Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Oregon Rep. DeFazio Challenges DEIS on Pebble Permit

The chair of the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., says a federal draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the application for a Clean Water Act permit for a mine in the Bristol Bay watershed is fundamentally flawed.

DeFazio sent a letter on Nov. 15 to the US Army Corps of Engineers, urging the Corps to immediately prepare a revised EIS for the Pebble mine project and take no further action on the permit application until this is accomplished.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, which is seeking the Clean Water Act Permit, is a subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Inc., itself a subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson Inc. a diversified global mining group based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

DeFazio told Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, 54th Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the Corps, that he is deeply concerned with the Corps’ review of the permit application and the associated review of the project under the National Environmental Policy (NEPA) “are so fundamentally flawed and inadequate as to preclude any meaningful review on the likely impacts of this project – in violation of your responsibilities under both the Clean Water Act and NEPA.”

Mike Heatwole, spokesman for the Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage, Alaska, said the Corps is appropriately managing the EIS process for the project. “Most observers of the permitting process in Alaska call this one of the most transparent processes they have seen for a resource project in Alaska.”

Those who oppose development of a mine abutting the watershed, which produces the largest run of sockeye salmon in the world, spoke of their concerns about the EIS process when they testified during a subcommittee on Water Resources and Environmental hearing in Washington, DC in October chaired by DeFazio. Dennis McClerran, former head of EPA Region 10 in Seattle, Wash., told the committee that compensatory mitigation would not be effective nor appropriate to address impacts to a pristine environment, such as the Bristol Bay watershed. Richard Borden of Midgard Environmental Services LLC, in Salt Lake City, Utah, described the conceptual need to treat up to 19,000 gallons of wastewater a minute as “truly unprecedented.” Similarly, Borden told DeFazio’s subcommittee, even after formal mine closure more than 5,000 gallons of wastewater a minute would need to be managed in perpetuity, for centuries to come.

Spokespersons for the Corps said on Nov. 26 in their monthly teleconference update with news media that the Corps has received some 115,000 comments on the draft EIS and that no decision has been made yet on whether a supplemental draft EIS is required.

Bristol Bay Red King Crab Shows Average Weight of
7.1 Pounds

The 2019 Bristol Bay red king crab fishery has wrapped up with quota of 3,797,000 pounds.

Numbers show an average catch per unit effort (CPUE) of 15.6 crab in a pot. The 7.14 pounds average weight per crab is the highest dating back to 1973.

That high average weight is a concern, according to Ethan Nichols, the state’s assistant area management biologist for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands. “We’ve seen average weight increasing for several years now, which is a little concerning. We think we are fishing on the same group of adult male crab who are a year older and heavier.”

Biologists are not seeing many recruits of small crab coming into the system, “but if we had a better mix of small crab, we would see a lower average weight,” he said. “What is coming in is mostly large older males.”

The catch per unit effort is also a concern. The CPUE in 2019 was the lowest since crab rationalization went into effect in 2005, Nichols said, a sharp contrast with a CPUE of 20 in the last two seasons.

Bottom fish in general, including Pacific cod and skate, will prey on small juvenile red king crab, so likely part of the predation is from bottom fish, but biologists have also noted very high bottom temperatures and think there is some impact on red king crab populations from changes in the environment. Nichols said there is a lot of uncertainty around the impact of climate change in the Bering Sea on crab biomass.

Southeast Alaska Pink Salmon Forecast Low

Alaska state biologists are forecasting a harvest of 12 million pink salmon in Southeast Alaska in 2020. It would represent one-third of the recent 10-year average harvest of 35 million fish, and 60 percent of the average even year harvest since 2006.

Pink salmon that went to sea between 2014 and 2018 returned in numbers below expectation and below recent odd-and-even-year averages. The impact of warm sea surface temperatures on survival of pink salmon that went to sea in 2019 remains unknown, adding uncertainty to the forecast.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) plans to manage the 2020 commercial purse seine fisheries in-season based on run strength, the agency said, in its forecast issued on Nov. 20.

