Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Dutch Harbor Remains Top Fishing Port

According to the latest Fisheries of the US Report issued by NOAA Fisheries earlier this month, Dutch Harbor retained its title, for the 22nd consecutive year, as the nation’s top fishing port by volume, with 763 million pounds landed in 2018.

The annual federal report ranks Alaska first, among all states, in volume with landings of 5.4 billion pounds. Louisiana, 1 billion pounds; Washington, 590 million pounds; Virginia, 362.5 million pounds; and Mississippi with 320.3 million pounds came next.

New Bedford, Mass., was the leading US port for value for the 19th year in a row.

Alaska also led the nation in value of landings with $1.8 billion, followed by Massachusetts, $647.2 million; Maine, $587.4 million; Louisiana, $377.1 million; and Washington, $346.4 million.

Top species for overall value were in order Alaska Pollock, $1.98 billion for 1.6 billion pounds; shrimp, $990 million/305 million pounds; sockeye salmon, $940 million/193 million pounds; tuna, $836 million/384 million pounds; and cod, $745 million/292 million pounds.

Total domestic commercial landings of salmon came in at 576 million pounds valued at $598.1 million, down 432.2 million pounds (43 percent) and $89.7 million (13 percent) compared with 2017. Alaska accounted for 97 percent of total landings; Washington, 3 percent; California, Oregon and the Great Lakes, less than 1 percent.

Sockeye salmon landings represented 265.3 million pounds, valued at $351.5 million, a decrease of 26.3 million pounds or 9 percent, but an increase in value of $27.8 million, or 9 percent, compared with 2017.

Alaska landings were 556.8 million pounds valued at $553.5 million – down 429.1 million pounds (44 percent) and $92.2 million (14 percent) compared with 2017.

Washington salmon landings reached 17 million pounds valued at $31 million – down 3.4 million pounds (17 percent) and $522,000 (2 percent) compared with 2017.

Oregon salmon landings reached 951,000 pounds valued at $5.7 million – down 227,000 pounds (19 percent) but showed an increase of 3 percent in value ($147,000) compared with 2017.

California saw 1 million pounds salmon landings valued at $7.6 million, an increase of 481,000 pounds (85 percent) and $2.8 million (59 percent) compared with 2017. Chinook salmon were the principal species landed in that state. Commercial landings of sablefish represented 38.7 million pounds valued at $110.4 million, up by 958,000 pounds (3 percent) but short $33 million (23 percent) in value compared with 2017. Alaska landings were up to 27.2 million pounds, an increase of 6 percent. Landings decreased by 2 percent in Washington to 2.8 million pounds, with value reaching $6.6 million, down 26 percent. The 2018 Oregon catch saw 5.6 million pounds, up 1 percent, but value dropped to $11.8 million, down 24 percent. California landings of 3.2 million pounds and $6.4 million represented a drop of 17 percent in volume and 29 percent in value.

The annual update is described by Cisco Werner, chief scientist at NOAA Fisheries, as “a yearbook of fishery statistics on commercial landings and values, recreational fishing, aquaculture production, imports and exports and per capita consumption.”

2020 IPHC Setline Survey Will Cover 1,300 Stations

The International Pacific Halibut Commission’s (IPHC) 2020 fisheries-independent setline survey, will include a grid of 1,300 stations from Oregon to the northern Bering Sea, including the Aleutian Islands. The survey will run from May 23 through Aug. 31.

The setline survey is conducted using 10 to 14 fishing vessels to do the sampling of 28 charter regions within the PIHC convention area. All regions are open annually for single-year bids.

The survey, one of the largest in the world, costs approximately$5 million to $6 million, and is paid for by the sale of halibut caught to processors located where the charter vessels land, through a bidding system conducted by the IPHC, said Stephen Keith, assistant director of the IPHC.b

The survey is conducted to collect standardized data for the Pacific halibut stock assessment. This information is used for studies of the Pacific halibut resource such as growth, distribution, biomass, age composition, sexual maturity and relative abundance of other species.

