Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Strong Markets Await Millions of Wild Alaska Salmon

Alaska’s salmon harvest has now surpassed the midpoint of the forecasted harvest. As of July 31, about 54% of this year’s projected harvest of 190 million fish had been caught, says Dan Lesh, a fisheries economist who compiles in-season weekly commercial salmon harvest reports for McKinley Capital Management on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The total salmon harvest is now 10% above the year-to-date total for last year (using 2019 for pinks) and is 5% above the five-year year-to-date average. Most of the fish caught last week were pink salmon, which are continuing their early-season surge, particularly in Prince William sound (up 123% from 2019) and Southeast Alaska (up 22%). The pink salmon harvest usually peaks in mid-August.

Markets for Alaska’s commercial salmon catch remained strong in the last days of July as deliveries rose by millions of Alaska salmon, with sockeye and king harvests waning and a surge in the humpy harvest boosting the preliminary overall catch towards 95 million fish.

Markets are especially strong right now for all kinds of products, whether canned, fillets or headed and gutted, said Dan Lesh, a fisheries economist who compiles in-season weekly commercial salmon harvest reports for McKinley Capital Management on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

In the Arctic-Kuskokwim-Yukon region, growing pink salmon runs in recent years led to increased buying capacity in Norton Sound this year. Lesh notes that A-Y-K pink salmon harvests are up 176% from 2019, while keta fishing has been poor and this year’s harvest of keta salmon is down $89 from the region’s five-year average.

Weekly coho harvests are climbing steadily, but at a peace less than half of the five-year-average and similar to last year’s poor showing, he said. Typically, about one quarter of the year’s coho harvests have been delivered by this time, compared to just 14% this year. The peak of coho deliveries is typically in early September.

While there have been some supply chain issues due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic, in general markets are very strong and it is a positive story overall for this summer, he said.

By Aug. 3 the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary Alaska commercial harvest report showed some 105 million salmon delivered to processors, bringing preliminary totals to 51 million sockeyes, 47 million pink, 5.7 million chums, 539,000 cohos and 165,000 Chinooks.

“The news (for markets) has been increasingly positive over the last month,” he said. “The markets are strengthening, and especially strong in frozen products.” In Bristol Bay along, harvesters in the Nushagak district have now delivered nearly 18 million salmon, followed by 8.9 million fish in the Naknek-Kvichak, 8 million in Egegik and 5 million in the Ugashak. The overall Prince William Sound harvest included 31 million pinks, 2.5 million chums and 1.2 million sockeyes, while in the Alaska Peninsula the overall catch included six million sockeyes, 4.3 million pinks, 1.0 million chums, 87,000 cohos and 9,000 Chinooks.

At Kodiak the catch rose to 4.9 million salmon, with deliveries reaching 2.1 million sockeyes, 2.4 million pinks, 300,000 chums, 39,000 cohos and 7,000 Chinooks.

USDA Seeks Bids for 7.9M Pounds of Frozen Alaska Pollock

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials are looking to distribute some 7.9 million pounds of frozen Alaska Pollock products from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 through the National School Lunch Program and other federal food and nutrition assistance programs.

According to Craig Morris, chief executive officer of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers, that would bring USDA purchases for fiscal year 2021 to nearly 18.3 million pounds of Alaska Pollock, one of the world’s largest commercial fisheries, with the largest concentrations in the Eastern Bering Sea.

“We estimate they will spend about $20 million on this contract and that would bring the total (USDA) dollars spent on wild Alaska Pollock this fiscal year to $45 million,” he said.

USDA officials said winning bids for bids on Pollock fillets, nuggets and fish sticks would be announced in mid-August.

“It’s an exciting thing to wake up to om a Friday morning,” Morris said of the announcement issued on the last Friday of July. ”I knew the invitation was coming, but I didn’t know it would happen today. It makes us really proud of what we have done to build demand for the perfect protein produced right here in the USA.”

Over the past year Alaska Pollock has boosted its rating among the top 10 seafoods consumed in the country, he said. The three major niches are as a prepared frozen food item, chilled as surimi and as a fast food item in fish sandwiches served nationwide. A number of fast food chains that were selling other fish have switched to Alaska Pollock, Morris said.

“We are wild, Alaska caught, mild tasting, very nutritious and are an unmatched sustainability sourced, and the carbon footprint of Alaska Pollock is a lot lower than any other protein, including meat, chicken and plant-based burgers,” he remarked.

