Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Boat reported sunk near Metlakatla

The U.S. Coast Guard released this around 3:30 p.m. today:

March 31, 2010

Coast Guard responds to sunken vessel east of Metlakatla

KODIAK — The Coast Guard is responding to the sinking of the 45-foot fishing vessel Millie B in Crab Bay, east of Annette Island.

Marine Safety Detachment Ketchikan watchstanders received a call from personnel at Annette Island Gas about 11 a.m. today reporting the sunken vessel and a light sheen on the water.

Coast Guard responders went to Crab Bay and discovered the vessel sunk in approximately 65 to 80 feet of water and not posing a navigational hazard. The vessel has approximately 80 gallons of diesel aboard. The responders did not observe a sheen or smell diesel.

It was reported to the MSD that one person was aboard the vessel but transferred to the vessel's skiff before the Millie B sank. The owner is working with the Coast Guard and reports he will raise the vessel as soon as possible.

Personnel from MSD Ketchikan will continue to investigate the situation.

Hurt crewman airlifted off trawler near Adak

This just in from the U.S. Coast Guard:

March 31, 2010

Coast Guard conducts long-range rescue near Adak

KODIAK — Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak aircrews this morning medevaced a crewman reported to have injured his wrist on the 200-foot trawler Ocean Peace, homeported in Dutch Harbor, less than 100 miles northwest of Adak.

Joemar Lontoc, 25, residence unknown, was cleaning a fish-processing machine when it was reported to have accidentally activated, lacerating his wrist. The Coast Guard received a report from the Ocean Peace crew Tuesday afternoon regarding the nature of the situation and requesting assistance.

The Coast Guard launched two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews Tuesday evening from St. Paul Island and Kodiak, along with an HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew from Kodiak, to conduct the medevac.

Due to blizzard conditions near Adak, Lontoc was unable to be hoisted Tuesday evening and the rescue crews spent the night in Cold Bay and Adak.

The helicopter crew in Adak launched at about 9 a.m. Wednesday and successfully hoisted Lontoc. Since the hoist occurred within 100 miles of the coastline, the Hercules and second helicopter crew were not used to provide additional communications and self-rescue capability to the rescue helicopter.

Lontoc was transferred to emergency medical services in Adak about 11:30 a.m. and taken to the Adak medical clinic. An air ambulance is taking Lontoc to Anchorage for further treatment.

The weather at the time of the medevac was blowing snow, visibility one-quarter mile, and air temperature in the low 30s with winds northwest at 30 to 45 mph.

Another big bite of Sitka herring

Sitka Sound herring seiners had another crack at the fish yesterday, bagging an estimated 4,000 tons, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in this update.

That brings the total harvest for the season to 13,600 tons, leaving about 4,700 tons remaining on the 18,293-ton catch limit.

The fleet won't fish today, giving processors time to gobble down yesterday's catch, Fish and Game said.

No oil and gas leasing for Bristol Bay

Sure enough, the federal government today nixed oil and gas lease sales in Bristol Bay, at least for the next seven years.

Here's a memorandum from the man himself, President Obama, withdrawing the bay from leasing.

"Bristol Bay is a national treasure that we must protect for future generations," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

For the national picture on the government's offshore oil and gas leasing plans, check out this press release.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Peter Pan's dock of the bay

Peter Pan Seafoods Inc. is planning to build a major new dock at its Bristol Bay salmon cannery at Dillingham.

The Seattle-based company has applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit.

According to a public notice the Corps issued today, Peter Pan proposes to construct a 339-foot by 55-foot pile-supported dock adjacent to its existing dock and plant.

The company's goal is "to provide storage during seasonal processing and to provide additional access to fishing vessels," the application says.

The application doesn't include a cost estimate or construction schedule.

Feds to cancel Bristol Bay oil and gas leasing?

The Obama administration tomorrow might nix planned oil and gas leasing in the federal waters of Bristol Bay, also known as the North Aleutian basin.

The announcement is expected to come as the feds unveil their new national offshore oil and gas leasing plan.

"In a nod to its environmental base, the administration is expected to keep the Pacific coast off limits, as well as new areas of Alaska such as Bristol Bay," says a story the Wall Street Journal posted on its site today.

The government previously had proposed two lease sales in the North Aleutian basin, one next year and another in 2014.

It'll be interested to see whether the government cans one or both.

