Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Allow retention of smaller halibut, FVOA says

The Seattle-based Fishing Vessel Owners' Association has submitted an intriguing proposal to reduce the minimum size requirement for commercially caught halibut from 32 inches to 30 inches.

The proposal will be up for consideration at the Jan. 26-30 meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

FVOA is a major player in Alaska's halibut fishery, representing a large number of commercial longliners. Its manager, Bob Alverson, is one of the three U.S. members on the halibut commission.

The FVOA proposal is signed by the group's president, Per Odegaard.

The proposal explains that retaining more small halibut, rather than releasing them, could substantially reduce handling and "wastage" in the fishery.

FVOA is asking the commission to review the proposal for possible implementation in 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Vast Aleutian marine sanctuary proposed

Environmental groups want the Obama administration to designate the Aleutian Islands as a national marine sanctuary.

As you can see from the map above, the sanctuary would take in far more than just local waters along the chain. Rather, it would encompass Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea shelf, where some of the nation's most important commercial fisheries occur.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is spearheading the proposal. The Center for Biological Diversity is among other groups listed in the nomination letter.

Here's a press release discussing the basis for establishing an Aleutian Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Oceana, Greenpeace sue over sea lions

Environmental groups Oceana and Greenpeace this week filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service in a bid to block expanded commercial fishing in the Aleutian chain.

The suit is a reaction to the new federal policy on Steller sea lion protections.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bering Sea pollock edges up; Gulf cod surges

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has set the 2015 total allowable catch (TAC) for Alaska groundfish.

Here are the TACs for key species and the percent change from 2014.

BERING SEA AND ALEUTIAN ISLANDS

Eastern Bering Sea pollock, 1,310,000 tons, up 3.4 percent
Pacific cod, 249,422 tons, down 1.8 percent
Yellowfin sole, 149,000 tons, down 19 percent
Atka mackerel, 54,500 tons, up 68.6 percent
Pacific Ocean perch, 32,021 tons, down 3.3 percent
Sablefish, 3,135 tons, down 0.5 percent

GULF OF ALASKA

Pollock, 199,151 tons, up 13.8 percent
Pacific cod, 75,202 tons, up 16.2 percent
Pacific Ocean perch, 21,012 tons, up 8.8 percent
Sablefish, 10,522 tons, down 0.5 percent

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

BBRSDA confirms director departure

With the resignation of Matt Luck, the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association is looking to fill a vacancy on its board of directors. Here's the announcement.

F/V Trailblazer crewman needs medevac

The 23-year-old crewman crushed his hand in a pot launcher, the U.S. Coast Guard said. More details in this news release.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Council to consider catch limits and much more

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will hold its most important meeting of the year this week in Anchorage.

The 11-member council, which helps regulate federal fisheries off Alaska, will set 2015 catch limits for pollock, cod and other groundfish.

The panel also has quite a few other items on its agenda.

One that caught my eye is this enforcement report from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cotten named acting fish and game commissioner

Gov. Bill Walker has appointed Sam Cotten as acting commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game.

Here's the official announcement.

Catastrophe reported in western Bering Sea

A South Korean pollock vessel sank near Russia, and rescuers are searching for more than 50 people, according to this news report.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Grapevine

Deckboss hears reliably that the governor has appointed Frank Homan to the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. Homan has served previously on the three-member commission, which issues fishing permits and vessel licenses.

We also hear Matt Luck, of Ketchum, Idaho, has resigned from the board of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Parnell appoints two to ASMI board

Outgoing Gov. Sean Parnell today named two people to the board of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Here's the official announcement:

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors

Gov. Parnell appointed Tomi Marsh and Allen Kimball to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors.

ASMI is a public-private partnership between the state and the Alaska seafood industry established to increase the economic value of our renewable seafood resources.

Marsh, of Ketchikan, has been commercial fishing since 1981 and has owned and operated the F/V Savage since 1990. She has fished crab in the Bering Sea and Pribilofs, longlined in the Aleutians and Gulf, and currently tenders salmon and the various dive fisheries in Southeast Alaska. Marsh is the co-author of "Fishes and Dishes," a popular seafood cookbook promoting Alaska's seafood. She is the president of OceansAlaska, Ketchikan and serves on ASMI's Shellfish Committee. She is appointed to a harvester seat.

Kimball, of Seattle, is executive vice president of international sales for Trident Seafoods, where he has worked since 1999. Prior to that, he was the operations manager for Arctic Alaska Fisheries Corp. and Tyson Seafoods Group, and a foreign fisheries observer with the National Marine Fisheries Service. Kimball received a bachelor's degree in zoology, with a fisheries management emphasis, from Brigham Young University. He is appointed to a large processor seat.

Cook Inlet pollock test fishery planned

The state plans to conduct a special fishery for walleye pollock in the Cook Inlet Management Area.

"The purpose of the test fishery is to determine the effectiveness of seine gear for catching pollock," says this announcement from the Department of Fish and Game.

The fishery will run from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28.

Who earns what from Bristol Bay sockeye?

Here's a new sockeye market analysis from the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

Of particular interest is the final section of the 42-page report, which compares fishing and processing revenue from sockeye.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Walker and fish

Bill Walker is relying on input from dozens of Alaskans as he prepares to assume the governor's office. See the full team here.

These are the members of the fisheries subcommittee:

Ragnar AlstromDebra Brown
Denby LloydBrian Gabriel
Mike SzymanskiRicky Gease
Carol Ann WoodyRoland Maw
Albert KookeshBill MacKay
Mary SattlerAlan Austerman
Jerry McCuneErin Harrington
Norm Van VactorLarry Engel
Robert HeyanoBruce Knowles
Russell NelsonMark Jensen
Murray TateLinda Behnken
Tim BristolMike Wood
Lindsey BloomGreg Indreland

Walker will be sworn in as governor on Monday.

He hasn't yet named his fish and game commissioner. Could that person come from the list above?

Salmon season tallies $577 million

This year's Alaska salmon harvest paid almost $577 million ex-vessel, a strong result but short of last year's total.

The salmon value is among highlights contained in this year in review presented at last week's Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle.

Check out the 13-page report for interesting notes by region on salmon, crab, herring and other fisheries.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Humble herring quota set for Sitka Sound

The Department of Fish and Game has set a preliminary guideline harvest level of 8,712 tons for the 2015 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery.

It's the smallest GHL since 2003, when the quota was 6,969 tons.

This year's fishery produced a harvest of 16,976 tons on a GHL of 16,333 tons.

The 2015 GHL is subject to adjustment prior to the start of the spring fishery. More details in this official announcement.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fishermen's Finest to build advanced trawler

Fishermen's Finest Inc. is planning to build a highly advanced new factory trawler. That's an artist's rendering above.

The Kirkland, Washington, company last week signed a deal with Dakota Creek Industries Inc. to construct the vessel, to be named America's Finest.

Fishermen's Finest says the 262-foot trawler will be "the first carbon-neutral fishing vessel in the world and will fully utilize every fish caught."

The company already operates two factory trawlers, American No. 1 and U.S. Intrepid. Both were built in the late 1970s.

Fishermen's Finest is part of the so-called Amendment 80 fleet, which targets species such as yellowfin sole, cod and Pacific ocean perch in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Western Alaska mining company indicted

Details in this news release from the U.S. attorney's office.

Friday memorial set for UniSea's Terry Shaff

UniSea Inc., which operates a major processing plant at Dutch Harbor, has announced the passing of Terry Shaff, the company president.

A celebration of his life is set for Friday in Seattle. More details here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Big Bristol Bay sockeye catch expected in 2015

State biologists are forecasting a hefty catch of 38.5 million sockeye salmon next year at Bristol Bay.

