Thursday, April 28, 2011

Are you ready for salmon?

Gillnetters are expected to get their first crack at those famed Copper River king and sockeye salmon on May 16.

That's the word from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which yesterday issued this season outlook for the Prince William Sound region.

Last year's Copper River fishery started a bit earlier, on May 13.

The Copper River traditionally stars as the year's first major gillnet salmon fishery, and gastronomes nationwide pay handsomely for the catch.

The Sound's other fleet, the purse seiners, will start May 23 with a fishery targeting chum salmon returning to the Armin F. Koernig hatchery, the outlook says.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Limited entry stands for halibut charter boats

A Washington, D.C., judge has denied a motion for a preliminary injunction against new federal regulations limiting the number of halibut charter boats in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska (Areas 2C and 3A).

The judge's order was entered today.

Here's the background on this.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Princely prawns

The Prince William Sound commercial shrimp pot fishery wrapped up its first opener of the season on April 19, and the preliminary results are in: 33 boats caught about 10,000 pounds over five days.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reopened the fishery at 8 a.m. yesterday, and boats can keep catching until 8 p.m. April 29. The quota for the season is 52,760 pounds.

This is the second consecutive year for a commercial shrimp pot harvest in the Prince William Sound. The fishery previously was closed for 18 years due to weak shrimp stocks.

In 2010 the fleet took 45,349 pounds of shrimp out of a quota of 55,000 pounds.

Shrimpers haul up predominantly spot shrimp, also known as spot prawns, in their pots.

These are big, luscious shrimp, the kind Forrest Gump and Bubba Blue could talk about all day long.

Spot shrimp are the largest variety 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 sinking and a sub

Dutch Harbor radio reporter Alexandra Gutierrez snapped this curious photo on Thursday. Look at it closely. On the left, under the dock there, you can see the fishing vessel Zenith almost fully submerged and enclosed with orange boom. Gutierrez reported the boat went down quickly Thursday morning "for reasons still unknown," and the U.S. Coast Guard was investigating. Now look to the right side of the photo, out in the water. That would be one of the Navy's fast-attack, Los Angeles-class nuclear submarines, making a rare and brief appearance in the harbor for a crew change. On Thursday morning. Well, let me torpedo any conspiracy theories right now by saying Deckboss is sure the sinking and the sub are entirely, positively unrelated.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On the air

Hear Frank Kelty and me talk Adak and lots of other topics on KUCB's Unalaska Fisheries Report.

Friday, April 22, 2011

And the winners are...

Fritz Johnson and Warren "Barney" Johnson have been re-elected to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board of directors.

More details here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Distress call near Kodiak ends happily

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

April 21, 2011

Coast Guard responds to mayday call miles north of Kodiak

KODIAK — Coast Guard Sector Anchorage launched an MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter after receiving a mayday call from a crewmember aboard the 71-foot stern trawler Coho reporting they were taking on water with three people aboard 20 miles northwest of Kodiak at 12:08 a.m.

The helicopter crew and the nearby good Samaritan vessel Leslie Lee were able to transport dewatering pumps but the Coho crew declined assistance after they were able to dewater the vessel.

"We train everyday to help maintain readiness for any emergency situation," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Rex Walsingham, Sector Anchorage command center supervisor. "The training benefited us today as we were on scene and prepared to assist the crew aboard the Coho as needed."

The crew aboard the fishing vessel moored safely in Kodiak at 9 a.m.

Here's a Coast Guard video of the response.

Don't spend on 'ocean zoning,' Begich says

Here's an interesting letter from Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

So, can we really eat fish?

Quite a flurry of letters here in response to Ray Hilborn's recent column in The New York Times titled Let Us Eat Fish.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More pinks!

The chief operator of Prince William Sound salmon hatcheries is again asking for permission to expand production of pink salmon, having been denied last year.

The Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp., based in Cordova, wants a combined 22 percent increase in pink salmon production capacity for its Armin F. Koernig, Cannery Creek and Wally Noerenberg hatcheries.

