Tag Archives: Alaska

Alaska: 8 People Were Murdered Aboard a Fishing Boat. Though It’s the State’s Most Infamous Mass Killing, It’s Also Unsolved.

It was the men who worked on a troller named “Casino” who first noticed the fire. Thick black smoke was rising high against the misty skies of a crisp fall afternoon. A “Casino” crewmember alerted authorities in nearby Craig, Alaska, then rode their fishing boat less than a mile across the water to see if they could help. Their destination was Fish Egg Island, on the west side of Prince of Wales Island. It’s been over 40 years since the fire, the investigation and the discovery of the largest mass murder in the history of the state of Alaska. The tragedy goes unsolved, despite two trials. Residents of the fishing village of Craig have heard all the theories about who committed the horrible crimes that obliterated an entire family. Eight people were living aboard, half of whom were members of the Coulthurst family. Fishing boat veterans who had no known enemies and piloted a beautiful seine admired by the local fishing fleet. >>click to read<< 11:31

A 50-year situation: the market dynamic between fishing fleets and processors in Bristol Bay

This year, Bristol Bay’s 50 cents per pound base price had fleet members questioning the industry’s longevity. The dynamic between fleets and processors has existed for decades, with permit-holding fishing crews delivering their catch before knowing its cost, and processors relying on them to do so. KDLG’s Christina McDermott sat down with economist Gunnar Knapp, who spent decades studying Bristol Bay’s salmon markets, to learn more about the history of this relationship, and what it means going forward. Christina McDermott: Just a little background: this past summer, many fleet members were upset when the price was announced at 50 cents per pound, which is the lowest in the past 40 years when adjusted for inflation. The announcement came fairly late in the season. There was protest, and there was a lot of discussion on the processors’ respective power to set that price. And I’m interested in going back a little bit. What opportunities [did] the fleet have to sell their fish 50 years ago, let’s say, or 20 years ago? Has it always [been] this relationship [that] there are these processors and there are these fishermen? >>click to read<< 10:00

Orcas in Alaska are stealing fish right from the lines — and the new behavior seems to be killing them

Orcas in Alaska are exhibiting a “new behavior” that may be getting them in trouble, a local fisher’s association has said. They’ve been known to pluck fish off from commercial fishing gear for decades. But recently, they’ve been spotted lingering by the boats more often, appearing to “be feeding in front of the nets while fishing,” the group said. The Groundfish Forum, a Seattle-based trawl group that represents members operating 19 boats in the area, gave the warning in a statement shared by the Anchorage Daily News. “This new behavior” has never been documented and has marine scientists stumped, the Groundfish Forum said in the statement, dated September 21, >>click to read<< 18:01

Warming bonus


A warmer ocean continues to smile on Alaska commercial salmon fishermen, but the fish market is sadly another story. The 49th state these days finds itself vying with Russia to become the world’s biggest supplier of cheap salmon to stuff into cans and pouches while upscale consumers spend their money on nice, fat salmon filets. Norwegian salmon farmers – Leroy, Mowi and others who specialize in six-and-a-half to 13-pound Atlanatic – are posting record profits and worry about being taxed by the Norwegian government the way Alaska taxes oil, and Alaska fishermen are waiting to find out just how low the final price for the bulk of their catch, pink salmon that have in recent years averaged 3.4 pounds, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game data.  >>click to read<<

. >>click to read<< 11:55

Alaskan fishers fear another bleak season as crab populations dwindle in warming waters

Gabriel Prout worked four seasons on his father’s crab boat, the Silver Spray, before joining his two brothers in 2020 to buy a half-interest plus access rights for a snow crab fishery that’s typically the largest and richest in the Bering Sea. Then in 2021, disaster: an annual survey found crabs crashing to an all-time low.   Kevin Abena, who runs a fishing business with his father, also relies on tendering to stay afloat in the wake of the crab fishery closure. His vessel Big Blue, which his father built in the late 1970s, stopped fishing for most crab in Bristol Bay in 2010, but they still own access rights and take a percentage from other boats that fish their quota. Abena also fishes for halibut and black cod.>>click to read<< 12:31

