Category Archives: North Pacific

Unified command established in response to potential sinking of fishing vessel Akutan

The U.S. Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the city of Unalaska established a unified command in response to potential pollution from the fishing vessel Akutan near Unalaska, Alaska, Friday. Personnel from Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, the State of Alaska, the city of Unalaska and Resolve Marine Services, a salvage and repair company, are coordinating and overseeing the removal of environmental hazards, including anhydrous ammonia and various petroleum products onboard the fishing vessel Akutan. The unified command determined the steps taken by the vessel owner and operator as inadequate to prevent a potential pollution incident. The approximately 166-foot fishing vessel began transiting to Dutch Harbor from Bristol Bay earlier this month. Due to various mechanical issues the vessel anchored in Captains Bay where it remains, deteriorating. click here to read the press bulletin 12:36

Fish Stocks And Our Balance Of Payments

Our balance of payments is overly burdened by our consumption of seafood: We import approximately 90% of the seafood that we eat. Given our natural resources, we should be net exporters of seafood. The total value of edible and non-edible fishery imports in the United States was $35.8 billion in 2016. The total value of edible and non-edible exports was $21.3 billion. The imbalance does not imply only a shipment of dollars abroad. It also implies a number of jobs exported, a number of jobs that could be created in this country, were we not to import that much more seafood than we export.,,, The reason for the imbalance in our accounts with other nations is not due to lack of fish in our waters. Not to put too fine a point on it, the imbalance is due to rules and regulations imposed by our National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that prevent our fishermen from catching fish. click here to read the article by Carmine Gorga 09:21

With My Brother, in Pursuit of Pink Salmon

The weather’s riled up today, blowing wind and web in my face as I stack the corkline that floats our seine net. The afternoon wind tosses our net around as waves spray saltwater over the boat rails and across the deck. We wrangle the bag of fish alongside and with a combination of manual strength and hydraulic power, pour the splashing pink salmon into the fish hold full of chilled sea water. This week feels like summer storming its way into fall, with beautiful days feeling almost tropical backed right up to days of sideways rain and gusty squalls. Nelly Hand is a commercial salmon fisherman from Cordova, Alaska. click here to read the story and more photo’s 20:11

Developing … Peter Pan Seafoods Port Moller plant devastated in overnight fire

The Peter Pan Seafoods processing plant in Port Moller has been devastated by a massive fire that burned through the night and into Wednesday morning. So far no one has been reported injured, but power, running water, and most phone and internet connections are down in remote community. “The fire started kind of in the production end of things, kind of the freezing warehouse at Peter Pan Seafoods last night. And consumed most of the production facilities that we can tell,” said Bob Murphy, the ADF&G area management biologist based in Port Moller. Murphy was reached a little before 8 a.m. Wednesday. A fisherman who watched the fire from his vessel reported that he saw flames shooting 150 feet high, and that the long dock was eventually cut away to contain the fire. click here to read the story 15:21

Alaska’s losing battle

Bristol Bay – Alaska’s highest profile salmon fishery – had a banner year, and yet everywhere in the global market Alaska salmon fisheries look to be in more and more trouble over the long-term. A $2 to $3 dollar per pound commodity in the 1980s ($4 to $6 when corrected for inflation)Bristol Bay sockeye is today a $1 per pound commodity, and there is no sign the pricing is going to get much better. It could actually get worse. Chilean farmed salmon production is again on the rise and production costs in South America are falling. “AquaChile lowered costs by 13 percent in the first quarter of 2017, in line with other competitors,” Reuters reported from Santiago in mid-July.,,, Why does it matter? click here to read the story 19:54

The F/V Akutan’s sad, failed season in Bristol Bay

Fiasco. Disaster. Nightmare. These are words used by those involved with the floating processor Akutan to describe a fishing season gone terribly wrong. The Akutan, owned by Klawock Oceanside, Inc., was supposed to custom process up to 100,000 pounds of Bristol Bay salmon a day for a small fleet of fishermen under the banner Bristol Bay Seafoods, LLC. After July 25, it was bound for the Kuskokwim to give local fishermen their only salmon market.,,, “We’re in peril,” Captain Steve Lecklitner said Saturday. “We know we cannot stay in this river. It’s breaking down our systems. The owners have basically abandoned the vessel. The mortgage holders and the lenders have not established contact. I’m trying to get parts for our generator, and as soon as that’s done, it’s our intention to move the vessel to Dutch Harbor.” click here to read the story 08:16

