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.