Ann Woody, compiles the work of numerous scientists and researchers with years of boots on experience in the Bristol Bay watershed, and their concerns over how climate change, ocean acidification and mineral development threaten the diversity of this ecosystem.

Chapters on every facet of the ecosystem, from fish and marine mammals to moose, wolves, caribou and seabirds, and the potential for renewable energy resources call on everyone to do their part to ensure a viable economic and social future for commercial fisheries, sport anglers and hunters, and subsistence hunters and fish harvesters who reside in the region.

The book draws on the research of several dozen scientists who explain the importance of how each piece of the Bristol Bay ecosystem, like parts of a Swiss clock, contribute to the overall diversity that returns millions of salmon back to the bay every year.

The abundance of wild salmon and other wild foods allows for survival of traditional culture, diverse wildlife and vegetation, and a robust fisheries economy, all contributing the sustainability of the others.

“As an ecosystem, the currently healthy habitat of the bay supports the interactions between natural processes and the presence and abundance of all five species of Pacific salmon,” notes the chapter on essential fish habitat and estuarine processes of Bristol Bay.

The last section of the book is devoted to the non-biological resources of Bristol Bay, including the oil and gas potential of the North Aleutian Basin (Bristol Bay), copper, gold and other mineral resources within the watershed, and renewable energy resources: river hydro, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and tidal.

Woody has skillfully edited the work of the contributing scientists and researchers to produce a very readable book on how year-round resident people and critters, and those migrating there on an annual basis have sustained the region for generations.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Copper River Opener Sends Prices Soaring

Gillnetters out in drizzly rain for the celebrated start of the Copper River salmon fishery May 17 came home with a catch of some 2,800 kings and 1,900 reds, sending prices at the dock soaring.

Harvesters making 384 deliveries netted $15.50 and $10.50 a pound respectively, with processors offering an additional 50 cents for dock delivery.

“It was a good start for Chinooks, and exceptionally low for sockeyes,” said Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologists in Cordova for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Preliminary data for the second 12-hour opener on May 21 showed a catch of 1,436 kings and 3,868 sockeyes, averaging at 16.6 pounds and 5.1 pounds respectively. Harvesters made 289 deliveries, as weather conditions declined, said ADF&G officials in Cordova, Alaska.

Pike Place Fish Market’s online prices for fresh Copper River salmon as of May 22 were $54.99 a pound for whole kings, $74.99 a pound for king fillets, $159.96 a pound for whole sockeyes and $49.99 a pound for sockeye fillets.

Online marketer FishEx in Anchorage was offering Copper River king fillet portions for $79.95 a pound and Copper River sockeye portions for $46.95 a pound, which 10th and M Seafoods, also in Anchorage, posted $65.95 a pound for Copper River king fillets.

The arrival of the first Copper River fish meanwhile was heralded with the red carpet treatment and gourmet chefs cook-off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and with a salmon season kick-off party in Anchorage hosted by Copper River Seafoods.

Some 300 tickets at $15 apiece for the family friendly Anchorage event sold out quickly, and guests indulged in gourmet salmon offerings prepared by chefs from several upscale restaurants, while listening to live music and waiting to see if they won door prizes, which included fillets from a chilled 30-plus pound whole king salmon on display in a bed of chilled ice.

15 Communities Share in NSEDC’s Fisheries Bounty

Fifteen communities in Alaska’s Norton Sound area are getting a mid-year financial boost earned from the bounty of Bering Sea fisheries.

Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. is giving each of the 15 communities $133,333 as a mid-year share of their profits from groundfish and crab fishery harvests.

NSEDC is one of six Western Alaska Community Development quota groups allocated a percentage of all Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands quotas for groundfish, prohibited species, halibut and crab, to provide social and economic benefits for residents of Western Alaska.

Siu Alaska Corp., NSEDC’s wholly owned for-profit subsidiary, issued a $2 million dividend to NSEDC, to allow for the dividend.

