Category Archives: North Pacific

Pacific Salmon Treaty – Alaska salmon negotiators accept fewer ‘treaty fish’

For more than 30 years, the Pacific Salmon Commission has allocated salmon stocks shared between the U.S. and Canada. It’s re-negotiated every 10 years, and the latest version expires at the end of 2018. Formal talks finished in mid-August. Now, the numbers are out: Alaska will accept a 7.5 percent reduction, compared to 12.5 percent for Canada. In Washington and Oregon, the cuts range from 5 to 15 percent. “There’s some that would consider it to be winners and losers and I think in this case, I think everybody was equally disappointed,” said Alaska Fish and Game Deputy Commissioner Charlie Swanton, who headed Alaska’s delegation. >click to read<08:55

Alaska For Real: That shipwreck guy

If you live out in the wilderness in Southeast Alaska you will continually come across evidence of shipwrecks, new and old. My go-to place for hunting down the background details of a wreck is the website www.alaskashipwreck.com researched and written by Captain Warren Good. Having always been fascinated by shipwrecks myself, I asked him what got him interested in the subject and he responded: “During the 1970s, I worked as a seasonal deckhand, mostly fishing King Crab and Tanner Crab in the winter. I had off time between the two fisheries and spent it either in the library attempting to ‘self educate’ or out in the wilderness beach combing, prospecting and treasure hunting. Seasons passed and the number of friends I lost to the high seas kept getting larger.” >click to read<20:10

Biologists, fishermen puzzle over late Kenai sockeye run

First they were underweight, with underwhelming numbers. Then they weren’t there at all. Then they were coming in late, showing up as Upper Cook Inlet fishermen were packing up their gear for the season. The unpredictable and significantly smaller Kenai River sockeye run frustrated a lot of fishermen this year. As of the last day of sonar counts on Aug. 28, about 1.03 million sockeye had entered the river. More than half of them arrived after Aug. 1, leading to a stop-and-start fishery that included significant time and area cuts for commercial fishermen in Cook Inlet and a complete sockeye salmon sport angling closure on the Kenai River from Aug. 4–23. >click to read<16:12

House Bill 56: Cap raised to $400,000 on Alaska Commercial Fishing Loan Fund

New legislation boosts to $400,000 the cap on money that may be borrowed through the Alaska Commercial Fishing Loan Fund to purchase limited entry permits, individual fishing quotas and gear. House Bill 56, sponsored by Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, was signed into law on Aug. 31 by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker in a ceremony at Fisherman’s Hall in Kodiak. Ortiz said the bill addresses the problem of too many Alaskans are priced out of commercial fishing because they can’t afford a permit, quota or gear. >click to read<13:31

Alaska wary of federal push for marine aquaculture. Everyone should be.

During a recent stop in Juneau, NOAA Fisheries chief Chris Oliver said that wild seafood harvests alone can’t keep up with rising global demand. But there’s another way. “Aquaculture is going to be where the major increases in seafood production occur whether it happens in foreign countries or in United States waters,” Oliver told a room of fishermen, seafood marketing executives and marine scientists.,,, There’s a bill pending in the U.S. Senate that could decide how federal aquaculture is regulated. It’s being backed by an industry group called Stronger America Through Seafood. >click to read<20:58

After spending days aground in Sitka, a sea lion returns to the water – with help from humans

An improvised rescue mission involving a front-end loader and tranquilizer darts returned a desperate and dehydrated sea lion that spent four days meandering around Sitka to the ocean Monday. “It’s a good outcome,” said Julie Speegle of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. “He was last seen catching a fish.” First seen humping down a road near Sitka’s hospital early Friday morning, the Steller sea lion had spent most of the past two days hiding in the woods. Scientists tried to encourage him to travel the quarter-mile to the ocean on his own, but those attempts failed. 12 photos >click to read<17:36

Hatchery chum catch sets new Southeast record

Nine-hundred thousand chum salmon – that was the catch by the purse seine fleet at Crawfish Inlet south of Sitka on Thursday. It looks to be a new record chum catch for a one-day opening in Southeast Alaska. Crawfish Inlet is a new remote release site for the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, or NSRAA. It’s about 40 miles south of Sitka. This is the second year of fish returning to that location. NSRAA general manager Steve Reifenstuhl said Thursday’s catch is bigger than any one-day catch on record for the private non-profit’s hatchery at Hidden Falls on the opposite side of Baranof Island. >click to read<09:33

