Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lawsuits a'flyin'

You'll recall Deckboss telling you about a hearing set for Friday in state Superior Court in the case of Aleut Enterprise suing to evict Adak Seafood from the fish processing plant on Adak Island.

Well, Deckboss trudged all the way down to the dang courthouse only to find the hearing had been called off.

It seems the matter has been transferred to federal court.

And, wouldn't you know, Adak Seafood has brought a lawsuit of its own against Aleut Enterprise alleging breach of contract and a bunch of other bad stuff.

By the way, just to remove any mystery, I saw a recent court document in which Kjetil Solberg, who founded the fish plant back in 1998, identifies himself as "plant and operations manager for Adak Seafood" and a resident of the island.

2010 halibut catch limits, season dates set

The International Pacific Halibut Commission, meeting in Seattle, on Friday set catch limits and season dates for the 2010 fishery.

The six-member commission broke from the recommendations of its scientific staff in setting an overall limit of 50.67 million pounds, 1.97 million pounds higher than the staff advised.

For Southeast Alaska (Area 2C), commissioners set a catch limit of 4.4 million pounds, a 12.4 percent cut.

That's actually good news for Southeast fishermen, who were facing a 26.1 percent cut under the staff recommendation. The catch limit in Southeast has declined steeply in recent years.

The season will open at noon March 6 and close at noon Nov. 15. The start date is 15 days earlier than last year.

Here are the catch limits by area, expressed in millions of pounds:

Regulatory areaIPHC approved 2009 limitsIPHC approved 2010 limits% change

For a map of IPHC regulatory areas, click here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A better year for Copper River salmon?

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has posted its 2010 salmon forecast for Prince William Sound and the fabled Copper River, and the numbers look decent.

State biologists expect a commercial catch of 17,000 Copper River Chinook salmon and 1.27 million sockeye.

Copper River gillnetters took 9,456 Chinook and 896,469 sockeye last year.

In the late 1990s, the Copper River produced well in excess of 60,000 Chinook and 2 million sockeye in some years.

The fishery opens in mid-May.

Who wants a council seat?

Two members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Sam Cotten of Eagle River and Duncan Fields of Kodiak, will see their three-year terms expire in August.

From what I've heard, these two first-termers want another hitch on the 11-member council.

But challengers for the two seats already are stacking up in Gov. Sean Parnell's office. The governor later this year will submit his choices to the U.S. commerce secretary for final approval.

So who wants a council seat?

The governor's office provided Deckboss this list of people who have applied thus far:

Mike Heimbuch, a Homer commercial fisherman

Matt Moir, general manager of Alaska Pacific Seafoods in Kodiak

Donald Poulos, an Anchorage resident and former commercial fisherman out of Kodiak and Chignik

Michael Robbins, an Anchorage attorney

Dick Tremaine, an Anchorage resident and asset manager for Norton Sound Economic Development Corp.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Get out!

I see now that Aleut Enterprise, the landlord out on Adak Island, has sued in state Superior Court to evict Adak Seafood, nascent operator of the island's lone fish processing plant.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday in Anchorage.

Deckboss, of course, has been following the Adak conflict for quite some time, most recently here.


Check out The Brig for recent fisheries enforcement news plus the latest Dutch Harbor report!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Target tosses farmed salmon; Greenpeace thrilled!

Here's the press release:

Jan. 26, 2010

Target Eliminates Farmed Salmon From All Target Stores

Target Owned Food Brands Will Feature Only Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon

MINNEAPOLIS — Target today announces that it has eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings in Target stores nationwide. This announcement includes Target owned brands — Archer Farms and Market Pantry — and national brands. All salmon sold under Target owned brands will now be wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Additionally, sushi featuring farm-raised salmon will complete its transition to wild-caught salmon by the end of 2010. In consultation with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Target is taking this important step to ensure that its salmon offerings are sourced in a sustainable way that helps to preserve abundance, species health and doesn’t harm local habitats.

