Category Archives: North Pacific

Fishermen gear up for Southeast Dungeness crab season opening

19 year-old Jordan Lapeyri is busy pushing wheelbarrows piled high with little plastic bait jars up and down the South Harbor dock ramp. Lapeyri’s been fishing since the tender age of six. He’s done plenty of seining and gillnetting – but crabbing is something new. And he is in high spirits. “I’m feeling great! It’s gonna be fun. Good experience. I’ve never been crabbing before,” said Lapeyri. The captain of the Nolan Michael, a family friend, needed a deckhand. And Lapeyri needed a job. It was an easy match. “I wanted just to go seining but then he said he wanted to go try Dungy crabbing first before, for about 10 days, a couple weeks or so, and see how many crabs show up. If none show up, we’ll just leave. Get ready to go seining, put the seine net on,” Lapeyri said. click here to read the story 10:05

Chris Oliver Appointed to Lead NOAA Fisheries

Today, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, with concurrence from the White House, named Chris Oliver Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The Texas native assumed his new position on June 19, taking the helm from Acting Assistant Administrator Samuel Rauch who will return to his position as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs.,,, Oliver most recently served as Executive Director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, a position he held for the past 16 years. He has been with the Council since 1990, also serving as a fisheries biologist and then deputy director. During his tenure as executive director he led the way on several cutting edge management initiatives, including development of limited access privilege programs and fishery cooperatives and catch share programs, the North Pacific’s comprehensive onboard observer program, numerous bycatch reduction programs, extensive habitat protection measures, commercial and recreational allocation programs, and coastal community development programs. He was also responsible for all administrative and operational aspects of the Council process, and lead staffer for legislative and international issues. click here to read the press release 11:32

On the docks, no sympathy for deadlocked lawmakers

It’s a good thing our boats don’t have wheels,” Delay said, “because if they did, we’d be driving them through the front door of the Capitol.” Though he was speaking figuratively, Delay wasn’t being hyperbolic. Juneau gillnetters are frustrated. They start their season Sunday under uncertain seas: Not knowing what could happen in the event of a July 1 government shutdown, salmon management could be curtailed or shut down during the most lucrative part of the gillnet season. The Alaska Department of Fish &Game sets time limits and other regulations for salmon fishermen to ensure enough fish get upriver and past nets to spawn. Without those regulations, fishermen won’t be allowed to fish. click here to read the story 08:05

In a Bering Sea battle of killer whales vs. fishermen, the whales are winning

In the Bering Sea, near the edge the continental shelf, fishermen are trying to escape a predator that seems to outwit them at every turn, stripping their fishing lines and lurking behind their vessels. The predators are pods of killer whales chasing down the halibut and black cod caught by longline fishermen. Fishermen say the whales are becoming a common sight — and problem — in recent years, as they’ve gone from an occasional pest to apparently targeting the fishermen’s lines. Fishermen say they can harvest 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of halibut in a single day, only to harvest next to nothing the next when a pod of killer whales recognizes their boat. The hooks will be stripped clean, longtime Bering Sea longliner Jay Hebert said in a phone interview this week. Sometimes there will be just halibut “lips” still attached to hooks — if anything at all. click here to read the story 07:35

State of the kings

For the first time in years, king salmon are showing signs of making a stronger return to the vast wilderness surrounding Alaska’s urban heartland. While Panhandle runs continue to struggle, kings to the north appear to be coming back in reasonable numbers. No records are being broken, but there are enough fish the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has liberalized fishing in two of the state’s most popular roadside king salmon drainages – the Kenai River south of Anchorage and tributaries to the Copper River east of the state’s largest city. A near disaster had been forecast on the latter river, a big, muddy, glacial stream draining 26,500 square miles of Alaska near the Canadian border. A return of only 29,000 fish was expected, and with the spawning goal set at 24,000, the state imposed a host of restrictions on the fishery before it even began. Sport fishing was closed. Subsistence fishermen were restricted to a seasonal limit of only two Chinook, the more common Lower 48 name for kings. And commercial fishermen faced major reductions in fishing time and closures of areas that have in the past produced the biggest king catches. click here to read the story 09:37