Oil and gas leasing is, of course, a highly controversial subject in Bristol Bay, which is rich in salmon, groundfish and crab.

A 1986 lease sale in the bay ultimately was reversed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Potential drillers, such as Shell, regard Bristol Bay as a better bet for natural gas than oil.

An Adak update

This press release arrived rather out of the blue yesterday regarding the lease dispute over the fish plant out on Adak Island.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Balsiger's back

Here's personnel news from the National Marine Fisheries Service:

March 29, 2010

Balsiger Returns as Regional Administrator for Alaska

Dr. Jim Balsiger is back in Juneau to again serve as administrator for NOAA Fisheries' Alaska Region.

He has been working at NOAA Fisheries headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., for more than four years, first overseeing all of the agency's regulatory programs and then, for the past two years, serving as acting administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

Doug Mecum, who has been the acting regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries' Alaska Region, has returned to his post as deputy regional administrator.

"It was an honor to lead NOAA Fisheries for the last two years. Now it's good to be home where I can be part of managing Alaska's world-class fisheries and of conserving Alaska's species and habitat," Balsiger said.

Dr. Balsiger's background includes time as the science and research director at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, where he also served as deputy director from 1991 through 1995 and program leader for the status of stocks task within the Center's resource ecology and fisheries management division from 1977 to 1991.

Dr. Balsiger holds a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich.; a Master of Science degree in forest silviculture from Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind.; and a Ph.D in quantitative ecology and natural resource management from the University of Washington in Seattle. He has authored or co-authored more than 33 publications in scientific journals and technical memoranda on fisheries subjects.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Over the hump for Sitka herring

Sitka Sound herring seiners had a second crack at the fish Saturday, bagging an estimated 3,500 tons.

That brings the total harvest so far to 9,800 tons, or more than half the season limit of 18,293 tons.

We could see another opener Monday, says this update from the Department of Fish and Game.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Troopers, Coast Guard investigate Sitka collision

Here's a news release from the Alaska State Troopers regarding the disabled herring seiner Shady Lady:

Location: Sitka
Type: Vessel collision
On 3/24/10 at approximately 1712 hours a collision occurred during the Sitka sac roe herring fishery. The seiner F/V Confidence, operated by Leroy Johns, 46, of Sitka, collided with the seiner F/V Shady Lady operated by Dean Anderson, 51, of Chignik. Both vessels were damaged, however, substantial damage was caused to the Shady Lady. No injuries were reported and alcohol does not appear to be a factor. The U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office was contacted and is investigating this incident. Investigation continues.

Friday, March 26, 2010

More on Janet Woods

Deckboss asked the governor's press secretary, Sharon Leighow, for a copy of any resignation letter or notice outgoing Board of Fisheries member Janet Woods might have submitted.

Leighow provided the following e-mail Woods sent to Jason Hooley, the governor's director of boards and commissions.

Woods "was not asked to resign," Leighow said.

Here's the e-mail:


Note to confirm that I am stepping down from BOF appointment much to my dismay. I truly enjoyed being a part of the process and working with such wonderful people and constituents that I was privileged to meet, serve and work with. Thank you Janet

Janet L. Woods

Woods resigns from Board of Fisheries

This just in from the governor's office:

March 26, 2010

Vacancy Created on the Board of Fisheries

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell accepted the resignation of Janet Woods from the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

The resignation creates a vacancy on the seven-member panel that is charged with the conservation and development of Alaska's fisheries resources. Woods, of Fairbanks, was appointed on July 22, 2009.

"I am grateful for Janet's service during her tenure on the board," Gov. Parnell said.

According to state law, the governor shall, within 30 days after a vacancy occurs, appoint a person to serve the balance of the term and submit that name to the Legislature for confirmation.

Easy there!

Deckboss has heard different accounts of how it happened, but the seiner Shady Lady clearly met with trouble during Wednesday's Sitka Sound herring fishery. Hopefully the boat, seen here tipped alongside a big tender, got out of the jam safely. Kathee Bigley photo

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Scorecard from Sitka

The preliminary harvest estimate from yesterday's season opener in the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is 6,900 tons.

Here's the Department of Fish and Game's latest update.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And they're off!

Seiners slug it out in Sitka Sound. Johnny Rice photos

After days of waiting, the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery opened around 5 o'clock this afternoon.

