Wednesday, June 12, 2019

NPFMC Jumps Into Pebble Mine Discussion, State Objects

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is weighing into the debate over the proposed Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska, prompting objections from the state of Alaska.

During its meeting in Sitka this past week the council reviewed a letter it plans to send to the US Army Corps of Engineers, noting that the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act calls for federal agencies to consider the potential impacts of developments on essential fish habitat, and to consult with NOAA Fisheries to identify actions to avoid or mitigate such impacts.

The council’s letter says that the council understands that the USACE is working with NOAA Fisheries to schedule the assessment of potential impacts to essential fish habitat, including cumulative impacts. The letter asks that the Corps schedule the assessment to coincide with a NPFMC meeting, and that the council’s December 2019 meeting would be an opportune time for the council to review and comment on that assessment.

Public radio journalist Robert Woolsey, news director of KCAW in Sitka, covered that session of the council meeting on June 5 and reported that Deputy Commissioner of Fish and Game Rachel Baker entered the state’s formal opposition to the letter. Baker argued that comments in the council’s letter went “beyond the scope of the council’s role and responsibilities.” The state, said Baker, “recommends the council maintain focus on priority management issues for fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska.”

Wooley also noted that some harvesters attending the meeting used the opportunity of public testimony to support the council’s decision to comment on the proposed mine. Veteran Bering Sea crabber Cheston Clark said in testimony that he is concerned about the proposed mine, particularly the unknown impact “if – or more likely when – a catastrophic mine tailing dam fails.”

Molly Blakey, a partner with her husband Ben in Northline Seafoods in Sitka, said she read the council’s draft letter and hopes it is sent. “Our livelihood, she told the council, “is processing Bristol Bay sockeye salmon.”

The council took no immediate action on the letter.

New Vessel Registration Issues Spark Confusion

With the commercial salmon season already under way in Alaska many vessel owners are suddenly finding out about a new law effective on January 1, 2019 requiring them to register their vessels with the state Department of Motor vehicles. Under Senate Bill 92, the Derelict Vessel Act, passed by the Alaska Legislature in 2018, fishing vessels are required to comply with the law even if they are documented vessels, for a $24 fee good for three years.

According to an email notice received by members of the Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance, a non-profit multi-gear commercial fishing organization, the law applies to all boats not specifically exempted, including documented boats, barges, sport fishing guide boats and fishing tenders operated more than 90 consecutive days in Alaska.

The alert of the requirement for vessel registration came from Frances Leach, executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska, who said UFA has been tracking this bill and was told the intent was not to create more hurdles or fees for commercial fishermen.

“However, now that the bill is law, there seems to be several interpretations of this law and Department of Motor Vehicles, Alaska State Troopers and the Department of Administration are not on the same page regarding interpretation and enforcement,” Leach told UFA members. “Making matters worse, there was little to no public notice that vessels would be required to register with the DMV.”

Leach said she spoke with the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators who initiated the bill, and they agree that Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission registration would be sufficient and fulfill their needs, but, she added, “we still need to get everyone on the same page.”

While registration is required, Leach said that Alaska Wildlife Troopers Major Bernard Chastain said his department’s main objective this year will be to educate first and enforce second.

Leach said she also spoke with Alaska state Sen. Peter Micchiche, R-Soldotna, who told her he is hopeful legislation can be introduced next year to change the language in the law to include exemption for vessels registered through the CFEC.

Woodrow Named as ASMI’s New Executive Director

Jeremy Woodrow has taken the helm of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute as the new executive director of the public-private marketing arm for Alaska’s seafood industry.

The appointment of Woodrow, who has for months served as interim executive director and communications director, comes as ASMI embarks on an aggressive effort, aided by federal funding, to increase its presence in Southeast Asia markets and also seeks potential partners in reprocessing there.

“The ASMI board is proud to have a life-long Alaskan with close ties to Alaska’s fishing industry lead Alaska seafood’s global marketing efforts,” said Jack Schultheis, chairman of the ASMI board. “The Alaska seafood brand is as strong as ever and we are confident that Jeremy’s leadership will advance the direction and mission of the agency.”

ASMI has been successful in recent years in getting some $4.5 million annually from the US Department of Agriculture, and now, with the tariff battle heated up between the US and China, federal relief funds have been made available to the agricultural industries, including fisheries, to market seafood into overseas markets impacted by tariff issues.

To that end, ASMI has been allocated $5.5 million through the US Department of Agriculture’s agricultural trade promotion, over the next three years, Woodrow said.

The trade conflict with China and the US has exposed Alaska’s dependence on China markets and we need to increase our market presence in the world, he said. ASMI is working with Agrisource, in Bangkok, Thailand, a marketing representative for Southeast Asia, to find new markets and potential reprocessing options, he said.

ASMI is also expanding efforts for overseas marketing in South America, and its marketing representative in Brazil will now be looking for potential new markets and reprocessing options all over South America.

With this expanded effort, ASMI is also aware that labor standards have become a larger issue for fishing organizations, Woodrow said. In fact the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation has produced documents to show that on fishing vessels in Alaska crew are treated fairly.

“We have tackled sustainability and the next issue is human responsibility,” Woodrow said. “We will only engage with partners who can show they can meet global standards (for labor),” he said. “Our (overseas) representatives has worked with U.S. customers for over 30 years. “They are familiar with needing to meet the needs of U.S. customers. It is all part of that chain of custody, that we are upholding the moral and business obligations of customers,” he said. Customers now are more shopping with their ethos in addition to their wallet. It helps because Alaska seafood has a great story to tell and we have better labor practices than some other places in the world,” he said.

ALFA to be Honored With Conservation Award

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association is the 2019 recipient of the Alaska Conservation Foundation’s Lowell Thomas Jr. award for outstanding achievements by an organization furthering resource conservation.

The award recognizes ALFA for its fisheries conservation and management and for being an effective voice for sustainable, community-based fisheries at the national level. ALFA’s Fishery Conservation Network engages fishermen and scientists in collaborative research and marine stewardship, combining the problem-solving genius of fishermen with the rigors of science, the conservation foundation said in announcing the award on June 11.

The foundation also praised ALFA for amplifying the voice of small-scale fishermen to promote resource stewardship and growing international awareness of the role community-based fishermen play in durable triple-bottom line solutions to complex challenges. ALFA also is engaged in efforts including the Young Fishermen’s Initiative, educational workshops, a deckhand apprentice program, and through a partnership with the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, an innovative loan program. The award is named for the late Lowell Thomas Jr., an Alaska legislator and former lieutenant governor, and world renowned filmmaker who owned and operated an Alaska bush flying service that offered tours of Denali National Park.

The award is to be presented on October 3rd in ceremonies at the Anchorage Museum.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Copper River Sixth Opener Comes in Strong

Preliminary harvest figures for the sixth opener on Alaska’s Copper River salmon fishery were still being calculated this morning, while fishermen were calling the catch “a very welcome relief for the fleet”.

“It appears to be a larger run than predicted,” said gillnet harvester John Renner of Cordova, Alaska, who estimated the weight of some sockeyes at 10 pounds. “The fish are also large and healthy. They are spread out across the flats offshore and onshore,” he said.

According to Renner, sockeyes were filling most nets, while the Chinook salmon run appeared moderate.

While he finally saved a sockeye to taste, Renner hasn’t had a bite of a king yet. “The kings are just worth too much money,” said the veteran harvester who toughed it out last year when the commercial fishery on the Copper River ended after three periods. “With the tight season last year, every fish is appreciated,” he said. “We needed a little shot in the arm, and this is an opportunity to pay off some bills.”

The weather was cooperating too. Up until this last opener the weather had been quite crappy. “Last period it was very benign. Very nice,” he commented.

While retail prices in Anchorage shops have remained relatively steady for Copper River salmon – while dropping by several dollars a pound at Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market—processors have lowered their prices to harvesters. Renner said sixth opener prices were $3 a pound for reds and $7 a pound for kings, down considerably from first opener prices on May 16 of $14 a pound for sockeyes and $18 a pound for kings.

Anchorage area retail prices for Copper River sockeye fillets as of June 4 ranged from $13.99 a pound at Costco stores, down a dollar from the previous week, to $41.99 a pound at New Sagaya’s fish counter. Signs at Fred Meyer supermarkets in Anchorage had those sockeye fillets at $16.99 a pound, a drop from the week’s regular price of $39.99 a pound.

Crab Tagging Project Set for Bristol Bay Red King Crab

NOAA Fisheries is teaming up with the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation to track the movement of adult male red king crabs in Bristol Bay using an unmanned surface drone made by Saildrone, Inc.

NOAA researchers hope their findings will provide information crucial to keeping red king crab sustainable as climate changes. The research will focus on finding out what habitats are essential for Bristol Bay red king crab in different seasons and whether current protected areas are effective.

The federal fisheries scientists planned to work with harvesters in June to tag crabs with acoustic devices that transmit an identification number and a bottom temperature. Tagging is timed right after the NOAA Fisheries summer survey, so researchers will be able to target the areas where crabs are most abundant.

The research will also look at temperature information transmitted by each tag to determine how it influences crab movement. Researchers will also compare crab locations with sediment maps to identify characteristics of essential habitat.

The plan is to deploy a saildrone equipped with an acoustic receiver in October 2019 and in April 2020 to relocate the tagged crabs.

