Friday, July 31, 2009

Economist: Crab revolution favored fishermen

Here's a new academic paper that's sure to stir some crabby conversation.

Scott Matulich, a Washington State University economics professor, wrote the paper for the journal Marine Resource Economics.

It argues that crab rationalization, the 2005 management overhaul that divided the Bering Sea crab fisheries into individual catch shares as well as unprecedented processor shares, upset the balance between crabbers and processors.

The bottom line, according to Matulich: The processors got screwed.

Looking at just the important Bristol Bay red king crab fishery, he calculates the "gross value" of the individual fishing quota (IFQ) is $436 million, while the individual processing quota (IPQ) gross value is under $24 million.

Matulich argues the crab rationalization program's arbitration feature, designed to settle price and other disputes, has disadvantaged the processors.

"Seven price arbitrations have occurred since policy implementation," Matulich writes. "All were won by harvesters."

I'm not an economist, so I'll leave the peer review of this paper to others more qualified.

I will say this: My understanding was that the price arbitrations were confidential. I've never been able to get my hands on the outcome of one. So if Professor Matulich has seen enough to conclude the crabbers always win, Deckboss would sure like to see it, too.

Pacific powers unite

A friend gave me a little tip, so I navigated to the Web site of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association to check it out.

Sure enough, I found Trident Seafoods Corp. listed there as a member.

Trident used to be a PSPA member and rejoined only recently, I'm told.

PSPA is a big fish in the North Pacific seafood industry. It's a venerable nonprofit trade association, established in 1914 and based in Seattle with satellite offices in Juneau and near Washington, D.C.

PSPA lobbies for what's good for the companies that pack much of the pollock, crab, salmon and other seafood caught each year in Alaska.

Trident rejoining the PSPA fold seems significant in that it adds an American company — a very large and important one — to a membership roster that previously was comprised almost exclusively of Japanese-owned firms such as UniSea, Westward and Peter Pan.


The latest police report from Dutch Harbor is now available on our sister blog, The Brig.

Resting their paddles

Crewmen from the fishing vessel Vigilant throw a life ring to two kayakers who were assisted to the vessel by a Coast Guard rescue swimmer from Air Station Kodiak. A Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter crew located the two men yesterday after a search near Gore Point about 40 miles southeast of Homer. The men were on a trip from Seward to Homer and had been kayaking for eight days. Weather worsened and they became tired and lost some gear, prompting them to use their emergency locator beacon and contact the Coast Guard. The men remained aboard the Vigilant for the trip to Homer. USCG Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis photo

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bob Thorstenson Sr. crosses the bar

I'm sad to tell you that Bob Thorstenson Sr., a towering figure in the history of Alaska commercial fisheries, passed away today, according to his son, Bob Thorstenson Jr.

The elder Thorstenson was the founding executive of processor Icicle Seafoods Inc., and helped establish the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone around the nation's shores. He also was well known as an industry historian.

Earlier this year, he was among the charter class of inductees into United Fishermen of Alaska's Hall of Fame.

My sympathies to the Thorstenson family.

How about this deal?

Now here's an intriguing concept for commercial fishermen facing the prospect of sharing Bristol Bay waters with oil and gas explorers following a possible federal offshore lease sale in 2011.

It seems that Norway will pay about 100 fishermen not to fish as oil hunters conduct seismic surveys.

"The agreement entails that the fishers will be compensated for refraining from fishing when this could impede the seismic acquisition activities," says this press release. "The fishers can still fish when the seismic survey vessels are not in their particular fishing areas."

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Gulf of Alaska weather station erected

The newly installed weather tower. And yep, that's two bears checking it out. David Weagley photo

A new weather station at Cape St. Elias on Kayak Island southeast of Cordova is now available for aiding boats and planes.

The tower measures wind speed and direction, temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure and solar radiation. The station reports hourly via a satellite link, and you can see the data here.

Two nonprofits and the U.S. Coast Guard worked to erect the tower.

Here's the interesting story that led to the new station.

Another bum year for Kenai River sockeye?

The Department of Fish and Game today shut down commercial drift gillnetting for salmon in Cook Inlet's key Central District, saying in a news release Sunday: "The sockeye salmon return to the Kenai River appears to be much smaller than forecast."

Last season brought a similar late July announcement, and commercial fishing never reopened.

The Kenai River generally is the largest sockeye producer in Cook Inlet.

State biologists forecast a commercial harvest of around 2.6 million sockeye this year in Upper Cook Inlet, which if achieved would top last season’s disappointing 2.4 million.

As of Thursday, however, the sockeye catch stood at just over 1.9 million fish.