Last season's catch was 28.8 million sockeye, well above expectations.

Read the 2015 forecast here.

'Excellent' pink harvest predicted for Southeast

The state is forecasting an "excellent" harvest of 58 million pink salmon next year in Southeast Alaska.

A harvest of that size would be well above the recent 10-year average of 41 million pinks, and would rank among the top 10 harvests since 1960, the Department of Fish and Game says.

Read the forecast here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Former Westward supervisors draw jail time

A federal judge has sentenced two former Westward Seafoods supervisors to jail time in connection with an air pollution case at the company's Dutch Harbor plant.

Here's a lengthy news release from the U.S. attorney's office.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Big news from the shipping world

Matson is taking over Horizon's Alaska operations. Details here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Silver Bay, StarKist sign investment deal

Tuna giant StarKist and its South Korean parent, Dongwon, are taking a 12.5 percent stake in Sitka-based salmon processor Silver Bay Seafoods.

Here's a press release issued today out of Seoul.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Federal suit challenges hired skippers rule

A lawsuit brought against the National Marine Fisheries Service challenges the new "hired skippers" rule in the halibut and sablefish fisheries.

The plaintiffs, Fairweather Fish Inc. and Ray Welsh, must be pretty serious, with six lawyers signing the 40-page complaint.

Welsh is claiming the new rule discriminates against him because of his disabilities.

The suit is pending in the federal court at Tacoma.

For background, here's an item published in Pacific Fishing magazine that explains the hired skippers rule:

The National Marine Fisheries Service on July 28 published a “final rule” to clamp down on the rising use of hired skippers to harvest halibut and sablefish quota. The two fisheries converted to catch shares beginning in 1995. One goal of regulators was to encourage owner onboard fisheries. However, progress toward this goal was slipping because some initial quota share recipients were acquiring more quota and using hired skippers to go catch it. Initial recipients hiring skippers nearly doubled in the halibut and sablefish fisheries between 1998 and 2009, federal data shows. The final rule, which takes effect Dec. 1, will prohibit using a hired skipper to harvest quota acquired after a cutoff date of Feb. 12, 2010. For holders of such quota, the alternatives include climbing aboard the boat and fishing it themselves, or selling the shares.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

SEAS likes Begich, Parnell

The Southeast Alaska Seiners Association is supporting the re-election bids of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican.

SEAS Begich endorsement
SEAS Parnell endorsement

Monday, October 20, 2014

Icy Mist crewman needs medevac

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter yesterday hoisted an injured crewman off the fishing vessel Icy Mist about 150 miles southeast of Sand Point.

The crewman was hurt "after a crab pot fell on him during loading operations," the Coast Guard said.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cargo ship adrift off British Columbia

Canadian and U.S. authorities are monitoring a Russian cargo ship adrift off northern British Columbia.

Here's a news report on the situation.

"We're watching it closely and hoping it won't impact Alaska waters," Julie Speegle, of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau, tells Deckboss.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Togiak could yield another big herring haul

A huge volume of herring is expected again next spring at Togiak, with the forecast calling for a potential harvest of 29,012 tons in the sac roe fishery.

The industry took 25,136 tons last season. The grounds price was $50 per ton.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Snow crab quota jumps 26 percent

The Bering Sea snow crab quota is 67.95 million pounds, a nearly 26 percent increase from last season.

Here's the official announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The snow crab season opens at noon Oct. 15, but typically the industry waits until the new year to harvest the bulk of the crab.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mixed fortunes on the Yukon

Zero Chinook salmon were reported sold on the Yukon River this summer, and the commercial harvest of nearly 531,000 chums was 79 percent above the recent five-year average.

That's the gist of this season summary from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bristol Bay red king crab quota up sharply

The catch quota for the upcoming Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is just under 10 million pounds, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today.

That's a 16 percent increase from last season's 8.6 million pounds.

Here's the official announcement. The fishery opens at noon Oct. 15.

Bristol Bay red king crab is one of Alaska's most valuable crab fisheries.

The department also posted a small quota for St. Matthew Island blue king crab.

We're still waiting for an announcement on Bering Sea snow crab, another lucrative crustacean crop.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

USDA buys $12.8 million in canned pinks

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently completed a major purchase of canned pink salmon, spending a total of $12.8 million.

Four seafood processors made sales: Icicle, Ocean Beauty, Peter Pan and Trident.

The fish will go to child nutrition and other domestic food assistance programs, the USDA says in this purchase summary.

The government purchase helps reduce high inventories built after last year's enormous pink salmon catch in Alaska.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

UniSea penalized $142,175

UniSea Inc., which operates a major seafood processing plant at Dutch Harbor, has settled a case involving alleged Clean Air Act violations.

The settlement includes a $142,175 penalty for UniSea, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says in this press release.

Bering Sea pollock stock surges

Preliminary results indicate a nearly 60 percent increase in pollock survey biomass in the Bering Sea, the National Marine Fisheries Service says. More details here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Will your boat need an observer next year?

The National Marine Fisheries Service has released this draft plan for how the agency intends to assign fishery observers to vessels taking part in Alaska's groundfish and halibut fisheries during 2015.

Deckboss can't be sure, but he believes NMFS is proposing some significant adjustments. Check out the executive summary near the top of the plan.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fishing vessel explodes at Valdez

The commercial fishing vessel Fireman exploded this evening in the Valdez harbor adjacent to the Best Western hotel, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

A person aboard walked off after the blast and went by ambulance to a hospital, the Coast Guard says.

Emergency responders "found the Fireman afloat with the majority of its wheelhouse torn apart by the explosion."

It happened around 7:55 p.m. and the cause is under investigation, the Coast Guard says.

State records show the 35-foot Fireman belongs to Thomas S. Lopez. His address is listed as a postal box in Valdez.

$1,884

This year's Alaska Permanent Fund dividend is $1,884.

Most dividends will be paid by direct deposit on Oct. 2. Only qualified residents of the state will receive a payment.

Last year's dividend was $900.

Save the Chinook!

Two Alaska Native organizations have filed an emergency petition to tighten the limit on Chinook bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Could this be something big?

Government scientists say they are "watching a persistent expanse of exceptionally warm water spanning the Gulf of Alaska that could send reverberations through the marine food web."

Read more here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bristol Bay's $197 million year

This year's Bristol Bay salmon harvest produced a near-record payoff to fishermen.

That's according to this season summary from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

USDA agrees to take Alaska pink salmon

Gov. Sean Parnell just announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted his request to buy surplus canned Alaska pink salmon.

"The purchase of Alaska's canned salmon achieves several goals: It corrects the inventory surplus, helps Alaska's fishing families, and provides high-quality nutrition for food and assistance programs," Parnell said. "Alaska's bounty of pink salmon will provide delicious and nourishing meals for hundreds of thousands of American families. I appreciate the effort of Sen. Lisa Murkowski to make this purchase possible, which will benefit Alaska's families."

Another endorsement for Begich

The Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association likes U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, for another term. Read the endorsement here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lawmakers propose ban on Russian seafood imports

Read the Alaska congressional delegation's letter to the president.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The ex-husband wins

Here's an interesting opinion from the Alaska Supreme Court in a case involving a marital dispute over individual fishing quota.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fisherman with foot injury needs medevac

A Coast Guard helicopter today hoisted an injured crewman off the 116-foot fishing vessel Patricia Lee, located near Dutch Harbor.

The crewman, 27, was reported to have suffered a foot injury, the Coast Guard said.

Monday, August 18, 2014

More on those disaster relief payments

Here's a press release from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Disaster relief payments coming

Cook Inlet and Yukon River commercial fishermen will receive $7.8 million in "direct payments" to compensate for losses resulting from poor Chinook salmon runs, this federal notice says.

