Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Washington Halts on Net Pen Permits until Investigation is Complete

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has put a hold on any new permits for net pens until a thorough investigation is completed into the escape of Atlantic salmon from net pens on Cypress Island.

Inslee said this week that the release of net pen-raised Atlantic salmon into Washington’s waters has created an emergency situation that has state agencies working together to protect the health of Washington’s salmon.

The governor said those who fish Washington’s waters deserve a comprehensive response to the incident, including answers to what happened and assurances that it won’t happen again.

Inslee said the company–Cooke Aquaculture–must do everything it can to stop any additional escapes and to recover as many fish as possible, including adequate compensation for those working to remove Atlantic salmon from our waters.

Washington’s Department of Natural Resources has estimated that as many as 185,700 fish were released. DNR officials said they would be working with other state agencies and tribes to find a solution “to this serious threat to our native salmon species.” The incident took place on aquatic lands leased to Cooke Aquaculture by DNR.

DNR, along with the Washington departments of Fish and Wildlife and Ecology have joined with the governor’s office and state Emergency Management Division in setting up an incident command structure in Anacortes to respond to the incident.

As of Aug. 27, the incident command said that Cooke Aquaculture had removed 119,266 Atlantic salmon from the damaged cage structure at its Cypress Island farm site No. 2.

Company officials have not yet issued a firm number on how many fish escaped.

Cooke Seafood, the parent company of Cooke Aquaculture, acquired ownership of Icicle Seafoods last year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is also asking sport anglers and commercial fishermen to report harvests of Atlantic salmon.

“Atlantic salmon are not native to the Pacific Ocean and their presence in Alaska waters is biologically undesirable,” said ADFG Commissioner Sam Cotten.

New Marine Environment Protections Announced for Canadian Arctic

The Canadian government has announced an investment of more than $175 million to help protect Arctic waters as part of an Oceans Protection Plan launched late last year by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said this week that the funds would be spread over seven areas, including $94.3 million for more efficient Arctic resupply operations through safety equipment and basic marine infrastructure in a Northern Communities initiative.

More than $29 million is earmarked for a new Arctic National Aerial Surveillance Program Complex in Iqaluit, Nunavut, to further improve spill prevention. Another $16.89 million will fund establishment of Transport Canada’s Office of Incident Management, which will modernize and standardize the department’s incident response processes. This will improve the department’s response capability in emergency situations and improve seamless coordination with other response partners, the government said. Also included is funding for continued expansion of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary in the Arctic to boost the collective ability to respond to maritime all-hazard incidents in the future. The auxiliary is made up of trained volunteers who use their own vessels to respond to incidents in Canadian waters.

Communities Want More Science, Accountability in Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

Veteran harvesters and conservation advocates are urging Congress to include greater accountability and conservation measures in reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Sitka’s Linda Behnken testified this week in Alaska at a field hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard that “in the long run no one wins if the resource losses.”

“As Congress works to strengthen the Magnuson-Stevens Act to support community based fishermen, we firmly believe that maintaining productive fisheries through resource conservation is step one in that process,” she said. “The heightened emphasis on resource rebuilding that was central to the last reauthorization is still essential to long term resource health and we ask that Congress recommit to conservation goals,” she explained.

Behnken is a harvester of more than three decades, longlining for halibut and black cod and trolling for salmon out of Sitka with her family. She is also president of the Halibut Coalition and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

“Rebuilding fish populations benefits not only fish and fishermen, but also those who are part of the larger seafood economy, including the chefs, restaurants, retailers and other seafood businesses that rely on a steady supply of seafood,” she said. “As U.S. consumers increasingly demand sustainably managed and caught seafood, the conservation requirements of the MSA are a win for both business owners and their customers,” she added.

Behnken was one of 14 people testifying in three panels during the subcommittee hearing chaired by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Transcripts of their testimony are online at

Harvest of Salmon in Alaska Tops 201 Million Fish

Commercial harvesters in Alaska have now exceeded the 201 million fish mark in their catch so far this year. The latest preliminary harvest data released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADG&F) includes delivery to processors of 123.9 million pink, 51.8 million sockeye, 21.8 million chum, 3.5 million coho and 243,000 king salmon.