“Generally, many of the same vessels do the survey for us every year,” said Keith. “The survey is designed to be revenue neutral. We are allowed by the treaty (Pacific Halibut Treaty) to sell fish to fund the research.”

“Over the next two to three years our assessment is that the stock will continue to go down,” Keith said. “That’s been consistent. It was at historical high levels around 2000, came down fairly steeply until 2010 and then has been stable, but has been decreasing more gradually since 2016,” he said.

Fishing populations go up and down independent of fishing pressure and the commission has responded appropriately by lowering the catch limits, he said. The IPHC has on file data that goes back 140 years, noting highs and lows in stocks. “One hundred years ago it was high,” Keith said. “Then when commercial fisheries started in 1888 they were fishing it very hard and it was coming down, so the United States and Canada got together and formed the IPHC.”

At this year’s annual meeting in Anchorage some people thought the catch limits set went too high, even though they took a cut from last year to this year, but the place they ended up was an acceptable range for limits to the stock, Keith said. “We have a management strategy evaluation going on, involving scientists and stakeholders, to test how stocks might result from certain strategies. They figure out a range of fishing pressures that is acceptable and right now the catch limits agreed on are within that range,” he said.

Still Keith acknowledged that with cuts from the 2019 fishery stocks are likely to go down in 2020.

“The point where the commission ended up is okay,” he said. “It’s within a range of tolerable choices we could make. It is a well-managed fishery. We have put a lot of effort into making sure we maintain the stock for the future.”

Norton Sound Winter Crabbers Challenged to Find Buyers

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) managers at Nome have decided to go ahead with the Norton Sound winter commercial red king crab fishery, but harvesters will have to find their own markets before the fishery opens on Saturday, Feb. 29.

The usual major buyer, Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. (NSEDC), announced earlier this month that it would not purchase crab from that fishery, because of conservation concerns.

Still the North Pacific Fishery Management Council had set the preliminary harvest rate of legal male biomass of 2.43 million pounds, to allow for a total commercial guidelines harvest level of 170,100, so harvesters were told that if they registered for catcher-seller or other direct marketing permits they could fish.

Crab pots in the winter commercial crab fishery must be set through the ice. ADF&G advised that while the cold weather this year has resulted in thicker ice than usual, caution is always advised. Good luck, good crabbing and be safe out there,” they told the crabbers.

The unusual challenge of harvesters being required to find their own buyers came after the board of NSEDC advised ADF&G in early February that it would not be purchasing the crab from the fishery and urged the state agency to close the fishery for 2020 to preserve crab stocks.

The NSEDC board decision came after Charlie Lean, of the Northern Norton Sound ADF&G advisory committee told the board that a decline in reproduction of Norton Sound red king crab stocks is anticipated. NSEDC is one of several community development quota entities established under a state of Alaska program to boost the economies of coastal communities by giving them allocations of a percentage of annual allowable catch of groundfish and shellfish.

The NSEDC board was concerned when Lean said that trawl surveys can’t find male crab and that commercial and subsistence crabbers can’t find male crab either.

NSEDC noted that last year harvesters caught 82,335 pounds of crab in the combined winter and summer commercial fisheries compared with an average harvest of more than 460,000 pounds the five previous years. Some harvesters last year reported fishing in a 100-mile area and not finding any crab or breaking even financially for the season.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

NPAFC Has Big Plans for 2021

In the wake of its groundbreaking 2019 winter expedition in the Gulf of Alaska, the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) is now planning a 2021 Pan-Pacific High Seas Expedition.

NPAFC – along with the North Pacific Fish Commission and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization – held a two-day workshop in Victoria, B.C. in late October. The event brought together fish specialists, oceanographers, climatologists, and resource managers from around the Pacific Rim to explore findings from the winter outing. NPAFC President Suam Kim, writing in the latest issue of the NPAFC Newsletter, said workshop participants then recommended the core elements for the next expedition.

The goal of the 2021 exploration is to provide a platform for international collaborative ecosystem research to monitor the distribution, abundance and productivity of salmon. To that end, the commission’s North Pacific Steering Committee and the International Year of the Salmon Working Group will meet Feb. 25-28 in Vancouver, B.C. to plan for the multi-vessel Pan-Pacific expedition.

