Tag Archives: Southeast Alaska

Port Townsend: Captain Kat Murphy fishes to feed her community

She likens it to “chasing wild herds of buffalo.” On her 38-foot wooden power troller, “Grace,” and with one other crewmember, Murphy spends her days trolling for salmon—a fishing method that leads her through sparkling waters buffeted by Alaska’s rocky coastlines and small towns. “We’re the wandering trollers,” Murphy said. “Because of our gear type, we’re not limited to these tiny areas.” Off the coast of Baranof or Kruzof or Coronation islands, in the offshore waters of Southeast Alaska, power trollers like Murphy’s “Grace” run high-tension wires weighted with lead balls off hydraulic gurdies from various locations on their boats. The four lines on her boat are interspersed with glittering lures and hooks to attract the wild salmon. >click to read< 10:30

SE Alaska Chinook controversy attracts more user groups

A controversy over whether NOAA Fisheries is properly managing Chinook salmon stocks in Southeast Alaska, with consideration for a hungry whale population in decline, has been joined by sport and charter fishermen who say Alaska is not the problem. The environmental organization SalmonState, along with the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and Alaska Trollers Association said on Monday, April 27, that sport and charter harvesters have joined them in support of NOAA Fisheries in a lawsuit brought by Wild Fish Conservancy, of Duvall, Washington. The group characterizes as misguided the decision of WFC to sue NOAA Fisheries in federal court to halt Chinook salmon trolling in Southeast Alaska effective July 1. >click to read< 16:15

Trollers side with NMFS in Chinook litigation – Endangered whales compete with increasing populations of seals, sea lions

Litigation to halt the Southeast Alaska king salmon fishery to provide sustenance for Southern Resident Killer Whales is prompting commercial trollers to intervene in the lawsuit brought by the Washington state based Wild Fish Conservancy. The Alaska Trollers Association in Juneau voted on Tuesday, April 21, to insert itself into the defense of the lawsuit filed in mid-March against the National Marine Fisheries Service and the subsequent injunction against king salmon fishing and the troll fishery specifically. >click to read< 15:41

Herring spawn setting new records near Craig

Herring are spawning in a big way near Craig on Prince of Wales Island in southern Southeast Alaska. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported 30 nautical miles of active spawn observed near Craig on Friday, April 10. That’s the largest single-day active spawning event on record for the area. And it beats the record set the day before, Thursday, a day that saw over 25 nautical miles. The area has a spawn on kelp commercial fishery underway. Fisherman catch herring and release them in floating net pens, called pounds. Those fish then lay eggs on kelp suspended in those pounds. The herring eggs and kelp are harvested together and sold. >click to read< 07:23

International Pacific Halibut Commission cuts 2020 harvest levels for US waters

Amid ongoing stock declines and concerns about commercial bycatch, the International Pacific Halibut Commission opted to cut allocations in Southcentral and Southeast Alaska for 2020.,, U.S. Commissioner Chris Oliver said he recognized that there maybe some dissatisfaction on the U.S. side,, Canadian Commissioner Peter DeGreef said he objected to the level of fishing intensity as well, saying that without a cut,,, >click to read< 10:06

2019 was highest value year on record for Dungeness crab in Southeast Alaska

5.3 million pounds of Dungeness crab were harvested, which is the third highest harvest on record. Yet, the price averaged $3.07 a pound making it the highest valued season ever recorded for Southeast. The previous record for the most valuable year was in 2002. Seven million pounds were harvested but the price was only $1.25 per pound back then.  >click to read<   18:54

FISH FACTOR: First checks finally set for 2016 pink salmon disaster

It’s been a long time coming but payments should soon be in hand for Alaska fishermen, processors and coastal communities hurt by the 2016 pink salmon run failure, the worst in 40 years.  Congress OK’d more than $56 million in federal relief in 2017, but the authorization to cut the money loose languished on NOAA desks in D.C. for more than two years. The payouts got delayed again last October,,, >click to read< 17:18

Coast Guard notes communications dead zones in Southeast

The U.S. Coast Guard has released a list of communications towers in Alaska that may not be receiving VHF radio broadcasts and is warning mariners to bring back up communications systems. Seven of the problem towers are in Southeast Alaska, including Zarembo Island and Cape Fanshaw near Wrangell and Petersburg, two towers in southern Southeast near Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island, along with sites near Sitka and Pelican. Those are dead zones where the Coast Guard won’t be able to hear distress calls on emergency channel 16. >click to read< 08:17

Rockfish closure another blow to Southeast fleet

Southeast Alaska fishermen won’t get to target yelloweye rockfish in 2020, and that’s another notch in tightening belt for the area fleet. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the full-year closure on Dec. 31, spanning both the commercial and recreational sectors. Targeted fishing for all nonpelagic rockfish, which includes species like yelloweye, quillback, tiger and china rockfish, will be closed across the region due to declining populations of the fish. >click to read< 11:00

Southeast Alaska fishermen unite against designating critical habitat for humpback whales

Fishermen from different gear groups united against a proposed federal rule to designate Southeast Alaska as critical habitat for humpback whales. About 60 people crowded into the Petersburg borough assembly chambers and others overflowed into the hallway. Most were fishermen from Petersburg, Wrangell, and Ketchikan.,,  They had the same message for the federal government. They don’t want Southeast labeled critical habitat for whales. >click to read< 13:00

Randy Babich has been fishing Puget Sound and southeast Alaska for 54 years. A lot has changed in that time.

The Paragon is a 56-foot commercial purse seiner moored at Longbranch Marina, a seagoing workhorse that dwarfs the pleasure boats around it.  “I was going to be a dentist,” said the owner, Randy Babich, who just turned 70. “I went through pre-med, pre-dent. My dad always said, ‘Get into a profession.’ ” Babich grew up in Gig Harbor and “got into fishing because my family was into fishing,” >click to read<  07:16

Southeast Alaska fisherman pleads guilty to illegally harvesting $35,000 worth of sea cucumbers

A Southeast Alaska commercial fisherman has been convicted for his role in illegally harvesting nearly 7,500 pounds of sea cucumbers near Prince of Wales Island. Jonathan McGraw Jr., of Naukati Bay, pleaded guilty to fishing in closed waters and providing false information on a harvest report. Both are misdemeanors. In 2018, McGraw and two others were charged with illegally fishing in a scientific preserve near Whale Pass. That area has been closed to fishing since the 1980s. >click to read<  21:13

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