Matt Bradley Of ‘Deadliest Catch’ Shows That Recovery From Addiction Is Possible No Matter What

Although I’m in long term recovery and I work in the treatment industry, I still encounter people whose recovery amazes me. Matt Bradley is one of those people. Matt caught my attention when I saw him on an episode of Deadliest Catch. He’s a fisherman who has crewed with Northwestern for over a decade. What intrigued me wasn’t just the drama and action of the fishing crew, but Matt’s openness and honesty about his struggle with substance use. A long time drug user, Matt didn’t encounter the serious consequences that so many people face until he was in his 20s. Although he grew up with normalized drug use—-stealing joints and alcohol from the adults in his Section 8 housing development—-he didn’t really think he had a problem until he started using heroin. click here to read the story 15:40

In This Alaska Family, Life Lessons Are Passed Down On The Water

We’re on the Alexa K, a 45-foot steel-hulled troller, with captain Charlie Wilber, 69, and his 27-year-old daughter, Adrienne, “heading out into the briny deep!” as Charlie wryly tells us. Charlie has been fishing these waters for nearly 40 years. “I never would have imagined I’d end up doin’ this,” he says. Raised in Omaha, Neb., he came to Alaska fresh out of college. He had a job as a smoke jumper, fighting fires near Fairbanks. But once he went out fishing with a friend, he “got the bug,” as he puts it. He’s been fishing ever since. And it’s always been a family adventure. Charlie says he bought the Alexa K because the boat’s bulwarks were high enough that his daughters, Adrienne and her younger sister, Berett, couldn’t fall off. click here to read the story, view 11 images 11:04

Fishermen watch, wait, work, while Alaska Legislature in limbo

An Alaska government shutdown is a fisheries shutdown. Commercial, sport, gillnet, dipnetters and subsistence fishing would all be impacted in devastating ways if a fiscal year 2018 budget isn’t approved by the Alaska Legislature by July 1. United Fishermen of Alaska, which represents 33 Alaska commercial fishing organizations, is taking the stance that people should “work on the season,” said President Jerry McCune. “As it gets closer to the deadline, we’ll get more worried and put the pressure on the Legislature to fund Fish and Game at least, if they’re not coming up with a budget,” he said. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s 2018 fiscal year budget of $200.16 million was agreed upon by both the House and the Senate in April. Of that, commercial fisheries were allotted $70.77 million. click here to read the story 11:34

Naknek’s Fishy Fabrications takes on skiff building this spring

‘Fishy Fabrications,’ a local business in Naknek, has started building skiffs from the ground up, something only a few other local businesses do in Bristol Bay. George Wilson and Robert Hill are working long hours these days to finish building skiffs before the salmon season takes off. Often 10 hours a day, seven days a week. “And that’s with two dads we both have kid duties during the week,” Wilson said. “This is just a good off-season job for both of us from commercial fishing – we do this in the winter and spring.” Wilson is the owner of ‘Fishy Fabrications’ and Hill is his right hand man. Since 2013 the business was more of a repair shop, but this March it shifted to a skiff building operation. Since then, he and Hill have built two set net skiffs. Audio, click to read the story 19:06

Some fishing expected in Egegik and Igushik this week, and Port Moller test effort underway

The Port Moller Test Fishery made its first sets this weekend, catching 12 then 20 sockeye on its out-and-back from stations 2 to 12. A little bit of commercial activity is expected this week in Bristol Bay, with managers and the market trying to get a sense of the early part of the run. The R/V Pandalus went out and back for its first test of the Bristol Bay offshore run over the weekend. On Saturday, (3) sockeye were caught in the 4 1/2 inch mesh, and (9) in the 5 1/8 inch, with most of the activity towards the inshore stations. On Sunday, after six sets, the boat recorded (12) fish caught in the four-and-a-half, and (8) in the five-and-an-eighth. Station 4 saw the most activity. Last year the first sets saw about the same number of fish, but the water temperatures are almost three degrees (Celcius) cooler than they were in the first sets in 2016. Audio report, click here to hear/read the story 10:28

