Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Area M Purse Seiners Sit Out First Salmon Opener

Fishermen's News July 2011

By Margaret Bauman

For the second year in a row, the South Peninsula fishing fleet has decided to sit out the first opener of the salmon fishery to avoid the political controversies that arise when their catch of sockeye salmon includes a large number of chum salmon.

The Aleutians East Borough at Sand Point said the decision was made June 4, after subsistence fishermen noted that the chum-to-sockeye ratios were still high.

The period ran from June 7 through June 10.

Salmon fishermen from these villages realized that chum salmon catches during the June fishery are politically dangerous, borough officials said.

In the past Area M fishermen have been accused of affecting the subsistence and commercial chum salmon runs to the Arctic Yukon Kuskokwim region of Western Alaska.

In 2001, the Alaska Board of Fisheries implemented severe restrictions which hurt the Area M fishing fleet, then lifted those restrictions in 2004 after finding no evidence that previous chum salmon fishing restrictions resulted in any improvement in the chum runs to the AYK region.

The South Peninsula fishing fleet hopes that by taking voluntary measures like this purse seine stand down, they can maximize their sockeye harvest without stirring up the controversy that accompanies large chum catches, the group said.

According to the states Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission there are 59 seine permits held by local fishermen and 35 from out-of-state.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at

Statewide Salmon Harvest Growing

In just a week, Alaska’s statewide salmon harvest has grown from 4,094,000 fish to 8,430,000 in the nets, including 1.5 million sockeyes harvested in Bristol Bay. Preliminary statistics from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game through June 24 show the Egegik district had delivered some 762,000 reds and about 1,000 kings, while the Naknek-Kvichak district had a catch of 570,000 reds and fishermen in the Ugashik district netted 124,000 reds. Just a week earlier those totals stood at 110,000 salmon for Bristol Bay, with the bulk of the harvest – 95,000 reds – coming from the Egegik district.

In Prince William Sound, the harvest reached 2.7 million fish, including more than one million chums and 18,000 Chinook salmon, up from 1.7 million salmon, including 694,000 chum and 17,000 kings a week earlier. That included some 44,000 reds and 881,000 chums in the Coghill district, and 1.1 million reds, 11,000 chum and 18,000 kings in the Copper River district. That compared with 11,000 reds and 661,000 chum in the Coghill district, and 1,038,000 reds, 11,000 chum and 16,000 kings in Copper River district as of the preliminary June 17 count.

In Southwest Alaska the total salmon harvest has reached 1.6 million fish for the Alaska Peninsula, including over one million reds, 310,000 pinks, 255,000 chum and some 3,000 kings, mostly harvested in the South Peninsula. As of June 17 that harvest was just 712,000 fish, including some 542,000 reds, 126,000 chum, 41,000 pinks and some 3,000 kings.

For Southeast Alaska, the harvest stood at 245,000 salmon of all species, including 132,000 chum, 50,000 kings, 33,000 reds, 20,000 pinks and 11,000 silvers; up from a total of 49,000 salmon of all species, including 542,000 reds, 126,000 chum, 41,000 pinks and 32,000 kings a week earlier.

For the Yukon River, the total harvest stood at 23,000 salmon of all species, including 11,000 chum, 8,000 kings and 4,000 sockeyes. For the previous week, the state showed no harvest. The state has imposed strict conservation measures to assure escapement of Chinook salmon over the Canadian border and subsistence fishing also has been restricted.

Fishermen Cited for Numerous Violations

Alaska State Wildlife troopers have cited more than three-dozen commercial fishermen in the Egegik district of Bristol Bay over the last two weeks for violations ranging from failure to display valid registration on their vessel to lack of current crewmember licenses and fishing in closed waters. A trooper spokesman at King Salmon confirmed that an increased number of wildlife troopers were covering the commercial fishery in that district, but did not give any specifics on how great the increased coverage is so far this season.

On June 28 alone, 13 harvesters were cited, 5 of whom are Alaska residents, and the others from the Pacific Northwest. Those found to be fishing aboard drift gillnetters and at setnet sites without those required crewmember licenses faced a fine of $260 for each violation, while those lacking a current vessel document had bail set at $60 apiece. Bail for one harvester lacking the required personal flotation device was set at $110. Those observed fishing in closed waters all face arraignment in the Naknek District Court at various dates in July.

Importance of Salmon Habitat

Protection of salmon habitat ranks very high with the majority of Alaskans, according to results of a poll released this week in Juneau by The Nature Conservancy. The non-profit conservation group leads salmon habitat projects in Bristol Bay, the Matanuska-Susitna Basin in Southcentral Alaska and the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska.

Ninety-six percent of some 500 registered voters polled said salmon are essential to the Alaskan way of life and an important part of the state’s economy. Nature Conservancy spokesman Randy Hagenstein said that across the board, Alaskans truly understand the kind of habitat salmon need and support investment needed to keep that habitat healthy.

Mark Kaelke, project director for Trout Unlimited in Southeast Alaska, said those poll numbers show that Alaskans view salmon as an icon “that defines us as a state.
“The poll shows the overwhelming majority of residents here understand healthy rivers and streams are key to salmon abundance, and they support lawmakers who continue to make salmon protection a priority.”

And this, added Kaelke, “is definitely something our elected officials need to understand and put into action.”

Salmon Initiative Decision Expected Shortly

A court decision on a salmon initiative that could severely restrict large-scale mines, such as the proposed Pebble Mine, in Southwest Alaska, is expected within a week, in the wake of oral arguments on the Lake and Peninsula Borough case.

The proposed mine is backed by individuals and groups who see it as a means of further economic development and jobs. It is opposed by a large contingent of commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen, environmental groups and others, who feel such a huge copper, gold and molybdenum mine threatened the habitat of salmon in Bristol Bay.

With judicial approval the measure could possibly be on the borough’s Oct. 4 general election ballot, but if approved could face further legal challenges.

The Save Our Salmon initiative was certified May 30 to be placed on the Lake and Peninsula Borough ballot this October, then challenged in state district court by the Pebble Limited Partnership. The court heard oral arguments in late June over the legalities of allowing the measure to be placed on the ballot.

The main thrust of the initiative is that it would add language to the borough’s permitting code that states: “where a resource extraction activity could result in excavation, placement of fill, grading, removal and disturbance of the topsoil of more than 640 acres of land and will have a significant adverse impact on existing anadromous waters, a development permit shall not be issued by the (planning) commission.” The initiative also changes the preferred order in which permits are applied for. Current code requires that an applicant seeking a borough permit must have already secured all state and federal permits. The initiative strikes that language and states, “the applicant should obtain its development permit from the borough prior to obtaining state and federal permits.”

