Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Interior Secretary Will Get First Hand Look
at Proposed King Cove Road Corridor

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is in Alaska this week to attend public meetings in King Cove and Cold Bay to get information toward a pending decision on the proposed Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Land Exchange and road corridor as directed under the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. She will also spend time visiting Alaska’s North Slope and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, to discuss issues regarding resource development and public lands management with local and elected leaders and stakeholders.

While this is her first visit to Alaska as Secretary of the Interior, Jewell has also visited the state more than a dozen times before in previous roles, including as an oil and gas engineer, commercial banker and outdoor recreation business leader.

“Alaska is a unique and special place, and I look forward to meeting with local leaders and partners and spending some time visiting the incredible resources that the state is so blessed to have,” she said. “These conversations are critical as we continue to chart a course for thoughtful and wise management of these natural and energy resources – using the best available science and integrating cultural, environmental and economic factors in decision-making about development and conservation.”

The King Cove to Cold Bay Road is of particular interest to residents of King Cove – home of the Peter Pan Seafoods processing facilities, which employs a number of people about 50 weeks a year. The road would provide for land travel to the all-weather airport at Cold Bay in the case of medical emergencies occurring in inclement weather, when connections cannot be made by air or sea.

Earlier this summer Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn visited King Cove to discuss the road and due to rapidly changing weather conditions—heavy fog and rough seas—he was forced to take a boat back to Cold Bay, then climb the same 20-foot ladder to the dock that many medical evacuees have to ascend, sometimes in a crab pot if they are too sick to climb.

Several environmental organizations, including The Wilderness Society, oppose the proposed land exchange and road, saying they would compromise an internationally significant ecosystem by trading valuable wetlands for lower-quality habitat.

EPA Chief Says She’s In Alaska to Listen And Learn

The nation’s recently appointed chief administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency visited Alaska in the last week of August to hear for herself residents’ comments on climate change, the Pebble Mine and air quality.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was accompanied by EPA Region 10 administrator Dennis McLerran of Seattle as she stepped aboard a commercial sightseeing vessel on the morning of Aug. 26 to see for herself the shrinking Portage Glacier and explain that right now the EPA is in a listening mode, rather than a decision-making mode.

Also on McCarthy’s agenda was a trip to Dillingham to speak with area residents and tribal administrators about the proposed Pebble mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, and a trip to Fairbanks to discuss air quality issues.

“The challenge of climate change is not a short-term issue,” McCarthy said. “It is a long-term challenge and one in which we need every level of government and individual to really participate in what the solutions are.”

McCarthy said that President Obama’s climate change action plan “isn’t about killing jobs. This is about understanding that climate change is a fundamental issue we need to deal with, not just in terms of addressing environmental challenges, but fundamentally in addressing sustainable economy for the United States."

On the issue of proposed mining ventures in the Bristol Bay region, she said that the draft watershed assessment prepared by the EPA and now in the process of being made into a final document is not a policy document, but a science document.

“We will work through the science discussion and then we will talk about the policy that follows, but right now we are in fact finding mode to make sure we get the science correct, that we understand the impacts in that area,” she said.

Puget Sound Crab Harvest

What goes down will come back up…

By Michael A. Moore

Puget Sound Dungeness crab harvests have been at record levels for the last four seasons, fluctuating between 8 and 11 million pounds total harvest. The 2011-12 season holds the record of close to 11 million pounds, with 2012-13 down to 9 million pounds.

The 2013-14 season may be lower than that. “My friends who crab on Whidbey Island tell me this year’s catch is off from last year,” said David Armstrong, Director of the School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences at UW. “We don’t have any good explanation for the drop-off, but the trend seems to be that adult crab harvests fluctuate in four year cycles. The good news is that I have been getting photos sent to me from people along the coast showing beaches covered with young crabs, so four years from now may be another record harvest.”

While the scientists may not know why the crab harvests seem to fluctuate in four-year cycles, they do know that the overall trend of the Puget Sounds harvest has been steadily upward for the last twenty years. A timeline which closely coincides with the famous “Rafeedi decision”, in which federal judge Edward Rafeedi ruled that Puget Sound tribes were entitled to one half of the harvestable shellfish and crabs in any given year. Previous to Rafeedi, the tribes’ average allotment from the state was a little more than a third of the harvestable amount.

“The harvest for the 1992-93 year was about 3.5 million pounds,” a crab biologist who requested anonymity told Fishermen’s News. “ The next year it was a little closer to 4 million pounds, two years after Rafeedi it was over six million pounds and has been going up ever since.”

The biologist said it is his personal theory that the reason for the upward jump in the Puget Sound harvest after Rafeedi was decreased pressure on the crab population due to the fact that the tribes were not equipped to harvest all of their allotment for a number of years. This allowed the populations to build up to the present 8 to 11 million pound range.

“There are a number of factors that have affected the Puget Sound crab population,” said Don Velasquez, a crab biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. “One of the main factors is the reduced pressure on the juvenile crab from the decreased salmon population in the Sound. Another is that there are more baited pots out during the year than ever. Those pots act as feeding stations for the pregnant females and juveniles.”

Velasquez laughed when told that his description almost made it sound like Puget Sound is a giant crab ranch. He went on to mention several things all crab harvesters should be doing to help keep the crab harvest high and perhaps grow even more.

“It’s extremely important to be careful how you release crab that are too small or you don’t want to keep,” he said. “Don’t throw them like a Frisbee. That will hurt the crab and make it easy prey for the seagulls. The best technique for releasing a crab is to be as close to the water as safely possible, maybe a foot or two, and drop it in sideways, like a coin.

“Remember that the same crab may be caught several times and if it gets beat up repeatedly there is a good chance it will not survive to adulthood. And make sure to release the females immediately.”

Derelict traps are one of the main dangers to the crab population according to Velasquez.

“All fisheries have their share of traps that were either lost or the line got wrapped around a log,” he said. “Those traps ghost fish, crabs become caught in them and act as bait for even more crabs. It’s really important to make sure your trap has a biodegradable device to disable it.”

A couple of other bad habits to avoid in handling crab are letting the crab dry out before releasing it and to make sure they don’t get crushed between the pot and the sorting table.

One of the most important things to help the state manage the crab harvest is to accurately fill out the catch card, Velasquez emphasized. “We use those numbers to help us calculate how the harvest is going.” He said it is possible to raise the harvest amount during the season if the catch cards are accurate and the data show the harvest taken so the fisheries scientists are working with real numbers.