The harvest forecast is based primarily on juvenile pink salmon abundance indices collected during the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Southeast Alaska Coastal Monitoring (SECM) project. The SECM project was initiated in 1997 to learn more about the impact of climate and nearshore ocean conditions on year class strength of salmon and ecologically related species.

Since 2018, the SECM project has been conducted cooperatively by NOAA and ADF&G, the agencies combining efforts to produce a joint pink salmon harvest forecast using SECM data.

State biologists said the low juvenile abundance index in 2019 was not unexpected. Pink salmon escapements in 2018, the parent year, were very poor throughout northern Southeast Alaska inside waters and the escapement goal was not met in that sub region, which may have resulted in below optimal egg deposition.

The forecast report notes that escapement and harvest of pink salmon in the Northern Southeast Inside sub region have been very poor since 2012 and the 2020 forecast indicates this pattern is likely to continue. Pink salmon escapement goals for the Southern Southeast and Northern Southeast Outside sub regions were met in 2018, but harvests were well below average. The low juvenile abundance index in 2019 may also indicate that brood year 2018 pink salmon had poor freshwater and/or early marine survival.

Biologists said it is possible that drought conditions in Southeast Alaska from the parent year 2018 spawn through the spring of 2019 reduced spawning success or negatively impacted overwinter survival of juvenile salmon, but exact reasons for the low juvenile abundance are unknown. Juvenile pinks caught during the 2019 SECM survey trawls were among the largest in length in the 23-year time series and were in good condition, indicating favorable nearshore marine conditions in the spring. The size of juvenile pinks was similar to the large size of juvenile seen during the marine heat wave of 2014-2016 and returns from those juvenile years were all below average.

Alaska Symphony of Seafoods Announces 2020 Winners

Alaska Leader Seafoods’ meal kit of wild Alaska cod in tempura batter with Panko breading and a side of fries has won the Seattle People’s Choice award in the 2020 Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition.

The kit includes a pound of pre-cut wild Alaska cod, and a pound and a half of Idaho potato fries, plus packets of tempura batter mix and buttery breading, and easy to follow cooking instructions.

Barnacle Foods of Juneau, Alaska, took first place in retail with its Bullwhip Kelp Salsa. High Liner Foods of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, was first in food service with its Pollock powered Alaska Wild Wings-Southern Style, and WILD By Nature, Sitka, Alaska, bested the competition in the Beyond the Plate category with its silver plated, resin coated Alaskan Fin Fish Earrings.

The awards were announced during the Symphony’s Seattle Open House presented in collaboration with the Northwest Fisheries Association at Dockside at Duke’s on Nov. 20.

A complete list of first, second and third place winners will be presented during the legislative reception in Juneau, Alaska on Feb. 24 co-hosted by United Fishermen of Alaska.

The annual competition is hosted by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, with each entry judged on its product packaging and presentation, overall eating experience, price and potential for commercial success.

First place winners in each category and the grand prize winner receive booth space at the Seafood Expo North America in March, plus roundtrip airfare from Symphony sponsor Alaska Air Cargo, and entry into the Seafood Expo’s new products contest.

Major sponsors for this year competition include: Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Bristol Bay Regional Development Association, Northwest Fisheries Association, Alaska Air Cargo, At-Sea Processors Association, Lineage Logistics, Marine Stewardship Council, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, Marel, Kwik’Pak Fisheries LLC, Trident Seafoods, Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers, UniSea, and United Fishermen of Alaska.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Bioplastic Made of Organic Fish Waste is Award Winner

A university student’s attempt to solve the problem of single-use plastics and fish wastes has won her the international James Dyson Award for the creation of a unique alternative.

Lucy Hughes, a product design student at the University of Sussex, created MarinaTex, a biodegradable material made of scales and fish skin that would ordinarily wind up in a landfill.

To claim the award, Hugues bested 1,078 entrants from 28 countries.

“Young engineers have the passion, awareness and intelligence to solve some of the world’s biggest problems,” said James Dyson, the British inventor and contest founder, in a news release.

