Monday, December 12, 2016

Potential for strong herring catch at Sitka

The quota for the 2017 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is 14,649 tons, the Department of Fish and Game announced today.

In this year's fishery, which unfolded in March, seiners took 9,758 tons on a target harvest level of 14,741 tons.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sad news on the Exito case

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended the search for two missing men from the sunken vessel Exito.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A further Exito update

Deckboss just got off the line with Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Meredith Manning, who provided this update on the Exito sinking:

The search for the two missing Exito crewmen continues.

The Coast Guard, in its initial news release, mistakenly referred to the Exito as a "fishing vessel."

The boat was hauling cargo including 55-gallon drums and an X-ray machine from Dutch Harbor to Akutan. It was working for Trident Seafoods, which has a huge processing plant at Akutan.

More on the Exito sinking

The U.S. Coast Guard in Dutch Harbor advises that the Exito was not engaged in fishing at the time of yesterday's sinking. Rather, the vessel was being used for "cargo or freight purposes."

The Exito was among 25 crab boats selected in 2004 for a $97 million federal buyout. As part of the deal, the retired vessels were barred from commercial fishing anywhere in the world.

Trouble in the Bering Sea

Three crewmen were rescued and a search continues for two more following the sinking of the F/V Exito northeast of Dutch Harbor, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

More in this news release.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

What sank the F/V Alaska Juris?

A lengthy public hearing into the sinking of the F/V Alaska Juris will begin next week in Seattle, the U.S. Coast Guard says.

The Bering Sea trawler went down in July, but all 46 people aboard were rescued safely.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Pollock power in the Bering Sea

The quota for Bering Sea pollock is likely to remain high next year based on the new stock assessment.

Government scientists are recommending an ABC (acceptable biological catch) of 2,800,000 metric tons, the highest level ever and well above this year's 2,090,000 tons.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will adopt the 2017 TAC (total allowable catch) at its December meeting in Anchorage.

For a number of reasons, the council typically sets a conservative TAC well below the ABC.

Based on the strong stock assessment, it appears the council will be free to set a TAC at least as high as this year's 1,340,000 tons.

Bering Sea pollock is Alaska's largest fishery by volume.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bristol Bay catch projected lower in 2017

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a commercial catch of 27.5 million sockeye salmon next year at Bristol Bay.

Last season saw a harvest of 37.3 million sockeye.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Poor outlook for Upper Cook Inlet sockeye

The state's 2017 forecast projects a commercial harvest of 1.7 million sockeye in Upper Cook Inlet.

That would be 1.2 million fewer than the 20-year average, the forecast says.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Some significant MSC news

Alaska's salmon fishery — with one big exception — is certified as well-managed and sustainable under the Marine Stewardship Council program.

The exception is Prince William Sound, a top salmon-producing region. The region lacks MSC certification due at least in part to questions about the impact of the Sound's large salmon hatcheries on wild fish stocks.

Now comes hope that Prince William Sound might soon achieve certification, joining the rest of the state's salmon fishery.

MRAG Americas, the company that certifies the Alaska salmon fishery to the MSC standard, recently issued an announcement that an MSC assessment of Prince William Sound salmon has begun.

The assessment, if favorable, could result in certification of the Prince William Sound salmon fishery in March 2017.

An assessment team is meeting in Juneau this week and will take up Prince William Sound on Wednesday, Amanda Stern-Pirlot, team leader for the assessment, tells Deckboss.

MSC certification is regarded as important for marketing Alaska salmon, particularly in Europe. Certification allows producers to label their product with the blue MSC ecolabel.

The Prince William Sound assessment comes at the request of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, the Seattle-based trade group that holds the MSC certificate for the Alaska salmon fishery.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Another Southeast seine buyback?

Here's a federal notice indicating Southeast Alaska salmon seine permit holders soon will vote on whether to shoulder a $5.8 million loan to retire 22 permits from the fishery.

The voting period starts Dec. 13, the notice says.

In 2012, Southeast seiners approved a $13.1 million loan to remove 64 permits.

Currently, there are 315 permits in the fishery.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Strong outlook for Southeast pink salmon

The state is forecasting a strong harvest of 43 million pink salmon next year in Southeast Alaska.

That would be a big rebound from this year's poor catch of 18.3 million pinks in Southeast.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Severe cut for Bering Sea snow crab

The Bering Sea snow crab quota for the season opening Oct. 15 is just under 21.6 million pounds.

That's down 47 percent from last season's limit of 40.6 million pounds.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bad news for bairdi

The Bering Sea bairdi Tanner crab fishery will not open this season, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today.