Such an expansion is controversial.

In denying the production increase last year, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game raised a number of concerns including hatchery salmon straying into streams, potentially harming the genetic integrity of wild salmon.

PWSAC, however, says in its application letter that this genetic threat is "theoretical speculation."

Besides, the market is hungry for more pink salmon, PWSAC says.

Well, Deckboss is sure he has given a most inadequate summary of the above-referenced correspondence, and so he urges you to read it for yourself.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Begich to Obama: Protect our seafood industry

Here's a letter U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, sent today to President Obama requesting certain federal assistance in light of Japan's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Attention crab boat crewmen

Are you a crab boat crewman interested in learning more on how to buy and finance Bering Sea crab quota share?

Well, here's your chance.

A workshop on the topic is planned for May 3 in Seattle's Leif Erikson Hall. Here's a flier with more details.

"We have also reserved the Fishermen's Hall in Kodiak and will have a teleconference line set up," says Edward Poulsen, executive director of the trade association Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

The workshop is intended to "educate crew regarding opportunities to purchase and finance crab quota share," Poulsen says. "Crew and owners are encouraged to attend."

Japan relief organization rallies $140,000

Here's an update from an Alaska fishing industry group raising money to help victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

April 12, 2011

Alaska fishing industry generates funds for tsunami relief

The Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission (AFIRM) has announced major donations from Alaska- and Seattle-based seafood industry participants towards its efforts to aid fishing communities affected by the earthquake in Japan.

"The Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association has donated $20,000, and UniSea has pledged to match donations to AFIRM from its employees and crab fleet up to $50,000," said AFIRM director Terry Shaff, president of UniSea Inc. and chairman of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association.

"In addition," Shaff said, "Tatoosh Seafoods has donated $5,000, Northwest Farm Credit Services has donated $5,000, United Fishermen of Alaska $1,000, and other individual donations are pushing AFIRM over $140,000 raised or committed in its first week of active fundraising."

"This week's significant aftershock is a reminder that this will be a long-term project, with many decisions to be made and problems to be overcome," said Larry Cotter, AFIRM chairman. "We ask those who make their living from the seafood industry to remember our long-term partnership with and many friends in Japan. AFIRM is seeking to accelerate our fundraising efforts within and outside of the seafood industry to provide meaningful assistance to Japan's fishing communities."

Many people are interested in how AFIRM plans to use the funds it raises. AFIRM board members and advisers are in contact with the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Japanese Fisheries Association, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Maruha Nichiro, Nissui and other Japanese companies to seek their input on the most effective way to directly assist people and communities in need. We are interested in any ideas the public may have as well.

AFIRM, a 501(c(3) nonprofit charity, was first formed to assist the Gulf fishing communities following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The group has zero overhead given its volunteer board and staff, so 100 percent of all contributions go directly for assistance. AFIRM will collaborate with fishing industry and governmental leaders to best leverage cash contributions with other available industry assets to help fishermen get back to harvesting and processing seafood for the public.

All donations to AFIRM are tax-deductible.

Pot party tonight

"Deadliest Catch," Season 7, premieres tonight. Check your local listings, I guess.

Your performers this trip out are the crews of the Cornelia Marie, Kodiak, Northwestern, Time Bandit, Wizard and new boats Ramblin' Rose and Seabrooke.

Legislature ponders oil-fueled spending spree

Only five days remain in the legislative session, and we're getting down to the really fun part — consideration of the capital budget.

The capital budget is essentially a long list of earmarks for state and local projects, everything from airport upgrades to zoo equipment.

Legislators fund this annual spendorama with Alaska's vast surplus oil revenue.

Yesterday the Senate Finance Committee rolled out a $2.8 billion capital budget. You can see it here.

Deckboss took a look and found lots of interesting items including $400,000 for a "CDQ Fishing Fleet Relocation Study."

For the background on this, click here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's all over at Sitka

The Sitka sac roe herring fishery is done for the season as seiners reached the full quota Saturday after a fifth and final opener.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is estimating the cumulative catch at 19,636 tons.

