Category Archives: North Pacific

Prelude to war – A news analysis

The mayor of Kenai, Alaska is “extremely disappointed” with the Alaska Board of Fisheries, and the mayor of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough less than pleased but “satisfied” with the Board’s big compromise. The big compromise itself? The Board will avoid both Wasilla and Kenai in favor of a 2020 meeting in Anchorage. So contentious has become the issue of Cook Inlet fishery management that politicians now argue over minutiae while the bigger issues plaguing the Inlet’s fisheries are ignored. click here to read the story 10:46

Last Hope: Coast Guard Alaska Search and Rescue

Every year boats from Washington state head to Alaska for one of the most dangerous jobs known to man: commercial fishing. Those crews often face hurricane-force winds and giant waves. So, there is a dedicated group of people ready to jump at a moment’s notice to keep them safe. It’s 5:00 a.m. in Kodiak, Alaska – where only a few fishing vessels still sit idle. Most are on the open sea for salmon season, but on this morning, the crew of the Laguna Star prepares to head out for weeks in search of a big catch. Sitting in a salvage yard a mile away is another vessel – the Miss Destinee, just seven days after a wave capsized the boat. Two deckhands drowned inside. click here to read the story 08:02

‘Cautious optimism’ surrounds value of Alaska salmon fishing permits

It’s steady as she goes for the values of Alaska salmon fishing permits, with upticks in the wind at several fishing regions. “There’s a lot of cautious optimism,” said Jeff Osborn of Dock Street Brokers in Seattle. As well there should be after a salmon fishery that produced 225 million fish valued at nearly $680 million, a 67 percent increase over 2016. Bristol Bay drift salmon permits trade more than any other due to sheer volume (1,800), and it’s no surprise the value is increasing after one of the best fishing seasons ever. click here to read the story 14:31

Declared unfit for human or animal consumption – Eighty tons of contested Bristol Bay salmon trashed in Anchorage landfill

Some 158,318 pounds of highly contested Bristol Bay salmon from the F/V Akutan have reached their final destination: the Anchorage landfill. This summer, the custom processor was supposed to process up to 100,000 pounds of salmon a day for Bristol Bay Seafoods LLC, a small group of fishermen. But nearly everything that could go wrong did. The vessel’s owner went broke, the crew wasn’t paid, and when 158,318 pounds of fish came off the boat in early September, the third-party testing group NSF declared it unfit for human or animal consumption. click here to read the story 09:17

Alaska fisheries thrive — yet industry is on the edge

It has been a really good year across most of Alaska’s commercial fisheries. Salmon prices are up, harvests are good, fuel costs are down, and there’s more: The world’s appetite for nutritious, wild-caught Alaska fish, caught in clean waters, is growing. Alaskans’ track record for managing fisheries in a sustainable manner, both near-shore and further at sea, reinforces our reputation for responsible stewardship. Life is good.,,, Seafood employed 56,800 workers in 2015-2016 and this industry annually contributes $5.2 billion to the state’s economic output. But as good as this sounds, the fact is that this traditional industry is actually fragile,,, click here to read the story 21:45

Red king crab fishery off to a slow start

The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is off to a slow start, compared to last year, according to Miranda Westphal, shellfish biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Unalaska. The season opened Oct. 15, and on Monday, just over a week into the fishery, only 1.5 million pounds had been landed. In the same time period last year, the boats had hauled in 6 million pounds. The fishery’s performance, though, is not unexpected, and is in line with what biologists learned during pre-season surveys. She said 52 boats were fishing on,,, click here to read the story 20:29

International Pacific Halibut Commission to revisit minimum size limit

The International Pacific Halibut Commission, which regulates halibut fisheries in U.S. and Canadian waters, is set to take a fresh look at the minimum size limit during its meeting cycle this winter. The current limit allows commercial fishermen to retain fish larger than 32 inches, but the size of mature halibut has been shrinking over the years, which has some wondering whether the limit should be reduced or removed altogether. click here to read the story 09:16

Scaling back hatchery salmon could mean huge losses for fleet

Salmon hatcheries play a huge role in Alaska’s fishing industry. But what effect are all those hatchery salmon having on Alaska’s wild stocks, which are even more valuable? In Part 1 of this 2-part series, KCAW’s Stephanie Fischer looked at the Wild Hatchery Interaction Study, an 11-year project researching the genetic consequences of hatchery salmon straying into wild streams and cross-breeding with wild stocks. In this story, Fischer examines the economic consequences on the industry, should Alaska ever have to scale back its hatchery programs. click here to read the story 08:25

