Category Archives: North Pacific

America’s Finest vessel gets 2nd House waiver

The U.S. House, for a second time, has passed a waiver for the fishing vessel America’s Finest, but a path through the U.S. Senate still remains uncertain. A waiver for the $75 million trawler, which is necessary to allow the ship to work in U.S. waters, was included in the National Defense Authorization Act that cleared the House on Thursday morning. “It passed the House, but that and two bucks will get us a cup of coffee,” Dakota Creek Industries Vice President Mike Nelson told the American Thursday.,, But efforts to push a waiver through the Senate have failed so far. >click to read<10:42

Low Copper River sockeye returns leave state mulling closures

Initially poor runs of sockeye salmon on the Copper River have prompted the state to cancel at least one window for commercial fishing from the river, with future opportunities being reassessed based on tracking data. The state Department of Fish and Game issued a Wednesday statement closing a planned Thursday window for Copper River commercial fishing, but allowing a subsistence fishing window on the same day to continue. The statement cited sonar data from Miles Lake as a key factor in the closure. >click to read<19:16

Fight over America’s Finest vessel part of bigger processor battle

The mothershippers are fighting with the groundfish shoreplants in a politicized Bering Sea commercial fishing tussle reaching all the way to Washington, D.C. The battle over Pacific cod pits the factory trawlers of the Amendment 80 fleet against Alaska shoreplants and local governments. And in February, it pitted two local governments against each other. A delegation of municipal and business leaders from Anacortes, Wash., traveled to the Aleutian Islands to ask the Unalaska City Council to reverse itself but didn’t change anybody’s mind. The brand spanking new factory trawler America’s Finest remains stranded in an Anacortes, Wash., shipyard, unable to fish in the United States because it hasn’t received a waiver from the Jones Act. >click to read<15:54

Rammed or shooting the gap? Salmon seiners clash in Prince William Sound criminal case

An unusual criminal case in Cordova that centers on a violent fishing boat collision two years ago is expected to wrap up without jail time. The June 2016 crash between seiners in a Prince William Sound cove near Whittier revealed a dark side of Alaska’s multimillion-dollar pink salmon fishery. Kami Cabana, the 25-year-old third-generation fisherman at the helm of the Chugach Pearl, faced first-degree felony assault charges for what prosecutors called an intentional ramming. Her attorney argued it was Jason Long, the Cordova-based skipper of the Temptation, who was actually at fault: He tried to force his way through a lineup of boats with a dangerous maneuver. Video, >click to read< 11:08

Local fisherman takes advantage of being able to sell crab on Kodiak docks

Fresh seafood seems like it’d be an easy thing to get in a fishing town like Kodiak. But it wasn’t until recently that it was legal for fishermen to sell what they’ve caught right off their boats on local docks.,, Brian Blondin is holding a Dungeness crab and pinching its shell to see if its ready to eat. “You always gotta feel make sure the shells are hard.”  He’s one of the first people to take advantage of the City of Kodiak allowing fisherman to sell what they’ve caught on its docks, which has only been legal since late last year. >click to read<10:54

Togiak sac roe herring’s lone gillnetter calls it a season

Seagulls wheeled under gray skies, and low clouds spit rain as the F/V Wave Ryder motored back into Dillingham after nearly four weeks on the water near Togiak. The purse seine fleet took its quota by May 2, leaving Frank Woods and his crew on their own to fish for the 7,212 tons of herring allocated to gillnetters. On Thursday, he ended his season. The mood on the 32-foot aluminum drift boat was celebratory as it was hauled out and put up in the Peter Pan Seafoods boat yard. Audio, >click to read<22:10

Alaskan fishermen aren’t the only ones noticing the rise of Atlantic halibut

As prices and demand for Pacific halibut have fallen in Alaska, commercial fishermen say a new Canadian competitor is to blame. Since 2012, Canadian imports of fresh Atlantic halibut have grown roughly 60 percent. Historically, Atlantic halibut has not competed with its close relative on the West Coast since New England and Canadian fishermen overfished stocks in the late 1880s. But as the catch continues to grow north of the border, fishermen in New England are working towards restarting a fishery in U.S. waters.,, “A lot of those boats are fishing on the U.S.-Canadian line and having very good results, and it’s been going on for a while,” Mike Russo said, a New England-based commercial fisherman. >click to read<16:03