Keep in mind, of course, that Cook Inlet is just one of several areas around Alaska that produce sockeye, the main money fish for the salmon industry.

The richest sockeye hole by far is Bristol Bay, which has yielded a bumper catch of more than 30 million fish this season.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Halibut subsistence scheme draws indictments

Check out our companion blog, The Brig, for details of an alleged scheme where two men illegally sold subsistence-caught halibut through a Juneau eatery called Doc Waters Pub.

Palin names bank, fisheries, forestry panelists

Gov. Sarah Palin announced these appointments today:

Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agricultural Bank

Gov. Palin appointed Robert Scott to the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agricultural Bank (CFAB) board of directors. The governor appoints two of the seven-member CFAB board, which manages the assets of and selects officers to the bank. CFAB was created to address limitations to the access to credit by resident Alaska commercial seafood harvesters, processors and farmers. In 2000, CFAB's statute was amended to expand its lending authority to include tourism and resource-based industries.

Scott, of Kenai, has been the president of Salamatof Seafoods Inc. since 1980. Prior to that he was the senior vice president of Alaska operations for Whitney Fidalgo Seafoods Inc. from 1972-1980. He has worked in the fishing industry since 1949. Scott serves on the Trustee Health and Welfare Plan for the International Longshore Workers Union and has served on the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska State King Crab Quality Control Board, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and as a member of the Pelican Volunteer Fire Department. He was appointed to a seat representing a governor’s appointment.

Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission

Gov. Palin reappointed Rep. Bryce Edgmon to the Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission. The three-member Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission was created to promote better use of marine resources, shellfish, and finfish. It develops programs for protection and prevention of waste of fisheries.

Edgmon, of Dillingham, represents a district that includes the Aleutian, Pribilof and Shumagin Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, and Bristol Bay — altogether one of most productive commercial fishing regions in the world. He has held seats on the House Special Committee on Fisheries and the Resources Committee, both of which are bodies that regularly scrutinize issues and legislation related to stewardship of the marine environment. Edgmon was appointed to a seat representing a legislator serving on the Resources Committee.

Alaska Board of Forestry

Gov. Palin reappointed Rob Bosworth and Mark Vinsel to the Alaska Board of Forestry. The nine-member board’s mission includes advising the governor on state logging and forestry regulations, promoting cooperative resolution of industry-related issues, recommending areas of forestry research and suggesting improvements to state forestry laws and regulations.

Bosworth, of Juneau, is Southeast Alaska Program director for The Nature Conservancy. He has worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, as a research analyst in the 1970s and deputy commissioner in 2002. Bosworth holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental studies and a master’s degree in resource management from University of California, Santa Cruz. He also received a master’s degree in marine affairs from University of Washington, Institute for Marine Studies — Emphasis on Coastal Resource Management. Bosworth was appointed to a seat representing an environmental organization.

Vinsel, of Juneau, has been executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska since 2004, after serving as the industry advocacy group’s office manager from 2000-04. He served as chairman of the Alaska Commemorative Coin Commission from 2005-08, and chairman of the Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission from 2005-07. Vinsel earned a bachelor’s degree in design and industry from San Francisco State University. He was appointed to a seat representing the commercial fishing industry.

UFA: Thank you, Gov. Palin

Gov. Sarah Palin leaves office on Sunday, and the state's largest commercial fishing organization is sending her off with thanks and praise.

Palin, who fishes commercially with husband Todd and their kids at Bristol Bay, deserves credit "for elevating the public’s awareness of fishing family businesses nationwide," United Fishermen of Alaska says in the press release below.

UFA, if you'll recall, endorsed then incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in the 2006 Republican primary, which Palin won.

But UFA voiced immediate support for Palin last year after John McCain picked her as his vice presidential running mate.

Here's the press release:

United Fishermen of Alaska

July 24, 2009

United Fishermen thanks Governor Palin for Service and Activism

United Fishermen of Alaska thanks Governor Palin for her service as Alaska’s governor and wishes her well in future endeavors. The state’s largest commercial fishing trade association highlighted the departing governor’s commitment to fisheries habitat, and credited her for elevating the public’s awareness of fishing family businesses nationwide.

“In particular, we appreciated the move of the habitat division back to the Department of Fish and Game, and the response that F&G, Habitat, Natural Resources, and Environmental Conservation have directed to protecting Alaska’s fisheries habitat during her tenure as governor. We look forward to working together to continue this momentum as we transition to the Parnell administration,” said UFA Executive Director Mark Vinsel.

“UFA encourages fishermen and fishing families to participate directly in the public and political process that are decisive elements of the management of our livelihood in fisheries. Nobody has risen higher in the public view to elevate the awareness of commercial fishing, fishing family businesses, and fishing communities," said UFA President Joe Childers.

