Category Archives: North Pacific

Disaster declarations, relief in limbo for multiple fisheries

The last few years of commercial fishing for Alaska have turned up poor for various regions of the state, resulting in disaster declarations and potential federal assistance.The 2018 season proved no different, with at least two disaster requests in the works at the state level. A third is in process at the federal level, and yet another is finally distributing money to affected fishermen from the 2016 season.<click to read>12:46

‘What Happened in Craig’: True crime novel delves into unsolved fishing-boat murders

It’s been 37 years, and the unsolved murder of eight family and crew members on a fishing boat in Craig, Alaska, is still the subject of conjecture among fishermen, legal analysts, crime followers and conspiracy theorists. Seattle author Leland Hale has now published a true crime account, based on his extensive research, of what happened on that day in early September 1982 and in the months and years of investigation and trials that followed. >click to read<10:16

Southeast purse seiners to hold another permit buyback vote

Southeast Alaska purse seine fishermen are preparing to vote on another permit buyback, with an eye toward making the fishery more viable in an era of more efficient vessels and smaller salmon runs. The National Marine Fisheries Service is scheduled to send out ballots to fishermen starting Jan. 15 asking whether the fleet should take on $10.1 million in federal loans to buy out 36 permits, removing them from the fishery forever. If successful, the move would reduce the number of permits in the fishery to 279, down about 100 permits since 2012. >click to read<14:35

Upper Cook Inlet King Salmon Fisheries Closed for 2019, Area Subsistence Fisheries Restricted

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) today announced closures to 2019 Northern Cook Inlet (NCI) king salmon commercial and sports fisheries. Subsistence king salmon fisheries in Northern Cook Inlet will also be restricted. The department is restricting and closing king salmon fisheries to conserve weak king salmon stocks. Multiple king salmon stocks in NCI, including seven stocks of concern, have failed to meet escapement goals in recent years.>click to read<19:41

Southeast Alaska Tanner Crab Fishery Deadline Nears

The 2018/2019 commercial Tanner crab fishery in Southeast Alaska will open concurrently with the commercial golden king crab fishery on Feb. 12, 2019. The registration deadline is Jan. 14, and all commercial fishermen registering after the deadline will have to pay a $45 late fee. Permit holders may register at Alaska Department of Fish and Game area offices in Douglas, Sitka, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell and Haines. Simultaneous, though separate, registrations are allowed for Tanner crab and golden king crab. Commercial shrimp or Dungeness crab pot registrations may also be obtained and fished simultaneously with Tanner Crab,,, >click to read<06:58

Fish and Game optimistic about 2019 sockeye run

After a poor sockeye return last summer, Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game is slightly more optimistic about 2019. Six million sockeye salmon are forecasted to run through the Upper Cook Inlet in 2019, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s 2019 Upper Cook Inlet Sockeye Salmon forecast. The forecast, released Friday, estimates a range of 4.8 million to 7.3 million for the total sockeye salmon run. Escapement is forecasted at 2 million while Upper Cook Inlet commercial harvest is estimated at 3 million and other harvest at 1 million. >click to read<11:38

The Former Clintonite Trying to Build the Country’s Most Controversial Mine

Tom Collier is buckled into the back of a six-seat AS350 Helicopter, racing over the lowland bluffs of southwest Alaska. Clad in a black Helly Hansen jacket and baseball hat bearing the word Pebble, he doesn’t exactly look at ease, though he’ll later claim otherwise. When the chopper banks south, he reaches awkwardly for the ceiling, desperate for something to grab. Soon we pass over the Newhalen River, a rushing white torrent, then cut into the rolling hills of the Nushagak and Kvichak river drainages. The two waterways are among the wildest left in the United States , and their watersheds form a sea of tundra sedge and skinny water that produces about half of the sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska. >click to read<11:36

ADF&G releases terms of new Pacific Salmon Treaty

A new Pacific Salmon Treaty negotiated between the United States and Canada, and critical to fisheries and the economy of Southeast Alaska, is now in effect for the decade ahead, as state and commercial harvester entities wrestle with how to deal with it. Acting Commissioner of Fish and Game Doug Vincent-Lang notes that his agency released the actual language of the negotiated terms, which were several years in the making, to allow affected users the opportunity to review them, “especially given that the terms adopt new metrics for management of fisheries in Southeast Alaska. This was done to improve transparency,” he said on Jan. 2.>click to read<20:08