Johnny Rice, a spotter pilot, passed along these kickin' photos.

In the image below, we can see a couple of seine boats offloading big catches to tenders.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wanna go shrimping?

Now here's something delicious.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is getting ready to open a commercial shrimp pot fishery in Prince William Sound for the first time in nearly 20 years.

The main quarry will be those big, wonderful spot shrimp, or spot prawns as some folks call them.

The state has set a modest guideline harvest level of 55,000 pounds.

To catch them, fishermen must register by 5 p.m. April 1.

The fishery will open at 8 a.m. April 15.

Click here to read the state news release and see a map of the area open for shrimping.

As I said at the top, it's been quite a while since we've seen a Prince William Sound commercial shrimp pot fishery.

In 1991, the last year the fishery was open, 15 participating vessels landed 17,302 pounds of spot shrimp and 278 pounds of coonstripe shrimp.

The peak year was 1986, when 80 vessels landed 286,105 pounds of spot shrimp and 3,715 pounds of coonstripes.

The state closed the fishery after the 1991 season due to weak shrimp stocks. Noncommercial harvests for subsistence, personal use and sport purposes were allowed to continue.

Since the commercial closure, spot shrimp have slowly but steadily increased in abundance, state biologists say. In December 2008, the Alaska Board of Fisheries approved a plan for resuming commercial shrimping.

And here we are.

I've have a chance to sample a few spot shrimp, y'all, and they're absolutely divine.

Spot shrimp are the largest type of shrimp in the North Pacific. They take their name from the white, paired spots located just behind the head and just in front of the tail.

A shout out to my good friend in Anchorage for alerting Deckboss to the Fish and Game news release.

A Sitka herring update

Here's the latest Alaska Department of Fish and Game update on the pending Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery.

Sounds like the seiners and processors have come to an understanding on price, and now everybody is waiting on optimum fish and roe quality.

Once conditions are right, look for this famously feisty fishery to go off like a firecracker.

Bristol Bay processors again say they're ready

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game today came out with its processor capacity survey for the upcoming Bristol Bay salmon season.

As usual, the processors say they're prepared to handle a full harvest.

The state is forecasting a run big enough to support a commercial catch of 30.5 million sockeye. Surveyed processors said they're prepared to purchase and process more than that — 31.6 million sockeye.

But fishermen still might face delivery limits or shutdowns if the fish lump in unevenly, plugging the plants, the survey indicates.

This has been a major sore spot with gillnetters in recent seasons, with some accusing the processors of failing to plan adequately.

A couple of other interesting notes from the survey:

• Processors project a 6 percent decrease in tendering capacity in the bay this summer.

• Air transport of fish is expected to increase.

Bristol Bay last summer yielded a harvest of 30.9 million sockeye.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sitka herring — hurry up and wait

Sounds like they're holding out for riper roe before unleashing the seine fleet in Sitka Sound.

Here's the latest Department of Fish and Game update.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Board's task: define 'subsistence way of life'

The Alaska Board of Fisheries today begins a tedious, two-day session to clarify how it defines the expression "subsistence way of life."

This isn't just an academic exercise. A Fairbanks judge ordered this.

The weekend board meeting is the latest twist in an old struggle over the question of whether the dipnet fishery at Chitina should be classified as a subsistence fishery or a "personal use" fishery.

Why does this matter?

Well, commercial salmon fishermen at the mouth of the Copper River, downstream of Chitina, greatly fear a subsistence designation because that would give dipnetters a priority to the fish.

Superior Court Judge Michael MacDonald, in his Dec. 31 ruling, stopped short of overturning the board's 2003 action classifying the dipnet fishery as personal use, not subsistence.

But the judge said the board had failed to properly apply a key provision in state law that refers to the "subsistence way of life."

The judge ordered the board to define "subsistence way of life," and then reapply the law.


So, the board will meet today and tomorrow at the Hilton hotel in downtown Anchorage to work on its definition and take public testimony. Presumably, each of the seven board members will have a dictionary and thesaurus close at hand.

All kidding aside, this is a hot issue. The board received nearly 100 written public comments prior to the meeting.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Factory trawler sustains serious damage

American Dynasty's scorched superstructure. USCG photo

From the look of photos the U.S. Coast Guard released today, the fire aboard the American Seafoods factory trawler American Dynasty caused some pretty nasty damage.

