Tag Archives: Southeast Alaska

Solutions sought to ease conflicts over Southeast Alaska’s rising sea otter populations

A hundred years ago, the fur trade wiped out sea otters in Southeast Alaska. They were reintroduced in the 1960s with 412 animals brought from Amchitka Island and Prince William Sound. Since then, they’ve done really well. The last official estimate in 2012 shows that there are more than 25,000 of them. But their success has changed their environment as they’re a keystone species. “Many of those effects are really disruptive to the existing, you know, commercial activities like shell fisheries that have developed.” >click to read< 07:57

Coast Guard confirms serious problems with channel 16

By the time the U.S. Coast Guard issued an alert in mid-October about VHF-FM radio outages throughout Southeast Alaska, word had already spread through the commercial fishing fleet from harvesters worried that mayday calls might go unanswered. “I don’t think the fleet is aware of how severe of a problem this is,” said Jeff Farvour, a commercial harvester from Sitka. “Fishermen usually feel the Coast Guard is on to these things. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be fixed any time soon.” >click to read<  15:11

Coast Guard experiencing VHF-FM radio outages throughout Southeast Alaska, reminds public of secondary means of emergency communication

Coast Guard Sector Juneau personnel are experiencing multiple VHF-FM radio outages throughout Southeast Alaska and may not be able to hear or respond to distress calls on channel 16. Currently, waterways affected by Coast Guard VHF-FM radio site outages include the Gulf of Alaska between Yakutat and Sitka, Cross Sound, Peril Strait, Hoonah Sound, Southern Chatham Strait, Sumner Strait, the waters surrounding Zarembo Island and the west side of Prince of Wales Island. >click to read< 20:38

Sablefish season to open with slight increase, along with uncertainty

Alaska’s sablefish fishermen will go into the 2019 season in March with no change to their overall catch limit but some debate about the state of the stock. Sablefish, also known as black cod, regularly opens to fishing in Alaska in March, at the same time as the halibut fishery. Commercial fishermen in the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska and Southeast Alaska catch them using trawls, longlines or, in some areas, pots. Fishermen landed about 13,956 metric tons of them last year between the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands fisheries. >click to read<19:55

2018 Dungeness crab fisheries in Southeast Alaska best in years

The commercial fishery for Dungeness crab in Southeast Alaska was cut short in 2017 because harvests were low. 2018, however, has proven to be one of the best years in the last decade. It takes a while to compile all the data from Southeast’s Dungeness crab fishery. The fall fishery closed November 30 for the most part but a few areas remain open and data is still coming in.But the major areas were fished for two months and preliminary results are pretty positive. >click to read<21:33

New warm ocean Blob could affect Southeast winter weather, fisheries

The Blob could be back. Or, maybe it’s the Son of Blob. Either way, the warm water phenomenon first discovered in the North Pacific five years ago is slowly reemerging in the Gulf of Alaska. Although it doesn’t appear to be as strong as the original, it could still affect weather and fisheries in Southeast Alaska. Nick Bond is the Washington state climatologist who coined the name “the Blob” when he discovered the original patch of warm water emerging in late 2013. “For the Gulf of Alaska, I would say it’s mostly, if not entirely new,” Bond said. “It might be a little bit of a different story for the Bering Sea.” >click to read<

Hatchery salmon help Alaska avert fishery disaster

Around mid-August this year, the fishing season in Southeast Alaska looked grim. Some areas had posted the lowest pink salmon landings since the 1970s, and the total pink catch would end up at just around 70 percent of the paltry 23 million fish forecast. For comparison, the 18 million pinks caught in 2016 prompted a disaster declaration from the federal government. But at the end of August, something unexpected happen. Hatchery chum salmon from the National Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association (NSRAA) remote release site at Crawfish Inlet, 40 miles south of Sitka, returned in unprecedented numbers, providing a massive shot in the arm for the industry. >click to read<16:38

Otterskin sewing workshops promote ‘sustainable cottage industry’ in coastal Alaska

A series of workshops in communities around Southeast Alaska aims to expand the practice of traditional Alaska Native skin-sewing with seal and sea otter fur.,,, In the last few decades, things have been looking up for sea otters in Southeast Alaska. The last official count put their number well over 25,000 and growing. “It’s a very thriving population growing probably 10 to 12 percent a year,” Lee Kadinger said. “The otters are starting to show up more around Ketchikan now, so we got to start getting rid of them. They kill all our crab, and I love crab,” Leask said. “There’s got to be a little bit of population control.” >click to read<11:56