MarinaTex is a translucent and flexible sheet material which makes it ideal for applications in single-use packaging. While it may look and feel like plastic, its similarities end there, the foundation notes, and “in fact, it is stronger, safer and much more sustainable than its oil-based counterpart.”

With a unique formula of red algae to bind the proteins extracted from fish waste, MarinaTex has strong overlapping bonds that give it strength and flexibility, and it biodegrades after four to six weeks, making it suitable for home composting.

According to Hughes, one Atlantic cod could generate as much organic waste as is needed to produce 1,400 bags of MarinaTex.

“Plastic is an amazing material, and as a result, we have become too reliant on it as designers and engineers” Hughes said. “It makes no sense to me that we’re using plastic, an incredibly durable material, for products that have a life-cycle of less than a day. For me, MarinaTex represents a commitment to material innovation and selection by incorporating sustainable, local and circular values into design.”

Hughes said she plans to commercialize her invention, using her award money for further research into how MarinaTex can become a global answer to the abundance of plastic waste.

The James Dyson Foundation released the winner information on November 13, 2019.

Pebble Mine Opponents Set to Present at Pacific Marine Expo

Bristol Bay stakeholders and commercial fishing leaders from Alaska and Washington who feel the proposed Pebble project in Southwest Alaska poses a threat to the multi-million-dollar wild salmon fishery have scheduled a panel discussion on the matter during Pacific Marine Expo. It will take place on Thursday, Nov. 21, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle, Wash.

The panel participants will include University of Washington aquatic ecologist Daniel Schindler, veteran Bristol Bay harvester Mike Friccero of Kodiak, Alaska, and Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents the Bay’s drift gillnet fleet.

The event was announced by Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay and United Tribes of Bristol Bay, two of several groups who have voiced strong concern for what they contend is an effort to fast-track the project despite area and national opposition, and scientific evidence that it could destroy the fishery.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, based in Anchorage, Alaska, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the international mining corporation Hunter Dickinson, of Vancouver, British Columbia, which claims that the mine can be constructed and operated in harmony with the fishery.

A public statement released on Nov. 19 by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd, the Hunter Dickenson subsidiary that oversees the Pebble Limited Partnership, said that the Pebble project, which it describes as one of the world’s most important copper-gold-molybdenum-silver resources, is currently advancing through the U.S. federal permitting process under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The US Army Corps of Engineers’ draft Environmental Impact Statement, which was released last spring, has been criticized by federal and state agencies as a flawed document, a rushed and politicized effort to aid a foreign mining company at the expense of the fishery.

Hatcher Proponents Oppose Several Proposals Before Alaska Board of Fisheries

Salmon Hatcheries for Alaska is urging opposition to several proposals before the Alaska Board of Fisheries, because of concern of adverse impact to hatcheries. The meeting is scheduled for Dec. 10-13 in Seward, Alaska.

In a statement issued on Nov. 18, Salmon Hatcheries of Alaska spelled out its reasons for opposing six proposals, including Proposal 22, which the organization contends would change the entire dynamic of funding for non-profit salmon hatcheries in Alaska. The proposal urges the fisheries board to cap or otherwise numerically limit the amount of hatchery-produced fish returning to a hatchery that a hatchery operator could have for cost-recovery purposes. Such a limit, according to the proposal, would eliminate the unintended adverse consequences of hatcheries producing too many pink salmon solely for the purpose of fulfilling the hatchery’s revenue targets and enhancing depleted fish populations.

Salmon Hatcheries for Alaska also opposes Proposal 27 which would modify the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery Management Plan by deleting the Halibut Cove subdistrict special harvest area from the plan for commercial enhancement and cost recovery. The proposal contends that the subdistrict lies within waters fully allocated for statutory park uses.

Halibut Cove Lagoon, on the south side of Kachemak Bay from Homer, Alaska, is a known nursery and reproductive area preferred by very valuable species like spot shrimp and crab. Chinook salmon have been stocked there using federal sport fish funds for four decades specifically for recreational users, the proposal read.