Government shutdown, if it continues, could cost Alaska’s lucrative Bering Sea fisheries

Even if the shutdown does persist, the federal government will allow the Bering Sea fisheries to start as scheduled, with an initial opening for cod Jan. 1, and a second opening for pollock and other species Jan. 20. But the fisheries are heavily regulated, and before boats can start fishing, the federal government requires inspections of things like scales — for weighing fish — and monitoring equipment that tracks the number and types of fish being caught. And the National Marine Fisheries Service, which regulates the Bering Sea fisheries, isn’t doing those inspections during the shutdown. >click to read<20:16

Alaska: Seafood industry faces more uncertainty

As another year draws to a close, the seafood industry seems to be facing even more uncertainty than usual, with some groundfish stocks cratering, salmon runs behaving in historically strange ways, trade wars with China imposing some tariffs on a variety of products, and the state being on the forefront of climate change. The year started out with a Pacific cod quota cut of 80 percent in the Gulf of Alaska, an unexpected drop after a strong year class from 2012 suffered unusually high mortality due to a warm period from 2014 to 2016.,, Bering Sea crabbers started the year with a 19.5 million-pound opilio quota that proved difficult for some boats, >click to read<09:30

Sunken fishing tender is a loss

A 71-foot fishing tender that sank at Seward’s T-Dock in early December has been refloated and was being turned over to a Seward boat repair firm for final disposal. Officials with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said Dec. 21 that the F/V Nordic Viking had been lifted ad dewatered by Global Diving and Salvage, Inc. on Dec. 20 with Alaska Chadux Corp., an oil spill response organization, deploying containment boom, and that the vessel was heading to Raibow Fiberglass and Boat Repair for disposal. >click to read<17:47

Work continues on federal plan for Cook Inlet salmon

More than two years after a court ruling ordered the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop a management plan for the Cook Inlet salmon fishery, a stakeholder group has made a first set of recommendations. The council convened a Cook Inlet Salmon Committee last year composed of five stakeholders to meet and offer recommendations before the council officially amends the Fishery Management Plan, or FMP, for the drift gillnet salmon fishery in Upper Cook Inlet, which occurs partially in federal waters. >click to read<15:13

Catch Shares – Costs rise while values fall; season starts uncertain during shutdown

Fishermen in Alaska who own catch shares of halibut, sablefish and Bering Sea crab will pay more to the federal government to cover 2018 management and enforcement costs for those fisheries. ,, “The value of the halibut fishery was down 24 percent year over year, while sablefish was down 21 percent,” Greene said, adding that the decreases stemmed primarily from lower dock prices. ,,, Fish shutdown shaft-Hundreds of boats that are gearing up for the January start of some of Alaska’s largest fisheries could be stuck at the docks due to the government shutdown battle between President Donald Trump and Senate Democrats. >click to read<14:40

The name is hagfish but you can call it a ‘slime eel.’ Meet a new Alaska fishery.

Consider the hagfish. Maybe you’ve never heard of these deep ocean creatures, also called “slime eels” for their eel-like appearance and ability to secrete huge amounts of opaque slime. Not exactly a mouth-watering description at first glance; yet over the past two years, a small-scale effort has developed in Southeast Alaska to harvest these fascinating uggos as a fledgling Alaska fishery. That’s unusual news in a state where most fishery resources are already developed. >click to read<18:53

Year in Review: A dismal year for salmon and halibut in the Gulf, Bristol Bay booms, battles over hatcheries

This summer was a disappointment for salmon fishermen across the Gulf of Alaska, both in the timing and in the numbers. Salmon fishermen from Kodiak to Southeast saw poor harvests and poor profits this year due to unexpectedly small runs of sockeye, king and pink salmon. No. 2: Records smashed in Bristol Bay, Norton Sound, No. 3: Hatchery battles at the Board of Fisheries, No. 4: Halibut hardships, falling quotas and prices, >click to read<11:35

Commentary: Commercial herring seining and subsistence are my family traditions

This letter is in regard to the upcoming Sitka herring fishery in 2019. There are a few intentions in taking the time to write this. I understand much of the wording involved here is best to include a bit of care so as not to be mistaken or misunderstood. Plainly, I’d like to point out this: Our chance of harvesting the allotted quota for 2019 is very slim. I see an importance in writing this letter to explain why. Maybe it’s best to introduce myself before I continue. My name is Chuck Skeek. I’ve been a participant in the fishery for nearly 30 years. I grew up in the fishery under my father Leonard Skeek.  >click to read<09:50