“So little is known about where crabs are and how they move,” said Scott Goodman, executive director of Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation (BSFRF) and president of Natural Resources Consultants, Inc. “We have only snapshots from summer surveys. This research will fill in the life history gaps to better inform the management of red king crab as both target and bycatch.”

“Managers need to understand where crabs go in different seasons, and what habitats are essential, to set effective rules for fishing,” said Leah Zacher, the NOAA Fisheries scientist leading the project. “Everyone benefits from increasing our knowledge of crab distributions.”

“We know where crabs are in the summer from annual NOAA Fisheries surveys, but there is little information for the rest of the year,” Zacher added. “We will relocate the crabs in the fall to understand how crabs move onto the fishing grounds, and in the spring to determine their locations when they are vulnerable to being caught as bycatch in trawl fisheries.The red king crab savings area is closed to trawling to provide a protected habitat, but the area was initially set based on limited information, and managers need to know if and when red king crabs are moving through and using those areas to know if they are effective.”

The Alaska Fisheries Science Center planned to begin posting field reports in June on the AFSC Science Blog https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/news-and-announcements/science-blog?title=&field_species_vocab_target_id=&field_region_vocab_target_id%5B1000001106%5D=1000001106&sort_by=created as researchers begin tagging crabs.

Since 2005, the BSFRF has participated and led cooperative research with industry, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, to improve the science used in Bering Sea crab fisheries management. More than 95 percent of BSFRF funding comes from private industry supplemented occasionally with grants. The BSFRF is funding the saildrone used to track the tagged crab for this project.

Southeast Asia Marketing Program Announced by ASMI

A dedicated Southeast Asia marketing program for wild Alaska seafood, fueled by a supplemental $5.5 million grant over the next three years, was announced on June 3 by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI).

The grant was awarded to ASMI through the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service’s Agricultural Trade Promotion program and designed to help ease adverse effects of tariff and non-tariff barriers on domestic agricultural exporters.

“The funds make a year-round marketing program in Southeast Asia a possibility,” ASMI officials said. ASMI previously promoted wild Alaska seafood in the region on a project only basis.

Grant funds will enhance existing programs for key markets in Japan, China, Europe and South America. The Southeast Asia program itself will focus on Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. The initial emphasis will be on building trade relationships and providing technical support and education across the food service, retail and reprocessing sectors.

AgriSource International Ltd., with offices in Bangkok and representatives throughout the region, was selected to serve as the overseas marketing representative for the program.

ASMI officials said the expansion into Southeast Asia was prompted by strong interest from the Alaska seafood industry.

“Southeast Asia has great potential for Alaska seafood because of the fewer import barriers than other emerging markets,” said Ron Risher, international sales manager for Icicle Seafoods. “The domestic markets in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia have potential for growth in food service and e-commerce. Perhaps the greatest opportunity is in working with local seafood secondary processors for Alaska salmon and whitefish and providing quality handling education for distribution to restaurants and retailers,” he added.

ASMI is a public-private partnership of the state of Alaska and the Alaska seafood industry whose aim is to foster economic development of this renewable natural resource.

Major Projects Planned for Historic NN Cannery

Historians, curators, artists and film producers will be in the Bristol Bay watershed community of South Naknek, Alaska, in late July working on projects highlighting the history of the 129-year-old NN Cannery, including a film and Mug Up exhibition at the Alaska State Museum.

The film will highlight the story of South Naknek resident workers who were caretakers of the cannery.

“These workers were descendants of Katmai, who migrated downriver and established South Naknek after the Novarupta volcano destroyed Savonoski village and created the Valley of 10,000 Smokes in 1912,” said project director Kathrine Ringsmuth.

The settlement at New Savonoski was brief, however, as the Spanish flu pandemic and red salmon crash of 1919 drove Native residents to seek work at the NN Cannery.

Native people became integral contributors to and caretakers of the cannery operation. Historically, they supplied salmon to the cannery, constituted the spring/fall crew that readied and winterized the operation, and served as winter watchmen who protected the collective structures and stored boats throughout the offseason.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to interview people with a deep knowledge of Bristol Bay, South Naknek and the NN Cannery,” Ringsmuth said. “The film will share the local perspective of a global industry and fill a big gap in the historic record.”

The NN Cannery History Project is a grassroots public history endeavor that aims to share often forgotten stories of multitudes of people who canned salmon in Alaska and created an ethnically diverse, economically vital cannery culture. It is a group collaboration to preserve, collect and share stories of the diverse, unsung cannery workers whose activities are embedded in the industrial landscape within the South Naknek cannery. Support for the film project comes from a generous grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum.

In association with the NN Cannery history project, the team plans a photo exhibition, curated by Tim Troll, director of the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Spanish influenza epidemic in Bristol Bay. The exhibit is a remembrance of those who died in the epidemic, those who responded, and the children who survived. Support for that exhibit comes from a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust.

Project leaders also commissioned Aleut carver Andrew Abyo, who was raised in Bristol Bay, to build a scale model of the NN Cannery, including 51 historical buildings, to serve as the centerpiece of the Mug Up exhibition.

More information about the history project is online at https://www.facebook.com/NNCannery/ or NNCanneryProject.com

More information about the Bristol Bay Land Trust and its mission to preserve and protect salmon and wildlife habitat of the greater Bristol Bay can be found at http://www.bristolbaylandtrust.org/misson/

NSF Seafood Services Program Relocates to Port of Everett

NSF International, a global public health and safety entity, has relocated its seafood services program from Seattle to the Port of Everett, in Everett, Wash., to better service both the US and Canadian seafood industries.

Everett lies some 30 miles north of Seattle and being on the north side of that urban hub allows the company more convenient access to both the Seattle market and Canadian seafood businesses just across the international border, claims Tom White, global manager for certification and audits for NSF International’s seafood services.

The move to Everett also marks a new collaboration with the Washington State University/University of Idaho Center for Advanced Food Technology. Company officials said NSF International’s seafood experts would work closely with the educational program and collaborate on workshops and training.

The larger facility will allow the company to expand its seafood industry education and training space to support as many as 60 people in a class.

“The company plans to launch a new education program called ‘Fish School’ to help grocers, restaurants and seafood distributors provide a higher level of expertise and knowledge to their seafood buyers, fishmongers or seafood inspectors,” White said. “Eventually, there will be a similar program for consumers who want to become smarter seafood shoppers.”

Terrie Battuello, chief of business development at the Port of Everett, said the port is excited to welcome NSF International’s seafood services headquarters.

The company, founded in 1944 as the National Sanitation Foundation, changed its name to NSF International in 1990 as its services expanded beyond sanitation and into global markets.

In addition to its new Port of Everett location, the company provides seafood services from officers and laboratories in Dutch Harbor, Alaska; Elizabeth, N.J.; Santiago, Chile; San Miguel, Peru; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Shanghai, China; Busan, South Korea; Delhi, India; Bangkok, Thailand, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Warming Climate, Competition Affect Pacific Salmon

Fisheries scientists at the University of Washington this week published their findings on the effects of warming climate and competition on Pacific salmon in the research publication Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The study by Timothy Cline, Jan Ohlberger and Daniel Schindler of UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences found that species with complex life cycles, including those migrating between different habitats to complete their life cycles, may be particularly sensitive to global change. This is because each life cycle stage is influenced by a unique set of natural and anthropogenic stressors, the report said. The research involved using of multivariate time-series models to quantify changes in the prevalence of different life-history strategies of sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay, Alaska, over the past half century looking specifically at how they partition their lives between freshwater habitats and the ocean. During their life cycle, distinct life stages differ in their sensitivity to individual stressors, particularly temperature, the report noted. And effects of environmental change experienced by a population in one habitat affect their ecology in other life stages through developmental links in the process of completing their life cycle.

Researchers contend that climate warming has decreased the time spent by salmon in their natal freshwater habitat, as climate-enhanced growth opportunities have enabled earlier migration to the ocean. They also concluded that migration from freshwater at a younger age and increasing competition from wild and hatchery-released salmon, have tended to delay maturation toward spending an additional year feeding in the ocean.

According to the report, these stressors combine to reduce the size-at-age of fish vulnerable to commercial fisheries and have increasingly favored a single-age class, potentially affecting the age class complexity that stabilizes this resource.

New Canine Treats Boast Alaska Fish Oil/CBD Isolate

Wild Alaska fish oils, known for their nutritional value, are turning up in an increasing number of pet treats, including the new Alaska Ruff canine treats, a product line from Wasilla, Alaska, that includes cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound from the cannabis plant.

Entrepreneurs Kayla Thomas and Sara Buie introduced their four Alaska Ruff canine treats, with recommended dosage on the packaging, at Alaska outdoor markets in Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley earlier this spring. The products are also available online at www.alaskaruff.com.

Their Alaskan Fish Oil + Peanut Butter, Alaskan Fish Oil + Hemp Seed Hearts, Carrot-Peanut Butter and Apple-Peanut Butter flavors also contain spent barley, plus a CBD isolate to provide relief for dogs dealing with neuropathic pain, anxiety and hyperkinesis. CBD isolate is crystalline powder that contains 99 percent pure CBD, with all other plant matter removed.

The only preservative is rosemary, a natural ingredient that dogs love the flavor of, noted Thomas, who created the recipes labels for the products, with help from an Oregon friend who also manufactures dog food.