Record high prices, strong demand for Canadian snow crab bodes well for Alaska

The top executives of Royal Greenland and Ocean Choice International (OCI) noted demand has remained strong for Canadian snow crab in 2017, despite record-high prices caused by reduced supply from the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery. In April, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) cut the 2017/2018 total allowable catch (TAC) for the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery 22% year-on-year — to 35,419 metric tons — causing prices to increase to record levels of over $8 per pound (for 5-8 ounce size crab) during the season, sources said. The Newfoundland season started on April 6 and finished between May and August, depending on the area. click here to read the story 18:38

Board of Fisheries declines request to cap Kodiak sockeye harvest

The Board of Fisheries won’t take up an out-of-cycle request to cap Kodiak sockeye salmon harvests during certain periods of the season, though it won’t be the last time the issue comes up. The board declined to accept an agenda change request that proposed a new management plan for the commercial purse seine fishery in the Kodiak Management Area setting weekly and seasonal limits on sockeye salmon harvest. The request, submitted by the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, raises concerns brought to light in a recent Alaska Department of Fish and Game genetic study showing that Kodiak seiners catch hundreds of thousands of Cook Inlet-bound sockeye salmon during the summer. click here to read the story 08:57

After 32 summers fishing with his dad, Cambria songwriter says goodbye to Alaska

Songwriter-singer Van William, a Cambria native son, says his recently released music video and the new songs he performs are deeply, profoundly personal.,, He says the music is a reflection of who and where he’s been, and his life’s successes, upheavals and heartbreaks, which — as is the case for most folks — helped to shape the person he is now. He said his summers spent in Alaska have “always been a huge part of who I am,” but “I’ve never been able to share much of it with anyone other than my immediate family. This video highlights how life feels up there and how heartbreaking it is to say goodbye to my years as a commercial fisherman.” Excellent video, photos, click here 20:53

This Alaska teen’s biggest catch was a 57-foot whale. Animal-rights activists didn’t like it. He’s not backing down.

He sat on stage, the governor on one side, the lieutenant governor on the other, his parents at the end, and he told a story bigger than the conference room, a story of a life on the wild lands and in the rough seas. Chris Apassingok of Gambell on Monday told how he helped catch a massive bowhead whale in April when he was 16, and how radical animal-rights activists went after him and his family. The whale changed their world. But the critics won’t change how he lives, he told the First Alaskans Institute Elders and Youth Conference, a precursor to the upcoming Alaska Federation of Natives convention. click here to read the story 17:48

Gulf of Alaska cod stocks at all-time lows

Pacific cod numbers in the Gulf of Alaska are at all-time lows, according to early looks at data collected from the 2017 summer survey. Steve Barbeaux, a fisheries biologist for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, said scientists believe that the warm water mass known as the blob may be responsible for the low numbers. “It seems that this warm water that occurred that we’re calling the blob may have increased natural mortality for the 2012 year class and probably 2014, 2015, and 2016 as well,” Barbeaux said. click here to read the story 13:32

“The fact is, law abiding, licensed commercial fishermen are considered by our government to be the most dangerous people in America.”

In September 1983 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Balelo v Baldridge decided the first court challenge against the government policy of placing federal observers on commercial fishing vessels to monitor their operations. The plaintiffs were Pacific tuna purse seiners. This the first observer program in the American fishing industry was enacted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The first observers spent many weeks on the high seas with the fishermen at a time when there was literally no other way to assure that the newly enacted law — meant to bring the mortality of marine mammals in the tuna fishery as close to zero as possible — was being followed by these operations. It was provided for in this portion of the MMPA that the captains be given notice well in advance of the required observer trips and that the funding be fully covered by Congress. click here to read the story 19:21

Pebble mine opponents at Dillingham meeting hammer EPA for changed course

In close to four hours of public testimony, dozens of people told EPA staffers that large-scale mining threatens a fishery and way of life in Bristol Bay. The unanimous opinion given during Wednesday’s meeting in Dillingham, held in the middle of the work day, was that the EPA should finalize preemptive Section 404(c) Clean Water Act restrictions, not withdraw them and wait for an environmental impact statement. click here to read the story 09:30

ASMI Announces Winners of 1st Alaska Commercial Fishing Video Contest – Fisherman Kamirin Couch Takes Home the Grand Prize

Every day, fishermen brave the waters of Alaska to bring wild seafood from the sea to table for the world to enjoy. To recognize the men and women dedicated to harvesting wild, natural and sustainable seafood, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) put out a call for video submissions for the first-ever Alaska Seafood Commercial Fishing Video Contest. ASMI received entries from fishermen who shared their personal stories showcasing why an exhausting but beautiful life on or near the water is worth it for many reasons. Video, click here to read the story 09:26

