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


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.