Salmon Initiative Decision Expected Shortly

A court decision on a salmon initiative that could severely restrict large-scale mines, such as the proposed Pebble Mine, in Southwest Alaska, is expected within a week, in the wake of oral arguments on the Lake and Peninsula Borough case.

The proposed mine is backed by individuals and groups who see it as a means of further economic development and jobs. It is opposed by a large contingent of commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen, environmental groups and others, who feel such a huge copper, gold and molybdenum mine threatened the habitat of salmon in Bristol Bay.

With judicial approval the measure could possibly be on the borough’s Oct. 4 general election ballot, but if approved could face further legal challenges.

The Save Our Salmon initiative was certified May 30 to be placed on the Lake and Peninsula Borough ballot this October, then challenged in state district court by the Pebble Limited Partnership. The court heard oral arguments in late June over the legalities of allowing the measure to be placed on the ballot.

The main thrust of the initiative is that it would add language to the borough’s permitting code that states: “where a resource extraction activity could result in excavation, placement of fill, grading, removal and disturbance of the topsoil of more than 640 acres of land and will have a significant adverse impact on existing anadromous waters, a development permit shall not be issued by the (planning) commission.” The initiative also changes the preferred order in which permits are applied for. Current code requires that an applicant seeking a borough permit must have already secured all state and federal permits. The initiative strikes that language and states, “the applicant should obtain its development permit from the borough prior to obtaining state and federal permits.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Today's Catch: Genetic Markers

July 2011

The 8th Annual Washington Troll Salmon Lunch at Lark in Seattle, sponsored by Washington’s Makah Tribe and the Washington Trollers Association, featured local hook and line-caught Marbled Chinook salmon, donated by the Cape Flattery Fishermen’s Co-op and prepared by James Beard Award-winning Chef John Sundstrom.

The annual event is organized to introduce local food writers and commercial fishermen, giving the former a chance to speak with the latter and sample some of the delicious salmon harvested by the trollers off the coast.

“Marbled” salmon describes Chinook salmon whose flesh is neither red nor white, but a combination of the two, “marbled” throughout the body. The distinctive fish occur only in the troll fisheries of Washington and southwest British Columbia, and the in-river gillnet fishery of the Fraser River. Scientists believe the marbled appearance results from a recessive genetic feature, which is tied somehow to the fish’s distinct life history.

The marbled fish, which may make up as much as 40 percent of this season’s catch, are externally indistinguishable from their cousins, providing a nice surprise once they’ve been filleted. The coloring fades away during cooking, but a well-prepared Marbled Chinook, such as the fare served at Lark, retains its delicious flavor, due to elevated Omega-3 fat levels.

The guest speaker at the Lark Lunch was Scott Blankenship, who leads the Molecular Genetics Team for the Washington Department of Fish and Wild Life ( Working with fishermen on the water, Scott and fellow researchers analyze scale and fin clip samples gathered by commercial fishermen from the salmon they catch. The genetic material in these samples tells the team which river or stream the salmon originated from, and where they are returning in an effort to spawn the next generation of wild salmon.

He recently delivered the luncheon address to a crowd of food writers and commercial fishermen at the 8th Annual Washington Troll Salmon Lunch at Lark in Seattle.

Marbled SalmonMarbled Chinook, foreground, shows its distinct coloring compared to the red Chinook behind it. Photo by Marcus Donner,

Blankenship was at the lunch to speak about Ocean Genetics Project, a collaborative research project between the Washington Trollers Association (WTA) and the Molecular Genetics Lab. Below are Blankenship’s comments on the project:

The Ocean Genetics Project is merging at-sea spatial information with genetic identification and satellite imagery. The collaboration is investigating the relationship between fish movement, environmental conditions, and fishing effort.

Why Do We Want This Information?
There is limited information about wild fish in the ocean, and specifically for Chinook salmon. The main units of information are coded-wire-tagged hatchery fish, in which a small wire has been placed in the snout. This process estimates catch rates, and uses tag groups as proxies for wild stocks. Yet, as weak stocks of salmon continue to limit fishing, and require care to get them on a positive population trajectory, better information is needed about wild fish in both fresh water and salt water.

Let me be clear here – there are a lot of Chinook salmon in the ocean, but the mixing of weak stocks and strong stocks is a vexing problem, and a general trend is continued downward pressure on harvest. We need innovation and different ways of doing business if we are going to maintain critical activities like commercial harvest in the era of listed populations. The Ocean Genetics Project is a means of getting higher resolution information about wild fish at sea and also can be used as a model for improving fishery information. This project is also a means to imagine a different future where managers have information streaming at them about environmental conditions, stock distributions and harvest of wild Chinook.

How Did We Get Here?
During the catastrophic collapse of the Oregon and California Chinook fisheries in 2005 and 2006, not surprisingly, there was new motivation to understand stock distribution patterns and avert these large-scale fishery closures. Now remember, Washington had an open fishery those years. The more refined location information is, the better off we are. Over the last few years, a remarkable collaboration has developed among commercial trollers in California, Oregon, and Washington, the research staff in those states, and fishery managers to protect stocks, sustain harvest and improve economic opportunities.

What Are We Doing?
As trollers go to sea, they run a GPS, and when they catch a fish they make a waypoint. The waypoint is written on a coin envelope in which a tiny fin clip is placed – a waypoint and fin clip for each fish. When the troller returns to port, the location data is downloaded and envelopes are mailed to the genetics lab. In the lab each fish is genotyped and its genotype is compared to a large reference database that contains hundreds of known collections. This process takes a few hours, and the comparison allows us to identify each troll-caught fish to its location of origin. The real beauty here is the linked waypoint, which allows the merger of many streams of information. We know when a fish was caught, where it was caught, its stock, along with overlaid satellite (sea surface temperature, productivity) and buoy (current, wind) information. When expanded out along the coast, you see when stocks show up, the effort it takes to catch them, and associated environmental data.

Collaborators in Oregon are experimenting with using this system for marketing. As each fish is bar-coded, enhanced information can be embedded in the packaging and available to the consumer. A kiosk with a scanner could let the buyer know the fisherman who provided the fish. There is also a website to punch in the barcodes. On the food safety or product quality front, the time from the date of capture to the point of consumption could be known. The WTA could use this information to ensure the best product is available, and to connect with their customers. A restaurant could use this to verify they are getting the fish they think, or enhance their offerings – for example: “Salmon tonight provided by (insert fisherman’s name and vessel name here).”

The point of the project is to explore the possibilities and see what resonates.

