Saturday, December 28, 2013

27 questions on Kenai king management

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has posted an interesting set of frequently asked questions on Kenai River king salmon management.

The concise, four-page FAQ focuses on the 2013 season, and delves into issues such as escapement policies, how fish are counted, and research projects.

Of course, low king returns to the famed Kenai have caused a lot of angst for all user groups in recent years.

The department's FAQ comes in advance of the state Board of Fisheries meeting on Upper Cook Inlet finfish, starting Jan. 31 in Anchorage. That could be a brawl.

Deckboss himself learned a lot from the FAQ, and highly recommends you read it.

As a sample, here are a couple of questions from the report:

Q23: How many late-run Kenai River king salmon were harvested inriver in 2013?

A23: Inriver sport fishing mortality was 1,620 late-run Kenai River king salmon, including 1,578 fish harvested and 42 fish from release mortality.

Q24: How many late-run Kenai River king salmon were harvested commercially in 2013?

A24: An estimated 2,256 late-run Kenai River king salmon were harvested in the Upper Subdistrict set gillnet commercial fishery in 2013. This estimate is based on the total harvest of king salmon in the fishery and genetic stock identification data collected from harvested king salmon. A total of 426 king salmon were harvested in the Central District drift gillnet commercial fishery.

Kookesh back on hook in subsistence fishing case

The Alaska Court of Appeals has reinstated charges of subsistence salmon overharvest against former state Sen. Albert Kookesh and two others.

Here is the court's opinion.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's not funny, but damn!

Following orders on deck is a fact of life in commercial fishing. So is the possibility of serious injury.

Here is a recently filed lawsuit that combines both those realities in bizarre fashion.

The gist of the matter is on page 5 of the suit.

Greg Blakey crosses the bar

Greg Blakey has passed. Friends tell Deckboss he died in a motorcycle accident in Mexico.

Here's a death notice with guestbook.

Blakey was chief executive of Snopac, a seafood processing company with a long history of Alaska operations.

Icicle Seafoods acquired Snopac in 2012.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sharing the wealth

Coastal Villages Region Fund has approved a second round of funding for its People Propel initiative.

Coastal is an Anchorage-based company operating under the federal Community Development Quota program. It manages commercial fish harvests on behalf of a group of Bering Sea villages in the area of the Kuskokwim River delta.

With People Propel, Coastal offers village residents substantial subsidies for the purchase of boats, motors and nets.

Coastal evidently is doing great, certainly well enough to help buy some outboard boats and fishing gear.

Coastal's executive director, Morgen Crow, drew a $475,000 salary plus a $420,000 bonus in 2012, the company's latest annual report shows.

Six other staffers received in excess of $205,000.

Seeking answers for Chinook decline

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell's proposed fiscal year 2015 budget contains $10 million for ongoing research on Chinook salmon, returns of which have been low in recent years.

One research project involves a planned juvenile Chinook survey in the northern Bering Sea.

The Department of Fish and Game is looking to charter a trawl vessel for the survey, to be conducted next September. For more specifics, see page 5 of this invitation to bid.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Coast Guard loses one of its own

The U.S. Coast Guard says Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Obendorf has died from injuries suffered during a November response to a disabled fishing vessel in the Bering Sea.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pushing pinks

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors is holding a special meeting Tuesday in Seattle.

A major item on the agenda is a plan to market this year's huge pink salmon pack.

Alaska had a record catch of more than 215 million pinks this season.

A lot of pinks go into tall cans, and that's the product form ASMI appears to be most interested in promoting.

The goal is to clear inventory before the next fishing season.

The major market for canned pink salmon is the South, in cities such as Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Louisville, Nashville and Raleigh.

ASMI is considering lots of tactics, such as placing 55-cent coupons in the aisles of 10,000 supermarkets.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pollock stays steady in Bering, leaps in Gulf

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has set the 2014 total allowable catch (TAC) for Alaska groundfish.

Here are the TACs for key species and the percent change from 2013.

BERING SEA AND ALEUTIAN ISLANDS

Eastern Bering Sea pollock, 1,267,000 tons, up 1.6 percent
Pacific cod, 253,894 tons, down 2.3 percent
Yellowfin sole, 184,000 tons, down 7.1 percent
Pacific Ocean perch, 33,122 tons, down 5.6 percent
Atka mackerel, 32,322 tons, up 24.7 percent
Sablefish, 3,150 tons, down 15.3 percent

GULF OF ALASKA

Pollock, 174,976 tons, up 44.6 percent
Pacific cod, 64,738 tons, up 6.8 percent
Pacific Ocean perch, 19,309 tons, up 17.7 percent
Sablefish, 10,572 tons, down 15.5 percent

The TACs are subject to U.S. commerce secretary approval.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bummer forecast for Stikine kings

The 2014 run forecast for large Stikine River king salmon is 26,000 fish, too few to open fisheries in early May, the Department of Fish and Game says. More details here.

Bristol Bay setnetters sue over tender sinking

Several salmon setnetters at the Igushik River, on the west side of Bristol Bay, are suing Trident Seafoods and others over the sinking last summer of the tender Lone Star.

The sinking caused a fuel spill that forced a shutdown of the setnet fishery.

A tender is a vessel used to haul fish to a processing plant. The Lone Star was working for Trident.

In a lawsuit filed in state Superior Court at Dillingham, the setnetters are seeking compensation for lost fishing income and other damages.

The plaintiffs also allege that during salvage of the vessel, salmon off the tender was allowed to wash up on the beach, attracting bears that gorged on the fish and then ransacked setnetter cabins.

Click here to read a press release and the lawsuit.

Monday, December 9, 2013

More on halibut catch sharing plan

Here's the official announcement from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Halibut catch sharing plan: 'It's a go'

The federal government has approved the halibut catch sharing plan.

"It's a go," said Julie Speegle, spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau.

The final rule is to be published soon in the Federal Register, and will contain no surprises, Speegle said.

The catch sharing plan establishes a clear allocation of halibut between the rival charter and commercial fleets.

With the federal approval, the plan can take effect in 2014, Speegle said.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Editing out that 'fishy' taste

On Tuesday, we posted a link to a National Marine Fisheries Service feature titled 10 Myths about Marine Aquaculture.

Some folks with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, as well as the Alaska office of NMFS, didn't care for the feature. They requested, and got, changes to item No. 1 on the list of "myths."

Here is the original version:

1 Farmed fish and shellfish doesn't taste as good.

Taste is a matter of personal preference. In 2011, people in the U.S. ate over one billion pounds of shrimp and the majority of that is farmed — people must like it! In a recent survey, farmed salmon was preferred over wild salmon by Washington, DC area chefs. Most wild and farmed salmon are different species so you would expect them to taste different just as turkey does not taste like chicken. Some people prefer the fishier taste of wild salmon and many prefer the milder taste of farmed. Luckily, both are very good for you!

And here is the edited version now on the NMFS site:

1 Farmed fish and shellfish doesn't taste as good.

Taste is a matter of personal preference. In 2011, people in the U.S. ate over one billion pounds of shrimp and the majority of that is farmed — people must like it! Most wild and farmed fish are different species so you would expect them to taste different just as turkey does not taste like chicken. Some people prefer the taste of wild fish and many prefer the taste of farmed. Luckily, both are very good for you!

21 percent cut for halibut suggested

The staff of the International Pacific Halibut Commission this week recommended catch limits for the 2014 season.

As you can see from the chart below, we appear to face another year of general decline.

The commission will set final limits at its annual meeting Jan. 13-17 in Seattle.

Numbers are expressed in millions of pounds.

























































Regulatory area2013 catch limits2014 staff advice% change
2A0.990.72-27
2B7.044.98-29
2C2.974.16+40
3A11.039.43-15
3B4.292.84-34
4A1.330.85-36
4B1.450.82-43
4CDE1.930.64-67
TOTAL31.0324.45-21

Click here for a map of IPHC regulatory areas.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Engine dealer penalized over Bristol Bay boats

To settle a federal air pollution case, RDI Marine has agreed to pay a $39,000 fine and replace or modify diesel engines installed on six Bristol Bay commercial fishing vessels.

More details in this press release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Potential comeback seen for Sitka herring

The Department of Fish and Game today announced a preliminary quota of 17,592 tons for the 2014 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery.

