Tag Archives: Bristol Bay

Alaskan summer of success for a kid from Flint

Inspired by Seahawk Thomas Rawls, a young African-American man from Flint took a job fishing in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, and it paid for his first year in college. Plucked from the harshness of Flint, MI., and delivered to the pristine waters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, upon one of world’s greatest fisheries, Jawanza Brown had his mind close to blown. “It was almost like going to a whole other planet, you know?” he said. “Everything was so different. I mean, Alaska’s part of the U.S., but it’s such a different part of the country, and the fishing industry is so big and booming. It was just wild.” click here to read the story 22:37

Bumper sockeye salmon run forecast for Bristol Bay in 2018

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting another bumper year for sockeye salmon in 2018. An expected 51 million sockeye could return, with 37 million set aside for commercial fishing. “All systems are expected to meet their spawning escapement goals,” wrote the ADF&G in a news release. The bumper forecast comes amidst debate about whether to open the controversial Pebble Mine, a move that supporters say would bring growth and economic activity to the region. Detractors say the mine would harm the profitable watershed. click here to read the story 08:39

Bristol Bay red king crab quota caught

The Bristol Bay red king crab season finished up last week when the entire allowable catch was harvested. “The Bristol Bay Red King Crab fishery went fairly well,”  Miranda Westphal said. Westphal is the area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Dutch Harbor. “A little slower than we would like to have seen, but they wrapped up with a total catch of 6.59 million pounds. So they caught all of the catch that was available for the season.” click here to read the story 17:00

Red king crab fishery off to a slow start

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

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

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

Fish-o-nomics 101

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

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

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

Bristol Bay red salmon run smashes records

Millions of fish and sinking boats: It was a record-breaking year for the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery. The Western Alaska commercial fishery — which produces 40 percent of the world’s harvest of sockeyes — had a stellar harvest, with record-breaking catches and a high price for fishermen at the docks. A total run of almost 59 million fish had been counted in the region as of Thursday, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. That doesn’t top the record total run of 62 million caught in 1980, but it’s still among the top five since managers began keeping records in 1952, according to Fish and Game area management biologist Tim Sands.,, But there were still challenges as processors, dealing with the influx of fish, put limits on fishermen during the height of the season. click here to read the story 09:48

Veteran Nushagak drifter, greenhorn daughter have best season ever

Longtime Bristol Bay fisherman Hector Sanchez of f/v El Nayar hauled in more salmon than ever this year, and it was his daughter Toni Sanchez’s first year as a crew member. Work on a commercial fishing boat can test the temperaments of those on board. Skippers often demand intensive labor from their crew, for long hours without sleep and little food, and not everyone takes to the job. Pre-existing relationships between captain and crew can often be strained when on the water, and sometimes crewmembers will quit mid-season. Audio report, read the story here 20:51

Coast Guard, Good Samaritans respond to vessel in distress near Port Moller Saturday

A salmon tender on its way out of Bristol Bay began taking on water Saturday afternoon near Port Moller. Chief Petty Officer Shawn Eggert said the fishing vessel Kona Kai relayed a mayday from the 76-foot Cachalot that they were taking on water with four souls onboard. “The Kona Kai started heading towards the scene to render any kind of assistance they could provide,” said Eggert. “While that was happening, District 17 Command Center directed an Air Station Kodiak C-130 plane as well as an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew to the scene.” Eggert did not know what had caused the vessel to take on water Saturday. Winds were reported out of the northwest with seas around seven feet. According to the Coast Guard, the ship’s master had wounded his hand during the ordeal and needed to be medevaced. click here to read the story 18:43

Bristol Bay fisherman-restaurateur buys catch back from processor to sell in Monterey eatery

Sam Mercurio skippers the f/v Quick Silver, a Bristol Bay drift boat fishing for Alaska General Seafoods. He is also part-owner of a Italian seafood restaurant in Monterey, California called Domenico’s On the Wharf. Mercurio has fished in Bristol Bay for 39 years, and has co-owned Domenico’s for eleven years. After each fishing season, he buys thousands of pounds of salmon from AGS to be sold in his restaurant—salmon he helped supply to the processor as a fisherman. “It’s wild and natural, and it’s ours; it’s mine, you know what I mean,” said Mercurio on taking ownership of the wild caught product. “I buy direct from Alaska General Seafoods. They put up a pack for me all filleted and vacuum packed, and we ship them to Seattle from Naknek, and they ship them to the restaurant when I need them.” click here to listen/read the story 15:49

