Category Archives: North Pacific

The collapse of fishing giant Blue Harvest exposes the weakness of catch share policies

In October 2023, wrecking crews finished scrapping the last of a dozen fishing boats that had once owned by the notorious New England fishing magnate nicknamed wrecking crews finished scrapping the last of a dozen fishing boats that had once owned by the notorious New England fishing magnate nicknamed “The Codfather.” Carlos Rafael, who started out as a fish gutter in New Bedford, Massachusetts, aggressively worked — and sometimes cheated — his way up the ladder, eventually coming to dominate New England’s groundfish fishery (which includes cod, hake, flounder and other white fish) before a 2017 court decision sent him to prison for nearly four years and forced him to sell off his fleet. The sale, completed during his prison sentence, would earn him another $100 million. It was a profitable end for a fishing empire built on seafood fraud, tax evasion and consolidation. So when the private equity-backed Blue Harvest Fisheries announced in 2020 that it was buying most of Rafael’s fleet and putting the boats back to work, some welcomed it as good news for the port of New Bedford, the hub of Cape Cod’s fishing industry. more, >>click to read<< 17:07

Alaska records fourth largest salmon harvest with economic blow

2023 marks the fourth largest salmon harvest since the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game started to record the harvest in 1985. Unfortunately, the large harvest did not bring in financial scores equal to smaller harvests. Last year, the overall salmon harvest for the state of Alaska wasn’t the largest on record, but it was the largest harvest of sockeye. For 2023, pink salmon claimed dominance and the overall harvest was massive as well, but the revenue fell far from the gains seen last year. In 2023, the harvest numbers were a major success for the fishing industry bringing in a total of over 230 million salmon. That’s the fourth largest harvest on record, much of it being pink salmon. Video, more, >>click to read<< 17:25

Opinion: The tragic mismanagement of bycatch in Alaska

The commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s recent opinion piece on bycatch would make for good comedy if the topic wasn’t so serious. Doug Vincent-Lang extolled the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s handling of bycatch in trawl fisheries off the coast of Alaska. As examples, he mentioned existing bycatch caps for chinook salmon and halibut bycatch measures that are not yet in effect. Other than that, here are the council “actions” he espouses. The council, of which he is a key member, has “initiated an analysis” concerning caps on chum bycatch, is “considering further fishing restrictions” related to crab in the Bering Sea and is “evaluating whether further protections are needed” for Tanner crab in the Gulf. He also notes that the council “support(s) further research” into the causes of the declines in these seminal Alaska fisheries stocks. >>click to read<< 12:29

5 family members and a commercial fisherman neighbor are ID’d as dead or missing in Alaska landslide

Authorities on Friday identified those missing or killed in a southeast Alaska landslide this week as five family members and their neighbor, a commercial fisherman who made a longshot bid for the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House last year. Timothy Heller, 44, and Beth Heller, 36 — plus their children Mara, 16; Derek, 12; and Kara, 11 — were at home Monday night when the landslide struck near the island community of Wrangell. Search crews found the bodies of the parents and the oldest child late Monday or early Tuesday; the younger children remain missing, as does neighbor Otto Florschutz, 65, the Alaska Department of Public Safety said in an emailed statement. >>click to read<< 07:32

‘People helping people’

Some folks in Alaska are going to be very thankful on Thanksgiving. The Lydia Marie, a 44-foot wooden troller, with its captain, Logan Padgett, and his brother aboard, began taking on water on Nov. 13 while in rough waters in Frederick Sound, reported. Padgett sent out a mayday to U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka and headed for calmer waters off Read Island in Farragut Bay. The flooding got under control, but the helicopter was already on the way. “Well, it was dark,” Padgett said. “So we were just looking at the helicopter lights, and there wasn’t really much to see. But we could hear the rotors one second, and then (a) loud crash the next. Then silence.” >>click to read<< 06:53

3 dead and 3 missing after landslide rips through remote Alaska fishing community

The slide, estimated to be 450 feet (137 meters) wide, occurred at about 9 p.m. Monday during a significant rain and windstorm near Wrangell, an island community of 2,000 people some 155 miles (250 kilometers) south of the state capital of Juneau. Rescue crews found the body of a girl in an initial search and late Tuesday the bodies of two adults were found by a drone operator. Searchers used a cadaver-sniffing dog and heat-sensing drones to search for two children and one adult unaccounted for after the disaster, while the Coast Guard and other vessels looked along a waterfront littered with rocks, trees and mud. >>click to read<< 08:53