NOAA Fisheries promotes U.S. wild-caught Alaska Pollock as a smart seafood choice that is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested using midwater trawl nets, under U.S. government regulations.

Alaska Pollock, a member of the cod family, is considered one of the most valuable fisheries in the world. In 2018 alone commercial landings of Alaska Pollock from the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska totaled over 3.36 billion pounds and were valued at over $490.8 million.

NOAA Fisheries also notes that 100% of Pollock fishing boats in the Bering Sea carry scientifically trained observers, who monitor and count al Pacific salmon caught incidentally in Pollock nets. These salmon may not be landed or sold by the Pollock fishery, but when feasible, they are doated to local Alaska food banks.

Endangered Orca Whales Get Expanded Habitat Protections

Help has come through for endangered Southern Resident orca whales along the outer coast of Washington, Oregon and as far south as Point Sur, California, in the form of expanded critical habitat areas.

The newly designated critical habitat areas finalized on July 30 by the National Marine Fisheries Service span 15,910 square miles of Pacific Ocean waters off the West Coast. This designation encompasses waters where we now know that the Southern Residents hunt for salmon from West Coast rivers and other marine species, NMFS officials said. While the expansion of critical habitat recognizes that the orcas forage across much of the West Coast, the new protections for the whales are unlikely to extensively affect coastal activities like fishing, according to the officials.

The environmental protection and restoration group Oceana praised the decision to expand critical habitat for the Southern Resident orcas, whose population has dropped to 75 individuals, across three pods.

“The critical habitat designation will help ensure Southern Resident orcas have an ocean abundant with large salmon that is free from binding ship noise and toxic chemicals,” said Ben Enticknap, a senior scientist with Oceana. “Orca and salmon recovery go hand-in-hand, with benefits to a healthy ocean ecosystem, salmon fisheries, and communities throughout the region,” he said.

The federal fisheries officials and the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which makes recommendations to NOAA Fisheries on fishing seasons and regulations, said they had already taken into consideration the killer whales and Chinook salmon in setting salmon harvest quotas. NOAA completed a biological opinion on the operation of dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in 2020, after concluding that hatchery salmon more than make up for any reduction in salmon numbers related to operation of the dams. Research based on the DNA signatures of West Coast salmon stocks showed that killer whales prey on salmon from a diversity of West Coast rivers, that span as far south as the Sacramento River and north to Canada and Alaska, they said.

The one notable change from the coastal critical habitat NOAA Fisheries originally proposed in November 2019 was to reduce the excluded buffer area around excluded Quinault Range Site, which the U.S. Navy uses for various training and testing activities in support of military readiness. The final plan also includes a biological explanation of how human-induced noise impacts the conservation value of the designated critical habitat for the endangered orcas.

National Maritime Center Offers Updates on Training Courses, Programs

Officials with the National Maritime Center say the last automatic course and program extensions, based on the COVID-19 pandemic, expired on June 30 and Marine Training Providers should address the need for individual extensions by emailing

The current inventory of course and program approval requests is high and it is taking 90 days or more for NMC staff to begin reviewing a request, so request for renewals should be submitted early. The NMC says it is proactively reaching out to providers who have already submitted renewal requests in a timely manner to ensure courses do not expire while awaiting evaluation. Those with questions should contact

Coast Guard officials note that they recently transitioned to a Microsoft Office 365 environment, which has resulted in both positive and negative impacts on operations. The transition increased the allowable size of email attachments from 10MB to 35 MB; the system may reject larger files without notice to the sender. Those who have not received acknowledgement of their email within 10 business days should contact the NMC.

The transition did impact access to the email address used to request Homeport accounts for uploading course completion and curricula data. While this has been corrected, anyone who submitted a request and has not heard back should send new request.

For further information or concerns, email or call 1-888-IASKNMC (888-427-5662)

Conservation Groups Seek Permanent Ban on BC Mine Waste Facilities

Two fisheries conservation entities focused on protection of wild salmon habitat say they will appeal to the federal governments of the United States and Canada for a temporary halt to permitting, exploration, development and expansion of British Columbia mines.

Salmon Beyond Borders and the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC) said on Aug. 3 that they also are seeking a permanent ban of mine waste facilities. The announcement came on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster of Aug. 4, 2014, when a breach in the tailings pond of the Mount Polley copper and gold mine owned by Imperial Metals released water and slurry with years’ worth of mining waste into Polley Lake. The wastes flowed on into Hazeltine Creek and the Quesnel Lake watershed, a major source of drinking water and home to one quarter of the province’s sockeye salmon.