A harvest that size would signify a huge recovery from this year's disappointing 5,688-ton tally.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

State trims Bristol Bay sockeye forecast

The Department of Fish and Game's revised forecast calls for a 2014 sockeye salmon harvest of 16.86 million fish, down 620,000 fish from the previous projection.

Most of the cut is in the Nushagak District.

Calling all halibut proposals

The International Pacific Halibut Commission is accepting proposals for the 2014 season.

Click here to read the proposals submitted so far.

As you can see, quite a few Western Alaska residents really, really want an increase in the Area 4E catch limit.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Something old, something new

While in Seattle last week for Pacific Marine Expo, Deckboss naturally took time to go check out the boats at Fishermen's Terminal in Ballard.

Above is the Blue North, a 174-foot cod freezer longliner built in 1945.

At right is the Optimus, a gleaming new combination boat.

Gulf pollock and cod up, sablefish down

The outlook for Gulf of Alaska groundfish stocks is mixed for 2014.

Government scientists are recommending appreciably higher "acceptable biological catch" levels for pollock and cod.

The sablefish ABC, however, is significantly lower.

See all the numbers here.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will consider the recommendations and set catch quotas at its Dec. 9-16 meeting in Anchorage.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pollock quota looks to stay flat

The 2014 quota for Bering Sea pollock isn't likely to change much from the current year.

And how can Deckboss say this?

A panel of government scientists, known as the Groundfish Plan Team, has issued its slate of recommendations for pollock and other fish species.

The recommended "acceptable biological catch" for eastern Bering Sea pollock is 1,369,000 metric tons, just a shade below the 2013 ABC of 1,375,000 tons.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will consider the numbers at its Dec. 9-16 meeting in Anchorage.

The council will make its own quota recommendations to the commerce secretary, who has final say.

Bering Sea pollock, of course, is one of the world's largest fisheries by weight. The fish are caught by trawl net and processed into such products as fish sticks and surimi.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bristol Bay salmon forecast to be corrected

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game today issued this advisory:

It has recently come to our attention that a newly developed database program used to generate data for the 2014 Bristol Bay forecast had an error in the catch computation.

Once corrected, the changes are likely to reduce the forecast to westside Bristol Bay: Nushagak and Togiak districts. The forecast to eastside Bristol Bay districts is unlikely to change.

A revised 2014 forecast should be available by the middle to end of next week.

Fish Expo time!

Deckboss is in Seattle for Pacific Marine Expo, running this morning until 3 p.m. Friday.

Hope to see you on the show floor!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bristol Bay forecast: 17.5 million sockeye

Looks like Bristol Bay can expect another relatively small sockeye salmon catch in 2014.

The harvest is projected at 17.48 million fish, says the forecast from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

This season produced a catch of 15.4 million sockeye on a forecast of 16.6 million.

Troopers chief: We don't discriminate

The Alaska Wildlife Troopers don't discriminate against any group, says the agency's director, Col. Jim Cockrell, in this column published in the Homer News.

Cockrell wrote the column in response to a letter from some Bristol Bay driftnetters alleging enforcement bias against "Russian" boats.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fish Board to entertain emergency petition

The Board of Fisheries has scheduled an emergency teleconference for Nov. 26 to consider a petition asking the board to undo its recent action to establish a purse seine fishery for Atka mackerel in state waters in the Aleutians.

The petition and other details are posted here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

'Theatrics and political games'

United Fishermen of Alaska, the state's top commercial fishing organization, calls the proposed voter initiative to ban setnets "a staggering social and economic assault on Alaska's seafood industry."

Read more here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Setnetters fire back

The Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association responds to news of a campaign to ban commercial setnets in Cook Inlet and elsewhere.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ban setnetters?

A group called the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance wants to let voters decide whether to ban commercial setnets near the state's main population centers. Here's a press release.

Salvage plans in works for sunken vessel

Here's a situation report on the grounding of the F/V Arctic Hunter near Dutch Harbor.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Joe Bundrant named CEO at Trident Seafoods

Chuck Bundrant announced his son, Joe, is taking over as chief executive at Trident Seafoods, one of the largest processors operating in Alaska.

This doesn't mean, however, that Joe Bundrant, 47, now has full command of the Seattle-based company.

This message to employees indicates he'll report directly to the elder Bundrant and the rest of the company's board of directors.

Chuck Bundrant is board chairman and Trident's founder.

Monday, November 4, 2013

'Average' pink salmon catch forecast for Southeast

A new forecast calls for an "average" harvest of 22 million pink salmon in 2014 in Southeast Alaska.

"An actual harvest of 22 million pink salmon would be well below the recent 10-year average of 41 million pink salmon, but is close to the average harvest over the past five even years," the forecast says.

Southeast is one of Alaska's top-producing pink salmon regions.

Generally, odd years produce bigger catches. The 2013 harvest was the biggest ever in Southeast at 89.2 million pinks.

Bits and pieces

Here's a news roundup, including some slightly dated items Deckboss wasn't able to post right away.

• Halibut season closes at noon Thursday.

• At its October meeting, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council re-elected Eric Olson as chairman. Olson works for Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, a Community Development Quota group.

• State biologists see potential for another enormous herring haul next spring at Togiak. The forecast calls for an allowable harvest of 27,890 tons in the sac roe fishery. The industry took 28,793 tons last season.

• Gov. Sean Parnell has made some Pacific Salmon Commission nominations. Details in this press release.

• A new annual report is out on U.S. commercial and recreational fisheries. As you might expect, the report is replete with Alaska references. Here's one interesting note on salmon:

The average price per pound for all species in Alaska was 72 cents in 2012 — a decrease of 5 cents from 2011.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Highliners announced

National Fisherman magazine has named its 2013 Highliner Award winners from the West Coast and Alaska.

• Robert Heyano, of Dillingham, a Bristol Bay salmon fisherman
• Robert Hezel, of Clinton, Wash., captain of the trawler U.S. Intrepid
• Jerry McCune, of Cordova, president of United Fishermen of Alaska

The three will be featured in the magazine's December issue.

One for the Gipper

Congress is considering legislation to name our federal ocean waters the Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone.

The sponsor is Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The bill already has cleared the House Natural Resources Committee and is now awaiting consideration on the floor.

Here's a committee report with more details, including remarks from two members of Congress who think naming the 200-mile zone after the former president is a lousy idea.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Delisted

The federal government is taking the eastern population of Steller sea lions, ranging from Southeast Alaska to California, off the threatened species list. Here's the press release.

The western population, from Prince William Sound through the Aleutians, remains on the endangered species list.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Attention youngsters!

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program is holding another Alaska Young Fishermen's Summit on Dec. 10-12 in Anchorage.

The organizers say it's a great chance to bone up on fishery business, marketing and regulation.

This will be the fifth summit since 2007. To see the conference agenda, and to register, click here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Close call, nice save

Here's some awesome Coast Guard video of yesterday's boat fire and rescue in the Bering Sea.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Five in life raft rescued west of Adak

A good Samaritan vessel today rescued five fishermen from a life raft in the Bering Sea about 69 miles west of Adak, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The raft was from a burning boat, the 59-foot Western Venture out of Kodiak.

The Coast Guard issued an urgent marine information broadcast after receiving emergency beacon alerts Sunday morning.

The 98-foot Aleutian Beauty was first on scene and picked up the five fishermen safely, the Coast Guard said.

The Western Venture was said to be still afloat, but unlit and adrift.

State records list Larry Ward, of Kodiak, as owner of the Western Venture, which uses longline and jig gear.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Freezer longliner crewman needs medevac

A rescue helicopter today hoisted an ailing crewman off the 152-foot cod freezer longliner Blue Gadus, in the Bering Sea more than 200 miles northwest of Cold Bay.

The crewman, 42, was experiencing severe chest pain, the Coast Guard said.

Steller sea lion plaintiffs suffer another defeat

Back in July, you'll recall, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled against the state and industry groups who sued over fishing restrictions imposed in the Aleutians to protect endangered Steller sea lions.

This week, the court denied a petition for rehearing.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wait nearly over for crabbers

Julie Speegle, with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau, just told Deckboss agency employees are back at work following the government shutdown, and they're hustling to prepare the permits necessary for Bering Sea red king crabbers to begin their season.