The "guideline harvest level" coming into the season was 19,490 tons.

So this is really interesting. The industry has taken all the fish it could, despite the considerable uncertainty in disaster-wracked Japan, the only serious market for herring roe.

Reliable information on herring prices at Sitka has been scarce. The reason could be that prices simply don't exist yet pending some sense of what the market is willing to pay.

Naturally, Deckboss is aiming to find out more.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Shattered femur, severed fingers and 'crab asthma'

Who you gonna call? USCG photo

The U.S. Coast Guard last week briefed the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on search and rescue cases from the past few months. Here are a few select items. They're raw, with lots of annoying acronyms and abbreviations. Some provide significant new details on cases we've previously reported here on Deckboss.

Date: 12/8/10
Vessel: Izzy B
Sector Juneau received a radio call out from the vessel Death Barge reporting that there was a vessel on fire in Port Santa Cruz, Southeast Alaska. The vessel Stellar Sea reported all persons previously on board the vessel on fire are now safely aboard the BJ. Sector Juneau issued a BNM and requested an over flight at first light. Owner of the vessel on fire contacted Sector Juneau and stated the name of the vessel was Izzy B and had approx 300 gallons of diesel fuel on board. Owner anticipates the Izzy B burning to the water line. Case closed.

Date: 12/23/10
Vessel: Siberian Sea
D17CC was notified by Health Force Partners that the F/V SIBERIAN SEA had a 25 yom crewmember with possible kidney failure. Crewmember awoke with severe swelling in lower extremities. The flight surgeon, along with Health Force Partners, suspected that the over-usage of ibuprofen, due to an earlier injury, possibly overtaxed his kidneys and caused high blood pressure and swelling. The flight surgeon determined the patient to be stable with the medications onboard and recommended the vessel continue with the plans to transport the patient to St. Paul. D17CC placed the F/V SIBERIAN SEA on a 4 hour communications schedule and monitored the patient's conditions during the transit. The vessel arrived at St. Paul at 251300v Dec 10. Closed.

Date: 1/20/11
Vessel: Independence
District Seventeen received a request from the C/P INDEPENDENCE for the maritime MEDEVAC of 03 crewmembers who were involved in an accident, most notably one who was suffering from a broken femur. The duty flight surgeon was consulted and recommended MEDEVAC of the shattered femur patient, along with the other two members if operations allowed. Air Station Kodiak was unable to respond to the vessel due to extreme low visibility in Kodiak, so the M/V EASTERN WIND embarked the 03 patients, the ship medic and a translator and transported them to Kodiak without incident. The patients were evaluated at Providence Hospital and there were no further requests for USCG assistance. Case Closed.

Date: 2/2/11
Vessel: Siberian Sea
D17 Command Center called by the master of the F/V SIBERIAN SEA regarding a crewmember onboard suffering from possible drug/alcohol withdrawal. The 24 YOM was lying on the deck in convulsions and vomiting. Health Force Partners- Seattle and the duty flight surgeon conferenced in and agreed that the patient was going to be fine onboard the vessel. At 2330V the vessel transferred their patient to St. Paul and the duty PA there examined him and found him medically fine. The patient will be commercially transferred to his home of record when next able. Case Closed.

Date: 2/8/11
Vessel: TerriGail
District 17 Command Center was notified by MORGENTHAU that they overheard mayday traffic from the F/V TERRI GALE who had lost power and propulsion off the west coast of Unalaska Island. Master was trouble-shooting engine and did not request any assistance. Due to poor comms and remote location MORGENTHAU was diverted to assist and arrived on scene at 0830V. Tug REDEEMER from Dutch Harbor was hired by the vsl owner and has an ETA of 1530V. F/V TERRI GALE attempted to anchor with long line gear and anchors as well as with installed anchor with no success. MORGENTHAU passed a tow line messenger to the F/V but the vsl was unable to haul the hawser onboard in the conditions and the line became tangled in the cutter's port prop. MORGENTHAU cleared her propeller but was unable to reattempt towing due to proximity to shoal. CG6504 launched from Dutch Harbor and transported the 05 POB from TERRI GALE to MORGENTHAU. TERRI GALE is now hard aground with 800 gal of diesel onboard. CG-6504 scheduled for first light flight with FOSC and MSD Unalaska to assess salvage and MEP plans. Case pends for MEP.

