Tag Archives: Gulf of Alaska

Dunleavy administration announces formation of bycatch task force

“We’ve had a reduction in or closure of the crab fisheries in the Bering Sea. The [North Pacific Fishery Management] Council is discussing how to deal with halibut bycatch, and I think there’s a lot of perception that there are bycatch issues associated with what’s happened with salmon in Western Alaska systems,” said Alaska Fish & Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang. And, he says, his boss has taken notice. “I think the governor was hearing loud and clear that there was just a lot of noise around the issue of bycatch,” >click to read< 12:52

Dividing the baby

Alaska’s Kenai River is today a textbook example of the problems of managing mixed-stock fisheries right down to commercial set gillnetters protesting they catch comparatively few of the weak stock. The weak stock is in this case Chinook, or what Alaskans usually just call king salmon, and it just happens to be the same fish that gets caught as trawl bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. To date this year, according to National Marine Fisheries Service data, trawlers in the Bering Sea have caught about 11,000 Chinook on their way to a harvest of nearly 1 million metric tons, or about 2.2 billion pounds of pollock. >click to read< 09:04

The big bust

The 2020 decline in North Pacific salmon numbers appears to have been the greatest in recorded history, according to a trio of scientists who’ve spent much of their careers studying the secret lives of salmon in the ocean. They suggested to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC), an international monitoring group, that the crash was likely driven by warmer ocean waters and an explosion of pink salmon in 2018 and 2019.,, “Unexpectedly, the high abundance of Pacific salmon came to an abrupt end in 2020. Preliminary commercial catch statistics for all salmon species indicate Pacific salmon harvests, which provide an index of abundance, declined more in 2020 than in any other period on record since 1930. >click to read< 11:01

F/V Scandies Rose: Survivor Jon Lawler’s Wrenching Testimony, Experts note serious flaws in a USCG regulation

The architects who testified were not involved with the development of the stability booklet for the Scandies Rose, a Washington managed boat which went down around 10 p.m. in the Gulf of Alaska during a storm that generated National Weather Service warnings of heavy freezing spray. Also Wednesday, Jon Lawler, one of the two survivors of the seven-person crew, offered wrenching testimony of the final minutes before the boat went under. After donning a survival suit, he exited the wheelhouse amid what he described as sheer panic as the boat tilted crazily and tossed people about.  >click to read< 17:38

‘We are rolling over’ – The inquiry into the Bering Sea sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose crab boat opened with a mayday call

Through the buzz of airwave static, a voice can be heard giving coordinates in the Gulf of Alaska. Then four chilling words: “We are rolling over.” This nighttime Dec. 31, 2019, mayday transmission from the Scandies Rose, a Washington-managed crab boat, was played Monday morning as the Coast Guard launched two weeks of public hearings to investigate the sinking that took the lives of five of the seven crew. The Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation is the highest level of inquiry into accidents, and the schedule includes testimony from the vessel’s co-owner, two survivors, former crew, naval architects and people involved in repairs. >click to read< 13:08

Gulf of Alaska Pollock fishermen agree to delay season, will allow roe to ripen, making fish more valuable.

Trawl fishermen targeting pollock in the Gulf of Alaska have collectively agreed to stand down from the Jan. 20 start of the fishery in order to target the fish in their more lucrative phase of harvesting the roe, instead of the flesh of the fish which is used more in fish sticks and surimi. The fishermen want to wait for two weeks to allow the roe to ripen, making the fish more valuable.,, In June 2019, the North Pacific Management Council voted to combine the four pollock seasons — two in spring and two in fall — to just two seasons: one that runs from Jan. 20 to May 31, and another that runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 1. >click to read<  08:20

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

“Wind is the culprit,” – NOAA study shows wind influence in GOA Pollock abundance

As Bob Dylan famously said “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” The study conclusively shows for the first time that year-to-year variation in the geographic distribution of juvenile Pollock in the Gulf is driven by wind direction, which may keep juvenile Pollock in favorable habitat, or push them into currents and on to less favorable conditions. “Wind is the culprit,” according to AFSC biologist Matt Wilson. “The consequence is that when a large proportion of the juvenile population is transported to the southwest many of those fish are likely lost from the Gulf of Alaska.” >click to read< 11:17

A research expedition returning to Victoria puzzled by a no-show of the fish after an initial big haul

“It is a little difficult for people to accept that scientifically, no catch is sometimes as important as large catches. I think this is the case here,” said Richard Beamish, who is organizing the $1.45-million expedition with fellow B.C. scientist Brian Riddell. “We had relatively large catches of pink, chum and coho early in the survey and there were no salmon in the same area a few weeks later.” It is clear that there are probably large schools of species such as coho that are moving over large areas in response to some factor, Beamish said. The chartered trawler Pacific Legacy No. 1 left Victoria on March 11, headed up to the southern part of the Gulf of Alaska and fished off Dixon Entrance. On Friday, it was 513 miles off Cape Beale, west of Ucluelet. The team expects to return to Victoria on Tuesday. >click to read< 10:32