Gold vs. Salmon: How Pebble Mine Threatens Alaskan Salmon

The environment and natural resources have been a topic of great controversy in the United States and throughout the world, especially in recent years. We have always had a battle between industrialism and conservation. From one end, profits must grow, jobs must be made, and mouths must be fed. Yet from the other end, we must protect our planet, the environment, and the many species of wild animals that roam the globe.,,, In Alaska there is a hot debate going on between which is more important, salmon or gold. In 2001 a Canadian mining company called Northern Dynasty Minerals began exploring and testing an area of Alaska that is located East of Bristol Bay, North of Lake Iliamna and South West of the Lake Clark Natural Reserve. They were going off of data provided by Cominco Alaska Exploration, who in 1987 discovered a site of possible mineral wealth in the region.,,, If this article has moved you, then please do not sit idly by. Thank you Nikolai!  click here to read this excellent article 14:23

Alaska Seafood processors relying more heavily on U.S. workers this year

Seafood employers need to fill many seasonal jobs every salmon season. In general, that process remains the same year to year. Nelson San Juan is the seafood employment coordinator for the Alaska Department of Labor. He says employers are leaning on state labor resources more than usual this year. “A lot of them are depending highly with the seafood unit because of, well they used to use these H-2B visa, and some of them decided not to use it or for some reason they were not able to use that program this year.” The H-2B program allows U.S. employers to hire temporary workers from overseas. San Juan says employers who did decide to use the program ran into a problem. Audio click here to read the story 18:50

Iliamna Lake levels barely high enough for Bristol Bay boat portage

Many of the boats which fish Bristol Bay spend the winters docked in Homer. Each summer they make the trip across Cook Inlet where they are picked up and trucked across the Pile Bay road to Iliamna Lake. After a long trek across the Lake, they navigate their way down the Kvichak River down to Bristol Bay’s commercial fishing grounds. “From Cook Inlet we pick them up at Williamsport which is just south of Iniskin Bay, and then we move them over the road system and we put them in the Iliamna Lake here at Pile Bay,” said Ray Williams this week. Williams is the owner of Iliamna Transportation Company, and his family has been hauling boats over the road for 80 years. This shortcut saves Homer-based boats about 700 hundred miles, said Williams. But this year the waters between Iliamna Lake and Bristol Bay are unprecedentedly low. click here to read the story 13:55

Oil spill spared fish

Almost 30 years after the oil tanker Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef and smeared Prince William Sound with more than 11 million gallons of Alaska crude oil, a team of state and federal scientists have concluded the spill – as bad as it looked and as much impact as it had on marine mammals and birds – appears to have done no real damage to fisheries. “We found no evidence supporting a negative EVOS  (Exxon Valdez Oil Spill) impact on herring, sockeye salmon, or pink salmon productivity, and weak evidence of a slightly positive EVOS signal on Copper River Chinook (king) salmon productivity,” the study says. “It is unclear how EVOS may have impacted Chinook salmon positively.” Somewhat surprisingly, however, the study found two non-oil spill events – one natural and one manmade – that appear to have caused significant changes in Sound fisheries. And one of them, a naturally occurring spill of fresh water, appears to be what crippled herring stocks there.  click here to read the story    link to the study   20:16

Looming state gov’t shutdown threatens AK’s $500M salmon industry

Alaska’s half-billion-dollar salmon season is in jeopardy if lawmakers don’t pass a state budget by the end of June. Without one, state government shuts down July 1. That’s also a big deadline for the fishermen statewide — that’s when they’ve got to be out on the water if they want to catch quality salmon. They need the Department of Fish and Game to do it. For Zack Worrell, fish and crab are his bread and butter. Worrell is looking forward to what could be a profitable season with well-priced salmon, but, if lawmakers don’t get a budget passed, his livelihood could swim away. Indeed, July 1 is the worst time to shut down the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. That’s when hundreds of millions of dollars worth of salmon swim back to Alaska shores. Video, click here to read the story 14:21

Too many pink salmon in Kachemak Bay?