That's a significant blow to the Alaska seafood industry. Last season, the fleet had a catch quota of nearly 20 million pounds of bairdi.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Plenty of herring expected again at Togiak

Here's the Togiak herring forecast for 2017. It shows a quota of 22,943 tons for the sac roe fishery.

Last season, the industry took more than 15,000 tons of herring at Togiak, but that was far short of the 28,782-ton quota.

Bristol Bay red king crab quota cut substantially

The Bristol Bay red king crab quota for the 2016-17 season is just under 8.5 million pounds, a 15 percent reduction from last season.

The fishery opens at noon Oct. 15.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Troopers help injured troller deliver his catch

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Sitka
Type: Public assist
On 9/21/16 Peter Krovina, 67, of Sitka, suffered a severe hand injury while commercial trolling for coho salmon near Cape Edgecumbe west of Sitka. Krovina, who was fishing alone, was able to render first aid for his injury and return to port. His injury required transportation out of Sitka for treatment. Because Krovina was unavailable during the offload, wildlife troopers assisted by facilitating the delivery of his commercial catch at a processor.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cordova hatchery chief charged

State prosecutors have filed criminal charges against David Reggiani, general manager of Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp., and two others in connection with a fuel oil spill in 2013 at the Cannery Creek Hatchery.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Bristol Bay in review

Here's the 2016 Bristol Bay salmon season summary from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The sockeye harvest was an impressive 37.3 million fish.

Average ex-vessel price was 76 cents per pound for a total sockeye fishery value of $153.2 million.

That's a big jump from the $92.4 million tallied in 2015.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Negative outlook for crab fisheries

Results from this year's Eastern Bering Sea bottom trawl survey suggest we could see substantial quota reductions in Alaska's two most valuable crab fisheries.

Bristol Bay red king crab
The biomass estimate for legal-sized male crab is 22,424 tons, down 17.6 percent from last year's estimate of 27,209 tons. (See Table 6 on Page 31 of the survey report.)

Bering Sea snow crab
The biomass estimate for legal males is 51,670 tons, down 27.8 percent from last year's 71,550 tons. (Table 19, Page 44)

Fishery managers will announce catch limits in the coming weeks. The crab fisheries open Oct. 15.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Does poor pink season constitute a disaster?

While fishing continues, it's evident the 2016 pink salmon season is a bust.

The statewide commercial catch stands at about 36 million fish, far short of the 90 million forecast.

The harvest is so poor that state Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, wants Gov. Bill Walker to declare a disaster, which could lead to some sort of relief for the industry.

Stutes further suggests giving fishermen a break on making their state loan payments this year.

Kodiak fisheries reporter Laine Welch has more details here.

Stutes chairs the House Special Committee on Fisheries.

In a letter to Stutes, the Walker administration says it's prepared to work with fishermen on loan restructuring or other assistance.

Disaster relief and loan forbearance is bound to hold some popular appeal. That could benefit Stutes, who is seeking re-election this year.

Her challengers include Kodiak independent Duncan Fields, who has fished salmon commercially and served on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Government already is doing much to aid the Alaska salmon industry. In late July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it had purchased nearly $10 million in canned pink salmon for child nutrition and other food assistance programs.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Gangster fishing?

The F/V Temptation with significant damage to its port side.

The Alaska State Troopers are investigating an incident in which a commercial salmon seiner was rammed in Hidden Bay in western Prince William Sound.

It occurred the morning of Aug. 15 during the pink salmon fishery.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said three vessels were involved in the incident: the Temptation, Chugach Pearl and Silver Streak.

She was unable to say which boat did what.

But a reader tells Deckboss it was the Temptation that took the hit, as evidenced by these photos.

A 23-year-old crewman aboard the Temptation was injured, Peters said. He reportedly needed a Coast Guard medevac.

Now, we all know Alaska commercial fishing can get a bit rough, with boats swapping curses and even a little paint. Tempers can easily flare on the water.

But this case might have had an extra dimension.

The story goes that a group of cooperating boats had formed a blockade to prevent competing vessels from accessing the pink salmon.

When the Temptation, which was not part of the group, tried to run through, a blockading boat rammed the Temptation midships on the port side.

Did it really happen this way?

Deckboss can't say for sure. All we know is the Temptation appears to have taken a pretty hard lick.

The reader who brought this case to our attention says this kind of rough, organized fishing has gone on for too long and must stop.

Let's hope the troopers can get to the bottom of the Hidden Bay case.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

F/V Aleutian Sable fined $156K

Federal authorities have posted their national enforcement report for the first six months of the year.

