Tag Archives: Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Copper River crash will cost commercial fishermen millions

Copper River sockeye fishermen are facing historic low returns this year, prompting some commercial fisherman to target other species elsewhere in Prince William Sound, and leaving others waiting onshore in what is usually a profitable fishery to the tune of $15 million or more in ex-vessel value. Through mid-June, the commercial Copper River District drift gillnet fishery had landed just less than 26,000 sockeye salmon and a little more than 7,000 kings during three mid-May fishing periods. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had expected a harvest this summer of nearly 1 million sockeye in the district, and about 13,000 kings. As the harvest stands now, it’s the second-lowest in the past 50 years. >click to read<16:21

Drift fishermen hopeful for Wednesday’s Nushagak opener

Fishermen faced blustery bouts of rain Tuesday at Dillingham’s small boat harbor, but that’s not dampening their enthusiasm for Wednesday’s commercial drift net opener in the Nushagak and Igushik sections. Many drift boats plan to ride Tuesday night’s tide out into the bay for the first commercial drift gillnet opening from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday. “You saw it here – as soon as that announcement (went out at 9 a.m. Tuesday), there was boat after boat getting thrown in the water here. I would assume there’s going to be quite an interest in this opener,” said Logan Branstiter of the F/V B-Team. “(We’re going to) start looking around, looking for jumpers, looking for signs of fish and activity and hope you hope you set on them.” >click to read<07:26

Humpy invasion

While West Coast Americans – Alaskans among them – worry and fret about farmed Atlantic salmon escaping to invade the Pacific Ocean despite decades of failed stocking efforts aimed at helping them do so, the Norwegians, Scots and other Europeans are facing a real and significant problem with an invasive Pacific salmon – the ubiquitous Alaska humpy. The smallest of the Pacific salmon, the humpy – or pink salmon – is by far the most common species in the 49th state. Of the 224.6 million salmon caught in Alaska last year, 63 percent, some 114.6 million, were pinks, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.  And Northern Europeans are now worried the highly adaptable and voracious humpy could become a common species in their coastal waters. Blame the Russians. >click to read<15:52

Unexpected bounty

Good news at last for salmon-loving Alaskans who’ve watched sockeye returns to the fabled Copper River spurt and falter this year. No, the Copper hasn’t witnessed the miraculous return of tens of thousands of overdue fish, but there are now indications that the disastrously weak run there might be limited to the wild, 26,000-square mile watershed near the Canadian border. An unexpected bounty of sockeye has shown up at Bear Lake on the Kenai Peninsula and the early return of sockeye to the Kenai’s Russian River looks to be tracking the 2017 return, albeit it a week late.,,, Commercial fishermen had harvested 125,000 Bear Lake sockeye through Thursday – about seven times as many as through the same date last year, according to Fish and Game. >click to read<12:34

Horrible timing

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was Wednesday lobbying Alaska residents to buy Chitina dipnet permits to fish the Copper River even as the troubled, 2018 return of sockeye salmon to that big, muddy drainage was fading so badly that Cordova commercial fishermen pleaded to have the dipnet fishery shut down. “As of today sonar counts are well below projected counts and remain below the minimum threshold of 360,000 sockeye salmon for spawning escapements,” the Cordova District Fishermen United said in a letter to state officials. “In light of the weak early run component, restrictive closures on commercial fishing openers, and no noticeable increase in counts at the sonar currently, it is in the best interest of our sockeye runs to close the Copper River personal use and sport fisheries.” >click to read<18:26

Optimism scarce as commercial fisheries start up in Southeast

Activity is picking up in the harbors in Petersburg this week as fishing boats and tenders prepare for the start of several commercial fishing seasons, but optimism is a little scarce on the docks. Fishermen this summer are feeling the impacts of reduced catches, low forecasts and increasing competition from marine mammals. In South Harbor, Charlie Christensen is readying the Erika Ann for some tendering work in the early summer. Then he’ll switch over to seining once pink salmon start coming in. He has a long list of bad news for his fishing season, stretching back to management decisions by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for golden or brown king crab. He also points to whale predation on black cod,,, >click to read< 17:22