When a Coast Guard helicopter crashed in Southeast Alaska, first on the scene were the helicopter crashed it came to rescue

The first people at the scene of Monday night’s crash of an Air Station Sitka helicopter were the crew of the distressed fishing vessel it was sent to assist. The two brothers aboard the Lydia Marie played a critical role in the rescue of the downed air crew. Logan Padgett is the captain of the Lydia Marie, a 44-foot wooden troller based in Wrangell. The Lydia Marie began taking on water around 8 p.m. Monday in the rough seas of Frederick Sound. Padgett sent out a mayday and steered for the protected northern shore of Read Island in Farragut Bay. >>click to read<< 08:05

Ordinary Heroes: Fishermen Turn Rescuers in Treacherous Seas – In the midst of a treacherous night at sea, the crew of the fishing vessel Lydia Marie found themselves unexpectedly shifting roles from the ones in need of rescue to becoming the rescuers. Captain Logan Padgett and his younger brother, ordinary fishermen, were thrust into action to aid the downed air crew of an Air Station Sitka helicopter. >>click to read<< 11:24

Kongsberg Discovery Partners with Arctic Storm for Advanced US-built Trawler-processor

The first US-built trawler-processor for Alaskan pollock in over three decades is now undergoing sea trials in the Northern Pacific, testing an integrated technology package from Kongsberg Discovery tailored to locate, inspect, and engage fish with unparalleled efficiency. The 100-meter-long Arctic Fjord, designed by Kongsberg Maritime and built by Louisiana’s Thoma-Sea Marine Constructor, will start full-time operations for 2024’s pollock A season in the Bering Sea. “The Arctic Fjord sets a new benchmark for the Alaskan pollock fleet,” Woodruff comments. “From its fuel-efficient design to the outstanding crew accommodation and state-of-the-art onboard processing facilities, every element has been cherry picked to not just do the job, but to do it to the highest possible standards. >>click to read<< 09:50

Coast Guard helicopter crash in Southeast Alaska injures 4 crew members

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crashed late Monday on an island in Southeast Alaska, and all four people aboard survived, officials said. The Sitka-based MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter crashed on Read Island during a search and rescue mission, U.S. Coast Guard Alaska wrote in a statement Tuesday. The crew members were being treated for serious injuries, the statement said. A crashed on Read Islandfishing vessel reported the crash around 11:05 p.m., according to the statement. The boat had been flooding and was receiving help from the Coast Guard. Two Coast Guard cutters responded to the area to help the flooding fishing vessel and established a security zone around the helicopter crash, the statement said. This is a developing story. >>click to read<< 15:59

Lawmakers form Seafood Caucus to help Louisiana fishermen

Consumers likely don’t think twice about where the shrimp or seafood bought at grocery store comes from, but Louisiana fisherman—and now federal lawmakers—are asking people to pay attention. “We’re losing an industry and a culture and a way of life in Louisiana and across the country,” said Acy Cooper, who comes from a long line of shrimpers. He says what was once a reliable profession has now become heartache. It’s not just a problem in Louisiana—which is why lawmakers from all four of the country’s coasts are joining together to find a solution. Video, >>click to read<< 10:28

Alaska crabbers get creative with pop-up sales, but industry’s fate uncertain

With Alaska’s Bering Sea snow crab fishery shut down for the second year in a row, crabbers are having to make tough decisions and find creative ways to earn income, like selling direct to Anchorage consumers, sometimes in parking lots. A hand-painted sign on an Anchorage street corner and a hanging sign with the words “Live Alaskan King Crab” were enough to draw in customers to a Spenard parking lot that had become home to one of the shellfish pop-up sales. The live crab sale was in its fourth day on Nov. 2 and had already sold more than three-quarters of the 700 red king crabs hauled out from the Bering Sea. In an attempt to make up some lost income, third-generation fisherman Gabriel Prout brought red king crab to Anchorage to sell directly to consumers. Photos, >>click to read<< 09:16

Commercial Fisherman Robert Maxwell “Bob” Salter of Santa Cruz, California has passed away