State biologists noted in their weekly summary on Southeast Alaska fisheries that the preseason pink salmon harvest forecast for 2017 was 43 million fish with a range of 27 to 59 million. Pink salmon harvests to date now project a total harvest of less than 10 million for Southern Southeast Alaska districts and 25-28 million fish in Northern Southeast Alaska districts.,. By statistical week 34, on average, pink salmon harvest in Southern Southeast districts was 88 percent complete, while at 92 percent in Northern Southeast districts. In general, pink salmon escapement was near average in most Southeast Alaska districts.

In Prince William Sound, harvesters have delivered more than 46 million humpies to processors, while the Westward region, including the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak and Chignik, have brought in 47.4 million pink salmon.

Chum harvest totals include 8.5 million in the Southeast region, 7.2 million in the Central region, 4.3 million in the Westward region and 1.6 million in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region. The preliminary catch totals for silver salmon are led by a harvest of 2 million coho in the Southeast region, 667,000 in the Westward region, 565,000 in the Central region and 267,000 for the Arctic-Yukon Kuskokwim.

Daily updates are posted online at

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Deadline for Saltonstall-Kennedy

NOAA Fisheries officials have put out a reminder about the October 10 deadline for pre-proposals for the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant program.

Saltonstall-Kennedy is a nationwide competitive grant program to fund projects addressing the needs of fishing communities, optimize economic benefits by building and maintaining sustainable fisheries, and increase other opportunities to keep working waterfront viable.

The 2018 solicitation is seeking applications that fall into one of four priorities:

• Marine aquaculture

• Adapting to environmental changes and other long-term impacts in marine ecosystems

• Promotion, development and marketing

• Territorial science

This year’s solicitation consists of two separate submission processes.

All interested applicants must first submit a two-page pre-proposal as directed at the website Following the review process, those interested can submit a full application through the same web page.

This past June NOAA Fisheries announced more than $10 million in recommended grants through the 2017 Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant competition.

Recommended projects among the applicants from Alaska included three from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), the University of Alaska Southeast, Fishext Research LLC, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Prince William Sound Science and Technology Institute and the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

Requested amounts ranged from $78,224 for development of age determination methods for Alaska crab to $299,652 for a 2018-2020 Southern Bering Sea juvenile Chinook salmon survey. ADF&G applied for both projects.

West Coast applications included two from the University of Washington for nearly $300,000 each in marine aquaculture. The first was for development of genetic risk assessment tools and management strategy evaluation for aquaculture of Native shellfish. The second was for modeling transmission of a bacterial pathogen among farmed and wild abalones in the face of climate change and declining wild populations.

An application from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, for about $299,000 was also recommended, for development of combined hydro-acoustic and visual survey.

The complete list can be found at

Farmed Atlantic Salmon Spilled from Damaged Net Pen

Washington state salmon managers are encouraging anglers to harvest thousands of Atlantic salmon that escaped after a net pen failure on August 19 at Cooke Aquaculture on Cypress Island, along Rosario Strait between Guemes and Blakely islands.

About 305,000 salmon were in the net pen at the time, although it was initially estimated that only 4,000 to 5,000 fish escaped, state fisheries officials said in a statement issued on August 22.

The state has authorized Cooke Aquaculture to fish with beach seine nets, and encouraged anglers to also harvest fish.

“Our first concern, of course, is to protect native fish species, so we’d like to see as many of these escaped fish caught as possible,” said Ron Warren, who heads the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fish Program (WDFW).

Warren said there is no evidence that these fish pose a threat to native fish populations, either through disease or crossbreeding with Pacific salmon. He noted that to date there is no record of Atlantic salmon successfully reproducing with Pacific salmon in Washington.