“NSEDC’s normal community benefit share distribution comes at the end of the year, but we have been hearing from many of our communities that they are facing significant needs now,” said Dan Harrelson, board chairman. “Whether it’s for aging critical infrastructure, like water, sewer and power; support for our youth and elders; or search and rescue equipment; our communities utilize this funding for items that are vital to the health and well-being of our residents.”

NSEDC traditionally issues an annual community benefit share at its quarterly meeting in November, and for the past five years that share has been $150,000 per community. This is the second time that NSEDC has issued an additional, mid-year community benefit share, the first one being in 2012.

With this latest distribution, NSEDC has allocated to member communities a total of $30.2 million. The NSEDC board also approved 18 community level grants for a total of $668,000 and two regional grants totaling $92,000. In early May the board awarded $20,000 to fund an intensive course for up to 10 Head Start teachers to earn early childhood education credits.

The board additionally voted for a $10,000 increase in funding for Norton Sound commercial fishermen through its revolving loan fund, raising the loan cap to $35,000. The fund is designed to help resident commercial harvesters purchase fishing equipment. Borrowers are required to put 10 percent down and pay back the loans within seven years.

Trollers Want Alaska to Change Approach to Pacific Salmon Treaty Negotiations

Alaska Trollers Association President Steve Merritt is asking the state of Alaska to change its approach in negotiations over the Pacific Salmon Treaty or face the loss of a very valuable resource.

The troll fishery ranks among the largest commercial fisheries in Alaska and most of its permit holders live in Southeast Alaska, playing a vital part in the region’s economy and social well-being. In fact about one in 35 people living in Southeast Alaska works on a troll vessel, according to the ATA.

Merritt voiced his concerns on May 22, in the wake of a king salmon symposium in Sitka a day earlier, where ATA learned they would be giving up more of their harvest share of treaty king salmon as a result of Pacific Salmon Treaty negotiations. “Alaska has not one time, since the treaty’s implementation, went into these negotiations and returned without a loss to their harvest share,” Merritt said.

The troll fleet is being managed very conservatively because of poor returns of kings to the rivers of Southeast Alaska. The Alaska Board of Fisheries last January implemented stock of concern plans that made major cuts to troll winter and spring fisheries. Those were meaningful conservation measures and trollers understood their importance to the health of their fishery, he said.

With abundance of kings in general at low levels for several other stocks on the Northwest coast, Alaska has smaller king quotas under the current Pacific Salmon Treaty agreement, Merritt said.

And Alaska’s Deputy Commissioner of Fish and Game, Charles Swanton, has levied an additional 10 percent cut on Alaska’s Chinook fisheries for 2018 for conservation of Trans-Boundary River and Canadian stocks as well. That’s a cut that the ATA strongly disputes as having any meaningful conservation value and believes is a misinterpretation of the Standardized Fishing Regime portion of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, Merritt said.

Researcher Studies Rising Abundance of Pink Salmon in North Pacific Ocean

Research by University of Alaska Fairbanks professor emeritus Alan Springer has found a correlation between increased abundance of pink salmon in the North Pacific Ocean and declining abundance at breeding sites of another species in Australia.

Springer’s research, published in May in Journal, proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that pink salmon in the North Pacific Ocean have flourished since the 1970s, with growth in wild populations augmented by rising hatchery production. As their abundance has grown so has evidence that they are having effects on other species and on ocean ecosystems.

Springer’s study showed that in alternating years of high abundance, they can initiate pelagic trophic cascades in the northern North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea and depress the availability of common prey resources of other salmon, resident seabirds and other pelagic species.

Spring and other authors of the study found a correlation between the increasing abundance of pink salmon and declining abundance and productivity at breeding sites in southeastern Australia of short-tailed shearwaters, a bird that migrates from nesting grounds in the South Pacific Ocean to wintering grounds in the North Pacific Ocean.

The researchers said they can view the biennial pulses of pink salmon as a large, replicated, natural experiment that offers opportunities to better learn how these ecosystems function. By exploring trophic interaction chains driven by pink salmon, they said they may achieve a deeper conservation conscientiousness for northern open oceans.

FN Online Advertising