U.S. Commerce allocates $35M for P-cod, Chignik fisheries disaster relief

Fishermen affected by the 2018 Pacific cod and Chignik sockeye disasters will soon have access to about $35 million in relief funding. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross allocated about $65 million to fisheries disaster relief, about $35 million of which is for Alaska,, about $24.4 million will go to the Pacific cod fishery disaster and about $10.3 million to the Chignik sockeye fishery. The funding was appropriated when Congress passed the 2019 Consolidated and Supplemental Appropriations Act. >click to read< 15:02

F/V Scandies Rose: Coast Guard searching for crew members of crab vessel that sank in Gulf of Alaska

The Coast Guard has not officially identified any of the crewmembers. The crew placed a mayday call around 10 p.m. Tuesday, the Coast Guard said. McKenzie said she didn’t know what time the two crew members were found, or what their condition is. McKenzie said investigators don’t know what might have caused the ship to sink. Efforts right now are focused on finding the remaining five fishermen, then an investigation will launch into what caused the vessel to sink. She said families of most of the crew have been notified. >click to read<  20:46

Coast Guard searching for 5 Fishermen after crab boat sinks near Sutwik Island. 2 Fishermen were rescued>click to read< 14:36

2020 Forecast: Bristol Bay still looks bright, but fishermen face cuts in cod, crab and halibut

Judging by the forecasts, 2020 could be an eventful year in Alaska’s commercial fisheries. Even though not all the forecasts and catch limits are rosy, there are some bright spots, such as an increased eastern Bering Sea snow crab total allowable catch and another promising forecast for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon. However, fishermen this winter are looking at tighter limits in some groundfish fisheries, particularly in the Gulf of Alaska. >click to read< 11:50

Resident orcas’ appetite likely reason for decline of big Chinook salmon

“We have two protected species, resident killer whales and Chinook salmon, and we are trying to increase abundances of both—yet they are interacting as predator and prey,” said lead author Jan Ohlberger, a research scientist at the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Killer whales don’t show a lot of interest in Chinook until they reach a certain size, and then they focus intensely on those individuals.”>click to read<  19:02

Extremely low cod numbers lead feds to close the Gulf of Alaska fishery for the first time

A stock assessment this fall put Gulf cod populations at a historic low, with “next to no” new eggs, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research biologist Steve Barbeaux, who authored the report. At their current numbers, cod are below the federal threshold that protects them as a food source for endangered Steller sea lions. Once below that line, the total allowable catch goes to zero — in other words, the fishery shuts down. >click to read< 08:32

Uneven status of Pacific halibut revealed by annual data

Following the trend of the past several years, overall Pacific halibut biomass seems to be down again. The most recent stock assessment presented to the International Pacific Halibut Commission for its interim meeting on Nov. 25-26 shows a coastwide decline in spawning biomass, though that decline isn’t even across all areas. That’s a continuation of a trend seen in stock assessments since 2015. Particularly, surveys have indicated lower numbers of halibut in the central Gulf of Alaska. >click to read<  08:40

Opposite forecasts for SE pinks, Bristol Bay reds; Cook Inlet busts

Biologists are forecasting another weak pink salmon year for Southeast and another strong sockeye salmon run for Bristol Bay coming in the 2020 season. The forecasts for Southeast Alaska and for Bristol Bay, released in late November, continue the trends of the past few years in both areas. In Southeast, biologists are forecasting about 12 million fish to be harvested, with a range of 7 million to 19 million fish. >click to read< 11:51

Battered by a marine heatwave, Kodiak’s cod fishermen may not be fishing in the Gulf for much longer

From the last peak in 2014, the level of mature, spawning cod crashed by more than half in the Gulf, according to stock assessment data — 113,830 metric tons in 2014 to 46,080 metric tons in 2017. They’re now below the federal threshold that protects cod as a food source for endangered Stellar sea lions. As soon as the population dips below that line, the fishery closes. The whole federal cod fishery in the Gulf will most likely be shut down for the season in January. >click to read<  10:36

Increase in observer fees has people in the fishing industry questioning how their dollars are being spent

In Kodiak’s Dog Bay harbor Jake Everich is puttering around the galley of his trawler, the Alaskan. He bought his boat in March to fish for rockfish and pollock around the Gulf of Alaska. It’s just under 75 feet — a relatively small operation. Everich is among the fishermen affected by a recent decision from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to increase observer fees from 1.25 to 1.65 percent of their catch value.,,, For Everich, the bigger issue is how that money is going to be used. He says the data observers collect, and sometimes observers themselves, can be unreliable.  >click to read< 07:10

Bristol Bay Native Corporation to acquire two giants of Alaska’s Pacific cod fishery

Clipper Seafoods and Blue North Fisheries are freezer longline catchers, two giants of the Pacific cod industry. Clipper has six hook and line vessels, and after retiring one of its vessels, Blue North will have four. Now, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation is poised to acquire all of them. “Blue North and Clipper Seafoods, as of Friday last week, have officially merged together. And then BBNC’s intentions are to acquire the merged companies – the Blue North Clipper Group – on Sept. 30.” Audio,  >click to read< 18:20