Family and friends are mourning the loss of beloved uncle and trusted friend, Bob Salter, who passed away at his Santa Cruz home with his loving family at his bedside. Bob was born in Santa Cruz to Frederick Salter and Fern Rianda Salter, he attended Delaveaga, B40, and Harbor High School. His father taught Bob the joy of fishing and love of the Sea. He grew up surfing and fishing with his brother Gary. His former boat was the Francis Jolene in the Santa Cruz Harbor. He fished for many seasons in Alaska and would visit family in Canada along the way. Bob had a lifelong career of commercial fishing and most recently fished out of Santa Cruz Harbor with Rick Ryan and his niece Bonnie Salter. >>click to read<< 10:27

OPINION: North Pacific Fishery Management Council is acting to reduce bycatch

In a recent opinion piece, Brooke Woods, Linda Behnken and Nanci Morris Lyon stated, “Federal fisheries off Alaska are managed via the dictates of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC), which has done little to address the trawl fleet’s enormous bycatch of species immeasurably important to Alaskans.” Nothing could be further from the truth The council adopted hard caps for chinook salmon in the Bering Sea trawl pollock fisheries that vary depending upon the expected returns to western Alaska rivers. When expected returns are low, the caps are adjusted downward. Additionally, the fishing industry has stepped forward to implement chinook salmon avoidance measures that hold each vessel accountable for limiting bycatch to below the caps. In fact, the fleet is well below their caps, recognizing the need to rebuild these stocks. >>click to read<< 15:55

Doug Vincent-Lang

U.S. regulators will review car-tire chemical that kills salmon, upon request from West Coast tribes

U.S. regulators say they will review the use of a chemical found in almost every tire after a petition from West Coast Native American tribes that want it banned because it kills salmon as they return from the ocean to their natal streams to spawn. The Yurok tribe in California and the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Puyallup tribes in Washington asked the Environmental Protection Agency to prohibit the rubber preservative 6PPD earlier this year, saying it kills fish — especially coho salmon — when rains wash it from roadways into rivers. Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut also wrote the EPA, citing the chemical’s “unreasonable threat” to their waters and fisheries. >>click to read<<   10:14

A business in crisis

After years of choking on record runs of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon and near-record runs of heavily farmed, low-value pink salmon, the Alaska fishing industry is in chaos with processors now pleading for more government subsidies and coddled commercial fishermen demanding yet more disaster aid. One could blame global warming, which has led to historically unprecedented harvests of Alaska salmon despite whatever nonsense to the contrary the mainstream media might have reported, but the industry’s problems are far more complex than just trying to sell high-priced seafood in Western markets where the sales of animal protein are dominated by chicken, beef and pork. Some of the industry’s issues here are rooted in its long history. For most of the years after commercial fishing began in Alaska in the late 1800s, the business dealt almost wholly in canned salmon. >>click to read<< 08:41

Sinking of the Wild Alaskan – Document Dump #42

Document Dump #42 – In this Document Dump, I am releasing to the Public clear, convincing and undeniable evidence that certain Alaska State Troopers and Kodiak Chief of Police, Tim Putney are actively trying to cover-up one of Alaska’s biggest felony theft and destruction of property crimes in the history of this great state. I am a full supporter of Law Enforcement, just not the corrupt ones. As I have stated before, the actions of the Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Bureau of Investigations have now morphed into a “HUB AND SPOKED WHEEL” RICO CONSPIRACY to cover-up a major crime which these people have no immunity from. There is no other way to explain it. Photos, >>click to read Document Dump #42<<. and more. 18:28

Alaska seafood harvesting jobs decline as fish crashes, pandemic and other factors take toll

Alaska fish-harvesting employment declined in 2022, a continuing yearslong slide caused by a variety of factors, according to an analysis by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Employment for people harvesting seafood dropped by about a quarter from 2015 to 2022, according to the analysis, published in the November issue of Alaska Economic Trends, the department’s monthly research magazine. The industry lost ground compared to other sectors of the Alaska economy, the analysis found. Seafood harvesting accounted for 7.3% of Alaska jobs in July of 2021, but only 5.7% of Alaska jobs were in seafood harvesting in the following July. Fishery work is highly seasonal, and July is the peak month for it. >>click to read<< 16:15