Many salmon farms impact the environment in numerous ways — pollution, chemicals, parasites and non-native farmed fish that escape from salmon farms all affect the natural habitat and the native salmon in the surrounding areas. Wild-caught salmon from Alaska is considered a "Best Choice" by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and is certified as sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council. Alaskan salmon is among the most intensively managed species in the world, with excellent monitoring of both the fish populations and the fishery.

"Target strives to be a responsible steward of the environment, while also providing our guests with the highest-quality food choices," said Greg Duppler, senior vice president, merchandising, Target. "Our guests now have an array of sustainable seafood choices at great prices."

"Target's decision to source sustainable wild-caught salmon, instead of farmed, will have a real impact in the marketplace — and ultimately, on the health of our oceans," said Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. "Increasing the demand for seafood from ocean-friendly sources, like this Monterey Bay Aquarium 'Best Choice,' charts us on a course not only to protect our oceans, but to improve fishing and fish-farming practices around the world."

"Greenpeace applauds Target's decision to replace farmed salmon with wild Alaskan salmon, a relatively sustainable and healthy product, throughout its operations," said Casson Trenor, Greenpeace's senior markets campaigner. "The company's decision to address this issue represents an incredible willingness to challenge old paradigms in favor of sound science and environmental preservation, as well as provide real market value to its guests. We have no doubt that the leadership by Target will set a new standard for the seafood industry; one we hope is echoed by other retailers."

A number of Target salmon offerings have been awarded the prestigious MSC fishery certification, including wild Alaskan salmon fillets, Archer Farms Frozen Sockeye Salmon Fillets and Market Pantry Frozen Keta Salmon Fillets. Also, Target currently offers guests multiple sustainable salmon choices under its owned brands at budget friendly prices, including: Archer Farms Smoked Sockeye Salmon, Archer Farms Hot Smoked Pepper Salmon, Archer Farms Cajun Smoked Sockeye Salmon, Market Pantry Crab Stuffed Salmon Roulade, Market Pantry Florentine Salmon Roulade and Market Pantry Keta Salmon Side.

About Target

Minneapolis-based Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) serves guests at 1,744 stores in 49 states nationwide and at Target is committed to providing a fun and convenient shopping experience with access to unique and highly differentiated products at affordable prices. Since 1946, the corporation has given 5 percent of its income through community grants and programs like Take Charge of Education. Today, that giving equals more than $3 million a week.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lloyd Cannon crosses the bar

Here's news of the death of Lloyd Cannon, founder of All Alaskan Seafoods.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Southeast charter industry lays out survival plans

Businesses that take tourists and others out for a day of halibut fishing in Southeast Alaska are facing dire times.

The abundance of halibut is decreasing, with corresponding cuts to catch limits.

New federal regulations now hold paying customers on charter boats to one keeper per day, rather than two.

A recession has staggered the nation's economy.

And the charter and commercial halibut fleets are rivals for fish not only on the water but in court and other forums.

Faced with all these troubles, charter captains are looking to weather the storm and fend off what they see as even greater dangers on the horizon.

The Southeast Alaska Guides Organization, a Sitka-based advocate for charter boat and lodge operators, recently distributed this detailed survival strategy.

Of particular note is a plan to seek $44 million in federal stimulus funding "to mitigate the impact of the recession in communities throughout Southeast Alaska."

Taco Del Mar files for bankruptcy

Taco Del Mar, a Seattle-based fast-food chain known for its fish tacos using Alaska pollock, today filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors.

Here's a Seattle Times story.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fishermen’s Finest loses cod appeal

In a split decision, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco yesterday rejected a complaint from Fishermen's Finest Inc. that it was shortchanged under Amendment 85, a federal action that divided the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands cod fishery among various fleets.

Seattle-based Fishermen’s Finest operates a pair of head-and-gut trawl vessels, the American No. 1 and the U.S. Intrepid.

Here’s the 28-page decision.

Be sure to check out Judge Richard R. Clifton’s dissenting opinion at the end.

