Tag Archives: Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Golden fish

Update: This story was updated on May 21, 2017 to include new prices. In economic crisis, there is often opportunity. Commercial fishermen in Cordova, Alaska are at the moment worrying mightily about what the rest of their fishing season will bring given the prediction of a record weak-return of Copper River king season. But what the ocean gods have brought so far are sky-high prices for a higher than expected catch of a thought-to-be struggling run of fish. The first, 12-hour opening of the season was expected to result in the harvest of only a few hundred kings given a prediction of a weak return and fishing-area closures the Alaska Department of Fish and Game ordered to protect areas where kings have usually been caught in the past. Despite those closures, however, fishermen caught almost 1,900 of the big fish, a catch bigger than in last year’s opener. Most fishermen in the Cordova fleet of 500 gillnetters were reported to be getting dock prices of $10.30 per pound for king, but some were doing much better. click here to read the story 18:20

Fisheries board says no to emergency petition on Copper River fishery

An emergency petition that would have increased closures and restrictions on the Copper River commercial salmon fishery that gets underway this week was defeated May 17 during a special meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries in Anchorage. The vote was 3-4. The Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee had submitted the petition asking the board to require the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to publish an additional emergency order on commercial fishery management actions to be taken to assure the sustainable escapement goal for king salmon for the Copper River in 2017. ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten responded to the petition earlier, saying that he concluded that the situation did not warrant such action. click here to read the story 08:53

Copper River disaster

This is a developing story – No one seems to have any idea what sort of astronomical price a rare and iconic Copper River king salmon from Alaska might demand when the commercial fishing season opens in about a week – if there are any fish to be sold. The Alaska Board of Fisheries is facing an emergency petition to ban the sale of the big fish in the name of conservation. Alaska subsistence fishermen who are supposed to have a fishing priority but have already been told they will be restricted to a limit of two kings each for the entire season are talking about the possibility of a lawsuit if the state allows the commercial king fishery to open. And even if the start of the fishery proceeds as scheduled on May 18, the opening day catch is expected to be no more than a few hundred fish, if that, given that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has already ordered the closure of fishing areas where most kings are caught. click here to read the article. 09:45

2017 sockeye forecast weak for Cook Inlet

Upper Cook Inlet’s commercial salmon fishermen are predicted to have another slow season, if the forecast proves accurate. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s 2017 commercial salmon fishery outlook predicts a total run of about 4 million fish to all the stream systems in Upper Cook Inlet, which includes the Kenai, Kasilof and Susitna rivers as well as a number of smaller streams. Commercial fishermen are projected to harvest about 1.7 million of that, the lowest projected harvest in the last 15 years. It’s largely the Kenai River not living up to the recent 10-year average. The river is projected to see a return of 2.2 million sockeye, about 39 percent below the recent 10-year average of 3.6 million fish. By contrast, the Susitna River is projected to see about 366,000 sockeye return, about 5 percent below the average; the Kasilof River is expected to see about 825,000 sockeye, about 16 percent below the recent average, according to the forecast. Better than 2016 – Improving prices – Board of Fisheries changes – click here to read the story 08:29

Weak Meats: Researchers identify widespread parasite in Alaska scallops

A lot of Alaska’s scallops are sick, and scientists are trying to figure out why. Alaska’s scallop fishery is a small one — in recent years, four boats, with just one operating in Kamishak Bay in Lower Cook Inlet. The rest operate out of Kodiak. Most scallop beds straddle the three-nautical mile line between state and federal management areas and is jointly managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The permit system is attached to vessels rather than to individuals, restricting the entire fishery to nine vessels total under the federal system. But in recent years, the fishermen have had to start tossing a lot back. When they pull them up, a lot show signs of degraded meat with brown spots and a stringy texture and will occasionally slip off the shells at the processor. The condition, called “weak meats,” results in a lot of waste in the scallop fishery, as processors aren’t interested in buying scallops with weak meats. click here to read the story 09:46

Fish Politics – Victim of the state

Once revered for world-leading skills at managing wild salmon, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game today finds itself under attack as incompetent as the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council begins court-ordered consideration of salmon management in the federal waters of Cook Inlet. The most powerful commercial fishing organization in the 49th state’s most populated region says its members have been robbed of $33 million over the past six years thanks to state mismanagement of salmon, and they want the federal government to make things right. The United Cook Inlet Drift Association forced the management issue into federal court hoping to get its nets around more salmon. It now accuses Fish and Game’s Commercial Fisheries Division of grossly mismanaging runs bound for the Kenai, Kasilof and Susitna rivers for years.,,The state rebuilt them to record levels, but along the way the politics of fish changed. click here to continue this Big Read 10:55

‘Deadliest Catch’ Faces Its Own Extinction – The crabs are missing in the Bering Sea, and the series may soon have nothing to film.

If Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” is in trouble, it’s climate change – not ratings – that may hasten the show’s demise. Over the last year, temperatures rose about four degrees in the Bering Sea, which is 50 times the global average. As filming began for the 13th season of “Deadliest Catch,” which premieres Tuesday night, the show’s fishermen had to contend with a serious problem: With warming waters, the crabs have moved elsewhere. “The first thing that you need in order to film a show about crab fishing are the crabs,” said executive producer R. Decker Watson, Jr. “If the crabs don’t show up, then we’re all out of business.” The Alaska Department of Fish and Game sets an annual quota system on crab fishing, depending on a survey they take in the spring and summer. This past year, they found that half the crab was missing, and quotas were cut across the board.“We didn’t know if we were even going to be on the water long enough to film the 20 hours of ‘Deadliest Catch’ for the season,” Watson said. “It became a much more difficult fight for each skipper… It worries me for the future of the fishermen, they’re really having to fight to save their way of life. But it makes for great television.” Indeed, the fishermen’s struggle became a major part of the story this season. click here to read the story 20:03

Pendulum ticks toward commercial fishermen as Cook Inlet meeting wraps

The Board of Fisheries pendulum may have swung, but it’s still attached to the same clockwork. The triennial Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries meeting ended March 8, leaving behind a big fish goal for the Kenai River late king salmon run, potential expanded hours for the Cook Inlet drift and setnet fleets, and a brand new early run king salmon plan on the Kenai River. Though the tone was mild compared to that of 2014, the same grudges against the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the board, and among rival user groups are bubbling away. After three years of buildup following an emotional 2014 meeting, the 2017 marathon was sparsely attended and largely civil, focusing mainly on what ADFG Commercial Fisheries Division Operations Manager Forrest Bowers called “minor changes.” “This early run king plan, that’s probably the biggest change outside the large fish goal,” Bowers said. “With the late run sockeye plan, there was a long discussion but at the end of the day it didn’t really do much. The late run king plan, I mean, again, long discussion, relaxed the August restriction a bit, but it’s fundamentally the same.”  continue reading the article here 13:25

Alaska Crab fishery faces identity crisis, while Fishermen have a tough time finding snow crab

Fishermen are having the toughest time in the past five years finding snow crab, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in Unalaska. The fleet of 60 crab boats had caught 16. 6 million pounds, for 74 percent of the quota in the Bering Sea, ADF&G biologist Ethan Nichols in Unalaska said Monday. But based on the number of crab in an average pot, the catch has plummeted from a peak of 237 to 116 in the most recent weekly tally, he said. The average weight is 1.3 pounds per individual snow crab, he said. continue reading the story hereCrab fishery faces identity crisis.  Is it a bairdi Tanner or is it an opilio Tanner snow crab? Or is it something in between, a hybrid? The Bering Sea commercial crab fishery is facing an issue fundamental to identity, and in what fishery which crustaceans can legally appear. In this issue, it’s up to the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Crabbers and their allies in the Pribilof Islands say a hybrid should be considered part of the catch of whatever the fishermen are targeting, whether Tanner bairdi or Tanner opilio. While both have Tanner in their names, the bairdi are commonly known as Tanners, while the typically smaller opilio are called snow crab. continue reading the story here 12:10

Cook Inlet Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting to kick off with new faces, old grudges

The Alaska Board of Fisheries has a full plate for its triennial Upper Cook Inlet finfish meeting beginning Feb. 23 and running through March 3 in Anchorage. The board will look quite different with three new members since the last meeting and so does the fishery after three years of restriction, tight markets, lawsuits, and accusations of disregarding the best science that revolve around the board decisions at its last Upper Cook Inlet meeting in 2014. Chinook, or king, salmon stocks on the Kenai River and around the state started to plummet in the late 2000s, and in 2014, the Board of Fisheries approved paired restrictions directing the Alaska Department of Fish and Game had to take certain actions when the Kenai king fishery was restricted, including limiting commercial fishing time. Sport representatives generally thought it fair to share the burden of conservation, while commercial fishermen said it hit them harder than the sportfishermen. This year, nearly 200 proposals from commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen will try to overhaul entire fishery management plans, revise escapement goals, expand or contract fishing areas and openings hours, add or remove new gear types and in general try to open up more fishing opportunity for each respective group. Continue reading the article here 08:54

Seafood groups pick up $5.9M tab for ADF&G hatchery salmon research

Processors and seven hatcheries have agreed to pony up millions to keep an Alaska Department of Fish and Game research project going. Pacific Seafood Processors Association and Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association Inc., committed $5.9 million to support the Wild/Hatchery Salmon Management Tools capital project. The project is intended to fuel management decisions around Alaska’s 29 salmon hatcheries, as well as secure a more marketable reputation for Alaska hatchery stocks. The program was originally started in 2012 as a collaboration between ADFG, the PSPA and private nonprofit hatcheries. Continue reading the story here 10:18

Fish war on?

After the smallest Kenai River dipnet catch in eight years, there are hints that the little people of Alaska’s urban core might at last be arriving at the realization that they are the only ones who can protect their interest in Alaska salmon for dinner. A message populating on social media over the weekend was calling dipnetters to a “meeting at Cabela’s, Anchorage sunday evening from 6 to 7 concerning dipnetting and BOF. Pass it on.” BOF is the acronym for the Board of Fisheries for the state of Alaska. It is the entity that sets seasons and catch limits for commercial, sport and personal-use fisheries around the state. It will later this month take up the issue of management of Cook Inlet salmon, an always contentious matter in which the interests of average Alaskan  fishermen and women have historically proven secondary. To a large degree, fishery managers with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game say, this is simply unavoidable. Commercial fishermen working offshore in the Inlet get the first crack at returning salmon, and the commercial fishery is the big dog in the management scheme. Salmon managers use it to regulate the numbers of salmon getting into streams all around the region with the intent being to maximize the catch while still meeting spawning goals. Continue reading the article here 09:06