One Alaska case carries a $156,091 penalty:

F/V Aleutian Sable — Owner and operator were charged in eight counts under the Magnuson-Stevens Act for failing to maintain a wheel watch on the vessel; for harassing observers, having the purpose or effect of interfering with the observers' work performance, or otherwise creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment; for failing to notify the observers, on multiple occasions, at least 15 minutes before fish were brought on board to allow the observers to sample the catch; and for retaining Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) halibut on board the vessel in excess of the total amount of unharvested IFQ halibut applicable to the vessel category and Regulatory Area 4A in which the vessel deployed fixed gear, and in excess of the IFQ that was currently held by all permit holders aboard the vessel. A $156,091 NOVA (Notice of Violation and Assessment of Administrative Penalty) was issued.

See the report for lots more Alaska enforcement actions, including cases that have settled.

Governor backs off CFEC overhaul

Here's the press release.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Man found dead on boat in Southeast Alaska

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Ketchikan
Type: Death investigation
On 7/30/16 at approximately 0547 hours, the Alaska State Troopers in Ketchikan were notified by the U.S. Coast Guard of an unresponsive male aboard the F/V Odin in Anita Bay. The male was identified as Charles Richards, 28, of Seattle. Crewmembers found Richards in his bunk unresponsive. Wrangell Search and Rescue was notified and responded. Wrangell SAR transported Richards to the Wrangell clinic where he was pronounced deceased. An Alaska wildlife trooper in Wrangell responded to investigate. The state medical examiner's office was notified and the deceased was transported for examination. The exact cause of death is unknown pending results from the SME. Next of kin have been notified.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

'Presumed sunk'

Searchers have given up trying to find the abandoned trawler Alaska Juris.

The vessel is "presumed sunk in approximately 5,400 feet of water," says this news release from the Unified Command.

Friday, July 29, 2016

What became of abandoned trawler?

The search continues for the F/V Alaska Juris.

Here's a news release.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Update on the F/V Alaska Juris

All 46 people off the F/V Alaska Juris have been rescued safely, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

More details in this news release.

The Coast Guard also has posted some video.

Major incident in the Aleutians

The Associated Press is reporting that 46 people have abandoned a sinking vessel, the Alaska Juris, near Kiska Island.

Read the story here.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Case dismissed

A Juneau judge has thrown out a lawsuit challenging Gov. Bill Walker's dismantling of the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.

Here's the ruling.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Standing up for dipnetters

State Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, last week sent this letter urging the Department of Fish and Game to curtail Cook Inlet commercial fishing to free up more salmon for dipnetters.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bristol Bay bounty

Gillnetters have had a big year at Bristol Bay.

The sockeye catch stands at 35.9 million fish, with the season now grinding to its conclusion. That's well above the state's preseason harvest forecast of 29.5 million.

Even better, the major processors have posted a base price to fishermen of 75 cents a pound, up from last year's disappointing 50 cents.

The Naknek-Kvichak District has been the most productive of the bay's five fishing zones with a catch of more than 13 million sockeye.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Salmon notes

Here are a few notes on Alaska's commercial salmon season thus far.

• The Bristol Bay harvest stands just shy of 5 million sockeye, and the daily catch topped 1 million fish for the first time on Saturday. The state has forecast a catch of 29.5 million sockeye this year.

• Farther north, the relatively new processing plant at Platinum is closed this season, leaving Kuskokwim fishermen without a buyer. Coastal Villages Region Fund provided this internal memo explaining the closure.

• The general summer troll season started Friday in Southeast Alaska. Trollers are targeting 122,000 treaty Chinook in the first opening.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Atka tragedy

On June 14, a terrible event occurred on remote Atka Island when a van carrying workers from the Atka Pride Seafoods plant rolled over, killing three and injuring several others.

The driver of the van has since been charged with manslaughter, DUI and other offenses.

Deckboss obtained the charging documents, which describe the tragedy.

Atka Pride Seafoods is a subsidiary of Juneau-based Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Laukitis, Peterson confirmed for council

The federal government has approved Alaska Gov. Bill Walker's choices for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council:

Michael "Buck" Laukitis, of Homer
Theresa A. Peterson, of Kodiak

Laukitis and Peterson replace David Long, of Wasilla, and Duncan Fields, of Kodiak, on the council.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Coast Guard keeps busy

A crewman aboard the 79-foot fishing vessel Pacific Star needed a helicopter medevac Saturday after deck rigging struck him in the head, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

The Coast Guard isn't naming the 26-year-old crewman, who was hoisted off the boat some 74 miles southeast of the city of Kodiak. Here's video of the rescue.

On Friday, a Coast Guard helicopter rescued two fishermen from the disabled 26-foot gillnetter Sunrise southwest of Cordova. Again, we have video.