Participating anglers must have a current fishing license and must observe gear regulations identified in the 2017-2018 sport fishing pamphlet, but they do not have to report Atlantic salmon on their catch record cards. To help anglers identify Atlantic salmon, WDFW has posted a salmon identification guide on its webpage at

In a statement issued by Cooke, and published in The Seattle Times, the aquaculture company said “exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week’s solar eclipse” caused the damage. Cooke said the incident was due to a “structural failure” of a net pen.

The Puget Soundkeeper countered that the fish escaped at a time “when charts show that tides and currents were well within predictions.” The Puget Soundkeeper said Cooke’s statement was misleading, “distracting from their failure to secure the pens safely and to adequately prepare for predictable tide events.

“In fact, over the last month, there were at least 11 days with higher tides than occurred on August 19th,” Soundkeeper said. “And king tides during the winter are routinely much higher than those reported this month.” Cooke Industries meanwhile has plans to expand a net pen site near Port Angeles, and install up to 20 more sites in the Puget Sound area. A hearing is scheduled on the Port Angeles proposal on September 7.

(See our editorial on the subject in the September, 2017 Fishermen’s News.)

Fire Engulfs Peter Pan Plant at Port Moller

A fire of undetermined cause that began late on August 15 engulfed the 100-year-old Port Moller seafood processing plant owned by Peter Pan Seafoods.

Company officials declined to comment but posted on the Peter Pan Seafoods’ Facebook page that all crew and personnel were reported safe and uninjured, and that the damage is extensive enough to halt operations for the rest of the 2017 season.

The company did note that all the processing workers were safely evacuated from the premises. Peter Pan spokesman Dale Schiffler said the investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing.

Port Moller, the company’s most remote facility, is a salmon processing plant some 550 air miles southwest of Anchorage, on the north side of the Alaska Peninsula. It primarily processes sockeyes, but also produces small amounts of king, coho and chum salmon. Before the fire, the plant was able to process about 250,000 pounds of salmon a day, in product forms including frozen headed and gutted, fillets, salted fillets and sujiko (salted salmon eggs). During peak production, it employs a crew of 140 people.

Peter Pan was buying fish from and supporting a fleet of 105 drift gill netters and 30 set netters, both resident and non-resident fishermen.

An Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist, Bob Murphy, who is living at Port Moller for the summer, talked about the fire with Dave Bendinger of Dillingham’s public radio station, KDLG. Murphy told Bendinger that plant workers used a fire suppression system, water lines and hoses to fight the fire, but that their efforts were no match for flames fueled by dry timbers from the 100-year-old buildings.

Port Moller has no fire department.

Mine Opponents Rally in Anchorage

Some 200 Alaskans gathered in the pouring rain in downtown Anchorage on August 21 to tell the Pebble Limited Partnership once again that Bristol Bay residents will not help build a mine not wanted in their region of Alaska. “It has been much more than just a decade of deception,” former Alaska State Senator Rick Halford told the crowd. “Pebble has been telling us things that weren’t true over and over again.

The source of contention is a proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine that commercial, sport and subsistence fish harvesters, major environmental groups and others contend has the potential to destroy fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed.

“They know they don’t have local support,” Halford said. “The fact is that salmon are life to Bristol Bay. They feed everything from the tiniest microorganism to the brown bear. They feed the heart, the soul and the faith of everybody there. And they feed the dreams of people worldwide.”

Norm Van Vactor, chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. at Dillingham, described the mine project advocated by British Columbia’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, of which the PLP is a subsidiary, as “a cloud over Bristol Bay’s head for more than a decade. “Enough is enough,” Van Vactor said. “Bristol Bay has a robust economic engine that is sustainable –our fisheries. Just this year the commercial fishery harvested more than 37 million sockeyes.” That’s the economy we will fight to preserve.”

The mine opponents gathered outside the Hotel Captain Cook, where the PLP’s advisory committee planned to hold a private meeting about the mine.

PLP spokesman Mike Heatwole said several people from groups opposed to the mine were invited to the meeting to share their views but that they all declined.