The two women, good friends and dog lovers, had discussed going into business together and came up with the idea of dog treats, which they currently produce at home, but they are already looking into commercial kitchen options for expansion. “We wanted to make a product we would give to our own dogs,” said Buie, who has a degree in business management and accounting, while Thomas’ forte is quality control assessments.

“A lot of customers have told us ‘we just want something from Alaska’,” Thomas said. “We are pretty determined women. We are paying attention and doing the research.” A lot of customers are more drawn to the CBD infusion and minimal number of ingredients too, Buie said. The Alaskan Fish Oil + Peanut Butter treats, for example, include spent barley, oat flour, pure Alaskan fish oil, peanut powder, local co-op eggs, whole ground flaxseed meal, ground rosemary and CBD isolate. Spent barley offers fiber, proteins, amino acids and minerals.

While the CBD isolate is recommended for relief from neuropathic pain, anxiety and hyperkinesis, the product label also warns that the product is not intended to treat any disease.

As they expand their business through the first year of production, Thomas and Buie are also having their canine treats tested by a licensed food inspection laboratory in the Matanuska Valley. The lab uses a mass spectrometer–a machine that produces charged particles from the substances being analyzed and records the relative abundance of each particle type. This is a way to check for any impurities and inform the producers of the percentage of every ingredient in the product.

Chemical Signatures Tell Critical Story About Habitat

A new study by University of Washington fisheries researchers documents how chemical signatures imprinted inside the ears of fish show that two of Alaska’s most productive salmon populations and the fisheries they support depend on the entire watershed.

The study notes that sockeye and Chinook salmon born in Nushagak River in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, and its network of streams and lakes use the whole basin as young fish to search for the best places for prey, shelter and safety from predators. From birth until these young fish migrate to the ocean a year later is a critical period for them to eat and grow.

The study by lead author Sean Brennan, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, notes that different parts of the Bristol Bay watershed are hot spots for salmon production and growth, and these favorable locations change annually, depending on how climate conditions interact with local landscape features.

The study, published in the May 24 edition of Science, analyzed the tiny ear stones, known as otolith, that form in the fish.

“Habitat conditions aren’t static, and optimal places shift around,” Brennan said. “If you want to stabilize fish production over the years, the only strategy is to keep all of the options on the table.”

“The overall system is more than just the sum of its parts, and small pieces of habitat can be disproportionately important,” said Daniel Schindler, a UW fisheries professor and senior author of this study. “The arrows point to the need to protect or restore at the entire basin scale if we want rivers to continue to function as they should in nature.”
Release of the study coincides with renewed efforts of Canadian miners to get permits for development of the proposed Pebble mine, to extract copper and gold from near the headwaters of the Nushagak River. The deadline for public comment on the draft environmental impact statement was recently extended to July 1, 2019 by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

As part of the study, researchers reconstructed the likely geographic locations of nearly 1,400 adult salmon, from their birth in a Nushagak stream until their migration to the ocean. By looking at the otolith of each fish, they could tell where the fish lived by matching the chemical signatures imprinted on each growth ring of the otolith with the chemical signatures of the water where they swam.

“Results like those we’re presenting in this paper hopefully will get people to think about what they stand to lose by starting to develop and eliminate habitat in places like the Nushagak River,” Schindler said, “The Pebble mine environmental impact statement, which is supposed to be a mature, state of the science assessment of risks, really does a poor job of assessing risks of this specific project.”

Copper River Salmon Catch Tops 180,000 Fish

The Copper River salmon fishery in Alaska is so far coming in as forecasted, with upwards of 180,000 Chinook, sockeye and chum salmon delivered to processors in Cordova since the first opener. Retail prices are holding fairly firm.

Preliminary catch figures for the fourth opener on May 25 were still being compiled by Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) officials, but as of early today that count stood at 180,088 fish, accounting for 168,336 red, 7,041 Chinook, 4,710 chum and a single humpy.

The first opener on May 16 brought in a total of 22,966 fish, the second accounted for 56,803 salmon and the third 66,919. As of late Tuesday, May 28, fish tickets added up to 33,400 fish, but ADF&G gillnet fishery manager Jeremy Botz said that was just a partial count.

Harvesters made 473 deliveries to processors in the first period, 483 in the second and 569 in the third.

Copper River kings and sockeyes were starting to show up as seafood entrees in more fine dining restaurants, like Jens, in Anchorage, Alaska, where a fresh Copper River king salmon grilled and served with Romesco sauce and roasted corn salsa was offered for $50.

For those preferring to prepare their own seafood at home, the best deal in Anchorage this week was fresh Copper River sockeye fillets for $13.99 a pound at Costco stores, and shoppers were snapping them up quickly.

10th & M Seafoods had Copper River sockeye fillets for $21.95 a pound and king fillets for $59.95 a pound. New Sagaya, the other top seafood shop in that city, was offering five pounds of Copper River red fillets for $209.95, or $41.99 a pound. Online Anchorage retailer FishEx had sockeye portions for $46.95 a pound and king portions for $86.95 a pound.

In Seattle, Pike Place Fish Market had dropped prices on whole Copper River kings to $39.95 a pound and king fillets for $49.99 a pound, while Copper River sockeyes were $99.95 per fish and $29.99 a pound for fillets.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Copper River Salmon Make their Seasonal Debut

Copper River sockeye and Chinook salmon are back in seafood shops and upscale restaurants from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle, Wash., and beyond. The 12-hour season opener on May 16 brought in an estimated 20,534 red and 2,309 king salmon, some of which were being served up for dinner in Anchorage even before the first period closed that evening.

Skip Winfree of 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage arranged for a helicopter to pluck a brailer of wild salmon from a fishing vessel in the Copper River several hours into the opener, and deliver the fish to Cordova’s airport to be flown into Anchorage, where it was rushed to four upscale restaurants.

“We were tired of Seattle getting all the first fish,” said Winfree, who partnered for a third year in a row with 60° North Seafoods to get fresh wild salmon to Anchorage on the day of the first opener. Some first night diners paid approximately $65 a plate for the Copper River sockeye entrée. Six days later fresh Copper River sockeye entrées were being offered at $38.95 and fresh Copper River king fillets for $48.95 at another popular restaurant.

Meanwhile in Seattle, Alaska Air Cargo delivered some 18,000 pounds of fresh Copper River salmon on the morning of May 17 on board the Alaska Airlines Salmon-Thirty-Salmon, a jet painted to look like a gigantic king salmon. Later in the day a second jet brought another 50,000 pounds of fresh kings and sockeyes for distribution to grocers and restaurants nationwide.

Pike Place Fish Market offered whole Copper River kings for $44.99 a pound and fillets for $59.99 a pound, as well as whole Copper River sockeyes for $199.95 per fish.

The second opener, on Monday, May 20, brought the harvest to a total of 73,766 sockeyes weighing in at 416,259 pounds, 4,064 kings for a total of 73,559 pounds, and 1,765 chum salmon totaling 11,463 pounds. Kings came in at an average of 18.7 pounds for the first period and 17.4 pounds on the second round, while sockeyes averaged 5.5 pounds and 5.7 pounds respectively for those same periods, and chums were at 6.5 pounds on average, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists.

Superior Court Dismisses Pebble-Backed Lawsuit

Alaska Superior Court Judge Yvonne Lamoureux has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the right of Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) to advocate on behalf of others challenging potential impacts of the Pebble mine project in the Bristol Bay watershed area.

The lawsuit, filed by six Bristol Bay fishermen and financed by the Pebble Limited Partnership, alleged that the BBRSDA was spending funds outside of its statutory purposes.

Lamoureux found, in her May 17 decision, that the BBRSDA acted within its statutory purpose of promoting the Bristol Bay fishery in opposing the proposed Pebble mine, which mine opponents contend could have a devastating impact on the world’s largest wild salmon fishery.

The Pebble limited Partnership declined comment on the judge’s decision.

Scott Kendall, legal counsel for the BBRSDA, meanwhile hailed Lamoureux’s decision as a complete vindication of the fisheries association. “She agreed with us that Pebble’s case was entirely without merit, and now the Association can get back to its work of promoting the one of a kind Bristol Bay fishery,” he said.

“This frivolous lawsuit was a desperate attempt to bully and silence those who are digging for the truth about Pebble’s deeply flawed and highly misleading mine plan,” said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, which was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB).

The BBRSDA had entered into contracts with SalmonState and UTBB to provide outreach, education and a review related to the draft environmental impact statement on the proposed mine, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson, the diversified Canadian-owned global mining group proposing to build the Pebble mine.

Alannah Hurley, executive director of UTBB, hailed the ruling for clearing the way for Bristol Bay residents and fishermen to focus on preparing for the return of 40 million salmon this summer and fighting to protect this run for future generations The decision “confirms that the people and fishermen of Bristol Bay have the right to fight for our way of life,” she said.

The judge’s decision explained that state statutes give some guidance on ways regional seafood development associations may band together, tax themselves and use those funds to promote the monetary value of seafood products harvested in the region. These options, she wrote, “include promoting the product, investing in infrastructure to preserve or increase the value of seafood, educating the public on the seafood, researching the product, advertising the product, researching markets and cooperating with other entities for quality control measures and commodity standards.” The judge also found that it is not outside the BBRSDA’s power or authority to conduct technical research of a proposed mine, which relates to and may affect seafood in the region, to conduct outreach and advocacy on the same, or to participate and encourage others to participate in commenting on the draft environmental impact statement as to the potential effect of the mine on their marketable seafood resource.