The rest of the story

Last week came word that Jeff Kauffman, of Wasilla, had resigned from the International Pacific Halibut Commission and that the Obama administration had appointed Linda Behnken, of Sitka, to replace him.

So why would Kauffman resign?

Well, it seems he was involved in a halibut fishing violation.

The boat named in the case, the F/V Saint Peter, belongs to the Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association, one of Alaska's community development quota companies.

In its most recent annual report, CBSFA lists Kauffman as a company executive with a salary of $126,951.

Federal enforcement officials initially assessed a civil penalty of $61,781 in the Saint Peter case, which settled for $49,000.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Death, injuries reported in Kodiak cannery fire

One person died and three others were injured in a fire at a former salmon cannery in Kodiak's Uyak Bay, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

Here's a news release with photos.

The Alaska Historical Society has background on the old cannery site.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Crab rationalization a decade in

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is set to meet next week in Kodiak.

One of the items on the agenda is this 10-year review of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab rationalization program.

You remember crab ratz, right?

It was a revolution in crab fishery management, implemented in the fall of 2005. It involved assigning individual fishing quotas to what was a dangerously competitive crab fleet. The program also established processing shares for the companies that pack the lucrative catches of king and Tanner crab.

So, how has this program worked out?

That's what the 10-year review tries to tell us.

Deckboss imagines very few will care to read the full 244-page report. So you might want to skip straight to Page 226 of the document (Page 235 of the PDF) for the summary and conclusion.

One of the most interesting points in the conclusion is that "incremental consolidation continues in both the harvest and processing sectors."

This builds, of course, on the radical fleet consolidation we saw right after rationalization was implemented.

A deeper discussion of fleet capacity and participation begins on Page 69 of the PDF. Some really interesting details there.

And be sure to check out the section on crew employment and earnings beginning on Page 106 of the PDF. My impression from the discussion and tables in this section is that captains and crewmen — those fortunate enough to still have jobs in the reduced fleet — are making considerably more money than they did pre-rationalization. But perhaps you will read the data differently.

The council isn't expected to make any changes to the crab rationalization program at this meeting.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

That's it for Great Pacific

With a new salmon season upon us, one processor is calling it quits.

Seattle-based Great Pacific Seafoods has discontinued operations and will liquidate through bankruptcy.

Here's a Seattle Times article with a link to the bankruptcy filing.

Great Pacific ran processing plants at Anchorage, Kenai and Whittier, and also had operations at Kotzebue.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Starbound victim identified

The crewman who died on the factory trawler Starbound was 19-year-old Daniel Christensen, the King County Medical Examiner's Office said.

The office released these findings:

Cause of death: electrocution
Manner of death: accident

The Seattle Police Department provided the following narrative from the incident report. Names were redacted (deleted), per department policy.

SPD GO 2016-169297

On 05/15/2016, I was assigned as 3B3 as a uniformed Officer. At approximately 0102 hours, I responded to a DOA at 1441 N Northlake Wy.

Upon arrival, SFD (Seattle Fire Department) led Sgt Harris and myself onto a large ship and down into the lower section of the boat. SFD said that the Deceased, ______, had been accidentally electricuted in a large commercial electrical panel.

I investigated the scene and there were no signs to suggest that ______'s death was not accidental. I photographed the scene and I later uploaded the pictures into DEMS.

I then contacted the Worker who discovered ______'s body, ______. ______ stated that ______ arrived on the ship for work at approximately 1745 hours. ______ said that when ______ was not seen around 0000 hours for lunch, the workers all began to search the ship for him. ______ told me that he discovered ______'s body around 0045 hours, slumped down inside of a commercial electrical panel.

I called the Medical Examiner, ______, who arrived at approximately 0307 hours. ______ photographed and investigated the scene. I then requested that SFD respond to assist in extracting ______'s body up out of the ship.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Starbound update

We still know very little about a death that occurred a week ago aboard the factory trawler Starbound.

The vessel was moored in Seattle at the time of what is believed to have been a workplace accident.

The Starbound recently had undergone extensive modification at a shipyard in Anacortes. The work included stretching the vessel to bring its length overall to about 300 feet.

The Starbound is among the largest fishing vessels working off Alaska, harvesting pollock in the Bering Sea.

An attorney for Starbound LLC told Deckboss on Friday that a crewmember was "found unresponsive" in or around the engine room of the vessel last Saturday evening.

The attorney wouldn't discuss the circumstances of the death. He said he was not at liberty to provide the victim's name or age.

The company is cooperating with local authorities and with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, which are investigating, the attorney said.

We've been unable to collect any useful information thus far from OSHA or the Coast Guard.

Ownership of the vessel is complex.

