Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Alaska’s Wild Salmon Catch Exceeds 236 Million fish

Deliveries of wild Alaska salmon to processors reached nearly 236 million fish as of Aug. 25, exceeding the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s forecast by more than 15 million fish, and the pink salmon forecast alone by upwards of 26 million fish.

The humpy harvest alone stood at 166.6 million fish. Processors had also received some 503,000 kings, 13.7 million chums, 2.4 million silvers and 52.6 million reds.

The sockeye, chum and silver harvests have all fallen short of the predicted catch.

Still, with the overall abundance of harvest, the challenge lies in marketing.

Supermarkets in Southcentral Alaska were advertising fresh fillets of wild sockeye salmon at $9.99 a pound this week, down from $16.99 a pound, plus fresh wild silver fillets for $10.99 a pound, down from $14.9 a pound, plus whole cohos for $8.99 a pound, down from $13.99 a pound. Canned pink and red salmon products were also being offered at about 30 cents to 40 cents off per can, but those discounts were posted only on store shelves and not in store advertisements.

An extremely strong dollar, especially with the fall of China’s currency, and Russian’s ban on importation of US foods, poses difficulties, said Tyson Fick, spokesman for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Russia is also normally a strong market for salmon roe.

The Russian embargo on most foods from the European Union also has added competition from farmed salmon from Norway and Iceland against Alaska’s wild salmon. “They are going after the same markets we are, and production of famed salmon is getting lose to an all-time high,” Fick said.

ASMI’s current goal is to develop new markets overseas and domestically, with the domestic effort focused on creating new salmon fans who will support America’s fishermen, Fick said. ASMI’s marketing efforts focused on fresh sockeye salmon in June and July, then switched to silver salmon promotions for August and September, and coming up in October, coinciding with National Seafood Month, will be promotions of frozen fish that can be prepared quickly for meals.

ASMI is also working with distributors like Cisco to address the food service side of the industry, Fick said. “We wouldn’t have the ability to go to every single restaurant. We would hope to give (distributors) the tools to be successful on their sales calls.

Decision Due in Salmon Stream Water Fight

Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources must decide by Oct. 6 whether to approve a water reservation application sought by a citizens group for an in-stream flow reservation in salmon stream habitat that could potentially be strip-mined.

The water reservation was applied for by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition, which opposes plans of Delaware-based PacRim Coal LP to mine an area some 45 miles southwest of Anchorage in Upper Cook Inlet known as the Beluga Coal Fields.

Although PacRim still lacks the permits needed to proceed, the company’s legal counsel, Eric Fjelstad, said Aug. 21 that DNR should not allow private citizens “to take over a critical piece of the permitting process.”

“You cannot do a project in this state without impacting fish habitat,” he said. “It is critical that the state find a way to do these sorts of projects.”

Fjelstad told the panel from DNR’s Division of Mining, Land and Water Resources Section that there were economic benefits to the project. The Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Alaska Miners Association, the Council of Alaska Producers and the Resource Development Council for Alaska also urged DNR to consider all uses for the water rather than grant the in-stream flow reservation to the citizens group.

But Bob Shavelson, executive director of Cook Inletkeeper, a nonprofit entity in Homer that advocates for clean water and healthy fish habitat, supported the Citizens Coalition request.

Shavelson said the proposed water reservations would have positive effects on the state’s economy, fish and game resources, recreational opportunities and the public health in the Chuitna watershed and Upper Cook Inlet.

“As Alaskans we recognize that while the value of our natural resources includes a market component, there are also a wide range of economic benefits associated with non-market goods and services,” he said, including the value Alaskans place on the sustainability of their wild salmon runs.
“All we are asking is to keep the water in the streams so everyone can use it, he said.

“I can imagine Alaska without coal. I cannot imagine Alaska without salmon. Alaska is a salmon state. I think it defines who we are as Alaskans.”

Deaths Whales ‘Unusual Mortality Event’

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they will continue to rigorously and collaboratively investigate the deaths of 30 large whales in the western Gulf of Alaska.

The investigation will involve NOAA scientists and partner organizations, as well as members of the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

NOAA announced on August 20 that since May a total of 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded around the islands of the western Gulf and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula.

To date, this brings the large whale strandings for this region to almost three times the historical average.

Teri Rowles, the marine mammal health and stranding response coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, said the agency is very concerned about the large number of whales stranding in the western Gulf, and do not yet know the cause.

The deaths came at a time when ocean temperatures in that area are higher than normal and those warm conditions are expected to continue, with a developing El Nino weather system. Rowles said that scientists are also looking at the possibility that the deaths are related to some type of toxin produced by algal bloom.

“Biotoxins will be one of the top priorities, but not the only priority that we’ll be looking at to rule in or rule out whether it’s playing a role in this death investigation and these mortalities, both in Canada and the US, she said.