Six staffers are dedicated to the task, and the goal is to issue the permits by the close of business tomorrow, Speegle said.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cantwell, Begich urge action on king crab fishery

Here's a letter from two Democratic senators, Maria Cantwell of Washington and Mark Begich of Alaska, who say the ongoing government shutdown should not preclude opening the lucrative Bristol Bay red king crab fishery.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

ASMI: Most salmon processors are done with MSC

Here's a statement from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

A 'Deadliest Catch' captain goes to Washington

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, left, with Keith Colburn, captain of the Bering Sea crab boat Wizard. Twitter photo @crabwizard

Keith Colburn, owner and captain of the Bering Sea crab boat Wizard, went to Washington, D.C., last week to talk about how the partial government shutdown threatens to delay Tuesday's start of the red king crab season.

"I’m a small businessman in a big ocean with big bills. I need to go fishing," Colburn said during a Friday hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Read his written testimony here.

Colburn, whose boat is featured on the TV show "Deadliest Catch," also paid a visit to CNN.

Crewman needs medevac off Bering Sea trawler

A Coast Guard helicopter today hoisted a crewman off the trawler Alaska Juris, 110 miles north of Cold Bay.

The crewman had suffered a hernia, the Coast Guard said.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A banner salmon season

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has tallied the numbers on this year's commercial salmon season, and they are impressive.

Powered by a record pink salmon harvest of 219 million fish, this year's harvest ranks as the second most valuable on record. At $691.1 million, 2013 is only exceeded by the 1988 harvest value of $724 million. In addition to setting a record for pink salmon, the total number of salmon harvested also set a new record at 272 million fish.

Read much more here. And here's a chart with figures by region.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Diver death reported at Ketchikan

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Ketchikan
Type: Death investigation
On 10/8/13 at approximately 1030 hours, a mayday went out from the F/V Ostrich, which was outside of Ketchikan. It was reported that there was an injured diver in need of assistance. The U.S. Coast Guard responded and assisted with transporting the diver to a hospital in Ketchikan. Troopers learned that after arriving at the hospital, 32-year-old Levi Adams, of Leawood, Kan., was declared deceased. The cause and circumstances of his death are under investigation. Next of kin for Adams has been notified.

Note: The U.S. Coast Guard said today "a person involved in the sea cucumber fishery died in a diving accident" on Tuesday. The Coast Guard, however, failed to name the victim.

Can Antideficiency Act save crab fishery?

In a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, three Republican members of Congress argue Alaska's lucrative red king crab fishery can and should open on time Oct. 15, despite the partial government shutdown.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bering Sea snow crab TAC dips 19 percent

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game today announced a Bering Sea snow crab total allowable catch (TAC) of just under 54 million pounds for the 2013-14 season.

That's down nearly 19 percent from last season's TAC.

Although the fishery is scheduled to open on Oct. 15, the industry traditionally waits until after the first of the year to take snow crab.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Shutdown threatens to delay king crab fishery

In this floor speech, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., explains how a continuing government shutdown could cost the Alaska fishing industry millions of dollars.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fishing vessel sinks while moored at Haines

The fishing vessel Neptune has sunk in the Haines harbor, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Red king crab TAC up; Tanner crab to reopen

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game today announced the total allowable catch (TAC) for a couple of important Bering Sea crab fisheries.

The 2013-14 TAC for Bristol Bay red king crab is 8.6 million pounds, up 9.5 percent from last season.

The TAC for Bering Sea Tanner, or bairdi, crab is 3.1 million pounds. The fishery was closed last season.

The crab fisheries are scheduled to open Oct. 15.

However, the federal government shutdown could delay the start of the general fisheries.

That's because the National Marine Fisheries Service must issue individual fishing and processing quotas. And almost everyone in that agency is on furlough.

Ten percent of the crab TACs are reserved for harvest under the Community Development Quota program. The state issues CDQ permits, which therefore will not be delayed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government shutdown hits NMFS, council meeting

The partial shutdown of the federal government is sending serious ripples through the commercial fishing world.

Deckboss just got off the line with Jim Balsiger, head of the National Marine Fisheries Service for Alaska, who kindly provided an update on the situation.

First, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council's meeting this week in Anchorage is still on. The 11-member council will convene tomorrow morning at the Hilton hotel downtown.

Normally, a bevy of NMFS staffers attend council meetings, providing reports and expertise, but not this time. Balsiger says he'll be the only NMFS guy in attendance.

That's because nearly all NMFS personnel in Alaska, save Balsiger and a couple of people in Juneau keeping an eye on fishing levels, have been furloughed.

The council still has money for operations, so its own staffers remain on active duty and will support the meeting.

It's possible the council's agenda will change somewhat in terms of pace or content.

The hope, said Balsiger, is the government shutdown will be brief.

American Seafoods sells East Coast plant

High Liner Foods, a publicly traded Canadian company, today announced it has acquired American Pride Seafoods, a unit of Seattle-based American Seafoods Group, in a $50 million deal.

American Pride is a value-added frozen fish and scallop processor located on the harbor in New Bedford, Mass.

In Alaska, American Seafoods operates a fleet of factory trawlers targeting Bering Sea pollock.

"This sale will allow us to strengthen our position as a producer of premium seafood products from the sustainably managed fisheries in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest and lead the industry in developing new products and markets from those fisheries," said Bernt Bodal, American Seafoods chief executive.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

MSC answers its critics

The Marine Stewardship Council today released this open letter along with a fact sheet.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Russian pollock joins MSC club

Russia's Sea of Okhotsk pollock fishery has won Marine Stewardship Council certification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery.

That's the same certification the U.S. Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska pollock fisheries hold.

Congress to explore sustainable seafood labeling

A U.S. Senate subcommittee is holding a hearing today on "The Role of Certification in Rewarding Sustainable Fishing."

The star witness will be Jeff Rice of Walmart.

Stefanie Moreland, a special assistant to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, also will testify.

Smaller catch, bigger payoff at Bristol Bay

This year's Bristol Bay catch of nearly 15.4 million sockeye salmon brought $138.4 million ex-vessel, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

The previous year's catch was much bigger at almost 20.6 million sockeye, yet the payoff was lower at $117.8 million.

The difference?

Packers paid fishermen a much higher base price this year — $1.50 per pound — versus $1 last year.

It also helped that the average sockeye weighed 6 pounds this season, compared to 5.7 pounds in 2012.

None of the dollar figures quoted here include the various price adjustments and bonuses many fishermen enjoy at Bristol Bay.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Still time to get a Carlson refund!

The deadline to put in Carlson claims has been extended.

Carlson was a class-action case that resulted in an order for millions of dollars in refunds to be paid to nonresidents who were charged excessive Alaska commercial fishing fees.

Refund payments began in January, and the deadline to apply for a refund passed a few days ago.

But now, a judge has ordered an extension of the deadline until midnight Dec. 31.

That's because new claims are still coming in, and the case administrator believes many class members haven't yet received word of the refund opportunity. Details here.

It appears more than $3 million is still up for grabs.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Longliner crew rescued near Dutch Harbor

A Coast Guard helicopter this morning safely rescued four fishermen whose boat went aground near Dutch Harbor.

The Coast Guard identified the boat as the Chaos, a 54-foot longliner out of Homer. More details here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

More on Adak

As we reported Thursday, yet another operator is taking over the processing plant on far-flung Adak Island in the Aleutians.

The new operator is Adak Cod Cooperative.

The company president, John Lowrance, is a familiar name in Alaska's salmon industry.

He founded Leader Creek Fisheries, a small but innovative Bristol Bay processor. Lowrance sold his interest in Leader Creek in 2010.

A succession of operators, most recently Icicle Seafoods, failed to achieve much success at Adak, where cod is the money fish.

Now Lowrance says he and Joe Kelso are going to give it a shot.

State records show Lowrance and Kelso are 50-50 partners in Ekuk Fisheries, another small Bristol Bay salmon processor.

The Aleut Corp. owns the Adak plant, and Adak Cod Cooperative has signed a 20-year lease.

Back in June, you'll recall, the city of Adak bought the shuttered plant's processing equipment at auction.

The city is now selling that equipment to Adak Cod Cooperative for about $2 million.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Free money!

This year's Alaska Permanent Fund dividend is $900, state officials just announced.

Most dividends will be paid Oct. 3.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A human, or a camera?

The National Marine Fisheries Service is offering vessel owners a chance to avoid having to carry a fishery observer in 2014.

The agency plans to exempt up to 14 boats that agree to take part in a pilot project to test electronic monitoring systems.

More details in this letter.

For background, check out our previous post.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More woe for American Seafoods

It's been a tough year for Seattle-based American Seafoods, a titan of the Alaska commercial fishing industry.