One minority owner is APICDA, the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association. Based in Juneau, the association holds rights under the federal community development quota (CDQ) program to harvest pollock on behalf of Western Alaska villages.

APICDA's latest annual report offers this description of Starbound LLC:

STARBOUND, LLC

APICDA Joint Ventures owns 20% of this pollock trawl catcher processor. Other partners include Aleutian Spray Fisheries (65%), Barry Ohai (10%) and Karl Bratvold (5%). Aleutian Spray serves as the managing partner. This vessel harvests and processes approximately 80% of APICDA's pollock CDQ quota.

According to its website, Aleutian Spray is a family business established in 1969 by Henry Swasand.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Death aboard factory trawler reported

Deckboss is looking into a report of a death last Saturday aboard the Seattle-based factory trawler Starbound.

So far, we've been unable to obtain an official account of what happened.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Copper River gets going

Copper River salmon fishermen started the 2016 season with a 12-hour opener Monday, and the catch was fairly modest: 1,300 Chinook and 22,500 sockeye.

The fishery will open again at 7 a.m. Thursday for a 24-hour period, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in this news release.

Opening day prices to fishermen reportedly were very high, but average sockeye size was very small, according to one media report.

As usual, the first Copper River salmon of the season arrived in Seattle with considerable fanfare.

Alaska Airlines said it planned to rush deliver 80,000 pounds of fish, working with three major processors — Ocean Beauty, Trident and Copper River Seafoods.

You can see photos of the fishy festivities on Twitter using #CopperRiverSalmon.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

AIFMA rebrands

Deckboss received the following announcement on Friday from the organization formerly known as AIFMA, the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association:

Introducing the Bristol Bay Fishermen's Association

We are pleased to announce that after fifty years AIFMA has changed its name to the Bristol Bay Fishermen's Association (BBFA). The new name more accurately describes who we are, where we fish, and the fact that we are organized.

We are glad to make the change and are looking forward to addressing key issues for our membership in the coming years.

BBFA Board Members

David Harsila, President
Matt Hakala, Vice President
Bob Bonanno, Secretary Treasurer
Matt Hakala
Bruce Jolma
Fred Marinkovich
Darryl Pope
Everett Thompson
George Wilson

Bristol Bay Fishermen's Association (formerly AIFMA)
P.O. Box 60131
Seattle, WA 98160
206-542-3930
www.bristolbayfishermen.org (under construction)

Representing the interests of Bristol Bay, Alaska salmon fishermen since 1966.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Icicle sold — again

Canadian aquaculture company Cooke today announced a "definitive agreement" to purchase Seattle-based Icicle Seafoods.

Here's the press release.

This is the second time in less than a year that an Icicle sale has been announced.

In June 2015, a deal was announced to sell Icicle to Indonesian interests. But the deal fell through.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lawsuit challenges CFEC dismantling

Here's a lawsuit seeking to block implementation of Gov. Bill Walker's recent administrative order transferring key functions of the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission to the Department of Fish and Game.

The plaintiffs are Bob Thorstenson Jr., a commercial fisherman and lobbyist, and United Fishermen of Alaska.

The lawsuit contends the administrative order is unconstitutional and unlawfully sidesteps the Alaska Legislature.

Juneau attorney Bruce Weyhrauch, representing Thorstenson and UFA, is himself a former state legislator.

Naturally, the state is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Platinum in play

A reader reports hearing on good authority that the Goodnews Bay processing plant will not open this season.

The plant, located near the remote Western Alaska village of Platinum, belongs to Coastal Villages Region Fund, one of state's community development quota companies.

It was built at a reported cost of $35 million and began operations in the summer of 2009.

Deckboss asked Coastal Villages about its plans for the plant this year and received the following reply from Angie Pinsonneault, director of business development.

Every year we evaluate a number of factors in deciding whether, when, and for how long to open the plant. We are in the midst of that process now. No decisions have been made yet.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mark your calendar

The Alaska Legislature has passed an act establishing Aug. 10 of each year as Alaska Wild Salmon Day.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It's on at Togiak

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

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

The industry has another huge quota this year at 28,782 tons.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Confirmed

The Alaska Legislature today confirmed the governor's appointments to the Board of Fisheries — Al Cain, Israel Payton and Robert Ruffner.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

News of the weird

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Craig marine waters
Type: Suspicious circumstances
On 4/10/16 at 1134 hours, Alaska Wildlife Troopers received a report of a suspicious box floating in the marine waters near Craig. AWT responded via the P/V Interceptor and discovered the box was a military shipping container for a guided missile. During the investigation, a mariner in the vicinity radioed AWT to report they had located an additional guided missile shipping container. Explosives Ordinance Disposal was contacted and helped determine both containers were void of their original contents and the containers were safe to remove from the water to be disposed of. The history of the containers, or where they originated, is unknown at this time. Information on tags attached to the containers was passed along to military authorities.