O’Shea Honored with NPAFC International Award

Retired US Coast Guard Captain John O’Shea, who has worked on marine fisheries policy issues at the regional, national and international levels, has received the 2019 International Award from the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC).

The award is given annually to an individual or group whose sustained and significant contributions in scientific research, enforcement, international cooperation, or management have helped improve the conservation of anadromous salmon and steelhead stocks in the North Pacific Ocean.

O’Shea was presented with the award on May 17 at the commission’s 27th annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.

NPAFC officials said O’Shea is being recognized for his contributions in the areas of compliance and enforcement to the commission’s mission to conserve and manage anadromous salmon and steelhead stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas.

He has contributed substantially to the functioning of the commission’s Committee on Enforcement for many years. From 1991 through 1996, he served in US Coast Guard headquarters’ Office of Law Enforcement as program manager for fisheries law enforcement. There he was responsible for policy and resources for all Coast Guard fisheries law enforcement domestic and foreign activities.

O’Shea coordinated Coast Guard participation in the NPAFC as part of the Coast Guard’s ongoing operations in the North Pacific against use of large-scale high seas driftnets.

Pact Aims to Reduce Environmental Impact of Fishing and Seafood Industries

A new pact signed by Norway and Washington state calls for cooperation on next-generation maritime technologies and clean energy innovations, with the goals of further modernizing and reducing the environmental impact of fishing and seafood industries.

The memorandum of understanding was signed in Seattle, Wash., this past week by representatives of Innovation Norway and Washington State, during the Nordic Innovation Summit at the Nordic Museum, according to a report in GeekWire, a technology news site with strong roots in the Seattle region. The pact specifically calls for decarbonization of vessels, ocean technology innovation, modernization of fish and seafood industries, and use of maritime digitalization.

Signers agreed to cooperate and support business development activities between designers, suppliers, builders and operators of hybrid, full electric and alternative fueled vessels, and associated infrastructure that includes but is not limited to electric ferries.

They also agreed to support technology development and expand opportunities for ocean science technology into maritime markets, including, but not limited to, offshore marine renewable energy, subsea sensors, gliders, autonomy and robotics.

They called for modernization of fishing and seafood through engagement of sustainable fishing companies equipment suppliers, processing technology developers and sustainable aquaculture for business development, knowledge sharing and technology transfer.

In addition, they agreed to share market opportunities for growth in big data analytics.

The statement was signed on stage by Chris Green, director of the Washington state Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness, and Gro Eirin Dyrnes, regional director of Innovation Norway. The conference came in the wake of an event in which representatives of the tech industry and maritime leaders discussed ways to collaborate.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Another Pebble Mine Legal Challenge

Proponents and opponents of the proposed Pebble mine are awaiting an Alaska Superior Court decision in the latest litigation challenging the right of a regional seafood development association to use its funds to oppose the mine.

The lawsuit against the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA), United Tribes of Bristol Bay and Salmon State was filed by six BBRSDA members and paid for by the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP), which is seeking permits to proceed with development of the mine project. One of the plaintiffs, Abe Williams, is the director of regional affairs for the PLP.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration has sided with the plaintiff fishermen by filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and their opposition to the BBRSDA’s motion to dismiss.

In more than three hours of testimony on Monday, May 13, plaintiffs’ attorneys contended that the BBRSDA was using state funds for ultra vires – purposes beyond the scope of their legal power – for promotion and marketing of Bristol Bay salmon, justifying the request for a preliminary injunction to stop them from doing so.

Attorneys representing the BBRSDA countered that BBRSDA is using its own money from a self-assessed tax greed on its members, rather than state money to fight the proposed mine.

They argued that plaintiffs are trying to create new restrictions on money drift gillnetters pay in taxes based on the harvest.

The BBRSDA noted that state statutes explicitly permit the association to cooperate with other public and private boards, organizations or agencies for joint programs, including consumer education, research and sales promotion programs for seafood products harvested in the region. The brief also argued that the BBRSDA is a development as well as a marketing association, and that there is no question that public and market awareness of the Pebble mine and its potential impact on Bristol Bay salmon is very high. “Plaintiffs’ whole case depends on pretending that the mine and fishery inhabit separate worlds, but of course the proposed mine and the fishery are in the same geographic region and one is rarely mentioned in the same breath without the other,” the BBRSDA’s attorneys said. Alaska Superior Court Judge Yvonne Lamoureux took the matter under advisement.

Meanwhile early today, Iliamna Natives Limited, an Alaska Native village corporation in the Bristol Bay region, announced it had reached agreement with the PLP to provide transportation corridor access on its lands in support of the proposed mine.

Copper River Salmon Fishery Opener is Hours Away

With the famed Copper River salmon fishery opener just hours away, the excitement is mounting even as weather forecasters predict rain showers and temperatures ranging from 41 to 52 degrees.

“Rain and fog can impact things,” noted Alaska Department of Fish and Game management biologist Jeremy Botz in Cordova, Alaska “Still, I think the weather is going to be pretty decent, so we’ll get a good look at what’s out there. So far, several hundred commercial harvesters registered for the fishery, they seem pretty positive, which is pretty typical for the start of the season,” he added.

Some of that optimism may be because while there are no indications of a whole lot of sockeye salmon out there, there are definitely more than this time last year as reported by those with educational permits.

The forecast is for a run of 1.5 million sockeyes in the Copper River and some 55,000 Chinook salmon. The projected commercial harvest is 756,000 reds and 31,000 kings, including in-river fisheries, rather than just the commercial catch, according to Botz.

Water temperatures currently are average, a bit warmer than the cooler waters noted at the start of last year’s fishery.

10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage, Alaska, is scheduled to receive a load of sockeyes and kings from the opener mid-afternoon on May 16 and deliver them to about a dozen area restaurants.

Chef Travis Haugen at the Southside Bistro is one of several chefs bracing particularly for the delivery of Chinooks. “As soon as I have one in my hands, I will put it on the menu,” he said.

NPFMC Accepting Comments for June Meeting

Comments on Gulf of Alaska pollock and cod seasons and allocations are currently accepted by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in advance of final action slated in Sitka, Alaska, in June. During its December meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, the council adopted for public review an analysis of alternatives intended to relieve operational inefficiencies for the trawl catcher vessel pollock and Pacific cod fisheries in the Western and Central Gulf of Alaska.

For Pollock, council staff noted, additional flexibility would be found by moving from the existing equal four-season total allowable catch allocation to equal two-season allocations. Under the seasonal modification, the Pollock A and B seasons would be combined into a season running from Jan. 20 through May 31 and the C and D seasons would be combined into a single season from Aug. 25 through Nov. 1.

The council also agreed to continue to consider whether increasing the 20 percent cap on in-year seasonal rollovers of unharvested Pollock TAC provides flexibility to better utilize the available harvest. The council’s preliminary preferred alternative would increase that cap to 25 percent. For Pacific cod, the goal is to reduce the under harvest of B season TAC in the trawl catcher-vessel sector by moving some of the seasonally allocated TAC to the A season.

During the December meeting the council re-specified options for the amount of the seasonal reallocation to clarify that sectors other than the trawl catcher vessels would not be impacted. The preliminary preferred alternative would result in an A/B seasonal TAC ratio across all sectors, of 64 percent/36 percent, compared to the status quo of 60 percent/40 percent.

Final action is also scheduled in June on the community quota entity (CQE) individual fishing quota halibut in Area 3A. The proposed amendment would allow community quota entities in Area 3A to fish D class halibut IFQ on C or D class vessels.

The CQE program was developed to allow for a distinct set of small, remote, coastal communities with few economic alternatives to purchase and hold catcher vessel quota share in the Gulf of Alaska to help facilitate access to and sustain participation in the commercial halibut and sablefish individual fishery quota fisheries.

More information, and to comment on these and all other items coming before the council June 3-10 go to http://meetings.npfmc.org/Meeting/Details/763.

NOAA Researchers Learning More About West Coast Ecosystem

Research scientists at the NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center say they are learning more about great volumes of nutrient-rich water welling up from the deep ocean to fuel great diversity of marine life on the nation’s West Coast.

While upwelling is vital to marine life along the West Coast, until now the tools being used to monitor it hadn’t changed much in almost half a century. Now scientists are employing satellite images, research buoys, ocean models and other ocean monitoring tools that allow them to measure the velocity of the water and amount of nutrients that it delivers. This helps them to better understand the impacts of upwelling on coastal ocean ecosystems.

Michael Jacox, a research scientist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and other researchers from NOAA Fisheries and the University of California at Santa Cruz recently published the new upwelling measurements in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Upwelling occurs along certain coastlines around the world where winds and the Earth’s rotation sweep surface waters offshore, drawing deep, cold and salty water full of nutrients to the surface. These nutrients fuel growth of phytoplankton that form the base of the marine food web, and ultimately nourish the ocean ecosystem of the West Coast.

Researchers studying fisheries or other marine life can use the indices to understand how fish and marine mammals respond to changes in upwelling and nutrients in the ecosystem. The indices are also helping to reveal effects of shifting ocean conditions off the West Coast, which has in recent years seen unusually warm temperatures that affect many species.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Copper River Opener Set for May 16

With the celebrated opener of the Copper River salmon fishery a little over a week away, the excitement is growing from Seattle, Wash., to Anchorage, Alaska and beyond, as are the pre-orders at retail shops for those first run reds and kings. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists in Cordova, Alaska, announced that the first Copper River opener will commerce at 7 a.m. on May 16, for a 12-hour period ending at 7 p.m.