Kim also noted that the signing last spring of a Memorandum of Cooperation between NPAFC and the North Pacific Fish Commission will strengthen the long-term relationship between the two intergovernmental organizations. The memorandum calls for a five-year work plan, through 2025, that focuses on collaborative research and implementation of conservation and management measures relating to stocks and species of mutual interest in the North Pacific Ocean.

“Development of a common understanding of threats and knowledge gaps is an essential element for the management of salmon in the high seas,” said Kim.

NPAFC will hold its annual meeting in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan and host its third NPAFC-IYS workshop on Linkages between Pacific Salmon Production and Environmental Changes on May 23-25. These gatherings, in partnership with several Japanese fisheries entities, will provide opportunity for scientists and researchers to present studies and findings on all five International Year of the Salmon research themes, he added. Read Kim’s comments and the complete newsletter by going to

NPAFC, with offices in Vancouver, B.C., is an international intergovernmental organization established by the Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stock in the North Pacific Ocean. The Convention was signed on Feb. 11, 1992 and took effect on Feb. 16, 1993. Member countries are Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and United States of America.

Alaska Board of Fisheries Action Hits Hard on Commercial Setnetters

A new escapement goal for late-run Chinook salmon into the Kenai River approved in mid-February by the Alaska Board of Fisheries has some commercial harvesters on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula concerned that it will limit setnet opportunities.

On Feb. 14 the board approved in a 5-2 vote substitute language for proposal 104, which was submitted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA), to manage the late-run Kenai kings with an optimum escapement goal (OEG) of 15,000 to 30,000 large fish. The provision will be in effect from June 20 through Aug. 15. From 2013 to 2016 the escapement goal was the same, but it was based on late run Kenai kings of all sizes.

KRSA said in its proposal that current regulations did not provide adequate protection of escapement or equitably share the king salmon conservation burden. The commercial setnet fishery contends KRSA continues to catch a large percentage of the combined sport and commercial harvest share as king runs continue to languish at low levels.

Commercial setnetter Paul Shadura of the South KP Independent Fishermen’s Association, said he felt that the board’s action will limit commercial setnet opportunities in Cook Inlet and may even close them down for the summer.

“There appears to be a historical decline (of kings) and none of these stocks have been declared a stock of concern,” Shadura said. “They have taken these actions without declaring them a stock of concern. They are making allocative decisions based on opinion and less on the science involved,” he added. “There are no stocks of concern, yet we are putting in place management plans on allocation with very little information to support them.”

Shadura’s comments were echoed by other commercial fishermen who harvest on the Kenai Peninsula who declined to speak on the record. They also expressed concern that the current Alaska Board of Fisheries has no representatives from the Kenai Peninsula, no setnet fishermen and a predominance of board members from Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, with very little rural representation. As a result, they do not understand the baseline economies of these (Kenai Peninsula) communities and how their decisions affect the economy of these communities and the processing industry, Shadura explained.

“The board, when they make decisions, they don’t look at people like me, whose families have been here 100 years,” Shadura said. “What is needed is for the Legislature to create a processional board with designated seats, and the commissioner has to be independent; otherwise we are managed by the ballot box instead of science”.

Seattle Restaurants Will Celebrate Wild Alaska Pollock

Alaska Pollock will be a featured menu item in some three dozen Seattle restaurants from Feb. 28 through March 8. This is part of the latest seafood industry promotion of this versatile, wild caught, low calorie, high protein whitefish. A single cooked four-ounce fillet provides 19 grams of protein and 70 milligrams of Omega-3.

The promotion organized by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), in concert with Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP), comes during the season of Lent, which begins of Feb. 26 and runs through April 9, a period when those participating in the religious holiday may abstain from eating meat and eat more fish.

Seafood aficionados and foodies alike are invited to join the party and post photos on the social media website Facebook at

GAPP is also promoting its wild caught whitefish with new toolkits for its members and partners to motivate more people to purchase this fish to cook at home or while dining at restaurants. GAPP officials say their research shows that given more information – such as recipes, preparation tips, health benefits, and flavor and texture tips – more Americans become interested in purchasing the fish.