Another important action that harvesters can take is to report anyone violating the regulations, including harvesters in their own user group. “It’s easy to point the finger at someone in the other user groups,” Velasquez said. “But it’s important to keep an eye on and report violators in your own group. They hurt the fishery for everybody.”

One of the greatest threats to the mid to long term crab and shell fish population is the increasing acidification of the ocean. The first indicators that the lowering of the ocean’s pH can affect shellfish came from the ongoing investigation Hood Canal shellfish growers have been having with getting their seedlings to grow into mature individuals.

CO2 dissolved in seawater became a prime suspect when the NOAA reported research that showed there is a seasonal upwelling of deep ocean currents that brings absorbed CO2 to the surface. The CO2 levels of the upwelling currents are believed to be indicators of carbon dioxide absorbed fifty years’ previously.

Ocean acidification’s effects on Washington’s crab and shellfish populations is recognized as important enough that Governor Inslee announced on August 8 the funding of a hub at the University of Washington to coordinate research and monitoring of ocean acidification and its effects on local sea life such as oysters, clams and fish.

“Based on what is learned, the center will marshal efforts to improve the ability to forecast when and where corrosive waters might occur and suggest adaptive strategies to mitigate the effects,” according to a UW press statement.

“I don’t know of any other place in the nation where the state legislature has had the foresight to allocate funding to address these questions,” said Terrie Klinger, UW associate professor of marine and environmental affairs, and co-director of the new center with Jan Newton, principal oceanographer at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory.

The UW, which received $1.8 million in state funding for the center’s first two years, will work with investigators from other universities such as Western Washington University and with agencies, tribes, the shellfish industry and other organizations to address the needs specified by the legislature.

When the ocean absorbs excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere it becomes slightly more acidic and can deprive animals such as oysters, clams and crabs of the building materials for their shells. When such animals encounter carbon dioxide-rich waters, particularly in their earliest stages as larvae and juveniles, it can cause poor development or death.

Washington’s shellfish industry is the nation’s top provider of farmed oysters, clams and mussels and generates $270 million each year while supporting 3,200 direct and indirect jobs. Marine resources in Washington produce additional jobs and income through recreation, tourism and fisheries. Providing information to help sustain these sources of revenue and to maintain healthy ecosystems is an overarching goal of the new center, Klinger said, and the knowledge generated will be made available to scientists, resource managers, decision-makers, industry representatives and the public.

NOAA scientists are also working on a more thorough understanding of the effects of ocean acidification on crabs and shellfish.

Jason Miller of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center is working specifically in the effect of absorbed carbon dioxide in open ocean water on crab megalopa, the larval stage before they transition to small juvenile crabs.

“I have yet to fully complete a study based on the effects of two different levels of absorbed carbon dioxide in open ocean water on crab larvae in the megalopal stage,” Miller said. He used ocean water in the lab that simulated today’s level of 400 parts per million of absorbed carbon dioxide and a future predicted level of 1000 ppm of absorbed CO2. Both of those figures are well above the pre-Industrial Era baseline of 280 ppm.

“The evidence so far suggests there is a difference in the survival rates of crab megalopae when the CO2 rates are at 1000 ppm.” Miller stated. He emphasized that his results are preliminary, and that he needs further replication of the study to verify the results.Meanwhile, the Puget Sound crab harvest continues at record levels, fluctuations and all.

Sodexo Defends MSC Choice, Will Consider Alternatives

It wasn’t a promise to purchase, but one to reconsider how Sodexo sources seafood to feed millions of people under government and private entity contracts in the United States that the international food contractor offered up in late August.

George Chavel, president and chief executive officer of Sodexo USA told Alaska's US Senator Mark Begich Aug. 22 that his company would be willing to consider alternative chain-of custody arrangements ‘in conjunction with the external organizations that help ensure our commitment to sustainability is both based on robust science and responds to our customer demand.”

Sodexo USA is an affiliate of the international French food contractor Sodexo, which does billions of dollars in business in the United States. Begich contacted Chavel after hearing reports that Sodexo USA only sources seafood certified by the London-based Marine Stewardship Council.

Begich told Chavel “Alaska wrote the book on sustainable fisheries and we don’t need outsiders to tell us how to manage our stocks.”

Chavel said his company is continuing to actively monitor the state of sustainable fish and seafood to ensure that their sourcing practices support the world’s fish and seafood industry and the livelihoods of fishermen and women for many years to come. Chavel noted that in 2012, his company purchased some 6 million pounds of seafood from Alaska, including 237,220 pounds of chum salmon.

“While we know that most of the salmon fisheries from Alaska meet MSC requirements, and we are proud to source from them, we have no way to assure ourselves, our clients, and our customers unless the processor also has MSC chain-of-custody certification,” he said.

The correspondence between Begich and Chavel is the latest round in a controversy over who certifies Alaska’s fisheries as sustainable. Last year the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute introduced its own third party sustainability certification program offer with Global Trust.

Alaska Harvest of Humpies Tops 209 Million Fish

Alaska’s harvest of humpies may have peaked, but the pinks are still coming in, with a catch now numbered at more than 209 million fish out of a total statewide catch of 260 million salmon. The preliminary harvest report also included 29,310,000 sockeye, 17,595,000 chum, 3,543,000 silver and 304,000 king salmon.

That was the latest preliminary report Aug 27 from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, right in line with last week’s observation by Geron Bruce, assistant director of the state Division of Commercial Fisheries, who mused “we are past the peak, but I think it will have some pretty good tail on it.” And what a tail it is, up from the 185 million pinks caught by this time a week ago.

In Prince William Sound alone, harvesters have now delivered to processors a total of 115,200,000 salmon, including 89,423,000 pinks, while in Southeast Alaska, processors have received more than 85 million humpies from their fishermen.

In the state’s westward region, including the Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Islands, Chignik and Kodiak, the preliminary harvest figures show a total of 34.7 million humpies delivered to processors out of a total harvest of 44.9 salmon overall.

Kodiak alone has 26 million pink, plus 2.4 million red, 778,000 chum, 135,00 coho and 34,000 king salmon. On the Yukon River, meanwhile, the harvest of those very oil rich chum salmon reached 730,000 fish, with the bulk of them – 578,000 fish – from the Lower Yukon.

Check out the state’s commercial salmon preliminary harvest reports daily at

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Begich Takes on Sodexo Over Its Requirement
of MSC Certified Seafood

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has taken the international food contractor Sodexo to task over its decision to purchase only seafood certified by the London-based Marine Stewardship Council. Sodexo USA has multi-million dollar contracts with the federal government, including the Defense Department, and feeds millions of people daily through its federal and private company contracts in the US.