No commercial opener for Copper River salmon fishery

Faced with a sonar count that is the ninth lowest on record since 1978, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said the Copper River district of Prince William Sound would remain closed to commercial fishing. The midday announcement on June 6 assured that the district would open to subsistence fishing on June 7. Cumulative commercial harvest to date is the second lowest harvest in the last 50 years, ADF&G said in an announcement from its Cordova office. Harvesters were advised, however, that the commercial fishery might open on short notice, should indices of sockeye salmon abundance support such a fishery.  >click to read<11:12

Alaska: Prices are up, but commercial salmon harvests and forecasts are down

As a number of commercial salmon fisheries around the state kick off this week, the outlook for ex-vessel prices is looking good. Fishing economists say between lower run forecasts and strong foreign and domestic demand, commercial fishermen will likely see higher prices this year. But that doesn’t necessarily mean commercial fishermen will earn more this season compared to last year. Andy Wink with Wink Research and Consulting said although prices vary by species and region, most fisheries should see stable or higher prices this year. >click to read<08:20

Norton Sound: Expect Strong Salmon Runs This Summer

Salmon runs in the Norton Sound area are expected to be at least as strong as last year, with the exception of king, or Chinook, salmon. That’s according to Jim Menard, the Norton Sound and Kotzebue area fisheries manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “We think things are going good. And we just don’t want to be surprised with another crash. The sun’s shining right now, and we’re counting on a good year. The only long-term trend we’ve seen is the downward spiral of the king salmon.” >click to read<14:01

Copper failure

The commercial fishing season for Copper River salmon – the most coveted of Alaska fish – is shaping up as a disaster for the isolated fishing community of Cordova. Prices paid to fishermen are now reported at $9.50 per pound for prime fish, but there just aren’t many fish to be had and most of them are small. “Absolutely unprecedented” is how Stormy Haught, the area research biologists for Alaska Department of Fish and Game described the situation Wednesday. Haught is well aware of the long, detailed history of Cooper River commercial fisheries because he’s been back through all the data looking for a parallel to this season that might indicate to fishery managers how they can expect the run to play out going forward. >click to read<08:18

Copper River sockeye run likely to fall well below forecast

The Copper River commercial sockeye fishery is likely to fall below forecast for the second year in a row. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed one of the fishery’s 12-hour openings last week due to low escapement and abysmal harvest levels. That trend continued this week with a slow fishing period on Monday, and the department announced Wednesday that it’s closing the fishery on Thursday for the second week in a row. >click to read<07:40

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biologists expect early 2018 Togiak herring run

This year, Togiak could see one of the earliest herring harvests ever recorded. “We’re going to fly our first survey on Friday. And then I expect we’ll be seeing herring by [April] 20th, if not sooner,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game area biologist Tim Sands.  That would be the Togiak fishery’s second-earliest start on record. The earliest recorded date a biomass was spotted in the district was April 14, 2016. But because of the unusual timing, fishing only began three days later. Herring spawn timing depends largely on water temperature >click to read<16:06

Commercial fishermen hit hard by king cuts

Commercial king salmon fishermen will have a tough time making ends meet this summer. The all-gear harvest limit for Chinook salmon — the pot of king salmon divided between gear groups in Southeast — is about 40 percent smaller this year, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Wednesday. The reduction, from nearly 210,000 fish in 2017 to 130,000 in 2018, is based on an index of the abundance of fish ADFG expects to spawn on Southeast and transboundary rivers this summer. ADFG is expecting record-low returns of king salmon,,, >click to read<10:36

Seals and sulking salmon are causing a data problem for Fish & Game

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a numbers problem. A statistical bias in the department’s data on the Taku River — conducted via a “mark-recapture” system for decades — means it has been overestimating how many Chinook and sockeye salmon make it up the river to spawn by about 30-40 percent. The statistical bias is now being corrected by new state-of-the-art studies, Fish and Game says, and much of the issue can be chalked up to seal predation. It also doesn’t mean either of the stocks are any worse off than they have been, ADFG says. But fishermen aren’t buying it. >click to read<13:52

Sea otter resolution gets first hearing in Senate committee, asking Congress to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act

A Senate committee Monday, March 12 heard from supporters and opponents of state involvement in the management of sea otters in Southeast Alaska. The Senate Resources committee held its first hearing on Senate joint resolution 13, which calls on the federal government to allow the state or a Native organization to co-manage the rebounding marine mammals and seek ways to increase harvest of otters. >click to read< 14:53