Know-nothing journalism

Credibility dies in a field of little mistakes. This is why it is painful to read what passes for news today: “Pink salmon get their nickname from their propensity to bite on anything pink.” Or so reported Gregory Scruggs of The Seattle Times after visiting West Seattle’s Lincoln Park on Aug. 22 for a story on Life/Outdoors in the Emerald City. Yes, and red salmon got their nickname for their propensity to bite on anything red and silvers on silver. And don’t forget those dog salmon. Note to the unwary: Leave Fido at home if you decide to pursue the latter. They have a propensity to bite on dogs. This is the reason there are so many three-legged dogs in villages along the Yukon River. All of this would be funny if, of course, it was funny. >>click to read<< 10:18

Commercial crab fishery closed for 2023-2024 season

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed the commercial red and blue king crab fishery for the 2023-2024 season, the sixth year in a row, citing stock survey numbers that remain well below the regulatory threshold. The announcement made Wednesday is a blow to commercial fishers, who saw a significant drop in prices for chum (dog) and pink (humpback) salmon this year. “If they would open up the crab season for 10-15 days it would help bail us out of a terrible season,” said Norval Nelson, owner and operator of Star of the Sea, which was in Aurora Harbor. He made his comments before he learned of the news. >>click to read<<17:27

Eagle, Eagle, what are you going to do?

Dick and Carl Arvidson had sister ships built in Seattle. Carl named his the “Eagle,” and when they were transiting through the locks out of Lake Washington, Dick was in the lead. Evidently there was confusion for Carl, as over a loudspeaker, he heard an urgent announcement: “Eagle! Eagle! What are you going to do?”  Dick and Carl were good friends and had both begun fishing in the Cordova area at a young age. Dick loved to tell the story about the maiden voyage of their matching boats. It was always good for a laugh. The Eagle still sits in the Cordova boat harbor and is used in set net operations by the Kritchens on the other side of the Sound. Seeing it reminded me of another eagle story witnessed from Renner’s Dragonfly.  >>click to read<< 15:09

Submerged Rock Led to Fishing Vessel Grounding

A captain’s decision to navigate close to shore in an area with uncharted rocks led to the grounding and capsizing of a fishing vessel in Alaska last year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said. The Challenger struck a submerged rock while fishing for salmon along the shore of Kodiak Island, Alaska on August 7, 2022. The vessel began taking on more water than the onboard pumps could handle. The captain and three crewmembers abandoned ship and were rescued by a nearby Good Samaritan fishing vessel, and the vessel capsized soon after. Another Good Samaritan vessel towed the fishing vessel to Larsen Bay. No injuries were reported. The Challenger was declared a total loss, with damages exceeding $600,000. >>click to read<< 10:51

Catch Shares: Commercial trawlers to transition to quota system for Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands cod harvests

Starting in January, the fleet will fish under a “rationalization” system where each catcher vessel will have a maximum catch limit, which will be assigned through quota. The new regulations will require vessels trawling for cod in the area to form cooperatives, and quota will be administered through each co-op. Previously, the entire fishery had a total allowable catch that had to be caught within a certain amount of time. NOAA said this is the first time a catch share program has been implemented in Alaska since 2012. >>click to read<< 09:31

Economists unsure of how long huge salmon influxes will affect prices

Kodiak fisherman Mike Friccero has fished for salmon for over four decades. He said he was expecting a low price for Bristol Bay salmon this summer but didn’t think rumors were true about how low it would drop. “Our processor gave us a letter, a narrative before the season started, saying that pricing conditions weren’t great but that they were going to go after it with all the resources that they utilized last year as far as tendering and logistics and resources in general,” he said. “And they asked if we would do the same.” Friccero said with lower salmon prices, he’s able to keep a decent paycheck but will have to be wary of his budget for next year. He said he hopes market conditions improve over the winter. >click to read< 11:27

Updated: Crew member on Alaska factory trawler dies after possible ammonia exposure