Southern SE could see late pink salmon push

Rain showers expected this weekend for southern Southeast Alaska promise a much needed drink for the limited number of pink salmon that have returned so far this year to the region — after a recent stretch of dry summer heat threatened to zap their freshwater spawning grounds. The fish that amass in the greatest numbers during July and August have delivered an unusual 2017 return mostly to the northern reaches of the Alaska panhandle. Meanwhile, pinks have been surprisingly absent, at least initially, from the historically strong fishing waters of the Ketchikan area and off Prince of Wales Island. What fish have surfaced in southern Southeast have been dealt the added challenge of navigating low-level freshwater streams en route to spawn, namely on Prince of Wales Island. click here to read the story 08:34

OPINION: Deadly year at sea reminds us that perceptions about PFDs are outdated

If you follow the news regularly, you read a lot of sad circumstances. Families die because of carbon monoxide poisoning from their stove, people perish when their car spins out of control on a winter drive, or someone gets buried in an avalanche. There is no doubt that living in Alaska has more inherent risks than more temperate locations and Alaskans, in general, take more risks than their brothers to the south. But there are some risks we take that are unnecessary, especially when it comes to the fishing industry, which is risky enough without throwing fuel on the fire. click here to read the op-ed 08:23

Cruise ship arrives in port with massive whale carcass on bow

A cruise ship reached an Alaska port with a surprise on its bow: the carcass of a humpback whale. The Grand Princess, a 290 metre ship pulled into Ketchikan yesterday with the marine mammal lodged on its submerged, bulbous bow, a device designed to avoid wave-making. Princess spokesman Brian O’Connor said the company was surprised and saddened to discover the whale. “It is unknown how or when this happened as the ship felt no impact,” he said in a statement. “It is also unknown, at this time, whether the whale was alive or already deceased before becoming lodged on the bow.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the incident. click here to read the story 15:28

Southeast summer Dungeness harvest the worst in decades

The summer season for Dungies closed three weeks early in Southeast. I sat down with Kellii Wood, a Crab Biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, to ask what happened.  “How did it go this year,” I ask her. Wood laughs and gives a drawn out, “well.” The thing is Dungeness crab in Southeast are tricky because state managers don’t know a lot about them. The crab are on a four to five year life cycle and the commercial fishery is expected to fluctuate accordingly. But there are no stock assessment surveys so biologists rely on commercial harvests to track the population.,,, Wood says there has been some anecdotal evidence from fishermen reporting light-colored crab near the end of the fishery. That would indicate crab that recently molted. So this summer’s low harvest could be due to a late molt. It could mean that the crab are there, it’s just bad timing. Audio, click hereto read the story 12:36

Bristol Bay: Local fisherman celebrates 60th year of fishing

Archie Fischer wrapped up his salmon season at the end of July. He said it was a disappointing run for him. “Well the Kvichak never hit like it should. We didn’t get any push of fish up the Kvichak at all. So that was a letdown,” he said. “That’s the only place I go is here anymore – I stay right home here.” But a bad run does not really phase Fischer. He said that for him it is more about the act of fishing, adding that at 72 it is what gives him life. “I really don’t know how to explain this it’s my life. I got salt water running through veins instead of blood so I gotta come back fishing no matter what,” Fischer said. “I couldn’t imagine me not fishing, it’d be like a cowboy with a broken leg and he can’t ride his horse no more or something like that.” Audio, click here to read the story 09:05

F/V Destination Investigation: Day 2 – Brother of lost fisherman tells investigators about pressures of commercial fishing

Two days before the fishing vessel Destination disappeared in the Bering Sea with six crew members aboard, Dylan Hatfield met up with the crew in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Hatfield previously worked on the Destination. His brother, Darrik Seibold, took his place and was among those lost at sea. “I personally worked with every single man,” Seibold (Hatfield)  told Coast Guard investigators who are looking into the February sinking of the boat. Hatfield said when he came off another boat and met the Destination’s crew, “the boys were pretty beat down. It was a pretty grueling cod season” with 24-hour work shifts. The crew was switching seasons, from cod to crab, and they were behind schedule for a delivery. Over dinner at the Norwegian Rat Saloon, Hatfield said, “I was all giddy and excited and it was a table full of long faces.” Video, click here to read the story 08:38

Kings off limits starting Thursday: ADF&G cites low chinook salmon stocks coastwide

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Thursday will shut down commercial and salt-water sport chinook salmon fishing throughout Southeast Alaska. “Extreme management measures” are needed to protect kings originating from Southeast Alaska, Northern British Columbia, the Fraser River of British Columbia and the coast of Washington state, according to an announcement made late Monday by Fish and Game. The region wide commercial and sport chinook closures are effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday and will last at least through Sept. 30, according to the department. “We didn’t miss fish,” Fish and Game Deputy Commissioner Charles Swanton said late Monday of fishing efforts in the region. “The fish just aren’t there.” click here to read the story 14:30