A big harvest + a buck a pound: Bristol Bay 2017 will be one for the books

Mother Nature sent way more sockeye back to Bristol Bay than was expected, and many fishermen recorded their top seasons ever. As other fisheries fall short, the market is eager for all the fish the Bay can provide, so the fleet goes home with a better price, too. The ex-vessel value may be the highest since early 90s.The Bristol Bay run is not over yet, with word Monday that the Kvichak River seemed to finally “pop”, but this year’s fishery is shaping up to be one of the largest ever and certainly one of the most valuable in a long time.,,, “We are really happy to see several processors posting $1/lb base price – especially considering the base price just 2 years ago was .50 cents,” said Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association executive director Becky Martello. “With much of the fleet now chilling and bleeding, it means that our fishermen can get upwards of $1.25/pound. That’s good news for the fleet and the fishery.” click here to read the story 17:51

4 loaded Bristol Bay fishing boats swamped in bad weather

At least four commercial fishing vessels partially sank in Bristol Bay after boats heavy with salmon had difficulty navigating poor weather in the region. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough said the four vessels were all partially submerged Monday in different parts of Nushagak Bay after they were swamped by waves and began taking on water.,, Colclough said good Samaritan vessels assisted in recovering everyone on board and no one was injured. He did not know Monday how many people were rescued.,,But the sinkings come as the salmon season in Bristol Bay ramps up. Alaska Department of Fish and Game area biologist Tim Sands said fishing in the area had been getting progressively slower since the end of last week, but that Monday morning the sockeye run surged. click here to read the story 08:21

A Sitka mobile processing plant built to chill out the Bristol Bay fishery

Alaska’s Bristol Bay sockeye fishery is intense, lucrative — and also remote. Much of the fish landed there is frozen whole and shipped long distances for secondary processing. Although the product is famous, there are some who think the quality could be improved. In Sitka, a pair of entrepreneurs is betting $2 million that they can deliver a better Bristol Bay sockeye. Meet Northline Seafoods. The relentless pace of sockeye fishing can’t be overstated: two openings a day, four hours between openings, with harvests topping 13 million pounds a day during the peak of the season in June. Twelve processors buy fish in Bristol Bay. And next year there will be a thirteenth: Northline. “They’ll go under the deck. There’ll be three more of these ice machines here…” This is Pat Glaab, who with his partner, Ben Blakey, has bought a 150-foot former helicopter logging barge and is converting it into a floating fish processor. click here to read the story 08:12

Single-day catch of 1 million sockeye buoys Nushagak fishermen in Bristol Bay

A million salmon caught in a day isn’t unheard of in the wildly productive Bristol Bay commercial fishery, but for one district it proved to be a record. Whether the early bonanza is a harbinger of a strong season, though, remains to be seen. Commercial fishermen in Bristol Bay’s Nushagak district caught a little over 1 million prized sockeye salmon Monday, the largest single-day catch in the Nushagak fishery. Typically, Bristol Bay catches peak around July 4. While million-plus days have happened in other Bristol Bay fisheries, they’re rarely seen in the Nushagak, a smaller fishery than the Naknek-Kvichak district to the east. The bay, considered the premier red salmon fishery in the country, is divided into five management districts based on the nine major river systems in the region. click here to read the story   17:17

Iliamna Lake levels barely high enough for Bristol Bay boat portage

Many of the boats which fish Bristol Bay spend the winters docked in Homer. Each summer they make the trip across Cook Inlet where they are picked up and trucked across the Pile Bay road to Iliamna Lake. After a long trek across the Lake, they navigate their way down the Kvichak River down to Bristol Bay’s commercial fishing grounds. “From Cook Inlet we pick them up at Williamsport which is just south of Iniskin Bay, and then we move them over the road system and we put them in the Iliamna Lake here at Pile Bay,” said Ray Williams this week. Williams is the owner of Iliamna Transportation Company, and his family has been hauling boats over the road for 80 years. This shortcut saves Homer-based boats about 700 hundred miles, said Williams. But this year the waters between Iliamna Lake and Bristol Bay are unprecedentedly low. click here to read the story 13:55