Bering Sea fish bounty brings help, headaches for trawlers

A federal lawsuit filed this year by two Alaska tribal organizations — the Association of Village Council Presidents and Tanana Chiefs Conference — seeks a court order to force federal regulators to reassess pollock harvest levels. The plaintiffs note the pollock nets, which often touch bottom, may harm crabs and other sea life and also cite the trawlers’ incidental take of salmon. The lawsuit is opposed by the At-Sea Processors Association, a group that includes Coastal Villages and had intervened in the case on the side of the federal government. “We felt compelled to do it. We don’t have any negative feelings towards them. But we think it’s kind of a misguided effort,” said Eric Deakin, Coastal Villages CEO, who works out of an Anchorage headquarters office. Photos, >>click to read<< 09:20

With little movement on salmon bycatch, Alaska advocates look to Biden administration for executive action

Amid catastrophic shortfalls in salmon harvests in some of Alaska’s rural, Indigenous communities, advocates have pleaded for a crackdown on unintentional catch of those same salmon by the trawl vessels that harvest billions of pounds of whitefish in the Bering Sea. But the politically appointed regional council that manages Bering Sea fisheries has largely resisted those requests. So instead, advocates are now taking another approach. They’re pushing the Biden administration for a workaround: a rewrite of the federal guidelines that tell the regional council, and its counterparts across the country, how to manage all the fisheries under their supervision. >>click to read<< 18:40

In 42 photos, See how Dungeness crab is caught off Kodiak Island, Alaska

Captain Garrett Kavanaugh of the Fishing Vessel Insatiable stands for a portrait in front of his 58’ boat at the harbor in Kodiak, Alaska. As ocean temperatures rise, fishermen everywhere must adapt to harvesting different species. Garrett Kavanaugh, captain of the Fishing Vessel Insatiable out of the port of Kodiak Island, has invested large equipment, fuel, and labor, betting on Dungeness crabs as the future of his Alaskan fishing business. >>click to read<< 20:39

“How can we work together?” Longtime fisherman Dan Barr reflects on his career in Bristol Bay

Dan Barr is eighty-one and a half years old. He fished Bristol Bay for just about half his life. “It’s been just such a great part of my life,” he said. “Every year I came home, it was like [I got] to live out something new that got loose in me.” Barr spent much of his career finding ways to connect different people with each other. For over two decades, he was president of the Bristol Bay Driftnetters Association – an organization formed in the 1980s that aimed to unify the fleet. There, he helped publish newsletters about issues around the fishery, like practices in the Pacific Ocean that affected Bristol Bay. In 1992, he formed a coalition that helped pass the High Seas Driftnet Act, which aimed to restrict large-scale driftnet fishing in international waters. >>click to read<< 09:19

Public input sought on federal management of Cook Inlet salmon fishing

NOAA is asking for residents’ opinion on a major fishing issue. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is looking for public comments on Amendment 16 which would allow the federal government to manage commercial and recreational salmon fishing in the Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone. The proposed rule would put the federal government, not the state, in charge of salmon fishing there. Alaska would continue to manage all fishing in state waters. >>click to read<< 11:31

Alaska pollock trawlers are feeling pressure over salmon bycatch, so this reporter went to see for himself

Bering Sea factory trawlers scoop up tens of thousands of pollock at a time, and pressure is intensifying to avoid catching salmon as populations of chum and chinook have plummeted in recent years, causing closures for subsistence harvesting. The trawlers are not entirely to blame, warming oceans due to human-caused climate change are almost certainly a factor, but they have drawn the ire of salmon advocates from Western Alaska to Washington D.C.  This is a 341-foot vessel that I went out on, the Northern Hawk, with a crew of 129 people. And most of them work below the deck in a fish factory that, basically when the fishing is reasonable, operates 24 hours a day. Then there are these incredible fillet machines that will fillet 180 fish a minute, and the job of the human is basically to just feed the machine 24 hours a day. And it’s kind of mind-numbing work. Your hands move constantly to make sure the fish are positioned correctly. >>click to read<< 07:40

A Petersburg tender holds open mics on board, with its fish hold as the sound stage

There’s a nearly 100-year-old wooden boat in Petersburg that’s become a staple of the tight-knit local music scene. Musicians in town have a few performance spaces to choose from, a lot of them in bars. But the crew of the Roedda brings a unique option with them when they come to town — transforming the boat’s fish hold into an improvised sound stage. It was a brisk Thursday night in September in Petersburg’s South Harbor. The chill was already starting to set in, and the people were starting to pour out of town. Alex Deacon is the captain of the Roedda. But tonight, she’s also the master of ceremonies for an open mic on board — the last of the season. >>click to read<< 15:10