Salmon Hatcheries for Alaska contends that Halibut Cove has been a commercial harvest site for many years, that the site provides an opportunity for pink salmon harvest and that pink salmon are not detrimental to release of Chinook salmon smolt, since no Chinook have been released at Halibut Cove for two years and there are no future plans for their release.

Copies of all proposals on the Seward meeting agenda can be found online at,fixed,,10

Cannery History Project Marks 100th Anniversary of Spanish Flu in Bristol Bay

The NN Cannery History Project is focused on the historic salmon cannery at Naknek in Bristol Bay Alaska. It features a tragic chapter in 1919 when a second round of the Spanish Flu outbreak devastated residents of villages in Bristol Bay. Crews from the Alaska Packers Association (APA) arriving in Bristol Bay to can salmon late that spring ended up caring for the afflicted villagers.

The history project, in collaboration with executive director Tim Troll of the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, and the Alaska Humanities Forum, will host a conversation and commemoration of the pandemic at the Alaska Humanities Forum on Dec. 3.

As Troll noted in articles on the history of the pandemic, the cannery workers were the first responders to the sickened population in the infection plagued villages. The packing company, by its own account, spared no expense in providing medical help to the sick, to comfort the dying, build coffins, bury the dead, and to feed, clothe and house many, many orphans. The flu, an H1H1 variant, “has curiously spared the young while reserving its wrath for their parents,” Troll wrote. When the territorial governor later asked the packing company for a bill for reimbursement, APA President Henry Fortmann declined the offer. Fortmann told the governor that it would be almost impossible to segregate the quantities and costs of food, fuel, drugs, clothing, bedding and other commodities furnished to the Natives during the plague, to say nothing of similar articles given to them for the winter by the company. “We feel ourselves well paid by the knowledge that we were able to relieve the suffering and that our employees carried out the spirit and the wishes of the Alaska Packers Association,” Fortmann said.

By the end of June, Troll noted, the flu had run its course, but the disaster was far from over. The anticipated salmon run never came in July, as overfishing to provide ore food for Allied troops in World War One apparently decimated the 1919 brood stocks, leading to the first major collapse of the commercial fishery in Bristol Bay.

The orphans who survived the deadly flu have all passed on now, though the known ancestry of many Bristol Bay families today begins with them.

The photo exhibit, titled Bristol Bay Remembers: The Great Flu of 1919, is on display at Humanities Forum through Dec. 4.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

2020 Bristol Bay Harvest Forecast Set to 34.56M Salmon

The 2020 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon forecast, issued on Nov. 8, anticipates a total run of 48.95 million fish, which would allow for a potential harvest of 34.56 million. Those figures are higher than this past season 26.11 million fish forecast but lower than the actual 44.5 million harvest.

Should the 2020 run come in as anticipated, it will be 6 percent larger than the most recent 10-year average of Bristol Bay total runs (45.9 million) and 29 percent greater than the long-term (1963-2019) average of 34.6 million fish.

The annual forecast is the sum of individual predictions of nine river systems, all of which are expected to meet their spawning escapement goals. The 2020 forecast accounts for 19.97 million salmon to the Naknek-Kvichak District, 10.75 million to Egegik, 4.67 million to the Ugashik, 12.63 million to Nushagak, and 0.93 million to Togiak.

Actual 2019 harvests by district included 11.4 million salmon from the Naknek-Kvichak, 15 million from Egegik, 1 million from the Ugashik, 15.7 million from the Nushagak, and 1.3 million from Togiak.

Biologists also estimate that 19.14 million (39 percent) of the total run would be age-1.2 fish; 7.06 million (14 percent) age-2.2; 21.04 million (43 percent) age-1.3; and 1.68 million (3 percent) age-2.3.

According to state biologists, the impact of abnormally high water temperatures in Bristol Bay and other Alaska fisheries during the 2019 summer, as well as drought conditions that caused a thermal block in many rivers and streams which led fish to die before getting to spawning grounds, will not be determined until the summer of 2023.