Southeast’s first crab fisheries of the year set to open

Alaska has dozens of crab species—about seven that are commercial harvested. So what’s Tanner crab like? To help answer that question, I asked Joe Stratman, the lead crab biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Southeast. He says Tanners are related to the popular snow crab. “What I always liken it to is when they’re at the buffet line in Los Vegas they often see snow crab which is a kind of Chionoecetes opilio. Our Tanner crab in Southeast looks very similar to that. It’s a little larger,” Stratman said. Recent markets seem to like Tanner crab too. Last year’s harvest in Southeast was valued at nearly $3 million dollars. 74 permit holders participated in the fishery. They brought in a total of just over 1.3 million pounds. The price per pound averaged $2.23 which is thirty cents higher than the year before. Read the story here 11:54

Fishermen forced to share spawning pounds in spawn-on-kelp herring fishery

The spawn-on-kelp fishery allows fishermen to catch herring near Craig and Klawock and put them into floating net pens called pounds. Blades of kelp are also put in there for the herring to spawn on. The eggs are then sold to Asian markets. Scott Walker is the Area Management Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Ketchikan. He’s been helping manage the spawn-on-kelp fishery since it began in 1992. “We have been seeing throughout Southeast Alaska right now a downturn of herring stocks,” Walker said. In the past the fishermen were restricted by the number of blades of kelp they were allowed to use in their pounds. Now, fishermen will also be forced to share a pen with at least five other permit holders. The effort will mean less pounds being used, which is what the state is after, says Walker. Last year 46 structures were fished, the year before it was 76. This year it’s limited to 20 pens. Audio report, read the story here 16:26

Southeast Alaska winter troll season slow

Commercial troll fishing for king salmon in Southeast Alaska this winter is not like it has been the last few years. The troll fleet catch and the number of boats out fishing are both well down from last year and also below the five and ten-year averages. By late January, the catch had neared 8,000 Chinook, with more than half of those kings landed in the waters around Sitka Sound. Eight thousand is just one quarter of what the catch was at this time last year.“I would say that the past three years have been phenomenal for the troll fishery so seeing a decrease now doesn’t necessarily mean that the fishery’s terrible, it just means that we’re going back to lower averages,” said Rhea Ehresmann is assistant troll management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Read the story here 19:07

Strong harvests, more oversight marked 2016 groundfish fisheries

Last year was a good year overall for groundfish fisheries in the region. With a few standout harvests and favorable proposals with the Board of Fisheries, managers are feeling optimistic heading into the new year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game oversees several groundfish fisheries within the Cook Inlet Management Area, which extends outside of Kachemak Bay to the north Gulf coast. “These fisheries include Pacific cod, sablefish, a directed pelagic shelf rockfish fishery, lingcod, and a small commissioner’s permit Pollock fishery,” said Jan Rumble, Fish and Game area groundfish management biologist. Pacific cod stood out in 2016 as it was open all year long for pot and jig gear in either a parallel or state waters fishery, Rumble said. Read the story here 11:19

Board of Fish finalizes recommendations on fish habitat permitting

The state Board of Fisheries, the body that sets regulations on state-overseen fisheries, voted to send a letter to the Legislature at its Kodiak meeting, held Jan. 10–Jan. 13 recommending the state review Title 16 of the Alaska Statute, which addresses how the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game should issue permits in streams determined to be fish habitat. Any activity that may use, divert, obstruct or change the natural flow of a body of water determined to be fish habitat requires a permit, granted by the commissioner of Fish and Game. The current statute says the commissioner shall grant a permit unless an activity is deemed “insufficient for the proper protection of fish and game.” The request was born out of a non-regulatory proposal submitted to the board for its 2016/2017 cycle by a group of 13 citizens of various user groups in fisheries. Read the story here 09:46

Study shows Cook Inlet sockeye harvested in Kodiak

New genetic data indicates that many of the sockeye harvested by Kodiak’s commercial fishery may originate from Cook Inlet streams. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game published a study in December compiling three years of research into the genetics of sockeye salmon harvested by commercial fishermen in the Kodiak Management Area. In 2014, local Kodiak-origin stocks of sockeye salmon contributed 88 percent of the harvest, but in 2015 and 2016, they only contributed 58 percent of the harvest, according to the study. Almost all the rest of the harvest was Cook Inlet-origin stocks. In 2014, 8 percent of the harvest turned out to be from Cook Inlet. In 2015, that portion was 37 percent, and in 2016 it was 30 percent, according to the study. Chignik-origin sockeye salmon comprised another 10 percent, according to the study.  Read the rest here 08:56

Ringing in new round of ‘fish wars’ as ADFG manages budget

In the face of yet another round of budget cuts, Alaska’s largest private employer, the seafood industry, will have entirely new management schemes to sort out and live under in 2017 alongside status quo projections for harvest in key fisheries. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will take another budget cutback responding to the state’s multi-billion dollar deficit that has yet to be patched. Gov. Bill Walker released a proposed fiscal year 2018 budget on Dec. 15. Among other cuts, Walker proposes a budget of $28.9 million for ADFG. This is a 36 percent reduction from the fiscal year 2015. ADFG will have to find ways to deal with budget cuts to monitor key fisheries stocks, including the iconic king salmon that has fallen in abundance beginning in the late 2000s. Further, commercial fisheries management programs will suffer,,, Fish wars renewed – As usual, much of Alaska’s year will center around salmon. Among the biggest items for Alaska’s state fisheries will be the two-week 2017 Upper Cook Inlet meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Read the rest of the article here 16:25