“The governor has chosen a road less traveled, and we look forward to seeing where that leads. Ultimately the governor has shown that there is no upper limit on what fishing families can achieve in the public arena,” said Childers.

UFA represents 37 Alaska fishing organizations from fisheries throughout the state and its offshore waters, altogether representing the harvesters of more than half of U.S. domestic seafood production.

Feeling crabby

Deckboss hears a group of concerned Bering Sea crab fishermen are holding something of a summit this morning in Seattle with Jim Balsiger, head of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

They're meeting at the Bay Cafe at Fishermen's Terminal to express worries about a potential slashing of the snow crab catch limit this coming winter season.

Here's a recent item I wrote for Pacific Fishing magazine that explains:

OPILIO WOES: Will next season’s Bering Sea snow crab harvest be a lot smaller? Very possibly, though not purely for lack of crab. The concern is that the stock hasn’t made enough progress under a 10-year federal rebuilding plan implemented in 2000 after the crab population, and the commercial catch, took a nosedive. A group of scientists, the Crab Plan Team, has recommended a significant cut in the catch limit for this coming winter season to meet the rebuilding goal by the required 2011. Two factors, however, could have a major bearing on whether we see a quota cut: the results of this summer’s at-sea stock survey, and a forthcoming federal legal opinion on the implications of not rebuilding the stock within the specified timeframe. Bering Sea snow crab harvests have ranged from 25 million pounds to more than 60 million pounds this decade. But the growing catch remains a far cry from hauls of more than 300 million pounds seen in the early 1990s. Because of the rebuilding concerns, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will delay its announcement on the season catch limit until October to allow for additional scientific review. Normally the quota is announced by late September.

Word is this morning's breakfast meeting with Balsiger could draw even some "Deadliest Catch" celebrity crabbers like Sig Hansen.

Significantly, here's that legal opinion from NMFS clarifying the situation on snow crab rebuilding.

I don't have time to analyze the letter this morning, but I hear some crab industry players view it with some relief.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Palin offers new Board of Fisheries appointee

Gov. Sarah Palin, who leaves office Sunday, has just named Janet Woods, an Interior subsistence fisherman, to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

This is Palin's second attempt to fill the seat formerly occupied by Bonnie Williams of Fairbanks.

State legislators in April shot down Palin's first choice, Cook Inlet commercial salmon fisherman Brent Johnson.

Here's the press release:

Sarah Palin

July 22, 2009

Governor Palin Names Woods to Board of Fisheries

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Governor Sarah Palin today announced the appointment of Janet Woods to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

“I appreciate Janet’s willingness to serve on the Board of Fisheries,” Governor Palin said. “She has a great passion for the resource. I’m confident Janet will work hard to protect the resource and make decisions in the best interest of all Alaskans who rely on our tremendous fisheries.”

Woods, of Fairbanks, has subsistence fished, hunted and trapped in Rampart with her family since the early 1970s. She is currently employed as a pump station administrative assistant with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and has also worked for the Yukon Flats School District. She attended Alaska Methodist University, Seattle Pacific College and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Distance Delivery Program.

The seven members of the Alaska Board of Fisheries are appointed by the governor to conserve and develop the fishery resources of the state. This involves setting seasons, bag limits, and methods and means for the state’s subsistence, commercial, sport, guided sport and personal use fisheries, and it involves setting policy and direction for the management of the state’s fishery resources.

The board is charged with making allocative decisions, while the Department of Fish and Game is responsible for management based on those decisions. Appointees are subject to legislative confirmation.

Alaska ports keep top rankings for seafood

Dutch Harbor was the nation's top port for seafood landings in 2008 in terms of weight, according to the latest rankings from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

It's the 20th straight year Dutch has held the No. 1 spot, an achievement made even more impressive given that last year's landings of 612.7 million pounds were down 21 percent from 2007.

Pollock, used for products such as fish sticks and surimi, makes up most of the landings volume at Dutch Harbor, hub of the rich Bering Sea fish and crab fisheries.

Kodiak ranked fifth for seafood landings in 2008, NMFS says.

In terms of seafood value, Dutch ranked No. 2 and Kodiak No. 3. Two other Alaska ports also made the Top 10 list with Bristol Bay's Naknek at No. 7 and Cordova at No. 10.

It'll be interesting to see whether Dutch Harbor can keep its No. 1 ranking for 21 consecutive years, given how the pollock quota is down substantially this season.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Parnell to keep Moller as rural affairs adviser

Sean Parnell
Lieutenant Governor

July 20, 2009

Rural Affairs Adviser John Moller Will Stay on with Parnell

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell today announced the retention of Gov. Palin’s rural affairs adviser, John Moller.