Date: 2/11/11
Vessel: Midnite Sun
Sector Anchorage was notified by the Good Sam SEA WARRIOR that the F/V MIDNITE SUN had run aground and was taking on water ivo West Afognak Island, 36 NM NW of Kodiak city. MIDNITE SUN was an 85' F/V with 05 POB, all in donned immersion suits. The SEA WARRIOR was nearby but was unable to assist due to 18'+ seas. CG-6007 was launched from Air Station Kodiak, proceeded to the vessel, and hoisted all 5 POB off and to Kodiak without further incident. The MIDNITE SUN's engine room had flooded, the vessel began to break apart and it was beginning to turn on its side prior to the crew being hoisted off. An over-flight is scheduled for today, weather pending, to determine whether the vessel can be salvaged at all. There were 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel onboard the MIDNITE SUN between 4 non-integral tanks.

Date: 2/15/11
Vessel: Lilli Ann
D17 CC received a request from Health Force Partners - Seattle for the maritime MEDEVAC of a 43 YOM onboard the F/V LILLI ANN who had experienced a severe laceration to his right foot. The Duty Flight Surgeon was consulted and recommended a MEDEVAC due to the possibility of the crew member losing his large toe if he could not make it in to surgery in time. CG-6014 launched from FOL St. Paul with CG-6011 flying cover, safely hoisted the crew member and returned to St. Paul where awaiting EMS took over care of the crew member until transferring to a Life Flight aircraft. Case Closed.

Date: 2/19/11
Vessel: Baranof
Phone call from company of F/V BARANOF concerning a crew member requesting MEDEVAC of a crew member suffering from "crab asthma" 35 NM NW St Paul, AK. The flight surgeon was consulted and he recommended that the patient was not in need of immediate MEDEVAC and should be watched throughout the night. The vessel transited into St. Paul Harbor safely and offloaded the crewmember to awaiting St. Paul Clinic EMS without further incident. Case Closed.

Date: 2/21/11
Vessel: Laura
MILPO in Kodiak contacted D17 relaying a report of an injured fisherman with two severed fingers on board the F/V LAURA. The vessel is underway in Shelikof Strait. D17 contacted the vessel and the Captain stated that the crewmember was stable and the bleeding isolated. After briefing the F/S MEDEVAC was recommended due to the possibility of a hand surgeon in Kodiak conducting repairs to the hand that could greatly improve future use of the appendages. After further investigation the Hand Surgeon is not available at this time and MEDEVAC would not benefit the crewmember to the level warranting a MEDEVAC. D17 F/S now does not recommend MEDEVAC and D17 will monitor this via COMSCHED as a MEDICO. 210337V: Master advised that the vessel is now dockside in Kodiak and the subject has been transported to the hospital. Case Closed.

Legislature OKs Campbell

The Alaska Legislature today unanimously confirmed, without debate, Cora Campbell as Gov. Sean Parnell's fish and game commissioner, the Associated Press reports.

Icicle's Adak deal confirmed

Here's the official announcement on Icicle's return to Adak.

April 8, 2011

Aleut Fisheries and Western Star Seafoods, a subsidiary of Icicle Seafoods, finalize lease of Adak seafood processing facility

ANCHORAGE — Aleut Fisheries LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Aleut Enterprise LLC, and Western Star Seafoods Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Icicle Seafoods Inc., one of the largest and most diversified seafood companies in Alaska, are pleased to announce they have finalized a long-term lease of the seafood processing facility in Adak, Alaska.