Fisherman: Waterway closures for spaceport disrupt fishing

The closures of waterways during launches at the spaceport on Kodiak Island are disrupting commercial fishing operations, fishermen claim. Fishermen voiced their concerns at a meeting Wednesday of the Kodiak Fisheries Workgroup, seeking for officials to rein in the closures related to the Pacific Spaceport Complex, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported . The Alaska Aerospace Corporation temporarily shuts down public road access to the Narrow Cape area and nearby waterways when launches are planned. Some closures in the past have lasted for days as the corporation waits for optimal launch conditions. “Obviously the economic effect of closing those areas is pretty huge on not only the trawl fleet but also possibly the salmon fleet,” said Jake Everich, the owner of a fishing vessel. >click to read<19:12

Only one applicant for ADFG chief

Members of the boards of Fisheries and Game will meet jointly Jan. 16 to choose an applicant to forward to Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy for the commissioner’s seat, but it likely won’t be a long meeting with just one applicant. Doug Vincent-Lang, whom Dunleavy appointed as Acting Commissioner on Dec. 4, was the only person to submit an application to be the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He previously worked with the department from 1999–2014, last serving as the director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.>click to read<20:48

The farm bill’s untold story: What did Congress do for fish sticks?

The farm bill that Congress passed last week will be known for many things. It increases subsidies for farmers and legalizes industrial hemp. But for Alaska, the bigger impact might be what the bill does for fish sticks served in school lunchrooms across America. The National School Lunch Program has for decades required school districts to buy American-made food. But that doesn’t always happen when it comes to fish. “There was a major loophole,” Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said. “Major. That allowed, for example, Russian-caught pollock, processed in China with phosphates, sent back to the United States for purchase in the U.S. school lunch program.”>click to read<

Changing faces

New Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointments to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are rocking a state agency unaccustomed to dramatic change. Gone is affable Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten, a one-time state legislator and former commercial fisherman in a land where the latter carries a certain cachet. In his place, pending approval by the Joint Boards of Fish and Game and the Alaska Legislature, is Doug Vincent-Lang, a biologist who spent most of his career working in sport fisheries, which some in the commercial fishing business consider an enemy. And along with Vincent-Lang comes a whole new cast of characters most notably including the former doyen of morning talk-radio in Alaska’s largest city, Rick Rydell – real name Rick Green. >click to read<14:56

Alaska Fishermen Hauling A Bigger Catch With Gear They Get To Use For The First Time

Longtime Alaska fisherman Bill Harrington has a few choices words about killer whales.  “As far as I’m concerned, they’re only thieves in tuxedos,” Harrington says. He’s retired now, but a video from a decade ago shows him pulling in his line as he curses out a pod of killer whales swarming his boat. His catch is exposed; he is not happy. A sperm whale bursts out of the water and Harrington tells them what he really thinks. He knows even just a couple of killer whales could pick his line clean. But now fishermen are taking advantage of new regulations that let them fish with a previously banned piece of gear. Longline pots >click to read<10:20

2019 Togiak herring forecast signals stable population, says ADF&G

The Togiak Pacific herring fishery will see a large return this spring, according to the recently released Alaska Department of Fish and Game 2019 forecast. Based on aerial surveys and population age, ADF&G predicts the Togiak District Pacific herring biomass will be 217,548 tons. That is a 59 percent increase from last year’s forecast. It will allow for a total harvest in the Togiak District sac roe herring fishery of 26,930 tons. “We feel confident we have a stable population there,” said Tim Sands, area management biologist. >click to read<15:58

NPFMC adopts ecosystem management plan, Pollock TAC rises for Bering Sea, lowers for GOA, while cod TACS drop for both areas

Federal fisheries managers have taken a big step toward better environmental management of vast marine resources with adoption of a new Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan, in the face of dynamic climate changes impacting this vast ocean area. The plan, which sets the stage for developing a work plan for action modules critical to ecosystem protection, was approved during the December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage. Along with passage of the plan itself, the council tasked its Bering Sea fisheries ecosystem plan team with developing work plans for three action modules.,,, In other action during the week-long Anchorage meeting the NPFMC set the total allowable catch of groundfish for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska. >click to read<18:36