The arrival of those first run sockeyes and kings in Seattle on Alaska Airlines will receive the usual red-carpet treatment.

10th & M’s Rob Winfree says Alaskans have been shortchanged by having the first of the season sockeyes and kings going directly to Seattle two days before Alaskans can get it, so he decided to do something about it. He worked with 60° North Seafoods on getting a helicopter to lift a load of fresh catch off a boat and deliver it to a jet at the Cordova Airport to fly them directly to Anchorage, where 10th & M will deliver it to customers who pre-ordered. “It is small amounts,” he said. “It’s token, but it means a lot.” Some first fish will be delivered in time to several Anchorage restaurants so it can be featured on their May 16 evening menu.

Winfree claimed that last year some of those first run wild salmon were on dinner plates in Anchorage two hours before that first opener ended.

Copper River Seafoods also will celebrate the arrival of the first fish in Anchorage with a special event on Saturday, May 18, at which gourmet chefs will offer a variety of creative wild Alaska salmon appetizers to invited guests.

Pebble DEIS Deadline Extended

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to extend the deadline for comments on its controversial draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on the Pebble projects is seen as a small victory by some and an unfortunate event by others.

The extension adds 30 days to the original schedule and pushes the deadline to June 29, 2019, just as the statewide wild salmon fishery is under way, and on the cusp of an expected annual surge of sockeyes into Bristol Bay.

Fishing groups from Bristol Bay, Alaska Native corporations and area tribal groups, along with 20 members of the Alaska Legislature had initially asked for the comment period to be at least 270 days, but it will now be 120 days.

Former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford called the Corps’ decision “a 30-day extension of a very failed process is a small victory. They should start over with a real economic analysis of its feasibility, scientific proof of their proposal and objective analysis of alternatives, including the obvious conclusion that investors have made after hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits that the only option is to say ‘no’,” Halford said.

“While the decision is unfortunate, we are pleased it was for only 30 days,” said Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for the Pebble Limited Project in Anchorage. “This is a Corps process and their decision. This does push the comment period into June when most Alaskans are out enjoying summer.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, urged the Alaska District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on April 24 to extend the comment period from May 30 for another 30 days.

“After carefully reviewing the DEIS, I’ve concluded Alaskans need more time,” she said. “The Corps permit is one of many the proposed Pebble mine will ultimately need to acquire, but throughout this process I want Alaskans to have adequate time to review and weight in on the project,” she said.

More information is online at https://www.pebbleprojecteis.com.

Moratorium Proposed on Finfish Aquaculture Facilities

Legislation introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, would put a moratorium on commercial permitting of marine finfish aquaculture facilities in the federal exclusive economic zone.

H.R. 2467, the Keep Fin Fish Free Act, would prohibit the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce from authorizing such operations in the federal exclusive economic zone unless specifically authorized by Congress.

“The seafood industry is critical to Alaska’s economy and we must be doing all we can to protect the health and integrity of our state’s wild fish stock,” said Young, who introduced the legislation on May 2. “If not properly managed, industrial aquaculture operations threaten Alaska’s unique ecosystem with non-native and genetically modified fish species.

The Alaska Republican said his bill takes needed steps to prevent “the unchecked spread of aquaculture operations by reigning in the federal bureaucracy, and empowering Congress to determine where new aquaculture projects should be conducted.”

H.R. 2467 was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner for Friends of the Earth, which backs the bill, said efforts were underway to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. “NOAA is pushing to permit this disastrous industry at the expense of the environment and coastal communities, and has no authority to do so,” Templeton said. We applaud Congressman Young for fighting against floating factory farms and protecting our waterways and wild fish stocks.”

Coast Guard Rescues Five Fishermen in Southeast Alaska

Five commercial fishermen forced to abandon their sinking vessel in Southeast Alaska were rescued from their life raft on May 7 by a Coast Guard helicopter crew and brought into Sitka, all uninjured.

Coast Guard watchstanders at the Juneau Command Center monitoring Channel 16 heard “mayday, vessel Masonic going down” at 2:33 a.m. and pinpointed the vessel’s last position south of Cape Decision via their automatic identification system, after attempts to reach the caller on the radio were unsuccessful.

Cape Decision is a lighthouse on Kuiu Island, southwest of Sumner Strait. The helicopter crew was launched and the Petersburg-based Cutter Anacapa headed for the area. A cruise ship in the vicinity also offered assistance.

The aircrew located the life raft on the north side of Coronation Island at about 4 a.m. with all crewmembers aboard wearing cold weather survival suits. The life raft was tied off to the stern of the grounded 62-foot fishing vessel, which is homeported in Sitka.

Coast Guard officials noted that the crew of the Masonic had received a commercial fishing vessel dockside exam prior to heading out on this fishing trip and that a Coast Guard commercial fishing safety specialist had certified the presence of emergency gear. The crew had also conducted an abandon ship drill the day before the exam, including donning of survival suits.

Capt. Stephen White, Sector Juneau Commander, said the situation highlights how being prepared is critical in this dangerous environment. “I’m thankful that the crew of the Masonic was prepared. It probably saved their lives.”

White said the vessel’s automatic identification system position was instrumental in the Coast Guard’s ability to quickly locate the survivors, taking the “search” out of search and rescue.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Seafood Harvesters Becoming More Specialized

A new study by University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers published in the journal Fish and Fisheries says that over the past 30 years Alaska fishermen have become more specialized in their fishing strategies rather than more diverse.

The research team led by Anne Beaudreau, a professor at the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, found that the overall number of fishermen with multiple fishing permits declined from 30 percent of permit holders in 1988 to 20 percent in 2014. That data prompted Beaudreau to ask, “…as Alaska fisheries become more specialized, how resilient will fishing communities be to future change?”

The researchers are part of a National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis working group funded by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, Prince William Sound Herring Research and Monitoring Program, and Gulf Watch Alaska.

Previous studies of Alaska fisheries found that harvesters, vessels and communities with broader access to more species or permit types tend to have more stable incomes due to diversification. Researchers said this reduced diversity may be caused by several barriers such as a limit on the number of fishing permits allowed in many fisheries, including halibut and sablefish. Additional obstacles to diversification may be socioeconomic, as permit prices and equipment costs rose significantly since the 1970s.

Researchers were also interested in how fishery participation and fishing portfolio diversity responded to biomass declines, management changed, fluctuations in prices and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

According to Beaudreau, salmon have become an increasingly important part of fishing portfolios statewide. While harvesters have become less diverse in the permits they hold, many continue to participate and specialize in salmon fisheries.

Alaska House Fisheries Committee Takes up Fish Tax Bill

The Alaska House Fisheries Committee heard extensive testimony this past week on proposed legislation to repeal the fisheries business tax allocation to municipalities. Those funds are used by the various communities to provide for fisheries infrastructure, schools, health and social services. Officials from Kodiak, King Cove, Akutan, Cordova, Sitka, the Aleutians East Borough and the city of Unalaska were among those telling House Fisheries of the dire economic impact such legislation would have on their communities. All were opposed to House Bill 65, which is backed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The estimated total of the municipal share of the raw fish tax in Fiscal Year 2020 is $29.1 million, according to Matt Gruening, chief of staff and fisheries committee aide to Committee Chair Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.

“It is a terrible bill that would have a tremendous impact on every fishing community in Alaska. For many this is the community’s largest revenue source. The loss of this money would be devasting for Unalaska,” said Frank Kelty, the mayor of Unalaska – the nation’s number one fishing port, by seafood volume, in the country.

“Fishing communities in Alaska produce 56 percent of the nation’s seafood,” said Kelty. “We need to keep these communities strong. Unalaska, which uses local tax revenues to pay its own way, just completed a $10 million container dock, which was totally bonded by the city,” he added.

Kodiak’s Pat Branson noted that the state no longer owns the port infrastructure and the city is responsible for its port. “Those fish business tax funds make up 4.5 percent of our general fund revenue,” he explained.

King Cove City Administrator Gary Henning noted that HB 65 would present a daunting challenge, requiring a reduction in city programs and employment. Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin said, “losing those funds would cripple the local economy in a community positioned to grow into one of the nation’s top fishing ports.”

Nils Andreassen, executive director of the Alaska Municipal League, was among those specially invited to give testimony. Andreassen remarked that taking away sharing of fisheries business taxes with communities would reduce the quality of life of their residents adding that the fish tax revenues support health and welfare and improves the community’s credit ratings.

As testimony wrapped up, House Fisheries Chair Stutes noted that not one person had testified in support of the bill.

HB 65 was been set aside for further consideration; it currently remains in House Fisheries.

USDA Eager for More Alaska Pollock Fillets

Wild Alaska Pollock fillets are proving popular in the US Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program and other federal food and nutrition assistance programs.

In its latest solicitation for bids issued on April 29, the USDA is asking for a total of 2,095,600 pounds of Alaska Pollock fish sticks for federal food programs in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginia and Washington state.

The official request invites bids to be submitted through May 13, with acceptances to be announced by midnight May 20.

Successful bidders must make deliveries between September 1, 2019 and January 31, 2020. Dates of delivery for specific programs are listed on the solicitation.