F/V Destination – Day 1: Investigation Hearing begins

In Seattle on Monday, the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board began two weeks of testimony into the sinking. Monday was spent questioning the ship’s owner, 68-year-old David Wilson. The experienced fisherman, who hired Captain Jeff Hathaway back in 1993, recounted documents recapping the safety drills and briefings given to all crew before the season began. Larry O’Grady, Raymond Vincler, Darrik Seibold, Charles Jones and Kai Hamik were all on board with Hathaway. All presumed lost. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy spent days over the wreck and found the vessel sitting upright in 240 feet of water listing to the port.  On Monday morning, Wilson was asked about maintenance issues — including a discussion, he had with the ship’s captain by phone while in Alaska. click here to read the story Todays proceedings can be reviewed click here, and the hearing restart at 09:00 tomorrow, using that link. 20:06

Yes, no, maybe

Only days after over-seeing the deaths of nearly 90,000 Upper Cook Inlet coho salmon in two commercial drift gillnet openings in the belief the coho run was late and strong, fishery managers with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have changed their minds. An emergency order issued Sunday cut commercial fishing time in the northern Inlet in half and restricted drift netters to drift “Area 1” south of Kalgin Island, along with a corridor near the mouth of the Kenai River. The Area 1 restriction pushes the fleet down into the wide, unconstricted part of the Inlet where it is harder to find the fish. click here to read the story 16:57

F/V Destination – Hearings to begin on why Seattle-based crab boat sank with 6-man crew aboard

Two weeks of Coast Guard hearings into the sinking of the Seattle-based Destination begin Monday. They will put a spotlight on safety in the crab-boat fleet, and are expected to include testimony about the recent exploration of the sunken vessel by a remotely operated vehicle. The Destination sits on the bottom of the Bering Sea, listing heavily to its port side and still carrying roughly a third of the steel-framed pots the six-man crew planned to use in a winter crab harvest off Alaska. In two weeks of Seattle hearings that begin Monday, Coast Guard officers will hear testimony from the owner of the crab boat, former crew and other industry and government officials as they gather clues to what went so horribly wrong when the crew perished Feb. 11. click here to read the story to read the USCG notice click here with instructions for comment. click here for live stream of the proceedings. 09:29

Where are the coho?

The bad news came in triplicate for Little Susitna River guide Andy Couch on Friday. First there was the daily coho salmon enumeration from the Little Su weir. The 39 fish counted the day before brought the season’s total to 679, the lowest count since 2012. August 2012 started with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announcing that bait fishing – scheduled to open Aug. 6 – would not be allowed. Four days later came the announcement the river would be closed to coho fishing for the rest of the year.  When Couch, a longtime Little Su angler and guide saw the Thursday count this year, he knew what to expect next: another bait ban. But before that was announced the commercial catch statistics for a Thursday opening of the Cook Inlet drift gillnet fleet started trickling in. Fish Politics. click here to read the story 15:49

Re-examining safety practices in the wake of this year’s commercial fishing deaths

“It’s time for a checkup from the neck up” — meaning an industry time-out to evaluate fishing operations and behaviors — advises Jerry Dzugan, director of the Sitka-based Alaska Marine Safety Education Association for over 30 years. Dzugan was speaking in response to the 11 fishing deaths that have occurred in Alaska so far this year. It’s the most in 13 years and follows a 76 percent decrease in commercial fishing fatalities since the 1980s. “The causes are still capsizing, sinkings, swampings and man overboards (MOBs). They haven’t changed much,” Dzugan said. “People need to step back and focus on the basics, such as making sure your vessel is stable and watertight, and that your crew is protected from man overboards.” click here to read the story 11:37

How a father’s shipwreck launched a message across an ocean to his grieving daughter

A chain of ocean currents that connects Alaska’s Prince William Sound to a beach on Hawaii’s Big Island delivered a piece of a 3-year-old shipwreck to a grieving family. The improbable voyage of a plastic fishing gear identification tag also had human help in the person of Alaska engineer Andy Baker, whose curiosity and diligence completed the connection. An expert on floating debris called Baker’s successful investigation “a very remote chance.” “It really is a very difficult thing to do,” oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer said. “It takes a lot of luck, a lot of effort and a lot of time. One thing out of a thousand is traceable. That tag you are writing about is a remarkable bit of serendipity.” In this case, the luck connected a father to his daughter after his death. click here to read the story Four posts about F/V Fate Hunter from 2013 click here to review 14:02