In April, one of its factory trawlers, the 272-foot American Dynasty, plowed into a Canadian warship in a Victoria harbor.

In May, federal authorities proposed hefty fines in connection with alleged inaccurate weighing of pollock catches aboard two other company vessels, the Ocean Rover and the Northern Eagle.

Now comes news that Moody's, a credit ratings service, is downgrading American Seafoods, which is dragging a lot of debt.

"The downgrade is largely the result of the company underperforming relative to Moody's expectations, as leverage has remained high and continues to increase moderately despite healthy fishing conditions," Moody's says.

The service says American's profitability "will remain under pressure" unless market prices increase for the company's top products: surimi, pollock and hake block, and roe.

Such increases, Moody's believes, are "unlikely in the near term."

American Seafoods had revenue of about $522 million for the year ended June 30, Moody's says.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hatin' on halibut

Domino's Pizza continues to run this TV ad randomly disrespecting halibut. Deckboss saw it during a college football broadcast Saturday.

Speaking of bycatch...

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has posted this flier touting its efforts to reduce bycatch of halibut, crab and Chinook salmon in the federal fisheries.

Bycatch in pollock fishery 'seems unlikely' as cause of Chinook declines in AYK, research report says

An organization known as the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Sustainable Salmon Initiative recently issued a research action plan to address Western Alaska's weak Chinook returns.

The plan is cumbersome reading, but Deckboss spent some time with it and offers this very brief summary.

An "expert panel" co-chaired by Daniel Schindler, a University of Washington fisheries scientist, identifies seven hypotheses thought to be the most likely causes of low Chinook returns.

Out of these seven hypotheses, the expert panel gives six the highest priority for research funding.

The one not ranked highest priority is marine bycatch — the idea that mortality from non-salmon fisheries in the ocean has contributed to the decline of AYK Chinook stocks.

The action plan states:

Based on available data, the bycatch within the domestic walleye pollock fisheries seems unlikely to have been the primary cause for the recent dramatic declines of Chinook salmon in the AYK region, because estimates of bycatch from this source are not high relative to the estimated declines in the total returns to the drainages.

The other six hypotheses include: density-dependent effects and overcompensation; freshwater mortality; ocean mortality; anthropogenic changes to marine ecological processes; escapement quality; and pathogens.

Obviously some of these are a bit technical. But the action plan contains plenty of additional detail on each hypothesis.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Walmart protest set for this morning

Alaska salmon fishermen plan to picket Walmart's South Anchorage store beginning at 10 a.m.

Read why in this protest alert that popped up in my email.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A debunker on the halibut catch sharing plan

The North Pacific Council has posted this two-page summary of the pending halibut catch sharing plan.

The summary appears to be an attempt to debunk some of the claims swirling around the controversial plan.

Here are a couple of key points:

• The catch sharing plan does not reallocate halibut, relative to recent harvest levels, from the charter to the commercial sector.

• Assertions that the plan will mean a one-fish daily bag limit in 2014 for Southcentral Alaska charter anglers are unfounded.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Adding it all up

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has posted a big new report titled Economic Value of the Alaska Seafood Industry.

McDowell Group, a research and consulting firm, prepared the report for ASMI.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Coast Guard conducts medevac near Sitka

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter today hoisted an ailing woman off the fishing vessel Tuxedni in Tebenkof Bay, 67 miles southeast of Sitka.

The woman, 44, reportedly was suffering from "severe abdominal distress," the Coast Guard said in a press release.

Staggering

Alaska's all-species commercial salmon catch has now eclipsed 250 million fish, and the pink salmon harvest alone is over 200 million.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blue North fined, ordered to pay $179,000 in restitution after guilty plea to illegal cod catch

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Dutch Harbor
Type: Sentencing
On 12/15/10 Alaska Wildlife Troopers in Dutch Harbor were contacted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which reported that the F/V Blue Ace, a 124-foot catcher-processor, had taken Pacific cod with longline gear in state waters closed to vessels 60 feet or greater in overall length. Investigation revealed the Blue Ace was owned by Blue North Fisheries Inc. and operated by Boi Njardvik, 51, of Seattle, and over the course of three separate trips during the B season for Aleutian Islands District cod had taken 417,436 pounds of round-weight cod inside state waters closed to fishing vessels of the Blue Ace's size and gear type. The case was referred to the state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals for review. On 6/5/13 Njardvik pled guilty to commercial fishing in closed waters and was fined $3,000 with $1,500 suspended. Blue North Fisheries also pled guilty to commercial fishing in closed waters and was fined $10,000 with $5,000 suspended and placed on probation for three years. In addition, Blue North Fisheries was ordered to pay the state restitution of $179,145.68 for the cod that was taken illegally.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Governor names three to ASMI board

Gov. Sean Parnell has reappointed Kevin Adams and Jack Schultheis to the board of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Parnell also appointed Amy Humphreys. She fills the seat formerly held by Dennis Guhlke, whom Humphreys replaced in February as chief executive of Icicle Seafoods Inc.

Here's the press release from the governor's office.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's unofficial!

Alaska's all-species commercial salmon catch now stands at just over 234 million fish, the Department of Fish and Game reports.

That blows away the old record of 221.9 million set in 2005.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Salmon notes

We're having a banner salmon season, led by a blockbuster catch of pink salmon.

The statewide harvest now exceeds 211 million fish. Here's a chart showing the catch of each species and the preseason forecast.



































Salmon speciesCatch forecastCatch to date
Chinook253,534301,000
Sockeye34,260,00028,902,000
Chum22,748,00015,889,000
Pink117,822,000163,516,000
Coho3,904,0002,484,000
TOTAL178,987,534211,093,000

Here are a few notes as the season enters the stretch run.

• A record 77.6 million pinks have been taken in Prince William Sound. This includes 74.1 million in the general seine fishery and 3.5 million in hatchery cost recovery fisheries. Based on run timing, state biologists project a final catch of 90.9 million.

• Seiners in Southeast Alaska also are setting records for weekly catches of pink salmon. Fishery managers say the final tally could top 70 million.

• Alaska's all-species commercial salmon harvest has exceeded 200 million fish four times (1995, 1999, 2005 and 2007). The all-time record harvest was 221.9 million in 2005.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Another tender goes down

Man, it's been a tough season for fish tenders.

State officials say the 72-foot tender Pacific Queen hit a rock and sank this week in Duncan Canal southwest of Petersburg.

The wood-hulled boat, built in 1938, belongs to Joseph Lykken, of Wrangell.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fate Hunter finds disaster

The fish tender Fate Hunter, partially sunk about seven miles west of Valdez. The 65-foot steel-hulled vessel was heading to Valdez after taking aboard 150,000 pounds of salmon when it ran aground Sunday morning. A nearby vessel, the Akemi, picked up the Fate Hunter's uninjured crew. The tender belongs to Smotherman Fishing Inc. of Hammond, Ore. Efforts are under way to recover fuel from the vessel. DEC photo

Trident expanding into Deep South

Seattle-based Trident Seafoods is planning a $41 million value-added processing plant in Georgia, that state's governor announced today.

The plant will be in Carrollton, west of Atlanta.

Here's the press release.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Injured seine boat crewman needs medevac

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter today hoisted an injured crewman off the F/V Beverly Ann about 50 miles southeast of Seward.

The call for help was that deck equipment had struck the 22-year-old crewman in the head, the Coast Guard said.

The Beverly Ann is a 54-foot purse seiner out of Cordova.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Over the top!

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports the commercial salmon catch now tallies 179.7 million fish, surpassing the preseason forecast of 179 million.

367 brilliant ideas

Here's the proposal book for upcoming meetings of the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

This meeting cycle includes statewide Pacific cod, Chignik finfish, Lower Cook Inlet finfish, Kodiak finfish, Upper Cook Inlet finfish, and statewide king and Tanner crab.

Obviously, the marquee meeting is Upper Cook Inlet finfish. Should be a real cage match, as always.

Deckboss spent a couple of hours this morning looking over the proposal book, which packs 367 offerings.

Here's a quick and rather random sampler:

Proposal 45 — Require 100 percent observer coverage on groundfish trawl vessels in state waters of the Cook Inlet, Kodiak and Chignik management areas. Sponsor: Alaska Marine Conservation Council and others.