Meanwhile in Seattle, Wash., the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) is continuing its aggressive campaign to put wild Alaska Pollock in the spotlight. It announced in late April a partnership with Groton’s Seafoods which will see Queer Eye star and food expert Antoni Porowski create new recipes – and buzz – for wild Alaska Pollock.

That project is one of 12 recently funded by the GAPP board of directors aimed at inviting millennials to include more Pollock in their meals. Porowski’s new recipes include Baja Style Fish Tacos, New Orleans Style Fish ‘n Chips, and Baked Crunchy Fish Fillets Puttanesca.

Salmon in the Spotlight at the Anchorage Museum

A new exhibit entitled Alaskans and Salmon opens on Friday, May 3 at the Anchorage Museum as part of the North by North Festival, celebrating the connection and culture across the North Country.

While this third annual event of workshops, exhibitions, performances, presentations and more runs from May 1 through May 5, the Alaskans and Salmon exhibition will remain on display through the first week of January 2020. Admission to the museum is free from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the first two days of that exhibition in the museum’s Northern Narrative Gallery.

Erin Harrington, the daughter of a commercial harvester and executive director of the Salmon Project will be among the exhibit collaborators greeting people on the first evening. She will also be on a panel with three others on the evening of May 4 to talk about how people can prepare for and adapt to the impact of climate change on salmon fisheries in Alaska.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Seiners Harvest 14,000 Tons of Togiak Herring

Nineteen seiners engaged in the Togiak herring fishery have harvested upwards of 14,000 tons to date, with an average size of 372 grams and 11.7 percent roe maturity, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).

Aside from a lot of wind on April 22, when the harvest was likely less than 500 tons, “it has been good fishing and no complaints,” says Tim Sands, ADF&G area management biologist at Dillingham in Southwest Alaska. “Things are good; everything is progressing as far as the harvest rate,” Sands said.

On April 21 along, the seiners brought in 2,590 tons of herring, with an average size of 339 grams and 11.7 percent roe maturity.

State fisheries officials in late March forecast the Togiak District mature herring biomass at 217,548 tons. The estimate was based on aerial surveys and age-structured analysis model that has been used for all Togiak herring forecasts produced since 1993. The projection called for herring ages 4–6 to comprise 50 percent of the biomass, ages 7–10 to make up 32 percent and the remaining 18 percent to be age 11 and older fish.

The total harvest in the Togiak district sac roe herring fishery is expected to be 26,930 tons. The Bristol Bay Herring Management Plan sets a maximum exploitation rate of 20 percent for the Togiak District stock. However, based on three years of poor aerial surveys and one year of missing age composition data, ADF&G applied a conservative exploitation rate of 14 percent for this year.

Alaska House Considers Year of the Salmon Resolution

A resolution working its way through the Alaska House of Representatives honors the International Year of the Salmon and supports an associated global initiative identifying the importance of wild salmon.

House Resolution 8, sponsored by Anchorage Democrat Garen Tarr, calls for support of research efforts to extend through 2022 as part of the global initiative and encourages a collaborative effort to uphold regulatory processes that apply best practices to the management of wild salmon fisheries.

The resolution further calls for support and investment in scientific research to better understand wild salmon populations of the northern hemisphere, and to better manage wild salmon populations and the industries wild salmon support. It also celebrates the health and social benefits the fisheries industry provides to the nation.

HR 8 was heard on April 23 in the House Fisheries Committee, chaired by Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak. It will next be considered by the Alaska House Resources committee before heading for the House floor and Alaska Senate.

Those testifying in favor of the resolution included Tyson Fick, a commercial harvester and owner of Taku River Reds in Juneau, Alaska, and executive director Erin Harrington of non-profit The Salmon Project in Anchorage, Alaska, herself a Bristol Bay harvester, as well as Mark Saunders and Doug Mecum, who are affiliated with the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC), based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The International Year of the Salmon is a project launched by the NPAFC, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) and other partners. NPAFC members include Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States of America.

“We all agree that we like salmon and this is the state that has them” Fick said. “There is a real opportunity in Alaska to celebrate our leadership. We have solved overfishing issues in the U.S. by following Alaska’s lead.”

“Nine out of 10 Alaskans view salmon as an important Alaska value,” Harrington noted. The resolution also drew support from Washington State Rep. Deborah Lekanoff, who is from Yakutat, Alaska, and Oregon legislator Ken Helm, who said he is proud of resolutions in all three states honoring the International Year of the Salmon.

“Political boundaries do not mean a lot to our wild salmon,” Tarr said. “I hope this is just the beginning of these collaborations.

UFA Seats Election Winners

Bruce Schactler has been re-elected and Tyson Fick, Melanie Brown and Cynthia Wallesz were elected to two-year terms as at-large board members of United Fishermen of Alaska. All four took office on April 15.

Schactler, of Kodiak, is a veteran harvester of salmon, Tanner crab, cod, halibut and herring. He is also the director of the Alaska Global Food Air Program with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI). He has been an at-large board member since 1993.

Fick, of Juneau, previously worked as communications director at ASMI, and as executive director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers. He now fishes southeast salmon gillnet, salmon hand troll and Dungeness crab, and is co-owner of Taku River Reds.

Wallesz, of Petersburg, has been a Southeast salmon drift gillnetter for 25 years and direct markets her family’s salmon. She has also longlined for halibut and fished Dungeness crab in Washington state.

Brown, of Juneau, has fished her family’s Bristol Bay setnet site since 1979 and crewed in the Togiak herring fisheries. She previously serves on the ASMI salmon species committee.

Other election results saw UFA president Matt Alward, of Homer; vice president Bob Kehoe, of Seattle; and secretary Chad See, also from Seattle, each re-elected to another one-year term.

Seafood Processors Looking for 4,000+ Workers

Recruiting sessions are being posted through May by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development in hopes of filling over 4,000 full-time temporary seafood processing jobs for that industry with Alaska hires.

Most of the jobs offer transportation, room and board benefits to those who successfully complete their contracts. Pay depends on the season, but average rate is about $13 an hour, plus overtime, confirmed Bernardita Dobson, lead employment services technician in the Seafood Employment office at the Anchorage midtown job center. “The companies also supply most gear needed for the job,” she said.

According to state labor officials, while processing companies are recruiting far beyond Alaska, employing Alaskans can save those processors the cost of hiring foreign labor brokers, paying fees for labor importation and the high cost of transporting foreign workers to Alaska.

Labor Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter noted that the seafood processing industry is the largest employer of nonresident hires in Alaska. “With Alaska residents making up less than 25 percent of the seafood processing workforce, we need to focus on recruiting Alaskans first,” she said.

Anyone interested in such employment may view a 20-minute seafood processing orientation available online at jobs.alaska.gov/seafood/processing.html to learn what to expect in this line of work.

Job openings are posted in Laska’s Labor exchange system (ALEXsys) at www.jobs.alaska.gov, including higher paying skilled and technical positions.

Job seekers may sign up for seafood jobs email alerts online at https://public.govdelivery.com/acconts/AKDOL/subscriber/new?topic_id=AKDOL_87

Further information is available online at www.jobs.alaska.gov/offices/index.html or visit individual processing companies online to learn more about their hiring needs.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Pebble Mine Hearing Draws Increasing Testimony

Testimony continues to pour in regarding the proposed Pebble mine that would be built near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, now that the US Army Corps of Engineers in Anchorage has released its draft environmental impact statement.

At the Corps’ latest public hearing in Anchorage on April 16, dozens of people testified on the draft EIS. The deadline for public testimony is currently May 30, and the Corps has so far declined to extend that 90-day limit, although it is under increasing pressure to do so.

Opponents of the project, who fear potential adverse impact to the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon into Bristol Bay, testified that those potential catastrophic impacts would play out for centuries.

“We want to protect this last place on Earth as it is today” said Gayla Hoseth, director of natural resources for the Bristol Bay Native Association in Dillingham, who said the draft EIS needed at 270-day rather than a 90-day comment period. Hoseth and others told the Corps that people are already suffering mental stress from the decade long battle over the mine.

Bristol Bay Native Corporation board member Joe Chythlook told the Corps that they were moving too fast. “We need to slow it down and allow more people to study it and see what effects it will have,” he said. An overwhelming majority of Bristol Bay and Alaska residents oppose the mine “and I hope you have listened to them,” he said.

A number of those testifying spoke of adverse impact the mine would have on fish and wildlife, including bears of the famed McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge, the largest know gathering of brown bears in the world.

Backers of the mine, including the Alaska Miners Association and the Resource Development Council, said the project would bring economic benefits to the region, including more jobs. Residents of some Bristol Bay communities were divided on the mine, some saying they can’t live off fishing alone, but commercial fisherman Peter Andrew Jr. of Dillingham told the corps that commercial fishing had put all four of his children through college.

Along with the scientists, engineers, commercial and subsistence fishermen testifying was orthopedic surgeon and commercial fisherman Allen Gross of anchorage, who said the big problem with the draft EIS is that it doesn’t represent the full scope of the mine. “It will be 10 times bigger,” said Gross. “Reject this plan and urge a plan that explores the full scope of the mine.”

Alaska Board of Fisheries Nominees Face Confirmation Hearing

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has nominated Israel Payton, of Wasilla, and named three new appointees to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

Dunleavy announced on April 1 that Marit Carlson-Van Dort, of Anchorage, would replace Orville Huntington, of Huslia, who was appointed to the Alaska Board of Game.