State seeks federal exemption to manage sea otters – The Legislature is considering two resolutions, one in the House and one in the Senate, asking Congress to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act and,,, >click to read<

As Alaskan Waters Warm, Market Squid Extend Their Reach Northward

Market squid could represent an economic lifeline here, and it’s one that Alaskan fishermen are eager to begin experimenting with.,,, Though scientists haven’t yet nailed down the cause, populations of valuable species like king salmon and Pacific grey cod, Schramek says, have fallen to as little as one-tenth of even their 2015 levels. With those populations at historic lows, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game now bans their catch during parts of their historical fishing season. The bright spot, however, is a small, color-changing squid.>click to read<12:26

No kings

Snow and ice still cover the tributaries of the Susitna River basin, but already the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is talking about closing the Chinook salmon fishery for the 2018 season. The agency’s fear for the drainages of both the Susitna and Little Susitna mirrors the 2017 fear for the 24,000-square-mile Copper River basin : No king salmon. In the case of the Copper last year, the state was faced with a scientifically calculated Chinook forecast calling for the return of 29,000 of the fish – only 5,000 more than were needed for spawning in streams located behind a gauntlet of commercial, subsistence, personal-use dipnet, and rod-and-reel fisheries. >click to read<14:48

Prince William Sound pinks find their way into Cook Inlet commercial harvest

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has been conducting a limited study on straying hatchery pink salmon around lower Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay to see whether fish from the Tutka Bay Lagoon and Port Graham hatcheries have been spawning in wild streams, but to its surprise, it discovered Prince William Sound hatchery fish in several local systems. But hatchery pinks from the Sound are also winding up in the commercial harvest. >click to read<15:24

Largest Chinook salmon disappearing from West Coast

The largest and oldest Chinook salmon — fish also known as “kings” and prized for their exceptional size — have mostly disappeared along the West Coast. That’s the main finding of a new University of Washington-led study published Feb. 27 in the journal Fish and Fisheries. The researchers analyzed nearly 40 years of data from hatchery and wild Chinook populations from California to Alaska, looking broadly at patterns that emerged over the course of four decades and across thousands of miles of coastline. In general, Chinook salmon populations from Alaska showed the biggest reductions in age and size, with Washington salmon a close second. >click to read<17:14

Commercial fleet highlights economic impact of Sitka Sound herring catch

Despite three days of impassioned testimony before the Board of Fisheries in January, not much has changed for the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery, which will ramp up in about a month. Local subsistence harvesters won an increase in the size of their exclusive use area, but failed to persuade the board to reduce the commercial catch. Fishermen and processors from Petersburg joined with other commercial interests to remind the board of the economic importance of the annual springtime export. >click to read< 14:53

Cuts in commercial fishing budgets lead to reductions in staffing leading to a potential loss in fishing opportunity.

Budget cuts at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have led to reductions in staffing in the commercial fishing division, leading to a potential loss in fishing opportunity. Since fiscal year 2015, just before the drop in oil prices that led the state to its current fiscal crisis, Fish and Game has seen an approximately 36.4 percent cut in general fund dollars from the state, coming out to an approximately 8.3 percent cut in the total department funding, or $3.9 million less. >click to read< 14:26

Snow crab landing in Bering Sea

The Bering Sea opilio snow crab fishery is slowly moving forward, with 2 percent of the quota landed. Eight vessels made nine landings for a total weight in the past week of some 471,000 pounds, from a quota of 18.5 million pounds, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Unalaska. The number of snow crab per pot is down somewhat from the same period last year. The most recent count was 201 crustaceans last week, down from 238 last year, according to Fish and Game. “From talking to the fleet, it’s been a slow start for the boats that are out there opie fishing,” said state fisheries biologist Ethan Nichols. But it’s likely to pick up, >click here to read<17:53

Board votes down change in Southeast Dungeness crab season

Crabber Max Worhatch proposed the change and successfully got the board to add the proposal to the meeting after missing the deadline for regulation changes.“I would like to seriously consider this,” Worhatch told the board. “I put a proposal in, just like this three years ago, didn’t get anywhere. The department felt like they had to have something to manage the fishery when it got to the low end. But in my experience and just from what I’ve seen in Oregon, California and Washington, size sex and season for Dungeness crab works and it works extremely well. It’s kindof an autopilot thing, doesn’t take a lot of work.” >click here to read< 10:22