Heatwole said the PLP is in the midst of active discussions with potential investors in the project and that it plans to begin filing for permits for the mine by year’s end. He acknowledged that approval of permits would be needed from more than 60 classifications, and that every stream crossing permit would need approval from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Heatwole also said that no final decision has been made on the gas fired electrical plant needed for the mine, but said the PLP planned to resolve that issue before submitting permit applications.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

AMSEA Urges Safety for Vessels and Crews

In the midst of the 2017 commercial fishing season, the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association is urging harvesters to take a little time out and think about further reducing risks to their vessels and crews.

This advice from Jerry Dzugan, executive director of AMSEA, comes in a year that has already resulted in nine commercial fishing fatalities, plus swamping of several vessels in Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound, due to weather and overloading, but fortunately with no loss of life.

Dzugan’s words of advice include having respect for icing and anything that raises the vessel’s center of gravity, keeping vessels and crew afloat, paying attention to weather forecasts, and getting sufficient sleep.

“In the 15-year National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study, out of 210 fishermen who fell overboard and died, not one was wearing a PFD,” he said.

“There is no reason for crew members on deck to not wear one of the many types of comfortable and snag resistant PFDs that are now on the market.”

As for weather watching, if there’s a storm forecast, don’t go! It’s not worth it,” Dzugan said. And find the highest risk item on your deferred maintenance checklist and fix it, he said.

“When we ask the Coast Guard or others to rescue us, it puts them at risk as well, Dzugan writes. Instead, he advises to take preventive measures now to save family members and friends from attending another fishermen’s memorial services. “They are all depending on you to come back alive,” he said. Read his entire article online at

Alaska Salmon Harvest Edges Toward 160 Million Fish

Harvests of pink salmon in Alaska’s commercial fisheries have reached more than 86 million fish, bringing the total preliminary salmon catch total to date to nearly 160 million salmon.

The statewide catch also includes upwards of 51 million sockeyes, 19.7 million chum, 2.5 million coho and 242,000 Chinook salmon.

In Southeast Alaska, 20,732,000 of the 30,071,000 salmon delivered to processors are humpies. The forecast for Southeast Alaska’s pink salmon was for an estimated 43 million fish. An actual harvest of 43 million pinks would be just above the recent 10-year average harvest of 39 million pink salmon.

ADF&G fisheries researcher Andy Piston, in Ketchikan, says it’s still too early to say how the humpy harvest in Southeast Alaska will add up this year.

Right now, he said, it looks like it will come in around the low 30 million range. Why the odd-year harvest is lower than anticipated is an unknown. “Nobody knows what combination of factors in the ocean is influencing pink salmon survival, in localized areas especially.

The whole dynamic in the ocean is extremely complex and even with an unlimited budget, which they don’t have, it would be extremely difficult to pin down, he said.

In Prince William Sound, 35,809,000 of the 42,648,000 salmon harvested to date are humpies.

In Alaska’s Westward region, harvesters in the Alaska Peninsula have now delivered 22.5 million salmon to processors. Kodiak area harvests have brought in another 15.8 million salmon, and Chignik has added over 4 million more salmon.

The catch of chum salmon on the Lower Yukon River has reached more than 677,000 fish, and on the Upper Yukon, another 163,000 chum have been caught.

In Bristol Bay, the harvest stands at over 39 million fish, while Cook Inlet’s total salmon harvest to date is approaching 4 million fish.

AK Board of Fisheries Releases Proposal Book

In advance of its work session in Anchorage in October for the upcoming meeting cycle, the Alaska Board of Fisheries has issued its 2017-2018 proposal book, which includes 227 proposals for review at these sessions.

The proposals will be under discussion during the board’s Prince William Sound finfish, Southeast and Yakutat finfish and shellfish, and statewide (except Southeast and Yakutat) Dungeness crab, shrimp, and other miscellaneous shellfish regulatory meetings. The proposals constitute proposed regulatory changes for identified regions and species.

Download the proposals individually, in sections, or for entire meetings at

During the work session at the Egan Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage Oct. 17-19, the board will consider agenda change requests, cycle organization, and stocks of concern. Work session comments are due by Oct. 3. Check online for several ways to send comments.