Begich took issue in his recent letter to George Chavel, president and chief executive officer of Sodexo USA, over the company’s reliance on MSC, an organization that has been harshly criticized by Alaska fishermen for their growing logo fees, inconsistent standards and increasing licensing costs.

“Alaska wrote the book on sustainable fisheries and we don’t need outsiders to tell us how to manage our stocks,” Begich said.

This is the second time in recent months that Begich has challenged a corporate decision to rely solely on the Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certification. In late June, Begich wrote to Walmart CEO Michael Duke, questioning the necessity of the MSC label for Alaska fisheries. He reminded Duke that Alaska was already a world leader in sustainable fisheries management for decades before MSC existed.

An aide to Begich said that Sodexo had notified the senator’s office on Aug. 20 that the company is looking into the certification issue. Walmart officials, meanwhile, have agreed to meet with Begich and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Industry in September to discuss the same issue. MSC, established in 1997, has grown in influence with the help of Alaska’s salmon, halibut and pollock fisheries, Begich said.

Last year, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute initiated its own third party sustainability certification program based on the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and eco-labeling guidelines and independently certified by Global Trust. The program is accredited by the International Organization for Standardization, which is used by fisheries in Iceland and Canada. To date more than 40 seafood entities have met the requirements of the ASMI program.

Today's Catch: Festivities

By Chris Philips, Managing Editor, Fishermen's News

Fall is here, and with the crisp mornings and return of the fleet come the annual festivals.

The Newport Fishermen’s Wives, in Newport, Oregon, are gearing up for their annual Newport Wild Seafood Weekend on Saturday, September 7. This is a fundraising event that benefits local commercial fishing families in times of need. Officially sponsored by Seafood Oregon, the day’s festivities include family fun on the boardwalk with prizes, dock walks, bay cruises, several vendors and coastal educational booths. The event ends in the evening with a soirée held at the newly renovated Maritime & Heritage Museum and includes entertainment, an appetizer competition, fine dining and raffles/auctions.

The bayfront activities are absolutely FREE, and at press time the soirée had sold out, but donations can still be made to the organization ( The monies collected will go to replenish both the Fishermen’s Relief Fund and Fishermen’s Family Relief Fund, and last year more than $10,000 was donated to fishing families whose boats went down.

Activities run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Port Dock 5 and throughout the bayfront. Activities will include dock walks with the opportunity to learn about commercial fishermen by visiting their boats. Fresh seafood will also be available to purchase directly from the docks as well as from the boardwalk. An education booth will be on display by both NOAA and USGS. Bay Cruises will be available for the day of the event. There will be several boardwalk vendors, all highlighting the coastal life, as well as raffles and prize giveaways. Vendors will be participating in a “Passport Adventures” contest that connects the guests and bayfront business owners. Guests fill their passports with participating business stamps, then collect prizes and are included in a raffle.

In Seattle, also on September 7th, the Fishermen’s Fall Festival, Benefitting Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial, celebrates the return of the North Pacific fishing fleet to Fishermen’s Terminal. The festival’s goal is to increase the public’s knowledge of the importance to Seattle of the fishing industry while raising money for the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial Foundation.

The festival provides families with a fun and educational outing on the waterfront as well as an opportunity to learn more about seafood. Hands-on art projects with fishing themes, including the popular wooden boat building and trout pond, are complimentary for all children and admission to the festival is free. Proceeds from the activities within the festival are donated to the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial to assist families of fishermen lost at sea.

The following weekend, September 14th and 15th, the Commercial Fishermen’s Festival in Astoria, Oregon offers events and activities geared toward the commercial fisherman, including a survival suit race, crab line coiling contest and crab pot stacking contest. Vendor sponsorships from $100 to $1,000 were still available at press time.

All of these events are worthwhile, and we urge you to show your support for the industry by attending one of the festivals.

Humpy Harvest in Alaska Exceeds 185 Million Fish
and Growing

Commercial salmon catches of pink salmon in Alaska soared past the old record of 161 million humpies set in 2005, moving to upwards of 185 million humpies by Aug. 20 and still climbing. “There’s something about the Alaska salmon business,” said Ocean Beauty Seafoods’ spokesman Tom Sunderland. “It’s different every year and this year, this is the surprise. We are doing all we can to deal with this volume of fish, which is surprising and unprecedented.”

The sheer volume, said Vince O’Shea, vice president of Pacific Seafood Processors Association, “has put stress on the whole system, but it’s a great problem to have.”

O’Shea said PSPA members Westward Seafoods, Alaska Pacific Seafoods and Trident Seafoods are working around the clock at their Kodiak Island facilities. “We have one shot at these fish,” he said. “The fish don’t wait.”

The deluge of humpies left Kodiak with a shortage of refrigerated containers, and O’Shea said while he was there in mid-August some 300 more refrigerated containers arrived on a barge. Trident Seafoods spokesman John van Amerongen said Trident’s primary focus has been to move as much high quality fish through its plants as possible, while maintaining the quality customers expect and keeping the fishermen fishing.

Trident’s two primary pink salmon processing plants at Cordova and Ketchikan will pack record levels of canned salmon this year, he said. In addition to traditional canned salmon, Trident’s Cordova plant will do a significant volume of skinless-boneless canned pink salmon, he said. Trident has also brought in two very large floating processors to focus on frozen pinks, plus two pollock catcher processors that are producing various frozen pink product forms, and Trident is using several vessels from its shore-based trawl fleet as specialized salmon tenders.

Meanwhile, the humpies just keep coming, and there should be a couple more good weeks of fishing, said Geron Bruce, assistant director of the Alaska Division of Commercial Fisheries. “I think we are past the peak, but I think it will have some pretty good tail on it,” he said.

The overall preliminary commercial salmon harvest total in Alaska to date is 234,011,000 fish, including the 185,229,000 humpies, 29,048,000 sockeye, 16,638,000 chum, 2,793,000 coho and 303,000 Chinook salmon.

CDQs, NOAA Funding Critical Habitat Restoration

Federal fisheries officials and three community development quota entities have committed funds to begin restoration of critical habitat this fall in the vicinity of five Bering Sea communities.

The $210,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Restoration Center and Marine Debris Program has been matched by Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Aleutian-Pribilof Island Community Development Association and the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., said Dave Gaudet, director of the Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation, which received the funds.