The mysterious case of Alaska’s strange sockeye salmon returns this year

There’s something unusual going on with the sockeye salmon runs returning to Alaska this year. In some places — like Bristol Bay — the runs are strong. In others, like the Copper River or the Kenai River they’re unexpectedly weak. In some places, there are sockeye that are unusually small. In others, sockeye of a certain age appear to be missing entirely. It’s a mystery. In Southeast Alaska, one of the first Fish and Game staffers to notice an unusual trend was Iris Frank, a regional data coordinator and fisheries technician. Frank’s lab is on the first floor of Fish and Game’s Douglas Island office that looks like it hasn’t changed much in the 32 years since she got there. >click to read<18:06

Southeast Alaska commercial troll summer king season opens July 1

Southeast Alaska’s commercial salmon trollers open their summer season for king salmon July 1st with a harvest target of 53,800 Chinook. The fleet is expected to catch that in a short opening. That’s after low catches and restricted fishing for kings this spring. The first summer opening is expected to last four or five days and will be managed in-season. That means the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will announce a closure once the catch nears that harvest target. Grant Hagerman is the department’s troll management biologist for Southeast and says fishing in the spring season has been slow. Audio report, >click to read<17:06

Alaska Dive Fishermen Plead for Relief from Sea Otters

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

Herring fishery underway near Prince of Wales Island

Fishing has started in another commercial herring fishery in Southeast Alaska this month. Fishery managers expect herring could be starting to spawn this week in a spawn-on-kelp fishery near Craig and Klawock on Prince of Wales Island. The guideline harvest level is a big increase from last year, set at 1,667 tons. That includes 742 tons not caught in a herring food and bait fishery this winter. “After quite a downturn from last year, we’re seeing a real strong presence of fish out here,,, >click to read<18:42

The Whale Pass Case: Southeast Alaska fishermen illegally caught $35,000 worth of sea cucumbers, troopers say

The lure of lucrative echinoderms may have proved too strong for three Southeast fishermen. The trio, all from Naukati Bay on Prince of Wales Island, face criminal charges after pilfering nearly four tons of sea cucumbers from a Whale Pass scientific preserve that’s been off limits to fishing for decades, Alaska Wildlife Troopers say.,, The Whale Pass case started in December after other divers noticed the three men bringing in large loads of sea cucumbers,,, “They’re like, how in the world is this guy catching more than us? We don’t even see him out here. Something isn’t right,” >click to read< 20:06

Something Irritated Her Eye; She Pulled Out A Cattle Worm (Photo)

During the summer of 2016, Abby Beckley was working as a deck hand on a commercial fishing boat near Southeast Alaska when her left eye started feeling irritated. It was probably just an eyelash that had become trapped, she thought, so she rubbed and poured some water over her eye in hopes of extricating the errant hair. But when that didn’t work, she took a closer look into the mirror. There she saw it: something a kin to a small piece of fuzz. She pinched at it and pulled it out. It wasn’t a fuzz. And there wasn’t just one. >click to read< 09:09

Alaska commercial fisherman who robbed creeks of spawning salmon forfeits boat and gear

An Alaska commercial fisherman who prosecutors say robbed creeks of salmon heading to spawning grounds has lost his fishing vessel, nets, skiff and other gear, under a sentence imposed last week in Prince of Wales District Court. Curtis Demmert, now 32 of Klawock, was fishing in Coco Harbor, on Dall Island to the west of Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska, according to the charging document and other court filings. >click here to read< 09:24

Board votes down change in Southeast Dungeness crab season

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

Southeast fishermen seek relief from expanding sea otter population

Crabbers and dive fishermen returned to Alaska’s Board of Fish this month seeking changes to commercial fishing regulations in Southeast Alaska for crab and other shellfish impacted by a growing population of sea otters in the region. Some told the board that time is running out on their fisheries because otters are eating clams, sea cucumbers, urchins and Dungeness crab. Wrangell crabber Mike Lockabey told the board the commercial Dungeness crab fleet is being compressed because of the otter predation problem. “It is acute,” Lockabey said. “It will not make the next board cycle without losing fisheries. Not just area, fisheries.” >click here to read< 18:03

Alaska fishermen bewildered, alarmed at loss of king salmon

There’s an unsolved fish mystery playing out right now along a rugged, 300-mile stretch of Southeast Alaska coastline: What’s killing off the thousands of king salmon that, at an increasing rate, swim out to sea and don’t return to spawn? “There’s a big ocean out there,” said Tad Fujioka, a commercial fisherman in Sitka. “And it’s kind of a black box.” Alaska fishermen and scientists don’t know what, exactly, is causing king salmon returns to plummet across Southeast. But they’re trying to adapt to the consequences: closures for certain fisheries and new limits on catches,,, click here to read the story 10:20