A crew member on an American Seafoods factory trawler died at sea last week, likely from an ammonia leak on board. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class John Highwater said that they received a satellite call from the Northern Eagle at about 4 a.m. on Aug. 18. “One of their crew members was found unresponsive in one of their engineering spaces,” Highwater said. “They believe there was an ammonia leak somewhere in the vessel that caused the person to fall unconscious.” Jeremy Baum, the Alaska Wildlife Trooper stationed in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, identified the crew member as First Engineer David Kumah from Ghana in West Africa. >click to read< 13:09

Alaska Gov. Dunleavy names ad consultant, talk show host Porcaro to commercial fisheries agency

Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has appointed a GOP advertising consultant and talk show host to a highly paid state government job: a position overseeing commercial fishing permits. Dunleavy this month appointed Mike Porcaro as one of two commissioners overseeing the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, or CFEC — an obscure, Juneau-based agency with some 20 employees. The commission issues annual commercial fishing permits, grants and denies permit transfers in the event of illnesses and deaths and publishes fisheries reports and statistics. “All I’m doing is trying to answer a call of service, and I’m going to do the best job I can do,” Porcaro said in an interview Thursday. He added: “Judge me on my performance.”>click to read< 11:33

Battery-Electric Fishing Vessel Marks a Sea Change for Small Commercial Fishers

On a brisk morning this fall, a 46-foot commercial fishing boat will cruise into the cold waters of Sitka, Alaska, and cut the diesel engine. In that moment of near silence, an electric motor will whir to life. This moment will mark a sea change for Sitka’s small-boat commercial fishing industry: a transition to energy-efficient commercial fishing, powered by low- and zero-emissions propulsion systems. The boat in question, a small commercial salmon troller named I Gotta, will make history as one of the first low-emissions fishing vessels ever deployed in Alaska. Using a unique parallel hybrid battery-diesel system, the boat can travel at full speed using its diesel engine, then switch to a battery-electric motor when fishing. In this way, I Gotta’s captain, Eric Jordan, will be able to cut the boat’s fuel use by 80%. >click to read<

Crew member on factory trawler dies after possible ammonia exposure onboard

A crew member on an American Seafoods factory trawler died at sea last week, likely from an ammonia leak on board. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class John Highwater said they received a satellite call from the Northern Eagle at about 4:30 a.m. Friday. “One of their crew members was found unresponsive in one of their engineering spaces,” Highwater said. “They believe there was an ammonia leak somewhere in the vessel that caused the person to fall unconscious.” The nearly 350-foot vessel was already en route to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor when they made the call to the Coast Guard. >click to read< 08:49

New quota system to start for trawl harvests of cod in Bering Sea and Aleutians

Commercial fishermen netting Pacific cod from the Bering Sea and Aleutians region will be working under new individual limits starting next year designed to ease pressure on harvests that regulators concluded were too rushed, too dangerous and too prone to accidentally catch untargeted fish species. The new system will require fishers who harvest cod by trawl – the net gear that scoops up fish swimming near the bottom of the ocean – to be part of designated cooperatives that will then have assigned quota shares. The fisheries service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it has notified eligible participants and is asking for applications. >click to read< 08:54

Sinking of the Wild Alaskan – Document Dump #35

It is almost comical to think that the Kodiak Daily Mirror suppressed this story for over 4 months when my lawsuit was originally filed and now that a Federal Judge has dismissed portions of my lawsuit against Federal Agents with prejudice; the Kodiak Daily Mirror which has now proven themselves to be an ankle biting lap dog of the City and the Feds rushes to print this story in yet another front-page, one-sided news article. The Kodiak Daily Mirror also wrote in the article, “Neither Byler nor U.S. Attorney Glenn James Shidner was available for comment at press time Monday.” This statement to all of our local readers in Kodiak was 100% total B.S. I was never contacted by phone, email, text message, nor on my Facebook page that now has more readers than the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Can any of you that have been following this story possibly imagine that I would not have a comment on this issue. I am going to have to give this flat out, false statement, 4 Pinocchio’s and the Publisher Kevin Bumgarner has just earned himself another photo with his clown hat at the ‘Sinking of the Wild Alaskan’ Facebook page. >click to read< 13:48