AMSF plans to remove some 55 metric tons of nets, lines, buoys, and other plastic debris from the vicinity of Port Heiden, Nelson Lagoon, Nikolski, St. George and Savoonga. AMSF also plans to submit a white paper exploring ideas for an effective removal and recycling program of debris from the Bering Sea communities.

Gaudet said the funds allow the foundation to pursue its mission of promoting environmental stewardship of Alaska and North Pacific marine resources through habitat restoration and education. “Removing marine debris from these areas will reduce the risk of negative impacts on marine animal communities,” said Gaudet, who announced the project on Aug. 15.

“Marine debris isn’t just trash on our shores,” said Nancy Wallace, director of the NOAA Marine Debris Program. “It can trap wildlife, damage habitat, and even get tangled in propellers. NOAA supports locally driven marine debris removal projects that benefit coastal habitat, waterways and wildlife including migratory fish.” More information about the AMSF program and progress updates on the project will be found at the AMSF website, Information on the NOAA Marine Debris Program is at

Trident Plans $41 Million Processing Plant in Georgia

Trident Seafoods and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced jointly this past week plans for a new $41 million seafood processing facility to be built in Carroll County, Georgia, creating 175 jobs.

Trident is currently in the planning stages of developing the state-of-the-art processing facility at Carrolton, Georgia, which will produce portion-controlled frozen seafood products from frozen fillets and fillet blocks, as well as battered, glazed, breaded, fryer and oven-ready frozen items.

“Georgia is the logical place for Trident Seafoods to expand its East Coast operations,” Deal said. “From our highway system that allows trucks to reach 80 percent of the U.S. market in two days to our highly trained workforce, the state offers a wealth of resources to help Trident reach its business goals.”

Hiring will take place in mid-2014 and the project is earmarked for completion in the fourth quarter of 2014. The Carroll County processing facility will be located in a 104,000-square-foot building that formerly housed a food production facility for Chiquita. Originally designed for food production and storage, the building offers refrigerated storage and an on-site wastewater treatment plant. Trident plans to expand the facility by an additional 43,000 square feet.

Trident, founded in 1973, is a privately held, American owned corporation based in Seattle. It is a vertically integrated seafood harvesting and processing company, and marketer of seafood from Alaska, including wild Alaska salmon, cod, crab and pollock. The company operates a fleet of more than 30 vessels, including floating processors, catcher-processors, fishing boats and support vessels.

Trident’s onshore facilities include processing plants in a dozen coastal communities, from Newport, Oregon, to Akutan, Alaska, with processing facilities operating in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Minnesota.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gulkana Hatchery Prepares for Egg Take
as Floodwaters Subside

Floodwaters that damaged the work site of fish hatchery that is a major contributor to the Copper River salmon fishery have subsided, workers there have finished cleaning incubators and are ready for the annual salmon egg take.

All the incubators are cleaned up and staff at the Gulkana Hatchery, a state owned facility leased to Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp., were prepared to begin the egg take, which usually runs from the end of July to as far as the first week of October, said Mike “Doc” Dansby, a fish culturist at the hatchery.

Egg taking is a labor-intensive event that involves placement of the eggs from about 100 female and 70-75 male sockeye salmon that have returned up stream into each of 136 incubators, Dansby said July 8.

Floodwaters on the East Fork Gulkana River were still pouring over the work site of the Gulkana Hatchery in early July when Gary Martinek, the hatchery manager, brought in a salmon restoration hydrologist from Washington State to help assess the damage and write a report on what repairs were needed.

“We will recover, (but) it will be different,” Martinek said. “We lost a complete upper spring, but on other springs we gained 300 to 400 yards.” The springs are where the salmon eggs are reared in winter months.

Flooding of the East Fork Gulkana River in June came as the result of a perfect storm of events. Very high snowfall in winter months was followed by more snow in April and May, coupled with very cold temperatures that made the snow pack even deeper before warm spring weather prompted rapid melting.

The floodwaters swept away millions of yards of gravel and rock, and the bridge connecting the hatchery to the Richardson Highway, formerly on dry land, was left in water. Some 40,000 cubic yards of gravel and rock were lost at the hatchery site alone. Martinek said there was considerable damage to the hatchery and spring area, where sockeye salmon spawn, plus damage to the highway that needs to be addressed quickly.

PWSAC is working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and state Department of Transportation to get permitting done so restoration work can begin, he said. The hydrologist suggested redirecting the river under the bridge, and that a lot of willow and alders that had grown up along the banks be cut down, because they were encroaching on the river. During high water events, the tree roots held and deflected the water to an area that didn’t have much growth, on the hatchery side of the river.

Martinek, who has worked at the hatchery since 1980, said he was optimistic about restoring the hatchery and getting the highway work done, to assure access to the hatchery itself.

Humpies Harvest in Alaska May Set Record in 2013

Commercial harvests of pink salmon reached more than 139 million fish by August 13 and look to be heading toward an overall record harvest.

It’s looking like a record season for pinks, says Geron Bruce, assistant director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Commercial Fisheries.

The record for Alaska’s run of wild pink salmon is 161 million humpies in 2005, but Bruce noted in an interview August 13 that commercial harvesters have been catching them at the rate of three million a day in Prince William Sound and something similar in Southeast Alaska. “If they keep that up, in a few days they will be over the top, and next week should be pretty good too,” he said.

Odd numbered years have been stronger recently for pink salmon harvests, and while this week – week 33 – is a peak week, the next week should be good too and even the week after that, he said. Over the last five years, the average for this week has been a catch of 20 million pinks, following by 13 million pinks the next week and five million pinks the week after that, he said.

The preliminary statewide total meanwhile has reached over 186 million fish, way ahead of the preseason forecast of 178.8 million salmon overall.

The statewide harvest for all wild salmon through Aug. 13 also included 28,752,000 sockeye, 15,420,000 chum, 2,206,000 silver and 299,000 king salmon, for a statewide overall harvest of 186,202,000 salmon of all species.

The largest overall harvest to date is in the state’s central region, including Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay.

In Prince William Sound the catch reached more than 69 million humpies, 20,681,000 reds, 4,397,000 chum, 379,000 silver and 34,000 kings, and in Cook Inlet, the catch stood at nearly four million salmon, including 2.7 million red, 808,000 pink, 229,000 silver, 227,000 chum and 5,000 Chinook salmon.

The Southeast region of Alaska had nearly 60 million fish, including 49.3 million pink, 8.2 million chum, 1.4 million silver, 734,000 sockeye and 220,000 kings.