“John’s strong community leadership has given him the tools to be an effective advocate for rural Alaska,” said Parnell. “Together we can continue to work hard for Alaska’s rural communities.”

John Moller was born in Unalaska. He is working toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Alaska. He’s been a commercial crab fisherman in the Bering Sea for 13 years and has served as general manger of the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association for 12 years.

Moller also currently serves as staff assistant for the departments of Military and Veterans Affairs and Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

Over the top

Now that the season is nearly done, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has stopped updating its daily online catch summary for the Bristol Bay salmon fishery.

Deckboss was curious this morning, however, about whether the fishery had topped 30 million sockeye.

So I called the department's Slim Morstad out in King Salmon.

Slim reports the grand total through Sunday stands at 30,108,796 fish.

Not bad, considering the state had forecast a catch this season of about 24 million fish.

On prices, the folks with the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association report most gillnetters are going home with a base price of 70 cents a pound. Last year most companies paid a base of 68 cents.

The price seems impressive, considering all the gloom with the world economy.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ghost crabber going away

The derelict Ocean Clipper. MCA Foundation photo

The Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation, a Juneau-based nonprofit that's cleaning up old fishing gear and other debris off Alaska beaches, has won $1 million in federal economic stimulus money for its work.

Part of the money will go toward removing an old crab vessel, the Ocean Clipper, laid up for many years on a rocky St. Paul Island beach.

The wreck is considered a hazard to a fur seal rookery there, especially pups that might wander into the broken hull and become trapped, said MCA Executive Director David Benton.

The hope is that a salvage company — most likely Magone Marine Service out of Dutch Harbor — can pull the wreck off the beach either this fall or next spring.

"It's going to be a real challenge," said Benton, as salvors will have to work around bad weather as well as the fur seals.

Trident to pay $34,000 for diesel spills

Here's some news out of Washington state on a settlement Trident Seafoods Corp. has stuck with pollution regulators regarding fuel spills from some of the Seattle-based processor's vessels.

Department of Ecology
State of Washington

July 16, 2009

Ecology settlement with Trident Seafoods aims to prevent oil spills

OLYMPIA — Under a settlement agreement between Trident Seafoods Corp. of Seattle and the Washington Department of Ecology, Trident will pay $34,000 to settle a total of $68,000 in penalties Ecology levied against the company for four vessel spills of diesel fuel to state waters in 2007 and 2008.

Ecology agreed to suspend the remaining $34,000 in recognition of significant improvements in Trident’s environmental compliance program. Trident also must avoid any oil spills 25 gallons or larger during the next three years.

Under the agreement, if the company has an incident Trident will pay Ecology the remaining half of the full penalty amount — on top of any new fines that might be imposed for another spill.

“I’m pleased with this approach. Trident could have just paid the fine and made a verbal pledge to do better,” said Ecology Spills Program Manager Dale Jensen. “Instead, the company is taking on a financial challenge to implement changes to better protect Puget Sound. This is a model other companies who get penalties for spilling oil ought to consider.”

Trident will make its settlement payment within 30 days.

Jensen said Trident has embarked on a series of safety and spill-prevention reforms within its 42-vessel fleet, prompted by Ecology, the U.S. Coast Guard and the company’s own initiatives. The changes made include:

•Placing oil barrier boom around all vessels moored in Washington.

•Conducting weekly checks of vessel fuel and hydraulic systems and making annual reviews of company oil-transfer procedures.

•Putting permanent containment on as many fuel tank vents as possible.

•Minimizing the length of hydraulic hoses exposed to weather on the decks of its vessels.

“Trident regrets any spill, and we are committed to safety and spill-prevention reforms,” said company spokesperson Bob Nelson. “We are pleased that we were able to reach this innovative settlement agreement with Ecology which aims to prevent future spills.”

Fuel tax relief to continue?

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who takes over for outgoing Gov. Sarah Palin on July 26, is calling on state legislators to extend the suspension of Alaska's motor fuel taxes, including the 5 cent per gallon levy on marine diesel and gasoline.

Legislators are meeting in special session on Aug. 10 to, among other things, consider overriding a Palin veto.

No indication yet on whether the lawmakers will add the fuel tax issue to their agenda.

The one-year fuel tax suspension now in place is set to expire on Sept. 1 unless legislators extend it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Obama honors sablefish scientist

Read about it here.

About that blob

You might have seen media reports this week of a mysterious, miles-long blob in the Chukchi Sea near Barrow.

A U.S. Coast Guard official tells me lab tests conducted in Anchorage have confirmed the stuff is an algae of some sort.

