Tag Archives: Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Seine season brings ‘bright light’ to struggling fleet

In a year when the fishery was shut down for 16 days, inflicting economic pain on gillnetters, the seine season proved a bright light overall for commercial salmon harvesters, “Many of us were nervous after the 2019 drought and uncertainties with what that meant for returns in 2021,” “It’s heartbreaking to see our community continue to struggle, to know it’s impacting families, our city’s fish tax revenue, and ultimately the city and school budget.” >click to read< 20:09

Bering Sea crab fleet braces for another blow

The commercial fishery has been around since 1966. In the 55 years since then, there have been just two other closures: once in the 1980s and again in the 1990s. The species is world-renowned and was largely made famous by the popular reality tv show “Deadliest Catch.” “It’s big news, and it’s hitting our industry really hard,” said Jamie Goen, executive director for Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers,,, “We’re disappointed and deeply concerned.” But, she said, it’s not only the fishermen who will be impacted. This hit affects everyone in the industry, roughly 70 vessels and over 400 fishermen and their families, along with the processors and fishing communities that rely on crab revenues. “We could kind of see a closure was coming, we just didn’t quite know when,” she said. >click to read< 08:36

Why Are The Chum Runs So Low? It’s not just an Alaskan/Yukon phenomenon.

The State of Alaska has closed fishing for chum to protect the runs. For Yukon River families, chum is particularly important. Chinook salmon have been low for decades, but chum were the fish families could depend on until last year, when the summer chum run dropped below half of its usual numbers. This year the run dropped even further, to record lows. Biologist Katie Howard with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said that the chum declines are not just occurring in the Yukon River. “When we talk to colleagues in the lower 48 and Canada, Japan, Russia, they are all reporting really poor chum runs. So it’s not just a Yukon phenomenon. It’s not just an Alaska phenomenon, but pretty much everywhere,” So why are the chum numbers so low? The short answer is no one really knows for sure. >click to read< 10:38

Kenai River sockeye over-escape by 1M, Kotzebue’s 2021 chum season to wrap up, Big PWS Humpy Harvest

Those numbers concern fishermen like Joe Dragseth, a drift-netter in Kenai. He said he worries about the health of the river. And, he said, it’s unfair commercial fishermen have been restricted while so many fish have made it up the river. “Basically, they’re taking the living away from us,” he said. >click to read<Kotzebue’s 2021 chum salmon season to wrap up with another low catch – “It hasn’t been very good,” said Karen Gillis, manager of the Copper River Seafoods processing plant in Kotzebue. It’s one of two commercial chum salmon buyers in town this year. >click to read< Prince William Sound Humpy harvest is 3rd largest of decade – “The highlight of this season has been the wild stocks returning stronger than anticipated, given the uncertainty about spawning success from the 2019 parent year that was assumed to be negatively impacted by drought conditions,” said Heather Scannell, area management seine biologist in Cordova for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. >click to read< 14:35

Humpy surge boosts Prince William Sound harvest to 54.3M

For Prince William Sound alone the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary harvest report as of Wednesday, Aug. 18, stood at 50.4 million humpies, up from 31.9 million humpies just a week earlier, when the overall PWS commercial harvest totaled 39.8 million fish. Deliveries to PWS processors also reached a cumulative total of 2.6 million chums, 1.3 million sockeyes, 39,000 cohos and 7,000 Chinook salmon.,, In the PWS seine fisheries the egg take underway at the Valdez Fisheries Development Association was 38% complete as of Aug. 17. The Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. reported good run entry at Wally Noerenberg Hatchery and minimal run entry at the Armin F. Koernig and Cannery Creek hatcheries.  Future fishing opportunities targeting PWSAC enhanced pink salmon would be contingent on run entry and broodstock acquisition, biologists said.  >click to read< 11:22

Humpy harvest pushes Prince William Sound catch to 39.8M

Purse seine fishing for pink salmon continues in earnest in Prince William Sound, with the humpy catch alone through Wednesday, Aug. 11 reaching nearly 36 million fish and an overall commercial salmon harvest at 39.8 million fish. That’s up from 31.9 million pinks and an overall Prince William Sound harvest of 35.7 million fish as of a week earlier. Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials noted that the purse seine fishery in the eastern section of Prince William Sound alone had harvested over 21 million humpies, while in the northern section the humpy catch was 4.9 million fish. >click to read<08:49

Chinook catch falls short in first Southeast troll opening. Fleet gets a another shot.

Southeast’s commercial troll catch of king salmon fell short of its target in the first summer opening in July. The fleet gets another shot at those chinook in a second fishing period that starts Friday, Aug. 13. The region’s king salmon catch is managed under the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. Commercial trollers had 119,300 fish remaining on this year’s allocation under that agreement going into the summer season. That leaves a target of 53,000 for the second opening. Fish and Game expects it could take seven to 10 days for the fleet to hit that mark. >click to read< 13:33

Could B.C. commercial salmon fishery closures affect Southeast Alaska?