‘Deadliest Catch’: Josh Harris and Casey McManus on the Cornelia Marie’s return in Season 14

Deadliest Catch fans, we have good news: When the Cornelia Marie sets out for king crab season at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning (“You never leave on a Friday,” Capt. Josh Harris reminds us), there will be cameras on it. The fan-favorite boat was missing from Season 13 of Discovery’s Emmy-winning reality series, even though it remained an active part of the Bering Sea crab fleet last year.,,, The boat itself has also been through a major overhaul. “There’s a lot more buttons up here to push,” Josh says from the state-of-the-art wheelhouse. “I’m really excited to start pushing these buttons on the new machinery, the new electronics we’ve got, and hopefully I learn quick.” click here to read the story here 14:49

Pebble rising?

Once thought to be on the verge of death, Alaska’s proposed Pebble prospect copper and gold mine seems to be taking on a new life. First came the July announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency of President Donald Trump that it planned to lift a proposed ban on the mine ordered by the EPA of President Barrack Obama.,,, The Pebble Limited Partnership sued the Obama administration and the EPA of Trump – taking a page from the playbook of enviromental organizations fond of filing lawsuits to leverage legal settlements – in this case negotiated an agreement allowing Pebble to apply for the necessary permits. click here to read the story 09:37

USCG: Remain Upright by Fully Understanding Vessel Stability

The need for operators to understand their vessel’s Stability Instructions (SI) cannot be overstated. It is important to understand the document. Operators and crew should seek out opportunities to further their knowledge of stability via courses, training, workshops, and visits from Naval Architects. They should also take advantage of other various initiatives, both mandatory and voluntary, to discuss and compare a vessel’s current SI to the actual loaded condition prior to departing port. An independent review of a vessel’s loaded condition, equipment, and operations can often provide important insights. click here to read the story 10:21

Walruses adapt to loss of sea ice and are not endangered, feds say

Blubbery, clam-loving Pacific walruses are surprisingly resilient to the dramatic loss of polar sea ice as the planet warms and won’t be listed as an endangered species, the federal government announced early Wednesday. The decision is controversial. A scientist for a group that works to protect endangered animals called it a Trump administration “death sentence for the walrus.” But Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation, Native hunters, Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and the state Department of Fish and Game all said it was the right call. “This decision will allow for the continued responsible harvest of Pacific walrus for subsistence and traditional uses by Alaska Natives,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a written statement. click here to read the story 21:11

Norton Sound: Arson ruled out, authorities trying to locate the owner

Authorities Thursday were still attempting to untangle a complicated web of ownership details linked to a fire-gutted boat that smoldered for several days over the weekend near Seaport Village in the San Diego Harbor, but investigators ruled out arson as the cause of the flames. What started the fire, which began Friday morning aboard the Norton Sound, was still undetermined Thursday, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokeswoman Monica Munoz said. The blaze was fully knocked down Sunday, but investigators were unable to probe its origins until mid-week. The next step in the clean-up effort will be to move the Norton Sound,,, But locating the owner has proven difficult. click here to read the story 15:04

2017 Commercial Salmon Harvest Summary

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has compiled preliminary harvest and value figures for the 2017 Alaska commercial salmon fishery (PDF 130 kB). Although there are still fish being caught, the majority of 2017 salmon fisheries have ended. The 2017 commercial salmon fishery all species harvest was 224.6 million wild salmon with an estimated preliminary exvessel value of $678.8, a 66.7% increase from 2016’s value of $407.3 million. Of this total, sockeye salmon again came in as the most valuable species, accounting for 48% of the value at $326.1 million and 23% of the harvest at 52.4 million fish. click here to read the press release 14:56

Seward: Vigor at SMIC: “Here for the Long Haul”

Vigor, a marine services operation located at Seward’s Marine Industrial Center (SMIC), is “here to stay,” according to Adam Beck. Beck is in charge of Alaska Operations for Vigor, and is based out of Portland, Oregon. He plans to spend a few days in Seward in early October to visit their 11 acre shipyard located in the industrial area on the east side of Resurrection Bay. Vigor is one of a handful of marine service operations who hold leases with the City of Seward. According to Beck, they have recently made changes to their business plan. These changes will allow third party contractors to complete work using their yard. click here to read the story 14:10