Further tests are planned to see if it's toxic.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bristol Bay fishing death reported at Togiak

Here's a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard about a drowning at Togiak in Bristol Bay.

I can't tell for sure whether the victim was fishing commercially, though state records show a Stephen D. Luhrs of Togiak holds a Bristol Bay salmon setnet permit.

U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District

July 13, 2009

Coast Guard recovers body of fisherman in Togiak Bay

KODIAK, Alaska — The Coast Guard recovered the body of a 56-year-old fisherman who fell overboard from his skiff Monday in Togiak Bay.

The Coast Guard received a call at 9:04 a.m. Monday from a local fisherman reporting Steve Luhrs and his two daughters were pulling fishing nets into his 18-foot skiff when they fell overboard without life jackets on. The two daughters were able to pull themselves back into the skiff.

Good Samaritans aboard approximately 15 fishing vessels in the area immediately began searching for Luhrs while Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an HC-130 Hercules airplane. The daughters were removed from the skiff by good Samaritans aboard a nearby fishing vessel.

Both aircraft arrived on scene at about noon and searched for about an hour. The body was then located on a nearby beach by good Samaritans. The Coast Guard rescue helicopter landed and recovered and transferred the body to authorities in Togiak.

Accidents in Alaska can happen without warning in all weather conditions. The Coast Guard would like to remind boaters to carry all required and recommended safety equipment.

Poaching costs Copper River fisherman bigtime

Authorities say a salmon gillnetter photographed fishing eight hours prior to an opener on the Copper River flats can keep his 33-foot boat, the F/V Sushi. But first he'll have to pay $20,000.

That's only part of the pain for Nikolai Reutov.

Read all about this case and plenty more fisheries enforcement news on The Brig.

Monday, July 13, 2009

New admiral taking helm of Coast Guard in Alaska

The cutter Mustang in Seward. Wesley Loy photo

Rear Adm. Gene Brooks, head of the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska, is yielding to a new commander on Thursday.

Brooks has been Alaska commander since May 2006, when he replaced the retiring Rear Adm. James Olson.

Here's a press release:

U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District

July 13, 2009

17th Coast Guard District to hold change of command ceremony

JUNEAU, Alaska — The 17th Coast Guard District will hold a formal change of command ceremony at 10 a.m. Thursday at Centennial Hall where Rear Adm. Christopher C. Colvin will relieve Rear Adm. Gene Brooks as Commander, 17th Coast Guard District. Vice Adm. Jody Breckenridge, Commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area, will preside at the ceremony.

Brooks will report to Coast Guard Operations Command in Portsmouth, Va., to assume duties as deputy commander.

Colvin was previously assigned as the Deputy Director of Operations for Headquarters United States Northern Command.

Rear Adm. Colvin’s afloat assignments include serving as Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Cutter Dallas (WHEC 716), Coast Guard Cutter Diligence (WMEC 616) and Coast Guard Cutter Cape Upright (WPB 95303). Staff assignments have included serving as the Chief of Operations and Chief of Cutter Forces, Atlantic Area in Portsmouth, Va.; Chief Staff Officer and Coast Guard Liaison Officer at the U.S. Navy’s Afloat Training Group, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Senior Rescue Coordination Center Controller, Pacific Area, in Alameda; and Chief of Staff for the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area, in Portsmouth, Va.

A 1979 graduate of Officer Candidate School, Rear Admiral Colvin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976 and a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., in 1999.

Rear Admiral Colvin’s personal awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Coast Guard Commendation Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and DOT 9-11 Medal.

Palin signs legislation on fish data, tanker escorts

Deckboss confesses he's a little baffled as to the exact purpose of Senate Bill 3 cited in the press release below.

I'll endeavor to learn more, time permitting.

July 13, 2009

Governor Palin Signs Senate Bill, Resolution

ANCHORAGE — Governor Sarah Palin today signed Senate Bill 3 and House Joint Resolution 19.

SB 3, sponsored by Senator Donny Olson, requires the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Information Commission to share data with Alaska Regional Development Organizations (ARDORs) at no cost. In the past, the law required them to charge for this service. This information will help ARDOR groups get the latest, most accurate information to help them understand economic trends that could impact local economies, particularly those that rely on fishing.

HJR 19, sponsored by Representative Alan Austerman, recognizes the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and puts the Alaska Legislature on record as supporting vessel escorts for any loaded oil tanker using Prince William Sound. Current federal law only requires vessel escorts for single-hulled tankers of 5,000 gross tons or more.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bristol Bay forecasters wrong again!

I see by today's scorecard that the Bristol Bay sockeye catch through yesterday stands at 27.6 million fish.

