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.

FN Online Advertising