Chris Philips

Norton Sound Salmon, Crab Prices Rising

Fishermen delivering salmon and king crab to Norton Sound Seafood Products, a division of Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., are getting a boost this year for their harvest.

NSSP said it would pay fishermen 72 cents a pound for chums and 25 cents a pound for pinks landed at the dock in Unalakleet to begin the 2011 season. That’s a 20 percent increase for chum and 25 percent increase for pinks over last year, when fishermen were paid 60 cents a pound for chums and 20 cents a pound for pinks at the dock.

NSSP said it would start the season with three tenders on the fishing grounds to support its harvesters. Deliveries to tenders in 2011 will initially net fishermen 67 cents a pound for chum and 20 cents a pound for pinks. Early season fishing will primarily be delivered to tenders with deliveries to the dock at Unalakleet coming later in the season.

Fishermen delivering Norton Sound red king crab this year will be paid $5.29 a pound by the CDQ group’s subsidiary. Last year the crab price was set at $3.77 at the dock.

The CDQ crab fishery is to open on June 28. Once the first deliveries can be checked for quality and meat fill, NSSP will immediately proceed with accepting deliveries from the open-access fishery, NSSP said.

NSSP is working on plans to continue its offering of tendering services from the Golovin area and in the southern portion of Norton Sound. Tendered crab will fetch $5.04 a pound for harvesters, the company said.

A company spokesman, Rich Ferry, said the strong demand worldwide for crab prompted the price increase to harvesters.

SeaShare, Copper River Seafoods Honored by Global Food Alaska 2011

Jim Harmon, executive director of SeaShare, in Seattle, and Scott Blake, president of Copper River Seafoods, were among those honored for their achievements at the recent Global Food Alaska 2011 conference in Soldotna. Harmon was named Alaska champion in the competition among food service, restaurant, distributor, wholesaler, broker and retail partners for individuals who played a significant role in putting Alaska food, beverage or bio products into the marketplace on a local, national or international level. Blake won in the manufacturer/processor category as the individual who has demonstrated the most leadership in processing or manufacturing Alaska food, beverage or bio products.

Seashare’s seafood donation program solicits and collects donated seafood from Alaska and Pacific Northwest harvesting and processing firms and distributes the fish through established food banks to thousands of Americans. During Harmon’s tenure SeaShare has distributed over 150 million meals, over half of that volume coming from previously under-utilized fish in Alaska.

Blake’s leadership of Copper River Seafoods, which he founded with two fishing partners in 1996, has made the company one of the largest Alaska owned and based processing firms. Global Foods Alaska saluted Blake for redefining the relationship of fishermen with their processors, maximizing utilization of the fish through waste recovery products, recycling of waste heat, lean manufacturing practices as applied to energy utilization and a company –wide strategy for career training in that industry.

Blake shared honors in the manufacturer/processor category with Ralph Carney, president of Alaska Chip Company.

The event marked the second time, the first being in 2009, that the Global Food Alaska Conference and Showcase brought together buyers and sellers of Alaska grown, harvested and produced food, beverage and agri-products to network for their mutual entrepreneurial benefit.

Frankenfish Legislation

Legislation that would prohibit the federal Food and Drug Administration from approving genetically modified salmon for human consumption has passed in the US House but still awaits action in the Senate, where Senators Mark Begich, D-Alaska and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have also voiced opposition.

The action came as an amendment by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, to the $125.5 billion Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2012. That amendment would prohibit the FDA from spending funds to approve an application from Massachusetts-based AquaBounty to have genetically modified salmon approved.

AquaBounty says the genetically modified salmon is safe and environmentally sustainable. Young says the so-called Frankenfish is uncertain and unnecessary.

“Any approval of genetically modified salmon could seriously threaten wild salmon populations as they grow twice as fast and require much more food,” Young said. “Additionally there are no guarantees that the fish eggs will not be sold to other nations, where open water net pens are more common or on the other end of the spectrum, cause countries with strict regulations on genetically modified foods to reject U.S. salmon, hurting the U.S. fishing industry during an ongoing economic recession.

Trout Unlimited applauded the House action, expressing concerns over the risks that genetically altered salmon pose to wild salmon populations through competition or interbreeding, should they escape confinement or be released into the wild.

“In Alaska, we particularly welcome passage of this amendment given the tens of thousands of jobs tied to our healthy wild salmon runs,” said Tim Bristol, director of the Trout Unlimited Alaska program. “Alaska’s multi-million dollar commercial and sport fishing industries are based on the abundance of wild salmon.”

Alaska Wild Salmon Catch Tops 4 Million Fish and Growing

Alaska Department of Fish and Game preliminary statistics show that a total of 4,094,000 wild Alaska salmon were harvested through June 17, including 3.1 million sockeyes, 862,000 chums, 55,000 kings, 44,000 pinks and 3,000 coho. Just one week earlier the statewide total was 1.7 million wild salmon, including 1,050,000 reds, 694,000 chums, 17,000 kings and less than 1,000 each of coho and pink salmon.

Economists specializing in fish harvests are forecasting a good year price-wise, thanks to worldwide demand, the strength of the Euro and Japanese yen against the dollar and still recovering Chilean farmed salmon markets.

In the Copper River the harvest as of June 17, the latest date for which statewide preliminary totals were available, was 1,038,000 reds, 16,000 kings and 11,000 chum salmon. The historical five-year cumulative harvest for the Copper River for that week was 550,000 sockeyes and 16,700 kings, state officials said.

Harvesters in Chignik meanwhile had a harvest of 814,000 sockeyes, 12,000 chums, plus fewer than 1,000 kings. In the South Alaska Peninsula fishermen harvested 542,000 reds, 126,000 chums, 41,000 pinks and about 3,000 kings, and on the North side of the Peninsula the catch was 22,000 reds.

Kodiak harvesters brought in 437,000 reds and 22,000 chums.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Research Effort Going into Using the Whole Salmon

By Margaret Bauman

June 2011

Concern for the ecosystem, coupled with the hard reality that a good portion of wild caught seafood is being wasted and the federal government may not put up with it much longer is prompting increased effort to make full utilization of Alaska fish.

“Long term, people are going to see the whole fish, that there is something to do with every part of it,” says Richard Mullins, a partner with Patrick Simpson, president of Scientific Fishery Systems, Inc., in Anchorage, in a project on Southcentral Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula to extract nutritious oils and also find uses for the viscera of wild salmon.

“In the Lower 48, there is no dumping of fish wastes,” said Mullins, who grew up in Cordova and has been in the fish business for most of his life, first as a harvester in Bristol Bay, the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound, and later in sales for a seafood company.