Alaskans worried by prospect of deep-sea fish farms

In a Centennial Hall listening session, Alaskans raised concerns about federal plans to boost open-ocean fish farms under a new strategic plan for the U.S. Department of Commerce. On Friday afternoon, Tim Gallaudet, acting undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, hosted a listening session at the end of a weeklong gathering of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration experts in Juneau. NOAA is an agency of the Department of Commerce, and Gallaudet is among the figures hosting meetings across the country as part of the process that creates the strategic plan.,, Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries and former director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, said concerns about aquaculture are somewhat misplaced. >click to read<09:00

Salvage team refloating F/V Pacific Knight

The 58-foot vessel, which was operating as a tender near Clark’s Point, sank July 25. After more than a month at the bottom of the Nushagak Bay, a salvage team is lifting the ship and will tow it to Dutch Harbor. “The past few days we’ve been passing chains underneath the vessel and connecting them to our crane barge,” explained Todd Duke (Resolve Marine). “We’ve turned it, and we’ve picked the vessel so it’s sitting somewhat upright now. We’ve been using a tool we call an airlift to remove sand and silt from around the vessel so that we can get the chains underneath, and we’ll continue doing some airlift and more chain connections to go ahead and lift this thing completely out of the water.” >click to read<21:25

Southeast pink salmon catch lowest in over four decades

Southeast Alaska’s commercial pink salmon catch will wind up way below forecasts, the lowest harvest in more than four decades. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s pink and chum salmon project leader for Southeast Andy Piston said the region’s commercial catch this summer is 7.3 million fish. “And that would be the lowest region-wide harvest since 1976,” Piston said. “And our Southeast purse seine catch, and that’s the gear group that catches most of our pink salmon, is about 6.5 million which again is the lowest we’ve seen since the mid-1970s.” It’s not the lowest catch ever. >click to read<14:57

Fewer Pollock, cod found in southern Bering Sea survey

Formal results of this year’s NOAA trawl survey of the southern Bering Sea won’t be announced until mid-September, but preliminary data shows a decided warming trend and the presence of fewer Alaska Pollock and Pacific cod than anticipated. “It appears that conditions are such now that we are moving into a warming phase and there is not clear evidence that we will move back into a cold phase,” said Lyle Britt, a research fisheries biologist with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle who participated in this year’s survey. >click to read<15:41

Alaska’s 2018 commercial salmon harvest 30 percent below forecast, yet some fisheries have boomed

The statewide commercial salmon harvest is about 31 percent below the preseason forecast, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a statement Thursday. The 2018 season, it said, “has been unusual.” Preliminary numbers show a statewide commercial salmon harvest of about 103 million fish so far. That’s subject to change, because the fishing season isn’t completely over yet. Fish and Game’s forecast in March projected a total statewide harvest of 147 million fish. >click to read<08:03

Gov. Walker declares economic disaster for Chignik fisheries

Citing a preliminary harvest count of 128 sockeye salmon and rapidly declining escapement counts, Gov. Walker declared an economic disaster for the Chignik fisheries region Thursday. According to a Thursday release, the governor’s decision is a result of harvest numbers that pose a threat to communities in the region that rely on subsistence and commercial salmon fishing, including Chignik, Chignik Lake, Chignik Lagoon, Ivanof Bay and Perryville. >click to read<10:06

Senate MSA reauthorization a step back for fishing communities

In July, the House passed H.R. 200 the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,” a much needed update of federal fisheries law that allows for both sustainable fisheries management and the long-term preservation of our nation’s fishing communities. Unfortunately, its counterpart bill making its way through the Senate would likely have the opposite effect. The Senate bill, S.1520, or the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018,” introduces changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA)—the main law governing U.S. fisheries—that would impose increasingly burdensome regulations on American fishermen and undermine H.R. 200’s goal of increasing flexibility in fisheries management. >click to read<17:51

Alaska Natives believed whale hunt was legal, Enviro group critisizes NOAA

Indigenous hunters in Alaska initially believed they were legally hunting a beluga whale when they unlawfully killed a protected grey whale with harpoons and guns after the massive animal strayed into a river last year, a federal investigative report said. ,, “The hunters also believed that if they were the first ones to shoot or harpoon the whale, the kill would be theirs,” it states. “This comes with a large amount of community pride.”,, The hunt underscores the tension between animal rights activists who want to safeguard at-risk species and indigenous residents who depend on subsistence fishing and hunting as part of their ancient culture and traditions. The Washington, D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute criticized NOAA for not pushing for charges over a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. >click to read<17:02