Post-salmon season: A boat haul out ride along

It is 2 p.m. and Carl Williams is behind the tractor wheel, hauling a boat out of water. He has not slept in 48 hours. He said he has to work with the tides to pull boats out, and when the tides are out there are repairs to take care of. “It’s just something that’s gotta get done,” he said. “Don’t have time for coffee. Just something that has to get done. Tide doesn’t wait for anybody, just have to keep going.” There are about 1,500 drift gill net boats in Bristol Bay, and 600 of those are hauled in and out of water by Carl. He owns and operates the business Anchor Inn Boat Storage in Naknek. He is in the last push of the season hauling boats out of water. Audio, click here to read the story 10:51

The American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act: S-1322 – Sam Parisi, Gloucester

Last year I served on a panel to review applicants for S-K Grant money in Saint Petersburg, along with ten other experienced fisherman thru out the USA. After two days of reviews we graded those and our mission was done. We had no idea who was awarded the grant money at the end of the two days. After a month the ones that were chosen were published. I notice one recipient from the East Coast was awarded $375,000 dollars yet I never saw come before the panel. I called the head man in Saint Pete and ask why I never saw it, and he said it was on a different panel. I was on both panels and it never came up. I believe that NOAA decides who gets the funds and the panel is there to appease the public. A Senator from Alaska heard my story and told me he was putting in a bill to go back to an advisory panel like it had in 1954. Bear in mind, this a year in the making and he asked for my help by contacting our Politian’s in the North East which I did. Two days ago Commerce Department approved his bill S-1322. The vote was 26 to one. What this means is NOAA will no longer receive the SKG money. A panel will be chosen by the Secretary of Commerce. Perhaps our fisherman will now see some of this money. Thank You, Sam Parisi,  Gloucester Mass.  click here to read the bill  Commerce Approves Eight Bills and 10 Nomineesclick here Thank you, Sam!  10:46

Wild Alaskan Salmon and Seafood: Quality over quantity

Wild Alaskan Salmon and Seafood is a family owned business, processing 25,000 pounds of salmon per day. Inside the plant 13 workers are hard at work. They work long hours, sometimes pulling 22 hour shifts, but morale is high, music is on and people are joking. James Sumrall, assistant manager, said everyone is friends. “When we come here being such a small and tight knit crew it’s kinda like we’re hanging out here. It’s steady and hard work but it’s kinda like we’re hanging out,” he said. “No type of overbearing hand that’s telling you work harder, work faster. Obviously we keep a good pace, but it’s a lot friendlier, moral stays high.” Wild Alaskan Salmon and Seafood is owned by Tony and Heather Woods. Most of the salmon processed at the facility is caught by drifter Tony himself. In fact, he was not available for an interview because he is out fishing the tail end of the season. Audio, click here to read the story 20:09

Togiak Sac Roe Herring: Catch the Story Before it’s Gone

My own visual memories of Togiak are not much more than a slate of wide, open grey sky that merged into open grey water. In the early 2000s, I flew out from Homer with a spotter pilot, landed on the beach in the community and then probably took a skiff from the beach to go out to meet my dad’s boat, F/V Agave. At the time, I was certainly not taking notes or paying attention to location details but what I do remember is bleak, grey, bland, flat land. The landscape was nothing like the mountains in south central and south east Alaska, I just recall bleakness. I never had the opportunity to explore the magic features of seeking out glass floats washed from across the Pacific, looking for ivory, exploring the shorelines. I went out to simply fish and retrieve my own juvenile income, not to recall anything else. That was not enough to provide a credible nostalgia of what it was like to fish out there in the peak of the alluring, crazy, chaotic competition combined with a visual recollection of stoic, stark, rural Alaska. By Emilie Springer click here to read the story 14:25

After falling to historic lows, Alaska commercial fishing deaths on the rise

After a recent historic year of no recorded deaths in Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, fatalities in the sector known for its dangers have once again spiked. There have been 10 commercial fishing deaths in Alaska so far in 2017. A large portion of this year’s deaths were from the fishing vessel Destination, which sank in the Bering Sea just north of St. George Island in February. The six men on the boat were later legally declared dead. The other deaths were a man overboard on the fishing vessel Dances with Clams in the Copper River Delta in May, the June capsizing of the boat Miss Destinee in Marmot Bay off Kodiak Island which killed two, and a person overboard from the Lady Colleen in July in Ugashik Bay. This comes not long after the U.S. Coast Guard recorded the first year — measured from Oct. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015 — of zero operations-related deaths in Alaska’s commercial fishing industry. click here to read the story 07:58