Checks "hopefully will go out in September or October," an aide to U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, tells Deckboss.

This is the first installment of the $20.8 million allocated to Alaska under a congressional response to multiple fishery disasters across the nation.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A 'national strategy' on ocean acidification

Two U.S. senators, Mark Begich of Alaska and Maria Cantwell of Washington, say they will offer legislation requiring the government to "prioritize what fisheries and fish habitat are most at risk" from ocean acidification.

Here's a press release.

Begich and Cantwell, both Democrats, are on the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, with Begich serving as chairman.

Friday, August 8, 2014

More on the observer case

"Trawlers are leaving the docks to catch thousands of tons of fish without having an observer on board — this is unacceptable," Oceana says in this press release.

Observer program stands, but NMFS given task

Deckboss has written a few times about The Boat Co. lawsuit, which challenges the revamped fishery observer program implemented in 2013.

This week a federal judge gave the plaintiff a partial victory, as specified in the conclusion of his order (page 48).

Here's a statement from Jim Balsiger, head of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Alaska:

"We are pleased with the court's decision to uphold the North Pacific Groundfish and Halibut Observer Program — a decision which ensures this critical fishery management program will stay in place. While the judge upheld the program, he has asked the agency to prepare a supplemental Environmental Assessment to look at program costs and coverage levels. Going forward, we will work with the court on a schedule for development of that supplemental EA."

The Boat Co. and Earthjustice issued this press release.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Four rescued after seiner capsizes near Valdez

A 40-foot purse seiner, the Auriga, capsized Monday near Valdez, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

The four crewmen climbed aboard the Auriga's skiff and the good Samaritan vessel Cornelia Marie rescued them, the Coast Guard says.

The Auriga was fishing in the vicinity of Eaglek Bay when a storm approached from the southeast.

"The crew ceased fishing operations and prepared for the storm but a large wave reportedly caused the Auriga to capsize," the Coast Guard says. "The Auriga remains capsized and partially submerged in the vicinity of Unakwik Inlet."

The boat had about 18,000 pounds of fish aboard.

State records indicate the Auriga, a fiberglass Beck built in 1980, belongs to Thomas Lopez.

Canada mine disaster raises salmon concerns

The breach of a tailings pond at a British Columbia copper and gold mine could affect Fraser River sockeye, Canadian media report.

Here's one news story. And another.

Now we're rolling

The statewide salmon catch has topped 100 million fish, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

The forecast calls for a harvest of 133 million salmon for the year.

Follow the daily tally here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

NMFS studies 'flow of revenues'

Here's a blurb on some interesting research going on at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle:

Examining the flow of revenues from North Pacific fisheries

The North Pacific fisheries generate close to $2 billion in first-wholesale revenue each year, yet there is no systematic accounting or analysis of the states or cities to where this money flows. In this project we are identifying the main fleets exploiting the North Pacific fisheries and summarizing the revenues earned by the location of residence and hailing port for fleet participants over several years. We hypothesize that the location of residence data for vessel owners is an indicator of where fishing profits are likely to be spent. The hailing port data may be representative of where the vessel obtains a significant portion of its supplies and, potentially, crew members. We are also attempting to identify spatial trends and structural breaks in the distribution of revenues in response to recent management actions. Finally, we hope to examine whether the revenue distribution has consolidated over time. We believe this information will be interesting to the public at large and fishery managers seeking more information on how fleet-level decisions map into the distribution of earnings to different cities and states.

— Ron Felthoven, Chris Anderson and Jenefer Meredith

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More backing for Begich

Another commercial fishing group, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, is supporting the re-election bid of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

Read the endorsement here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

'We are saddened'

Cook Inlet fishermen respond to the court order on a proposed ballot initiative to ban setnets.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Parnell seeks salmon bailout

Alaska's salmon industry is stuck with a crushing inventory of pinks, and it would really, really help if the federal government would buy a bunch (again).

That's the upshot of this letter from Gov. Sean Parnell to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Anti-setnet initiative revived

A judge has issued an order reversing Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell's rejection of a proposed ballot initiative to ban commercial setnets in Cook Inlet and elsewhere.

It means Alaska voters could have a chance to vote on the ban, which supporters believe is necessary to protect king salmon.

Assistant Attorney General Lance Nelson tells Deckboss: "The state will go through its normal evaluation process before deciding whether to appeal the ruling."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Troopers say six boats seized at Togiak

Alaska Wildlife Troopers say they seized six commercial drift gillnet boats recently after they were spotted fishing well outside the Togiak salmon district of Bristol Bay.

Troopers identified the six boats as the Five Gs, the Skammin, the Kalena Annielyse, the Good Deal, the Inuli and the Hammer Time.

A news release posted yesterday said troopers on July 8 conducted a patrol of the Kulukak Bay area after receiving reports of illegal fishing.

A trooper few the area in a Piper Super Cub and discovered multiple vessels operating gear one to two nautical miles outside the district, the news release said.

"The trooper photographed and documented the locations where boats were fishing, and was able to land on the water and interview one of the fishermen," the release said.

A few days later, troopers executed search warrants resulting in the seizure of the six boats.

Several people aboard the vessels were charged with commercial fishing in closed waters, a misdemeanor.

All those charged were said to be from Togiak. They include:

• Rodney Gosuk, 39, owner and permit holder on the Five Gs
• Anthony Poulsen, 46, owner and operator of the Skammin
• Norma Ayojiak, 44, permit holder on the Skammin
• Michael Poulsen, 21, crewmember on the Skammin
• Alvaro Sutton, 35, owner and permit holder on the Kalena Annielyse
• Kevin Harless, 52, owner and permit holder on the Good Deal
• William Byayuk, 22, owner and permit holder on the Inuli
• Leroy Fox, 54, owner and operator of the Hammer Time
• Will Fox, 18, permit holder on the Hammer Time

Most already have pled guilty and been sentenced in Dillingham District Court, troopers said. The troopers didn't specify what the sentences involve.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bristol Bay prices — a disappointment?

We now hear that one major Bristol Bay salmon processor, Alaska General Seafoods, is paying a base price of $1.20 per pound plus 15 cents for chilled fish.

Other major processors are apparently also paying $1.20.

That's the word from AIFMA, the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association.

Most likely, this price will disappoint Bristol Bay fishermen. Coming into the season, many expected $2 per pound or more for sockeye.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bristol Bay salmon surprise keeps growing

The Bristol Bay sockeye catch now stands at almost 27 million fish, or about 10 million more than state biologists expected for the season.

Daily production has held steady at around 1 million fish for the past week.

Of the bay's five fishing districts, the Naknek-Kvichak zone has been the star with a tally of more than 13 million sockeye.

Still no word on what processors intend to pay gillnetters for the fish.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A curious culinary note

During a recent trip, Deckboss perused his in-flight magazine and found an article that says: "More and more chefs are putting bycatch on the menu."

Crewman goes overboard, dies near King Cove

A crewman fell off the commercial fishing vessel Matt Michelle and died near King Cove, the Alaska State Troopers report.

Troopers said the U.S. Coast Guard notified them of the mishap shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday.

Here are further details from a press release:

Preliminary investigation revealed the vessel was occupied by two persons, the skipper and one crewmember. As the anchor was being retrieved a large swell hit the side of the vessel causing the victim to be thrown into the water. The skipper, identified as Raymond Leslie Koso Jr., 48, of King Cove, radioed a distress call as he attempted to rescue the victim from the sea. Koso deployed a life ring and other means but was unsuccessful as the current carried the victim farther from the vessel. Koso eventually managed to reach the victim with a long line and was able to tow him closer to shore. After donning a survival suit, Koso entered the water and pulled the victim ashore. Eventually, Koso was joined onshore by crewmembers of the fishing vessel Miss Roxanne, who responded to the distress call. Efforts to resuscitate the victim were unsuccessful. The body of the victim, identified as Rudy Paul Dushkin Jr., 53, of King Cove, was returned to King Cove aboard the Matt Michelle and efforts are under way for the body to be sent to the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage for further investigation. No personal floatation devices were worn at the time of the incident.