Alaska Dive Fishermen Plead for Relief from Sea Otters

Phil Doherty, head of the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association, is working to save the livelihood of 200 southeast Alaska fishermen and a $10 million industry but faces an uphill struggle against an opponent that looks like a cuddly plush toy. Fishermen have watched their harvest shrink as sea otters spread and colonize, Doherty said. Divers once annually harvested 6 million pounds (2.7 million kilograms) of red sea urchins. The recent quota has been less than 1 million pounds (454,000 kilograms). “We’ve seen a multimillion-dollar fishery in sea urchins pretty much go away,” he said. >click to read<12:46

Coast Guard terminates fishing vessel voyage for multiple safety violations near Dutch Harbor, Alaska

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon terminated the voyage of the fishing vessel Nushagak Spirit near Dutch Harbor after discovering several safety issues and environmental concerns on board the vessel Monday. The crew of the Mellon conducted the boarding of the Nushagak Spirit three nautical miles east of Umnak Island where they discovered one fishing violation, 14 safety violations and the improper discharge of bilge water. Specifically, the vessel’s master admitted to pumping water from the bilge over the side of the vessel, a violation of the Clean Water Act. >click to read< 07:46

Boats and ships near Prince William Sound, the Coast Guard can’t hear you

If you’re on the waters of Prince William Sound, you’ll have to be extra cautious. That’s because if you run into trouble, depending on where you are, the Coast Guard says they may not hear your distress signal. The Coast Guard announced Friday afternoon that it can’t hear distress VHF transmissions until vessels reach Port Wells in Prince William Sound, specifically on VHF-FM channel 16. If you are in the following areas the Coast Guard won’t be able to hear a distress signal on channel 16: >click to read<09:28

It’s here! First batch of Copper River Salmon arrives in Seattle

It’s that time of year again when Copper River salmon arrives in Seattle! More than 16,000 pounds of the tasty fish arrived at Sea-Tac Airport early Friday morning, with the first fish triumphantly raised above the flight captain’s hands upon arrival. Three more Alaska Airlines flights were inbound from Cordova, Alaska Friday, delivering an additional 48,000 pounds of salmon to the market, where it will then be delivered to restaurants and grocery stores across the country. >click to read<13:19

2017 Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries NMFS is pleased to present the 2017 Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries managed under the science-based framework established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). The 2017 report highlights the work toward the goal of maximizing fishing opportunities while ensuring the sustainability of fisheries and fishing communities. Due to the combined efforts of NOAA Fisheries, the eight regional fishery management councils, and other partners, three previously overfished stocks were rebuilt and the number of stocks listed as overfished is at a new all-time low. >click to read<16:04

Northern District king salmon setnetters stay closed

Subsistence fishermen in part of the Susitna River drainage will be able to harvest a few kings, but commercial fishermen in Northern Cook Inlet will remain closed for now. The Board of Fisheries considered two emergency petitions Monday related to the preseason restrictions of king salmon fishing in northern Cook Inlet after preseason forecasts indicated that the Deshka River would not see enough king salmon returning to meet its escapement goals. The board approved an action related to a petition from the Mt. Yenlo Fish and Game Advisory Committee, which requested limited subsistence fishing opportunity for king salmon on the upper Yentna River, and denied another asking for reconsideration of the commercial fishery closure from the Tyonek Fish and Game Advisory Committee. >click to read<

Board of Fisheries denies petition on hatcheries

The members of the Board of Fisheries agree that Pacific salmon hatchery impacts on wild salmon stocks are concerning, but they aren’t clear on what to do to address them yet. At a meeting Monday to consider emergency petitions, the board declined to consider an emergency petition submitted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and signed by a variety of Southcentral Alaska sportfishing organizations expressing concern about a hatchery operation permit. Specifically, the petition asked the board to intervene in a permit modification procedure for the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation to increase its pink salmon egg take this season by 20 million. >click to read<15:35

Halibut surplus and competition on East Coast drives dock prices down

Halibut prices have fallen about $2 per pound, and decreasing demand has left plenty sitting in the freezer from last year. Billy Sullivan owns a small fish-buying operation in Homer, and he said years of historically high prices – about $20 to $30 per pound at your typical supermarket – have driven consumers away from purchasing Pacific halibut.,, Consumers are reluctant to buy expensive fillets in grocery stores and restaurants. A new competitor also is taking over a large portion of the market. “They went and found alternatives to expensive halibut and the East Coast fish fills in,” Sullivan said. >click to read<12:18