That's way over the preseason forecast of 24 million. And the fishing ain't done yet!

Seiner goes down at Wrangell

The seiner Siren, partially submerged. SEAPRO photo

The U.S. Coast Guard is reporting the salmon seiner Siren ran aground in Wrangell harbor on Saturday.

The vessel belongs to Michael A. File of Petersburg, according to the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.

Here's the Coast Guard press release:

July 11, 2009

Coast Guard responds to grounded vessel in Wrangell Harbor

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Coast Guard responded to the 58-foot fishing vessel Siren which grounded with 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board in Wrangell Harbor at 1:10 a.m. Saturday.

A crewmember from the Siren contacted the Coast Guard Sector Juneau Rescue Coordination Center by VHF-FM radio to report the grounding and then safely made it to shore after disembarking from the Siren in a small motor vessel.

Personnel from the Southeast Alaska Petroleum Resource Organization in Wrangell placed boom around the vessel at 6:30 a.m. and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew conducted an overflight of the vessel and reported that there was no sheen at 9:38 a.m.

Personnel will work with the tide levels to attempt to refloat the fishing vessel. No injuries have been reported and the cause of the grounding is not known at this time. The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the grounding.

The Siren is homeported in Petersburg and was en route from Petersburg to Wrangell during the grounding.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Peter Pan, Ocean Beauty chiefs keep ASMI seats

Gov. Sarah Palin's office sent this out today:

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors

Gov. Palin reappointed Barry Collier and Mark Palmer to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors.

Collier, of Edmonds, Wash., has been president and chief executive officer of Seattle-based Peter Pan Seafoods Inc. since 1997, and vice president of administrative operations from 1989-97. His career also includes service as administrative assistant, then president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association from 1985-89, two years as executive director of the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association, and two years as executive manager of the Purse Seine Vessel Owners’ Association. Collier earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Puget Sound in 1978. He has served on the ASMI board since 2004, and was reappointed to a seat representing large seafood processors.

Palmer, of Fall City, Wash., has been president and chief executive officer of Ocean Beauty Seafoods Inc. since 2005, and has been with the firm since 1984 in various sales and management positions. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Boise State University. He has served on the ASMI board since 2004 and is currently the chair. He was reappointed to a seat representing large seafood processors.

Juneau gillnetters reject tax for Rainforest Wild

Just got word that Southeast Alaska salmon gillnetters voted 132-80 against self-imposing a 1 percent landings tax to pay for marketing and other initiatives under a regional branding effort called Rainforest Wild (Deckboss, June 6).

It's the second time Southeast gillnetters have rejected the idea.

So what's next for Rainforest Wild?

"Everyone's just going to focus on fishing for right now and we'll reconvene later in the fall and decide next steps then," spokeswoman Elizabeth Dubovsky told me in an e-mail today.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

$4 million in Exxon Valdez payments coming

Federal Judge H. Russel Holland of Anchorage has approved an application from lawyers in the Exxon Valdez case to pay out another $4 million in punitive damages.

People in seven plaintiff categories will divide the money.

The categories are area businesses, personal injury claimants, personal property claimants, fish tenders, non-Native subsistence claimants, aquaculture associations and Native corporations.

Here's the list of claimants and the amounts they will receive, minus attorney fees.

Sorry, I'm not sure exactly when checks or direct deposits will go out. Shouldn't be long, though.


Plenty of police news, including one odd tale of a "disenchanted" fisherman, today on The Brig.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Search ends for Alaska Warrior crewman

Sad news here from the U.S. Coast Guard:

July 7, 2009

Coast Guard suspends search for man overboard in Bering Sea

KODIAK, Alaska — The Coast Guard suspended the search at 4:37 p.m. Tuesday for a man who reportedly fell overboard from the commercial fishing vessel Alaska Warrior in Amukta Pass 218 miles west of Dutch Harbor.

The Coast Guard’s combined search effort included three HC-130 Hercules aircraft and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter covering more than 1,400 square miles for 11 hours. The Alaska Warrior’s crew and its sister ship, the Alaska Juris, searched for 28 hours. The crewmember's rain gear was located by the Alaska Warrior.

Coast Guard Sector Anchorage received a call at 1:15 p.m. Monday from the Alaska Warrior crew reporting a 58-year-old Japanese crewmember fell overboard at 12:45 p.m. with no survival gear or life jacket on.

The Alaska Warrior is a 192-foot trawler homeported in Seattle. The Alaska Juris is a 218-foot trawler also homeported in Seattle. Both vessels routinely operate out of Dutch Harbor.