Fish-o-nomics 101

Alaska leads the nation in unemployment, and fish processors in Bristol Bay are complaining they couldn’t find the workers necessary to head, gut and in some cases further process this year’s unexpectedly large bounty of sockeye salmon. Because of this, commercial fishermen were put on limits to avoid plugging processing plants with too many salmon, which left most of them unhappy. “I personally have driven through and away (from) more fish than I’ve ever seen in my life during a legal fishing opener. And that hurts,” fisherman Larry Christensen told reporter Caitlan Tan at KDLG in Dillingham.  The public radio station this year live-covered the Bristol Bay fishing season as if it were some sort of sporting event, and there are some similarities. And while fishermen were unhappy with processors, processors were unhappy with the government which they blamed for making it hard to bring in foreign workers to process fish. click here to read the story 08:48

Hiring seafood workers in Bristol Bay has been tough for years. This summer, it’s worse.

Seafood processors in Alaska’s Bristol Bay this summer have had trouble finding enough workers to handle the fish that come through their plants. Those in the industry say a confluence of factors, including a lack of visas for bringing foreign workers to the industry, a hotter economy in the Lower 48, and a record-breaking salmon run in Bristol Bay, was to blame. “There was a significant lack of process workers for some companies in the bay, and it exacerbated the problems of having to deal with high levels of harvest,” said John Garner, president of Seattle-based North Pacific Seafoods, which has locations across Alaska. Some processors couldn’t keep up with the huge amount of fish coming in, which forced them to resort to whatever method was fastest to get the pounds through the plant. click here to read the story 10:03

Commercial fisheries in Upper Cook Inlet open again as sockeye run continues

Commercial fishing resumed in Upper Cook Inlet this weekend. The Department of Fish and Game made the announcement Friday after fishing had been closed for the prior week. Commercial fisheries manager Pat Shields says the numbers of sockeye entering the Kenai river have been ticking up all week. “We’ve been continuing to closely monitor sockeye salmon passage into the Kenai river. The last few days have seen increased passage. It came down a bit Thursday, but 72,000 on Wednesday. Friday’s count in the Kenai through 7 a.m. is the highest morning count we’ve had this year. So we expect simliar passage (as) the last few days. We now can project that we’re going to end up in the goal range for Kenai river, which is 900,000 to 1.1 million. click here to read the story 22:19

Hearing: Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene the hearing titled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: NOAA and Council Perspectives” at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, August 1, 2017. This hearing is the first in a series to examine the state of our nation’s fishery laws and guide the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Witnesses: – Mr. Christopher Oliver, Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, – Dr. John Quinn, Chair, Council Coordination Committee and Northeast Fishery Management Council Hearing Details: Tuesday, August 1, 2017 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov. link 09:20

Steel Team | Part One: Fire and a rented boat can’t stop this crew, Part Two, Troubles mount, but the crew goes fishing

Three Sheets Northwest contributor Mark Aberle was invited for a short stint of fishing in Southeast Alaska. As happens, the story would have some interesting challenges that needed to be surmounted before the “Steel Team” could get out on the water. Here’s part one: Two 58-foot purse seiners and a fiberglass tender shared the same city dock pier in Craig, Alaska on the evening of May 20. The steel hulled Julia Kae had completed her run up from Ballard a few weeks prior. For the 60-year-old captain and owner Steve Demmert it was an annual ritual. On that May evening, no one was aboard the Julia Kae, the other seiner, the Pacific Lady, or the fiberglass hulled fish packer Seaborne. At some point in the early hours of the 21st, a fire started aboard the Seaborne. click here to read part one  08:14

Steel Team | Part Two: Troubles mount, but the crew goes fishing – In Part One, the crew is devastated by a fire aboard the seiner Julia Kae, but manages to get on the water after renting a new-to-them boat with a set of its own problems and quirks, the Defender. click here to read Part Two 

Best boot? A commercial fisherman’s likes and dislikes.

After six weeks away from home fishing in Bristol Bay, you’d think I would have larger concerns than what to wear on my feet. However, as go the feet, so go I. Consequently, here’s my rundown of my likes and dislikes when it comes to boots. No doubt in Bristol Bay, hip boots and Xtratufs ruled my world. Xtratufs are the foot gear of choice for most commercial fishermen working the deck of a boat. They’re a good boot, but much of the reason they are so popular is marketing. The cannery stores carry Xtratufs exclusively. The reality is that though they are well made, Xtratufs have little ankle support. They are soft, and woe to the fisherman who drops an anchor on his toe. click here to read the story 15:49