As the once-lucrative Bering Sea crab harvest resumes, Alaska’s fishers face challenges

In the short term, Alaska crab fishers and the communities that depend on them will get a slight reprieve from the disastrous conditions they have endured for the past two years, with harvests for iconic red king crab to open on Sunday. In the long term, the future for Bering Sea crab and the people who depend on it is clouded by environmental and economic upheaval. The decision by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to open harvests of Bristol Bay red king crab after an unprecedented two-year shutdown was a close call, a state biologist told industry members during a meeting on Thursday. >>click to read<< 16:08

A struggle to dodge salmon in pursuit of a massive pollock bounty

Onboard the F/V Northern Hawk — Some 400 miles northwest of Dutch Harbor, Bering Sea pollock congregated in spectacular fashion. In the wheelhouse of this factory trawler, Captain Jim Egaas scanned a sonar displaying a dense red band that represented millions of fish in a school that stretched for miles. He could see the pollock up close on another screen that relayed images from an undersea camera stitched in the mesh of a quarter-mile-long net. The video feed showed swarms of them deep in the funnel-shaped trap. Once pulled on board, the tail end of the net bulged with more than 220,000 pounds of tightly packed pollock. A crewman unstitched a seam. Raised by a powerful winch, the net spewed a silver avalanche of fish into below-deck holding tanks to await processing in a plant primed to operate 24 hours a day. Egaas was in hurry-up mode. Even before the last of this catch was shaken from the webbing, he called for crew members to unfurl a second net from a giant reel. “I like what we are seeing. We’re on the stock,” Egaas said. Photos, video, >>click to read<< 15:42

Bristol Bay red king crab, tanner crab fisheries open Sunday

The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is back on track, after being closed for two years, with a total allowable catch of 2.15 million pounds – just a bit lower than when it was last opened in 2020 at 2.6 million pounds.  The announcement on Friday, Oct. 6, was cheered by crab captains and Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, as a way to get back out doing what they loved, pay some bills, and keep crew working, all while keeping the crab resource sustainable for generations to come. Veteran crabber Glenn Casto, captain of the FV Pinnacle, called it a start in the right direction, that will help pay some bills and help out crew. >>click to read<< 08:20

Another Bering Sea snow crab season closure brings more financial hardships for fishermen

“This is something that’s in our blood,” said Gabriel Prout, the owner and a deckhand of the 116-foot F/V Silver Spray. However, now his passion and family tradition is in jeopardy. On Oct. 6, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced it was closing the 2023-24 Bering Sea snow crab season for the second season in a row. “The stock is currently at all-time low levels from the survey time series,” said Ethan Nichols, the ADF&G acting area management biologist for the Bering Sea & Aleutian Islands region. “So, the threshold for opening is that total mature male biomass has to be at least 25% of long-term average. And in 2023 total mature male biomass is estimated to be between 15 and 19% of the long-term average.” The news felt like a punch to the gut for Prout, whose family relies on the season for 80 to 90% of its revenue. Video, >>click to read<< 11:40

Amid Western Alaska salmon crisis, researchers explore data-driven strategies to reduce chinook bycatch

In the debate over what is driving the Western Alaska chinook, or king, salmon crisis, the commercial trawl industry has faced no shortage of criticism over the issue of bycatch. The vast majority of chinook bycatch takes place in the Alaska pollock fishery, the second-largest fishery in the world. Each year, thousands of chinook that would otherwise make their way to the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers are intercepted at sea. In 2020, more than half of the estimated roughly 32,000 chinook caught by the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands pollock trawl fisheries were from Western Alaska stocks, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This was also the year the Yukon River was completely closed to subsistence king salmon fishing for the first time ever, and it hasn’t reopened since. >>click to read<< 08:30

Alaska cancels snow crab harvest again due to population concerns

Crabbers from the Pacific Northwest who fish in Alaska had been watching and waiting for recommendations from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which met Thursday and Friday. Following the meetings, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Bering snow crab season will be closed for 2023-2024; Bristol Bay red king crab will open. Tanner crab will also be open for commercial fishermen. Both the snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab seasons were closed in 2023. Crabbers and industry associations warned of the massive impact the decision would have on many small businesses, prompting calls by Congressional officials for an emergency declaration and federal aid. Video, >>click to read<< 08:18