Southeast Alaska winter troll fishery to remain open

Commercial trolling for king salmon in Southeast Alaska will stay open this winter beyond December. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the winter season will be open until further notice and could stay open until mid-March. That depends on any measures the Board of Fish adopts in January to protect wild Chinook returning to Southeast Alaska rivers. Historically low returns in recent years have prompted some conservation measures, including a region-wide shut down for king fishing in the summer of 2017. click here to read the story 08:13

Squid fishery proposed for Southeast as squid follow warmer waters to Alaska

Following warmer waters to Alaska, market squid may be here to stay and at least four Southeast fishermen think there’s enough here to begin catching and marketing them. A proposal to create a squid fishery in Southeast is slated for the Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting Jan. 11-23 in Sitka. If adopted, the board would work with fishermen and stakeholders to develop a purse seine fishery for market squid, which are already being caught in lucrative fisheries in California and Oregon. click here to read the story 12:40

Southeast Alaska: Commercial Dungeness fall fishery better than expected

The summer season for Dungeness crab didn’t go so well. In fact, it was the lowest harvest in over 30 years and managers ended up closing the fishery three weeks early. The summer season brought in 1.3 million pounds, less than half the average harvest.  With such a poor summer, state regulation required the fall season for Dungeness crab be shortened to 30 days, half the length of the normal fishery for most of Southeast. So, when the numbers came in, managers were surprised that harvests were not low. Joe Stratman is Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s lead crab biologist for Southeast. “We exceeded our expectations which is encouraging,” Stratman said. audio report, click here to read the story 13:50

Commercial fishing for Southeast red king crab to open this fall after six years

Southeast Alaska will open to commercial fishing for red king crab this fall for the first time in six years. The crab population has seen a steady increase, according to state surveys. But whether the opening set for November 1 will be lucrative is still to be seen. Joe Stratman, who is Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s lead crab biologist for Southeast, said the red crab population has been on the rise since 2013. “Basically, in the last four or five years we’ve seen improvement in legal, mature biomass estimates in Southeast,” Stratman said. click here to read the story 15:30

Salmon trollers get winter season in Southeast Alaska

The good news for commercial salmon trollers in Southeast Alaska is they will have a winter season for king salmon starting up next month; the bad news is that winter season may be shortened this year. Trollers have been concerned over the possibility of no winter season and what low king numbers mean for the future of the fishery. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced September 20 that the winter troll season will open October 11th. It could remain open through the end of December but managers will have to wait and see about fishing opportunity later in the winter. click here to read the story 11:44

Southeast summer Dungeness harvest the worst in decades

The summer season for Dungies closed three weeks early in Southeast. I sat down with Kellii Wood, a Crab Biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, to ask what happened.  “How did it go this year,” I ask her. Wood laughs and gives a drawn out, “well.” The thing is Dungeness crab in Southeast are tricky because state managers don’t know a lot about them. The crab are on a four to five year life cycle and the commercial fishery is expected to fluctuate accordingly. But there are no stock assessment surveys so biologists rely on commercial harvests to track the population.,,, Wood says there has been some anecdotal evidence from fishermen reporting light-colored crab near the end of the fishery. That would indicate crab that recently molted. So this summer’s low harvest could be due to a late molt. It could mean that the crab are there, it’s just bad timing. Audio, click hereto read the story 12:36

Scientist says hatchery strays could threaten wild fish populations

Whether it’s thanks to environmental cues, a keen sense of smell or a nifty magnetic instinct, Pacific salmon’s ability to navigate back to their home streams has captivated scientists and the general public alike. But, contrary to popular notions, a small number of Pacific salmon stray from their predetermined paths every year. And now, a new study found that hatchery salmon that wander from their home stream could pose an additional danger to their wild counterparts. Scientists have long warned that hatchery strays compete with wild fish for resources in streams and ocean waters, and could threaten wild populations by mixing genetically with them in unfavorable ways. click here to read the story 08:42

Southeast Alaska winter troll catch falls short of limit, Spring troll fishery underway

The preliminary harvest total is just over 43,000 kings. Most of those, around 40,000, are fish managed under the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. Those fish mostly come from hatcheries in Canada and the Pacific coast of the U.S. The rest come from hatcheries in Southeast Alaska. The last two years the winter season has ended early as the fleet has surpassed a 45,000 fish guideline harvest level, or GHL, for Treaty kings. “So a down year,” said Grant Hagerman, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s troll management biologist for Southeast.,, Last year the season ended in record time, closing March 8. This year fishing remained open for the full season, through the end of April. Both catch rates and effort picked up in the final weeks of the season. Click here to read the story 08:46

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

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

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

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