Icicle has personnel in Adak readying the plant to resume operations, with a goal of becoming fully operational in time for the 2012 Pacific cod season. Icicle expects the plant to be operating on a limited capacity by summer 2011.

Dennis Guhlke, president and CEO of Icicle, commented, "The facility in Adak provides us with both unique opportunities and challenges. We are excited by the prospect of it complementing our existing Icicle operations and providing further scale and diversification to our business. We look forward to the resumption of processing in Adak and the positive impact it will have on the local community and fishing fleet."

"We are happy to provide a leading seafood company such as Icicle with an opportunity to bring additional economic development to the Western Aleutian region and Adak in particular," said Sharon Lind, board chairman of the Aleut Corp., parent company of Aleut Enterprise. "We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship that will benefit not only Icicle Seafoods and Aleut Enterprise, but the community and the fishing sector that harvest in the area."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sitka herring catch mounts; fishery on timeout

A Coast Guard boat patrols Sitka herring fishery. USCG photo

Sounds like the Sitka sac roe herring fishery will be on hiatus until at least Thursday. That's to allow processors time to work through the backlog of fish.

The fishery has seen three openings so far, including a 50-minute session yesterday.

The total catch stands at about 12,700 tons, out of a quota of 19,490 tons.

So we're on the downside of the fishery now.

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

Dick Eliason crosses the bar

KCAW radio in Sitka recounts Eliason's legacy, including his opposition to fish farms.

Is 37-inch halibut rule about to be scuttled?

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting in Anchorage this morning, is expected to discuss a possible move to relax the new 37-inch size limit on halibut retained by charter boat anglers in Southeast Alaska (Area 2C).

More details later today.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bristol Bay processors: We can handle 'em

Salmon processors say they can handle the 28.5 million sockeye gillnetters are expected to catch this summer at Bristol Bay.

And more.

That's the upshot of the Department of Fish and Game's annual processing capacity survey.

Near as Deckboss can remember, the processors always say they have enough capacity to deal with Bristol Bay's sockeye hordes.

But much depends on how evenly the salmon enter the fishing grounds.

The survey indicates the processors collectively can handle a little over 2 million fish per day.

If the run is heavy and catches exceed that level, especially on consecutive days, processors often must limit their purchases until they can work the excess fish through their plants.

This, in turn, can set off howls of protest from fishermen asked to sit idle just when the fish are running thickest. To them, it's money swimming up the river.

Anyway, for more details, read the survey. It's a quick eight pages.

Disqualified halibut charter operators sue feds

Charter Operators of Alaska, a Homer-based nonprofit, today sued the federal government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The lawsuit seeks to undo new regulations limiting the number of halibut charter boats in Southeast Alaska (Area 2C) and Southcentral Alaska (Area 3A).

Here's a press release from Charter Operators of Alaska.

New life for Adak plant

Seattle-based Icicle Seafoods Inc. will lease and operate the processing plant on Adak Island in Alaska's Aleutian chain, a reliable source close to the deal confirms to Deckboss.

The plant currently is idle. Aleut Enterprise LLC of Anchorage is the landlord.

More on this deal as further details become available.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Abandon ship!

Michael Hand, running a tender at Sitka, shot this awesome video of the seiner Infinite Grace's scary moment in Friday's herring opener.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Action intensifies at Sitka

A second opener Friday in the Sitka herring fishery brought the season's catch total thus far to 7,100 tons.

Here's the press release from the Department of Fish and Game.

For lots of cool imagery, check out the Daily Sitka Sentinel and

Friday, April 1, 2011

First Sitka herring opener produces small catch

The first opener of the season for the Sitka sac roe herring fishery lasted four hours 40 minutes and produced a rather small catch of 1,435 tons.

The quota for this season is 19,490 tons.

Here's the press release from the Department of Fish and Game.

Southeast Chinook quota improves considerably

Southeast Alaska commercial trollers will have a Chinook salmon harvest allocation this year of 218,060 fish, an increase of 54,178 over last year.

Here's the press release from the Department of Fish and Game.