Tag Archives: Bristol Bay

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

Bristol Bay fisherman lands fishery’s 2 billionth salmon

2+billionth+salmonA fisherman last week landed the 2 billionth salmon to be caught in Bristol Bay’s 133-year commercial fishing history, according to harvest statistics by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Bristol Bay’s 2 billionth salmon milestone was surpassed on Wednesday July 6. The 2 billionth salmon was among hundreds of thousands of fish caught by commercial fishing vessels in Bristol Bay that day. A symbolic salmon was selected from the multitude and awarded to longtime local fisherman Howard Knutsen, 86, who has fished Bristol Bay for decades. Knutsen, captain of the Sea Hunter 2, accepted the prestigious fish on board the Lady Helen fishing tender in the Ugashik fishing district near Pilot Point, according to local commercial fisherman Lindsey Bloom. Link 07:43

Listen to the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report July 1, 2016

kanakanak_boats_june_27Tonight a Ugashik set-netter tells us he’ll fish despite some stormy weather this weekend, Area Manager Paul Salomone updates on Egegik and Ugashik numbers, and we check-in on a Kuskokwim dilemma. The total run to Bristol Bay hit 4.5 million on Thursday – 40 million or so left to go. Fish and Game has a countdown to the two billionth salmon caught in Bristol Bay, and we’re closing in. Thursday’s catch of 475,000 brought the season total to about 3 million, and some strong Naknek-Kvichak escapements let to an opener there sooner than planned. While those eastside fisherman were busy with their nets, we heard about the nets in the Egegik and Ugashik districts, and the wind blowing at Ugashik Bay. Plus, a check on the Kuskokwim, where no buyer means no commercial fishing, despite a healthy enough run. To listen, click here  16:15

Yes, Copper River Seafoods just posted a preseason price. And yes, it’s encouraging.

img_3022__2_Up to $1.25 for “Excelent Fish” caught this week, going out fresh to a market that is hungry for the product, says CRS. Company says it intends to post a price every Sunday for the week ahead. Copper River Seafoods Bristol Bay manager Vojtech Novak posted a price for this week’s sockeye catch, and says he intends to post a weekly price every Sunday. It’s an unusual step for one of Bristol Bay’s buyers to list a price before the catch comes in. “You know, the owner of our company was a fisherman, and he feels like he’s still a fisherman,” said Novak. “His dream was always to know the price before going fishing, and we’re trying to work on that and give our fishermen a price. Before they go fish, they know what they’re getting.” Read the rest here 13:10

Efforts to launch local processors in two Bristol Bay communities may finally be coming to fruition.

levelock_1For decades, many of the processors in Bristol Bay have been large companies, with offices in Washington and parent companies in foreign countries. But two small communities are developing locally-owned processing plants.  Bristol Bay’s fishing communities have long been dependent on the companies that turn raw fish into a sell-able product and get it shipped out of the bay. The communities of Port Heiden and Levelock want to take on that role themselves and – hopefully – keep more of the decisions, and the benefits, local.  “We wanted to start a locally tribally owned processing plant so that we could create a longer season for our fishermen, also to have our fishermen fish closer to home so they don’t have to go all the way up to Ugashik to fish, and to provide them with a higher price for their fish because we’ll be doing direct marketing and have a higher quality product,” she said. “That will mean more jobs and more pay for the fishermen.” Audio, read the rest here 19:38

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

Bristol Bay commercial halibut fishery opens Sunday

alaska-halibut__frontHalibut management throughout Alaska relies on a mix of state, federal and international rules, and Bristol Bay is no different, with sport, subsistence and commercial fisheries here. The Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation oversees the local small boat halibut fishery, which opens May 1 this year. More than two dozen fishermen are eligible to participate, and they’ll have access to 115,000 pounds of halibut. That’s a significant increase from last year’s 74,000 pounds. Audio report, Read the rest here 09:31

ADF&G Releases Bristol Bay Update

A new forecast for the 2016 sockeye salmon fishing season in Bristol Bay says the fishery, which opens by regulation on June 1, is expected to have a run of some 46.6 million fish, with 29.5 million potentially available for commercial harvest. The figures were released on April 4 by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. For the eastside districts, fishing will be allowed using a weekly schedule that will vary by district, to balance fishing opportunity with escapement in the early part of the season, particularly for Chinook salmon. In the Nushagak District, management of the king salmon fishery will govern fishing time in the early part of the season, followed by directed sockeye salmon management as abundance dictates. Read the rest here 10:01