The ADF&G 2020 forecast acknowledges that individual river forecasts always have greater uncertainty than bay-wide predictions. Since 2001, on average, biologists have under-forecast river returns to the Alagnak (33 percent), Togiak (12 percent), Kvichak (22 percent), Wood (17 percent), Nushagak (20 percent), Ugashik (0.5 percent), and Naknek (14 percent) and over-estimated returns to the Igushik (13 percent) and Egegik (14 percent).

ADF&G extended thanks to the Bristol Bay Fisheries Collaborative (BBFC) for providing $750,000 in funding assistance in 2019. The BBFC was established in 2016 as part of an agreement between ADF&G and the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute (BBSRI) to work together with stakeholders to restore a world-class fishery management system and raise funds to support and maintain management.

The agreement has support from ADF&G, BBSRI, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, set net fishermen, processors, municipalities, villages, support industries and other stakeholders. A complete list of participants is available online at

Adak Seeks Exclusive Registration Area for P-cod Fishery

A proposal to make the Aleutian Islands subdistrict an exclusive registration area for Pacific cod during the state waters season is slated for consideration when the Alaska Board of Fisheries meets in Seward Dec. 10-13.

Proposal 278 put forward by the city of Adak, Alaska, and the Adak Community Development Corp. notes that a shore-based processor at Adak began processing Aleutian Islands Pacific cod in 2017. Since, effort has increased and the guideline harvest level has been fully harvested.

According to the proposal, declines in Pacific cod abundance in the Gulf of Alaska have redistributed state-waters fishing efforts away from fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska to the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands. This change has boosted effort and competition among harvesters and reduced season lengths in both the Dutch Harbor and Aleutian Islands subdistricts.

In recent years, the Dutch Harbor subdistrict has closed prior to the Aleutian Islands subdistrict, allowing for an influx of Dutch Harbor pot boats to enter the Aleutian Islands fishery mid-season, creating a race for fish and increased competition for Aleutians fishermen.

There are eight state waters (guideline harvest level) Pacific cod fisheries: Eastern Gulf of Alaska, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Chignik, South Alaska Peninsula, Dutch Harbor subdistrict and the Aleutian Islands subdistrict. Currently only the Eastern Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands subdistrict are designated as nonexclusive fisheries.

Golden Harvest Alaska Seafood, which opened its doors three years ago in Adak, buys Pacific cod from approximately half a dozen small boat (under 60 feet) fishermen, and moves large volumes of fresh and once frozen cod fillets out of Adak by air mostly to domestic markets.

“We are using 100 percent American labor and doing most of the value-added processing in Alaska,” said Steve Minor, a Washington state consultant to Golden Harvest. From January through April the processing facility employs about 350 people, many of them housed in old military housing rehabilitated by the Aleut Corp. and leased by Golden Harvest. After the A season, the plant provides work for 80 fulltime employees.

Golden Harvest is working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to develop other small fisheries, including crab, halibut, sablefish and the pink salmon seine fishery, in addition to dive fisheries for sea urchins and geoducks.

The effort is focused on keeping the city of Adak ––population just over 300 people– open, including its schools, “but none of this works without Pacific cod, because that is the big fishery,” Minor said. “The state waters cod fishery is a small boat fishery, Alaska boats and these guys have worked hard to help us develop these markets,” he said. “All we are trying to do is get equal treatment for them. This year we are the only fishery with a cap on the (Pacific cod) quota of 15 million pounds.”

The fisheries board will also address several dozen other proposals regarding Lower Cook Inlet finfish. The meeting will take place at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center.

Proposals are available for review online at,fixed,,14

Study Shows Larval Fish Are Ingesting Plastics

A new study released by the University of Hawaii at Manoa shows that larval fish species from different ocean areas are ingesting plastics in their preferred nursery habitat.

The study, conducted by NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and an international team of scientists, concluded that the further investigation is needed to understand the effects of plastic ingestion by larval fish on individuals and populations.

Researchers combined field-based plankton tow surveys and advanced remote sensing techniques to identify larval fish nursery habitats in coastal waters of Hawaii for their study, which was published on Nov. 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was also reported on EurekAlert, the online publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Researchers found that surface slicks –naturally occurring, ribbon-like, smooth water features at the ocean surface – contained far more larval fish than neighboring surface waters. The surface slicks are formed when internal ocean waves converge near coastlines. They are observed in coastal marine ecosystems worldwide. These slicks also aggregate plankton an important food source for larval fish.