Here's the Coast Guard press release:

March 19, 2010

Coast Guard investigates at-sea vessel fire

ANCHORAGE — Coast Guard Sector Anchorage is investigating an engine room fire that burned for more than three hours March 10 onboard the fishing vessel American Dynasty 50 miles northwest of Cold Bay.

"We are working to understand what caused the fire," said Lt. Cmdr. Brad Clare, Sector Anchorage chief of inspections division. "We have investigators in Dutch Harbor working with the ship owners to ensure proper temporary repairs are made before allowing the vessel to transit safely to Seattle for permanent repairs."

The 286-foot Seattle-based American Dynasty had reported a fire aboard the vessel, with a crew of 137. After a three-hour battle using three fire fighting teams, the crew extinguished the fire with no reported injuries or fatalities.

Upon receiving notification of the fire, the 17th Coast Guard District command center in Juneau launched the ready HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Anchorage, two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters from St. Paul, and an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Cold Bay. The cutters Munro and Alex Haley were also diverted.

Upon receiving notification of the fire being extinguished, all Coast Guard assets were ordered to stand down except for the Kodiak-based Munro, which escorted the American Dynasty to Dutch Harbor.

The Coast Guard investigators in Dutch Harbor are working in cooperation with marine surveyors to determine the cause of the fire and assess the extent of the damage.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sitka herring about to hit

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has put Sitka Sound seiners on notice that, effective at noon Friday, the sac roe herring fishery could open with only two hours notice.

This is Alaska's richest and most competitive herring fishery, with 50 boats sometimes swapping hull paint in a high-stakes duel for fish.

The quota this year is very large, 18,293 tons.

Wish I could be there to watch the action!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Coast Guard airlifts crewman off Golden Alaska

The U.S. Coast Guard sent this out about 9:20 a.m. today:

March 16, 2010

Coast Guard medevacs Bering Sea crewman

JUNEAU — A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew from a forward operating location in St. Paul on Monday safely transferred a crewmember reportedly suffering abdominal pain aboard a fishing vessel eight nautical miles west of St. George Island.

The Coast Guard 17th District Command Center received notification at 8:43 p.m. from the master of the fishing vessel Golden Alaska requesting that a 60-year-old crewmember be medically evacuated.

The Coast Guard launched a Jayhawk from St. Paul, hoisted the man off the Golden Alaska and safely transported him to St. George where local emergency medical services were waiting.

The man was awaiting further transport to Providence Alaska Medical Center by commercial medical evacuation services.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sinking reported at Ketchikan

A 60-foot wooden boat, the Diehless, has sunk in Ward Cove near Ketchikan. Built in 1916, the local boat isn't used for commercial fishing. The U.S. Coast Guard said it was notified at 7 a.m. today. The owner said he awoke to the sound of a bilge alarm around 4 a.m. Sunday. The stern and engine room were flooded. The owner was able to abandon ship safely. USCG photo

Notes from Boston

Is Alaska lost in an ocean of seafood? Gunnar Knapp photo

Deckboss invited Gunnar Knapp, a fisheries economist at the University of Alaska Anchorage, to send along some observations from the International Boston Seafood Show. He provided the following, and even threw in some nice photos!

Attending a show like this is an extremely valuable reminder of some of the realities of the seafood industry that our Alaska industry is part of. It gives you a very different perspective than that which you can get in Alaska. For that reason, I would highly recommend attending this show (or others like it, such as the Brussels Seafood Show) to anyone involved in the Alaska seafood industry. You can learn a lot that you just can't learn at home.

• Alaska is an important player, but it's only one of many many important players. There are some big and impressive booths here of important Alaska players, such as Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods and ASMI (the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute). But there are equally big and impressive booths from many other producing companies, regions and marketing councils. Examples (among many many others I could name) include large companies from Norway, Iceland, Scotland, Chile, Atlantic Canada, Vietnam, China, Korea; marketing organizations such as the Norwegian Seafood Exporting Council; regional booths from producing regions such as Quebec, etc. All of these regions are competing, to varying extents, with Alaska.

• Alaska products are important but there are many many other products that are important: tilapia, anchovies, tuna, shrimp, catfish, squid, sturgeon caviar — the list goes on and on and on. All of these products are competing, to varying extents, with Alaska products.