Tucked into a narrow fjord on the south side of Kachemak Bay is a small lagoon, 700 feet wide, and only a couple thousand feet long. At low tide, a salty trickle connects it to the ocean. At high tide, at the height of the summer, treble hooks fly between a flurry of skiffs as salmon snaggers circle the net pens in the center of the lagoon. Seines scoop up tens of thousands of fish in an attempt to pay for the hatchery, as hatchery operators collect eggs from the fish that swarm the creek. A few weeks later, carcasses rot, eggs incubate and Tutka Lagoon fades back into relative obscurity. Until this year, that is, when a wave of controversy spilled out through that narrow channel like the 100 million pink salmon they hope to release, flooding across Kachemak Bay State Park to Homer, up Cook Inlet, and down to Juneau, prompting the governor to send a fleet of commissioners to brace against the wave. click here to read the story 09:03

21st Century salmon

As Alaska struggles to maintain commercial productivity in its most-valuable, wild-salmon fisheries,  competition in the fish market is looming on every horizon. Land-based salmon farms are popping up in odd places across the U.S., and the Norwegians and the Chinese are teaming to take salmon farming to new heights or, more accurately, new depths offshore.  China.org today reported the first delivery of a deepwater, “intelligent offshore farm” to the Norwegian company SalMar ASA. “Ocean Farm 1” is designed to be positioned in water 300 to 600 feet deep where currents can sweep it clean in four dimensions while computers monitor its performance. “It is the world’s first offshore salmon farming equipment built on the same principle as semisubmersible installations used in the offshore oil and gas drilling sector,” the Chinese national website said.,, Open-ocean fish farms have been touted as one path to greening a business sometimes blamed for polluting protected bays and coves with fish waste. click here to read the story  08:38

From Flint to Alaska, fishing for hope

The backstory of Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls inspired an Alaska commercial fisherman from Bellingham to go to Flint, Mich., to give a young man a chance to pay for college a hard way. Jawanza Brown recalled the time Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls spoke to the Boys & Girls Club in their hometown of Flint, Mich. Rawls was playing football at the University of Michigan, Brown was a star-struck kid. “I remember he talked about pushing through adversity by saying, ‘I was built for this,’” Brown said by phone the past week. “That quote stuck in my head. I’m keeping that in mind this summer.” Brown wants to prove he is built for something too: Crewing on a 32-foot gillnetter in Bristol Bay, Alaska, home to the world’s largest, most intense salmon fishery. Even though he’s never done such a thing. Even though he’s never been on a commercial boat. Even though he’s left the state of Michigan but once — to Ohio. click here to read the story 16:32

North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Juneau, AK June 5 – 13, 2017

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet the week of June 5, 2017 at the Centennial Hall Convention Center, 101 Egan Drive in Juneau, Alaska.  The AGENDA and SCHEDULE are available. The Council meeting will be broadcast at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/june2017 12:46

Frank Woods has a tender side

Bristol Bay’s commercial fishery needs tenders, and a lot of them, to do what it does. Tenders take the massive amount of sockeye caught by a large fleet and bring them, chilled, to shore-based processors. Of course Bristol Bay’s iconic 32-foot drift boats usually get the glory, and entering the PAF boat yard in Dillingham one sees hundreds of them. But grabbing some attention up front in the yard is Frank Wood’s 60-foot tender with its large, blue buoys hanging off the sides. Woods started a tendering business called Paradise Logistics just a few years ago, and ahead of this season his sons are busy at work getting the vessel ready to launch. click here to read the story 08:36