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the federal agency that manages Canada’s fisheries, effectively ended the 2021 commercial salmon season on the West Coast in late June. Canada’s fishing industry was stunned, says B.C. Seafood Alliance Executive Director Christina Burridge. “First Nations have harvested salmon forever. And post-contact, salmon canneries are what in the sense built this province. To be now in this situation seems really tragic to me.” The closure came just weeks after Canada announced a more than half-a-billion dollar plan to revitalize its flagging Pacific salmon stocks in B.C. and Yukon Territory.,, The Chinook on the transboundary rivers Unuk and Chilkat are among the current Southeast stocks of concern.  >click to read< 10:11

Some setnetters ask state to reopen limited fishery

Commercial setnet fishermen in Cook Inlet had their season cut short last week. When the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed the Kenai River to sportfishing for king salmon, it closed the east setnet fishery completely. Some of them had only had a handful of openers. There are still plenty of sockeye in the water, which are the main fish the commercial fleet harvests, and setnetters are making some last-ditch plays to try to save some of their season. Ted Crookston, who has been setnetting on the Salamatof beach for nearly six decades, is asking the Board of Fisheries to at least open the setnets in a narrow strip just offshore—out to 600 feet below mean high tide.,, “We’re sitting here on the beach and catastrophically denied access to anything and you’re saying that it’s justified—it’s not,” >click to read< 13:48

Southeast commercial salmon season off to slow start

Commercial net fishing for salmon in Southeast is off to a poor start in much of the region. Returns for most species are not meeting forecasts, which weren’t very high in the first place. With some exceptions, it hasn’t been a very encouraging start to the salmon season. “I guess for both net fisheries, gillnet and seine, we’re looking at poor chum salmon catches and poor sockeye catches and yet to be determined for pink salmon,” said Troy Thynes, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s management coordinator for commercial fisheries in the region. >click to read< 18:21

More of the same a good thing as Bristol Bay gets underway

Early indicators are pointing to yet another strong year in the massive Bristol Bay sockeye fishery, which is contrasted against the continued struggles in many of the state’s other large salmon fisheries. Just more than 3.2 million sockeye had been harvested through June 27, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game figures, with the Nushagak District accounting for more than half of the catch so far at nearly 1.7 million fish. The 3.2 million-fish harvest to-date this year is between the comparable totals for recent years; 1.2 million sockeye were harvested through June 27 last year, while more than 4.4 million were caught by the same day in 2019. With sockeye harvests of more than 40 million fish and total runs greater than 56 million sockeye, both of the last two years have been among the most productive in the history of the Bristol Bay fishery. >click to read< 19:54

Copper River set for 24-hour opener on June 28

Commercial fishing on the Copper River begins an eighth opener on Monday, June 28, for a 24-hour drift gillnet fishery. The announcement on Saturday, June 26, from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Cordova office,,, All the Monday openers begin at 8 a.m.,, Preliminary harvest estimates for Prince William Sound, including the Copper River, as of Saturday, June 26, included 7,548 Chinook, 333,667 sockeye, 489 coho, 588,533 chum and 2,166 pink salmon. >click to read< 08:40

State government shutdown could close Alaska fisheries – “And with that, that summer fishery does not commence.”

If Alaska state leaders can’t resolve an impasse over the budget, large swaths of state government will shut down in July. That could include Alaska’s lucrative summer salmon fisheries, which is causing concern across coastal communities. Southeast Alaska’s summer salmon troll fishery opens July 1. That’s the same day nearly 15,000 state workers could be out of work. Among those is Grant Hagerman, a state fisheries biologist managing the fishery from Sitka. “We’re planning not to be here on July 1 unless we hear differently,” Hagerman said. “And with that, that summer fishery does not commence.” >click to read< 08:37

Common property

Almost four decades ago, a Juneau salmon seiner by the name of Wayne Alex filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the state of Alaska from taxing commercial fishermen to finance hatcheries. The tax, which the Alaska Legislature obliging called an “assessment” in an effort to avoid an Alaska Constitutional prohibition on dedicated taxes, was intended to benefit private, non-profit aquaculture corporations controlled by commercial fishermen. As the scheme was designed, the hatchery corporations, or “associations” as they were officially called, would run a system of hatcheries to fill the ocean off the 49th state with a bounty of “common property” salmon to benefit Alaskans of all sorts – commercial fishermen, personal-use fishermen, sport fishermen, even subsistence fishermen. Though Alex sued over the tax, it wasn’t his real concern. His fear was that the hatcheries would one day come to replace fishermen like himself. Jump ahead now 39 years and turn your attention north from Juneau for 550 miles to the city of Seward at the head of Resurrection Bay. >click to read< 16:01