Nine harvesters cited for dumping commercially caught chum salmon

In a special enforcement operation designed to protect Alaska’s fisheries resource, state wildlife troopers have issued 21 citations after over 100 vessel boardings in the Area M fishery, including nine citations for illegal discard of commercially caught salmon. Each of the individuals cited must appear before a judge, said Austin McDaniel, communications director for the Alaska Department of Public Safety. Each one was given a mandatory court date, but meanwhile is allowed to continue fishing, he said. The citations are all misdemeanors, with a maximum punishment of a $15,000 fine and one year in jail. Area M Seiners Association, which represents Area M seine and set gillnet permit holders, issued a statement saying that the association takes this issue very seriously and has a zero-tolerance policy for malicious behavior. >click to read< 09:56

State opens commercial fishing on the Kuskokwim River to one person

Coming just days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service returned management of the Kuskokwim River to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the state has announced eight separate commercial openers in August. These opportunities are only available to individuals registered as catcher/sellers. On the Kuskokwim, there is only one of these and his name is Fran Reich. “I’ve been a commercial fisherman for almost 50 years on the river,” Reich said. Reich has been the sole catcher/seller on the river for around a decade. He said that he’s retired, but that fishing is just in his blood. He runs a small company called FAR West Fish & Farm out of his home in Bethel. >click to read< 13:50

NOAA Recommends $106.1 Million in funding for West Coast and Alaska salmon recovery

Today, the Department of Commerce and NOAA announced more than $106 million in recommended funding for 16 West Coast and Alaska state and tribal salmon recovery programs and projects under the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF). The funds, including $34.4 million under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and $7.5 million under the Inflation Reduction Act, will support the recovery, conservation and resilience of Pacific salmon and steelhead in Alaska, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.  This funding is part of President Biden’s historic Investing in America agenda, which includes over $2 billion for fish passage investments across the country. >click to read< 18:03

PWS Seine fleet reacts to low prices

Halfway through the Prince William Sound seine season, captains and crew are reacting to a dramatic drop in pink and chum salmon prices. The price updates came in the form of official letters and informal text messages from various processors this week. Grounds price for pink salmon hovers at $.23/lb with chum salmon prices following at $.20/lb. Rumors of chum price dipping below $.20/lb were also reported by fishermen. The seine fleet has seen a season patterned by frequent closures this year. Jamel Lister is a seasonal deckhand who has returned to work in the fishery for his seventeenth year, this season aboard the F/V Gorbushka. Lister said although he does pay attention to salmon markets leading up to the season, a poor forecast or low price does not deter him from returning each summer.  >click to read< 12:25

Trooper citations for salmon discards add grist to regional Alaska fishery dispute

For years, residents along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers have accused fishers operating in marine waters north of the Alaska Peninsula of intercepting too many river-bound salmon, sometimes in hidden ways. Now a trooper enforcement campaign by the Alaska State Troopers wildlife division gives some credence to those accusations. The campaign, carried out in June and July in the region known as Area M, resulted in nine citations issued to captains and crew members for allegedly dumping unwanted salmon overboard, the Alaska State Troopers said in a statement issued Thursday. >click to read< 09:43

Citing market volatility and Russia’s war in Ukraine, Trident plans to halt salmon buying early

Trident Seafoods, the country’s largest vertically integrated seafood company, announced a number of measures over the weekend that bode poorly for the Alaska salmon market, including an early end to its salmon buying season across much of the state. In a letter over the weekend to fishermen who sell their catch to Trident, the company outlined the issues prompting low prices and a halt to most salmon purchases at month’s end. “The current state of the salmon markets is volatile, and future indicators are even more concerning,” reads the letter, signed by Trident CEO Joe Bundrant and senior vice president for Alaska operations Jeff Welbourn. “We know this is not an easy time and we understand and empathize with our fishing community. Given how quickly things are changing we are committed to being as transparent as possible so you can make timely and informed decisions.” >click to read< 09:54