Halibut trash

Only in Alaska, which likes to claim title to the world’s “best-managed fisheries,” would halibut now retailing at prices in excess of $20 per pound be ground into fish meal to feed animals, shrimp and maybe even farmed salmon – the bane of Alaska commercial fishermen. Photos of halibut and other, trawl-caught bottomfish headed for the grinder emerged from Kodiak this weekend as Alaska fishermen started into a fishing season where the targeted harvest of halibut by both commercial fishermen and anglers has been seriously restricted because of conservation concerns. >click to read<18:20

Senate Should Confirm Barry Myers to Lead NOAA

NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – needs its leader! President Trump nominated Barry Lee Myers, the CEO of AccuWeather, to the post in mid-October. The Senate Commerce Committee has twice advanced Myers’ nomination to the full Senate. All that’s needed to fill this important job is a majority vote on the Senate floor, which both Democrats and Republicans expect to happen. Unfortunately, partisan politics keeps getting in the way, delaying the vote. >click to read<10:06

Kings of the wild frontier

In 2013, I sat in a courtroom in Bethel, Alaska, and watched the trial of 23 Yup’ik fishermen, accused of flouting a ban on the fishing of king salmon the previous summer. The ban had been implemented by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as king salmon numbers plummeted, unexpectedly and inexplicably. The fishermen pleaded not guilty. They were justified in fishing, they said, because the taking of king salmon was part of their spiritual practice, their cultural heritage. First amendment. Mike Williams, then chief of the Yup’ik nation, pulled me to one side during a recess. “Gandhi had his salt, we have our salmon,” he said. For the Yup’ik, getting arrested was no accident. They had issued a press release about their intention to fish before setting out. >click to read< 14:46

Alaska Legislators pass a flurry of bills in final days before adjournment

Among the bills passing in the final days of last week were some significant pieces of legislation,  Fishing loan increases (HB 56) Fishermen can borrow more money from the state’s Alaska Commercial Fishing Loan Fund in this measure from Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan. HB 56, passed Thursday, allows fishermen to borrow up to $400,000 for commercial fishing entry permits and individual fishing quotas. They can also borrow up to that amount to upgrade their gear or fishing boat. The old cap was $300,000. >click to read<13:58

Kodiak man killed in Bering Sea fishing accident

A 55-year-old Kodiak resident died last week aboard a fishing vessel during a transfer operation in the Bering Sea, according to Alaska State Troopers. Alaska State Troopers said in an online dispatch that they learned Wednesday of Christopher O’Callaghan’s death aboard the 95-foot F/V Ocean Hunter. “O’Callaghan was on the deck while the vessel was tied off to another vessel in the open sea, transferring fish,” troopers wrote. “A slack line suddenly went taut, striking O’Callaghan on the chest, causing bruising and internal injuries, resulting in his death. >click to read< 13:15

The story of a boy, a boat, and love at first bite

Kara Berlin was living the aspirational life of any young urbanite. She was raised in Washington by parents who took her outside to play. She went to college. She moved to Idaho to work a corporate job where terms like “fast track” and “executive management potential” littered her quarterly reviews. But then the economy happened and her employer closed up shop. In Sandpoint, she met Taran White. White had a lot of free time because it wasn’t salmon season. Berlin had a lot of free time because she was unemployed. So they took off to Asia to drink cheap cocktails, get $5 massages and fall in love. They wrote a business plan along the way, too. >click to read<18:04

Late Petersburg man named 2018 Fisherman of the Year

United Fishermen of Alaska, the state’s largest organization for commercial fishermen, has posthumously named Michael Bangs of Petersburg as its Fisherman of the Year for 2018. Bangs helped develop the roe-on-kelp and dive fisheries in Southeast Alaska. He’s the former president of the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association. Bangs had been chair of the Southeast Regional Subsistence Advisory Council and served on that body since 2003. He also served on the Petersburg Fish and Game Advisory Committee. Bangs passed away at his home in February.>click to read<12:29