Besides suggesting the American Fisheries Act factory trawl fleet is enjoying favoritism on top of its “lucrative monopoly” in the huge pollock fishery, the judge offers a dandy quote from Mark Twain.

And they're off! Well, not really

A trawler at Dutch Harbor. Jim Paulin photo

One of the world's largest seafood harvests by volume, the Bering Sea pollock fishery, opened at noon today.

The total allowable catch for the year is 813,000 metric tons, just a shade below last year's limit.

Time was, when the opening gun sounded, boats would start dueling at sea immediately for fish, bad weather be damned. That was during the bruising days of Olympic-style fishing.

Since 1999, we've been using a more genteel system with the fleet broken up into a handful of fishing cooperatives. Each boat within a co-op receives its own set share before the season starts, and crews can net the fish whenever they please.

Of course, nature dictates to some degree when the fishing is best.

In the winter, during what's known as the A season, trawlers target the pollock at a time when they're schooled up and ready to spawn. Thus, the female fish are full of roe that accounts for a big part of the fishery's value, often said to approach $1 billion.

Other top pollock products include fillets, used for goods such as fish sticks and the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich, and a protein paste called surimi that's fashioned into imitation crab and a slew of Asian specialties.

Pollock isn't the only game in town.

The Bering Sea trawl fishery for Pacific cod also opened at noon today. This is another huge and lucrative fishery, with a quota of 168,780 metric tons for the year.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Legislature opens today — should fishermen care?

The Senate Finance Committee. Wesley Loy photo

The big news today is the start of a new legislative session in Juneau, with the House to convene at 1 p.m. and the Senate a half-hour later.

In 90 days, we should know the outcome of our Legislature's hard work.

Don't be surprised, I suppose, if nothing of great importance comes down with respect to commercial fishing. It seems to me, in the past few years at least, that the Legislature hasn't been terribly relevant to this industry.

Now let me check myself a bit.

Of course, the Legislature has great power to affect Alaska's commercial fishing landscape. Think of past landmarks such as limited entry. Think of appointments to the Board of Fisheries. And the Department of Fish and Game's budget.

The Legislature is always relevant. And, depending on your outlook, a great friend or a real menace.

I've heard it said that commercial fishing just doesn't have the same influence in our Legislature that it once did. To hear the old-timers tell it, the halls of the Capitol used to squeak with rubber boots.

Deckboss can tell you, however, that considerable commercial fishing experience still walks those halls.

Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, is a commercial salmon, halibut and shrimp fisherman.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, runs tenders and has fished for salmon and halibut.

Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, has fished commercially with her family in salmon-rich Bristol Bay.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, has extensive experience with the state's novel Community Development Quota program.

Rep. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, was state fisheries adviser to former Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, formerly held a Cook Inlet salmon drift gillnet permit.

Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, used to fish herring and Bristol Bay salmon.

Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, holds a Kuskokwim salmon gillnet permit.

I'm sure I've overlooked a few, too.

Legislators have a couple of forums to talk fish.

The House Special Committee on Fisheries considers legislation. Deckboss recently spotlighted a few fish bills that already have been filed.

Many legislators also come together as a "fish caucus." That group is scheduled to meet at noon Thursday to hear from Paula Cullenberg of the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program. Attendance is sure to be good — a catered seafood lunch will be provided.

Anyway, it's evident fishing still holds some sway in Juneau. Just don't expect it to take center stage. Not like the glamour issues of oil tax policy and crime.

Maybe that's a good thing.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A science extravaganza in Anchorage

The Alaska Marine Science Symposium is going on all week at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage.

It's a massive showcase on dozens of research topics related to the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean.

Here's a program. Warning: It's long and involved. But well worth scanning for items of interest.

One presentation I'm hoping to catch:

"Climate change and fisher behavior in the Bering Sea pollock fishery," by Alan Haynie, an economist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, 4:45 p.m. Thursday.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Who needs survival suits?