Bristol Bay fleets call for greater price transparency

There’s a multi-decade precedent for Bristol Bay salmon processors to wait until the season is underway to announce what they’re willing to pay. Peter Pan shook up the industry in 2021 and 2022 by announcing a base price at the start of the season, but this year waited until mid-July, along with other processors in the region. Captain Konrad Schaad, of the Fishing Vessel Skua, says this model hurts fishers. “The producer gets paid what’s left over. We produce the fish and then it gets processed and sold and everything and everybody gets their cut, and then the morsels that are leftover, they give to us. There should be a fixed cost for what we produce here,” he said. In Bristol Bay, commercial fishing crews fish on what’s called an ‘open ticket. >click to read< 12:53

Bristol Bay drift permits drop in value

Just a few months ago, a permit for driftnet salmon in Bristol Bay went for over $225,000. There were many in that general price range late last fall. This month, the prices at permit brokerages show that some are being offered for as little as $140,000, more than a one-third drop in value. The price for commercial fishing permits goes up and down through time. In 2020, Bristol Bay drift permits could be found for between $170,000 and $180,000. Then they went up, and now they are down. >click to read< 19:43

Trident’s new processing plant in Unalaska will be the largest in North America

Trident Seafoods has begun building the first bunkhouses at its to-be processing plant in Unalaska’s Captains Bay, progressing on a timeline the seafood titan says would make it operational by 2027. The Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea region is home to some of the world’s most productive fishing grounds. It’s where most Alaska pollock comes from, the whitefish found in fish sticks and McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches worldwide. And a lot of that fish is processed at the giant Trident Seafoods plant in Akutan. But aging infrastructure and decades of wear prompted the seafood company to plan a new facility. >click to read< 10:35

Coast Guard rescues man from commercial fishing vessel taking on water in Juneau, Alaska

The Coast Guard rescued a mariner Tuesday morning after his vessel began taking on water in the Gastineau Channel. A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Juneau safely evacuated the survivor at 6:33 a.m. and transported him in stable condition to Harris Harbor. Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector Southeast Alaska command center received notification via channel 16 at 6:08 a.m. that the 40-foot commercial fishing vessel F/V Marco was taking on water with one person aboard. >click to read< 16:12

Bristol Bay Sees Strong Wild Sockeye Harvest to Follow Up Record-Breaking Year

The cumulative wild sockeye salmon harvest through the end of July in Bristol Bay, Alaska, currently sits at 38 million fish, surpassing the forecast of 37 million fish. As anticipated, this season’s strong returns make 2023 one of the top five harvest seasons of the past 20 years – quite a follow-up to last year’s all-time record-breaking harvest. Bristol Bay is known as “America’s Wild Sockeye Source,” and is home to the largest wild salmon run on the planet, producing half the world’s supply of wild sockeye. “The strong harvests out of Bristol Bay in recent years are a testament to the responsible fisheries management of Alaska and the Bristol Bay fishing industry including fishermen, biologists, local community and seafood processors, and speak to the health and thriving future of the wild sockeye in the region,” >click to read< 13:08

Fish plentiful, but fishermen scarce for Southeast Alaska’s first summer king opening

The numbers are in for the first opening in the summer troll fishery for king salmon in Southeast Alaska. The 12-day season saw more chinook landed than expected, despite fewer boats being on the water. Southeast trollers brought in about 85,000 king salmon from July 1 to July 12, around 8,000 fish over the target for the first opener of the season. At first, it might look like enthusiasm played a role, as it was only on June 21 that the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay that allowed the fishery to occur at all. But that was not the case. Grant Hagerman manages the troll fishery for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He says even fewer trollers participated this summer than in 2022. >click to read< 10:37

Alaska leaders petition the US Supreme Court for reversal of EPA ban on Pebble Mine

The Dunleavy administration on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to block the controversial Pebble copper and gold mine. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, in the statement, echoed arguments made in the brief assert the EPA action effectively confiscates state property and clashes with the Alaska constitution’s mandates. “Our constitution is clear: Alaska is responsible for utilizing, developing, and conserving all of the State’s natural resources for the maximum benefit of its people,” Dunleavy said in the statement. “Bureaucrats in Washington D.C. are exercising unbridled and unlawful power to choke off any further discussion on this important decision affecting so many Alaskans.” >click to read< 18:09