Over the coming weeks, GAPP plans to train members and partners on how to utilize these tool kits, to educate consumers on where and how wild Alaska Pollock is caught and how it eventually makes its way to their dinner plate, providing them with reasons to ask for it at supermarkets, seafood shops and restaurants.

“These tool kits are an important resource for the industry to have and use and are a key part of GAPP’s strategy to build a global brand of Wild Alaska Pollock,” said Craig Morris, chief executive officer of GAPP.

Symphony of Seafood to Hold Alaska Legislative Reception on Feb. 24

The 2020 Alaska Symphony of Seafood will honor winners of its retail, food service and Beyond the Plate competitions during its annual legislative reception in Juneau, Alaska, on Feb. 24. The event is co-hosted by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and United Fishermen of Alaska.

Previously announced first place winners include

• Retail division: Bullwhip Hot Sauce by Barnacle Foods
• Food service division: Alaska Wild Wings–Southern Style by High Liner Foods
• Beyond the Plate division: Alaskan Fin Fish Earrings by WILD by Nature

The Seattle People’s Choice winner, Wild Alaska Cod Fish & Chips by Alaska Leader Seafoods, was selected by guests at the Symphony’s Seattle gala. The Juneau People’s Choice award will be voted on during the Juneau event.

First place winners in each category will receive booth space at the Seafood Expo North America in Boston next March, with round trip airfare courtesy of Alaska Air Cargo. They will also get entry into the event’s new products contest, the Seafood Excellence Awards.

Major sponsors of this year’s events 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, February 12, 2020

Lawsuit Challenges Washington State Industrial Ocean Fish Farm Permit

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit challenging a Washington state decision permitting Cooke Aquaculture to raise domesticated steelhead in open-water coastal net pens in Puget Sound.

The lawsuit contends that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) failed to evaluate the scientific evidence showing that these fish feedlots would harm federally listed steelhead, salmon and Southern Resident killer whale, degrade water quality and damage the overall health of Puget Sound.

In the wake of the escape of some 250,000 Atlantic salmon from Cooke’s Cypress Island facility in 2017, the state passed a law banning net pen farming of non-native finfish by 2022. Cooke subsequently applied to the state to change the variety of species it could raise in these floating factory farms. In January WDFW, citing an environmental analysis done in 1990, issued a permit to Cooke Aquaculture.

“It’s outrageous that once again the state is leaving the oversight of this industry to the public,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy, which filed the lawsuit with the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth.

Beardslee said that after the Cypress net pen collapsed their research found that nearly every fish that escaped was infected with a pathogenic exotic salmon virus that went undetected by WDFW and unreported by Cooke.

During the public comment period last fall, thousands of residents and organizations urged the state to draft a new environmental impact statement on open-water aquaculture net pens. Concerns were raised by commercial harvesters, environmental advocates, sport anglers, legislators, and tribal governments from the Puget Sound area.

Washington is the only Pacific coast state that allows these facilities. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced plans to transition all open-water industrial aquaculture in British Columbia to land-based facilities by 2025.

IPHC Cuts Pacific Halibut Catch Limit Seven Percent

Commissioners of the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), grappling with a decline is stocks, have set the 2020 catch limit for the Pacific halibut fishery at 23.10 million pounds, down 7.08 percent from the 2019 quota. The fishery will run from March 14 through Nov. 15.

The commission adopted a coastwide mortality limit, also known as the TCEY, of 36.6 million pounds. The TCEY, or total constant exploitation yield, is the amount of removals of halibut over 26 inches in length for commercial, recreational, sport charter, subsistence and bycatch in other fisheries. In 2019 that coastwide TCEY was 38.61 million pounds.

The 2020 commercial catch limits, in millions of pounds, for each regulatory area are:

• Area 2A (Washington, Oregon, California) 0.87
• Area 2B (British Columbia) 5.12
• Area 2C (Southeast Alaska) 3.41
• Area 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska) 7.05
• Area 3B (Western Gulf of Alaska) 2.41
• Area 4A (Aleutians) 1.41
• Area 4B (Aleutians) 1.10
• Area 4CDE (Bering Sea) 1.73

Although area 4CDE took the largest cut percentage wise, it was less than the original figure put forth during the IPHC’s interim meeting in December.