The trawler Topaz. USCG photo

Here's some news from the U.S. Coast Guard:

Jan. 14, 2010

Cutter terminates fishing vessel voyage for safety violation

KODIAK — The Coast Guard cutter Acushnet terminated the voyage of the commercial fishing vessel Topaz after a boarding Thursday about 14 miles southeast of Cape Chiniak.

A boarding team found the vessel master operating without any immersion suits available for the crew. The Coast Guard requires commercial fishing vessels to operate with immersion suits available for each crewmember in appropriate sizes.

"This was a serious oversight by the crew of the fishing vessel Topaz and could have resulted in a significant loss of life had it not been for the vigilance of the Acushnet's boarding team," said Lt. Kirk Fistick, operations officer for the Acushnet. "We were happy to clear the violation upon returning to Kodiak, where the survival suits were stored."

At the time of the boarding, the Topaz, a stern trawler, was conducting a test trawl in an approved area to ensure all fishing gear was operational.

All vessels are reminded that they must carry immersion suits at all times while under way.

The vessel's crew was escorted by the Acushnet to the Kodiak port. The boarding team remained on board during the transit.

"The boarding team from the cutter Acushnet was able to inspect the survival suits that were waiting at the pier, allowing the fishing vessel Topaz to get under way the next day," Fistick said.

The crew of the Acushnet boarded four other vessels Thursday in the Kodiak area.

More on Yukon disaster declaration

Here's a press release from the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's letter to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell.

I've heard that this declaration isn't likely to result in much direct aid to fishermen or other residents in Western Alaska.

"The declaration doesn’t bring any immediate aid, so relief must be sought through a congressional appropriation," the governor's special assistant for fisheries, Cora Campbell, tells me. "We will be working with stakeholders and the delegation to determine what type of relief to request."

Feds declare Yukon fisheries disaster

From the Alaska governor's office:

Jan. 15, 2010

Secretary Declares Federal Fisheries Disaster for Yukon Chinook

ANCHORAGE — Gov. Sean Parnell today welcomed a decision by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke finding that a disaster has occurred with the 2009 Yukon River Chinook salmon run, opening the door for federal aid to the area.

"I appreciate Secretary Locke's recognition of the severity of the situation along the Yukon River and the dependence of Alaskans on these salmon runs," Gov. Parnell said.

The federal disaster declaration is in response to requests made by Gov. Parnell, the Association of Village Council Presidents and the Alaska Federation of Natives.

The request detailed the biological and economic situation on the Yukon River and the impacts of the reduced Chinook runs.

The declaration does not bring immediate aid to the affected area. The congressional delegation must still secure a federal appropriation. Federal aid, once secured, could be used for relief programs, stock research, training programs, fisheries infrastructure, or other regional projects.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

MSC eco-label likely to stay on Alaska pollock

The commercial quota for Bering Sea pollock has taken a tumble in recent years, but it appears the still-huge fishery is in line to keep its Marine Stewardship Council certification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery.

Here's an industry press release just out today.

Motion denied

Earlier this month, Deckboss told you how the landlord out on Adak had told the new occupant of the island's lone fish plant to get out.

Or be thrown out.

Well, the latest twist in the drama is that Adak Seafood, which in November bought the former Adak Fisheries operation out of bankruptcy, asked for a temporary restraining order to prevent landlord Aleut Enterprise from "hindering" the plant.

Lawyers for Adak Seafood said the company is trying to start up the processing plant for this fishing season, but Aleut has refused to provide electricity or fuel to the plant, or provide access to the pier.

"Such actions are currently causing Adak Seafood significant damage, and if not immediately enjoined, will cause damage to all fishermen seeking to offload without traveling back to Dutch Harbor or dealing with Trident," says the motion for the restraining order.

Trident Seafoods Corp., an unsuccessful bidder for the Adak plant, is expected to send a processing ship to the Adak region.

Aleut Enterprise President Rudy Tsukada, in a written declaration filed with the court, said his company has "developed a lack of trust for the present management of Adak Seafood."

The management "is essentially the same as the previous management for Adak Fisheries," which ran up an unpaid fuel bill of about $700,000, Tsukada said.