Monday, July 7, 2014

20 million and counting

The Bristol Bay sockeye salmon harvest has topped 20 million fish.

That's substantially more than state biologists had forecast for the season — fewer than 17 million.

The total could climb a good bit higher depending on how much strength remains in the sockeye run. Hundreds of boats continue to work the bay.

Follow the daily tally here.

For you trivia buffs, the record catch in Bristol Bay was 44.3 million sockeye in 1995.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Shutting them down on the Yukon

State and federal officials yesterday took action to stop subsistence fishermen from abusing the rules to target Chinook salmon.

Read the details here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Bristol Bay busts out

Bristol Bay commercial fishermen are netting some huge sockeye hauls, indicating the run could be peaking early this season.

Here's a rundown of recent daily production:

June 29 — 1.07 million fish
June 28 — 2.04 million fish
June 27 — 2.66 million fish
June 26 — 2.04 million fish
June 25 — 1.40 million fish

The fishing has been so hot that some buyers reportedly have placed their fleets on delivery limits to allow processing plants to catch up.

Through Sunday, the baywide catch totaled just shy of 10 million sockeye.

The state preseason forecast called for a harvest of 16.86 million sockeye for the year.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Blotter

Check out The Brig for an avalanche of enforcement news.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Salmon notes

Here are a few highlights from Alaska's young salmon season.

• The statewide, all-species catch stands at about 14 million fish. The forecast calls for a harvest of 133 million salmon for the year.

• Sockeye is the dominant catch so far, totaling more than 11 million.

• In Southeast Alaska, trollers have taken more than 36,150 Chinook salmon in the spring fishery.

• Copper River gillnetters already have exceeded their season forecast of 1.6 million sockeye.

• The action is starting to pick up at Bristol Bay, scene of Alaska's flagship salmon fishery. Gillnetters on Friday landed a monster haul of nearly 2.7 million sockeye, bringing the season tally to 6.8 million. The state has forecast a catch of 16.9 million sockeye for the year.

• On the Lower Yukon River, commercial fishermen using dipnets and beach seines have caught about 600,000 chum salmon, with nearly 4,800 Chinook reported caught and released.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Begich, Young net UFA endorsements

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, says United Fishermen of Alaska has endorsed his re-election bid.

The Begich campaign says longtime Alaska Congressman Don Young, a Republican, also has UFA's support.

Read more here.

UFA is the state's top commercial fishing organization. No word yet whether the group likes Gov. Sean Parnell for another term.

Fukushima radiation update

Testing shows Alaska seafood remains free of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. More details here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Kinneen, Henderschedt confirmed for council

The U.S. Department of Commerce has confirmed Simon Kinneen, of Nome, to a seat on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. He replaces the outgoing Eric Olson.

The department also approved John Henderschedt, of Washington state, for another three-year term on the council.

Here's the official announcement.

Is lightning a problem for Alaska fishermen?

Deckboss is seriously respectful of lightning.

I haven't spent enough time offshore to know if lightning is much of a hazard in Alaska waters.

Regardless, please know this is Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

Alaska fishermen, if you've had a bad bolt encounter, please share the story with us!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Norton Sound king crab to open with lower quota

The Norton Sound summer red king crab fishery is set to open at noon Wednesday. Here's the official announcement.

The overall quota of 382,800 pounds is about 23 percent lower than last year's 495,600 pounds.

2 saved, 1 dead, 1 missing in Ugashik capsizing

The Alaska State Troopers posted this at 11 this morning:

Location: Pilot Point
Type: Search and rescue
On 6/22/14 at 0855 hours, Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers Helo-3 and a helicopter from U.S. Coast Guard Kodiak responded to the Ugashik River near Pilot Point for a report of an overturned skiff with four occupants in the water. Preliminary investigation revealed four commercial fishermen were operating a skiff while fishing on the Ugashik River when the skiff capsized, throwing all four into the water. Winds in the area were estimated at 25 mph with stronger gusts; waves were estimated at 4 feet at the time the skiff overturned. Earnest Pierce, 47, of Nine Mile Falls, Wash., and Brandon Michael Park, 24, of West Richland, Wash., were able to climb on top of the overturned skiff until rescued by other fishing boats. An adult male and a 17-year-old juvenile attempted to swim to shore. The older male was later located in the water and was unresponsive. Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. Efforts by rescuers on scene to locate the missing juvenile were unsuccessful. None of the occupants of the skiff were wearing personal flotation devices at the time of the incident. AST is in the process of locating next of kin. Coast Guard search efforts have been suspended pending further information. Efforts by AST and AWT are continuing.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

King copy

Here's Chinook News, a new publication from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ready for more marine protected areas?

The White House yesterday issued this fact sheet on a raft of new executive actions on oceans.

For the record

Here are a few slightly dated news nuggets Deckboss wasn't able to post promptly:

• Sitka-based processor Silver Bay Seafoods is planning to build a new freezer plant for squid in Ventura, California. It's a $22 million project set to open in late spring 2015, a company executive says.

• The National Marine Fisheries Service has published this notice of a proposed amendment to allow the rebuilding, replacement or retirement of American Fisheries Act vessels. This is the Bering Sea pollock fleet.

• China has lifted its ban on shellfish imports including geoduck clams from Alaska and the West Coast. Here's a statement federal officials released a few days ago.

• Gov. Sean Parnell has renominated Dorothy Childers, Gerry Merrigan and Caryn Rea to the North Pacific Research Board. Click here for background on the nominees and the board.

• Jerry McCune of Cordova, president of United Fishermen of Alaska, is running as a Democrat for state representative, District 32.

• We now have some indication of how that $21 million in federal salmon disaster relief will be divvied up. About $9.7 million will go to the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, and $11.1 million will go to Cook Inlet, NMFS says. Still no word on how much will go directly to fishermen.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Higher risk than usual for Bristol Bay processors?

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association has posted a new sockeye market analysis.

"This will be the riskiest year in recent memory for Bristol Bay processors," the report says. "Wholesale prices for sockeye are at peak levels and price resistance from buyers is increasing."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hook-injured crewman hoisted off F/V Optimus

The U.S. Coast Guard yesterday airlifted an injured crewman off the 58-foot fishing vessel Optimus.

The 28-year-old crewman had "sustained a severe laceration from a fishing hook," the Coast Guard said.

The helicopter rescue happened 90 miles south of Seward.

Here's a video showing the hoist.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Huge harvest, paltry payoff

Here's the season summary from the recent Togiak sac roe herring fishery.

The numbers look pretty weird.

The harvest was enormous at 25,136 tons.

The payoff was lousy. At an estimated $50 per ton ex-vessel, the fishery was worth a grand total of $1.26 million.

Last year's grounds price was $150 per ton.

Togiak was like church the Sunday after Easter, with very few boats showing up.

Only 17 purse seiners and 24 gillnetters took part in the fishery, compared with 26 seiners and 37 gillnetters in 2013.

Can the once riotous Togiak herring fishery fall any farther?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Who wants a piece of Adak pollock?

A 2004 federal law granted the Aleut Corp., landlord on far-flung Adak Island, exclusive and lucrative rights to harvest Aleutians pollock.

The pollock was meant to help boost economic development at Adak, a former naval station.

But Aleut was never able to make much use of its catch rights due to extensive regional fishing closures related to the endangered Steller sea lion.