“Clearly this is better and it allows folks to survive another year while we are waiting for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to deal with bycatch issues through the abundance-based management program,” said Heather McCarty, long time consultant for the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association (CBSFA), a community development quota entity for the city of St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska.

“The current (bycatch) cap is what we call a static cap,” she said. “Every other major species managed by the council is based on abundance of that species. We’ve been working on it since 2015. It has taken this long to get where we are. We anticipate we are getting closer to the time when it might go into effect.”

McCarty said that CBSFA feels that as the stocks decline the burden of that decline should be borne by all users. “It looked really bad going in (to the IPHC meeting),” she said. “It looks a little better coming out. We are grateful to the IPHC and thank them for that.”

Had Area 4CDE ended up with 680,000 pounds of quota that would have represented 16 percent of the biomass, while vessels in other fisheries would have had access to 84 percent of the biomass for bycatch.

The IPHC sets the total allowable catch, but the bycatch is regulated by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC). In 2019, the bycatch for Area 4CDE was 31 percent higher than in 2018. IPHC takes the bycatch off of the TCEY to determine the total allowable catch for the commercial and sport fisheries.

Commercial fishing entities in several areas are hoping the NPFMC will adjust the bycatch levels later this year to bring it in line with abundance levels. IPHC meeting information, documents, presentations, sessions recordings, and the report of the meeting are available at:

Alaska’s Forests Contribute Millions of Salmon to Fisheries

A new federal report says that Alaska’s rainforests contribute an average of 48 million salmon annually to the state’s commercial fishing industry. The study led by the US Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station found that the average value of these “forest fish” when they are brought back to the dock is some $88 million annually.

Researchers used Alaska Department of Fish and Game data and fish estimates from 2007 to 2016 to quantify the number and value of Pacific salmon originating from streams, rivers and lakes on the Tongass and Chugach national forests, the country’s largest and second largest national forests respectively.

The study focused on Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum caught primarily in four commercial salmon management areas adjacent to the two forests.

According to study lead Adelaide Johnson, a Juneau-based hydrologist, the research group suspected that many of the ocean-caught Pacific salmon who support the fishing industry likely began their lives in forest streams that drain the Tongass and Chugach national forests.

Johnson and her colleagues used a three-step process to determine the number of fish originating from the Tongass and Chugach.

First, they calculated the total number of salmon caught in regional commercial harvest areas. Then, they subtracted the number of salmon originating from hatcheries – a process facilitated by the hatchery practice of marking juvenile fish – and the number of salmon that originated outside national forest boundaries, such as commercially caught fish born in Canadian rivers and rivers farther south in the contiguous United States.

Forest Service researcher Ryan Belmore, who like Johnson is based in Juneau, Alaska, said their findings underscore just how important Alaska’s forest rivers and lakes are for sustaining salmon. Belmore also noted that the study “vastly underestimates the value of salmon because it does not include subsistence and recreational salmon fisheries, which are critically important to local communities and the region’s economy.”

Researchers also said that salmon that do not originate from these national forests may still be supported by them for a portion of their lives. Pacific salmon fry that emerge upstream of national forest lands will migrate downstream and may use rivers, lakes and estuaries within national forest boundaries for rearing, they explained.

The Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, headquartered in Portland, Ore., generates scientific knowledge to help the people make informed choices about natural resources and the environment.

More information can be found online at

Norton Sound Winter Commercial Red King Crab Fishery in Limbo

The Norton Sound winter commercial crab fish is on hold for lack of buyers, and an area fishery group is calling for closure of the fishery for 2020 for conservation purposes.

The board of the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. (NSEDC) on Monday, Feb. 10, urged the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to close the fishery for 2020 to preserve red king crab stocks. The announcement came just three days after ADF&G put the fishery on hold pending identification of a buyer.