In the Westward region, the Alaska Peninsula had delivered 10.3 million fish, among them 6.3 million pink, 2.7 million sockeye, 969,000 chum, 245,000 coho and 6,000 king salmon. At Kodiak, harvesters have delivered 16.7 million fish, including 13.7 million humpies, 2.2 million red, 675,000 chum, 61,000 silver and 33,000 kings, while in Chignik processors have received 3.2 million fish, including 2.3 million sockeye, 694,000 humpies, 146,000 chum, 26,000 silver and 3,000 king salmon.

On the Lower Yukon River, 473,000 salmon have been harvested, including 468,000 chum and 5,000 coho.

Comment Period Extended on Catch Share Plan

Federal fisheries officials have extended until Aug. 26 the deadline for comments on the proposed Pacific halibut fisheries catch sharing plan for guided sport and commercial fisheries in Alaska, and the comments are pouring in. In one day alone, the National Marine Fisheries Service received some 600 comments, according to an agency spokesperson.

On Oct. 5, 2012, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council took final action on the catch sharing plan, and on June 28 of this year NMFS published a proposed rule ( to reflect the council’s final action. The regulatory analysis on the proposed plan is online at

The proposed rule would implement a catch sharing plan for the guided sport and commercial fisheries for Pacific halibut in waters of International Pacific Halibut Commission regulatory areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska), replacing the current guideline harvest level program. The proposed rule would define an annual process for allocating halibut between the charter and commercial fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A and establish allocations for each fishery. The commercial fishery would continue to be managed under the Individual Fishing quota System. To allow flexibility for individual commercial and charter fishery participants, the proposed plan also would authorize annual transfers of commercial halibut quota to charter halibut permit holders for harvest in the charter fishery. This action is necessary to achieve the halibut fishery management goals of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, NMFS officials said.

According to Tom Gemmell, executive director of the Halibut Coalition, in Juneau, the existing 2003 guideline harvest level artificially tied the charter allocation to the average 199-2000 abundance while the commercial sector was tied to the current level of abundance. It’s the NPFMC’s intent that both sectors be tied to the current level of abundance, that both sectors share the allowable harvest on a percentage basis, and that both sectors’ allocations float with abundance, Gemmell said.

The Alaska Charter Association ( is saying in half page newspaper ads running in Anchorage that the plan would take halibut from the charter sector and “gift it” to the commercial fishermen, who could then “rent” that halibut allocation back to charter operators. Comments may be submitted through August 26 online at!docketBrowser;rpp=25;so=DESC;sb=commentDueDate;po=0;dct=PS;D=NOAA-NMFS-2011-0180.

Big Fishing Weekend Prompts $250,000 CDQ Payout

Coastal Villages Region Fund paid out over $250,000 in early August to commercial fishermen in celebration of Ted Stevens Day, after what the community development quota entity described as a “monster weekend” harvest.

“We had a monster weekend with commercial fishermen delivering more than 250,000 pounds of salmon up and down the CVRF region,” said Morgen Crow, CVRF executive director. “The real people are receiving real dollars from our commercial operations that are paid for by the Bering Seas.”

The total amount broke down to the standard one dollar a pound for red, chum and silver salmon paid to hundreds of commercial fishermen who deliver to CVRF from the Kuskokwim River, Goodnews Bay, Kanektok and Black River areas, said Dawson Hoover, a spokesman for CVRF.

Payouts go out to fishermen after each opener, with bonuses paid at year’s end, Hoover said.

The year got off to a slow start, because the Alaska Department of Fish and Game did not want any openers during the main part of the king salmon run, Hoover said.

So for commercial harvesters who would have in other years begun their season in mid-June, the season began in late June.

Two years ago, the CVRF board of directors established the second Monday of each August as an observed holiday in honor of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, who died in a plane crash in Southwest Alaska on Aug. 9, 2010. Stevens, who represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate from Dec. 24, 1968 to Jan 3, 2009, was a formidable figure in Alaska fisheries politics, and played a key role in several significant pieces of legislation, including the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Paul Tulik, president of the CVRF board, noted that the intent of the CDQ program is to deliver economic and social benefits to some 9,304 residents of the 20 coastal Alaska communities represented by CVRF.

“These salmon operations are paid for in large part by the allocations of CDQs in the Bering Sea,” Tulik said. CVRF has been lobbying Congress for changes in CDQ allocations that would give a larger allocation to CVRF, a move opposed by the other five CDQ entities serving coastal communities in Western Alaska.

On May 17, CVRF released a statement noting that its audited financial statements as presented by KPMB LLP, showed 2012 revenue of $115.4 million, $9 million higher than 2011, with a substantial majority, $101.6 million, again coming from the harvest, processing and sale of pollock, crab and cod from the Bering Sea.

Salmon Project Explores Alaskans’ Passion
for Wild Salmon

The Salmon Project, a project aimed at helping Alaskans to share their personal relationship with salmon, has launched a website, to educate residents on protecting the environment to provide for future generations.

“We are really used to, as Alaskans, having salmon, but not necessarily aware of the places they live as part of their lifestyle when growing up,” says Erin Harrington, the project organizer, who grew up in Kodiak.

Habitat is just one area of discovery for salmon lovers, she said. But Alaskans also associate wild salmon with home, food and hard work ethics.

“The juicy area of opportunity for the project is there is a lot of distance between where many of us are in understanding of the resource and where we might be in a couple of years, and if we end up proceeding with this project, we would end up in a lot of these areas,” she said.

While Alaskans have a wide range of experience with and knowledge of salmon, one thing people almost universally agree on is they want the while salmon to be here for our grandchildren, as part of the lifestyle, culture and economic fabric that it is today, she said.

The Salmon Project, said Harrington, is not about the proposed Pebble mine. “Many more Alaskans feel personally engaged with this resource than have a strong opinion on a number of resource projects. IF we reduce the conversations about salmon (to Pebble) then we do a disservice to Alaskans, because then the conversations are based around conflict rather than connectivity.

The bottom line, Harrington said, “is salmon is the connection that we all have to each other. It’s about Alaskans and how we use this fish. It’s about continuing to use this fish forever.” Funding for the project include contributions from The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, California. Gordon Moore is a co-founder of Intel Corp., and chairman emeritus of Intel’s board of directors.

Included on the Salmon Project’s website is a section called Practice Safe Salmon, which provides information on salmon habitat, their life cycle, how to care for your salmon catch and tips on how to make your own real estate salmon friendly.