”We found that surface slicks contained larval fish from a wide range of ocean habitats, from shallow-water coral reefs to the open ocean and down into the deep sea – at no other point during their lives do these fish share an ocean habitat in this way” said Jonathan Whitney, a marine ecologist for the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research and NOAA, and a co-lead of the study. “Slick nurseries also concentrate lots of planktonic prey, and thereby provide an oasis of food that is critical for larval fish development and survival.”

Larval fish in these surface slicks were found to be larger, well developed and having increased swimming abilities, but researchers noted that plastic densities in these surface slicks were on average eight times higher than the plastic densities recently found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In fact, there were seven times more plastics than there were larval fish, and most were less than one millimeter is size. Plastics were also found in flying fish, which apex predators such as tunas and most Hawaiian seabirds eat.

Tiny plastic pieces were also found in the stomachs of commercially targeted pelagic species, including swordfish and mahi-mahi, as well as coral reef species like triggerfish, Whitney said.

SeaShare Donations to Hungry Alaskans Are Growing

Hungry Alaskans can now feed on more than 200,000 pounds of seafood donated annually by SeaShare. The non-profit entity based out of Bainbridge Island, Wash., delivers seafood portions donated by harvesters and processors nationwide to help feed people across the country.

“Our donors have asked us to do more for hungry families in Alaska,” said Jim Harmon, executive director of SeaShare, in response to a query about SeaShare’s recent donation of a 40-foot freezer van and more than 20,000 pounds of seafood to the Southeast Alaska Food Bank.

“To date we’ve supplied freezer containers in Dillingham, Bethel, and now Juneau,” Harmon wrote in an email, upon his return from Juneau where he went to be sure the new freezer was up and running.

“These freezers, along with expanded freight and food bank partnerships, allow us to send food in by barge, rather than bypass mail, reducing freight costs and increasing volumes. SeaShare is donating approximately 200,000 pounds per year across Alaska, where seafood has cultural and dietary significance,” he said.

SeaShare began in 1994 with a small group of commercial harvesters in Alaska who donated bycatch fish to food banks. Nowadays 90 percent of the seafood that SeaShare provides is first-run, marketable fish donated by generous fishermen and processors around the country who believe in the power of seafood to help food banks and feeding centers. To date more than 200 million seafood servings have been distributed by the non-profit organization.

Two weeks ago, SeaShare identified its newest partner in the fight against hunger, Nicola Dixon of the General Mills Foundation. “General Mills is taking the lead on innovative food recovery programs in North America and we are happy to be a part of this important work,” Harmon wrote on the organization’s blog.

This past summer, SeaShare was selected to be one of 20 entities nationwide recognized as a 2019 General Mills Food Recovery Champions. Those selected shared more than $1 million to expand surplus food recovery programs to feed people facing hunger. General Mills hopes that these grants will help communities ensure that the majority of their surplus food is used to feed the hungry, rather than go into landfills. Donors and partners of SeaShare include harvesters, processors, the US Coast Guard, community development quota programs and others. A complete list is available online at, along with information about how to donate or to become a partner.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Alaska’s 206.9 Million Salmon Harvest Valued at $657.6 Million

This year’s robust wild Alaskan salmon 206.9 million fish harvest has an estimated preliminary ex-vessel value of $647.6 million.

Statisticians at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) calculated the totals, which amount to a 10 percent increase over the 2018’s value of $595.2 million.

Average prices for Chinook, sockeye, coho, pink and chum salmon varied by fishing district, ranging overall from a high of $8.59 a pound for Chinook caught in Prince William Sound to 35 cents a pound for kings caught in the northern district of the Alaska Peninsula. The Prince William Sound kings weighed in at an average of 18.42 pounds, compared to 7.42 pounds for those harvested in the northern district of the Alaska Peninsula.