The Jones Act’s Strange Bedfellows

A strange thing happened on December 6th, 2018, when President Donald Trump signed a waiver that allowed the American business, Fishermen’s Finest, to sail its 80.5-meter fishing boat, America’s Finest, out of a Washington State shipyard over objections from special interest labor unions and trade associations. The ship was held in the harbor because its hull was made with too much Dutch steel. This violated the century-old protectionist law, the Jones Act, a little-known law passed in 1920. Even many of those who are hurt by it are unfamiliar with how this cumbersome law that likely costs the American economy millions of dollars every year. >click to read<15:53

Fishing vessel sinks, leaks fuel in Seward Harbor

The weekend sinking of a fishing vessel in the Seward Harbor has prompted a cleanup effort as plans to salvage the vessel unfold. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said in a report that it is monitoring the response to the Nordic Viking, which sank at the “T-dock” in the Seward Harbor and was reported to DEC Sunday by the local harbormaster. It’s not clear why the ship sank. >click to read<17:44

Why Does Halibut Cost So Much?

Dishes fly across the galley. Water gushes through the scuppers and onto the deck. Five crew members on the 17.5-meter commercial halibut boat Borealis I walk like drunkards, holding onto anything stable. “We’re going to get bounced around a bit,” Dave Boyes, the boat’s captain and owner, deadpans. My day started at first light, about six hours ago, watching the crew let out 2,200 galvanized circle hooks laced with chunks of pollock, squid, and pink salmon to soak across 13 kilometers of ocean bottom. Then, we ate breakfast and rested in cramped, cluttered bunks while the boat bounced on 1.5-meter waves and—below, in the cold unseen depths—the hooks sunk deep into the lips of the predatory halibut. Now, the crew readies for battle, cinching rubber rain gear and running crude gutting knives across electric sharpeners—a portent of the bloodshed to come. When Boyes toots the boat’s horn, it’s game on. >click to read<08:45

Tomorrow’s fishery

While fisheries biologists in the north are hard at work crunching numbers in an effort to develop their best guess at how many salmon will return to Alaska next year, Atlantic Sapphire is getting ready to load it first 800,000 salmon eggs into a massive, onshore “Bluehouse” in Florida. A “successful 90-day, on site hatchery trial has validated water quality and local conditions,” the Norwegian company said in a report to shareholders in mid-November.,,, The implications for Alaska commercial salmon fisheries are significant, but those who suggest the growing competition warrants some serious discussion as to how the 49th state retains value in its salmon resources are generally vilified as commercial fishery haters. >click to read<12:27

Alaska Board of Fisheries rejects permit stacking, expands subsistence opportunity near Dillingham

Among the highlights at the four-day meeting, the board passed proposals to expand subsistence fishing near Dillingham. Dip net subsistence fishing will be allowed in the area, and subsistence users will be allowed to fish at any time. Since the 1970s, subsistence has been restricted to a three-day schedule during peak sockeye season near Dillingham to in an effort reduce wanton waste. Many testified at the meeting that schedule is unnecessary and onerous. The Curyung Tribal Council applauded the decision.,, The board rejected all proposals related to permit stacking, allowing one person to use extra gear if they hold two commercial fishing permits. They also voted not to extend the length of commercial fishing vessels in the bay. >click to read<10:18

Trump signs Coast Guard bill into law, includes Jones Act waiver for America’s Finest

When Dakota Creek Industries took America’s Finest out for its first sea trial on Tuesday 4 December, it looked like the 264-foot vessel was taking a victory lap. The Anacortes, Washington-based shipbuilder held an event that day to celebrate the Jones Act waiver elected officials were able to get for the processor-trawler. Later in the day, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Coast Guard Authorization Act, which contained the labor provision, into law. The process itself is not quite finished. The Coast Guard will get 30 days to review information  >click to read<12:56

On the waterfront: Portland zoning fight takes shape

Is it a restoration of guidelines to preserve the city’s marine traditions and industry? Or is it a Commercial Street catastrophe waiting to be unleashed? That’s how opposing sides are painting a proposed referendum question that would essentially restore the original language and restrictions of waterfront zoning passed by voters in May 1987. If approved, the amendments would be retroactive to Oct. 30, 2018. “They have been chipping away protections, it is a loose, fluid, insecure situation,” fisherman Keith Lane said Nov. 30 about the need to stop waterfront development. >clip to read<13:36