Bristol Bay buyers say they can handle full 2016 sockeye run

A survey of the 12 primary processors in Bristol Bay says that they should be able to handle more sockeye than are forecast to be caught this summer. But that’s not a guarantee that fishermen won’t be placed on limits. Each winter, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game surveys the main Bristol Bay processors to get a sense of how many fish they can handle. This year, the major processors, which operate 16 facilities, said they can process 35.5 million fish. That’s more than the 29.5 million harvest forecast. Read the article, Click here 12:50

A new report is a reminder of what many Alaskans already know: seafood is a big industry in the state.

2_Miles_Wiebe_PavlofBayASMI Communications Director Tyson Fick said his organization commissioned the McDowell group to update a study on the role seafood plays in Alaska, and America’s, economy. “There’s more labor income from seafood than from tourism and mining combined, which is pretty substantial, and certainly very, very important in places where seafood is primary, like Bristol Bay,” Fick said. The report says the 60,000 workers in Alaska’s seafood industry earn $1.6 billion per year. That includes the equivalent of about 4,650 full time jobs in Bristol Bay. Audio, read the article here 11:49

One permit, One person – Alaska Board of Fisheries rejects Bristol Bay permit stacking

thWZZIY211“There’ll be fewer people able to participate,” said board member Fritz Johnson, a Dillingham resident and commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay. “It’s a rational business decision, but I think the board needs to take a view of this…based on what’s best for coastal communities and what’s best for the resource.” Bristol Bay fishermen in attendance were evenly divided on permit stacking, which the board allowed in the area in 2009 but with a sunset clause for 2012. Opponents said permit stacking would consolidate the fishery into fewer hands, echoing concerns over crab fishery rationalization a decade prior. Read the article here 08:17

Bristol Bay sockeye earnings hit decade low

799px-Sockeye_@_Bristol_Bay-265x300For the first time in a decade, ex-vessel earnings for sockeye salmon coming out of Bristol Bay, Alaska, have fallen below $100 million, despite a “massive” return of 58m fish, according to a sockeye bi-annual market analysis prepared for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association by McDowell Group. According to the report, 2014 marked the fourth consecutive year that base ex-vessel prices –the price paid to fishermen by a processor for whole fish — were above $1.00/lb, “Bristol Bay seemed to be on a roll; firing on all cylinders and producing strong earnings”. Value fell sharply, however, in 2015,,, Read the rest here 14:00

Bristol Bay fishermen to land 2 billionth salmon in 2016

Next July, a commercial fisherman will land the 2 billionth salmon caught in Bristol Bay’s 133-year fishing history. Since the inception of Bristol Bay’s canned salmon industry in 1884, its fishermen have landed 1.99 billion salmon, 93 percent of which were sockeye. Fishermen will achieve the 2-billion-salmon milestone when they catch another 9.5 million. This will happen next season, based on the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s recently released forecast for a harvest of almost 30 million sockeye in 2016. Read the rest here 13:58

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

Halibut fishermen in Bristol Bay had their best season in several years this summer.

BBEDC Regional Fisheries Director Gary Cline said some would consider this summer a surprisingly good one for halibut, given the decline in quota seen in much of the state in recent years. “It was nice to see the halibut fishery start to rebuild, comparing the last several seasons, and this year the ex-vessel value came about to be approximately $226,205 dollars,” Cline said. That estimate is for the nearshore fishery in Area 4E, prosecuted by local fishermen who access the quota through BBEDC. “So we had 17 fishermen and they delivered 45,000 pounds, roughly, which was the biggest volume since 2007,” Cline said.  Listen, Read the rest here 18:31

Bristol Bay 2015 season summary: 3rd-largest run ever

IMAG0849The Department of Fish and Game released a summary of the Bristol Bay 2015 fishing season, now noting a total inshore run of 58 million sockeye salmon. That makes 2015 a near-record-setting year, says Fish and Game area biologist Tim Sands. “It’s second out of the last 20 years – the only one that beat it was 1995 – and it’s the third-largest run of all time,” said Sands. This year’s harvest was counted at 37.6 million sockeye, which Sands say is the fourth largest ever, using records going back to the 1880s.  Read the rest here 20:52