When the Clean Water Act was first enacted, Alaska got a waiver on dumping fish wastes, he said. Now the EPA is rethinking that issue, which presents a challenge, but also an opportunity for those involved in Alaska’s fishing industry.

So Mullins and Simpson, who grew up together in Cordova, began looking into such opportunities about three years ago.

This summer they have again leased space at Kenai Landing, a popular historical waterfront area on a 90-year-old converted cannery site, for the second year of their project aimed at reducing fish waste while producing product of economic value. Mullins and Simpson are already working with the nutritional supplement market in the Lower 48, to sell human grade salmon oil extracted from salmon heads.

They are also looking at options for the slurry made from the viscera.

Mullins credits the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute for its efforts to promote wild Alaska salmon, and spreading the world that salmon oil is good for one’s health.

What to do with the slurry is still undecided, given the high cost of transportation, Mullins said. “If you are in Juneau and make fish fertilizer the only people who can afford it are the people in Juneau. Others in the industry are mixing the fish hydrolysate with peat moss, making fishmeal or using it as direct fertilizer in organic gardens.

The work is exciting, but it has been an enormous amount of work and the reward is still out in the distance, he said. “We are still hoping for that record. Long term, my goal is to find creative ways to take care of it and help the industry be a good steward of the resource,” he said. “That’s what I see in Kenai. The processors we have dealt with there understand being a steward of the resource.”

This summer Scientific Fishery Systems will be collecting salmon heads from three major area processors: Snug Harbor Seafood, Inc.; Pacific Star Seafoods and Salamatof Seafoods Inc.

Once the heads are ground up, they will go through a steam-injection process to cook the ground up pieces, which will then be separated into solids, oil and water. The oil will be further refined before it is shipped out, while the solids will be frozen for further use later by dog food manufacturers and the water discharged into the Kenai River.

“Our facility is fairly small,” Mullins said. “It is not designed to take everything that comes into a community. This is more than a pilot project, but not able to handle 100 percent of the waste coming into this community. We need to go at a pace that makes sense for the equipment we have and the market that we are developing.

“Our goal is to develop the market, and we are building that slowly. Long term we would love to utilize all the (fish) waste being produced in the community.

The project got a financial boost from a US Department of Agriculture Small Business Innovation Research grant. The first $75,000 was for concept planning and design and the next $350,000 was used for deployment and demonstration of the waste-utilization process.

“Our goal is to look at it (fish wastes) as a food source rather than an energy course,” he said. “We work with others who understand that other part of the market.

With the viscera, last summer we didn’t have a lot of samples at the end of the season, but this year we will try to figure out different things,” he said.

Energy Options
In Alaska’s Matanuska Valley, meanwhile, an assistant professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks is doing basic research on how parts of fish currently regarded as waste can be utilized.

“I do a very uncommon type of work, proof of concept,” said Andy Soria, whose expertise is in chemical conversion of biomass. “Essentially what I was after was the possibility of contributing to reducing an actual very significant waste in terms of volume dumped into the ocean untreated, and see if there are benefits of doing that,” he said.

“I try to invent things that have not worked in the past, or things that don’t exist.”

So Soria, who hails from Costa Rica, works on research and development, but not deployment. He can determine if an idea for a product will work, but not whether it will be environmentally or economically feasible.

”In Alaska alone, there are 100,000 metric tons of salmon wastes dispersed into the ocean each year,” he said. “The waste is so massive that it can’t decompose into fish food,” he said. “There are underground mountains of fish waste.”

So he has been experimenting with mixing fish waste and the sawdust of coastal alder or black spruce to create pellets. The mixture of fish and sawdust is compressed and placed inside a gasifier to produce a natural gas equivalent.

The gasification process breaks down the biomass into smaller molecules to the point where they are gases and those gases are combustible, so you create in a single machine a natural gas equivalent, and that gas can be used for all sorts of things,” he said.

The pellets can accommodate up to 25 percent wet fish slurry and still retain heating value. The ideal proportion of salmon fish slurry-a mixture of guts, heads, tails and viscera with a moisture content of 70 percent is 20 percent of the total pellet.

“In practice, reducing 20 percent, or 20,000 metric tons, of wastes that are dumped into the ocean is a very positive thing,” he said. The pellets smell like a fresh fishy river, rather than rotting fish. “It looks like wood and smells like fish,” he said.

Soria’s work at the Renewable-based Hydrocarbons Lab at the Palmer Center for Sustainable Living, has been on a small scale. “My research is focused on proof of concept – can it be done. Can I take fish waste as it comes out and produce energy?”

The advantage of using it as an energy resource in canneries is you are replacing petroleum fuel that is carbon positive. If done right, you will not emit excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere beyond what the natural system can absorb.

“The results have been very positive,” he said. “We can use an industrial waste product, a natural resource for Alaska, as high-quality feed stock and provide heat to the cannery. They can reap the benefits of excess waste and offset operating costs by displacing the diesel fuel needed to run the cannery operations.”

He is aware that canneries would have to make a capital investment to set up such a system.

Soria’s own research funding ended recently, but if he could obtain further funding, he would like to continue the project, he said. “I did this entire project for less than $50,000. With another $50,000 I can answer all of those questions,” he said.

Among those questions are the emissions profiles and ash composition of the energy resource.

A report on his research was published online on March 29 in “Energy and Fuels,” an online publication of the American Chemical Society, Soria said.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at

Putting Fish Back Into Schools, and More

Research efforts under way in Alaska with an aim at improving the health and well being of the population could bode well for the fishing industry.

A research project at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, funded by over $1 million from the US Department of Agriculture, is looking at ways to increase the connection of Alaska school children with traditional foods, while improving local markets for fish harvested sustainably.

At the same time, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is working with a prominent Alaska chef on using traditional foods, including fish, in contemporary dishes.

Andrea Bersamin is the principal investigator on the USDA funded research project. She explained that researchers ill determine what product forms of fish schools feel students will eat, plus whether the schools can afford this product and whether they have the ability to prepare it in the schools. Once the product form of fish is identified, if it can’t be produced locally, researchers plan to look elsewhere in Alaska for other forms of the same product. Hopefully, said Quentin Fong, of the University of Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program at Kodiak, the project will result in students having health food provided by private entrepreneurs who provide jobs in the community and have a profit margin.

Bersamin said the community-based participatory project will include an advisory committee of stakeholders and produce a tool kit, which would include information on how to connect with fish processors.