Harrington also encourages residents to read David Montgomery’s “King of Fish,” a natural history of the evolution and near-extinction of salmon due to changing landscapes and short sighted fishing practices. Montgomery, a resident of Seattle, is a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Crab Certification Audit Complete, as Crabbers Await Stock Survey Results

Prices are down a bit, but demand remains strong, as harvesters of Alaska’s deadliest catch, albeit multi-million dollar crab fishery await stock survey results that will determine quotas for the 2013-2014 fishery.

Online marketers in Alaska like FishEx, in Anchorage, were asking nearly $36 a pound in early August for frozen giant king crab legs, nearly $49 a pound for Alaska king crab meat and $29.21 a pound for split Alaska red king crab legs.  Alaska snow crab, also known as opilio, was selling for $11 a pound, and split red king crab legs for $37.46 a pound.

Negotiations with Japanese buyers of red king crab are still weeks away and negotiations for opilio crab traditionally begin in January, but some marketers of Alaska crab are meanwhile engaged in what they describe as “ a big row” with Walmart over what they say are indications that Walmart is showing a preference for Russian crab.

“The primary factor has been there have been some treaties signed between Russia, Japan, Korea and China intended to deal with illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities,” said Jake Jacobsen, executive director for the Inter-cooperative Exchange in Seattle. “Those treaties were signed, but not implemented, so there was a move to get as much landed as they could before the treaties went into effect.” There are large quantities of snow crab and king crab from Russia this year and it is illegal, unregulated and unreported crab,” he said.

"Alaska's crab fisheries are some of the best managed in the world,” said Tyson Fick, a spokesman for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

“With all of the well-documented troubles the Russian fisheries have had with illegal, unreported, and unregulated crab entering the world market it is surprising that we would have Walmart saying they will purchase crab from that fishery because it is supposedly defined as sustainable because of a fisheries improvement project.  We will continue to rely on all that Alaska has to offer, such as the strong reputation we have for fisheries management and the highest quality product,"  Fick said.

Walmart spokesman Christopher Schraeder denied that there are efforts underway to purchase Russian crab over Alaskan crab. 

The company “has bought wild Alaska crab in the past and will buy it this year,” Schraeder said.

WalMart announced back in February 2006 plans to purchase all of its wild-caught fresh and frozen fish for U.S. markets from the Marine Stewardship Council certified fisheries.

Schraeder notes that company policy requires that all wild seafood suppliers be third-party certified as sustainable using Marine Stewardship Council, Best Aquaculture Practices or equivalent standards.

But crab processors doing business in Alaska have chosen to not use the MSC certification program.

Instead the Alaska’s Bering Sea and Aleutian Island blue and red king crab and snow crab fisheries are certified sustainable by the Global Trust program, which is facilitated by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. The Global Trust program is modeled on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization based responsible fisheries management certification, and for Alaska seafood is facilitated by ASMI.

On August 6, ASMI announced that the first annual audit of Alaska Bering Sea and Aleutian Island blue and red king and snow crab fisheries for responsible fisheries management certification had been completed.

Approval Upheld on Shell’s Arctic Ocean Spill Response Plans

The US District Court in Anchorage has issued an opinion saying the Federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement complied with the law in approving Shell Oil Co.’s oil spill response plans for the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

The decision was welcomed by Shell Oil, but drew strong criticism from a coalition of conservation organizations that filed a lawsuit in an effort to halt drilling until and unless clean-up technology is proven effective and reliable for the harsh Arctic Ocean environment.

Judge Ralph Beistline said that under the National Environmental Protection Act’s rule of reason it is up to the BSEE to determine whether additional NEPA review would serve any purpose, and that BSEE found that no such purpose existed.

“Regardless of anything that an additional NEPA review could possible show, the BSEE had no discretion to force Shell to consider any alternatives to the oil spill recovery plans and the BSEE could not consider or incorporate any additional public comment generated by another NEPA review, the judge said.

 “The ruling is welcome news and validates that the Department of Interior was thorough in its analysis of Shell’s oil spill response plans for work offshore Alaska,” said Meg Baldino, spokeswoman for Shell in Anchorage.

Oceana spokesman Mike Levine said the ruling was disappointing, in that it validated the government approach to take Shell’s word that it could respond to a spill.  “If the law doesn’t require more than that, then we need to change the law,” he said. “There needs to be a determination of what the company can and should be able to do to operate safely and remove spilled oil.”

The environmental groups issued a joint statement saying the ruling was just the first step in protecting the Arctic Ocean from the devastating effects of oil spills.

“The ruling doesn’t change the fact that, as Shell’s misadventures last year showed, the Arctic Ocean is no place for rosy-eyed optimism,” they said. “In fact, until and unless cleanup technology has been proven effective, reliable and benign in the Arctic, it’s no place to drill at all. It is time for the Administration to reassess whether to allow offshore drilling in this pristine environment in the first place.”

Shell experienced several problems during the start up of its drilling program in the Chukchi Sea last year, including the grounding of a drill ship after the season ended.

The company opted to suspend its program for 2013.

Alaska Wild Salmon Harvest Exceeds 140 Million Fish

Pink salmon runs in Alaska are headed toward their peak in early August, with the state’s commercial wild salmon harvest topping 140 million fish, including 95.6 million humpies.

“It’s going to be a good year for folks in most commercial fisheries,” said Geron Bruce, assistant director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Commercial Fisheries.

“Salmon fisheries have been good to Alaska for quite a while now,” Bruce said.

“All the major pink salmon producing areas are producing well, especially Prince William Sound and Southeast, but even the Alaska Peninsula is producing better this year than in several years, and Kodiak is doing well too.”

An item of interest, he said is that a number of the salmon runs this year and in recent years have been a little bit early, “and it will be interesting to see if the pink salmon runs in Prince William Sound and Southeast peak early.”  If the runs start to drop in the next week or so, that’s an indication that the peak is past, “but right now it is still building,” he said.

The record pink salmon commercial harvest in Alaska is 161 million pinks in 2005.

The ADF&G blue sheet, the daily preliminary commercial salmon harvest update, noted on August 6 a total harvest to date of 95,618,000 humpies, 28,323,000 sockeye, 14,428,000 chum, 1,677,000 coho, and 296,000 Chinook salmon.

In Prince William Sound, the harvest of 53,842,000 fish included 48,103,000 pink, 3,400,000 chum, 2,274,000 sockeye, 37,000 silver and 10,000 king salmon,

Harvesters in the Southeast region of Alaska had delivered 43,630,000 fish, including 34,202,000 pink, 7,523,000 chum, 1,087,000 coho, 599,000 red and 219,000 king salmon.