Small processors carve out a market in Bristol Bay

Standing in a shipping container that’s been converted into essentially a salmon butchery. Sandy Alvarez is filleting a sockeye. People regularly admire her technique but she said the secret behind it is practice. “Well you know people who comment they wish they could do that I usually laughingly tell them. ‘Try doing 1,500 fish for 10 years you probably can!’” Almost a decade ago Alvarez and her husband, a commercial fisherman, set up a little processing plant near their summer home in Naknek. Alvarez’s husband fishes for sockeye and drops off a bit of his catch to his wife who then processes it. Then he sells the rest of his salmon to a larger seafood company. That is pretty typical for small seafood processors in the region. >click to read<22:20

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

Framed?

Already struggling financially and facing unhappy neighbors in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay, the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA) now finds itself being drawn into a public-relations mess with four board members charged in an explosive case of illegal fishing. And one of the men charged believes CIAA efforts to grow more salmon is at the heart of the issue.“This is all about politics,” commercial seiner Mark Roth said Thursday. Fishermen regularly fish too close to open-closed lines, stray across and get ticketed. As Mark noted, those cases almost never make the news. ,, For the 64-year-old Mark, sons Paul, 35, and Robert, 39, and friend Eric Winslow, a 61-year-old Alaska fishermen whose home is in Florida, it was different. They this week made the news in a big way,,, >click to read<14:46

Trollers call for Murkowski’s aid with treaty

“You take our fish, you take our lives!” This is the fourth time salmon trollers have taken to the streets during the 2018 season to protest proposed cuts to the chinook harvest in the Pacific Salmon Treaty. In May, trollers gathered outside Sitka’s Centennial Building prior to the start of a state salmon symposium hosted by ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten. When Governor Bill Walker visited Sitka in June, dozens of fishing vessels paraded up and down the harbor, asking that Walker refuse to sign the treaty, if it forced Alaska trollers to trade a share of the king salmon harvest to Canada, to protect endangered stocks in Washington. Trollers then organized a rally in Sitka’s harbor prior to the start of the July 1 opener, where one fisherman symbolically used a flare to burn his boat payments. >click to read<17:41

Three Coast Guard aircrews transit more than 1,200 miles to medevac man from fishing vessel west of Dutch Harbor

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew medevaced a man from the 116-foot commercial fishing vessel Patricia Lee 190 miles west of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, early Tuesday morning. The helicopter crew safely transported the 27-year-old man from the fishing vessel Patricia Lee to awaiting air ambulance personnel in Dutch Harbor for further care. The man was reported to have been in stable condition. District 17 command center watchstanders received a report Monday evening from the fishing vessel’s master that a crewman had been hit in the head by a crab pot. >click to read<18:29

Ocean Beauty permanently closes Petersburg cannery

Ocean Beauty Seafoods will permanently close the company’s Petersburg cannery. Company president and CEO Mark Palmer said in an Aug. 2 letter to Petersburg borough that Ocean Beauty’s facilities at Excursion Inlet, Cordova and Kodiak provide it with adequate canning capacity to meet customer demand. The processor invested money in its Excursion Inlet plant, about 40 miles west of Juneau and will focus on more fresh and frozen processing. The letter also mentions a multi-year agreement with a floating processor vessel Ocean Fresh. >click to read<14:45

Four are charged with illegal commercial fishing in Dog Fish Bay.

The state has filed charges against four commercial fishermen accused of illegal harvesting salmon in a bay south of Homer. Alaska Wildlife Troopers wrote in a dispatch Monday that Eric Winslow, 61, Paul Roth, 35, and Mark Roth, 64, all of Homer, and Robert Roth, 39, of Anchor Point, are charged with working together to illegally drive salmon out of a closed area near the mouth of a creek in Dog Fish Bay into an open fishing area, where they harvested them. Altogether, 33,328 pounds of salmon were illegally harvested, according to the dispatch. >click to read<08:42