Proposal 52 — Prohibit catch-and-release fishing for salmon in all Cook Inlet fresh waters. Sponsor: Central Peninsula Fish and Game Advisory Committee.

Proposal 126 — Prohibit permit stacking in the commercial set and drift gillnet fisheries in Upper Cook Inlet. Sponsor: Kenai River Sportfishing Association.

Proposal 285 — Prohibit dipnetting from boats in the Kenai River personal use fishery. Sponsor: United Cook Inlet Drift Association.

Proposal 348 — Increase harvest limit for Aleutian Islands golden king crab. Sponsor: Golden King Crab Coalition.

Check out the proposal book for more details on these and other proposals. The book also has meeting dates and locations.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cohoho!

Pink salmon seiners aren't the only ones who could be celebrating after this season.

Southeast trollers are looking to score big on coho salmon.

"The wild return and commercial catch projections are well above average and second only to those in 1994, when the coho salmon return was the largest on record," the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in this announcement. "High abundance levels have been observed throughout the region during the past several weeks."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Explosive catches of pink salmon reported

Deckboss just got off the line with Dan Gray of the state Department of Fish and Game down in Sitka.

Purse seiners are making what are believed to be record catches in Southeast Alaska.

"It's just more and more and more fish piling in here," Gray says.

State fishery managers and overwhelmed processors have been talking about how to "keep things orderly and under control," he says.

The state's preseason forecast was for a Southeast seine harvest of 54 million pinks, but now managers believe it'll be 60 to 70 million or even more.

To cope, processors have placed vessels on delivery limits.

Such limits also are reported in Prince William Sound, which likewise is seeing huge catches. Through Monday, seiners had taken an estimated 49.4 million pinks in the common property fishery.

Hatchery pinks dominate the runs in Prince William Sound, while Southeast pinks are predominantly wild fish.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Coast Guard airlifts crewman after winch injury

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter today hoisted an injured crewman off a fishing vessel 92 miles southeast of Sitka.

The 21-year-old crewman, who wasn't identified, was reported to have suffered injuries to his hand and arm while using a winch aboard the 54-foot F/V Jerilyn.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Salmon notes

Here are a few highlights from the ongoing Alaska salmon season.

• The statewide all-species catch now exceeds 120 million fish, the Department of Fish and Game reports. The forecast for the full season is 179 million.

• The pink salmon fishery is really rocking. In Southeast Alaska, indications point to a purse seine harvest of 60-70 million pinks, well above the state's preseason forecast of 54 million.

• In Prince William Sound, seiners bagged 35.6 million pinks through July 31, a record total for the date.

• The Norton Sound chum salmon harvest has again topped 100,000 fish, with another 130,000 taken at Kotzebue. "Hopefully, there will be enough flights in and out of Kotzebue to keep up with the good catches coming in," the department said Friday.

• We're now seeing coho catches pick up around the state. Coho generally are the latest arriving of the five commercially harvested Pacific salmon species.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fritz Johnson appointed to Board of Fisheries

Gov. Sean Parnell today appointed Bristol Bay commercial fisherman Fritz Johnson to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

Johnson replaces board veteran Vince Webster, who in April failed to win legislative confirmation for another term.

For more background on Johnson, read the governor's press release.

Monday, July 29, 2013

No new IPHC commissioners anytime soon

We've been waiting quite a while for the Obama administration to decide on appointments to the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

And it appears the wait could last months longer.

The IPHC is a Seattle-based fishery management panel with three members from the United States and three from Canada.

The regular terms for U.S. members expired some time ago.

Now their terms have been extended pending new presidential appointments, says a recent update to nominees from Jim Balsiger, Alaska regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service and himself an IPHC commissioner.

Here's the update:

June 28, 2013

Dear 2013 IPHC Nominee:

This note is to bring you up-to-date on the latest developments concerning commissioner appointments for the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Current U.S. IPHC commissioners Ralph Hoard, Phillip Lestenkof, and myself received letters of alternate appointments this week from the U.S. State Department, notifying us that our terms as IPHC commissioners had been extended until June 2014, or until the President appoints two new commissioners, whichever occurs first.

Our appointment terms had expired in March. The extension of current appointments is to ensure U.S. representation on the IPHC until new presidential appointments can be made.

The process to fill the two vacant IPHC commissioner seats — for which you have been nominated — continues to go forward at this time.

Thank you for your continued patience.

Sincerely,

Jim

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Salmon notes

We're now smack in the middle of Alaska's commercial salmon season. Here are a few observations.

• The statewide all-species catch stands at nearly 89 million fish, or roughly half the preseason forecast of 179 million.

• Harvest of the state's most valuable salmon crop, sockeye, is nearly done, and the catch is likely to end up short of forecast. The tally of 27.8 million fish is well short of the projected 34.3 million.

• We're entering prime time for pink salmon purse seiners. Prince William Sound boats already have taken nearly 25 million pinks, while Southeast Alaska seiners have bagged 15 million. The statewide forecast calls for a big haul of nearly 118 million pinks this year.

• Kodiak has taken nearly 5.5 million salmon of all species so far, including a strong 1.9 million sockeye.

• The Lower Yukon River summer chum salmon fishery is over, and the catch of about 378,000 fish is the highest since 1989, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports. During the fishery, 928 Chinook salmon were caught and released and 436 Chinook were reported kept but not sold.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More time to weigh in on halibut catch sharing

The National Marine Fisheries Service has extended the deadline for public comments on the proposed halibut catch sharing plan. The new deadline is Aug. 26.

The agency says it still aims to implement the catch sharing plan for the 2014 fishing season.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

Teen on four-wheeler hits setnet cable, dies

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Clam Gulch
Type: Fatality
On 7/20/13 at about 1242 hours, troopers responded to a report of a single-vehicle collision on Clam Gulch Beach in Clam Gulch. Central and Ninilchik EMS responded to the scene with troopers and located Peter J. Janke, 15, of Clam Gulch, deceased after he struck a setnet cable anchored into the bluff while riding a four-wheeler. Next of kin was notified. Janke's remains have been sent to the state medical examiner for autopsy. Investigation is ongoing.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Vessel reported aground at Ketchikan

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Ketchikan
Type: Agency assist
On 7/20/13 at approximately 0216 hours, the Alaska State Troopers in Ketchikan received a report of a fishing vessel grounded on the beach near Sunset Drive. Investigation revealed the F/V Kelly Anne, out of Washington, had run aground. No injuries were reported. The U.S. Coast Guard was notified and responded. USCG investigation continues.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cook Inlet setnetters sue Fish and Game

An organization called Cook Inlet Fisherman's Fund is suing the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in an effort to force additional fishing time for eastside salmon setnetters.

CIFF alleges Fish and Game mismanagement has cost the setnetters millions of dollars this season and last.

Here are three documents:

CIFF complaint

Memorandum in support of motion for preliminary injunction

CIFF press release

Walmart keeps hearing it from Alaska

Another Alaska pol, Gov. Sean Parnell, has fired a letter to Walmart questioning the retail giant's devotion to the Marine Stewardship Council ecolabel when it comes to buying salmon.

Halibut catch sharing plan stirs opposition

The National Marine Fisheries Service is taking public comment until Aug. 12 on the proposed halibut catch sharing plan.

As expected, the plan is drawing considerable opposition. And the opposition has succeeded in sinking past attempts to end Alaska's halibut war.

Deckboss yesterday saw the above advertisement on an Alaska news site. Clicking on the ad took me here, where we learn that halibut charter operators are lining up lawyers, lobbyists and donations to try to block the catch sharing plan.

The plan would establish a clear allocation of halibut between the rival charter and commercial fleets.

To supporters, the plan would settle the rivalry, allow enough halibut for both sectors, and protect fish stocks.

To opponents, the catch sharing plan means charter anglers "will have their halibut taken away and then offered back to them, for rent."

Tony Weaver, a sportfishing columnist for the Anchorage Daily News, yesterday offered his take on the plan.

He urges the sportfishing masses to oppose it, saying: "I don't want to end up getting my halibut at Costco."

Any comeback, commercial guys?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

USCG conducts Prince William Sound medevac

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter out of Cordova this morning hoisted a possible stroke victim off the processing ship Island Enterprise in Prince William Sound.

The patient, 61, was taken to Valdez, the Coast Guard said.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Aleutians golden king crab quotas stay steady

The state today announced Aleutian Islands golden king crab quotas totaling 6.29 million pounds for the 2013-14 season opening Aug. 15.