A big challenge is being able to get to deceased whales, whose bodies may be floating or stranded, to perform necropsies. The beached whales may also be eaten by bears before their carcasses can be recovered.

NOAA has asked the public to assist in the investigation by immediately reporting any sightings of dead whales or distressed live animals they discover. Reports should be placed to the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network hotline at 877-925-7773.

APA Donates 450,000 Portions to SeaShare

SeaShare, the Seattle-based non-profit dedicated to distribution of high quality seafood to food banks nationwide, has received a donation of 450,000 portions of oven ready pollock and hake from the At-Sea Processors Association.

SeaShare’s Mary Harmon said Aug. 25 that the APA rallied once again to generate its annual donation of the lightly breaded four-ounce portions.

APA members have donated pollock and hake annually to SeaShare for many years.

SeaShare receives the fish and sends it for processing to Trident Seafoods on the West Coast and Highliner Foods on the East Coast.

Both processors donate breading and packaging and deeply discount their processing time to SeaShare.

For the most recent project concluded in June, Harmon said Seashare thanked Glacier Fish, Arctic Fjord, Arctic Storm and Coastal villages.

“We still have a few more donations to receive from APA members this year so we anticipate getting even more of this tasty product out to food banks across the country before year end,” Harmon said.

SeaShare is the only nonprofit dedicated to providing seafood to food banks, to help them provide for over 49 million Americans with limited access to nutritional foods.

Of the four billion pounds of food distributed through the Feeding America network less than two percent is nutrient-dense, animal based protein and seafood only makes up a fraction of that, SeaShare notes on its website.

Seafood contains a high quality protein that includes all of the essential amino acids for human health, making it a complete protein source. A three-ounce service of seafood provides a third of the recommended daily intake.

More information about SeaShare is online at

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wild Salmon Harvests in Alaska Top 211 Million Fish

Alaska’s wild salmon harvests rose to more than 211 million fish through Aug. 18, as the humpy harvest alone climbed to 143.6 million, exceeding the forecast of 140 million pinks.

That was an overall estimated catch increase of 35.7 million fish over the last week, including 33.2 million pink salmon. The preliminary Alaska commercial salmon harvest report is updated daily during the salmon season by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute had forecast earlier this year that the 2015 salmon harvest might set new records, with commercial fishermen projected to harvest 221 million salmon, or roughly 1 billion pounds. The largest factor in the record catch of 2013 was the pink salmon harvest, which was greater than the forecast by 92 percent.

Also during the past week, the latest preliminary harvest data showed the statewide harvest increases in other salmon species, bringing those totals to nearly 52 million sockeyes and 13 million chums, plus 2.1 million silvers and 502,000 Chinooks.

It adds up to the sixth time in over 135 years that the commercial salmon harvest in Alaska has topped 200 million fish. And while the sockeye salmon harvest, which got a late start this year, will fall a little short of the forecast, it was really good, said Andy Wink, a research analyst and project manager specializing in seafood with the McDowell Group in Juneau.

The robust harvest notwithstanding, processors have challenges on an international level, because of the strength of the dollar against other currencies, Russia’s current embargo on imports from the United States, European Union, Norway, and Canada, and the economic crisis in the Ukraine.

Russia and the Ukraine are key markets also for salmon roe, but Russia has cut off such purchase and the Ukraine currency has really weakened, so while Alaska processors can still sell there, it is not as strong of a market as it was two to three years ago.

Alaska provides about 10 percent to 13 percent of the salmon worldwide, and has a niche, a strong brand image for a lot of the state’s products, so that’s a plus, but it can only carry you so far, Wink said. With the larger harvest there will be a fairly large canned pack, but to the extent of what goes to the frozen market and what goes to canned is still to be determined.

Nomination Period Extended for US Seats on IPHC

NOAA Fisheries has extended until Sept. 18 the nomination period for candidates to fill two US commissioner seats on the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

The original deadline was June 4.

The terms of current US commissioners expire on December 31.

In May, NOAA Fisheries publicly solicited nominations for two presidential appointments to serve as US Commissioners and the nomination process yielded just two names for the two expiring seats, both re-nominations of current commissioners. US commissioners are appointed for terms not to exceed two years, and are eligible for reappointment.

NOAA officials said that while both are strong candidates the agency is seeking a greater number of nominations from which to propose two candidates for appointment by the president. The lack of a larger candidate pool affects the ability of the recommending officials to propose alternate commissioners. Nominations may be submitted via email to

They may be mailed to Patrick Moran, National Marine Fisheries service Office of International Affairs, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, or faxed to 1-301-713-2313.