From Dec. 1-5, the board will meet at the Valdez Convention and Civic Center to take up Prince William Sound finfish issues. The comment deadline is Nov. 17.

From Jan. 11-23, the board will meet at Harrigan Centennial Hall in Sitka on Southeast and Yakutat finfish and shellfish matters. The comment deadline is Dec. 28.

The board’s final meeting of this cycle will be back at the Egan Center, March 6-9, to discuss statewide (except Southeast and Yakutat) Dungeness crab, shrimp, other miscellaneous shellfish and supplemental issues. The comment deadline is Feb. 23.

Senate Passes Marine Debris Legislation

The U.S. Senate has passed legislation aimed at confronting the global marine debris crisis. The Save Our Seas Act, which would boost the federal government’s domestic and international response to ocean waste, now goes for consideration to the U.S. House, where the House oceans Caucus has introduced companion language.

The Save Our Seas Act would allow the NOAA administrator to declare severe marine debris events and authorize funds to assist with cleanup and response.

Governors of affected states could ask NOAA to make the declaration.

The act would reauthorize NOAA”s Marine Debris Program through fiscal year 2022.

It would also encourage the executive branch of the government to engage with leaders of nations responsible for the majority of marine debris, support research into ocean biodegradable plastics, examine the causes of ocean debris, develop effective prevention and mitigation strategies and quantify the economic benefits for treaty nations in addressing the crisis.

The legislation was introduced by Senators Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wild Salmon Harvest Tops 132.8 M,
Pink Harvest Lags in SE

Commercial harvests of wild Alaska salmon rose to nearly 133 million fish through August 8, including upwards of 50 million sockeyes, while a weak catch of humpies in Southeast Alaska left the pink salmon preliminary harvest at about 62 million fish.

The commercial harvest of pink salmon in the Sitka area was in full swing, with a catch of 5.5 million humpies during the last opening, but so far the overall commercial harvest in Southeast Alaska stands at 14.9 million pinks, compared to a forecast of 43 million.

“We had some weakness in the southern areas, in Ketchikan, Petersburg and Juneau,” said Eric Coonradt, the state management biologist for salmon at Sitka. Just why that run in southern areas of Alaska was coming in weak is not known. While it probably has more to do with ocean temperatures, there are also a multitude of probable reasons.

In Prince William Sound meanwhile, the pink salmon commercial fishery was going strong, “with greater than 1.7 million fish per 14-hour period on every other day schedule that week,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game management biologist Bert Lewis in Anchorage.

Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. cost recovery is making good progress and expected to finish later this week. There is strong wild stock escapement and harvest and hatchery run entry is steadily increasing, Lewis said.

The total Prince William Sound purse seine harvest through August 8 was 26 million fish. Adding the 2 million fish in hatchery cost recovery made for a preliminary harvest total of 28 million fish.

“The total harvest forecast is for 55 million pinks and we are approaching the 50 percentile of all pink salmon returns,” Lewis said. “We are tracking pretty close to forecast. The parent year for this season was an all-time record in 2015 of a total pink run of over 100 million fish, with a harvest of 97 million.”

Along with those 50 million sockeyes and some 62 million humpies, the statewide preliminary harvest totals compiled by ADF&G included in excess of 18 million chum, 1.9 million silver and 237,000 Chinook salmon.

Due to poor ocean survival conditions for Chinooks, which are persisting in Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, ADF&G put into effect on August 7 a restriction on harvests in coast wide fisheries directed at stocks originating in Southeast Alaska, Northern British Columbia, the Fraser River and the Washington coast. Inseason information from ADF&G, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and NOAA surveys off the coast of Oregon, Washington and the Gulf of Alaska all indicate that poor production conditions are currently occurring and will persist through at least 2018, ADF&G biologists said.

Saying it was a very difficult decision to make, ADF&G announced that retention of Chinook salmon would cease on August 10 in the Southeast Alaska commercial and recreational fisheries and that non-retention would continue through September.