Southeast Alaska Dungeness fall harvest was lower than expected

The fall harvest was approximately 403,000 pounds. That’s about 150,000 pounds less than last year. Kellii Wood is a Crab Biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. She says they’ve seen harvests like this before but it’s been a while. “It’s definitely down from previous years,” Wood says. “We have been lower but I believe it was in the 90s.” Wood says the harvest is far below the five year fall average of 732,000 pounds. About one-fifth of the year’s harvest comes in the fall. This year was just a little below that. Wood says the recent average is a bit skewed when you consider 2014. It was an unusually good year seeing the third highest fall harvest on record since the 1960s. That fall fishermen harvested about a million pounds. Listen to the audio report here 13:55

2017 Bristol Bay sockeye forecast in line with recent average

bristolbaysockeyesBristol Bay can look forward to a regular season in 2017 after two years of hard work, if the forecast is to be believed. Alaska’s largest sockeye run has blown past projections the last two years, but next year the Alaska Department of Fish and Game predicts an average harvest. “A total of 41.47 million sockeye salmon (range 31.20–51.73 million) are expected to return to Bristol Bay in 2017,” according to an ADFG report released Nov. 15. “This is virtually identical to the most recent 10-year average of Bristol Bay total runs (41.39) and 27 percent greater than the long-term mean of 32.76 million.” For commercial fishermen, this means next year’s harvest will also be average, with a commercial harvest of 29 million. “A Bristol Bay harvest of this size is 2 percent lower than the most recent 10-year harvest which has ranged from 15.43 million to 37.53 million, and 34 percent greater than the long-term harvest average of 20.52 million fish (1963 to present),” the report states. Read the rest here 15:14

Sockeye forecast adds concern to Board of Fisheries process

adfg-logoUpper Cook Inlet salmon fishery stakeholders should be concerned with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s 2017 sockeye forecast for many reasons — not the least of which is that the predicted low harvest will inject even more economic and allocation concerns into the debate when the Board of Fisheries meets in February. This past week, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported that Fish and Game is forecasting a return of 4 million sockeye salmon, with an expected commercial harvest of 1.7 million — about 1.2 million fish less than the 20-year average harvest. Based on 2016 prices, a harvest of 1.7 million sockeye would be worth $10.4 million to Upper Cook Inlet commercial fishermen, which is roughly half the value of this year’s harvest of 2.4 million fish. For the fish board, which sets fishery regulations, seeing a low sockeye forecast ahead of an Upper Cook Inlet meeting is akin to the economy taking a dive right before a presidential election. Each side will have its own theory as to who or what has caused the decline — and that certainly will color the debate at the Board of Fisheries meeting. Read the rest here 09:39

Record high prices expected for red king crab fleet

red-king-crab-2432px-608x400The Bristol Bay red king crab season is moving at a fast pace, with most of the quota already harvested. While state regulators slashed quotas, a crab industry official says fishermen are seeing plenty of all species, and are expecting record high prices. On Tuesday, the fleet had landed 7.5 million pounds, for 89 percent of the red king crab quota, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Unalaska. Only 18 boats were still registered, down from the peak of 62 vessels. The season opened on Oct. 15. While the red king crab prices are expected at record highs, that’s the one bright spot for the major crab fisheries in the Bering Sea. Tanner crab has been canceled because of conservation concerns. The snow crab quota was nearly cut in half, compared to last year. Now, more fishermen than ever are expected to try to fill their pots with another species, Pacific cod, according to Krista Milani, a fisheries biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, in Unalaska. While she’ll know more next week, she reports a “very unusual” amount of fishing boats planning to go directly into Pacific cod from red king crab. Read the story here 09:57

Bristol Bay Red King Crab Fishery Starts Strong Despite Low Stock Assessment

The red king crab fishery is off to a booming start in Bristol Bay, despite predictions of a down season. The fleet has caught two-thirds of its quota in just a dozen days, and managers say fishermen are unloading big, beautiful crab at the dock. Gordon Christiansen is a commercial fisherman with more than 40 years of experience in Bering Sea. This season, he said the crab were especially voracious eaters, quick to fill the pots dropped by his crew on the F/V Aleutian Mariner. “From the time we set pots in the water, we were done in 60 hours,” said Christiansen. “It was amazing, tremendous fishing. We’d like to go out again and do it again tomorrow.” Having already harvested their 120,000-pound allocation, his seven-vessel fleet is finished for the season. The average crab from their haul weighed just over seven pounds — a half-pound larger than normal, according to Christiansen. Read the story here 09:07

Members of Alaska crab industry are holding out hope for high prices and a late fishery.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries hasn’t yet decided whether to review harvest guidelines for Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab and potentially open the season in January or earlier, or leave the fishery closed entirely for the next two years. Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game cut the quota for snow crab by 50 percent and for Bristol Bay red king crab by 15 percent. Despite the cuts, crab industry stakeholders say the season for Bristol Bay red king crab is moving along at more than a healthy clip. “Some good news from the grounds, the crab look good. They’re heavy. There’s a lot of small crab, females. Folks are seeing pots just plugged with crab — so full they can’t get another one in,” said Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, a crab harvesting cooperative with 188 members that together harvest 70 percent of Alaska’s crab. Jacobsen said that given the density of the fishing, he wonders why the surveys that measure abundance didn’t pick anything up.“The reports I’ve got, maybe the people who aren’t doing so well don’t say anything,” he said. “There’s a lot of very optimistic reports from the grounds. I’m not sure what happened with the survey last summer.” Read the story here 16:53