Now it appears regulators might roll back the closures, and Aleut is inviting interest from pollock fishermen and processors.

Here's the solicitation.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Help for Chinook?

A major breakthrough in genetic "fin-printing" could help conserve weak stocks of Chinook salmon, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says. More details here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Copper River starts slow

Thursday's 12-hour season opener at the Copper River produced an estimated catch of 27,700 sockeye salmon and 1,000 Chinook, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

The department had anticipated a catch of 33,000 sockeye for the period.

Deckboss hasn't heard any price reports but reckons the fish paid handsomely, as they always do at the start of the season.

The Copper River District will open at 7 a.m. Monday for another 12-hour period.

The MSC merry-go-round

Back in November, the London-based Marine Stewardship Council said Alaska salmon had earned recertification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery (except for Prince William Sound).

The MSC "client" securing the recertification was the Purse Seine Vessel Owners' Association, a Seattle-based fishing group.

PSVOA, you'll recall, stepped in after most of Alaska's major salmon processors in 2012 decided to pull out of the MSC program.

Well, now the matter has taken yet another twist.

A notice posted May 6 on the MSC website said PSVOA "has withdrawn as the MSC client for this fishery."

The new client, the notice said, is the Alaska Salmon Processors Association.

Never heard of it, you say?

That's because it's very new. State records show the Alaska Salmon Processors Association is a nonprofit corporation formed on April 10.

Four persons are listed as officers in the association. All are connected with processors who apparently see some market value in continuing with the MSC ecolabel.

Here's a rundown of the four officers:

Robert Zuanich, Sitka, president
Affiliated with Silver Bay Seafoods LLC

Cassandra Squibb, Anchorage, vice president
Affiliated with Copper River Seafoods Inc.

Joe Kelso, Seattle, secretary
Affiliated with Ekuk Fisheries LLC

Norman Kilborn, Kodiak, treasurer
Affiliated with International Seafoods of Alaska Inc.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ho, look at that halibut bycatch!

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is scheduled to meet June 2-10 in Nome.

One item on the agenda is this report from the International Pacific Halibut Commission on halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

Deckboss perused the paper, and frankly came away with only one useful fact:

BSAI halibut bycatch was an estimated 5.2 million pounds in 2013.

Sound like a lot? Actually, this was the second-lowest level of halibut bycatch since 1985 (see Table 2 on page 20).

How the Moonlight Maid met her demise

Here's a marine accident brief from the National Transportation Safety Board on the sinking of the salmon tender Moonlight Maid.

The boat was transiting from Seward to Kodiak in heavy seas on Sept. 20, 2012, when she "sprung a plank and began flooding," the report says.

The crew of four abandoned ship into a life raft, and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter hoisted them to safety.

The NTSB report says "inadequate maintenance of the aging wooden vessel," a former Navy subchaser built in 1942, contributed to the hull failure.

A very interesting report here, with excellent photos.

Weighing changes

The National Marine Fisheries Service was to hold a public workshop yesterday in Seattle on proposed changes to, among other things, prevent tampering with scales used to weigh catches at sea.

Hmmm. Wonder if American Seafoods attended?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fuel spill reported in Nushagak River

Thousands of gallons of diesel reportedly spilled into the Nushagak River upstream of Dillingham after a barging vessel hit a submerged object early Wednesday.

Here's a situation report with more details and a map.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It's all over at Togiak

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game today closed the Togiak herring fishery for the season.

The catch totaled 25,136 tons, or better than 90 percent of the preseason quota of 27,890 tons.

The staggering cost of bycatch

We have a huge international conference on bycatch running through the week in Anchorage.

Deckboss regrets he wasn't in the meeting room yesterday, when analysts with the National Marine Fisheries Service were scheduled to give a presentation on the economic impacts of bycatch in U.S. commercial fisheries.

Here's an eye-opening summary of their talk:

This presentation will describe the economic impacts of early closures due to bycatch in US fisheries, by describing past case studies as well as evaluating the economic impacts of discarding fish in US commercial fisheries. Premature closures in the fisheries reviewed resulted in potential losses ranging from $34.4 million to $453.0 million annually. Nationally, bycatch estimates in the form of regulatory discards are annually reducing the potential yield of fisheries by $427.0 million in ex-vessel revenues, and as much as $4.2 billion in seafood-related sales, $1.5 billion in income, and 64,000 jobs.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A complete loss of electrical power, and then...

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada recently concluded its investigation into just how the factory trawler American Dynasty rammed a docked navy frigate last year at Victoria.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

It's nearly salmon time!

The Department of Fish and Game just announced the Copper River salmon fishery will open for the season at 7 a.m. next Thursday.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Herring notes

Here's an update on various herring fisheries around the state, as compiled from Department of Fish and Game announcements this morning.

• The Kodiak herring harvest stood at about 2,500 tons.

• At Togiak in remote Southwest Alaska, scene of the state's largest herring fishery, the harvest tally was 16,951 tons. Nearly 11,000 tons remain on the preseason quota.

• A good bit of herring is available farther north in the Kuskokwim Bay, Nelson Island and Cape Romanzof areas. But the fish likely will go unharvested due to "lack of industry interest," with no processors registered to buy.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Commerce IG looks at catch shares, observers

Deckboss hasn't had a chance to read them, but here are a couple of intriguing items from the Commerce Department inspector general:

Review of NOAA Catch Share Programs

Announcement of Observer Program Audit

Thursday, May 1, 2014

'Extremely poor'

State and federal managers have released their Yukon River salmon fisheries outlook. Here's how it starts:

The 2014 Chinook salmon run is expected to be extremely poor and could be the worst on record.

Read the whole thing here, if you dare.

Togiak herring fishery jogs along

The herring harvest at Togiak stood this morning at 4,662 tons, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported.

The fishery started Sunday with a season quota of 27,890 tons.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Scientists to launch new ocean acidification study

The research in Prince William Sound will make use of wave gliders that look like surfboards.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's on at Togiak

The Togiak sac roe herring fishery opened at 6 p.m. today.

Here's the announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The quota is an enormous 27,890 tons, but the roe market reportedly is lousy. So it'll be interesting to see whether processors, gillnetters and seiners show much appetite this year for Togiak herring.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Trawl company fined over illegal lingcod catch

Here's the press release.

'Deadliest Catch' turns 10

The reality TV show Deadliest Catch kicks off its 10th season tonight.

Featured boats will include the Northwestern, Time Bandit, Wizard, Cape Caution, Saga, Seabrooke and Cornelia Marie.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Confirmed

The Alaska Legislature today confirmed all of Gov. Sean Parnell's appointees, including the following:

Board of Fisheries
Sue Jeffrey, Kodiak
John Jensen, Petersburg
Fritz Johnson, Dillingham
Reed Morisky, Fairbanks

Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission
Bruce Twomley, Juneau

Fishermen's Fund Advisory and Appeals Council
Larry Bartman, Manokotak

More on the proposed CFEC transfer

Deckboss didn't have time to catch this morning's legislative hearing on House Bill 386, but was able to snag this sponsor statement.

The bill would fold the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission into the Department of Fish and Game.

Basically, state Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, seems to be saying the commission's workload has become too light to justify its continued existence as a standalone agency.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is CFEC done?

Down in Juneau, the House Special Committee on Fisheries has scheduled a hearing for 8 a.m. tomorrow to discuss a new bill titled:

An act repealing the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and transferring its duties to a commercial fisheries entry division established in the Department of Fish and Game and the office of administrative hearings."

We note that only four days remain in the legislative session.

Hubbards win, state loses

Word out of Seward is Jim and Rhonda Hubbard, a prominent local commercial fishing couple, have been cleared at trial of all charges brought against them last year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New owner has big plans for Cook Inlet hatchery

Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association has taken ownership of the Port Graham Hatchery and aims to produce millions of dollars in pink salmon.