Bristol Bay’s harvest stood at 39 million fish, including 37,627,000 sockeyes, 1.3 million chum, 40,000 coho, 39,000 king and 32,000 pink salmon. Cook Inlet has delivered to processors over 3 million salmon, including 1.9 million reds, 666,000 pinks, 356,000 chums, 159,000 silvers and 8,000 kings.

Options for EM Offered by NOAA

Beginning next year, Alaska fishermen will have the option to use an electronic monitoring (EM) system in lieu of a NOAA Fisheries observer, as the federal agency integrates EM into the North Pacific Observer Program. NOAA Fisheries made the announcement on August 8, after the final rule waspublished in the Federal Register. The rule will be effective September 7, 2017.

Information gathered by observers while on board these commercial vessels is crucial to sustainable management of Alaska’s multi-billion-dollar fishing industry.

NOAA Fisheries restructured the North Pacific Observer Program in 2013 to place fisheries observers on small boats between 40 and 60 feet, and those harvesting halibut in Alaska.

Some small vessel owners and operators have advocated for the choice to use an EM system rather than carry an observer. They worked with NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop the EM technology that works best in Alaska. The federal agency will use EM to collect catch and bycatch data from vessels while they are fishing.

“This program is a first step toward automating observer data for the very specialized North Pacific fleet,” said Jim Balsiger, NOAA Fisheries assistant administrator for the Alaska Region.

NOAA”s final rule allows EM technology to be available only to owners and operators of fixed gear (hook and line, and pot gear) vessels in the partial coverage category of the observer program, in which the agency places observers on randomly selected vessels. In the full coverage category, observers are required on all boats, in addition to separate requirements for video monitoring systems for compliance purposes only, not catch estimation.

Participation in EM is voluntary, and each year vessel owners or operators will need to apply by November 1 to participate.

Vessels meeting eligibility criteria will be placed in the EM selection pool and NOAA Fisheries will randomly select trips among participating boats.. Those who volunteer would be responsible for making sure the EM system is working and to send the video storage devices back to NOAA Fisheries for review. Vessel owners and operators who do not wish to participate in the EM program will remain subject to observer coverage.

PenAir Files for Chapter 11 Reorganization Plan

PenAir, a major Alaska air carrier whose destinations include the fishing ports of Dutch Harbor, Sand Point, King Salmon, Dillingham and St. Paul Island, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In an announcement issued on August 7, PenAir chairman and chief executive officer Danny Seybert said that the action would keep scheduled air service operations in Southwest Alaska and the Boston area intact, while PenAir’s hubs in Portland, Ore., and Denver, Colo., would shut down scheduled service over the next 90 days.

PenAir routes in Alaska also include Cold Bay, St. George and McGrath.

“The steps we are taking will allow PenAir to emerge as a stronger airline, while continuing our focus on safe operations,” Seybert said. “The company will work with a restructuring officer to present a reorganization plan that will allow management to focus on its employees, safe operations, retiring debt and taking care of customers,” he explained.

PenAir has filed a request with federal transportation officials to end essential air service routes between Crescent City, Calif., and Portland, Ore.,, in addition to regional routes served from its Denver hub.

Alaska Public Radio noted that PenAir’s filing for bankruptcy came just two months after PenAir halted daily flight service to Unalaska, citing declining revenue from its contract with the US Postal Service.

Seybert’s father, Orin Seybert, founded PenAir at Pilot Point in 1955. The carrier is one of the oldest family owned airlines in the nation, and one of the largest regional airlines in Alaska.

Alaska Marks Second Annual Wild Salmon Day

Alaska will celebrate Wild Salmon Day on August 10, with free salmon chowder and barbecues, music, community art projects, salmon dip competition, fisher poetry and games.

Meanwhile select restaurants in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Sitka and Juneau are featuring wild Alaska salmon entrees on their menus to celebrate the impact of wild salmon on nearly all of the state’s residents.

A complimentary evening barbecue at Cuddy Family Midtown Park in Anchorage will serve up salmon provided by Northline Seafoods and Sitka Salmon Shares and showcase multiple entertainment opportunities.