In Cook Inlet, the harvest reached 3,624,000 salmon, including 2,719,000 red, 488,000 pink, 218,000 chum, 194,000 coho and 5,000 kings.

Kodiak processors were busy with delivery of over 10 million fish, including 7,432,000 humpies, 2,041,000 sockeye, 606,000 chum, 43,000 coho and 32,000 kings, while at Chignik, fishermen delivered nearly 3 million fish, including 2,295,000 reds, 515,000 pink, 141,000 chum, 23,000 silver and 3,000 Chinook.

On the Alaska Peninsula, with most activity in the South Peninsula, the harvest of 8.6 million salmon included 4,870,000 humpies, 2,672,000 red, 882,000 chum, 218,000 coho, and 6,000 kings.

The Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region meanwhile had brought in nearly one million fish, the bulk of them –458,000 fish—being chums from the Lower Yukon.  Collectively harvesters on the Yukon River, Norton Sound and the Kuskokwim River also brought in 50,000 sockeye, 42,000 coho, 8,000 pink and 2,000 Chinook salmon.

Fish, Music and Art Draw Crowds to Salmonstock 2013

Amidst the ongoing political wrestling match over construction of a massive mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, there was music in early August, lots of it, as more than 5,000 people flocked to Salmonstock, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.

The third annual Salmonstock, billed as three days of fish, fun and music, included the music of more than 50 bands on four stages, booths celebrating salmon in arts, crafts and clothing. The goal, organizers said, was to educate more people about the importance of protecting habitat for salmon streams in Alaska.

Salmonstock is organized by the Renewable Resources Foundation, which is very upfront on its website ( about its cause: stopping development of the Pebble mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. Along with the music, Salmonstock celebrates the fish and the people who depend upon them.

It is also, says the foundation, “about the power we have in protecting our resources and our livehihoods. More than just three days of celebrating what we have, it is an event that offers every attendee the tools needed to help preserve it.” Salmonstock participants are invited to show their passion about the fish and to do what they can to “ensure another millennia of great fishing.”

Since Salmonstock began three years ago, the event has taken hold, and this year presale of tickets was up 1,000 percent, said Anders Gustafson, executive director of the Renewable Resources Coalition and Foundation. Most of the more than four-dozen music groups playing this year took a big cut in pay, which allowed for more music, he said.

“The idea is a fund raiser to sustain an ongoing campaign” against mining ventures that would have adverse affects on the fisheries, he said.  While income from Salmonstock hasn’t reached this goal yet, “we have to remember there are a lot of intangibles too,” said Gustafson. Those intangibles include attracting more and more people each year, and educating them about the importance of salmon habitat.  The event itself is a year-round effort that involves more than 200 volunteers for three days of festivities.

Nav/Com: What's New in Bridge Electronics

Suppliers of marine electronics, communication services and navigation software continue to advance technologies that make fishing more productive and efficient while keeping the end-user experience as easy as possible.

Furuno introduced the GP1670F and GP1870F, part of the 5.7” and 7” Chart Plotter series, last spring. Jeff Kauzlaric, Advertising and Communications Manager, reports that both of these units can be used for small to mid-sized commercial vessels and have the Furuno Fish Finder built-in. “You can rig it as a 600-W or 1-kW Fish Finder, and it also includes a couple of our newest features, Bottom Discrimination and Accu-Fish,” he says.

When connected to an appropriate transducer, the Bottom Discrimination feature provides a graphical display showing the characteristics of the seafloor as either mud, sand, gravel or rock. This works well, especially when bottom fishing when fishermen are looking for a particular species that lies on a certain type of bottom.

The Accu-Fish feature offers a fish size assessment function that can tell fishermen the approximate size of the fish below the boat. Fish symbols appear on the screen, along with the size of the fish or the depth where it found the fish. It can detect fish size from four inches up to about six feet long, in depths of seven feet to well over 300 feet of water. Both units also feature built-in WAAS/GPS antennas, along with the capability to utilize the very latest C-MAP 4-D charts. For fishermen who may have the Furuno GP1650F or GP1850F and would like to replace it, Furuno offers an adaptor mounting bezel that allows for easy replacement.

The Easy Routing feature automatically constructs a route between two points, taking into consideration preset values for safe depths, safe heights, and the boats width to provide the captain with an estimated safe route. Fishermen can either use saved waypoints or newly created points for this feature. Easy Routing will analyze the path between the two points and will create a route, inserting legs in the route when necessary to get the boat away from areas which exceed the safety values set in the menu. “Easy Routing is a great aid to navigation and should be used in conjunction with conventional navigation practices,” says Kauzlaric. “The captain should always analyze the route against official nautical publications and situational awareness.”

Furuno’s DFF1-UHD TruEcho CHIRP Network Sounder works with both NavNet 3-D and NavNet TZtouch Multi Function Displays. TruEcho CHIRP sweeps across 90 frequencies simultaneously, while transmitting 1,000 times more power than traditional fish finders. This results in better bottom clarity, depth penetration, picture resolution and target definition with the ability to view individual game fish and bait fish, even when tightly schooled together or very near the sea floor. The DFF1-UHD also gives the ability to utilize Furuno’s Bottom Discrimination and Accu-Fish features.

Kauzlaric says the integration of navigation electronics and fish finding technology will continue over the next several years. “There will certainly always be a need for stand-alone, specialty electronics, but as the technology gets more advanced, the capabilities of the units will continue to increase. So creating Multi Function Displays that incorporate different technologies, such as CHIRP and Sonar, is natural,” he says. “Also, more hybrid type of displays will make their way into commercial fishing, units that incorporate both touch screens and button controls. You will even see your fish finder screen in the palm of your hand, while you are standing on the back deck, utilizing a WiFi connection.”

In June, Jeppesen announced its new C-MAP MAX-N Wide cartography, compatible with Navico navigation systems such as Lowrance Elite 7 and HDS Gen1, Gen2 and Gen2Touch, Simrad NSS, NSE*and NSO*, and B&G Zeus Touch. The product offers up-to-date chart detail, including depth areas and contours, spot soundings, wrecks and obstructions, high resolution aerial photos of inlets, harbor entrances and land features, tide and current projects, route checking, anti-grounding technology and more. “MAX-N Wide is an evolutionary product that will continue to grow and offer boaters even more,” said Ken Cirillo, Jeppesen senior business development executive. “Jeppesen and Navico are continually working together to bring additional innovative features and important data to boaters. This makes an investment in MAX-N Wide cartography today the first step in an exciting future journey.”