• Value-added products are growing in importance. Much of what is on display here is the value-added products that companies are making from fish caught in Alaska as well as elsewhere. I suspect that more and more the success of various kinds of fish will depend on the success of the value-added products made from them. A particularly tasty item that I enjoyed was the Trident Seafoods "beer-batter cod" (the beer is Alaskan Amber).

• Aquaculture is hugely important. The impression that you get here is the same as the impression that you get from looking at international fish production data — aquaculture is now equally important to wild fisheries as a source of fish supply. I would say that about half the fish on display here from around the world are farmed products — from Norwegian farmed salmon to Chinese sturgeon caviar to Vietnamese shrimp to Thailand tilapia. Clearly wild fisheries are facing huge competition from farmed fish and will continue to do so.

• A hot topic these days is "sustainability" and "certification." What sustainability means, and who should be certifying it and who should be paying for the certification, was a big topic of discussion in several seminars. The ASMI booth has a lot of information about why ALL Alaska fisheries are sustainable — not just those certified by MSC (the Marine Stewardship Council).

Those are a few starter thoughts. More to follow tomorrow if I can find a few free seconds.

— Gunnar

Governor likes Fields, not Cotten, for council

Gov. Sean Parnell today announced he's nominating Duncan Fields of Kodiak for a second term on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

But Parnell wants to replace Sam Cotten of Eagle River with Seward longliner Jim Hubbard.

Here's the full press release:

March 15, 2010

Governor Makes Nominations for North Pacific Council

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell forwarded his nominations of Duncan Fields of Kodiak and James Hubbard of Seward for consideration by the U.S. secretary of commerce for seats on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The governor also forwarded Sam Cotten of Eagle River and Matt Moir of Kodiak as alternate nominees.

"I have confidence that these nominees will serve with the best interest of Alaska's resources, coastal communities and Alaskans at heart," said Gov. Parnell. "Continuing our tradition of sound fisheries management is essential to protecting Alaska jobs and families who rely on these resources."

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional councils established by the 1976 Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, later renamed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, to oversee management of the nation's marine fisheries. The council has jurisdiction over 900,000 square miles of ocean from three to 200 miles off Alaska's shores, and the primary responsibility for managing pollock, cod, halibut, sole and other groundfish.

Fields is completing his first term on the NPFMC. He has been an active fisherman since 1960 and also serves as a technical adviser for the Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition, the vice president of natural resource and community development for Old Harbor Native Corp., and a natural resource consultant for Shoreside Consulting. He served on NPFMC Advisory Panel from 2001–2007, and is a member of the board of directors of the United Fishermen of Alaska. He earned a bachelor's degree with a comprehensive social science major from Cedarville College, and a juris doctorate from the University of Oregon School of Law.

Hubbard has been a fisherman since the 1970s and participates in the halibut, sablefish, Pacific cod and other groundfish fisheries throughout the entire Gulf of Alaska. With his wife, Rhonda, he is a co-owner of J&R Fisheries, which markets the seafood products caught and processed aboard his freezer-longliner, the F/V Kruzof. He currently serves on the Research Advisory Board to the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Hubbard is also a member of the United Fishermen of Alaska and several other commercial fishing organizations.

Cotten is completing his first term on the NPFMC. He is a resource analyst for the Aleutians East Borough and has significant experience in Alaska as a sport fisherman and commercial fisherman. Cotten is a former director of the Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank, and a former member of the Alaska State Legislature.

Moir is the general manager of Alaska Pacific Seafoods, where he has worked since 1987. He is a current member of the NPFMC Advisory Panel. Moir is also a member of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, the Kodiak Fishery Advisory Committee, the Kodiak Island Borough Fisheries and Oceanic Research Board, and is an adviser to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. He earned a bachelor's degree in natural science from St. John's University and a master's degree in food technology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires governors of specific coastal states to provide nominations for each vacancy, from which the commerce secretary makes a final appointment.


Many Alaska fishing industry players are on the opposite coast this week for a huge event, the International Boston Seafood Show.

By the title, it almost sounds like a party, perhaps with performing fish and dancing crabs.

In fact, it's regarded as an important event for making business connections and pushing the "Alaska brand."

How important?

Trade shows generate big sales, says the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, which has a festive booth in Boston.