The Sitka Conservation Society will host a special screening of the film “The Salmon Forest” at the Mean Queen restaurant in Sitka , while in Soldotna, on the Kenai Peninsula, Cook Inletkeeper will offer up free salmon chowder, along with live music and fish poetry.

Bristol Bay Native Association is hosting a community barbecue in Dillingham, along with a salmon dip competition and salon delicacy contest.

At Talkeetna, along the Alaska railbelt, the Susitna River Coalition is planning a sampling of wild Susitna River salmon, as well as Susitna River cleanup, a salmon obstacle course for kids, in addition to games, and arts and crafts for all ages.

Wild Salmon Day was established a year ago when Gov. Bill Walker signed legislation creating the state’s latest holiday. The legislation, said Walker, “is intended to celebrate these uniquely Alaskan ways of life, and share our appreciation for wild Alaskan salmon with the rest of the world.

More information on Wild Salmon Day is available at

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fisheries Legislation Included in Appropriations Bill

The US Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill, which contains millions of dollars for sustainable management of Alaska fisheries.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the package continued several items for which she supported robust funding, including $164.7 million for data collection, surveys and assessments, and $35.8 million for regional councils and fisheries commissioners, $65 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, and $14 million for salmon management activities under the Pacific Salmon Treaty, plus funding for electronic monitoring and reporting and expanding annual stock assessments.

Murkowski also cosponsored an amendment with Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Diane Feinstein of California to fund $150 million in recent West Coast fishery disasters.

While the amendment was withdrawn without a vote, commitments were made by the committee to continue working to fund fishery disasters, Murkowski said.

Also in the appropriations package was $11 million to address ocean acidification issues, and $113.3 million to allow NOAA Fisheries to promote species recovery while enabling sustainable economic activity.

Hiring for Bristol Bay Seafood Processing:
a Complex Issue

Processing a Bristol Bay salmon harvest in excess of 39 million fish, far exceeding the forecast of a harvest of 27.4 million reds, proved challenging to some processors, prompting plenty of commentary on why more Alaskans weren’t hired on.

It is a big challenge, said Nelson San Juan, coordinator of seafood employment for the Alaska Department of Labor, trying to educate people on how they can work their way up in the industry, in positions starting perhaps on the slime line but leading eventually to management. They need to know there are different opportunities, and that most employers promote from within, he said.

Bristol Bay is a unique challenge because the period of real work is short, said John Garner, chief operating officer with North Pacific Seafoods. Still it’s not unusual in four to five weeks in Bristol Bay for some working long hours to gross $10,000.

The seafood industry competes for Alaska workers in summer with the construction, agriculture and tourism industries, he said. North Pacific Seafoods participates in job fairs in Alaska and has targeted western Alaska seeking processing workers, “but this isn’t a job for everybody,” he said. “It’s not a walk in the park.”

Veteran Bristol Bay harvester Robin Samuelsen of Dillingham said making it more attractive for workers to come to work in canneries, including better wages, is key.

“Offer them a good wage and show them that they will make income,” said Samuelsen, who is critical of processors who charge workers for room and board.

Every processing company has a different policy on room and board, however, and some said they rebate some or all of those costs to workers who complete the season.

Companies that rely on hiring a lot of foreign workers under the federal H-2B visa program, had a tough time this year because a previous exemption from the cap on temporary seasonal workers given for returning workers expired last year.

Brian Gannon, senior director of corporate relations for United Work and Travel, said that the Alaska seafood industry has been importing labor to Alaska to export fish out of the state for 130 years, to the benefit of local communities, fishermen, the state and processing companies.

“History will show that the next 20 years will be a race to see which companies can and will figure out the labor issue in Alaska, with or without the help from Washington DC and visa based labor programs,” he said.

Alaska Salmon Harvest Tops 112 Million Fish

The statewide catch of wild salmon in Alaska topped 122.6 million fish through Aug. 2, including 49.5 million sockeye salmon, 37.6 million of which were caught in Bristol Bay. Processors were offering a base price of one dollar, up from 75 cents last year and 50 cents from 2015. For chilled salmon, which comprise about 60 percent of the Bristol Bay catch, the base price was $1.20.