BC fisheries officials have already agreed to meet with SEITC to discuss a plan proposed by SEITC to temporarily halt certain mining related activities pending a binding international agreement on watershed protections which are consistent with the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has already shut down nearly 60% of the commercial salmon fisheries in the province, which are of economic and cultural importance to residents of the BC coast. Commercial fishing for salmon on the Yukon River, which flows from the coast of western Alaska, is also closed for the season, as it is across the border for both Alaska commercial and subsistence harvesters. On both sides of the border, it is seen as a necessary effort to save critically low numbers of Pacific salmon.

The two nonprofit entities are wary about how mining upstream might adversely impact habitat in the salmon rich transboundary rivers that flow from British Columbia into Southeast Alaska. On both sides of the border the salmon are a critical food source for both people and wildlife.

According to Jill Weitz, campaign director for Salmon Beyond Borders, plans are to collaborate with officials in 13 communities in Southeast Alaska, and the British Columbia Mining Law Reform Network, as well as communities in Washington state, Idaho and Montana in the effort to slow the impact of mining on salmon habitat in transboundary rivers, then delivery their plea to safeguard the transboundary ecosystem to President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau by late September or early October.

From the Editor: Untangling the Web

By Mark Nero, Managing Editor

Did you know that for many years, Fishermen’s News has had two separate websites on which its content is hosted?

There’s Fishermen’s News Online ( where certain content is posted, such as articles that are generated for our weekly Fishermen’s News newsletter as well as the editorial you’re reading right now.

Then there’s the “main” or “regular” Fishermen’s News website (, which hosts the content that appears in the print edition of the magazine.

The reason I point this out is that at some point in the not-to-distant future, the two shall become one, and all content will appear on the main site.

The transition is actually already underway, although there’s still quite a road ahead before it’s complete. Currently, if you go to the “main” site, you’ll see that some of the stories from the weekly newsletter have started cropping up there.

Also new to the site is the addition of digital versions of previous issues of the magazine. Currently, you can find all articles from the April/May and June/July issues by going to the site and clicking on the “Issues” tab under the logo on the left side of the home page.

To be clear, for the time being, newsletter content will appear on both sites. But the plan is to eventually migrate everything over to the main site and discontinue using the Blogger site.

This consolidation, we hope, will make things easier for you as a reader, as all the magazine and newsletter content will be all under one roof, so to speak, and you won’t have to search multiple websites to find it.

The process is ongoing and is expected to last several more months, but I’ll update you once the migration is nearing completion. In the meantime, please continue to visit both sites to view the content that our hardworking team of professionals is continuously generating.


Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at:

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

New Legislation to Reauthorize Magnuson-Stevens Act Introduced in U.S. House

New legislation to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), is now before the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act was introduced by Representatives Jared Huffman, D-CA, and Ed Case, D-HI, in the wake of a listening tour by Huffman to collect comments on issues facing numerous entities that depend on healthy fisheries.

Huffman is the chair and Case is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife.

Huffman said that while MSA has worked well, new approaches are needed in this era of climate change, new technologies, evolving science needs and increasing ocean use. The new legislation rises to the challenges of the 21st century and includes critical updates to the landmark law, he said.

“With the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act we can strengthen fishing communities and ensure a high standard of sustainable fisheries management continues well into the future,” he remarked.

The proposed amendments to MSA in the new legislation include consideration of climate change in regional fishery management council priorities and planning, and an improved disaster relief program, a working waterfront grant program and increased support of seafood marketing. Other amendments would increase representation of different viewpoints on regional fishery management councils, expand electronic technologies and data management systems, update cooperative research and management, and strengthen essential fish habitat consultation, building on MSA conservation standards to improve outcomes for overfishing and rebuilding and conserving forage fish.

According to Robert Vandermark, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, the new legislation offers several crucial improvements to federal marine policy, including for the first time addressing effects of climate change on U.S. ocean fisheries, by incorporating climate science and adaptation strategies into management decisions.

The bill also incorporates language to provide support for working waterfronts by allocating funds and resources to improve coastal infrastructure and deal with the growing threats of climate change, Vandermark said, adding that it further recognizes the need for accurate, timely and verified catch data for all major commercial and recreational fisheries and includes measures to modernize data collection methods and utilize electronic technologies to improve catch accounting, particularly in the recreational sector.

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