“We’ve been sitting on the beach for 16 days” – Copper River salmon fishery reopens

“We are back to getting into the goal range,” said Jeremy Botz, finfish area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Cordova. “I think we are seeing a late compressed run. I still feel it is a relatively small run, but higher than in 2018 and 2020.”,, While eager to be fishing again, veteran Cordova harvesters felt they should have been allowed out on the grounds earlier to get a better handle on what the run, albeit late and maybe compressed, was really stacking up to be.,, Cordova harvester John Renner said the fleet should have been used earlier to collect data, to see if the run was weak or strong, rather than just waiting for the sonar count. “We’ve been sitting on the beach for 16 days,” >click to read< 14:15

Copper River District: As stocks decline, veteran harvesters want more answers, better enforcement of regulations

The harvest for the three openers to date totaled an estimated 60,127 fish, including 5,259 Chinook, 52,752 sockeye and 2,116 chum. All this comes as little surprise to veteran fishermen like Bill Webber, now in his 54th year as a commercial harvester. Why the run of the oil rich Copper River sockeyes and Chinooks has been so troubled in recent years has prompted a lot of speculation. The situation has a lot of fishermen in the Cordova area pondering what possible role Northern Edge military exercises in the Gulf of Alaska, climate change and other fishermen upriver, particularly near spawning grounds, are playing. >click to read< 10:55

Copper River closed again amid low counts

This year’s Copper River sockeye run is starting out a lot like last year’s, which is bad news for most everyone, except for maybe the fish that are showing up. Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers closed the famed early season drift gillnet fishery for a second consecutive opener May 31 due to poor sockeye counts at the department’s Miles Lake sonar upriver from the fishery. Just 54,154 sockeye had been counted at Miles Lake through May 31, compared to the approximately 132,000 fish needed by that date to meet the department’s,, >click to read< 08:58

Copper River wild salmon fishery off to a slow start

Drift gillnetters out on the first Copper River opener of the 2021 wild salmon fishery harvested an estimated 1,957 Chinook, 8,197 sockeye and 173 chum salmon, and within 24 hours much of the catch was delivered to Seattle via Alaska Airline’s “Salmon-Thirty-Salmon” jet. Airline officials said the first flight brought in 17,000 pounds of wild Alaska king and red salmon headed for markets in Seattle, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. When the jet, painted to look like a gigantic king salmon, arrived at SeaTac, Alaska Airlines Captain Tim deal, with First Officer Bill Jacobson, held up a sample of the catch, a 37-pound Chinook salmon. >click to read< 13:05

Retailers post prices for Copper River salmon

As commercial harvesters brace for the famed Copper River salmon fishery set to open in mid-May, with indications of a declining run, they’re hoping for the best, forecasts notwithstanding, and aficionados of the oil-rich fish are lining up to order. “It is that time of year when the phone is ringing off the hook for the Copper River season,” said Hilary Branyik at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.,, 60° North Seafoods in Cordova has not set its Alaska retail price yet, but for its sales through Sena Sea Seafoods in Washington state the preorder price is $54 a pound for sockeye fillets and $68 a pound for king fillets. >click to read< 12:38

Deadliest Catch: Capt. Keith Colburn Talks Loss, Rifts, And Nearly Losing F/V Wizard

Captain Keith gave us a shockingly honest reveal of his mindset of the fleets’ captains, and also spills about the recent trashing of the Wizard that nearly killed his brother Monte. And as for Captain Keith Colburn of F/V Wizard, he will still be competing with his fellow Dutch Harbor crabbers, some of them friends, others not so much. In season 17, Discovery says that “half the crab boats of the Bering Sea fleet are tied up in Seattle” while “an existential threat faces the fishermen who make the long-haul trip to Dutch Harbor, Alaska,” because they face “a potential closure of the entire fishery” for the 2021 season. The crab survey conducted during the summer by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game didn’t happen because of Coronavirus,,, >click to read< 10:50

2021 Yukon River Chinook salmon run will likely be small, according to forecast

Somewhere between 42,000 and 77,000 Canadian-origin fish are anticipated to make the journey from the Bering Sea this year, Alaska and Yukon experts told attendees during the Yukon River Panel’s pre-season meeting on Tuesday. The most likely run size would be 57,000, they said. That’s smaller than the pre season outlooks for 2020 and 2019, and both those years ended disastrously when it came to getting enough salmon across the border. Under an international treaty, Canada and the U.S. are supposed to work together to ensure at least 42,500 fish make it to their spawning waters in Yukon. That spawning escapement goal hasn’t been met since 2018, last year only about 33,000 Chinook made it. >click to read< 13:21