According to ASMI's latest annual report, companies working with ASMI at a major trade show in Europe in 2008 made $31 million in on-site sales.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Search suspended for two overboard shipmates

This just in from the U.S. Coast Guard:

March 12, 2010

Coast Guard suspends search for missing crewmen 850 miles south of Kodiak

JUNEAU — The Coast Guard suspended its search about 12:38 p.m. today for two crewmembers reported to have fallen overboard Thursday from the 925-foot Hanjin Pretoria 850 miles south of Kodiak.

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak rescue crews conducted two searches using an HC-130 Hercules aircraft covering approximately 852 nautical miles.

The 17th Coast Guard District command center in Juneau was notified of the missing crewman at approximately 3:45 p.m. Thursday and issued an urgent marine information broadcast requesting the assistance of any vessels in the area.

The Hercules aircraft and crew were launched at approximately 5:51 p.m. Thursday from Kodiak and a second Hercules was launched at first light today to continue the search.

Weather conditions during the second search included 46 mph winds and 10-foot seas. Water temperature was 46 degrees.

The Liberian-flagged vessel was en route from Long Beach, Calif., to Asia.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coast Guard searching for two men overboard

The U.S. Coast Guard issued the following just after 10 o'clock tonight:

JUNEAU — A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft and crew are searching for two crewmembers reported to have fallen overboard from the Hanjin Pretoria, a 925-foot Liberian-flagged container ship, 850 miles south of Kodiak.

The 17th Coast Guard District command center received a call from the master of the Hanjin Pretoria at 3:45 p.m. reporting that two crewmen, a 29-year-old and a 42-year-old, fell overboard from the vessel while working together on deck. The ship was transiting from Long Beach, Calif., to Asia.

The Coast Guard launched a Hercules aircraft and crew from Air Station Kodiak at 5:51 p.m. The plane arrived on scene at 8:20 p.m.

The rescue crew will search for approximately three hours before returning to Kodiak to refuel. If the men aren't found during the first search the Coast Guard will conduct a first-light search Friday.

On-scene weather conditions are 40 mph winds, 20-foot seas and a water temperature of 46 degrees.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An Akutan sex assault, swastikas and a 'LOSER'

Lots of crime news including quite a Dutch Harbor report today on our companion blog, The Brig.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Judge rips Icicle, upholds $1.3 million for injury

A while back, Deckboss noted a costly jury verdict against Icicle Seafoods Inc. in connection with a worker who suffered a back injury aboard the company's processing barge, the Bering Star.

Now, a Seattle judge has ruled emphatically against Icicle's request to have a $1.3 million punitive damages award reduced or tossed out.

King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill was scathing in his assessment of the way Icicle handled plaintiff Dana Clausen's claim for medical benefits.

"The defendant preyed upon a man incapable of work living in a broken down old RV," the judge wrote. "The defendant did it intentionally, repeatedly, over a period of years, and the purpose of its malicious actions was corporate profit. Moreover, while doing this, the defendant was subject to a stringent legal duty to do just the opposite — to carefully care for Mr. Clausen. Thus, a large punitive damage award is fully supported by the law."

Interestingly, Icicle attempted to use the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case as an argument for cutting or killing the punitive damages award.

Clausen's law firm, Beard Stacey & Jacobsen, has commentaries about this case on its blog.

Deckboss, of course, would welcome and post Icicle's side of the story.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chasing major hatchery news

Deckboss hears that salmon hatchery operators in Prince William Sound and in Southeast Alaska are seeking state approval to significantly boost production.

A meeting of the Prince William Sound Regional Planning Team has been scheduled for April 21 to consider the request from the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp.

Look for an update as soon as full details become available.

Four council seats for Natives only?

Check out Senate Joint Resolution 29, introduced a few days ago in the Alaska Legislature.

It asks the state's congressional delegation to pursue a change in federal law to add four new voting members to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

These four couldn't be just anybody.

The resolution says the seats must be filled with "members of federally recognized tribes or Alaska Native organizations who are not employed by a community development quota program or the pollock industry."

The problem with the present council, the resolution says, is that it's "dominated by state and industry voices that do not advocate or represent the subsistence needs of Alaska's rural tribal peoples."

The council currently has 11 voting members from Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

So four new Native seats obviously would form a potentially powerful voting bloc.

No individual legislator's name appears on the resolution as sponsor. Rather, it was introduced by the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee, the chairman of which is Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome.

The resolution hasn't advanced since it was introduced on Feb. 26.