So yes, he said, Aleut Enterprise's fuel subsidiary, Adak Petroleum, did cut off fuel sales after Dec. 31, which is when Aleut contends the lease expired on the plant property.

As for electricity, well, TDX sells power on Adak, not Aleut Enterprise, Tsukada noted.

Further, Tsukada said that while he doesn't believe Adak Seafood has access rights to the dock under the "expired" lease, Aleut Enterprise "has not locked it out."


So, yesterday in Anchorage, a hearing was held on Adak Seafood's motion for the restraining order against its reluctant landlord.

Motion denied, said U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Donald MacDonald.

Not sure where this thing goes from here, folks. Could get ugly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Adak diesel spill pollutes harbor

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says the diesel spill from a bulk storage tank at Adak is estimated at up to 142,800 gallons, with 1,000 gallons running down Helmet Creek into the small-boat harbor. The photo shows diesel accumulating behind containment boom. The spill occurred as fuel was being pumped to the underground tank from a tanker moored at the fuel pier in Sweeper Cove, the DEC says. Aleut Enterprise runs the fuel business at Adak, an ex-military outpost in the Aleutians. DEC photo

A tax break at the fuel dock?

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell wants to suspend again the state tax on motor fuels, including the nickel-per-gallon levy on marine diesel and marine gasoline.

Here's the press release.

An update on the Adak fuel spill

The U.S. Coast Guard today today corrected some information from yesterday's press release on the diesel spill in Adak's Sweeper Cove.

The leaking fuel tank actually holds 114,000 barrels, or about 4.79 million gallons, and was filled to near capacity.

"A small portion of that was released. We are working on a solid number," said Sara Francis, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Kodiak.

"Boom and absorbents has been deployed in several areas and some diesel has been recovered from choke points along the stream," Francis said.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tank leaks diesel into Adak's Sweeper Cove

This just in from the U.S. Coast Guard:

Jan. 11, 2010

Coast Guard responds to fuel spill near Adak

KODIAK — Coast Guard Sector Anchorage personnel are responding to a report of a leaking underground diesel tank that has spilled into Sweeper Cove on Adak Island.

Coast Guard watchstanders at the Sector Anchorage command center received a report about 6:40 p.m. today from Adak Petroleum stating a tank containing approximately 113,000 gallons of No. 2 diesel had reportedly released an unknown amount of fuel.

Adak Petroleum personnel reported the diesel is contained with boom inside the cove. They are also using recovery equipment to clean up the fuel.

Coast Guard and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation responders are planning to fly to Adak on Tuesday to investigate the magnitude of the spill and monitor cleanup activities.

Coast Guard, DEC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Adak Petroleum are all working together to respond to the incident.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Peter Pan's $4 million problem

Federal authorities are pursuing a nearly $4.5 million civil penalty against Peter Pan Seafoods Inc., a Seattle-based subsidiary of Japanese seafood giant Maruha Nichiro.

Peter Pan is accused of processing more Bering Sea king and snow crab than allowed under the American Fisheries Act of 1998.

From January 2004 to March 2005, Peter Pan and the processing ship Stellar Sea processed almost 4.2 million pounds of crab in excess of Peter Pan's limit or cap, says a notice of violation the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued in June.

Deckboss obtained a copy of the notice through a Freedom of Information Act request.

NOAA levied a penalty of $4,457,048, but the fine may be appealed or negotiated.

Garland Walker, a NOAA attorney in Juneau, says the case remains unresolved.

The key basis for the penalty is NOAA's determination that Peter Pan and another accused company, Seven Seas Fishing Co., were so closely aligned in their business relationship that they count as one company for purposes of the crab cap.

A Seven Seas subsidiary, Stellar Seafoods Inc., chartered the 314-foot processing ship Stellar Sea, the federal notice says.

This isn't the first time we've seen a multimillion-dollar fine assessed against a processing company for an alleged overage on its crab cap.

In November 2004, NOAA hit Icicle Seafoods Inc. and two associated companies, including Adak Fisheries, with a $3.4 million penalty.