Charlie Lean, of the Northern Norton Sound Fish and Game advisory committee told the NSEDC board recently that a decline in reproduction of Norton Sound red king crab stocks is anticipated. He pointed out that trawl surveys can’t find male crab and that commercial and subsistence crabbers can’t find them either.

Lean indicated that 2019 ADF&G observer data showed more female crab with no or few eggs than there were with large clutches of eggs, a first since 2012. Many females with no eggs indicate there aren’t enough male crab to fertilize females.

Lean worked as an ADF&G Nome area management biologist for 15 years and assisted in management of the Norton sound red king crab fishery in its early years. He said the same situation occurred in 1982, when crabs were overfished, and the fishery crashed. It took 15 years for the population to recover.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council recently set the 2020 Norton Sound red king crab legal male biomass estimate, allowable biological catch and overfishing limit level. The preliminary harvest rate set by state officials is 7 percent of the legal male biomass of 2.43 million pounds of red king crab, for a total commercial guideline harvest level of 170,100 pounds. That level of commercial harvest allows a buffer of some 31,000 pounds from the allowable biological catch of 201,000 pounds, to account for subsistence harvests and incidental mortality of non-target crab discards.

NSEDC noted that last year harvesters caught 82,335 pounds of crab in the combined winter and summer commercial fisheries compared with an average harvest of more than 460,000 pounds the five previous years. Some harvesters, last year, reported fishing in a 100-mile area and not finding any crab or breaking even financially for the season. “From the information we received, I’d rather err in favor of the crab population instead of a few hundred thousand dollars on what might make a poor fishery” said Dan Harrelson vice chair of NSEDC. “There are not crab around and I’m afraid we’re going to lose the resource.”

The CDQ group is urging their fishermen to transition to halibut or cod for the season.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

IPHC to Set Catch Limits on Friday

The 96th session of the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) annual meeting is currently under way in Anchorage, Alaska, and will conclude on Friday, February 7. Catch limits for the upcoming year will be announced on the last day of the gathering.

All sessions are open to members of the fisheries industry and the general public. The webcast sessions are accepting comments and questions directed to the commissioner. They may be emailed to

Ian Stewart, a quantitative scientist with the IPHC, provided an updated summary of the Pacific halibut data and stock assessment he presented during the commission’s December meeting in Seattle, Wash. Stewart’s report noted that due to many remaining uncertainties in Pacific halibut biology and population dynamics, a high degree of uncertainty in both stock scale and trend will continue to be an integral part of the annual management process.

During the meeting in Seattle, Stewart had told participants that model survey trends were down from previous years both in numbers and weight per unit of effort. He also noted that scientists were seeing mixed trends, relatively flat at coast wide levels with some brighter and some not so good areas across the coastline. Overall the central Gulf of Alaska showed the biggest decrease.

Last year, the IPHC undertook its annual Pacific halibut coastwide stock assessment, including a full re-evaluation of all data sources and models contributing to the assessment. It included adding the 2018 sex-ratio data, estimates of 2019 mortality and an extension of all data sources through 2019 for the final assessment.

Stewart’s report included results of the 2019 stock assessment, which indicate that the Pacific halibut stock declined continuously from the late 1990s to around 2012. That trend is estimated to have been largely the result of decreasing size-at-age, as well as somewhat weaker recruitment strengths than those observed in the 1980s.

NOAA Releases Ecosystem Status Reports

NOAA Fisheries has released its 2019 ecosystem status reports for the Gulf of Alaska and the Eastern Bering Sea, citing unusually warm conditions for the past year and predicting more of the same.

Warmer than average sea surface temperatures are predicted through the spring of 2020 for the Gulf of Alaska. Fisheries scientists are giving the Eastern Bering Sea ocean waters 50 to 55 percent odds of neutral conditions for the upcoming winter and a 30 percent chance of El Nino.

Fisheries scientists note that the unusual warm conditions in the Gulf came in the wake of the extreme marine heat wave of 2014–2015, popularly known as “The Blob” before returning to more typical temperatures in 2017 and 2018. In September of 2018, sea surface temperatures in the western Gulf of Alaska shelf area crossed a temperature threshold to become a marine heat wave and have largely remains in heat wave status since then.