The ANTHC project, meanwhile, is also promoting the use of traditional foods, including fish, in an effort to reduce the number of medical issues stemming from poor diets. Project leaders Gary Ferguson of ANTHC and chef Rob Kinneen plan to spread the word using “webisodes” from different regions of the state to show people how to gather, prepare and preserve different foods native to the area, including fish.

Book Sings Praises of Bristol Bay Salmon Fishery

A new book out this spring from the National Geographic Society speaks of the Bristol Bay watershed, with its world famous sockeye salmon run, and the threat that large-scale mining poses to the ecosystem. Hidden Alaska, Bristol Bay and Beyond, is the work of National Geographic photographer Michael Melford and freelance writer Dave Atcheson, board president of the Renewable Resources Coalition in Alaska.

“The salmon are the heartbeat of the bay, both defining and supporting it,” writes Melford, in the book’s foreword. For centuries, he notes local Yupik and Aleut tribes have harvested, smoked and preserved salmon as their primary food for winter sustenance. Likewise the large brown bears, beluga whales and eagles depend on this harvest. “All this richness is possible only because the area of Bristol Bay has remained pristine and because the state’s Department of Fish and Game has put in place procedures that promote the sustainability of the fish population,” Melford said.

The large-scale mining project proposed in the region is “the classic question of what to do when the demands of capitalism and commercial gain come face-to-face with the needs for conservation and preservation: Which force will prevail is yet to be seen,” he said.

“If Alaska is a land of extremes, the Bristol Bay region might be called the land of extreme salmon,” writes Atcheson, a former commercial fisherman, and former employee of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “No other place on the planet sustains a fisheries resource quite as astounding as the sockeye and king salmon, and their supporting cast of silver, chum, and pink salmon, that make their epic journey here every year, sometimes hundreds of miles, to their natal streams. The lifeblood of the region, the salmon have fed the Native people for generations and today bolster the local economy to the tune of $350 million a year, he wrote.

Part of the reason for the strength and size of the Bristol Bay salmon runs is their genetic diversity, Atcheson notes. Over the past 10,000 years, individual stocks have adapted to individual streams, some spawning early, some late, and adapting to varied incubation temperatures, so that if one run doesn’t do well in a given year, others make up for it, for each is an essential component of a complex and healthy whole, he wrote.

The 156-page book contains a number of full-color photos of the Bristol Bay region, including commercial fisheries, landscapes and wildlife.

Standing Down in Area M

The South Peninsula fishing fleet, which has faced criticism in the past for allegedly harvesting chum salmon headed for the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim, voted for the second consecutive year to have seiners sit out the first opening of this year’s salmon fishery.

According to the Aleutians East Borough, the fleet heeded word from subsistence fishermen that chum-to-sockeye ratios were still high on the eve of the first opening.

For years now the Alaska Board of Fisheries has heard concerns voiced by commercial and subsistence fishermen in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta that the Area M fish harvests have affected commercial and subsistence chum salmon runs. The Board of Fisheries in 2004 lifted restrictions to pre-2001 levels after finding no evidence that previous restrictions on salmon fishing resulted in any improvement in chum runs to the A-Y-K.

Laura Tanis, communications manager for the Aleutians East Borough, said that there are 59 permits held by area residents, plus another 35 held by out-of-state commercial harvesters.

Tanis said the South Peninsula fleet hopes that voluntary steps like this stand down will help the fleet garner maximum sockeye salmon harvests without stirring up the controversy that accompanies large chum catches.

The South Peninsula fleet also stood down for the first opener last year.

Council Puts Cap on King Salmon Bycatch in Gulf of Alaska

Federal fishery managers, prompted by the incidental catch of more than 51,000 Chinook salmon in the 2010 Gulf of Alaska Pollock fishery, have placed a 25,000 king bycatch cap on the fishery. The action came on June 12 during the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Nome.

Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell made the motion to adopt the 22,500 Chinook bycatch cap, but other council members argued that the Pollock fleet deserved a 25,000 cap to give vessels more cushion to catch the allowable amount of Pollock without hitting the king salmon cap.

Their debate centered around how much responsibility to place on the Pollock fleet to avoid salmon bycatch versus how much benefit there would be to the salmon resource.

Kodiak fish harvester Theresa Peterson, a community coordinator for Alaska Marine Conservation Council, said Campbell’s effort to keep the bycatch low was appreciated because it was responsive to the needs of salmon fishermen and the salmon resource itself.

In her testimony to the council, Peterson said that Chinook salmon account for the highest bycatch and are the least abundant salmon species. “Significant and unrestricted Chinook salmon bycatch has been occurring in the gulf of decades,” she said. “This level of bycatch is unacceptable, particularly at a time when many salmon users are struggling and puts undue hardship on Alaska’s commercial, sport, recreational, personal use and subsistence harvesters.”

More than 500 people signed a letter delivered to the council that supported the cap of 22,500 kings, she said.

At length, the majority of council members opted to change the cap to 25,000 kings, to allow for the Pollock fleet to operate with more cushion.

Peterson noted that the council kept in place other portions of the preferred preliminary alternative, including increased monitoring of vessels under 60 feet fishing for Pollock only, and full retention of salmon caught incidentally in the Pollock fishery.

Agreements being worked out will allow that king salmon to go to food banks as early as this summer. It will also allow the Alaska Fishery Science Center to do comprehensive genetic sampling analysis to determine rivers of origin of king salmon harvested in Gulf of Alaska waters.

Julie Bonney, also of Kodiak, speaking for the Groundfish Data Bank, also applauded efforts to put the bycatch salmon into food banks and for research to determine stock origins.

But Bonney said it will be difficult for the pollock industry to be responsive to a hard cap because the pollock feet in the Gulf of Alaska doesn’t have the sophisticated tools used by the Bering Sea pollock fleet.

“It’s going to be a struggle to try to perform appropriately knowing we are looking at higher quota for Pollock for the next two years at least,” Bonney said.

Bonney said much work is needed to know how to modify salmon excluders being used with success in the Bering Sea for the net size and horsepower of Pollock boats in the Gulf of Alaska. “We hope we can piggyback on what the Bering Sea (fleet) has done,” she said.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

California Waypoints - The First Salmon Expedition

By John Platt Hurwitz

It’s six days ‘til salmon season opens in California; the initial part of the season focuses on Pt. Arena south to Pt. Sur. We fish out of Half Moon Bay so that means we have a few days to get ready. Late last week we finished bringing in the crab gear and stacking it in the yard. While a good crab season comes to an end we hope for a good start to a productive salmon season. As we make the switch, my mind drifts back to another salmon season.