Former board member Karl Johnstone, of Anchorage, was named to replace Al Cain, also of Anchorage, and Gerad Godfrey, of Eagle River, will replace Robert Ruffner, of Soldotna.

All four face confirmation hearings today, April 17, before the Alaska Legislature.

If confirmed, Payton will be joined on the board immediately by Carlson-Van Dort and Johnstone, and Godfrey will come on the board on July 1, when Ruffner’s term expires.

Johnstone, a retired Alaska Superior Court judge, served previously as a member and chairman of the Board of Fisheries from 2008 to 2015. His nomination is supported by sport fishermen, who say he will bring balance to the board, and opposed by commercial harvesters, who say he has a bias against commercial fishermen.

During a hearing of the Alaska House Fisheries Committee on Monday, April 15, Johnstone was questioned by committee chair Louise Stutes of Kodiak about a newspaper commentary he wrote in which he said farmed fish are the way of the future. “Are you advocating for farmed salmon in the state of Alaska?” Stutes asked. Johnstone responded that it was merely “an opinion piece meant to get people thinking.”

In response to questions from other committee members, Johnstone said that there is a lot of competition for the resource, and later that “if you take gear out of the water, it will benefit everybody who remains.”

Among the dozens of harvesters calling in to testify at the House Fisheries hearing was Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka, who said ALFA’s experience with Johnstone is that “he has not had a deep commitment to science-based management. He has disregarded the impact to coastal communities,” Behnken said. “We need managers, policy makers, who will take care of the resource.”

Retired commercial harvester Clem Tillion, of Halibut Cove, a former chairman of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, threw his support to Johnstone, warning that if legislators rejected Johnstone that another sport fish advocate would be nominated. Said Tillion “I’ll stick with the devil I know.”

Is Fish Slime an Untapped Resource?

Researchers seeking potential replacements for current antibiotics losing their effectiveness against multidrug-resistant pathogens have identified a possible option in the protective mucus that coats young fish.

The team, led by principal investigator Sandra Loesgen at Oregon State University, presented their findings at the recent meeting of the American Chemical Society Spring 2019 National meeting and Exposition in Orlando, Florida.

The bacteria is seen as a promising antibiotic to counter known pathogens, even dangerous organisms such as the microbe that causes MRSA infections. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body and is resistant to come commonly used antibiotics.

The protective mucus coating young fish is a viscous substance that protects fish from bacteria, fungi and viruses in their environment, trapping the microbes before they can cause infections.

The slime is also rich in polysaccharides and peptides known to have antibacterial activity.

According to Molly Austin, an undergraduate chemistry student in Loesgen’s laboratory, the fish mucus is interesting because the environment the fish live in is complex. “They are in contact with their environment all the time with many pathogenic viruses,” she said.

Others on the team supplied mucus swabbed from juvenile deep-sea and surface-dwelling fish caught off the Southern California coast, and screened 47 different strains of bacteria from the slime. Five bacterial extracts strongly inhibited methicillin-resistant MRSA and three inhibited Candida albicans, a fungus pathogenic to humans. A bacteria from mucus from a particular Pacific pink perch showed strong activity against MRSA and against a colon carcinoma cell line.

While the research team is interested in new sources for antibiotics to help people, they a e also looking at other ways to apply this knowledge. For example, they said, the study of fish mucus could help reduce the use of antibiotics in fish farming by leading to better antibiotics specifically targeted to the microbes clinging to certain types of fish.

But first, Loesgen said, they want to understand more fundamental questions, such as what makes healthy microbiomes, which are microorganisms in a particular environment, including the human body. Their research was reported by EurekAlert, the online journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

GAPP Approves $1 Million for Product Development

Board members of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers has approved one million dollars for a second found of its North American Partnership Program to fund new projects promoting wild Alaska Pollock.

The program was conceived by the GAPP board to provide support for companies in the wild Alaska Pollock industry looking to develop new ways to market these versatile fish. The organization received a number of applications for the second round of funding and selected a dozen proposals to move forward with.

Second found partners, including High Liner Foods and True North Seafood, will use the partnership funds to bring innovative new products to market. Others, like Fishpeople, plan to utilize partnership funds to deliver wild Alaska Pollock to consumers via their popular line of responsibly sourced, traceable Wildly Delicious Seafood Kits available in retail and online.

Funding will also go to American Seafoods for expansion of its successful launch of their Perfect Pollock portions to other test markets and to Trident Seafoods to bring their award winning Protein Noodles made of wild Alaska Pollock to big box stores I the Northeast and Bay area of California, said Craig Morris, chief executive officer of GAPP.

Each partner is bringing equal or greater funds to the project. While exact partner investments will remain confidential the one million dollar GAPP investment will be more than tripled with matching partner funds, Morris said.

What all these proposals have in common, he said, is a passion and dedication to elevating wild Alaska Pollock in epically new and exciting ways.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Sockeye Harvest Down, But Possible Record Chum Catch

Forecasts for the 2019 Alaska commercial salmon season released in early April project a harvest of 213.2 million fish, mostly due to increases in pink and chum salmon harvests compared to 2018.

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said that if realized the projected commercial chum salmon harvest would be the largest on record for Alaska.

The prediction calls for a harvest that includes 112,000 Chinook salmon divided into 41.7 million sockeye, 4.6 million coho, 137.8 million pink, and 29.0 million chum salmon in areas outside of Southeast Alaska.

Compared to 2018 commercial harvests, the projected 2019 numbers are expected to be: pink salmon – 96.9 million more; sockeye salmon – 8.9 million fewer; coho salmon – 900,000 more; and chum salmon – 8.7 million more.

Except for Southeast Alaska, pink salmon forecasts are generally based on average returns from previous brood years.

The report notes that the pink salmon run forecast for 2019 is partly an artifact of this method and that there is a great deal of uncertainty in predicting pink salmon returns.

For Southeast Alaska, the harvest forecast is for a total of 43,749,000 sockeye, coho, pink and chum salmon from natural and hatchery production, with the expected catch listing 1.2 million sockeye, 2.6 million coho, 19.3 million pink and 20.6 million chum.

For the central region, including Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound, the harvest forecast is for a total of 105,396,000 fish, including 73,000 Chinook, nearly 32 million sockeye, 984,000 coho, 68.3 million pink and 4.1 million chum. The prediction for the western region shows a total of 61.5 million fish, divided into 38,000 kings, 8.5 million reds, 759,000 silvers, 50.1 million humpies, and 2 million chum salmon.

The complete forecast is available online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/SP19-07.pdf.

NPFMC Approves Mothership Restrictions in BSAI, GOA

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has adopted catcher processor mothership restrictions for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska when taking delivery of non-community development quota Pacific cod from trawl catcher vessels.

Alternatives adopted by the council on April 4 in Anchorage, Alaska, allow catcher/processors to take delivery of P-cod from catcher vessels in the BSAI no-CDQ P-cod trawl fishery only if the catcher processor acted as a mothership and received targeted Pacific cod deliveries under certain circumstances. Options include being from Amendment 80 catcher/processors and non-Amendment 80 catcher/processors that acted as motherships in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The council ruling also prohibits from receiving P-cod harvested in the Pacific cod directed fisheries in the BSAI and Gulf of Alaska all Amendment 80 vessels not designated on Amendment 80 quota share permits and amendment 80 LLP licenses, or Amendment 80 LLP/quota share licenses.

Also, during the spring meeting, the council took final action on a motion to require full retention of rockfish species by all fixed gear catcher vessels even if the species is on prohibited species status and prohibits these retained rockfish from being sold.

Current regulations for demersal shelf rockfish retention in Southeast outside District of the Gulf of Alaska remain unchanged by this action.

Bristol Bay Fishermen Sue BBRSDA Over Pebble Mine

Six Bristol Bay fishermen, funded by developers of the proposed Pebble mine, are suing the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) over its contracts with mine opponents SalmonState and United Tribes of Bristol Bay.

In their complaint filed in Alaska Superior Court, BBRSDA members Trefim Andrew, Tim Anelon, Gary Nielsen, Henry Olympic, Abe Williams and Braden Williams contend that the BBRSDA can only legally use its money to market seafood. The six harvesters are represented by the international law firm Perkins Coie, which was hired on their behalf by the Pebble Limited Partnership.

According to the BBRSDA, the lawsuit’s purpose is to silence Bristol Bay fishermen and prevent them from participating in the US Army Corps of Engineers comment period, which is currently set to end on May 30, by blocking their educational efforts related to the corps’ draft environmental impact statement on the Pebble project.

In a statement issued on April 2, BBRSDA Executive Director Andy Wink said the association is engaging on the Pebble issue “specifically because we are worried about its potential effect on both the abundance and the marketability of our product and the region’s prolific salmon runs.

The vast majority of BBRSDA’s fishermen members consider the Pebble mine to be their number one concern,” Wink said. “All of BBRSDA’s actions are geared towards building abundance and per-pound value and frankly, it’s working very well.”

Wink noted that consumers choose to pay more for wild sockeye salmon “because it’s a healthy, abundant, premium wild salmon species from a pristine and unspoiled environment. It’s a unique resource unlike anything else in the world,” he said. “The Pebble mine could jeopardize that, and at the very least we believe it’s important to engage in the permitting process so that if the mine does proceed, it’s built with adequate safeguards for fishermen, residents and sockeye consumers.