Also processed to date were 44.2 million humpies, 17 million chum, 1.4 million silver and 234,000 kings.

The Prince William Sound harvest, as of the first week of August, stood at 28 million fish, including nearly 22 million pink, 5 million chum, 1.3 million red, 13,000 king and 12,000 silver salmon. On the Lower Yukon, the keta salmon harvest has grown to 554,000 fish and on the Upper Yukon another 158,000 chum have been delivered to processors.

In the Westward region, harvesters in the Alaska Peninsula have caught more than 14 million salmon. Their catch includes 6.5 million red, 6 million pink, 1.5 million chum, 195,000 coho and 9,000 Chinooks. At Kodiak, the harvest delivered to processors reached 8 million salmon, including 5.3 million pink, 1.4 million red, 1.3 million chum, 62,000 coho and 5,000 kings.

Cook Inlet’s total catch to date is 2.4 million fish. Processors have received 1.7 million sockeye, 351,000 pink, 274,000 chum, 45,000 coho and 7,000 kings.

!0th & M Seafoods in Anchorage had Alaska king salmon fillets ready for the freezer at $22.95 a pound, and Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market was offering fresh wild Alaskan sockeye fillets for $19.99 a pound. Fred Meyer stores in Alaska had fresh whole wild Alaska sockeyes for $5.99 a pound.

BC Vows to Resolve Tulsequah Chief Mine Issues

Mining officials in British Columbia say discussions are off for the purchase of the Tulsequah Chief Mine and that they are escalating efforts to halt the flow of pollution from that mine into the Taku River watershed. The Taku is part of the salmon-rich transboundary river system flowing from British Columbia into Southeast Alaska, where salmon fisheries are critical to the economy.

Tribal entities, the environmental entity Rivers Without Borders, and commercial fishing entities have been pushing BC officials for several years to clean up the dormant mine.

Chieftain Metals, owner of the controversial copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold mine southwest of Atlin, BC is no longer in discussion with Black Loon Metals about purchasing the mine, said Lindsay Byers, a spokeswoman for the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

Byers said Aug. 1 that the province’s chief inspector of mines has escalated enforcement and ordered Chieftain Metals to resolve issues identified during a September 2016 site inspection. If Chieftain Metals does not comply with these additional orders, the government will take appropriate steps, which may include seeking relief from the courts, Byers said in email response to a query.

“The province also understands that a third party (secured creditor) will be retaining an environmental consultant to review the existing data pertaining to the mine and will be developing a set of remediation plans in contemplation of operating the mine should there be a sale of the company Chieftain Metals,” Byers said. In the fall of 2016, the province confiscated the $1.2 million security held for the mine, and a portion of those funds has been used to secure some hazardous waste on site and complete the aquatic and ecological risk assessment, Byers said. This summer the province will conduct work to address the orders in relation to the exfiltration pond at the site, and removal of some remaining hazardous waste from the mine site, she said. Chris Zimmer, Alaska campaign director for Rivers Without Borders said the Aquatic Ecological Risk Assessment released by the BC government on July 18 documents unacceptable risks from the ongoing acid mine drainage from the Tulsequah Chief.

The assessment by SLR under contract with the BC government, is online at

The assessment concludes, in part that “restricting overland flow would reduce exposure and thereby reduce risk to aquatic receptors. Overland discharge of untreated mine source waters from the exfiltration pond and portals into the Tulsequah River are sources of contamination to the Tulsequah River and aquatic receptors.”

“This new study finds “unacceptable risks” from acid mine drainage pouring out of the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine and should put to rest claims that the pollution is not harming fish and water quality,” Zimmer said. “The only way to stop the illegal and clearly harmful acid mine drainage from the abandoned mine into the salmon-rich Taku watershed is for BC to honor its promises and take responsibility for mine cleanup and closure,” he said.

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