It was around April 1972 that Irene and I, bona-fide greenhorns, bought our first boat, the Alice E. We were enchanted by the whole idea of fishing for a living. What could be better? I loved to fish and she, a very very dedicated wife, was ready to follow me anywhere and everywhere, and surprisingly, she did.

In those days salmon season opened on April 15 and ran through the end of September. I had finally mastered the little things like putting down the poles, running the gurdies and she had a fair idea on how to steer. We were day fishing out of Ft. Bragg, putting in long days for one or two fish. Our great plans of living off the sea began to dim a little.

One evening after another fruitless fourteen hour day we came in and were tying up the boat when another skipper stopped by and informed us that the Bodega Bay boats were catching four hundred pounds a day. He asked us if we would like to run down to Bodega with him and another boat. We said we would talk it over and let him know right away.

We found Bodega on our chart and saw it was quite a long trip and we had never ventured out of local waters. We made the choice to go and informed the other two boats, asking when they wanted to leave. They said, “Great, we'll leave sometime tomorrow morning.” We were excited – our first “trip!” We had heard the term and sort of knew what it meant. Wow! We were actually going some place where they were catching fish… and imagine, 400 lbs a day!

The Alice E was a classic 28 ft clipper stem Monterey. White with red trim, she had a wheelhouse just large enough for the two of us to sit side by side on a bench behind the wheel. There were two doors to the wheelhouse, one on the port side and a small sliding half-door on the rear that served as a back rest to our bench. Irene found this door handy when my temper got the best of me after losing a fish. She’d slide the door closed to ensure none of my salty uproar would find her as a target. Our sleeping quarters were located in the foc’sle, a separate compartment located directly in front of the wheelhouse. Down a short ladder were two bunks, one port, one starboard, and in the peak, a small one-burner propane powered stove. Our electronics consisted of a CB radio (referred to as the Mickey Mouse or just mouse) a compass, and a chart. That was it.

We hurried to the local market, put on supplies and were ready to go the next morning. I can't remember why, but our small fleet didn't leave the harbor until some time in the afternoon. By the time we emerged from the jetty at the mouth of the Noyo River and set our course south, the weather was already nasty. Wind out of the northwest and sloppy. The other boats were close by and I could see that they were struggling too. Our initial calamity occurred when a five-gallon propane tank fell from its rack in front of the foc’sle. It started rolling around in the bow, hitting the bulwarks and then rolling down the starboard side of the boat banging into everything as it moved aft. “Grab that tank,” I shouted at Irene, “it’s a bomb rolling around like that!” She sprung into action, like 49er free safety Ronnie Lott. She tackled that tank and just as she grabbed it and stood up, we took a wave over the starboard bow. She was knocked against the wheelhouse her face four inches from my window and drenched head to toe. That Kodak moment of Irene with water dripping from her hair, her face, and the searing glare in her eyes as she stared at me through that window is forever etched into my memory, kind of like one of those life-threatening experiences. My feeble explanations about how I couldn’t change course, I didn’t control the ocean, the captain has to stay at the wheel in heavy weather, fell on deaf ears. After securing the tank we once more turned south toward Bodega. All quiet in the wheelhouse.

Not long after the propane incident, we got a call from one of our running partners saying they thought we should anchor up in Mendocino Bay for the night. Ok, I replied, we'll follow you. We looked at each other; we had never anchored up before. How hard could it be, we had anchored a rowboat once. Actually it went off without a hitch and we were rapidly becoming veterans at this fishing game. We had traveled about ten miles south of the harbor and were now safely anchored up and ready for something to eat. Irene fixed dinner; we ate and promptly fell into our bunks. I think it was about 1:00 am when Irene reached over from her bunk and shook me awake. What’s wrong? I asked. “Honey, our shoes are floating,” she said her voice rising in alarm. “No way,” I muttered to myself as I jumped into the water, fumbled for the flashlight and went looking for the problem. After a lengthy search, I reported to Irene that I thought I had found the problem and would start repairs immediately. Her job was to man the pumps to keep the water low enough so I could see what I was doing. The problem was a very loose packing gland. I found something that served as packing and about 4:00 a.m. we dropped into wet bunks exhausted. The packing gland was no longer leaking; now for some sleep. Just as I closed my eyes, I heard a clunk, clunk, clunk. As I lay there trying to identify the sound, the radio crackled and a cheery voice said, “Good morning, you guys, time to pull the anchor and get going.”

That was our first trip and it hadn’t even got exciting yet. We did get to Bodega, arriving in time to be blown in for 11 days straight. We even managed to catch one fish for our efforts. The day the wind stopped blowing, we cast off the lines from the Tides Wharf and headed north for Arena and Ft. Bragg.

If you’re new at this game, I hope your first salmon trip is safe, successful, and especially memorable…!

Industry Fundraising Continues for Japan Relief

Officials with United Fishermen of Alaska say fishing fleets, processors and others in the seafood industry have stepped up to the plate in fundraising to help Japan’s fishing communities, raising over a third of a million dollars to date. And, says UFA, they’re looking for more people in the industry to get involved. Anyone who would like to coordinate a fundraising event in their own fishing community with help from UFA is asked to contact Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission Inc. at AFIRM has no overhead because its board is composed of volunteers so all contributions go directly for assistance of severely impacted fishing communities.

Draft Management Plan for Bristol Bay Critical Habitat Areas

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is seeking public comment through July 8 on a Bristol Bay critical habitat areas draft management plan addressing five critical habitat areas: Egegik, Pilot Point, Cinder River, Port Heiden and Port Moller, located on the north side of the Alaska Peninsula. The management plan will apply to state lands and waters and private lands within the critical habitat area boundaries. ADF&G will use the plan and subsequent regulations to authorize appropriate activities in the critical habitat areas through special area permitting. The five critical habitat areas include the major estuaries along the southern shore of Bristol Bay.

The primary purpose of the critical habitat areas is to protect and preserve habitat areas especially crucial to the perpetuation of fish and wildlife, particularly waterfowl, and to restrict uses not compatible with that primary purpose.

This is the second draft plan distributed for public review. This draft addresses comments received during the initial March 2010 public review, and provides guidance for managing activities on private lands within the critical habitat areas. The draft plan presents management goals for the critical habitat areas and identifies policies to be used in determining which activities are compatible with the protection of fish and wildlife, their habitats, and public use of these areas.

It includes proposed policies on access and use of resources in these areas and a list of proposed regulations for implementing the plan. Proposed regulations may be revised prior to adoption based on public comment and any subsequent changes to management plan policies. ADF&G will conduct a separate regulatory review for these regulations after the management plan is finalized later this year.