Nominations are open to all qualified individuals and may include current commissioners. The list of nominees will be published on the NOAA Fisheries Alaska regional office website on Sept. 23. Public comments related to this list of nominees will be accepted through Oct. 26. They may be emailed to, mailed to Pete Jones, NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK. 99802-1668, or faxed to 907-586-7249.

All nominees will be vetted by the Departments of Commerce and State and forwarded to the President with a goal of receiving presidential appointments by Jan. 1, 2016, NOAA officials said.

PSMFC Holds 68th Annual Meeting

The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission will gather at Girdwood, Alaska, some 40 miles south of Anchorage Aug. 23-26 for its 68th annual meeting, to discuss issues ranging from ocean conditions and climate change to genetics.

Presenters will include Brad Gilman of Juneau, with the law firm of Robertson, Monagle and Eastaugh, plus an update on Washington DC legislative activity from the same law firm.

Alan Risenhoover, acting director of NOAA Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement will provide an update on NOAA. Cisco Werner, director for the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and John Stein, director of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, will discuss ocean conditions and climate change. The panel on federal issues and perspectives will include Jim Balsiger, administrator for NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Region; Chris Oliver, executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Barry Thom, deputy director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Robert Turner, assistant regional administrator for NOAA’s Sustainable Fisheries Division.

Discussions on salmon genetics will be led by Doug DeMaster, science and research director of the Alaska Fisheries science Center; research geneticist at the Auke Bay Laboratories of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center; and Bill Templin, principal geneticist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game gene conservation laboratory in Anchorage.

More information about the conference is online at

Alaska Keta Salmon Featured at Japan Denny's

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute says an Alaska chum salmon dish will be on the menu for the foreseeable future at the Denny’s family restaurant chain in Japan.

Earlier this summer ASMI Japan backed a breakfast menu promotion at 380 Denny’s restaurants in Japan. The promotion featured a traditional Japanese-style breakfast menu that included Alaska chum salmon.

ASMI officials said Denny’s switched the origin of the keta salmon they use from Chile to Alaska, and that some 380 Denny’s restaurants in Japan were offering this menu item with the Alaska Seafood logo. ASMI said that Denny’s in Japan declined to make public the name of its salmon supplier.

As a result of the promotion, the staff at all these restaurants are now aware of and familiar with Alaska chum salmon, as a natural, sustainable seafood product, ASMI officials said.

The promotion prompted increased awareness and consumption of Alaska chum salmon among consumers across Japan, as well as increased awareness of the Alaska Seafood logo.

An average of 100,000 70-gram packs of Alaska chum salmon have been shipped to the participating Denny’s restaurants in Japan each month, with a value of $81,000 in U.S. dollars, ASMI said.

More details on this and other ASMI international marketing efforts will be coming up at ASMI’s All Hands on Deck meetings in Anchorage Oct. 21-23.

Look for more information at

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

New Freezer Trawler to Join Flatfish Fishery

A new 194-foot freezer trawler owned by the O’Hara Corp. will join the Amendment 80 fleet in the Bering Sea in 2016 to harvest and process flatfish for sale in markets in Asia and the United States.

O’Hara Corp., which currently operates three catcher-processors in the Bering Sea, targets mostly yellowfin sole, rock sole, and flathead sole, but also processes Alaska plaice, cod and pollock. The headed and gutted fish is processed into 19 kilogram frozen blocks.

The Araho – that’s O’Hara spelled backwards – with a holding capacity of 850 metric tons of fish, was launched on July 31 by Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Florida. There’s still more work to do before the vessel heads for Alaskan waters in the spring of 2016, via the Panama Canal.
Company officials say the Araho will be the most technologically advanced fishing boat in the Bering Sea.

The O’Hara family has been engaged in the maritime industry for more than a century since Francis J. O’Hara Jr. started the company. The company’s first vessel fished haddock, cod and halibut on Georges Bank until a German U-Boat sank it on Aug. 21, 1918, during World War One, as noted in the company’s history at

The Amendment 80 fleet, which harvests in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, includes 28 vessels, of which 23 are currently active, according to Jon McCracken, an economist with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

When Amendment 80 was implemented in 2008, there were no options to allow for replacement of vessels due to constructive loss or being aged out, McCracken said.

Arctic Sole Seafoods then challenged the stator interpretation of section 219 (a) (7) of the Capacity Reduction Program, which established what vessels are in various sectors of the groundfish fisheries of Alaska, and a U.S. District Court found the language in that document to be ambiguous about replacement of qualified vessels.

National Marine Fisheries Service then had to fix the problem, with Amendment 97, in October 2012, to allow for construction of new vessels.

Any new vessels will generally be more efficient in trying to avoid prohibited species catch, and also more efficient from a carbon footprint and energy perspective, McCracken said.

“This is a really important event, the fact that we are moving into an era of new construction and capitalization,” said Chris Woodley, executive director of the Groundfish Forum. “It validates the fishery management system.”

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