The quotas match those of last season.

More details in this Department of Fish and Game announcement.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Big price on small catch at Bristol Bay

Bristol Bay will finish with a relatively small catch this season, but fishermen could enjoy a better payoff.

Deckboss just heard from the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association that a couple of major processors have posted a base price of $1.50 a pound for sockeye salmon.

That's a huge increase from the $1 base seen in the 2012 and 2011 seasons.

Does Alaska salmon qualify?

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, says certain agencies have adopted sustainable seafood policies that could bar wild Alaska salmon from federal programs.

She's asking for a meeting with agency officials to straighten them out. Check out the senator's letter.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A subpar season in Bristol Bay

Well, we're now well past the traditional season peak at Bristol Bay, and the catch stands at a fairly dreadful 13.7 million salmon.

Coming into the season, the state had forecast a weak harvest of 16.6 million sockeye. Now it appears unlikely gillnetters will be able to scratch up enough fish to meet even that modest projection.

And so, Deckboss imagines the docks, canneries and bars in Naknek, Dillingham and elsewhere are becoming more lonely by the hour as folks head home.

I'm guessing no one is more dejected than the setnetters at the Igushik River, where persistent fuel leakage from the sunken fish tender Lone Star has kept the fishery in that area closed for days now.

Still no word on the base price processors are paying fishermen this season. Anyone heard anything?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Salmon way up north

Kotzebue Sound hosts the farthest north commercial salmon fishery in Alaska. And the 2013 season opens tomorrow.

A good run of chum salmon is expected, and the harvest could reach 250,000 fish, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says.

The buyer, Great Pacific Seafoods, is putting a strong emphasis on quality this season, requiring fishermen to bleed their catch.

More details here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Contaminated Bristol Bay salmon dumped

State pollution regulators say 27,109 pounds of salmon were contaminated as a result of the sinking of the fish tender Lone Star in the Igushik River, south of Dillingham.

The salmon, collected from setnetters in the area, yesterday were hauled 12 miles offshore and dumped, the Department of Environmental Conservation says.

It bears stressing that this is a relatively minor volume of salmon, from one small and fairly isolated corner of the enormous Bristol Bay fishing grounds.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Salmon notes

Here are a few observations from the Alaska salmon season thus far.

• The Department of Fish and Game reports a total salmon harvest, all species, of 34.9 million fish. The forecast for the full season is 179 million.

• Sockeye account for more than half the catch at 20.3 million fish. We'll likely see pink salmon rise to the top the tally board later in the season.

• In Upper Cook Inlet, eastside setnetters have had four openers, taking 113,864 sockeye and 271 Chinook through the Fourth of July. The setnetters were largely shut down last season due to Chinook bycatch concerns.

• It's pretty clear now we'll finish with a lackluster catch this year at Bristol Bay, with the peak of the sockeye fishery now past. The catch stands at just over 13 million fish, on a preseason forecast of 16.6 million. No word yet on what processors intend to pay fishermen.

• On the Lower Yukon River, the new dipnet and beach seine fishery seems to have worked out well. The commercial chum catch through through July 3 was 203,835 fish, with 837 Chinook released. See our previous post for background on this fishery.

Fish tender runs aground east of Whittier

As if we haven't already seen enough trouble over this holiday weekend, the U.S. Coast Guard now reports a fish tender has run aground and ruptured a fuel tank in Prince William Sound.

The 110-foot Naknek Spirit, with five people aboard, grounded in Passage Canal six miles east of Whittier.

No injuries were reported, but the starboard fuel tank ruptured.

"The tank was reportedly carrying 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel, but crewmembers managed to transfer 1,500 gallons into an intact tank," the Coast Guard says.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Closure ordered in Bristol Bay due to oil threat

The state again has closed part of Bristol Bay's Nushagak District to commercial fishing because of oil leaking from the sunken fish tender Lone Star. Here's the announcement.

And here's the latest situation report on the pollution response and salvage effort.

Man dies in fall aboard vessel in Chignik Lagoon

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Chignik Lagoon
Type: Accidental death
On 7/4/13 at about 2140 hours, AST received a report of a death aboard a boat in Chignik Lagoon. Investigation determined Joey J. Paul, 25, of Dillingham, was working on the 38-foot F/V Aleut Sisters when he fell into an area near the engine of the boat. Paul was retrieved from the boat and transported to the Chignik Lagoon Clinic where he was pronounced deceased. The state medical examiner's office was contacted and an autopsy was requested. Next of kin have been notified. Foul play is not suspected in this incident.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

One dead, two hurt in Bristol Bay boat fire

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Egegik
Type: Fatal boat fire
At 5:56 a.m. on 7/4/13, the Egegik Clinic notified AST of an active boat fire in the village of Egegik at the Alaska General Seafoods cannery dock. At 3:30 a.m., fishermen staying on boats moored at the dock noticed flames coming out of the Pauline II, a 32-foot gillnetter also moored there. Joe Paul, 50, and Paul Paul, 55, were pulled from the boat and taken to the clinic before they were flown elsewhere for treatment of burns suffered in the fire. First responders at the dock put out the fire and kept the flames from spreading to nearby boats. Afterwards, another individual believed to be 56-year-old Harberg Paul was found on the boat. He was taken to the clinic and pronounced deceased at 4:30 a.m. The three are brothers from Kipnuk. The body was sent to the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage for an autopsy and to confirm the identification of the deceased. Next of kin has been notified. Due to inclement weather, AST was unable to respond. Instead, a wildlife trooper who was in the area for commercial fisheries enforcement traveled by a skiff to the village to start the investigation. A deputy fire marshal flew from Anchorage to the village to conduct an investigation into the cause of the fire. Foul play is not suspected. The boat is considered a total loss.

Crewman dies in Cook Inlet winch accident

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Ninilchik
Type: Death investigation
On 7/4/13 at 0910 hours, the skipper of the F/V Anna Lane reported to the Alaska State Troopers that a crewmember was caught in the anchor winch and he was unable to get him out. The vessel was reported to be north of Ninilchik and approximately 1.5 miles offshore. Ninilchik Emergency Services responded aboard a charter fishing vessel. The crewmember was identified as Lewis Byerly, 55, of Wisconsin. EMS determined Byerly was deceased upon their arrival. EMS transported Byerly to Ninilchik. Initial investigation revealed Byerly was pulling up the anchor with the motorized winch and got his hand caught in the chain. The winch pulled the rest of his body in, causing fatal injuries. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were notified. Byerly was sent to the state medical examiner in Anchorage for autopsy. Next of kin were notified. The F/V Anna Lane is returning to its homeport in Homer.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A couple of shellfish notes

The Norton Sound red king crab summer season opens at noon tomorrow with a quota of 495,600 pounds.

Alaska's weathervane scallop fishery opened yesterday. Area harvest limits look much the same this year as last. Details here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Begich to Walmart: Forget MSC

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has fired this letter to Walmart expressing his views on Alaska seafood and the Marine Stewardship Council.

Begich also issued this press release.

Bristol Bay fishery closure lifted

Bristol Bay fishery managers have lifted the closure imposed after the salmon tender Lone Star sank Sunday in the Igushik River.

Meantime, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has issued this situation report, which includes a couple of photos of the partially sunken vessel.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Update on the Lone Star sinking

The U.S. Coast Guard has released a few more details on the sinking of the salmon tender Lone Star in the Igushik River at Bristol Bay.

"The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has conducted an overflight of the site and reports a narrow sheen extending approximately four miles," the Coast Guard says.

The good Samaritan vessel Tradition responded to the report of the sinking vessel, rescued the four Lone Star crewmen and took them to Dillingham.

The Lone Star is partially submerged in 18 feet of water and reportedly has 14,000 gallons of diesel, 250 gallons of gasoline, 150 gallons of lube oil and 150 gallons of hydraulic fluid aboard.

The Coast Guard has issued a broadcast notice to mariners that the overturned vessel is 3.5 miles north of the mouth of the Igushik River, and boats in the area should maintain a sharp lookout to avoid collision.

As for how the Lone Star sank, a crewmember said that while at anchor a change in the tide "swung the ship against the anchor chain, detaching the transducer and coolant lines," the Coast Guard says. "This created a hole in the steel hull and caused the vessel to take on water."

KDLG radio reports the Lone Star was working for Trident Seafoods.