So many kings

With the commercial catch of king salmon off the mouth of the Copper River steadily growing, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has gone all in on the idea that a preseason forecast that suggested a return of only 29,000 of the big fish was in error. The agency on Friday announced it will lift a restriction that limited subsistence fishermen on the Copper to two fish, and open sport fisheries along the river it had ordered closed before the season even began. The action comes amid mounting public pressure for the agency to see the annual catch of kings, or Chinook as they called elsewhere, is shared among subsistence, commercial, sport and personal-use fishermen. The subsistence fishermen, who are supposed to have a legal priority on harvest, started the season limited to two fish, and told they would get only one-fifth slice of an allowable harvest of only 5,000 kings. That whole plan has now been ditched. click here to read the story 10:37

Jury delivers for ‘Deadliest Catch’ crabber maimed by firework

A “Deadliest Catch” crabber maimed by a fireworks explosion aboard the fishing vessel Time Bandit has been awarded $1.35 million by a King County jury. Jan. 13, 2013, should have been a good day for David “Beaver” Zielinski, who was headed out to sea for another season aboard the Hillstrand brothers’ crab boat. Instead, Zielinski’s hand was badly injured when a Time Bandit-brand firework exploded in the launcher he was holding. The explosion that left Zielinski injured occurred as the “Deadliest Catch” crew was filming another Bering Sea snow crab season of the Discovery documentary series. Time Bandit captains Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand have been heavily featured on the program, which is currently in its 13th season. Zielinski sued the Hillstrands’ companies two years ago in King County Superior Court. click here to read the story 09:20

Kodiak Sockeye Season Opens Early on June 1

Kodiak’s commercial sockeye salmon season gets off to a bang tomorrow (today). Already this week has far exceeded expectations, with Monday setting an all time record for sockeye past the Karluk weir. On Monday, a whopping 46,000 fish hit the river, prompting fish and game biologists to reconsider the numbers and open the season early on June 1. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Kodiak Commercial Salmon Area Biologist James Jackson explains that island-wide commercial opening is based on activity at specific rivers. “In June around Kodiak the majority of the commercial salmon fisheries are managed based on the local sockeye runs. And the four big sockey runs are Karluk, Ayakulik (eye-ah-cue-lick) Upper Station and Frazier.” The biggest of those is usually the Karluk River. “And Karluk early run has come in like a bang this year,,, click here to read the story 08:23

Good bad news?

The Copper River commercial salmon fishery ended Tuesday almost 2,000 Chinook over the 5,000-salmon threshold the Alaska Department of Fish and Game set as the acceptable harvest for 2017,  and the fishing season has only begun. Steve Moffitt was at the time reported to be hiking somewhere along the Appalachian Trail on the East Coast of North America some 4,500 miles southeast of the tiny port, community of Cordova on the West Coast not far from the mouth of the Copper. Who the hell is Steve Moffitt? He’s the commercial fisheries biologist who penned a bombshell forecast calling for the return of but 29,000 king salmon, as Alaskans most often call Chinook, to the Copper River this year. He then promptly retired, leaving behind what has now become Alaska’s most watched fishery for a number of reasons: click here to read the story 19:50

Longtime Cordova fisherman found dead after going overboard on Copper River

A Cordova man was found dead Thursday after going overboard in the Copper River flats during a stormy commercial fishing opener. Clifford “Mick” Johns, 69, had been fishing alone that day on his 29-foot gillnetter, named Dances With Clams. At about 9 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard received a report that the boat was “driving around in circles with no one onboard” near Pete Dahl Slough, an area of the Copper River flats fishing grounds southeast of Cordova, according to the Alaska State Troopers. “It didn’t look like anybody was manning it,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios of the Coast Guard’s District 17 Public Affairs Office in Juneau. A Coast Guard helicopter stationed in Cordova was called in to search from the air. The helicopter crew found Johns’ body in the water, according to Rios. Click here to read the story 08:41