Yukon kings are on the rebound, Canadians, however, are fishing less

yukonsalmonYukon River chinook stocks are on the upswing, according to a season summary, though not everybody is fishing for the surplus. Holly Carroll, the area management biologist for the Yukon River section of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the painful restrictions on subsistence harvests have paid off. “We wouldn’t have made escapement goals at all if we hadn’t restricted harvest,” Carroll said. “We have to restrict the harvest just to meet the bare minimum for sustaining the run. The restrictions in the subsistence fishery have helped to build the numbers back up.” With 176,895 fish past the sonar counter at Pilot Station, the 2016 chinook run has nosed back up to the most recent 20-year average of 178,000. Along with total run numbers, the amount of chinook into Canada is improving. However, First Nations communities and Canada fisheries managers have different ideas than Alaska, and much of the run sent over the border went unharvested. A major goal of ADFG Yukon River management aims to send between 42,500 and 55,000 chinook salmon over the Canadian border at Eagle as per the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Read the story here 15:54

It’s time to talk crab season projections – NPFMC to meet to approve catch limits, discuss management plan

red-king-crab-2432px-608x400The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet in Anchorage from Oct. 5-11 to overview crab season projections, hear further discussions of halibut management, and decide what to do about a recent federal appeals court decision that will require more attention to salmon management. The council will approve catch limits for the 2016-17 crab fisheries and review the stock assessment for the last year. Stocks for both snow crab and Bairdi Tanner crab were down according to surveys in 2016, and stakeholders are holding their breath to see if the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will need to close fisheries if abundance doesn’t meet the department thresholds. The crab fishing management plan, or FMP, requires federal scientists to set an overfishing limit, or OFL, and an acceptable biological catch, or ABC. Based on these numbers, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will determine a total allowable catch, or TAC, under its joint management with the council. Read the story here 14:13

Bristol Bay Sockeye output blows previous seasons out of water

bristolbaypullingFor the third season in a row, the world’s largest sockeye salmon run featured above-average numbers, a late run, and sub-average prices for the fishermen. Unlike last year, however, the fishermen’s pockets so far aren’t as empty in 2016, and the overall market outlook seems to have improved. In terms of output, the summer of 2016 blew previous sockeye seasons out of the water, second only to last year’s run of 59 million. “The 2016 inshore Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run of 51.4 million fish ranks 2nd out of the last 20 years (1996–2015) and was 46 percent above the 35.1 million average run for the same period,” according to a season summary from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Along with being above average run, the 2016 Bristol Bay sockeye harvest surpassed ADFG forecasts. “The 37.3 million sockeye salmon commercial harvest was 26 percent above the 29.5 million preseason forecast,” the summary reads. “All escapement goals were met or exceeded, with a total sockeye salmon escapement of 14.1 million fish. A total of 29,545 chinook salmon were harvested in Bristol Bay in 2016.” Read the story here 17:03

Unalaska joins emergency petition on tanner crab

23tannersizeThis season, the unpredictable tanner crab population isn’t looking so good for Aleutian fishermen. That’s what the state’s trawl survey indicated this summer. But the City of Unalaska has joined an emergency petition urging the Alaska Board of Fisheries to take another look. At a City Council meeting last week, Frank Kelty explained the survey showed low numbers for female tanners. That’s led the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to consider serious conservation measures. “The whole fishery could be shut down,” Kelty said. But the problem isn’t affecting the whole fishery. Kelty said data indicates the eastern tanner stock is struggling with low female biomass, but not the western stock. Read the rest here 10:47

High expectation, a season of disappointment – Upper Cook Inlet commercial fishing winds down

upper cook inlet fishingThe boom of fish the commercial operations in Upper Cook Inlet expected never arrived this year. High preseason expectations made the 2016 season a disappointment for many commercial fishermen. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game originally projected about 7.1 million sockeye salmon to return to the Upper Cook Inlet streams, but by Wednesday, only 5.2 million had. The harvest of approximately 3,023,462 million fish wasn’t the lowest in the last decade — 2009 and 2006 both had lower harvests, with approximately 2.5 million and 2.9 million fish harvested, respectively. Altogether, the commercial fishery has harvested 2,382,167 sockeye salmon and 379,064 pinks, the two most populous species commercial fishermen harvest, as of Aug. 22. They also caught 127,971 coho, 124,648 chum and 9,612 king salmon, according to Fish and Game data. Read the story here 10:53

Fish and Game cuts gold king crab quota despite lack of data

crab9Despite industry claims of a fishery in “robust condition,” golden king crab, long the most stable of all the commercial shellfish species in the Bering Sea, has taken a steep cut in the quota in the western district, to 2.235 million pounds, down from 2.98 million, a 25 percent drop because of declines in all indicators, including size, weight, and catch, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The season opened Aug. 1 in both districts, separated near Atka Island. The eastern quota is unchanged at 3.310 million pounds. The decline has been gradually occurring for at least the past four years, according to shellfish biologist Miranda Westphal, of Fish and Game in Unalaska. But you wouldn’t have thought the fishery’s future was anything but bright, if you only listened to the gold crabbers’ efforts to boost the quotas a couple of years ago, with claims of a “surplus” by their lobbyist who criticized the regulators who failed to vote his way. Read the story here 16:26

Stikine sockeye run is the best return in a decade

untitled Stikine KingsWhile the King salmon run for gill netters turned out to be worse than preseason estimates, the opposite holds true for sockeye. The state managed sockeye fishery began June 13. Biologists predicted a strong run but were cautious for the first few weeks to let more King salmon into the Stikine River. They limited openings to two days a week and prohibited fishing near the river’s opening. After most of the Stikine Kings passed, managers saw that the sockeye run was coming in strong. Troy Thynes is the Area Management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game based in Petersburg. “Sockeye’s are looking pretty good this year, at least locally,” Thynes said. “We’re fairly certain that we’re going to exceed preseason expectations. Especially with the Taltan River component of the run that came in really, really strong.” Stikine sockeye are shared equally between the U.S. and Canada because the river runs through both countries. It’s part of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Canada has taken about 69,000 sockeye and U.S. fishermen 66,000. Audio, read the rest here 12:33