Trouble in Bristol Bay

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game shut down the local setnet fishery after a salmon tender, the Lone Star, sank this morning in the mouth of the Igushik River.

The good news is all four crewmen aboard the vessel are safe. In fact, they never even got wet, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman told Deckboss.

The Coast Guard received a mayday at 6:57 a.m. from the master of the Lone Star, who said his vessel was taking on water.

The crew got into a raft, and made it onto another vessel, the Coast Guard spokesman said.

The Department of Fish and Game in Dillingham issued an emergency order for Igushik setnetters to pull their nets due to the possibility of fuel in the water.

"If fish are contaminated they should be isolated and destroyed," the Fish and Game announcement said.

The Lone Star rolled over, the department said. But the vessel remains sticking out of the water, the Coast Guard spokesman said.

State records indicate the 86-foot, steel-hulled Lone Star belongs to Charles A. Burrece, of Bellingham, Wash.

Volunteer? Who, me?

We heard quite a bit of bellyaching when the North Pacific observer program expanded this year to cover new fleets, including halibut boats.

One complaint was that more should have been done to develop an alternative to the inconvenience and cost of having a human observer ride along on small boats.

Surely electronic monitoring — onboard cameras — could keep tabs on catch and bycatch, the critics said.

OK, fine.

Now read this letter from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to several commercial fishing groups.

The letter says a pilot project has been set up to test electronic monitoring systems.

The trouble is, not many commercial fishermen have volunteered to take part in the project so far, the letter says.

The council wants a viable electronic monitoring alternative on the water as soon as practicable, and the volunteer pilot program is "vital to the realization of this goal," the letter says.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Is this anything?

Some days ago, on June 19, a senior seafood buyer for retail giant Walmart sent salmon suppliers this letter.

"Please review the attached letter in regards to wild salmon. This is a reconfirmation of our requirements for sustainable sourcing of wild salmon," said an email introducing the letter. "Now that the wild salmon harvest season is upon us, please review your source fisheries to ensure that they meet our sustainability requirements."

The letter said the company will buy only from fisheries "certified sustainable to the MSC standard," or actively working toward certification.

Uh-oh.

The bulk of Alaska's salmon industry, you'll recall, recently fired MSC — the London-based Marine Stewardship Council — as tedious, expensive and superfluous.

Walmart said it might consider an alternative to MSC certification. But, according to its letter, "Walmart has not yet determined any other standard to be equivalent to MSC. Therefore, no other standards will be accepted as equivalent until such time as we announce our decision."

Deckboss hasn't talked with the MSC folks, but imagines they're delighted with Walmart's stance.

I've also not talked with Alaska's major salmon processors. But I'm guessing they're not too worried.

Why not?

Because the processors are confident most buyers trust that Alaska has a good and very abundant wild product, and that the state manages its salmon runs sustainably.

Further, I expect the processors believe the Alaska brand trumps the MSC brand.

Deckboss did ask Tyson Fick, spokesman for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, for a comment. Remember, Alaska's major salmon processors control the ASMI board.

"It is amazing to me," he said, "that America's largest retailer appears to be saying that they will not buy American seafood without the endorsement of a foreign-based environmental group while promoting foreign seafood with clearly inferior fisheries management and quality, all in the name of sustainability."

Tenderman dies after ammonia leak at Sitka

KCAW Raven Radio in Sitka reports an 82-year-old man has died after an ammonia leak aboard the fish tender Eigil B. More here.

Is the halibut war finally drawing to a close?

The National Marine Fisheries Service has published proposed regulations to establish a "clear allocation" of halibut between Alaska's rival commercial and charter fleets.

As longtime Deckboss readers know, this has been a long and frustrating conflict, one regulators have repeatedly failed to settle.

Will it be different this time?

Click here for details on how you can weigh in on the proposed halibut catch sharing plan.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Commerce nominee easily confirmed

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted 97 to 1 to confirm Chicago billionaire businesswoman Penny Pritzker as the new secretary of commerce.

The Commerce Department houses the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Both Alaska senators voted for Pritzker.

Here are statements from Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski.

Bristol Bay gets going

Out in Bristol Bay, scene of the world's biggest sockeye salmon run, we're starting to see the commercial harvest pick up.

The cumulative catch has now topped 5 million fish, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

You can track the daily tally here.

The fishery historically has peaked around the Fourth of July.

The catch forecast for this season is a relatively modest 16.6 million sockeye.

Standing by

Deckboss expects we'll soon hear from the governor's office on appointments to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors.

The board normally has seven members, with processors holding five seats and fishermen two.

One seat currently is vacant, due to Dennis Guhlke's exit as chief executive of Icicle Seafoods Inc. in February.

The terms for two other ASMI directors expire on June 30. They are Kevin Adams, a commercial fisherman and board chairman, and Jack Schultheis, general manager of Kwik'pak Fisheries LLC.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dr. White crosses the bar

Here's an online obituary for John White, a Bethel dentist who served on the Alaska Board of Fisheries from 1995 to 2002.

Adak's gamble

We told you in the spring how Icicle Seafoods Inc. was closing its seafood plant on the distant Aleutian island of Adak, and how the processing equipment would be put up for auction.

Well, the auction is over with the city of Adak and a local community development nonprofit jointly submitting the winning bid.

It's a more than $2 million bet that Adak, trying to remain a viable civilian town on what used to be naval base, can attract another processing company to make use of the equipment.

The alternative, City Manager Layton Lockett told Deckboss, was to let the equipment leave the island, perhaps dooming chances for restarting the processing plant.

The city itself has no intention of running the plant, Lockett said.

Folks on Adak are confident they can lure a new processor.

"To take this kind of gamble? Yeah, for sure," Lockett said. "Fishing is our future."

Here's a press release from the city with more details.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blotter

Catch the big haul of fresh items on our companion blog, The Brig.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Coast Guard medevacs crewman with head injury

The U.S. Coast Guard yesterday airlifted an injured man off the factory trawler Alaska Juris.

The man, 43, was injured when a falling box of frozen fish struck him in the head, the Coast Guard said.

At the time of the call for help, the 238-foot vessel was 178 miles southeast of Dutch Harbor.

The Coast Guard directed the Alaska Juris to change course, to close the distance the rescue helicopter had to fly.

The helicopter, off the cutter Boutwell, safely hoisted the injured man and delivered him for medical attention in Dutch Harbor.

Fishing Company of Alaska, based in Washington state, operates the Alaska Juris.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fields, Long appointed to North Pacific Council

The Commerce Department has reappointed Duncan Fields, of Kodiak, to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and also has appointed newcomer David Long, of Wasilla.

Council members serve three-year terms.

Here's a news release on appointments to all the regional fishery management councils around the country.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Search suspended for missing deckhand

The U.S. Coast Guard says it has suspended the active search for a 25-year-old man who went overboard Monday night from the fishing vessel Swift near Porpoise Island, some 40 miles west of Juneau.

The Alaska State Troopers and other responders have been called in to "search the underwater area between the anchored vessel and the beach for the crewman," the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard did not name the missing man.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Halt the hatcheries?

An organization called the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership is calling for a moratorium on North Pacific hatchery expansion until the risks to wild salmon populations can be ascertained. More here.

Abandoned boat found in Icy Strait; skipper rescued while search continues for deckhand

A search is under way for a missing crewman in Icy Strait, 40 miles west of Juneau.

The crewman is off the 34-foot fishing vessel Swift.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it received a call just after midnight from the 57-foot tender Pacific Horizon, which had rendezvoused with the Swift and found no one aboard.

A Coast Guard helicopter found the Swift's captain on a beach near an overturned skiff. Mildly hypothermic, he was airlifted to Juneau for medical attention.

A deckhand on the Swift remains missing. He was wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt and black rain pants.

Winds are light and seas calm in the search area.

KINY radio quotes a Coast Guard officer as saying the Swift was taking part in a chum salmon fishery.

The deckhand fell overboard, and when the captain launched a skiff to help him, he also went into the water, the station reported.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A new approach on the Yukon

Commercial fishermen will have a 12-hour shot Tuesday, from noon to midnight, to harvest summer chum salmon in District 1 on the Lower Yukon River.

What's really interesting about this opener is that fishermen can use only beach seines and dipnets, rather than the usual gillnets.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries acted this year to authorize the new, nonlethal gear types as a way to allow chum fishing without seriously impacting the expected poor Chinook run.

Fishermen using beach seines and dipnets will be required to release incidentally caught Chinook back to the water immediately, and alive.