Big sockeye harvest confirmed at Bristol Bay

Bristol Bay has done it again, yielding a colossal catch of sockeye salmon.

With Monday's catch of about 1.6 million fish, the harvest tally clicked well over 20 million fish to a total of 21,404,623, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports today.

The hottest fishing district this season: Egegik, with better than 9 million fish landed so far.

The preseason forecast for Bristol Bay was for a commercial catch of about 24 million fish. With daily catches still running strong I'm guessing we'll see more than that by the time the fishery wraps up in a couple of weeks.

For you trivia buffs, I can tell you the bay produced a catch of 27.8 million last year. The largest catch on record was 44.3 million in 1995.

Haven't heard anything reliable on prices yet. Have you?

Good Samaritans, Coast Guard save seiner Luna

Friends rally around the sinking seiner. U.S. Coast Guard photo

This just in:

U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District

July 7, 2009

Coast Guard assists fishing vessel taking on water in Shelikof Strait

KODIAK, Alaska — The Coast Guard assisted a 50-foot fishing vessel from Kodiak on the northwest side of Kodiak Island in Spiridon Bay after it began sinking Monday.

The Coast Guard Command Center in Anchorage received a call from the fishing vessel Lady Ashely at noon reporting the Luna was in need of assistance after it struck a rock.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Kodiak launched at approximately 12:20 p.m. The Jayhawk lowered a dewatering pump to the Luna and the Hercules dropped two additional pumps.

Several good Samaritan vessels in the area assisted the Luna with dewatering. The flooding was controlled and the good Samaritan vessels remained in the area to assist.

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Kodiak reports there are no environmental issues at this time. The Luna’s crew is making repairs to the vessel in preparation to return to Kodiak.

The Luna was fishing for salmon at the time of the accident.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Search on for another man overboard

The vessel involved belongs to Seattle-based Fishing Company of Alaska Inc.

Here's the press release:

U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District

July 6, 2009

Coast Guard searching for man overboard near Aleutian Islands

KODIAK, Alaska — The Coast Guard is searching for a man reported overboard from the commercial fishing vessel Alaska Warrior in Amukta Pass 218 miles west of Dutch Harbor.

Coast Guard Sector Anchorage received a call at 1:15 p.m. Monday from the Alaska Warrior crew reporting a 58-year-old Japanese man fell overboard at 12:45 p.m. with no survival gear or life jacket on.

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Kodiak were launched at approximately 3 p.m. The aircraft are expected on scene this evening.

The Alaska Warrior’s crew and its sister ship, the Alaska Juris, are actively searching for the crewmember.

Reported weather conditions in the area are 23 mph winds with seas to eight feet and overcast skies. The sea temperature during this time of year can range from the low to high 40s.

The Alaska Warrior is a 192-foot trawler homeported in Seattle. The Alaska Juris is a 218-foot trawler also homeported in Seattle. Both vessels routinely operate out of Dutch Harbor.

Theft staggers Alaska Marine Conservation Council

Anchorage police are seeking a former employee suspected of stealing $100,000 from the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

The theft was disastrous for the Anchorage-based nonprofit organization, forcing staff furloughs and job losses, detectives say.

AMCC advocates for small-boat fishermen, coastal communities and environmental causes. Its people are respected players in fish policy debates before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

For more details, go to The Brig to see the police department's plea for public assistance in finding the suspect, Travis Robinson.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Palin's gone fishin'

Looks like Sarah Palin, who shocked the nation last week in saying she'll step down as governor on July 26, is headed out to the family's setnet site near Dillingham to help harvest Bristol Bay salmon.

Palin disclosed her fishing plans in this series of "tweets" she sent in recent hours via Twitter:

AKGovSarahPalin Grateful Todd left fishing grnds to join me this wkend; but now he's back slaying salmon & working the kids @ the site; anxious to join 'em!
about 9 hours ago from TwitterBerry

AKGovSarahPalin As has been the case for decades, family is commercial fishing in Bristol Bay-I look forward to joining the work crew for 1 day picking fish
about 9 hours ago from TwitterBerry

AKGovSarahPalin Attached is my "thank you" sent yesterday to express gratitude, & smack down lies at same time
about 11 hours ago from web

AKGovSarahPalin Trying to keep up w/getting truth to u, like proof there's no "FBI scandal", here's link Thanks, AK!
about 12 hours ago from web

AKGovSarahPalin so I'll make attempt to keep up w/attaching corrected info. I head 2 West AK villages today, look forward to their busy comm fish activity!
about 15 hours ago from TwitterBerry

AKGovSarahPalin Critics are spinning, so hang in there as they feed false info on the right decision made as I enter last yr in office to not run again....
about 15 hours ago from TwitterBerry


A belligerent crewman ... war eagles ... "You slut!" ...