From Flint to Alaska, fishing for hope

The backstory of Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls inspired an Alaska commercial fisherman from Bellingham to go to Flint, Mich., to give a young man a chance to pay for college a hard way. Jawanza Brown recalled the time Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls spoke to the Boys & Girls Club in their hometown of Flint, Mich. Rawls was playing football at the University of Michigan, Brown was a star-struck kid. “I remember he talked about pushing through adversity by saying, ‘I was built for this,’” Brown said by phone the past week. “That quote stuck in my head. I’m keeping that in mind this summer.” Brown wants to prove he is built for something too: Crewing on a 32-foot gillnetter in Bristol Bay, Alaska, home to the world’s largest, most intense salmon fishery. Even though he’s never done such a thing. Even though he’s never been on a commercial boat. Even though he’s left the state of Michigan but once — to Ohio. click here to read the story 16:32

Frank Woods has a tender side

Bristol Bay’s commercial fishery needs tenders, and a lot of them, to do what it does. Tenders take the massive amount of sockeye caught by a large fleet and bring them, chilled, to shore-based processors. Of course Bristol Bay’s iconic 32-foot drift boats usually get the glory, and entering the PAF boat yard in Dillingham one sees hundreds of them. But grabbing some attention up front in the yard is Frank Wood’s 60-foot tender with its large, blue buoys hanging off the sides. Woods started a tendering business called Paradise Logistics just a few years ago, and ahead of this season his sons are busy at work getting the vessel ready to launch. click here to read the story 08:36

Halibut fishery kicks off in Bristol Bay

Last week the F/V Eagle Two was sitting alone in the Dillingham harbor, getting ready to fish halibut. The harbor has not been dredged yet, and the floats and arms are not installed for ease of use. Halibut fishing normally happens after Togiak herring, but about a month before any salmon openers in the Bay. “We’re always anxious to get started, but we’re waiting on ice,” said skipper William Johnson, whose crew was preparing the vessel for departure to the far side of the Nushagak Peninsula. “Heading west to go get bait and do a little fishing out there, and then come back and then finish out the season down here,” said Johnson. He noted they pack extra fuel for the long distance trip out in the quiet Bay. click here for audio, read the story 16:33

When sailboats ruled Bristol Bay

One hundred and thirty-two years ago, the Bristol Bay commercial fishery began on the shores of the Nushagak River when the first cannery went into operation and canned a little more than 4,000 salmon. Within four years, three more canneries appeared on the Nushagak, and within a decade canneries were built on the Naknek and Kvichak rivers. The dawn of the 20th century saw dozens of canneries around Bristol Bay catching, processing and canning millions of pounds of sockeye salmon every summer. By 1910, Bristol Bay accounted for 40 percent of Alaska’s commercially caught salmon. Even today, Bristol Bay makes up about 40 percent of Alaska’s salmon value. Canneries are large industrial operations. In the early days, coal and steam provided the power to run complex systems of boilers, belt-driven pulleys and winches needed to butcher, cook, can and deliver salmon to the world. But when it came to actually catching fish in Bristol Bay, canneries relied upon the muscle of men and the power of wind. click here for images, and read the story 11:27

Bristol Bay fleet chilled more salmon in 2016 than ever before, according to study

The Bristol Bay salmon drift fleet sold more chilled salmon to processors last year than ever before. Bristol Bay is the world’s largest salmon fishery, and is making efforts to sell a larger portion of its catch as fillets, rather than canned. Filling those fresh and frozen orders requires chilling at the point of harvest, which more fishermen are apparently doing.  According to the BBRSDA survey, chilling bonuses averaged 16 cents per pound last season. Depending on the base price, the percentage that 16 cents represents can be too large to ignore. While most new boats come with refrigerated seawater systems installed and more are added to older vessels each year, the study found there are still plenty of skippers who are holding out. Click here to listen, and read the story 16:30

Billings fishing company offers sustainability and affordable wild salmon

Every June, Joe Echo-Hawk makes the long trek to Bristol Bay, Alaska to catch thousands of pounds of sockeye salmon. The area around the Kvichak River has hosted generations of commercial fishermen. But a growing number of operations like Echo-Hawk’s have adopted a new business model that’s beneficial to the people fishing and consumers who enjoy their catch. Echo-Hawk operates Kwee-Jack Fish Co. with his wife, Angela Echo-Hawk. The Billings-based company does more than just catch the fish. It also distributes directly to consumers as a community supported fishery, or CSF. Customers can place orders for flash-frozen salmon fillets in 10-pound increments until May 26. Joe and a crew of two or three other fishermen travel to Bristol Bay in June and fish through July to catch the salmon to fill orders in Montana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The fish is shipped on a barge to Seattle and trucked to Billings. Kwee-Jack guarantees delivery of the fish by early September. click here to view the photo gallery and read the story 12:16