And the winners are...

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has announced prize winners for sablefish and lingcod tag recovery.

Chinook situation brightens for trollers

The state has announced the Chinook salmon quota for this year, and it appears Southeast Alaska trollers will enjoy a substantially better catch this summer season compared to last.

Trident makes big move in Europe

Seattle-based Trident Seafoods Corp. announced it has acquired a value-added processing plant in Germany.

The purchase price was not disclosed.

"The company we acquired today has long been a major user and marketer of single-frozen wild Alaska pollock, and this is a logical fit for us," said Trident CEO Joe Bundrant. "Trident can now offer European customers the assurance of full control of our product supply chain at a time when transparency is becoming increasingly important to consumers."

More in this press release.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Where do you live, really?

Here's an interesting memo from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission discussing the "serious concern" of false Alaska residency claims.

Friday, April 1, 2016

ASMI board news

Gov. Bill Walker recently made appointments to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors.

• Tom Enlow, CEO of processor UniSea, replaces Peter Pan Seafoods CEO Barry Collier on the board. While Collier reapplied, the governor went with an "Alaska-based" choice in Enlow, a Walker spokeswoman said.

• Richard Riggs, CEO of Silver Bay Seafoods, fills a vacant seat last held by former Icicle Seafoods CEO Amy Humphreys.

• Mark Palmer, CEO of Ocean Beauty Seafoods, is reappointed to the board.

At its meeting Thursday in Juneau, the board elected Jack Schultheis, general manager of Kwik'pak Fisheries, as chairman.

You can see the full ASMI board lineup here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

UFA likes Murkowski for another term

United Fishermen of Alaska, the state's top commercial fishing association, is endorsing U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for re-election.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fishing finance

Here's an interesting lawsuit, now pending in Alaska federal court, that sheds light on how processors stake fishermen.

It's all over at Sitka

The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery has closed for the season.

The fish didn't much cooperate this year, and the harvest of about 10,000 tons fell well short of the preseason target of 14,741 tons.

Deckboss hasn't heard a thing regarding prices to fishermen. Have you?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Plenty of capacity, processors say

A new survey indicates Bristol Bay processors will have more than enough capacity to handle this year's projected sockeye harvest.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sitka herring fishery plods along

Sitka seiners scratched up an estimated 1,800 tons of herring yesterday, bringing the total harvest for the season to 9,770 tons.

About 4,970 tons remain on the quota, the Department of Fish and Game said in this fishery update.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Smaller salmon harvest expected this year

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a commercial catch of 161 million salmon, well below the 268 million taken last year.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fire ravages Kwik'pak buildings in Emmonak

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Emmonak
Type: Structure fire
On 3/19/16 at approximately 1328 hours, Alaska State Troopers and the Emmonak village public safety officer were notified of a structure fire and smoke from a Kwik'pak Fisheries building in Emmonak. AST and the VPSO arrived on scene to find smoke coming from the windows of a large warehouse. The VPSO started to organize firefighting efforts and AST secured the area and ensured the surrounding buildings were evacuated. Fire suppression efforts on the building were unsuccessful due to failed and inoperable equipment. The fire quickly spread, completely destroying three Kwik'pak Fisheries buildings. The fire continued to spread, destroying two Yukon Marine Manufacturing buildings. The fire continued to burn throughout the evening. No injuries or burns have been reported, and no foul play is suspected. Damage is currently estimated in excess of $3 million.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A fair start

Sitka Sound seiners took an estimated 3,735 tons Thursday in their first opener of the season.

Another opener is expected on Saturday. More details here.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

And they're off!

The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery just opened.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sitka watch

The Sitka Sound herring fishery goes on two-hour notice effective 11 a.m. Thursday.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Peterson, Laukitis named to North Pacific Council

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has nominated Theresa Peterson, of Kodiak, and Michael "Buck" Laukitis, of Homer, for seats on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

More details here.

If confirmed, Peterson and Laukitis will replace Duncan Fields, of Kodiak, and David Long, of Wasilla.

Fields has served his limit of three consecutive terms, while Long has served only one term.

A Walker spokeswoman tells Deckboss that while Long has done a good job and was considered for reappointment, the administration elected to go in a different direction with Laukitis.

Therefore be it resolved...

Here's a resolution signed by quite a few fishing, processing and hatchery players urging the Legislature and governor to "carefully analyze the cumulative impact of any additional taxes and fees levied on the seafood industry."