Copies of the draft plan are available on the department website at and at ADF&G offices in Anchorage, Juneau, King Salmon, Cold Bay, and Kodiak. Written comments may be submitted via email, to or via postal service to: Bristol Bay CHAs Management Plan, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Habitat. 333 Raspberry Road, Anchorage, AK 99518-1565.

New ASMI Website Boasts Fish Harvesters and Recipes

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has launched a new promotional website – – filled with recipes for sandwiches, appetizers, entrees, soups and salad that include wild Alaska seafood as an ingredient. Each recipe includes a list of ingredients, directions for preparation, a photo of the finished product and complete nutritional information, from calories and omega-3 content to amounts of protein, cholesterol, carbohydrates, fiber, sodium and calcium. Also included are links to the Alaska Seafood Channel on YouTube to show everyone from those new to preparing seafood to seasoned chefs how to purchase, store, poach, steam, broil, roast, grill and pan sear wild Alaska seafood, plus quick tricks from Alaska fishermen for smoking fish, preparing rubs and marinades and plank grilling. And there are interviews with chefs, like Jason Wilson of Seattle’s critically acclaimed restaurant CRUSH, preparing a unique dish of Alaska halibut slow cooked in Douglas fir.

ASMI also adds information on the importance of sustainable fisheries, a list of harvesting seasons, Alaska seafood sites ranging from the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association to the Alaska Symphony of Seafood, stories about and interviews with Alaska fishermen, and videos showing fish harvesters on the job in Alaska. The current fishing ride-along video is about a family that trolls for wild salmon in Hoonah in Southeast Alaska.

Federal Council Urged to Cap King Salmon Bycatch

The king salmon bycatch issue on the agenda for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Nome this week has attracted a great deal of attention. More than 500 people residing in communities dotting Alaska’s coastline have signed a letter asking the council to cap at 22,500 fish the number of king salmon that may be caught as bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska pollock trawl fishery. According to a list provided by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council those signers include commercial, sport and subsistence harvesters.

Not that the signers are pleased with that number. In fact, they said in their petition that they feel 15,000 fish is a more appropriate hard cap, because it represents an actual reduction from historical averages. Still, they said they support the preliminary preferred alternative as an important first step in placing limits on the waste of the prized kings in the gulf pollock fishery.

The signers also urged that the council include in its action 100 percent retention of all salmon caught incidentally to the Pollock fishery, in order to provide more data to use to form sounds management decisions. The signers of the petition said that there had been significant, unrestricted bycatch of king salmon in the gulf for decades and that the level of bycatch is unacceptable particularly in a period when some salmon stocks in the gulf are struggling.

Board of Fisheries Meeting Schedule

The Alaska Board of Fisheries has posted on line its tentative meeting schedule for the 2011/2012 cycle, including sessions in Anchorage, Petersburg and Ketchikan.

A two-day work session is set for Oct. 4-5 on cycle organization and stocks of concern at the Coast International Inn in Anchorage. The comment deadline is Sept. 28.

Pacific cod for Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Chignik and the South Alaska Peninsula are on the agenda for Cot. 6-10, also at Coast International Inn in Anchorage, with a Sept. 28 deadline for comments. The session on Prince William Sound and Upper Copper/Upper Susitna finfish is tentatively set for Dec. 2-7, but the location has not been announced. The deadline for comments is tentatively Nov. 18.

Coming up in 2012, the Sons of Norway facilities in Petersburg will be the meeting site Jan. 18-24 for a session on southeast and Yakutat crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish, including Dungeness, king and tanner crab. The comment deadline is Jan. 3.

The Board of Fisheries will be at the Ted Ferry Civic Center in Ketchikan Feb. 24-March 4 for a 10-day session on Southeast and Yakutat finfish, including salmon, herring and groundfish. The comment deadline is Feb. 9.

The Board of Fisheries will move back to the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage March 20-23 for a four-day session on statewide Dungeness crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish, except for Southeast and Yakutat, and supplemental issues. The deadline for comment is March 5.

The board is mandated to conserve and develop the fishery resources of Alaska. This includes setting seasons, bag limits, methods and means for the state’s subsistence, commercial, sport, guided sport, and personal use fisheries, plus setting policy and direction for the management of the state’s fishery resources. The board is charged with making allocative decisions, and the department is responsible for management based on those decisions.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fishing Safer – But Still Deadly

By Margaret Bauman

Capt'n AndrewIn early March, the 57-foot fishing vessel Capt’n Andrew ran aground four miles southeast of King Cove, Alaska, serving as illustration for a new report from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services that finds that commercial fishing continues to be the State of Alaska’s most dangerous occupation. The five crewmembers of the Capt’n Andrew were rescued by good Samaritan fishing vessel Just In Case. US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dan Buress.

Interventions developed by the Coast Guard in Alaska for stability checks on the Bering Sea crab fleet have helped, but on an overall basis, commercial fishing continues to be the state’s most dangerous occupation, a new report confirms.

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, 111 people on board commercial fishing vessels lost their lives at sea from 2000 through 2009, down from 202 from 1990 through 1999, but still far ahead of pilot deaths – 47 from 2000-2009, compared to 104 from 1990-1999 – the occupation with the second highest recorded number of deaths at work.

Jennifer Lincoln of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Alaska, noted the importance of the crab boat stability checks, as well as the Capstone program for improving pilots’ situational awareness.

Of the commercial fisheries fatalities, including deaths aboard fish processing vessels at sea, half of the deaths were caused by drowning, followed by the sinking or capsizing of vessels, falls overboard and traumatic injuries onboard, ashore or while diving, the state report said.

The highest number of fatalities – a total of 39 – occurred in the salmon fishery, while the highest fishery-specific fatality rate – 340 fatalities per 100,000 workers per year – occurred in the Bering Sea Aleutian Island freezer trawl fleet, according to statistics gathered by the state.

The report recommends that governmental agencies, industry and non-governmental organizations continue to collaborate to prevent work-related fatalities in Alaska. It also recommends that research be focused on discovering new preventive measures, evaluating their effectiveness and determining how to reduce deaths in the workplace are a subject of national concern, with various entities showing overall success in reducing that total. Figures compiled by the federal Labor Department show that overall workplace injuries dropped to 4,340 in 2009, down from 5,214 injuries the year before,

Still, commercial fishing, a job that employed some 31,000 people nationally last year, remains the most dangerous occupation, with a rate of 200 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Jennifer Lincoln, an injury epidemiologist with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health who studies fishing safety issues, has documented that Coast Guard decisions to do safety inspections on crab boats starting in 1999 have had a significant impact on decreasing the loss of lives in that fishery. The Coast Guard inspections determine whether the number and positioning of crab pots, some of which weight 700 to 800 pounds, are safe and whether they are properly loaded aboard the vessels, Lincoln noted in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

Lincoln and Ted Teske, also of NIOSH, noted at the recent ComFish 2011 gathering at Kodiak that NOISH does a lot of surveillance regarding fatalities in the fishing industry but that NIOSH is not an enforcement agency. The more personal flotation devices are used on the job on fishing vessels, the better the safety factor, they said.