Here's a press release with all the details.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Much smaller Alaska salmon harvest expected

The state forecast calls for a commercial catch of about 133 million salmon this season, less than half the 2013 tally.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Kodiak seiners to get crack at pollock

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game plans to open a Kodiak pollock seine gear test fishery sometime prior to June 9.

The vessel registration deadline is 5 p.m. Friday.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Aspelund to take helm of Bristol Bay RSDA

Sue Aspelund has been chosen as the new executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

She succeeds Bob Waldrop, who recently resigned after guiding the association through its formative years.

For Aspelund's background, click here.

Feds see no need for Southeast herring protection

Listing Southeast Alaska herring under the Endangered Species Act is "not warranted at this time," the National Marine Fisheries Service has concluded.

Since 1980, herring in Southeast have shown positive trends in abundance, growth rate and productivity, the agency says.

Here's the press release.

Groundfish industry gets good news on Stellers

A new biological opinion supports a partial rollback of controversial commercial fishing restrictions imposed in 2011 to protect endangered Steller sea lions in the Aleutians.

That's the upshot of this announcement today from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Three retain seats on fish board

Gov. Sean Parnell has reappointed Sue Jeffrey, John Jensen and Reed Morisky to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

Here's the press release.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Chinook quota soars for Southeast trollers

Here's the gist of today's announcement from the Department of Fish and Game:

The preseason troll treaty harvest allocation for 2014 is 325,411 Chinook, an increase of 195,549 fish when compared with last year's preseason troll allocation of 129,862 fish.

Dangerously in debt?

Here's the latest Moody's credit rating for American Seafoods Group, operator of the largest pollock factory trawler fleet in the eastern Bering Sea.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sitka herring season closes as full quota taken

The Sitka Sound seine fleet saw a fourth and final herring opener Saturday, taking an estimated 3,935 tons.

That brings the total to 17,231 tons. The "guideline" harvest limit going into the season was 16,333 tons.

The season is now closed, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today.

As for prices paid to fishermen, Deckboss has no definitive numbers at this point.

The full value of the catch generally isn't established until after processors market the product.

The size of the Sitka catch isn't the only price factor. It also matters what other Pacific herring fisheries produce. These fisheries stretch from California to remote Western Alaska, with some occurring before Sitka and some after.

Sitka herring are valued primarily for their eggs, or roe. The pack goes almost entirely to Asia.

The notoriously combative Sitka fishery apparently proceeded without incident this season. Either that, or news of any trouble simply hasn't reached us yet.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What's the best use of disaster funds?

Several groups from the Yukon-Kuskokwim and Cook Inlet regions have been tabbed to help fashion a spending plan for $20.8 million in federal disaster relief coming to Alaska in response to poor Chinook salmon runs. Details here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Closing in on the finish

We've now had three openers in the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery, and seiners have taken an estimated 13,500 tons, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says.

That leaves us only about 2,800 tons shy of the preseason quota.

The fleet could polish that off as soon as tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A professional Board of Fisheries?

Down in Juneau, a legislative committee this week is holding a series of hearings on Upper Cook Inlet salmon.

The inlet is the most contentious fishing zone in the state, with commercial, sport and other sectors continually battling over the salmon resource.

The state Board of Fisheries recently finished a tough, two-week meeting on Upper Cook Inlet.

One topic arising in the hearings before the Senate Resources Committee, chaired by Anchorage Sen. Cathy Giessel, is whether it might be time to move to a professional fish board, rather than the appointed, volunteer and generally layman board we have now.

Serving on the Board of Fisheries, if done right, is a big and tedious job. Members annually must sit through a string of multiweek meetings, consider hundreds of often arcane proposals, and read mountains of paper from advocates, biologists and fishermen.

Tempers can flare at these meetings, as seemingly everyone in attendance argues his particular issue is absolutely just and vital.

One wonders, in fact, why any sane person would care to sit on the seven-member Board of Fisheries.

The question is whether a professional board might be better suited for the weighty job of setting state fisheries policy.

Today, the Alaska Senate Majority held a press conference and spent a few minutes talking about the board.

Click here to see the press conference. The pertinent discussion begins about 21 minutes in.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Peter Pan says, yo, it ain't about us!

Peter Pan Seafoods, which operates a huge processing plant in remote King Cove, has come out with a statement on the proposed road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Supporters including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski say the road is vitally needed for public safety. It would connect King Cove to Cold Bay, which has a better airport for medevacs.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, however, has denied construction of the road.

Peter Pan's statement responds to criticism such as this from Bruce Babbitt, who argues the road would be an exorbitant gift to the company.

But the road isn't about Peter Pan, writes Dale Schwarzmiller, vice president for Alaska production.

By law, he says, the road would be for "noncommercial purposes."

Making more salmon

Southeast regional planning teams are scheduled to meet April 8 in Juneau to review, among other things, some interesting hatchery proposals.

Hatcheries, of course, are very important in Alaska. The state's annual salmon harvest wouldn't be nearly so large or lucrative without them.

For some years now, processors have lobbied for increased hatchery production to satisfy market demand for Alaska salmon.

One proposal on the April 8 agenda comes from the Sitka-based Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, which is seeking a capacity increase of 50 million chum salmon eggs.

Fry would be set to sea from a new remote release site in Crawfish Inlet. NSRAA projects an average return of 1.1 million chums worth about $6.5 million annually.

Another hatchery operator, Juneau-based Armstrong-Keta Inc., has submitted a plan to increase pink salmon production.

Another decent herring haul at Sitka

Sunday's opener at Sitka, the second of the season, produced an estimated 5,000 tons of herring.

Total harvest to date is now about 10,300 tons, the Department of Fish and Game says.

That's well over half the preseason quota of 16,333 tons.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sitka herring opens, fleet nets 5,000 tons

The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery saw its first opener Thursday afternoon.

The action lasted two hours 35 minutes.

"Preliminary processor hails total 5,000 tons," the Department of Fish and Game said. "No fishery planned for today to allow for processing of yesterday's harvest."

The quota for this year's fishery is 16,333 tons.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A catch share concept

If federal regulators move forward with a catch share program for Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries such as pollock and cod, some of the catch shares should go to "community fishing associations."

Right?

Some Alaska legislators evidently think so. They've introduced this resolution urging consideration of the idea.

The House Special Committee on Fisheries is scheduled to give the resolution a hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, chairs the committee.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Box 'em up!

The state has received an application for a proposed "live geoduck clam boxing facility" at Ketchikan.

See the project details here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Standing by at Sitka

The Sitka herring fleet will go on two-hour notice effective at 8 a.m. Thursday.

More details in this announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Good job, bad job

Here are dueling columns, published in the Anchorage Daily News, on the recent Board of Fisheries meeting on Upper Cook Inlet.

Mark Hamilton, chair, Kenai River Sportfishing Association
Frank Mullen, commercial fisherman, Homer

Friday, March 14, 2014

Longtime leader leaving Bristol Bay association

This just in from the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association:

Bob Waldrop resigns as BBRSDA executive director

Robert Heyano, President of the Board of Directors of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, announced today that the board has accepted the resignation of its executive director, Bob Waldrop, who has served in that capacity since inception of the association. The board wishes Bob well in his next endeavors.

The board has appointed Mike LaRussa, who presently serves as the Treasurer of the association, to serve as interim executive director until a permanent successor can be named. The board is currently interviewing candidates and is confident that it will name a successor within 60 days.

Trawler crewman dies in welding accident

A crewman died this week in an explosion aboard the Bering Sea factory trawler Alaska Ocean, Unalaska police said.