"In the event that a Chinook salmon is killed by these gear types, the dead Chinook salmon must be recorded on a fish ticket and forfeited to the state," says this press release.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Salmon notes

Lots of salmon fisheries are open around Alaska, but the statewide catch remains modest at this point.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports about 2.9 million fish have been taken so far, on a preseason forecast of 179 million.

Here are a few notes on the young season:

• Southeast trollers have landed 11,847 Chinook, which trails last year's catch by 27 percent for this date. The bright side: Prices are very strong at an average of $6.91 per pound, and average fish weight is up by half a pound to 13.3 pounds.

• At the Copper River, gillnetters finally got a couple of openers last week, after enduring a 13-day closure to allow inriver passage to improve. The sockeye harvest stands at an excellent 843,000 fish, and the district will open again at 7 a.m. Monday for a 36-hour period.

• At Chignik, on the Alaska Peninsula, early reports indicate the number of permits fishing this season will be the highest since 2005. Chignik has a significant sockeye run.

• Early season catches have been characteristically low at Bristol Bay, scene of the world's largest sockeye fishery. We likely won't see the action heat up there until early July. Managers on Friday allowed a five-hour fishery targeting Chinook in the Nushagak District.

• The Yukon River Chinook run is expected to be weak again this year, so no commercial fishery targeting those wonderful kings is expected.

Friday, June 14, 2013

McCune takes UFA helm

Jerry McCune, a longtime commercial fisherman out of Cordova and lobbyist in Juneau, has been elected president of United Fishermen of Alaska.

UFA is the state's largest commercial fishing trade association with 36 member groups.

Here's the full announcement with more news on UFA leadership positions.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Longliner sustains fire damage at Unalaska

Lauren Rosenthal with KUCB in Unalaska has a report on a significant fire Wednesday aboard the freezer longliner Blue Pacific.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Council recommends Chinook cap

Here's the final motion the North Pacific Fishery Management Council passed to limit Chinook bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska non-pollock trawl fisheries.

The council is recommending a hard cap of 7,500 Chinook salmon.

As you can see, however, the motion includes a "uncertainty pool" provision that could give trawlers an additional 1,000 Chinook in some years. At least that's how Deckboss reads it.

Council decisions are subject to Commerce Department approval.

For more background on this, see our prior post.

Tough day

We had plenty of trouble on the water Monday.

At 7:30 a.m., police in Cordova received a 911 call from the purse seiner Esperanza reporting a man was lost overboard, had been recovered and was undergoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The Alaska Wildlife Troopers patrol boat Churchill and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter responded in heavy fog.

The victim couldn't be revived, and the body was transferred to the Churchill.

Troopers said the deceased, Cornell Perry Bean Jr., 40, of Kake, wasn't wearing a life preserver.

In a separate mishap, a crewman on the trawler Alaska Spirit needed an emergency airlift.

The crewman, who wasn't identified, had a crushed finger, the Coast Guard said.

The Alaska Spirit was located 58 miles southeast of Nunivak Island in the Bering Sea.

The victim initially was transferred by small boat to the cutter Boutwell, where the decision was made to medevac him via helicopter.

"Our health care professionals recommended getting the man to a higher level of care within seven hours to have the best chance of restoring functionality to his finger," said Lt. Bernard Auth, a Coast Guard search and rescue controller.

The Alaska Spirit is a 221-foot trawler belonging to Fishing Company of Alaska.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Togiak herring haul worth ho-hum $2.9 million

Here's the official summary of the recently concluded Togiak sac roe herring season.

As previously reported, the catch was impressive at 28,808 tons.

The estimated grounds price was not so impressive at $100 per ton for both seine and gillnet fish. That puts the ex-vessel value of the fishery at $2.88 million.

It's possible, of course, that post-season adjustments could improve the payoff for fishermen.

Farther north, the Norton Sound sac roe herring fishery opens at 6 this evening. Icy details here.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chinook bycatch headlines council agenda

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting this week in Juneau, and Chinook bycatch is heading the agenda.

The council is set to take final action on measures to control the incidental take of Chinook in Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries targeting species such as Pacific cod, flatfish and rockfish.

The options include an annual limit, or "hard cap," of between 5,000 and 12,500 Chinook salmon.

Chinook bycatch, of course, is a very hot topic these days given the weak Chinook returns to many of Alaska's river systems.

The council has been working methodically to rein in this bycatch.

In June 2011, the council set a cap of 25,000 Chinook in the Gulf pollock fishery.

Regulators also have set caps in the giant Bering Sea pollock fishery.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Illicit halibut charter operator fined $15,000

An Anchorage resident who took customers fishing without the required halibut charter permit will pay a $15,000 fine to settle an enforcement action, federal authorities say.

Sidney Bouschor initially was assessed a $30,300 civil penalty following an undercover operation by NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement.

"Bouschor admitted the charge, but claimed an inability to pay the entire assessed penalty," says this press release. "After supplying the required financial documentation to NOAA, which was evaluated by a NOAA financial expert, NOAA's Office of General Counsel found it appropriate to settle the case for $15,000."

The press release, unfortunately, doesn't specify which port Bouschor was operating out of, or provide other details of the undercover operation.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

NMFS to take action to stop 'scale fraud'

The National Marine Fisheries Service is planning to tighten regulations on scales used to weigh catches aboard factory fishing vessels operating off Alaska.

NMFS says it has "investigated several cases of potential scale tampering and fraud that may have resulted in large underestimations of catch" in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

Federal authorities have levied more than $2.7 million in fines against American Seafoods, the largest operator of factory trawlers in the pollock fishery.

At-sea scales can provide very precise and accurate estimates of catch, NMFS says, provided the scales are not monkeyed with.

It's now apparent that regulatory changes are needed to stop scale fraud, the agency says.

This briefing paper lays out the possible changes. Among them:

• Require vessels to report scale tests daily

• Expand video monitoring of the scale area

• Have an observer present whenever scales are recalibrated

• Enhance the "audit trail" on scale adjustments.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's all over at Togiak

After a number of extensions, the Togiak sac roe herring fishery finally closed for the season at noon today.

The total harvest was 28,808 tons.

That's big. Over the preceding two decades, only the 1994 harvest was bigger at 30,315 tons, state records show.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A couple of Memorial Day harvest notes

The Togiak herring fishery most likely closes at noon today. The catch has been enormous, nearly 28,400 tons.

Over at the Copper River, salmon gillnetters get their third opener of the season starting at 7 a.m. today. The sockeye fishing has been hot with a cumulative catch of 266,739 fish, more than double the number expected.

Friday, May 24, 2013

APICDA to acquire Cannon Fish

Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association is buying Cannon Fish Co., a Seattle-based processing and marketing company.

"With Cannon Fish we are, in essence, vertically integrating," says Larry Cotter, APICDA chief executive. "We will now be able to manage all aspects of our seafood operations from the boat to the table."

Read lots more about the deal here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Feds and American Seafoods are talking

Last week brought news of some big enforcement actions against American Seafoods, the top operator of pollock factory trawlers in the Bering Sea.

The company is facing more than $2.7 million in fines for allegedly shorting catch weights, or "essentially stealing fish," in the words of federal authorities.

New cases have been brought involving two of the company's boats, the Ocean Rover and the Northern Eagle. A third case involving the trawler American Dynasty has been pending since early 2012.

Now, just because American Seafoods has been accused doesn't mean it has to simply roll over and pay the weighty fines.

It can try to negotiate them down.

Apparently that's the tack the company is taking.

A NOAA spokeswoman tells Deckboss the matter is now before an administrative law judge.

A hearing was scheduled for March 26 in the American Dynasty case, but the judge vacated the hearing date.

The proceeding was put off "at the request of both parties to give them an opportunity to discuss the potential for a global settlement of all three cases," the spokeswoman said via email.

The judge has ordered NOAA to file periodic status reports, and the parties are trying to reach a settlement by the end of June, the email said.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Four fishy items in the new state budget

Gov. Sean Parnell today signed off on a new state budget, and it contains several capital items of interest to the commercial fishing community.

Here are four that Deckboss found especially interesting. Click on each to read a project snapshot.

Yakutat Regional Aquaculture Association, $100,000

ASMI canned salmon, herring and protein powder project, $300,000

Kaltag Traditional Council fish processing plant, $447,308

CDQ fleet homeport project, $10 million