The Alaska House Resources Committee meanwhile is also looking into the corps’ draft EIS, and held a hearing this past week to listen to a presentation from the corps. An audio of that presentation to the legislative committee is available online at http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HRES%202019-04-05%2013:00:00.

To read the complaint document go to https://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Complaint-1.pdf.

Businesses and Tribes Push to Close BC Mine

Fishing and tourism entities, joined by other businesses and tribes, are urging Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy to ensure that the government of British Columbia cleans up and closes the Tulsequah Chief Mine.

Their focus is toxic acid mine drainage that has been flowing from the Tulsequah Chief and its impact on the Taku River watershed since the mine was abandoned in 1957. There have been numerous calls for cleaning up the mine over the past two decades, but to no avail.

What has changed, the group explained, is that “the New Democratic party-led British Columbia government appears to realize that this is not a viable mine and that previous provincial hopes that a company would reopen and eventually clean up the mine aren’t realistic.”

The British Columbia government has accepted a joint proposal for mine cleanup from SRK Consulting and SNC-Lavalin. Still there could be much latitude as to what constitutes proper remediation, and Alaska’s continued involvement will be crucial, they noted.

After 20 years, we are finally seeing the B.C. government begin to address the Tulsequah Chief problem,” said Chris Zimmer, of Rivers Without Borders. “Alaskans need our new governor to keep the pressure on B.C. to ensure the province follows through with its commitment to clean up ad close down this polluting mine.”

The nearly three dozen signers of the letter included the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Alaska Trollers Association, Southeast Alaska Seiners Association, Taku River Reds, Taku Fisheries/Smokeries, and United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Join the Parade!

Commercial working vessels and other decorated vessels representing their companies are warmly invited to participate in Seattle's Opening Day on May 4th.

Featured especially this year will the Lake Union Drydock Company, celebrating their 100th Anniversary, with a flotilla of vessels they have built over the years.

Registration is required by 4/25/2019.

For more information see www.seattleyachtclub.org/opening-day or contact Dan Barr at 206-285-1111.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

May 30 Deadline for Pebble Draft EIS Comments

Public hearings are underway in the Bristol Bay region and Southcentral Alaska in advance of a May 30 deadline for public comment on the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Pebble mine adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed in Southwest Alaska.

There is still no word from the US Army Corps of Engineers on whether that deadline will be extended, but pressure is mounting from the fishing industry for that extension.

The Alaska House Resources Committee heard this past week from Bristol Bay residents, fisheries leaders and scientific experts about the economic, social and environmental values of the Bristol Bay watershed and their concerns about the Corp’s draft EIS.

Norm Van Vactor, chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. told legislators “If Pebble goes in, the Bristol Bay Sockeye brand and the entire Alaska seafood brand will be tarnished. The State of Alaska has invested millions into building these brands and establishing Alaska as a premium brand in the marketplace. That brand is based on pristine habitat, sustainability, and high quality, not open-pit mining districts and acid mine drainage.”

“Alaskans should be dismayed; Alaska’s leaders should be outraged,” said Daniel Schindler, a professor in the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “The Army Corps of Engineers should be ashamed of themselves and embarrassed if they are going to put this environmental impact statement forward as a piece of credible science. It is not. The EIS is a bit of a farce. I hate to use that term, but it does not have scientific credibility and it distinctly underestimates risks.”

Meanwhile, in Kodiak on March 29 several dozen harvesters marched to the site of a forum on the Pebble mine at a downtown hotel, waving signs in opposition to the mine and others urging Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan to take a stand against the mine. Inside the hotel, Melanie Brown of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay and Ryan Spies, a consultant with Lynker Technologies, discussed problems they had identified with the draft EIS.

The Lynker Technologies report, published online by Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, can be found at https://www.bbrsda.com/updates/2019/3/23/tailings-dam-failure-report-amp-presentation.

The analysis is based on 28 actual failures at tailings storage facilities worldwide and a detailed hydrological model that estimates how much material would be deposited downstream across a range of failure scenarios.

The ComFish forum occurred on March 29, the same day as the Corps’ public hearing at New Stuyahok in the Bristol Bay region, where Martin Speak, a Bristol Bay fisherman from Seattle, Wash., told the Corps "It is a complete folly to think you can contain these proposed massive tailing ponds. Murphy's law, if something can go wrong it will go wrong. Earthquakes, large storms, human error. Just look at Mount Polley. To date, nobody is being held responsible for that disaster, and they're telling us this time they're getting it right."

Preliminary figures showed that at the first five Bristol Bay hearings a total of 305 people attended the Corps’ hearings, with 83 testifying in opposition to the mine, 23 in support of the mine and 17 neutral.

All comments on the draft EIS must be postmarked by May 30 and mailed to USACE Alaska District, Attn: DA Permit Application 2017-271, Pebble Limited Partnership, 645 G Street Suite 100-921, Anchorage, Alaska 99501.

Further information is available at www.pebbleprojecteis.com.

SE Alaska Chinook Harvest Limit 137,500 Fish

Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials have set a preseason Chinook salmon all-gear harvest limit for Southeast Alaska of 137,500 fish, as mandated under provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

This year’s all-gear harvest limit includes a two percent reduction to serve as a buffer to avoid exceeding the all-gear limit and payback provisions within the treaty, the state agency announced on April 1. The all-gear harvest limit for Southeast Alaska is determined by the Chinook technical committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission. It is based on a forecast of the aggregate abundance of Pacific Coast Chinook salmon stocks subject to management under the Pacific Salmon Treaty as determined by catch per unit effort in the Southeast Alaska early winter troll fishery.

The all-gear harvest is allocated among sport and commercial troll and net fisheries under management plans specified by the Alaska Board of Fisheries, with purse seiners, 4.3 percent of all-gear, getting 5,900 salmon; drift gillnetters, 2.9 percent of all-gear, getting 4,000 salmon; set gillnetters 1,000 salmon. Trollers, get 80 percent or 101,300 fish after net gear is subtracted, and sport anglers are allocated 25,300 fish, or 20 percent, after net gear is subtracted.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries approved action plans for three Chinook salmon stocks of management concern on the Unuk, King Salmon, and Chilkat rivers at the 2018 Southeast and Yakutat finfish meeting. Two of these three stocks did not achieve escapement goals in 2018.

Winter troll fisheries concluded in all waters of Southeast Alaska/Yakutat on March 15. Spring troll fisheries for some districts were set to begin May 1.

Four Seats Filled on Alaska Board of Fisheries

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has reappointed Israel Payton, of Wasilla, and named three new appointees to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

Dunleavy announced on April 1 that Marit Carlson-Van Dort, of Anchorage, would replace Orville Huntington, of Huslia, who was appointed to the Alaska Board of Game.

Former board member Karl Johnstone, of Anchorage, was named to replace Al Cain, also of Anchorage, and Gerad Godfrey, of Eagle River, will replace Robert Ruffner, of Soldotna.

Payton will be joined on the board immediately but Carlson-Van Dort, Johnstone, and Godfrey will come on the board on July 1.

Payton is a lifelong Alaskan who grew up living a subsistence lifestyle in Skwentna, along the Iditarod Trail in Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna Borough. He is employed by Airframes Alaska, the state’s largest manufacturer and seller of aviation parts.

Carlson-Van Dort, also born and raised in Alaska, spent over a decade salmon seining. She has a degree in conservation biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has done graduate work in fisheries science and secondary education. She is the director of external affairs for NANA Regional Corp.

Johnstone, a retired Alaska Superior Court judge, served previously as a member and chairman of the Board of Fisheries from 2008 to 2015.

Godfrey, who grew up commercial fishing in the Kodiak area, is the vice chair of the board of Afognak Native Corp., where he has been employed since 2009.

Seafood Marketing Discussed at ComFish

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) and the McDowell Group teamed up for ComFish Alaska 2019 to give fishermen an update on where Alaska seafood stands in the global marketplace.

The short message was that the US dollars is strengthening against the yuan, yen and Euro, and the salmon market is positive, but trade disputes are a threat and the global whitefish supply outlook is lower.

The report noted that while quotas for the commercial halibut fishery are up by eight percent, for a total of 18.9 million pounds, the Canadian supply of halibut offers a challenge, but that early prices have been stable.

The quota for sablefish is 41 percent higher than a year ago, for a total of 46.4 million pounds.

According to the report, the quota for Pacific cod is down 40 percent since 2017, and while the value is rising, it is not enough. Meanwhile, the volume of P-cod in Russia is up, and that fishery is expected to get Marine Stewardship Council certification this year. The Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands total allowable catch for crab is higher by 20 percent, with record values.

The big challenges, said McDowell’s Garrett Evridge and ASMI’s Arianna Elnes, are the ongoing trade disputes with China, the Russian embargo and the uncertain issues of Brexit, in addition to significant competition from farmed and other proteins, and the high prices of some key species. But there are opportunities to be had with successful application for federal marketing funds, qualities that align with consumer ethos, and the fact that wild Alaska seafood has an incredible story to tell.

ASMI currently has eight regional programs in 31 countries to promote Alaska’s seafood, plus domestic promotions in foodservice, retail and through distributors.

Promotions for online sales in China sold over $1 million in product in return for only $10,000 spent in advertising, and a 2018 week-long retail promotion in Japan produced over $223 million in Alaska seafood sales for $35,000 worth of promotion, the report read.

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