Southeast Alaska Dungeness crabbers see full-length summer, fall seasons

dungenesscrabCommercial Dungeness crabbers have a full two-month summer and two-month fall season for most of Southeast Alaska again this year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced this week the summer season would continue through August 15 and a fall season is planned for October and November. The season length is set based on the catch from the first week of fishing. Crabbing opened on June 15th. Adam Messmer, the department’s shellfish assistant manager for Southeast, says the total season catch is projected to wind up at 2.89 million pounds and the quality of the catch has started off well. “There’s a lot of people saying that there was really hard crab, full crab, not a lot of soft shell around, which is kindof an odd thing for this time of year, usually there’s at least a reasonable percentage of soft shell but it sounds like a lot of good, really high quality crab,” Messmer said. Read the rest here 09:31

Alaska Salmon Harvest Nears 5 Million Fish

image05-04-2016-09.01.43-300x224Commercial harvests of Alaska’s wild salmon have expanded statewide, with total deliveries nearing 5 million fish, including nearly 3 million sockeyes. Preliminary harvest figures compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show that in the westward region, processors in the Alaska Peninsula have received 950,000 humpies, 883,000 sockeyes, 134,000 chums and fewer than 1,000 cohos. At Chignik, the catch reached 334,000 reds, 16,000 chums, 7,000 pinks and 1,000 kings, and at Kodiak 176,000 sockeyes, 63,000 chums, 8,000 pinks and 1,000 kings. In Prince William Sound,,, Read the rest here 10:25

Commercial Dungeness fishery opens Wednesday in Southeast Alaska

dungenesscrabThe summer commercial Dungeness crab fishery in Southeast opens Wednesday at 8 a.m. After a record season two years ago, and an average catch in last season, officials are anticipating more crabbers on the water this week. Stuart DeWitt has been commercial fishing for dungy for close to five years. He’s one of a few fishermen in Haines that drops pots before starting the commercial salmon season. According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Dungeness crab went for an average of $2.95 a pound during the 2014-2015 season. Last season, the average was $3.02 per pound, an all-time high since the mid ‘80s when the department started tracking prices. The 2014-15 season was a banner harvest, with around $14 million worth of crab garnered, or around 5 million pounds. Last season yielded about 3.2 million pounds. Audio report, read the rest here 08:56

Bristol Bay Fishermen prep for 2016 reg changes

akirabrooke_dillingham_harborThe Bristol Bay salmon fishery will see some changes this year, from when fishermen have to declare a district and how tenders accept deliveries from d-boats, to when the Wood River Special Harvest Area can be used. Among the changes made by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the State Board of Fisheries is one that will affect most fishermen early in the season, no matter their district. This year, drifters must register in the district in which they intend to fish right from the get go. Gone is the time to test the waters in different areas before committing to one. Once a fishermen is committed, there’s mandatory wait before they can switch. That change was made by the state Board of Fisheries in December, and was widely supported by public testimony and the Bristol Bay area advisory committees. But Dillingham drift fisherman Bronson Brito was one of few who opposed the change this winter, and said in mid-May that it’ll effect how he starts his season. Audio,  Read the rest here 16:46

The countdown is on for fresh Copper River salmon.

87864-COPPER-RIVER---Fishermen-in-Cordova_10sThe Alaska Department of Fish and Game has announced the first opening of the Copper River salmon fishing season. The opener is scheduled for 12 hours beginning at 7:00 am and closing at 7:00 pm on Monday, May 16, 2016. As with all Alaska fisheries, the name of the game is sustainability. Fishery managers must be confident that the run is on track to meet escapement goals (the number of salmon that must make it to the spawning grounds to ensure long-term health of the run) before they provide fishing opportunity. Commercial salmon fishermen have fished Copper River salmon for well over a century, which provides fishery managers a wealth of historical data. Throughout the years, an opening date near May 15 has provided for sustainable yield. Read the rest here  10:00

Togiak herring harvested after surprisingly early opener – roe yield sampled at 15 percent!

aerial_survey_1togiakThe first commercial harvest of Togiak herring this season was reported Tuesday. The season started much sooner than expected, and the processors and the fleet have been struggling to get on the grounds since commercial effort was opened Sunday evening. “One company did manage to buy some fish,” said area management biologist Tim Sands Wednesday morning. “We’re still getting reports that it’s too windy in most places to fish, and turbid enough that it’s hard to even see fish. I think other companies are there, and ready to go.” When two companies or less are buying, the Dept. of Fish and Game keeps the details of the harvest confidential. Unofficially, word from the grounds is that the herring caught were big, and the roe yield surprisingly high, perhaps 15 percent. Sands said he had heard the same. Audio, Read the rest here 14:33

Alaska’s Commercial salmon harvest expected to be leaner this summer

State biologists are forecasting a much leaner commercial salmon fishing season in Alaska this summer. Last year, fishermen caught 268 million salmon, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Biologists this year are expecting 161 million salmon to be harvested, a nearly 40 percent decline. The big drop is mostly due to fewer pink salmon expected to return. “Pinks typically have a strong year and then a weaker year. It’s an even-odd cycle. 2016 is an even year so we’ll have fewer pink salmon returning. That’s really what’s driving everything in that report,” said Richard Brenner, a fishery biologist who co-authored the report. Read the rest here 09:57