Kenai River sockeye push liberalizes bag limits; commercial catches rise

After a slow start to their season, things are looking up for Upper Cook Inlet’s commercial fishermen. Total salmon landings reached 1.4 million after the July 29 fishing period, with more than 1.1 million sockeye so far. The majority of those landings have come from the Central District drift gillnet fleet and east side setnets, with setnetters on the west side, Kalgin Island and in the Northern district bringing in about 150,000 salmon between them, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Elizabeth Earl >click to read< 15:29

Salmon researchers seek funds for expanded expedition in 2020

Organizer Richard Beamish, emeritus scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, is seeking $1.5 million from governments, the private sector and non-profit organizations — the same groups that funded his 2019 expedition. Next year’s survey would again be supported by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, an international organization based in Vancouver. The 2019 expedition was a signature project of the International Year of the Salmon program, which is backed by the Anadromous Fish Commission, as well as the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization and other partners. >click to read<20:27

Fishing Disaster

I learned about the magnitude of the Gulf of Alaska as a youth in Yakutat when my father decided we would take up commercial fishing. He lost everything; boat, nets and almost his son. Commercial fishing is serious business in Alaska waters!,,, My father was a civilian contractor on the White Alice early warning system during this time in the mid-1960s,,,,As a youth who had attended 7th grade at Orah Dee Clark Junior High school in Mt. View, I was an angry kid. My father determined he needed to get his family out of Anchorage before I ended up in jail. My stepmother could not control me while Dad traveled the state working at the various sites. by Donn Liston>click to read<07:47

Expedition breaks new ground in the lives of Pacific salmon

Fisheries scientists have estimated for the first time that 54.5 million Pacific salmon are living in the Gulf of Alaska — providing a valuable new tool to predict how many fish will be returning to B.C. streams to spawn this fall. This new comprehensive count is critical for First Nations, commercial and recreational fishermen, coastal communities, businesses relying on the wild fishery, and fisheries managers trying to figure out why some stocks have declined drastically in certain years or crashed altogether. >click to read<10:40

International team of salmon scientists back in port, raring for another mission

The organizer of a month-long Gulf of Alaska salmon survey is already thinking about how to raise money for another trip in the winter of 2020, now that the Russian trawler used in the expedition has finished its job and tied up in Nanaimo. “From what I’ve seen, this needs to be done again,” said Richard Beamish, who came up with the idea of the expedition to mark the International Year of the Salmon with the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. Future surveys would build on data collected by the 21-member volunteer team of international scientists from the five salmon-producing Pacific Rim countries: Canada, Russia, the U.S., Korea and Japan. >click to read<11:52

Researchers aim to find where Pacific salmon spend their winters

An international team of scientists is heading to the Gulf of Alaska for a ground-breaking research survey to uncover the secret lives of Pacific salmon in the winter. Discoveries coming out of a 25-day research cruise using a trawler in the North Pacific are expected to help countries do a better job of managing, conserving and restoring salmon stocks, including improving forecasting of returns. “I say it’s the great black box because we basically lose track of the salmon after they leave our coastal waters,” said Brian Riddell, president and chief executive of the Vancouver-based Pacific Salmon Foundation, a key backer of the endeavour. The team is made up of six Canadian scientists, eight from Russia, three from the U.S., and one each from Japan and South Korea.>click to read<13:41

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

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

One king salmon worth more than a barrel of oil to AK fishermen; Updates for 2018/19

Salmon stakeholders are still crunching the numbers from the 2018 season, which up front has two distinctions: it ranks as one of the most valuable on record to fishermen at nearly $596 million, and at just over 114 million salmon, it’s one of the smallest harvests in 34 years. A breakdown by the McDowell Group shows the sockeye harvest was the second most valuable in 26 years; the chum catch was the third most valuable since 1975. Audio report, >click to read<17:06

Upper Cook Inlet fishermen seek federal disaster declaration

This season was a sour one for salmon fishermen across the Gulf of Alaska, and participants in multiple fisheries are seeking funding for relief. The Board of Fisheries and Gov. Bill Walker already granted a disaster declaration for Chignik, which harvested next to zero sockeye salmon this year due to an unprecedented poor return to the Chignik River on the Alaska Peninsula. Sockeye salmon runs across the Gulf of Alaska failed to deliver this year, either in timing or in size, at a huge cost to fishermen. >click to read<18:17

PFD’s – A case for life jackets for all: By Roger R. Locandro

Andre Penton of Fogo Island died June 27 this year in a boating accident on a pond not far from his home in Joe Batt’s Arm. The Fogo Island community mourns his death,  with condolences to his wife Rita, his three sons and their families. Although his death was not directly due to drowning, it brought back my own memories of dangers on the water.,,  People drown. Don’t take any chances on or around the water. I took chances and almost paid for it with my life. Some years ago, I was commercial seining for salmon in the Gulf of Alaska, out of Cordova. >click to read<22:49

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