Fishermen trouble

The 68-year-old president of the United Fishermen of Alaska – one of the 49th state’s most powerful lobbies – and three other commercial fishermen have been cited in Cordova for failing to report salmon catches.Jerry McCune said earlier this week that he simply made a mistake after dropping his commercial catch at a tender. McCune said he told the tender to record his catch for the day plus three salmon – a “little teeny king” and two sockeye – he was taking home with him. When he got his “fish ticket” back from the tender, he said, he tossed it into the cabin of the boat without checking to see if his so-called “home pack” catch had been recorded.,,, Some Cordova commercial fishermen reacted to the charges against McCune and the others with claims the actions were politically motivated. Some subsistence, personal-use dipnet, and rod-and-reel fishermen from communities upriver on the Copper or elsewhere in Alaska cited the accusations as evidence of widespread under reporting of Copper River king salmon harvests in the Cordova area. There was no evidence to support either of those ideas, but emotions run hot in Alaska fishery politics or what is often just referred to as “fishtics.” click here to read the story 14:18

Fishy chatter: The evolution of fishing captains’ radio groups

I had 54 cents in my bank account when I bought my own commercial fishing operation at age 20. I scrawled my signature on a six-figure loan, made it through college finals and came home to my first seine boat, the cabin full of cardboard boxes overflowing with mildewed manuals about everything from Freon refrigeration to Marco powerblocks. My father gave me two treasures to start the season: an enormous binder full of Xeroxed charts showing a lifetime of accumulated fishing knowledge, and a VHF radio with a list of scrambler codes to install so I could talk to our radio group. Radio groups are a long tradition in Alaska’s commercial fishing community. Click here to read the story 13:45

King fishery closed

Fisheries managers in Southcentral Alaska might still be wrestling with what to do about a weak return of king salmon to the Copper River, but their counterparts in Southeast Alaska have acted to protect kings returning to the Taku and Stikine Rivers. Officials with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game today announced commercial troll fisheries which catch most of the Southeast kings, or Chinook as they are otherwise called will close at midnight Sunday. Preseason forecasts for wild Chinook salmon production in Southeast Alaska are at an all-time low, a press release said.  Typically, in the Taku and Stikine rivers, nearly half the run has entered the river by the end of the third week of May; however, record low numbers of Chinook salmon are being seen in-river this year.  The Taku and Stikine are transboundary rivers, and Fish and Game runs research programs with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to assess in-season run strength. Click here to read the story 13:13

The $75 king fillet: Copper River salmon fetch big money at market

The first Copper River salmon of the year are fetching a hefty price on some market shelves in Alaska and Outside, thanks in part to what’s expected to be a weak run of the prized fish. At Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, which draws tourists in droves to watch its famed fish-tossers, fillets of Copper River kings sold for $75 per pound this week. Jason Scott, a manager at the Pike Place Fish Market, said that whopping price tag on a king fillet is a little higher than it was last year, when it was around $60 to $70 per pound. That number drops as the season goes on and more salmon flow into the market. “Everything is crazy,” he said. “All of our orders are people who have been buying fish from us for a long time. They don’t bat an eye at the price. I’m not saying we know that and take advantage of it, but each of us has a customer here who wants the biggest one.” click here to read the story 10:26

A Fire Bug? Prince of Wales Island fires damage three commercial boats and a building

Fires on Prince of Wales Island over the weekend, but as of Sunday afternoon there were no reports of injuries related to the incidents. The first was at about 6 p.m. Saturday in Naukati. According to the Alaska State Troopers, a community-owned building was destroyed by a suspicious fire. Then early Sunday morning, three commercial fishing vessels burned while docked at a marina in North Cove in Craig (click here) .,,The Naukati fire follows another suspected arson case last week on Prince of Wales. On Tuesday night, someone set fire to a car parked at a boat launch near Klawock. click here to read the story 08:51