New Quota Closes Norton Sound Commercial Crab Fishery

red-king-crab-2432px-608x400Norton Sound’s commercial crab fishery closed Thursday. In the first season shortened by a new quota, winter fishermen harvested the allowed 41,376 pounds of red king crab in just over a month. Jim Menard is the area manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He said the Board of Fisheries imposed the new quota to better balance the winter and summer crab catches. The quota shrunk the winter season by several months and cut the harvest by more than half, compared to last year’s record-breaking haul. Still, Menard said commercial crabbers have had a lucrative winter. Read the rest here 13:57

Alaska trawlers furious about Walker’s council nominations

Two months after a heated meeting, trawlers are again accusing Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten of short-changing their industry. Gov. Bill Walker submitted nominations to fill two seats of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on March 9, sending waves of dissatisfaction throughout an industry segment that claims Walker’s administration is forcing it out of the process at the worst time possible. Trawlers claim nominees were chosen based on fealty to a specific vision of Alaska fisheries rather than experience. Read the rest here 08:07

Abundant returns, sustained yields testify that Alaska Board of Fisheries isn’t broken

Dolly-Varden-among-sockeye-salmonStarting in 2014, and continuing into 2016, members of United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA), a commercial fishing organization, and two former employees of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game who have since became advocates for Cook Inlet commercial fisheries, have claimed the Alaska Board of Fisheries is broken and needs reform. These are serious accusations and should be examined to determine whether there is evidence to support them. Read the rest here 08:29

Winter Crabbers Start Strong Despite New Quota for Norton Sound

DSC_2639-608x400Commercial crabbers are on track for another strong harvest on Norton Sound. So far, fishermen are on par with last year’s record-breaking catch, but they stand to make less money because of a new, reduced quota. According to Jim Menard, the area manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the new limit is less than half of last season’s total haul. “Last year, there were 99,000 pounds caught and this year, the quota is just over 41,000 pounds,” he said. “There will be a difference there.” Read the rest here 15:20

Tanner crabbing underway as consolidation adds complications

Fishing industry consolidation has complicated the lives of Tanner crab fishermen and processors, but it looks like they’ll still have access to the whole quota and won’t have to leave 10 percent in the water. Bering Sea commercial crab fisheries are underway, with fishermen catching Tanners at a faster pace than snow crab, according to Miranda Westphal, of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Unalaska. And Icicle Seafood’s withdrawal from the crab fishery shouldn’t leave any Tanners “stranded,” thanks to an emergency federal action. Read the post here 08:45

User conflicts over halibut, salmon on horizon for 2016

pacific_halibutThe year about to end saw the beginnings of some fisheries regulations and legal battles that will either resolve or present further issues in 2016. Halibut has dominated the federal fisheries agenda for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which oversees the Exclusive Economic Zone from 3 to 200 miles off the coast. Shrinking halibut stocks and dual management have collided to produce a fishery bitterly divided among bycatch users, directed users, and charter anglers struggling to make ends meet with fewer legally harvestable fish. Read the article here 16:04

ADF&G Releases Yukon Salmon Season Report

adfg-logoThere were a total of 44 commercial fishing openers for coho and chum in the Yukon River, most of which were held in the lower river districts. Commercial fisherman harvested approximately 190,00 chum and a record breaking almost 130,000 coho salmon, raking in a total of almost $1.5 million. That was part of the findings by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game who just released the 2015 season summary for the Yukon River salmon fishery. Read the rest here 12:04

Bristol Bay fishermen petition the State to intervene regarding sockeye salmon prices.

An online petition that went live Nov. 3 had more than 821 signatures from fishermen and other supporters as of Nov. 10, asking the State of Alaska to intervene regarding sockeye salmon prices. Erick Sabo started the. He wrote it up this summer, but waited to open it up for signatures until fall had come, and nothing had changed about the summer’s low prices. “I hate to see fifty cents, I can’t believe it,” he said. “I’ve been in a state of shock and depression since I put the boat up. And even though we’re at this terrible level, I think it is bringing people together.” Read the rest here 15:06

Alaska budget cuts lead to less fishing opportunity

kestral2-300x225Because of Alaska’s budget crisis, state agencies cut spending this year and are planning additional reductions in the next few years. For the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, those cuts have meant less monitoring of fish runs, a change that will lead to more conservative management and less fishing opportunity. ADFG commissioner Sam Cotten told the board members of the United Fishermen of Alaska at its fall meeting in Petersburg that the department is looking at several years of budget reductions. Read the rest here 17:42

Red crab fishing season underway

redkingcrabThe Bristol Bay red king crab fishing season is underway, and the quota is almost the same as last year’s, at 9.7 million pounds. That’s down slightly from last year, and so is the number of boats. On Tuesday, 58 boats were registered, and a few more are on their way north from Seattle, according to biologist Miranda Westphal of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in Unalaska. Last year, 63 crab boats were signed up, she said. The situation is different for another big Bering Sea crab fishery. When fishermen set pots for snow crab in a few months, they will have a lot less to catch. Read the rest here 19:11

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Doug Pengilly interprets crab catch numbers

snow crab alaskaLast week the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced catch limits for the state’s crab fisheries. On Monday, a Fish and Game biologist explained how the agency determined those catch limits to a group of crabbers in Seattle. Nine local crabbers gathered at Unalaska’s City Hall to tune into the conference call and ask questions. The biggest drop in total allowable catch – or the TAC – is for Bering Sea snow crab, also knowns as opilio. The total allowable catch this season for snow crab is just over 40 million pounds. That’s a forty percent drop from last season. Read the rest here 12:37