Sockeye prices likewise went from a high of $2.49 a pound in Prince William Sound for reds, averaging 5.35 pounds, to $1.35 a pound for Bristol Bay reds, averaging 5.20 pounds. Pink salmon weighing in on average at 3.4 pounds in Prince William Sound paid 34 cents a pound, compared to Bristol Bay humpies coming in at 3.8 pounds and earning a nickel a pound.

Sockeye salmon statewide accounted for approximately 64 percent of the total value at $421.1 million and 27 percent of the harvest with 55.2 million fish. Pink salmon were the second most valuable species, representing 20 percent of the total ex-vessel value at $128.6 million, and bringing 62 percent of the harvest with 129.1 million fish. Chum salmon accounted for 10 percent of the value at $63.8 million and 9 percent of the harvest at 18.5 million fish. The coho salmon harvest of 3.8 million fish was valued at $29.6 million, and accounted for 5 percent of the overall catch, while kings, with an estimated harvest of just under 0.3 million fish, had an estimated preliminary ex-vessel value of $14.4 million.

Measured in pounds the overall harvest of 872.1 million pounds ranked eighth in the 1975-2018-time span. Chums ranked 16th, sockeyes 10th, humpies 9th and cohos 33rd for that same time period. The 2019 values for Chinook salmon were the third lowest on record since limited entry began in 1975.

State fisheries officials noted that these are preliminary figures that will change as fish tickets are processed and finalized. Dollar values provided by ADF&G are based on estimated ex-vessel prices and do not include post-season price adjustments. The final value of the season’s harvest will be determined in 2020, after seafood processors, buyers and direct marketers report total value paid to fishermen in 2019.

The harvest summary was released on Nov. 4.

Alaska Officials Seek to Revise Oil Spill Prevention Standards

Alaska’s environmental conservation agency is looking for public input into revising oil spill prevention and contingency plan requirements, prompting criticism from the advisory council created in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster.

“Strong statues and regulations are a big part of why Alaska has not had a major oil spill since the Exxon Valdez disaster,” said Donna Schantz, executive director of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council. “It is unreasonable for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to claim now, after 30 profitable years of industry compliance, that the requirements are too onerous.”

The council wants the state to halt the scoping process until more information is offered to the public on the driving factors that have prompted the move for changes in current regulations.

DEC officials said they specifically want to hear whether the current regulations can be made more understandable without compromising environmental protection or if any portions of those regulations may be outdated or duplicative. The agency also is seeking comment on its statutory authorities relevant to contingency planning. Current regulations on both issues are available online as 18 AAC 75 Article 4 ( and AS 46.04 (

The council’s announcement of Nov. 4 included a copy of its resolution passed on Oct. 29, advising against any legislative or regulatory changes that erode oil spill prevention and response standards, increase the risk of a catastrophic spill or demonstrate what the council describes as a return to complacency on the part of the oil industry and regulators that Congress determined were a primary cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster. The oil slick spread to cover some 1,300 miles of coastline, causing the collapse of salmon and herring fisheries, and killing thousands of seabirds, otters, seal and whales.

Protecting coastal communities and the environment is the cost of doing business in Alaska, said Robert Archibald, president of the council board. “Reducing any perceived burden to industry by rolling back or eliminating proven oil spill prevention and response requirements transfers the risk and burden of another oil spill to the communities, citizens and environment they were designed to protect,” he said.

More information about the history and legislative intent of the Response Planning Standards is included in the council’s August 2018 report, available online at

Comments are being accepted through Jan. 15, 2020. They may be submitted electronically by visiting or mailed to Seth Robinson, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Spill Prevention and Response – Prevention, preparedness, and Response Program, 610 University Avenue, Fairbanks, AK 99709 or emailed to

NPAFC Plans 2021 Pan Pacific High Seas Research Expedition

The North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) member countries plan to conduct coastal and high seas salmon surveys during the spring, summer and fall of 2020-2021.

NPAFC in Vancouver, British Columbia, is preparing for a 2021 expedition, to run in conjunction with the 2021 winter surveys, that would include three or four vessels to cover a pan-Pacific grid. An additional ship would conduct fine scale research to provide greater detail to help understand how salmon interact in the high sea environment.