It’s good business to keep Bristol Bay protections

Regulations are in the crosshairs in Washington, D.C. these days. Those elected officials and appointed agency leaders have been clear in their goal to get rid of regulations they say are blocking jobs and economic activity. I humbly suggest that in this flurry to slash red tape, one Environmental Protection Agency protection should stay in place: the one protecting the Bristol Bay fishery in Alaska from the controversial Pebble Mine. I guarantee you the EPA’s plan to restrict mine waste disposal in Bristol Bay waters protects jobs and economic activity: those of my family and the 14,000 others who rely on our nation’s most valuable salmon fishery. In fact, we Alaskans call the sockeye salmon that return to Bristol Bay in their annual spawning runs “red gold.” Bristol Bay is the largest wild salmon fishery remaining anywhere in the world. For thousands of years, those fish have represented not just survival, but wealth. continue reading the op-ed here by Kim Williams 09:08

Alaskans should have the final say on Pebble Mine – Sharon and Everett Thompson of Naknek, Alaska,

Pebble Mine’s Canadian, would-be developers are ecstatically peddling a story that their mine’s approval is certain. A new Trump Administration, “desires to see Pebble permitted,” Northern Dynasty’s chief executive said Monday. Because of this, investors are piling on, sending the Northern Dynasty stock soaring in recent weeks. All of these outsiders have forgotten one thing: the Pebble Mine is proposed in Bristol Bay, Alaska, not the South Lawn of the White House. Bristol Bay supports the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon that sustains local communities, businesses and the regional economy. Alaskans hate the proposal despite “alternative facts” being pushed by Northern Dynasty in recent days claiming local support. Let the record show that 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents have said clearly that they don’t want the mine. Statewide, 65 percent of residents have said “no mine.” Read the op-ed here  The notion that the Trump Administration will approve Pebble is shear speculation on the part of Northern Dynasty. Read the story here 09:22

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

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 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

Bristol Bay total salmon catch #1 in 20 years, Value tops $156m

bristol-bay-region-300x219From Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game September 9, 2016 The following is an overview of the 2016 Bristol Bay commercial salmon season. All data are preliminary. The 2016 inshore Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run of 51.4 million fish ranks 2nd out of the last 20 years and was 46% above the 35.1 million average run for the same period. This year’s Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run was 10% above the preseason inshore forecast of 46.6 million fish. The Egegik,Nushagak, Togiak and Ugashik districts were higher than the preseason forecast while Naknek-Kvichak district was less than predicted. Read the rest here 19:04

Processing upgrades possible, but humans irreplaceable says analyst

IMG_0860Processing the 20 to 40 million sockeye harvested in about a month each summer is no small feat. And while the Bristol Bay salmon fishery has come a long way from the hey-days of canneries, there are more improvements to come. Bergur Goumundsson has already seen his share of changes in fisheries. He grew up in a town of about 400 people north of the Arctic Circle. His father was a longline fisherman; his brother followed suit. Eventually, Goumundsson found his way into processing technology, and now works for the fisheries division at Morel, an international company that works in food processing. “My job is basically to analyze processes and come up with ideas that could increase the yield. To make more usable products out of the raw materials that you have,” he said. Audio, read the rest here 16:35

Bristol Bay reds late again; late run Kenai kings start strong

05salmon-fishing-sunset-in-egegik-fisheryIt’s the second late run in a row for the state’s most valuable salmon fishery, and the late run of king salmon in the state’s most popular river are showing up early in strong numbers. Bristol Bay, the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon producing region, experienced a massive late run of sockeye salmon last year, contributing with other market forces to drop the ex-vessel price of salmon to 50 cents per pound, or about half the historic average. This year, most signs point to a similarly late run. Late doesn’t necessarily mean below forecast. Last year, the historical midpoint of July 4 came and went with only 8.87 million fish harvested, about 35 percent less than the five-year average. All signs pointed to a Bristol Bay harvest of less than 20 million fish. By the end of the season, a late burst of sockeye produced one of the largest runs on record. Read the rest here 16:19