Sea level pressure patterns from late 2018 through last summer resulted in high pressure over the Gulf, suppressing storms and contributing to development of warm sea surface temperatures, particularly during the summer. Similar temperatures were observed during the previous 2014–2016 “Blob” heat wave.

While the total number of days in heat wave status in 2019 was similar to that of 2015, there was proportionally more heat during the 2019 summer, and those warm temperatures extended down the water column, especially in the western Gulf.

The coastal Gulf also featured warmer than normal air temperatures and lower than usual precipitation, resulting in drought conditions in areas accustomed to summer rain. Those warm temperatures had extensive impacts of populations of carnivorous fish such as Pacific cod, who in their larval stage eat phytoplankton bloom, which did not show up until June.

The eastern Bering Sea meanwhile experienced a second year of low sea ice conditions in 2018–2019 winter due to residual heat in the Chukchi Sea and anomalous winds from the south in February 2019 causing ice to retreat. The 2018–2019 mean sea ice extent was the second lowest on record, with only the winter of 2017-2018 being lower.

Upper Cook Inlet Finfish Meeting Opens Feb. 7 in Anchorage

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will convene its Upper Cook Inlet finfish meeting in Anchorage, Alaska on Friday. The Feb. 7–19 meeting will consider 171 proposals including several to amend existing salmon management plans.

The proposals range from creating a commercial dip net fishery in the Kasilof River to closing the Central District drift gillnet fishery corridor to commercial fishing for northbound fish headed for the Susitna River system. A proposal from the Matanuska Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee would amend the Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan to allocate 60 to 80 percent of northbound sockeye and coho salmon harvests to Northern Cook Inlet fisheries. A proposal from the Central Peninsula Fish and Game Advisory Committee would amend that same management plan to remove a provision to minimize the commercial harvest of Northern District and Kenai River coho salmon and add a provision for reasonable opportunity for a common property fish harvest.

The Kenai River Sportfishing Association has a proposal that urges limiting Central District drift gillnets to less than 150 to 200 fathoms in length and 29 meshes in depth, to limit the risk of overharvest of specific salmon stocks, particularly during periods of low abundance.

United Cook Inlet Drift Association’s proposal would add an additional regular fishing period to the Central District drift gillnet fishery from July 24 through July 31 to allow for the catch of harvestable surpluses of chum and pink salmon during that period.

There are also numerous proposals to be considered for the sport and subsistence sectors.

The agenda and a complete list of proposals are available online at,fixed,,8,,9,,11,,12,

Alaska’s Statewide King, Tanner Crab Fisheries Meeting Set for March 8–11

Alaska’s Board of Fisheries will meet in Anchorage, Alaska, March 8–11, to discuss statewide king and tanner crab issues. The board will only address Tanner crab for Southeast and Yakutat, and Prince William Sound areas.

There are 37 proposals on the agenda, including one from Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU) calling for a commercial king crab fishery for the northern and western districts of Prince William Sound. The proposal notes that the golden king crab fisher in area E has been closed for over 30 years and that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has not conducted a survey to assess stocks since 2006. Fishermen participating in the Sound’s Tanner crab fishery are reporting extremely high levels of king crab abundance yet are not able to retain any under the current commissioner’s permit. A second CDFU proposal would create commissioner’s permits for any king crab fishery in Area E.

Among the shellfish proposals for Cook Inlet is one from ADF&G, that would establish an annual limit for Tanner crab sport fisheries. ADF&G officials said the preliminary harvest from the 2017–2018 sport fishery was 8,263 Tanner crab, which was sustainable, but higher than the department anticipated. According to ADF&G 90 percent of participants harvested fewer than 20 crabs for the season and the remaining 10 percent of participants harvested 49 percent of the total crab harvested. An annual limit would effectively restrict the harvest to a modest level while providing an equal harvest opportunity among users, the agency said.

A complete list of all proposals for the crab fisheries meeting is available online at,fixed,,2,,6,,3,,9,,10,,12,

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