Supreme Court says no to hearing UCIDA case

The lawsuit over whether the federal government or the state should manage Cook Inlet’s salmon fisheries won’t get its day in the U.S. Supreme Court after all. Supreme Court justices on Monday denied the state of Alaska’s petition to hear a case in which the Kenai Peninsula-based fishing trade group the United Cook Inlet Drift Association challenged the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s decision to confer management of the salmon fishery to the state. click here to read the story 08:31

Dear Lord! Anchorage commercial fisherman killed in Las Vegas massacre

An Anchorage commercial fisherman, 35-year-old Adrian Murfitt, was among the dozens of people killed in the mass shooting Sunday at a Las Vegas music festival. Brian MacKinnon said he was at the concert by country singer Jason Aldean with Murfitt, his best friend, when the shooting started and a bullet hit Murfitt. “We were taking a picture and it went through his neck,” said MacKinnon, who’s also from Anchorage, in a phone interview from Las Vegas. “There’s a lot of amazing people — there was nurses, doctors, firemen. Everybody who was at that concert really jumped on it, did everything they could. We just couldn’t save him. click here to read the story 16:28

$1.4 billion fishing industry stays afloat amid regulations, tragedies

It’s been two months since the missing crab vessel Destination was found on the ocean floor of the Bering Sea. The Seattle-based crew went missing in February.  All six people on board died when the crab boat went down in “Deadliest Catch” waters. You can see the memorial that still stands at Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.  It’s a grim reminder that Alaskan fishing is still coined the most dangerous job in the world, but the commercial fishing industry also has helped form the blueprint of the Pacific Northwest. Latest numbers from the state show it brings in $1.4 billion a year to our state.  Today, it employs more than 14,000 people. Today, the $35 million, 191-foot freezer liner Blue North glides across the Bering Sea, catching cod in a moon pool.  Video, click here to read the story 09:02

At Seattle-based seafood giant Trident, a new generation is at the helm

Joe Bundrant’s first Alaska summer with Trident Seafoods was back in 1979, a tense time for the Seattle-based company founded by his father Chuck Bundrant. The Bristol Bay salmon run was in full swing. But a bitter strike over low prices kept nets out the water, and shut down the regional harvest. Chuck Bundrant had piled up debt to build the Bountiful, a 165-foot processing vessel that was then only a year old. He didn’t want it to sit idle. So, he urged the fishermen to cross the picket line and allow him to freeze their sockeye catch. When the season was over, he pledged to settle with them on a fair market value “He just said, ‘Trust me.’ And those guys went fishing. It was a very powerful lesson for a young guy,” click here to read the story 12:35

Commercial fishing for Southeast red king crab to open this fall after six years

Southeast Alaska will open to commercial fishing for red king crab this fall for the first time in six years. The crab population has seen a steady increase, according to state surveys. But whether the opening set for November 1 will be lucrative is still to be seen. Joe Stratman, who is Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s lead crab biologist for Southeast, said the red crab population has been on the rise since 2013. “Basically, in the last four or five years we’ve seen improvement in legal, mature biomass estimates in Southeast,” Stratman said. click here to read the story 15:30

Fisherman’s tagging experiment offers evidence that setnet-caught kings survive

After the disastrous summer of 2012, when poor king salmon returns gave commercial Cook Inlet east side set gillnet fishermen only a handful of fishing days throughout the season, Brent Johnson began brainstorming. A lifelong setnetter in the Clam Gulch area, Johnson knows he is allowed to harvest and sell king salmon under his commercial fishing permits, but he began thinking up ways to winnow out kings from the rest of the salmon. That way, he could release the kings alive and let them head up the river, contributing to escapement goals so the Alaska Department of Fish and Game could leave the setnet open, allowing him to still catch other kinds of salmon. After a few seasons of testing experimental nets and tagging kings he released, he finally has some results to show, indicating that kings may survive being released from setnets. click here to read the story 14:26

MSA Reauthorization – Fishing rule reforms debated on Capitol Hill

How large of a role should the federal government have in regulating fishing fleets? Republicans and Democrats on the House Committee on Natural Resources discussed this question Tuesday in Washington, D.C., as part of renewed efforts to reauthorize and potentially amend a 40-year-old law that works to prevent overfishing and provide aid to fishing fleets.,, Several changes to the law have been made since 1996, such as setting annual catch limits and a 10-year timeline to rebuild overfished or depleted fish stocks. Republican committee members such as Alaska Rep. Don Young said these changes have taken a one-size-fits-all approach rather than provide more flexibility for regional fishery management councils to manage their own fisheries. click here to read the story 09:47

Watch Legislative Hearing on 4 Fishery Bills – click here for video