Following harvest shortfall, Sitka contemplates a herring moratorium

The Sitka Assembly has formed a committee to draft a resolution which may call for a moratorium on herring fishing in Sitka Sound. The move comes after the failure of this spring’s commercial sac roe fishery, which fell over 8,000 tons short of the expected harvest level. The idea of a commercial fishing moratorium has been around for a long time, backed primarily by the Sitka Tribe and other subsistence users concerned over declines in the local harvest of herring eggs. >click to read<16:35

Upper Cook Inlet – Commercial fishermen to open with regular periods

Commercial fisheries managers in Cook Inlet are moving forward with a cautious eye on salmon runs but relatively normal fishing regulations for the summer. An Alaska Department of Fish and Game announcement released Friday detailed the 2018 commercial salmon fishing management strategy for Upper Cook Inlet. Managers are predicting a somewhat lower Kenai River late-run king salmon return, but it’s still within the sustainable escapement goal; the sockeye salmon forecast for the Kenai River is predicted to be 2.5 million, which is about 1.1 million less than the recent 20-year average. >click to read<08:04

Alaskan businesses thrive with state-water cod fisheries

Fishing vessel crews in Western Alaska wrapped up a successful pot-cod season last month, building upon what’s become a mainstay winter fishery for an increasing number of Alaskan boats. Now that pots and gear are stacked and stored, we have time to look ahead at what comes next. As a young skipper within the under-60-foot pot-cod fleet, I see first-hand the value Pacific cod offers to the state. Cod is one of the top-three pillars that resident fishermen build their success upon — alongside salmon and halibut. >click to read<15:58

Evermore salmon

More research is needed into the interactions of hatchery and wild fish in Alaska before the Alaska Department of Fish and Game approves the dumping of additional pink salmon fry into Prince William Sound, an advisory committee to state regulators decided here this week. Virgil Umphenour, the chair of the committee and a former member of the state Board of Fisheries, says it is troubling that a state which has long prided itself on best-in-the-world, scientific management of its fisheries is allowing ever more salmon ranching with little clue as to the impacts on wild fish.,, There are obvious impacts, says Nancy Hillstrand of Homer, who has become an activist for wild fish. >click to read<08:45

Making a better “hot dog of the sea”

When people think of Alaska seafood, salmon and halibut come to mind. But the state also produces a lesser-known fish product sought after all around the world: surimi, the base for imitation crab. Now the guy who helped establish surimi in America — more than 30 years ago — is on a mission to improve how it’s made. Tyre Lanier is a food scientist at at North Carolina State University, where he’s been since the 1970s. He has a background in the science of hot dogs. >click to read<16:22

Tough Conditions – A windy start for Togiak herring fishing Sunday

The Togiak herring fishery opened this morning at 6 a.m. It has been a windy start for the state’s largest sac roe herring fishery. Gusts over 30 miles per hour are posing a challenge for fishermen said area management biologist, Tim Sands. “The seine fleet is over there, and it’s pretty tough conditions today because of weather. I know some fish is being taken, but I don’t think a lot.”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game surveyed the district Saturday and concluded the enough herring had arrived to meet the threshold for opening the fishery—35,000 tons. >click to read<20:13

Commercial Fishing in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone – What was being caught and where back to 1950

What is the status of commercial fishing in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, the waters from 3 to 200 miles off our coastline? Generally speaking – something that the “bureaucrats in charge” have developed a great deal of facility in doing – it’s pretty good. Since the National Marine Fisheries Service started getting serious about tracking commercial landings (or at making those landings readily accessible) in 1950, the total weight of our domestic landings has increased from 4.9 billion to 9.8 billion pounds. The value of those landings, when corrected for inflation, has increased from $3.3 billion to $5.2 billion, almost as good. Nils E. Stolpe/FishNet USA >click to read<17:03

Still on the hook

Alaska officials are denying they’ve officially cut a deal to let off easy Kami Cabana, the now notorious seine-boat skipper indicted on charges of felony assault with a weapon after a Prince William Sound ramming, but they admit plea bargaining is underway. The 27-year-old Cabana was at the controls of the 58-foot, 81-ton Chugach Pearl in the summer of 2016 when a 49th state fish war escalated into actual ship-to-ship combat. Part of a Cabana-family led effort to wall of the back of Hidden Bay on Culross Island about 20 miles east of Whittier prior to a commercial, pink salmon opening, Cabana took aggressive action when the F/V Temptation tried to run the blockade. >click to read<08:04