Commercial herring fishery winding down

The Sitka Sound Sac Roe Herring Fishery is winding down, and state biologists expect to close the fishery soon. In an interview on Thursday (4-8-21), Area Management Biologist Aaron Dupuis said the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is shifting out of “active management” mode. “We’re still going out there. We’re flying, we’re monitoring the commercial fishery. We’re not leaving it alone to do its thing,” he said. “So we’re definitely on top of this, but it’s for sure winding down. I’d expect it to go another day or two tops.” >click to read< 08:46

Sitka herring fishery opens for first time in 2 years

After a week on two-hour notice, the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery opened twice over the weekend. According to a release from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the fishery opened for 8 hours on Saturday. It re-opened on Sunday morning at 10:45 and closed at 6 p.m. Area management biologist Aaron Dupuis said seiners caught around 2,300 tons on Saturday, but he didn’t have data from Sunday’s harvest yet. He said the fleet is smaller this year, with around 20 seiners and four processors are participating. “It’s been pretty relaxed,” he said. “Just the size of the fleet. Everything is really tightly controlled. So it’s not the usual bumper boats, wild, shoot-out fishery a lot of people are accustomed to. It’s pretty relaxed out there.” >click to read< 13:30

Coronavirus: Bering Sea Crabbers Push For Extended Season

A group of Bering Sea crabbers say the Coronavirus pandemic has slowed their fishing season, and they want more time to catch their quota before the state shuts down their season next week. For the few boats fishing bairdi crab this year, there could be a lot at stake if they don’t have time to catch their full quota.  “I’m thinking they don’t quite understand what we’re going through out here,” said Oystein Lone, captain of the 98-foot crab boat Pacific Sounder, which is based out of Dutch Harbor.  >click to read< 07:55

Southeast Alaska’s 2020-21 commercial Dungeness crab season harvest is the 2nd largest on record

The harvest for Dungeness crab in Southeast Alaska’s commercial fishing season is the second largest on record. The catch from the fall fishery added to one of the few bright spots from last year. A few areas of Southeast’s commercial Dungeness crab season are still open through February but most areas closed at the end of November. The estimate for the fall harvest is 813,000 pounds. That’s down slightly from recent years. But the 2020 summer harvest was so large–at 5.87 million pounds–that it still makes the total season harvest the second largest ever. “What we saw last year was a big harvest, it was a big season poundage wise,”,, The price paid to fishermen was below recent years. >click to read< 10:24

Sen. Peter Micciche is again moving to establish a buyback program for set-net permits in Cook Inlet

The program would reduce the number of commercial set-net fishermen on the east side of the inlet. Proponents of the bill, like Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association Director Ken Coleman, say that’s to reduce pressure and create a more sustainable fishery in an area that’s been under stress for years. “Our thought was if we could reduce our numbers, then those who would be left behind in a reduction scenario, assuming that some people would leave the fishing community, that those that are left behind would have a better chance for ongoing financial viability,” he said. >click to read< 09:46

Bristol Bay sockeye a high point in the state’s unpredictable salmon season

More than 58 million sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay this summer. It’s another in a series of enormous runs to the fishery. The commercial harvest was just as impressive,,, many other areas of the state were far below their forecast. Across all species, the value of the state’s commercial salmon season dropped more than 50% from last year — 56% below last year. 2020 was valued at $295.2 million, while last year was valued at $673.4 million. Harvests were also down by 44%. >click to read< 12:42

Some bright spots for high-value salmon, halibut in 2021

Following the trend of the last several years, the salmon forecast for the 2021 salmon season in Bristol Bay looks positive. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a total return of about 51 million sockeye salmon, with an inshore run of about 50 million. That’s about 6 percent better than the average for the last decade and 45 percent greater than the long-term average.,, Halibut outlook – Stock numbers in the Pacific halibut fishery are overall still declining, but there are individual bright spots in some regions. >click to read< 10:43

2020 commercial salmon catch, and value took a dive

Commercial salmon harvests proved challenging for the 2020 season, challenged by a global pandemic of the novel coronavirus, with the overall fish catch and its value down considerably from a year earlier. Data released on Monday, Nov. 9 by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the all species harvest has an approximate value of $295.2 million, down 56 percent from $673.4 million in 2019. Fishermen delivered some 116.8 million fish, a 44 percent drop from the 208.3 harvested a year earlier, the report said. >click to read< 18:15

Converging forces make for worst Upper Cook Inlet season in decades

Low prices, an oddly timed sockeye run and another year of very poor Kenai king returns combined to result in one of the worst Upper Cook Inlet commercial fishing seasons on record. The 2020 Upper Cook Inlet harvest of roughly 1.2 million salmon was less than half the recent 10-year average harvest of 3.2 million fish and the estimated cumulative ex-vessel value of approximately $5.2 million was the worst on record, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Upper Cook Inlet Commercial Salmon Fishery Season Summary. >click to read< 16:27