In the Icicle case, NOAA issued a press release announcing the penalty. No press release was issued in the Peter Pan case.

If the Icicle case is any indication — it's still under appeal after five years — we probably need not look for a speedy resolution of the Peter Pan matter.

The Brig
For more news of recent fisheries enforcement actions, visit our companion blog.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Legislature prefiles a few fish bills

Something fishy in Juneau? Wesley Loy photo

State lawmakers today unveiled a list of new bills they've prefiled ahead of the scheduled Jan. 19 start of the next legislative session.

I've culled those few most involving commercial fisheries.

House Bill 252, relating to the duty of the commissioner of natural resources to administer and supervise promotional and marketing work for agricultural and aquatic farm products. Sponsor: Rep. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak

House Bill 266, providing for a priority for a fishery that is restricted to residents when fishing restrictions are implemented to achieve an escapement goal. Sponsor: Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak

House Bill 268, relating to management of salmon and other fish stocks and salmon fisheries and to the use of funds received by an enhancement facility from the sale of fish. Sponsor: House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski

To see the full list of prefiled bills, click here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A setback for Chitina salmon dipnetters

Looks like a Fairbanks judge has declared the Alaska Board of Fisheries the winner, for the most part, in a lawsuit challenging the board's denial of subsistence status for the Chitina dipnet fishery.

Here's the 35-page ruling.

The popular dipnet fishery, of course, is upstream of the famed Copper River commercial salmon fishery.

While siding with the defendants on most counts, the judge is requiring a bit more work of the board. One assignment: define the term "subsistence way of life."

Oh, that should be a snap, right?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A bum forecast for Cook Inlet salmon

Gillnetters on the Kenai River. Wesley Loy photo

The Department of Fish and Game has posted its 2010 forecast for Upper Cook Inlet sockeye, and it's not very appealing.

Total harvest for all user groups including commercial, sport and dipnet fishermen is projected at 2.3 million fish, with commercial gillnetters to account for most of the catch.

The forecast is way below the 20-year average harvest of 4 million fish.

Last year's tally was 2.6 million.

State biologists expect sockeye runs to the Kenai and Susitna rivers to be well short of historic averages, with the Kasilof River run to nearly match its average.

How big was that spill?

Crowley Maritime Corp. yesterday released a "worst case" estimate of diesel spilled from its Valdez-based tug Pathfinder: 6,410 gallons. The tug struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound on Dec. 23. The captain and second mate have been relieved of duty as an investigation continues. DEC photo

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cook Inlet Aquaculture's power struggle

We have a heck of a battle going on between Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association and its power provider, Homer Electric Association.

It seems the aquaculture association is in jeopardy of having the power shut off to its remote Tutka Bay salmon hatchery.

The problem is that the buried power line that runs under Tutka Bay Lagoon to the hatchery is in poor condition and "constitutes a continuing hazard to the safety of the public," HEA says.

The aquaculture association's position is, OK, so fix it.

HEA is saying fine, but you hatchery guys have to pay to either lay a new submarine line or string an overhead line. The cost: $200,000 to $464,000.

The aquaculture people are saying no way can we afford that, but we desperately need power to keep our baby fish alive.

Naturally, a bunch of lawyers are now involved, and the matter is pending before the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.

Gary Fandrei, executive director of the aquaculture association, lays out his organization's position in this testimony filed with the RCA on Dec. 18.

As I understand it, the power utility feels it's not obligated to make such an expensive outlay for a single customer, and that the hatchery should be able to go with a less expensive option such as on-site generators.

To find HEA's position as well as that of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and others, click here and look under "Documents."

The battle for Adak continues

When last we visited the subject of the Adak fish plant, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Anchorage had just approved a sale of the operation to an outfit called Adak Seafood.

So, end of story, right? Adak Seafood starts processing lots of fine Aleutian Islands fish and crab and that's that.

Well, hold onto your codfish.