The resolution also opposes the 12.5 fisheries royalty proposed under Senate Bill 198.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Sitka herring quota downsized a bit

The Department of Fish and Game is now forecasting a target harvest of 14,741 tons for this year's Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery.

That's a step down from the preliminary guideline harvest level of 15,674 tons announced back in November.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Two more fishy bills filed in Juneau

House Bill 358 would establish a "fisheries bycatch tax." The sponsors are Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, and Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage.

House Bill 366 would establish "regional community permit banks" for certain commercial fishing permits. The sponsor is Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Royalty proposed on Alaska seafood catches

State Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, today introduced Senate Bill 198 "establishing a 12.5 percent Alaska fisheries royalty on seafood caught commercially in the state."

FYI, the state collects a 12.5 percent royalty on many of its oil leases.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Processors association announces new addition

Looks like another regulator is joining the ranks of the regulated.

Here's the press release.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Is 'merger' another word for this?

Here's big news from longline heavies Blue North and Prowler Fisheries.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So long, CFEC

Gov. Bill Walker has signed an administrative order transferring the administrative and research functions of the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission to the Department of Fish and Game.

The move will save the state more than $1.3 million a year, Walker said in a press release.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Troller jailed at Sitka after drunken ruckus at sea

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Sitka
Type: Multiple offenses
On 2/13/16 at 1347 hours, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and Sitka police responded on the P/V Courage to reports of a fishing vessel attempting to ram other boats near Cape Edgecumbe during the Sitka Sound winter salmon troll fishery. Investigation revealed Timothy D. Demmert, 33, of Klawock, was operating the 47-foot power troller F/V Emmanuel and had intentionally run over gear of other fishermen causing loss of the gear and loss of fishing time. Demmert refused a boarding at sea by troopers and was eventually boarded in Sitka harbor at 1824 hours where he was found to be under the influence of alcohol and in possession of a loaded shotgun. Demmert was arrested and remanded to Sitka jail on charges including DUI watercraft, misconduct involving a weapon, refuse boarding, interfere with commercial gear, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. Bail was set at $10,000 cash performance bond. The investigation is continuing and more charges are likely to be forwarded to the district attorney's office.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Betting on herring spawn

State Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, has filed House Bill 294 to create a "herring spawn classic."

The classic would be "a game of chance in which prizes are awarded for the closest guess of the postseason preliminary estimate of nautical miles of shoreline receiving spawn of Pacific herring, as determined by the Department of Fish and Game from aerial surveys between March and May," the bill says.

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska would operate the classic, Kreiss-Tomkins says in this sponsor statement.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Injured man airlifted off Trident vessel

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter on Sunday hoisted an injured fisherman off the F/V Barbara J near Unimak Pass.

The man was injured in a fall down a stairwell, the Coast Guard said.

The 110-foot Barbara J belongs to Trident Seafoods and uses pot gear to target cod and crab.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fishing for favor in Juneau

Now that we're well into the legislative session, Deckboss thought it would be interesting to check the Alaska Public Offices Commission lobbyist directory to see who has fishy business in the state capital.

My search turned up quite a few seafood interests employing lobbyists this year. Here's the list:

• Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers
• APICDA Joint Ventures
• Armstrong-Keta Inc.
• Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.
• Coastal Villages Region Fund
• Cordova District Fishermen United
• Groundfish Forum
• Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association
• Northwest Farm Credit Services
• Ocean Beauty Seafoods LLC
• Pacific Seafood Processors Association
• Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp.
• Purse Seine Vessel Owners' Association
• Southeast Alaska Seiners Association
• Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association
• United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters
• Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association

Some of these interests evidently see a strong need for a Juneau lobbyist, based on the sums they're spending.

For example, APICDA Joint Ventures is paying its lobbyist, Jerry Reinwand, a $60,000 annual fee.

The Purse Seine Vessel Owners' Association is paying Kent Dawson $50,000, and Ocean Beauty Seafoods is paying Reed Stoops $45,000.

Bob Thorstenson Jr. remains the king crab of Juneau fish lobbyists. He's pulling down a total of $155,000 from four clients — Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, Armstrong-Keta, the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association and the Southeast Alaska Seiners Association.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

An impending vacancy on the fish board

Bob Mumford reportedly intends to step down from the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

The former state wildlife trooper was appointed to the board less than a year ago.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Halibut catch limit up slightly

The International Pacific Halibut Commission today announced catch limits for the 2016 season.

The coastwide limit of nearly 29.9 million pounds is up slightly from last year's 29.2 million pounds.

The season will open March 19 and run to Nov. 7.

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

For comparison, here are last year's limits.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tuna man to take helm of halibut commission

Details in this official announcement.

Gulf trawlers to stand down, rise up

Gulf of Alaska trawlers plan to suspend fishing so they can attend the upcoming North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Portland.