Slow going toward the 39M harvest forecast

Commercial salmon harvests in Prince William Sound topped the 15.4 million mark through July 31, up by three million fish over the previous week, compared to 20.4 million delivered by the same time a year ago. All five species of Pacific salmon are running below the catch rate or the same statistics week one year ago. The pink salmon harvest has reached nearly 11 million fish, compared to 13 million at this time in July of 2016, and this year’s forecast of 32.7 million humpies. Deliveries of sockeyes have reached 1.3 million fish, compared to a year-to-date harvest in 2017 of 1.4 million, and the keta harvest stood at 3.2 million fish, compared to a catch of 5.4 million chums through the same time last year. On the bright side, the Copper River district >click to read<13:47

After a long wait, Ugashik fishermen’s patience paid off

Fishermen in Ugashik Bay are used to their sockeye salmon to showing up late in Bristol Bay’s salmon season. This summer’s salmon season was especially trying, but for some, the wait was worth it. Conrad Day and his crew tow a net into the Ugashik River in preparation for the incoming high tide. He explained, “Now we’ll just wait on the switch, cause when the water floods the fish come with it. It’s like a free ride upriver.” Things are quiet out on the water tonight, but a few days ago the river would’ve been full of fellow set netters preparing for the evening sockeye run. >click to read<17:12

Alaska – Halibut dock prices rebound, but upswing may not last

Halibut prices fell about $2 per pound at the beginning of the season. But there’s good news for some fishermen: ex-vessel prices are increasing slightly around the state. “We did see the ex-vessel price for halibut perk up a bit where we’re at $6.25, $6.50, $6.75 here in Homer today,” said Doug Bowen, who tracks halibut prices around the Gulf of Alaska for Alaska Boats and Permits, a vessel-and-fishing permit broker in Homer. >click to read<16:22

Salvage efforts are underway for the F/V Pacific Knight

The owner of the F/V Pacific Knight is contracting with the private company Resolve Marine to salvage the 58-foot vessel that sank near Clark’s Point on Wednesday. The entire Nushagak commercial fishing district is closed because the wreck is leaking fuel. When the boat sank, it was carrying 1100 gallons of fuel. It is still unknown how much diesel and hydraulic fuel has spilled into the bay. Divers unsuccessfully attempted to stop the vessel leaking fuel over the weekend and again on today. They are scheduled to attempt another dive tonight to determine how much fuel is still on the ship and to pump off any that remains. >click to read<08:12

Commercial fishing in Igushik again closed due to fuel spill from F/V Pacific Knight

Fuel from the wreckage of the F/V Pacific Knight has reached the Igushik Section of the Nushagak commercial fishing district. That’s according to reports the Alaska Department of Fish and Game received today at 4 p.m. that people in the area smelled fuel and saw a sheen on the water. After the entire Nushagak District was closed in response to the fuel spill on Thursday, the Igushik Section only was reopened Friday. The Igushik Section will now close again at 6 p.m. today. >click to read<10:45

Coast Guard Medevacs crewman from fishing vessel in Prince William Sound

Coast Guard Station Valdez crew members medevaced an 18-year-old male, suffering from a hand injury, from the fishing vessel Pacific Harvester in Prince William Sound, Thursday evening. The station’s crew, including an emergency trauma technician, treated the man’s hand while in transit to a Valdez pier where he was transferred to awaiting emergency medical service personnel for higher care. Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Anchorage command center received a report from the master of the Pacific Harvester requesting a medevac for the crewmember who was suffering from a hand injury and displaying signs of shock.  >click to read<16:25

Value of Bristol Bay salmon rises, even as the fish shrink

Bristol Bay’s strong salmon returns stand in stark contrast to other parts of Alaska where the fish have trickled in slowly or seemingly not at all. Statewide, though, fish of all species are coming in smaller. Here’s why. 2018 has been a year for the Bristol Bay record books as total sockeye run surpassed 61 million on Thursday, putting it just a half-million fish behind the largest run of 61.7 million in 1980. Bert Lewis oversees commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He’s impressed at the strength of the Nushagak district’s run and even at Bristol Bay’s east-side districts, which came in “late but solidly.”>click to read<10:46

Kotzebue fisheries group wins its case against former directors

A fisheries group in Kotzebue has won its case against some of its former directors and their for-profit corporation, Chum, LLC. The directors were charged with breaching their fiduciary duty, or trust to act in the best interest of those they represented. “This case is an example of what happens when directors of a nonprofit take money from the corporation and use it for their own benefit,” said Myron Angstman, a lawyer for Kotzebue Sound Fisheries Association, which was the plaintiff in the case, in a statement. The court issued a decision on July 10 against two of the defendants after years of legal back-and-forth. >click to read<18:47