Preliminary investigation found that welding set off gas inside a storage locker that held a leaking acetylene tank, said Mike Holman, Unalaska deputy chief.

The blast unhinged the locker door, which struck Franz d'Alquen, 48, from Arizona. He was declared deceased shortly thereafter.

The accident happened at 9:20 p.m. Tuesday. The Alaska Ocean was about 165 miles out of Unalaska at the time.

The 376-foot vessel belongs to Seattle-based Glacier Fish Co.

The body has been sent to the state medical examiner's office, Holman said.

Here's a brief obituary.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Coast Guard suspends search for man overboard

The U.S. Coast Guard just announced it has suspended the active search for a man reported overboard north of Unimak Island in the Bering Sea.

Searchers covered 64 square miles over 10 hours.

The Coast Guard said it received a report this morning from the Seafreeze Alaska that a crewmember of the F/V Seeker had gone overboard.

State records list the owner of the 98-foot Seeker as James M. Seavers, of Newport, Ore.

The Coast Guard has not named the missing man.

A Coast Guard helicopter completed one search of the area, returned to Cold Bay to refuel, and then did a second search.

Shortly thereafter the cutter Alex Haley arrived on scene to assist in the search.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the missing man," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Chris Cole. "The decision to end a search is one of the most difficult choices to make as a search and rescue controller."

Man reported overboard in Bering Sea

The U.S. Coast Guard says a search is under way for a man reported overboard from the F/V Seeker 10 miles northwest of Unimak Island in the Bering Sea.

A Coast Guard helicopter out of Cold Bay and several good Samaritan vessels are searching the area. The cutter Alex Haley also is responding.

Conditions on scene include winds of 35 miles per hour with 10-foot seas.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Man needs medevac after mishap with crab pot

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter conducted a medevac this morning for a man who was "suffering from numerous injuries after a crab pot fell on him."

The injury occurred aboard the F/V Miss Courtney Kim near Sanak Island, the Coast Guard said.

The patient, who wasn't identified, was picked up at King Cove and carried to Cold Bay. From there, he was transferred to Anchorage.

Processor dinged $205K for ammonia dumping

Federal authorities say North Pacific Seafoods today was penalized $205,000 after pleading guilty to dumping ammonia into the Kodiak city sewer.

Here's the press release.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Attention shellfish growers

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is holding a series of public meetings, starting Monday in Homer, on revising the state's aquatic farm regulations.

Details here.

Murkowski wants China meeting on shellfish ban

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is urging U.S. officials to send a delegation to China to try to persuade that country to lift its import ban on geoduck clams and other shellfish from Alaska and the West Coast.

Here's a letter Murkowski sent last week.

Check this NOAA website for background and updates on the China situation.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A new era for halibut

The 2014 halibut season opens at noon tomorrow.

This is the first year for the new "catch sharing plan," which establishes a clear allocation of fish between the rival commercial and charter fleets.

We're also entering another season of generally reduced catch limits, as the halibut stock continues to decline.

Here's an announcement from regulators laying out the various quotas and fishing restrictions for the season.

The fishery for black cod, or sablefish, also opens tomorrow.

The U.S. Coast Guard is urging safety among fishermen, and so is Deckboss!

Good fishing, everybody.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Huge sockeye run coming to Fraser River?

Check this article out of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Governor picks Kinneen for council seat

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell just named Simon Kinneen, of Nome, as his top pick for a seat on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

If the commerce secretary approves, Kinneen will replace Eric Olson, whose third and final term expires Aug. 10.

Olson currently chairs the council, which helps regulate commercial fisheries off Alaska.

Here's the governor's official announcement.

A pollution pass for fishing boats?

Deckboss hears U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and 21 cosponsors today introduced legislation to permanently exempt fishing vessels from having to have permits for incidental discharges.

Here's the relevant language:

SEC. 7. EXEMPTIONS.

(a) IN GENERAL. — No permit shall be required or prohibition enforced under any other provision of law for, nor shall any standards regarding a discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel under this Act apply to —

(1) a discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel if the vessel is less than 79 feet in length and engaged in commercial service (as defined in section 2101(5) of title 46, United States Code);

(2) a discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel if the vessel is a fishing vessel, including a fish processing vessel and a fish tender vessel (as defined in section 2101 of title 46, United States Code);

(3) a discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel if the vessel is a recreational vessel (as defined in section 2101 of title 46, United States Code);

Sitka herring quota reduced

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has set a final quota of 16,333 tons for the upcoming Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery.

More details here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Down on the farm

Icicle Seafoods is selling its interest in a Chilean farmed salmon operation to an ownership group that includes two familiar names: Dennis Guhlke and Don Giles.

All the details here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Togiak herring outlook

Environmental conditions suggest the Togiak sac roe herring harvest could go off a bit earlier this year, state biologists say.

The preseason quota remains at 27,890 tons, a very large number.

Daily processing capacity is expected to be up substantially this season.

More details in this fishery outlook.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ocean Beauty wins Philippines food aid contract

Ocean Beauty Seafoods has won a state contract to supply a large volume of canned Alaska pink salmon for disaster relief in the Philippines.

Ocean Beauty edged out three other processors — Icicle, Peter Pan and Trident — with a low bid of $246,758.

The state invited bids for a minimum of 6,048 cases of pink salmon, with each case containing two dozen 14.75-ounce cans.

The fish is going to Cebu, Philippines, where a devastating typhoon as well as a strong earthquake struck last year.

Alaska's salmon industry has a huge inventory of canned salmon onhand, thanks to last year's record pink salmon harvest.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is paying for the Philippines donation with "industry assessment funds," spokesman Tyson Fick says.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The power of the ballot box

As we've reported previously here on Deckboss, one of Alaska's six Community Development Quota organizations — Coastal Villages Region Fund — believes it is getting screwed on fish and crab catch shares.

Coastal argues its allocations are disproportionately small relative to the large population in its region.

That means CDQ companies representing smaller populations enjoy outsized catch shares, Coastal says.

Thus far, Alaska's congressional delegation has rebuffed Coastal's requests to rebalance the CDQ allocations, which have been in place for several years.

Now Coastal is mounting a voter registration drive, which would seem a warning to any elected official not onboard with rebalancing.

“Honestly, we lack the political savvy that some individuals from other smaller CDQ groups possess, but our sheer voting power is a force to be reckoned with," says Coastal's Dawson Hoover. "We are being politically discriminated against because of these unjust allocations."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Washington watch

We have a major congressional hearing Thursday on "North Pacific Perspectives on Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorization."

Click here for details, including the witness list.

Yet another Ocean Phoenix medevac

For the third time this month, a Coast Guard helicopter has retrieved a medical patient off the Bering Sea processing ship Ocean Phoenix.

Tuesday's medevac involved a crewman, described as 25 to 30 years old, with a "severe injury to his left hand," the Coast Guard said.

The 680-foot Ocean Phoenix was 85 miles northwest of Cold Bay.

Alaska to receive $21 million in disaster aid

Alaska will receive nearly $21 million of the $75 million Congress recently appropriated for fishery disaster relief nationally.

Here's the official announcement.

Federal officials in 2012 declared a disaster in Alaska due to poor Chinook salmon returns to the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, as well as Cook Inlet.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Coast Guard flies American Dynasty medevac

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter today rescued a 48-year-old man on the Bering Sea factory trawler American Dynasty about 95 miles northwest of Cold Bay.

The man was reported to be suffering from severe abdominal pain, the Coast Guard said.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fish cops stay busy

Federal authorities say the F/V Castaway unlawfully fished with longline gear in a coral habitat protection area. They're proposing a $13,335 fine.

Read about this and other Alaska cases in this national summary of NOAA enforcement actions for the second half of 2013.