The trawlers are worried about the current direction of long-running efforts to "rationalize" the Gulf groundfish fisheries.

Back in the MSC fold

The return of Alaska's major salmon processors to the Marine Stewardship Council program is now official with the signing of this certificate of conformity.

The document lists all of the companies eligible to use the blue MSC ecolabel, which evidently is quite important in certain markets.

Unfortunately, the certification picture remains muddled as Prince William Sound, one of Alaska's top salmon-producing regions, remains excluded from the certificate. This stems from questions about the impact of the area's large hatcheries on wild salmon and herring populations.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Which would you buy?

Food City, a Virginia-based grocery chain, is offering the following in its weekly advertising circular:

• Fresh, farm-raised salmon fillets, $5.99 a pound

• Wild-caught sockeye fillets, previously frozen, $8.99 a pound

That's a tough choice for consumers, no?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Here's your Copper River salmon forecast

The state forecast calls for a commercial catch of 1.62 million sockeye and 27,000 Chinook this year at the Copper River.

That compares to 1.56 million sockeye and 22,772 Chinook taken last year.

Trident pioneer Kaare Ness crosses the bar

Kaare Ness, a founding partner in Trident Seafoods, has died.

A native of Norway, Ness made his way to Alaska and "became not only a highline crab skipper, but a loyal partner and counselor to so many others, including Chuck Bundrant with whom he built the Billikin, Alaska's first modern king crab catcher-processor," the company said in a press release. "Together they founded what has become North America's largest vertically integrated seafood harvesting and processing company — Trident Seafoods."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Catching up

Deckboss was preoccupied recently and failed to post some noteworthy items. So here, for the record, is a roundup of what we missed.

• The International Pacific Halibut Commission, which meets this week in Juneau, posted these proposals for 2016 catch limits.

• The Commerce Department has approved an amendment to tighten Bering Sea halibut bycatch limits.

• A state legislator has filed a bill to ban the sale of genetically modified fish in Alaska.

• Matt Marinkovich will not run for another term on the board of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

• The Alaska Board of Fisheries has rejected purse seining on the lower Yukon River.

• Fishing Company of Alaska's Karena Adler has crossed the bar.

• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied it issued a preemptive veto of the Pebble mine.

• Roland Maw has been charged in connection with false residency claims on applications for commercial fishing permits and Permanent Fund dividends.

• Acting on a directive from Congress, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has updated its seafood list so that fish caught in foreign waters can no longer be labeled "Alaska pollock."

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making another pollock buy.

• The Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska pollock fisheries have won Marine Stewardship Council recertification.

• Unalaska has a new police chief.

Increased fish taxes proposed

Gov. Bill Walker is proposing an array of measures to deal with the state budget gap caused by the decline in oil revenue.

The measures include spending cuts, a "modest income tax," increased motor fuel and alcohol and tobacco taxes, and more.

The governor also is looking to the oil, fisheries, mining and tourism industries to "contribute to the solution."

In fisheries, Walker has offered legislation to increase tax rates on seafood processors.

According to this fiscal note, the Department of Revenue estimates the higher fish taxes would raise an extra $18.3 million in fiscal year 2017.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mmm, yum!

Deckboss was watching CNN one night this week and caught this delicious ad touting wild Alaska salmon.

The ad was from Blue Apron, whatever that is.

UFA weighs in

United Fishermen of Alaska, the state's flagship commercial fishing group, is spelling out its policy position as legislators grapple with the state budget crunch.

Here are three UFA documents addressing key issues:

UFA resolution on state fiscal crisis

UFA resolution on state fisheries loan funds

UFA letter on Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission

Saturday, January 16, 2016

More fish-related legislation in Juneau

Another bill of interest to the commercial fishing industry has been filed ahead of Tuesday's start to the Alaska legislative session.

House Bill 241 is titled "An act relating to the nonresident surcharge for commercial fishing permits."

See the very end of the three-page bill for the key language.

The sponsor is Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fishy bill filed ahead of legislative session


The Alaska Legislature goes back into regular session Jan. 19 and some lawmakers already have prefiled bills, including one "establishing a fisheries enhancement permit."

House Bill 220 is sponsored by Rep. David Talerico, R-Healy. He's co-chair of the House Resources Committee.

No sponsor statement is available yet for HB 220, and the impetus for the legislation is unclear from the language of the bill itself.

So make of it what you will.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Reaction to setnet ruling

Two industry groups are applauding the Alaska Supreme Court opinion blocking a proposed statewide vote on banning commercial setnets in Cook Inlet and elsewhere.

Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association press release

Resources for All Alaskans press release