At the present time national requests for vessels are being considered by Canada, the United States, Russia, Japan and Korea.

During the last NPAFC meeting held in October in Victoria, British Columbia, the commission received substantial funding from the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund. A total of $3.3 million allocated over three years will support this project.

Building on a single vessel expedition in February and March of 2019 in the Gulf of Alaska, the 2021 expedition will employ up to five research vessels operating simultaneously to survey the full breadth of the North Pacific Ocean. The expedition will provide a platform for international collaborative ecosystem research to monitor the distribution, abundance and productivity of salmon, to inform fisheries managers and enforcement decisions to be made in the future.

Earlier this year, 21 scientists from the five Pacific Rim nations aboard a chartered Russian research vessel completed the International Gulf of Alaska Expedition 2019. The expedition was the first in decades to study salmon in winter high seas, and NPAFC said it set a precedent for addressing knowledge gaps through survey work of salmon, plankton and physical conditions in the central Gulf of Alaska.

During the 2019 expedition all five species of salmon were caught. Distributions of each species in the Gulf of Alaska differed and showed preferences for particular regions associated with ocean features such as higher or lower temperatures or types of prey.

Most surprising, said NPAFC, was the presence of coho salmon in the high seas, give that they are thought to be coastal in distribution, and the presence of North American sockeye in the small set of western North Pacific samples. Chum salmon of Asian and North American origin mingled in the survey area.

Sampling of micro-plastics in open ocean of the Northeast Pacific indicated that their level has not increased since the collection of baseline samples in the 1980s.

Kodiak’s Tanner Crab GHL Set at 400,000 Pounds

Commercial Tanner crab harvesters for the Kodiak, Alaska district will have a 300,000-pound guideline harvest level (GHL) for the eastside section and 100,000 pounds for the southeast section for the 2020 fishery opening on Jan. 15.

The GHLs are based on analysis of the 2019 Tanner crab survey. They were announced by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) Kodiak office on Oct. 31.

ADF&G reminds harvesters that because this year’s Kodiak District Tanner crab GHL is less than 2,000,000 pounds, the regulatory gear limit is 20 pots per vessel.

The southwest, south mainland, north mainland, westside and northeast sections of the Kodiak district are closed to Tanner crab harvests this year.

“We are fishing on the end of a large cohort of crab,” said Natura Richardson, assistant area management biologist for ADF&G in Kodiak, who acknowledged that the catch opportunity was down from a year earlier. “We saw a large cohort of crab first enter (the fishery) in 2013. Those crabs got to legal size in 2018,” she explained. Richardson noted that there were also a large number of juvenile Tanner crab in last year’s survey and that those crab were seen again in the 2019 survey, “so they are tracking well; they are surviving at a higher rate and growing a little faster than the previous cohort,” she said.

“I don’t think that it is a small coincidence that there are not a lot of cod in the water,” she added. “Cod eat crab and there are not a lot of cod out there.” The decline of cod in both the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea has been dramatic over the past two years.

The 2019 GHL for the eastside section is 500,000 pounds, with another 115,000 pounds for the southeast section. In 2018, the GHL was 260,000 pounds for the eastside and 140,000 pounds for the southwest section. Federal biologists have also noted that the relief in predation from Pacific cod may be a factor in the increased abundance of Tanner crab in the Gulf of Alaska. Pacific cod tend to prey on one and two-year-old Tanner crab. In the wake of the cod crash over two years ago, Tanner crab coming into the fishery now may have benefited from that crash, and if that is true, the fisheries managers can anticipate seeing more Tanner crab entering the fishery. Tanner crab are also prey for halibut, sculpins and other flatfish, including arrowtooth flounder.

While the relationship of ocean temperatures to the health of young Tanner crab has not been specifically studied, the expectation is that they would grow faster in warming waters as long as they have sufficient food, given success in recruitment over the past few years. The young crab, living on the bottom of the ocean, feed on small organisms on the surface of the mud.

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