Also, we've posted several new items on our sister blog, The Brig.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

An opportunity in Cordova

The Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association is looking to hire up to two boats to help supply ice during the upcoming salmon season.

For more details, check out this bid solicitation.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Grab your dredge!

Due to legislative inaction in Juneau, limited entry for the state's weathervane scallop fishery expired at the end of 2013.

The fishery now reverts to open access.

Vessels looking to target scallops inside state waters of the Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Kodiak or Dutch Harbor areas must register with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by April 1.

More details in this press release.

Deckboss wonders what will happen if numerous vessels sign up. The scallop stock is small, and the department will need to control fishing effort.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What the heck?

The board of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is meeting Thursday, and has this curious item on the agenda.

Halibut help coming

The National Marine Fisheries Service says it's implementing a plan to tighten halibut bycatch limits in the Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries.

Here's the press release.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Weak forecast for Taku kings

The run forecast for large Taku River king salmon is too low to allow a fishery in early May, the Department of Fish and Game says.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Kodiak pollock seiners?

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has called a public meeting for Feb. 26 in Kodiak to discuss a potential walleye pollock seine gear test fishery.

More details in this official announcement.

Hot tip!

Looking for seafood or maritime employment?

Go to Alaska Marine Jobs, a new job board from Alaska Sea Grant.

Scallop scuffle

For the latest on the continuing efforts in Juneau to maintain limited entry for the state's small commercial scallop fishery, check out this email blast from United Fishermen of Alaska.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Twice to the rescue

For the second time in less than a week, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter has flown out to the giant Bering Sea processing ship Ocean Phoenix to conduct a medevac.

The master of the 680-foot vessel called the Coast Guard this morning to report a 30-year-old male crewman had an eye injury and needed medical assistance.

The ship was 34 miles northwest of Cold Bay.

On Wednesday, the Coast Guard flew to the Ocean Phoenix to pick up a 25-year-old female crewman with chest pains.

The Ocean Phoenix is considered the largest fish-processing vessel in the United States.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

EPA fines three fishing companies

Three companies operating large groundfish vessels off Alaska have paid fines to settle pollution cases, the Environmental Protection Agency announced today.

The three companies are Blue North Fisheries, Fishing Company of Alaska and Golden Fleece.

Here's a press release.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A 'stunning' cut

Coastal Villages Region Fund is most unhappy about the new halibut catch limits. Read about it here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sea lion goes for fisherman at Sitka

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Sitka
Type: Sea lion mauling
On 1/26/14 Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Sitka Post, received a report that a 19-year-old Sitka man had been attacked by a sea lion while the vessel he was working on was offloading fish at Seafood Producers Cooperative. At this time, investigation has shown the man was sitting on the railing of the fishing vessel with his back to the water. A sea lion, described as a larger bull, jumped from the water and attempted to grab the man in the buttocks, causing the man to fall forward into the vessel. The man received minor injuries that did not require medical attention. Troopers are working closely with the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine what might have caused the attack. Troopers would ask citizens to use caution while on docks near Sitka Channel. Troopers also would remind fishermen and hunters not to dump any carcasses or scraps in the harbor. This will prevent sea lions from associating people with food. To report aggressive sea lion behavior in Sitka, please contact troopers at (907) 747-3254 or NMFS at (907) 586-7225.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hatchery honcho wanted in Kodiak

The Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association is looking for an executive director.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Effort to ban setnets is now a court case

Backers of a proposed ballot initiative to ban commercial setnets in Cook Inlet and elsewhere have sued Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell over his rejection of the measure.

The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court at Anchorage, argues Treadwell relied on an "erroneous legal opinion" from the attorney general in rejecting the initiative.

Here's a press release from the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, which filed the suit.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Parnell says state has deal with Walmart

Note: The following press release from the governor's office comes in apparent response to this pronouncement from Walmart.

Office of Gov. Sean Parnell

Jan. 24, 2014

State, Walmart announce agreement on seafood sustainability

JUNEAU — Following focused efforts by the state of Alaska to educate, inform and reassure Walmart about Alaska's commitment to responsible fisheries management, Gov. Sean Parnell today announced that Walmart and the state had come to an agreement, and that the retailer will continue to purchase Alaska seafood.

"This is great news for Alaska's seafood industry and the state as a whole," Parnell said. "We are very happy to hear that Walmart, the world's largest retailer, will continue to buy Alaska seafood. I want to especially commend the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, the Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute for their hard work in showcasing the sustainability of Alaska seafood. Maintaining choice in seafood sustainability certifications is important to the state and the fishing industry, and Walmart's decision is a major step in the right direction.”

Representatives from ASMI and several state officials have been working with Walmart and The Sustainability Consortium for several months, including a delegation visiting corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., last September. Just a couple of weeks ago, Walmart sent a delegation to Alaska to continue discussions clarifying aspects of the Responsible Fisheries Management Certification program, and to see firsthand the work being done to ensure Alaska's fish are harvested responsibly.

In addition to continuing to purchase Alaska seafood, Walmart has amended its sourcing policies to allow for multiple certification programs that meet principles outlined by TSC. The state will continue working with TSC as ASMI considers the recently released TSC principles.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MLK and CDQ

Coastal Villages Region Fund evidently feels its quest for larger community development quotas is on a par with the civil rights movement.

Coastal posted this on its Facebook page on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

Let us honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. who peacefully lead the nation for the equal treatment of all American Citizens who want the American Dream. His famous "I Have A Dream" speech was given at the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."

The residents of Coastal Villages are seeking equality in the CDQ program for more jobs and more benefits. While the region we serve has the highest economic impoverished rates, our residents receive among the lowest CDQ allocations per person. Our voices, our votes, and our lives do matter and the US Congress must recognize our efforts for the benefit of many Western Alaskans.

#JustFixCDQ

Washington watch

Here are a couple of interesting notes out of Washington, D.C.

• Congress has passed a giant appropriations bill that includes $75 million for fisheries disaster relief in several states including Alaska. Federal officials in 2012 declared a disaster in Alaska due to poor Chinook salmon returns to the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, as well as Cook Inlet. It's not yet clear how much of the $75 million Alaska will receive, or how the money will be spent.

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it will buy canned pink salmon again this year. That's good news for Alaska's salmon industry, which faces a big challenge in marketing last year's record catch of more than 215 million pinks. The USDA has purchased as much as $8.4 million worth of canned pink salmon every year since 2011 for use in food aid programs. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently made a $20 million buying commitment.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Halibut catch limit down 11 percent

The International Pacific Halibut Commission has set a 2014 catch limit of 27.5 million pounds, an 11 percent cut from last year.

The season will run from March 8 to Nov. 7.

Here's the full breakdown of catch limits by regulatory area.

For comparison, here are last year's limits.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Here's your Copper River salmon forecast

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is projecting a commercial catch of 1.6 million sockeye and 22,000 Chinook this year at the ballyhooed Copper River.

Last year produced 1.58 million sockeye and 8,688 Chinook.

Click here for more details.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New boss named for NMFS

Rather out of the blue, it seems, the Obama administration today appointed a new chief at the National Marine Fisheries Service.

It's none other than Eileen Sobeck. Read more about her here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Know fish?

The Kodiak Daily Mirror is looking for a reporter.

"Experience covering commercial fishing issues is a big plus," says this job listing.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

We have halibut commissioners!

President Obama has named his picks for the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

They are Robert D. Alverson, James W. Balsiger and Donald R. Lane.

Here's a press release from the White House.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Initiative to ban setnets rejected

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell today rejected a proposed ballot initiative to ban setnets in Cook Inlet and other areas of Alaska.

Treadwell took the action based on a state legal opinion calling the initiative unconstitutional.

More details here.