Prince William Sound salmon catch exceeds 104 M fish

State fisheries officials estimated that commercial fishermen inPWS salmon catch exceeds 104 M fish have landed 104,085,000 salmon through Oct. 2, and continued to urge gillnet fishermen to assure a market before harvesting more fish. The words of caution were contained in an Alaska Department of Fish and Game fishery update Oct. 2 for Prince William Sound. To date the statewide preliminary Alaska commercial salmon harvest blue sheet shows that the harvest from Prince William Sound includes 98,215,000 humpies, 3,133,000 sockeyes, 2,515,000 chums, 199,000 cohos and 24,000 Chinook salmon. Read the rest here 09:21

Yukon River salmon swim to Canada in higher numbers

Despite a below-average overall run, the most Yukon River king salmon in a decade have made it across the border on the way to their Canadian spawning grounds. About 83,000 fish went across the border this year. An international treaty mandates that at least 42,500 chinooks must get to Canada, but Alaska fishery managers have managed that goal in only two of the past four years. Between 118,000 and 140,000 chinooks were projected to enter the Yukon this year. Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials said it took severe chinook salmon restrictions,,, Read the rest here 08:51

2015 sockeye run produced underweight fish across state

With the bulk of the sockeye season over, biologists and fishermen have continued to notice smaller than average weight for one of Alaska’s most valuable exports. Workers statewide from offices of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or ADFG, noticed an early in-season trend of smaller-than-average fish. Throughout the state’s early season salmon fisheries, particularly sockeye and chum, fish were coming in shorter and lighter for their age. “The biggest reason would be lots of fish equals small fish,” “The catch last year (in Bristol Bay) was 28 million versus 35 million this year. Read the rest here 16:33

Bristol Bay fishery Tuesday July 28 update – The fish may have outlasted the fleet this year, returns are still continuing but effort is winding down.

FishinFoolJuly22 dillinghamThrough Monday, the total Bristol Bay sockeye run was estimated at 51,935,000, according to Area Management Biologist Tim Sands. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has stopped sending out daily run summaries, but managers are still tracking the activity. “It looks like we’ll break 52 million in the total run here today,” Sands said Tuesday. Although fish are still returning to Bristol Bay, buyers are shutting down. Sands said Tuesday that there were only two buyers in the Nushagak District. Read the rest here 16:52

ADF&G figures show commercial pinks slow to arrive in Southeast

Southeast Alaska fishermen have pulled in almost 10 million salmon so far this summer even as the pace of fishing remains below five-year averages, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. On Sunday, ADF&G reported seiners had hauled in 4.85 million pink salmon and 1.85 million chum salmon in the season to date. Gillnet boats brought in another 570,000 pinks and 1.5 million chum. While those figures sound impressive, Fish and Game has forecasted an excellent pink harvest of 58 million fish. Purse seining captures most of the pink salmon in Southeast. Read the rest here 14:46

Alaska Dept. Fish and Game loosens Kenai River king restrictions

A healthy Kenai River king salmon run is translating to more fish for everyone, while highlighting management concerns from east side setnetters. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order allowing for bait in the king salmon sport fishery on the Kenai River from the river mouth to Slikok Creek beginning 12:01 a.m., Saturday. Bait and multiple hooks are allowed on Kasilof River up to the Sterling Highway Bridge beginning the same time. This in turn opens the commercial sockeye fishery for extended hours they need,,, Read the rest here 12:13

Southeast trollers get bad news from ADF&G

There will be no second summer king salmon opening for Southeast Alaska trollers.In an update released Friday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that preliminary fish tickets indicate about 150,000 kings were taken by trollers during eight days of fishing at the start of the month. That catch figure means the fleet’s summer quota has been met and there will be no second opening.,, the next opportunity for trollers to take king salmon won’t come until Oct. 11, when the winter troll fishery opens. Read the rest here 09:26

Southeast’s salmon season begins ramping up as pink harvests start rise

Southeast Alaska’s first king salmon troll opening of the summer has come and gone, and now the seiners are about the take center stage. Last week, fishermen caught 600,000 pink salmon, according to figures provided by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and that figure is expected to rise each week until the first full week of August.  Pink salmon run in a two-year cycle, and 2013 brought an unprecedented harvest of 95 million pink salmon in Southeast, more than any since large-scale commercial harvesting began in the late 1800s. Read the rest here 14:16

Six-hour purse seine chum fishery to open in Amalga Harbor

amalga-July-4-2013-650x413Thursday is the opening of the purse seine season at Amalga Harbor in Juneau. Commercial fishermen will be able to catch chum, released from the DIPAC hatchery. The fleet is allowed to fish for profit because DIPAC has already made back the cost to hatch the salmon. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Dave Harris says he’s expecting a good turnout for the opening. “My understanding is there’s about 30 boats anchored on the set right now,” he says. “And so I assume they’ll be at least that many. We’ve had 100 boats,,, Read the rest here 08:03

Drifters, setnetters to fish at Kasilof River mouth in about, oh, three hours or so!

The emergency order opens set gillnetting within a two-mile area around the mouth of the Kasilof River for a 29-hour period from 6 p.m. on Tuesday through 11 p.m. on Wednesday. The emergency order also opens drift gillnetting in the area from 6p.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday and from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday. This announcement marks the first time during the 2015 fishing season that fisheries managers will use the special harvest area to control sockeye salmon escapement up the Kasilof River Read the rest here 20:01