Great efforts have been made over the past few years to improve the design of these personal flotation devices, which have been tested by a number of commercial fish harvesters, so that those on board will wear them on the job.

Lincoln and Teske asked those attending ComFish to ask themselves what kind of a personal flotation device policy exists on their vessel and whether they have found a personal flotation device that works for them.

There are enough personal flotation devices out on the market now to find one that works for you, they told those assembled.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at

Mining Initiative

A court battle is brewing between the Lake and Peninsula Borough in Southwest Alaska and the Pebble Limited Partnership over an initiative that aims to prohibit development of large-scale mining activities within the borough. Oral arguments in the case are set for June 23 in Superior Court in Anchorage before Superior Court Judge John Suddock.

Borough officials have said they feel the initiative is valid and that voters should be allowed whether to approve it or not.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, which hopes to get the mine permitted and develop it, has asked the court for a summary judgment, which would prevent the “Save Our Salmon” initiative from getting on the ballot.

Legal counsel for the Pebble Limited Partnership argues in its brief that the borough clerk improperly certified an application for an initiative petition in violation of various constitutional and statutory provisions. The proposed initiative would amend the borough’s development permitting code by adding a land use permit requirement precluding permits for certain large-scale development projects, such as mining, the brief argues. If enacted, the initiative would make a substantial change to the borough’s land use code and completely bypass the borough planning commission’s mandatory review and recommendation obligations, the brief goes on to say. “Because the borough assembly could not pass such an ordinance without involving the planning commission, neither can the electorate,” they argue. The 33-page brief goes on to argue that the Save Our Salmon initiative treats large-and-small-scale resource extraction differently even though they both have the potential for impacting the borough’s fisheries resources.

The Pebble Limited Partnership meanwhile has said its work plan for the current year will focus on advancing a prefeasibility study for the Pebble deposit. The company expects to complete its prefeasibility study near year, laying the groundwork to present a detailed project design to develop the mine. Opponents of the project, including a number of Bristol Bay fishermen, fear that the mine has great potential to adversely impact the fishery.

Copper River Run Just Keeps Coming

Harvests from the famed Copper River salmon fishery just keep growing, with the harvest totals as of late last week at 8,600 king salmon weighing in at 164,800 pounds, 620,800 sockeye weighing in at 3.7 million pounds, and 10,627 chums, which tipped the scales at 69,400 pounds. The May 26 run alone garnered harvesters 3,300 kings, 166,600 reds and 428 chums, weighing in at 60,700 pounds, 1,009,500 pounds and 3,100 pounds respectively.

10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage was offering over the Internet fresh Copper River sockeye salmon filets for $19.95 a pound and fresh Copper River king salmon fillets for $33.95 a pound, with free shipping on all fresh and frozen orders of 8 pounds or more. In Seattle, the famed Pike Place Fish Market was offering whole Copper River king salmon for $17.99 a pound, Copper River king salmon fillets for $29.99 a pound, whole Copper River sockeye salmon for $69.93 and Copper River sockeye fillets for $15.99 a pound.

The forecast this year is for 1.2 million sockeyes and 9,000 kings, plus some 293,000 cohos, enough to make this one of the most significant harvests there in years.

Most of the kings will be caught through mid-June, while the sockeye run will continue until mid-July and the silvers will run until September.

Watershed Assessment

The US Environmental Protection Agency has undertaken a scientific analysis of the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska to help residents understand how future large-scale development may affect water quality and the salmon fishery.

The EPA’s focus is primarily on two areas – the Nushgak and Kvichak watersheds, which are not currently protected as parks or wildlife refuges.

EPA officials say the process will include scientific peer review, tribal consultation, federal and state agency participation, as well as public and industry input.

EPA officials will be at Newhalen on June 1 (today) and at Dillingham on June 3 to talk with residents about the assessment and to answer questions.

EPA announced plans for the assessment in February in response to concerns from federally recognized tribes and others who petitioned the agency.

Assessment aims are to answer three primary questions:
  • Is the Bristol Bay salmon fishery the one of a kind, world-class fishery that it is depicted to be?
  • What are the potential impacts to Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery from large-scale development activities such as hard rock mining?
  • Are there technologies or practices that will mitigate these impacts?

EPA scientists with expertise in fisheries biology, mining, geochemistry and anthropology are reviewing existing information compiled by the state of Alaska, federal resource agencies, tribes and scientific institutions from around the world. The sources include peer-reviewed research published in scientific journals, agency staff, tribal elders and input from other experts.

EPA officials said their assessment is being conducted side-by-side with a public process and they plan to share their findings and progress throughout the course of the assessment in a series of community outreach efforts in Alaska.

The EPA, along with officials from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, will also be in Newhalen June 2 and Dillingham on June 3 to talk about their regulatory roles in the mining permitting process. Topics will include mining fundamentals, environmental concerns, regulations, and how tribes and community members can be involved.

Chain of Custody Standard

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has begun accepting applications for chain of custody certification, which will assure buyers that only Alaska seafood products bearing a “sourced from a certified Alaska fishery” can make this claim.

It’s part of ASMI’s ongoing Food and Agriculture Organization-based responsible fisheries management certification program. The Food and Agriculture Organization within the United Nations leads international efforts to defeat hunger.

ASMI officials said May 31 that certification would ensure that all certified Alaska seafood can be traced back through the supply chain to the fishery that was certified as part of the program.

To date, both Alaska salmon and Alaska halibut have received FAO-based certification, and applications have been submitted for Alaska back cod, Alaska Pollock and Alaska crab.

This chain of custody certification is required for any applicant that buys seafood from a certified fishery and wishes to make the certified claim on any of their packaging.

Certified seafood handlers will be able to demonstrate effective traceability and have systems in place to ensure that the certified seafood product is not mixed with non-certified seafood.

Applicants who buy seafood from a certified fishery, but do not wish to make the certified claim on any of their packaging will not require certification. A certification to the chain of custody standard takes from one to three months.

For more information on the chain of custody application process, contact Mike Platt at Global Trust Certification Ltd., at

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