Of course, legislative resolutions don't carry the same weight as bills to actually change the law.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The power stays on

You might recall my post on the plight of Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, which was facing a threat from the local electric utility to switch off power to the remote Tutka Bay salmon hatchery.

Well, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska recently came down with a ruling on the matter, and Deckboss suspects the Homer Electric Association is still rubbing its backside from the sting.

The best reading begins on page 17 of this order, which finds that the utility's rather heavy-handed way of dealing with the hatchery operator "was inappropriate, and not reflective of the spirit usually found in electric cooperatives."

In short, Cook Inlet Aquaculture is a longstanding customer and Homer Electric must continue supplying power, the RCA ruled.

But the RCA added: "The issue of HEA's cost to serve CIAA is unlikely to go away," and the hatchery operator someday could face higher rates.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Halibut time

Seems like only yesterday the Yankees won the World Series and halibut season ended.

Now spring training is in full swing and a new halibut fishery opens at noon tomorrow.

The coastwide catch limit is 50.67 million pounds, down about 6 percent from last year.

Good fishing, everybody, and be safe.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Alaskan hurt in Coast Guard copter crash in Utah

The pilot of a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter that crashed in Utah yesterday reportedly is from Juneau.

The copter was flying to its home base in North Carolina after taking part in security operations for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, authorities said.

Here is an AP story and an account from the Deseret News of Salt Lake City.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Just keep your dang Ding Dongs!

Check out a classic Dutch Harbor report on our sister blog, The Brig.

EPA lists Southeast mine as Superfund site

Here's a follow-up to a post we had back in September:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10

March 2, 2010

Old Copper and Gold Mine on Prince of Wales Island Added to Federal Cleanup List

SEATTLE — The Salt Chuck Mine site has been added to the Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List. Today's listing makes the site eligible to receive federal funds for long-term cleanup while EPA seeks to recover costs from the responsible parties.

"This Superfund listing will provide a healthier future for Kasaan Bay and for Kasaan Tribal members, local residents and everyone who eats salmon and shellfish from the Bay," said Dan Opalski, EPA Region 10 Superfund director. "We look forward to cleaning up the Salt Chuck Mine site in collaboration with the tribe, the U.S. Forest Service, the state of Alaska and affected stakeholders."

The Salt Chuck Mine is located on Prince of Wales Island in the Tongass National Forest. Heavy metals from mine tailings have affected water quality and sediments in Lake Ellen Creek and the northern end of Kasaan Bay. Contamination affects the important commercial and subsistence salmon and shellfish fisheries in the bay.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Something new from Discovery Channel

The doomed trawler Alaska Ranger in drydock in Japan prior to 2008 sinking in the Bering Sea. USCG photo

Sounds like the Discovery Channel, home of the hit reality series "Deadliest Catch," is rolling out more high-seas drama from Alaska.

According to the press release below from the U.S. Coast Guard, the cable channel tomorrow night will present "Mayday! Bering Sea," a 60-minute documentary about the sinking of the Alaska Ranger.

Five crewmen including Capt. Eric Peter Jacobsen, 65, of Lynnwood, Wash., died early on Easter morning in 2008 when the factory trawler flooded and sank about 120 miles west of Dutch Harbor.

The good news was 42 crewmen were saved in what instantly became the stuff of rescue legend.

Here's the press release:

U.S. Coast Guard, 14th District

March 1, 2010

Coast Guardsman to appear in search and rescue documentary

HONOLULU — A U.S. Coast Guardsman from Air Station Barbers Point will be featured in a cable documentary, which is scheduled to air Wednesday.

The Discover Channel documentary "Mayday! Bering Sea" tells of the Alaska Ranger, a 189-foot fishing vessel that sunk in the icy waters of the Bering Sea, March 23, 2008. Petty Officer 2nd Class Abram Heller, a native of Worland, Wyo., was part of the rescue efforts to save 42 fishermen who went into the water after the Alaska Ranger sank.

Heller, an aviation survival technician who was part of the helicopter aircrew that responded to the distressed fishermen, was lowered from the helicopter into frigid waters. He sent victims up to the helicopter via a rescue hoist basket and gave up his own spot in the helicopter so that another survivor could be saved. Heller is credited with saving eight lives and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his acts of heroism.

In total, crews from Air Station Kodiak and the Coast Guard cutter Munro rescued 20 Alaska Ranger crewmembers in 10–foot seas and 25-mph winds.