Catch the latest Dutch Harbor police report on The Brig.

Say a prayer

Below is the latest on the missing crewman off the trawler Rebecca Irene.

The Anchorage Daily News yesterday reported the crewman was noticed missing after he failed to show up for watch duty.

U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District

July 5, 2009

Coast Guard suspends search for man overboard in Bering Sea

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Coast Guard suspended the search at 12:37 a.m. Sunday for a man that reportedly fell overboard from the commercial fishing vessel Rebecca Irene 24 miles southeast of Umnak Island.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was launched Saturday from Air Station Kodiak after the crew of the Rebecca Irene reported Nhial Opiew, a 38-year-old man, was reported missing at about 8:34 a.m. Saturday.

The crew of the Rebecca Irene searched for approximately 14 hours with assistance from two good Samaritan vessels. The combined search effort covered more than 100 square miles.

“The search was severely hampered by visibility as low as one half mile at sea level throughout the day,” according to Lt. Nathaniel Johnson, command duty officer at the District 17 Command Center.

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew from Air Station Kodiak was launched also Saturday morning as well as an HH-65C Dolphin helicopter deployed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley on patrol in the Bering Sea. Due to poor visibility and vast offshore distances neither asset could search effectively.

The Rebecca Irene is a 140-foot trawler homeported in Seattle that was fishing for Pacific Ocean perch.

Opiew’s hometown is unknown.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Search on for missing crewman

The trawler Rebecca Irene. Groundfish Forum photo

From the U.S. Coast Guard:

July 4, 2009

Coast Guard searching for man overboard from Seattle vessel south of Umnak Island

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Coast Guard is searching for a man overboard from the commercial fishing vessel Rebecca Irene 24 miles southeast of Umnak Island.

The Coast Guard received the report of the missing crewmember at about 8:34 a.m. Saturday from the crew of the Rebecca Irene.

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew from Air Station Kodiak was launched Saturday morning as well as a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter deployed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley on patrol in the Bering Sea. Due to poor visibility and vast offshore distances neither asset can search effectively. An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter is being launched from Air Station Kodiak but is several hours away.

The crew of the Rebecca Irene is searching in addition to good Samaritans on several other fishing vessels in the area.

Reported weather in the area is 23 to 28 mph winds with seas eight to 10 feet and visibility of a quarter mile. The sea temperature is 43 degrees.

The Rebecca Irene is 140-foot trawler homeported in Seattle.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Palin to leave office by end of July

Here's the official press release from the governor's office:

Governor Palin announces no second term

No lame duck session either

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, July 3, 2009 — Governor Sarah Palin announced today that she will not seek a second term as Governor of the State of Alaska and will relegate the power of governor to Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell in order to serve Alaska’s best interests. Lieutenant General Craig Campbell will move into Parnell’s current role.

“People who know me know that besides faith and family, nothing's more important to me than our beloved Alaska,” said Governor Palin. “Serving her people is the greatest honor I could imagine.”

Standing outside her home in Wasilla, Alaska, Governor Palin reflected upon some of the administration’s accomplishments for Alaska as she approaches her final year in office.

“I am determined to take the right path for Alaska even though it is not the easiest path,” said Governor Palin after the announcement. “Once I decided not to run for re-election, I also felt that to embrace the conventional ‘Lame Duck’ status in this particular climate would just be another dose of ‘politics as usual,’ something I campaigned against and will always oppose. It is my duty to always protect our great state. With that in mind, my family and I determined that it is best to make a difference this summer, and I am willing to change things, so that this administration, with its positive agenda, its accomplishments, and its successful road to an incredible future, can continue without interruption and with great administrative and legislative success. I look forward to helping others — to fight for our state and our country, and campaign for those who believe in smaller government, free enterprise, strong national security, support for our troops, and energy independence.”

The transfer of power will occur following the Governor’s picnic in Fairbanks on July 26. At that point in time, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell will be sworn in and Lieutenant General Craig Campbell will assume his role as Lieutenant Governor.

Governor Palin will spend July 4th in Juneau.

Palin to step aside as governor

CNN just posted this lead on its Web site:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced Friday she would not seek a second term and would soon step down as governor.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Check The Brig for details on a nearly $260,000 enforcement action involving a sablefish boat.

Bender bankruptcy

Here's a newspaper account of the financial troubles of an Alabama boat builder familiar to many in the North Pacific fishing industry.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Copper River fisherman busted, boat seized

State troopers have seized a gillnet boat and hit the skipper with several charges including illegal fishing at the Copper River.

Details on The Brig.