The landlord out on Adak Island, Aleut Enterprise, last week hit Adak Seafood with a "notice to quit," which I've posted here.

The notice advised Adak Seafood it had no right to occupy the property and further, the existing lease would expire at the end of December. The company was told to clear out right away or face "a civil action to remove you from the premises."

Aleut Enterprise President Rudy Tsukada signed the notice.

That Aleut would present the notice is no surprise considering the lawsuit that's been raging alongside the bankruptcy case that led to the processor's sale.

The side suit, known in bankruptcy parlance as an adversary proceeding, was brought by Independence Bank of Rhode Island, which is trying to salvage nearly $7 million in loans it made to what heretofore was known as the Adak Fisheries plant and its founder and former owner, Kjetil Solberg.

Solberg, as we've reported previously here on Deckboss, is involved with the new owner, Adak Seafood. We also reported there's bad blood between Aleut and Solberg.

Anyway, Independence is in Adak Seafood's corner, arguing the lease actually should still be in force. Not insignificantly to Independence, Adak Seafood agreed to assume the outstanding loans as part of its purchase.

Lawyers for the bank further allege the existence of a "nexus" between Aleut, John Young and Trident Seafoods Corp.

Trident, you'll recall, made an unsuccessful bid for the Adak plant, not agreeing to assume the loans. As for Young, he's a Seattle attorney who took ownership of Adak Fisheries last summer and signed it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sept. 11.

The bank's lawyers contend Young, Aleut and others "engaged in a concerted scheme" to either terminate the lease or let it expire rather than exercise an option to renew it.

Young argues Independence Bank lacks sufficient facts to back up the notion of any scheme.

Yes, dear readers, the whole affair seems rather complex, doesn't it? And believe me, I'm leaving out many details for lack of post-holiday energy.

Bottom line is the fate of the Adak plant is far from settled, with the scram notice coming just as cod season opens.

It gets worse.

Turns out our government, specifically the U.S. Department of Agriculture, guaranteed portions of those Independence Bank loans.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Time capsule

An icon falls. Wesley Loy photo

Now that we’ve clicked over to 2010, let’s review the Top 10 Alaska fish stories from the past decade.

Salmon depression: Global fish farmers and low prices ravage the state’s wild salmon industry. Fishermen quit and canneries close as the total harvest value hits bottom in 2002 at $163 million. The value has more than doubled since.

Tragedy: All 15 crewmen lost in the Arctic Rose sinking … seven hands lost in the Katmai sinking … five lost in the Alaska Ranger sinking … three killed in the Galaxy explosion and fire. A deadly decade indeed.

Crab rationalization: Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab fisheries convert from intense derbies to individual shares for fishermen as well as packing companies. Crabber deaths are now rare, but controversy continues over the new regime.

Court rulings: The U.S. Supreme Court disappoints thousands of fishermen plaintiffs in 2008 by cutting a multibillion-dollar award to $507.5 million for the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In 2003, Bristol Bay salmon processors easily beat price-fixing allegations after an epic, four-month civil trial in Anchorage.

Politics: U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, author of the nation’s most important ocean fishing laws, loses his re-election bid in 2008 after a corruption conviction that later was tossed. Bristol Bay salmon setnetter Sarah Palin becomes governor then moves on to national celebrity as a vice presidential candidate.

Village power: The state’s six Community Development Quota organizations quietly build big fishing businesses, rural jobs and mountains of cash.

Endangered species: The state’s billion-dollar bottomfish industry undergoes a tumultuous management makeover to create more space between fishing boats and endangered Steller sea lions.

Halibut wars: Conflict escalates between the commercial and charter boat fleets as regulators flounder for a resolution.

Fish sticks: The nation’s largest commercial fishery, Bering Sea pollock, sees annual catches boom to almost 1.5 million tons early in the decade, then bust to roughly half that amount last year.

We love Sig: For better or worse, the Discovery Channel reality show “Deadliest Catch” probably does more to expose the world to Alaska commercial fishing than anything ever has or ever will.

From your boy Deckboss, happy New Year y’all!