SI-TEX has recently introduced its new Koden CVS-FX1 12.1-inch Color LCD Echo Sounder which provides a large 12.1-inch XGA color LCD display and 3-kW RMS output power. The CVS-FX1 is able to transmit on variable frequencies from 24-kHz to 240-kHz in 01.kHz steps which helps fishermen fine-tune fish finding performance for particular fishing situations. It also minimizes interference from nearby sounders. Advanced features include Condition Memory, enabling users to recall each setting by pushing the CM key.

Koden also has new digital echosounders for 2013, the new CVS-1410B and CVS-128B Broadband Sounders. Both have Koden’s broadband Flex-Frequency capability which gives fishermen the option of adjusting high- and low-frequency settings. The CVS-1410B has a 10.4” vertically-oriented TFT color LCD display and a 1-kW RMS sounder, and the CVS-128B has a high-definition 8.5” vertical TFT color LCD display and 1-kW RMS transmitter.

Both sounders also provide a wide range of presentation modes, including High/Low Frequency, A-Scope, Bottom Lock, Bottom Discrimination, Bottom Zoom and more. A variety of background palettes allow optimum view ability in all light conditions. The Koden Sona-Tone™ also tells operators when fish targets or schools of fish are detected by using different sounds.

The ECC-GLOBE® navigation system produced by Seattle’s Electronic Charts Company, Inc. (ECC) continues to be a popular product for commercial fishermen, with its seamless bathymetric maps and navigation charts. Also popular are the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and TerrainBuilder® add-on modules.

The AIS technology complements radar to increase safety at sea by helping identify not only which vessels are nearby but also where other vessels have been fishing. Having their call signs displayed on the monitor makes communication between vessels much easier and faster.

The TerrainBuilder® enables fishermen to build their own bottom maps which can be color-shaded by depth for easy identification of contours. The system allows easy import and export of data and is very user-friendly. The ECC 3-D module can be added to create 3-D maps. When used together, TerrainBuilder® updates the 3-D map in real-time using incoming sounder data.

“The AIS interface and the TerrainBuilder® technology have been in use for a few years and it’s still very reliable,” says President Jim Brantingham. He adds that Microsoft is moving towards eliminating some of the serial input ports and replacing them with USB-type connections since the standard marine interface (NMEA 0183) is starting to be phased out. “It’s a technical issue all electronics companies are working on.”

Radar Marine Electronics located in Bellingham sells, installs, repairs and services navigation and communications systems and is also a dealer for most marine electronics manufacturers. Owner Dan Hisey says enhanced computer processing and the latest software provide improved 3-D graphics to navigation, fish finding and bottom mapping.

“Digital processing of information is the latest big thing,” he says. “However, there are still two main ways to go with a navigation system on a vessel; an integrated marine navigation system like the Furuno Navnet or a PC-based navigation software. Oftentimes you’ll see both on a commercial fishing vessel. Most of these vessels will still have redundant systems like radars, sounders and radios. All those systems are typically redundant so if one fails, they have another to fall back on.” Hisey reports the most popular PC-based software manufacturers include Nobletec, Maxea by Furuno and Olex by Simrad.

Hisey says Radar Marine has also recently seen an increase in construction of new vessels. The company works with owners or skippers to design a full communication/navigation system for a vessel, depending on the type of fishing they plan to do. “Most of them will want two computers, three or four large screen monitors, dual radars, sounders, sonar and an autopilot,” he says. “They’ll also have one form or another of satellite/voice communication. Satellite communication has advanced a lot in the last three to five years, so there is more competition, more products and more options available for voice and data communication. We’re also starting to see more commercial fishermen put satellite TV entertainment systems on their boats.”

M-SAT is a popular satellite communications system for use by commercial fishermen in Alaska. “It offers them a one monthly price push-to-talk satellite system that works as if they’re talking on a radio to any boat or base station that’s on the network,” says Hisey. “Most of the canneries in Alaska have it at their facilities to communicate with the fishing fleet.”

Globalstar’s distribution manager, Rich Galasso, says this past February, the company completed its second generation satellite constellation, giving Globalstar even more depth in the duplex (two-way communications) market. “About 30 percent of our air time use worldwide is on salt water,” he says.

The new SPOT Global Phone launched at the end of May, and according to Galasso, is the least expensive and smallest satellite phone on the market. Off-the-grid (out of land line and cellular range) satellite service is becoming more popular and is getting more and more sophisticated. The SPOT Global Phone has the capability to be hooked up to a computer or laptop and send basic email or raw data at a speed of 9600bps, the fastest of any mobile device in the satellite phone industry.

“It’s not really ideal for heavy downloads or surfing the Net but there is no problems using it for basic communications,” says Galasso. “You could send pages and pages of basic emails and it only takes seconds or minutes to send. You can also do text messaging as well. Our phone can receive texts, and when you hook up to a computer or laptop, you can send text messages as well.”

Another new product launching this summer is the SPOT GEN3 messenger. Using the SPOT simplex (one-way) technology, it can send small packages of simplex data one way from any device to email, a cell phone, or to a profile page.

It allows the user to pre-determine message on their profile. The three basic default messages include “Okay check-in“, “Help” and “User-definable” that the user can create. Wherever the user is in the world, they can push one of these buttons and it will release that message to the designated recipients, and they not only receive the sender’s message but they also receive that person’s latitude and longitude, date and time and a Google Earth link showing exactly where they are. Unlimited messages can be sent continually for $99 a year.

Galasso says this device sometimes gets lumped in with the safety category like EPIRBS. “If you think of someone buying an EPRIB, they’re buying it with the hope of never having to use it, compared to SPOT which people use to communicate with family and friends,” he says. “We have a feature called ‘tracking’ which allows you to put the unit into tracking mode. For instance, every 10 minutes, it will update your position to your personal tracking page. This feature can also interface with your social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Spot Adventures. It’s a great system and will save your life but the reality is by selling a communications product that can do that, it’s really opened up a whole different element to the customer.”

Galasso says one of Globalstar’s biggest challenges is convincing people that satellite phones aren’t as expensive as they might think. “Our phone sells for $499 and we have air time plans that range from $24.95 per month for our emergency plans to our unlimited plans for $149 per month, so we’re in line with cellular and land line prices,” he says. “It will save your life and will keep you in touch when you’re off the grid.”

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