Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Hook, Line & Sisters'

Yet another reality TV show about Alaska commercial fishing is set to make its premiere.

Hook, Line & Sisters will focus on fisherman Dean Anderson and family.

Deckboss understands the one-hour opening episode will feature this year's Sitka herring fishery, with six more episodes taking in salmon seining at Chignik.

The series website describes Anderson as "a grizzled sea dog known for his aggressive fishing."

The series begins Thursday night and runs through Feb. 2 on TLC. Check your local listings for times.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A fine salmon season for Norton Sound

Among Alaska's salmon producing regions, Norton Sound is small potatoes. But local fishermen scored big this season.

The salmon harvest was worth nearly $1.27 million off the boat. That's not only a new record for the second season in a row, it's more than 200 percent above the recent 10-year average of $420,720.

A strong chum run highlighted the action in Norton Sound.

Lots more details here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Counsel, I have a few questions...

On Wednesday afternoon, a bunch of attorneys met in a federal courtroom in Anchorage to argue the lawsuit over fishing restrictions imposed in the Aleutians to protect endangered Steller sea lions.

Deckboss, somewhat thankfully, was unable to attend the hearing.

While the case involves mountains of scientific data and legal briefs, the essential conflict really is very simple. The state and the industry don't feel the costly fishing restrictions are justified. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which is being sued, feels otherwise.

Shortly before Wednesday's proceedings began, something unusual happened. Judge Timothy Burgess filed a list of questions for lawyers to address during the hearing.

Here are some examples, and I paraphrase somewhat:

• Doesn't the plain language of the Endangered Species Act suggest that, if anything, NMFS has to err on the side of assuming a causal relationship exists between the fisheries and the sea lion population?

• Although it took five years for NMFS to determine the fisheries jeopardized sea lions in the Aleutians, the agency skirted the normal public notice and comment process and hurriedly imposed the fishing restrictions. What was the emergency? Why couldn't NMFS have taken another few months to collect comments given that it had already taken five years?

• Why didn't NMFS issue a full environmental impact statement, as it had done on past occasions? Was it just rushing to complete the process in order to protect itself against litigation from Oceana and Greenpeace?

Of course, one must be careful not to read too much into the judge's questions. But they are fascinating, no?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

One Bristol Bay processor swallows another

At long last, we have official confirmation of a rumor that's been knocking around for months.

North Pacific Seafoods, a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Marubeni, is buying Yardarm Knot's Red Salmon cannery at Bristol Bay.

Here's the press release.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Icicle energizes its 'calculated risk' at Adak

Regular visitors know Deckboss likes to keep track of happenings out on Adak, the remote Aleutian island with a rather tumultuous history as a commercial fishing port.

As previously reported, a subsidiary of Seattle-based Icicle Seafoods Inc. took over the Adak processing plant in the spring.

Now here's a little news: The Regulatory Commission of Alaska recently approved a special contract between Icicle and the local power company, TDX Adak Generating.

Under the contract, TDX will supply "interruptible" power to Icicle, with existing residential and commercial customers having priority.

Power supply had been a problem for previous operators of the Adak plant.

While commissioners said they initially were concerned about the potential for "rate subsidization" of Icicle, the RCA ultimately held that the special contract will be good for all local power customers.

Here is the agency's eight-page order. It has a few details about Icicle's work to refurbish the plant, which concentrates on Pacific cod.

Also, here is an Icicle letter from late August that discusses the company's "calculated risk" at Adak.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Council provides 'policy guidance' on halibut

At its recent meeting in Anchorage, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council reaffirmed its support for the proposed catch sharing plan to allocate halibut between the rival commercial and charter boat fleets.

Here's the motion the council passed.

As you will see, it calls for quite a bit of additional work on the controversial plan, including assessment of the economic impacts of "the full range of allocations."

It took a while, but Chignik has a new harbor

Chignik, on the Alaska Peninsula, is moving up in the world. Here's a press release from the Lake and Peninsula Borough:

Dec. 16, 1011

Chignik boat harbor fully operational

KING SALMON — The Lake and Peninsula Borough is pleased to announce that the Chignik boat harbor is complete and open for business.

The $3.4 million project included installation of 40 slips, a harbormaster building, and full water and electrical support. The construction finished ahead of budget and schedule, allowing the Chignik fleet to begin using the harbor to prepare for the winter longlining and crab season.

"Everyone involved in this project is thrilled that our fishermen have a fully functional harbor," said borough Mayor Glen R. Alsworth Sr. "The idea of a boat harbor in Chignik dates all the way back to 1955 when Chignik's residents wrote to Delegate Bob Bartlett to ask for assistance. To be part of the group that has made it a reality is gratifying."

The city of Chignik, the Lake and Peninsula Borough and the Army Corps of Engineers have played roles in the project throughout its 55-year history.

"The boat harbor will be a tremendous boost to the Chignik fishery," said Chignik Mayor Richard Sharpe. "Now the fleet will be able to quickly and safely wait out storms and have a viable, year-round storage location for their boats."

Previously, fishermen had to store their boats in Kodiak or Sand Point, he noted.

The boat harbor completion follows the best salmon season in 40 years and the prospect of expanded winter fishery allocations for Chignik fishermen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where does fish stand in governor's budget?

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell yesterday rolled out his proposed budget for fiscal year 2013.

Naturally, Deckboss was eager to see how the Department of Fish and Game fared in the spending plan, which has some cutbacks compared to the current budget, the governor says.

Here are a few highlights:

• The proposed Fish and Game operating budget, including all state and federal funds, is $209.3 million, a 5.1 percent increase.

• The proposed operating budget for commercial fisheries, the department's most expensive unit, is $70.5 million, a 4.4 percent increase.

• The proposed operating budget for sport fisheries is $49.7 million, a 2.7 percent increase.

• The department is slated to trim 13 full-time positions, a 1.4 percent reduction, and 46 part-time positions, a 6.1 percent cut.

• Along with his budget, the governor also proposed a bond package that includes $10 million for the city of Seward's homeport project for the Community Development Quota fleet.

You can find much more information on the Fish and Game budget here, including complete details on a number of proposed capital projects.

The Alaska Legislature opens its 2012 session on Jan. 17.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

State announces dazzling Sitka herring forecast

The state today announced the preliminary quota for the 2012 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery: 29,008 tons.

How big is that? In a word, biblical.


Plenty of fisheries enforcement news today on our companion blog, The Brig.

An update on the Carlson case

Deckboss doesn't have time right now to get into the particulars, but he can advise you of a little news with regard to the long-running Carlson case.

The Alaska Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in the matter starting at 10 a.m. today.

For background on the case and the stakes involved, here's a piece by yours truly from the June 2010 issue of Pacific Fishing magazine:

Carlson case grinds on

The Alaska Legislature in April appropriated nearly $75 million to repay nonresident commercial fishermen for overcharges on permit fees. Thousands of fishermen could receive a piece of the money. But don't start looking for a check just yet.

The potential refunds stem from the Carlson class-action lawsuit — litigation so lengthy and contorted it evokes the Dickens novel "Bleak House."

Outside fishermen sued the state in 1984, upset Alaska charged them triple what residents paid for fishing privileges.

The epic case has made four trips to the Alaska Supreme Court. The suit has succeeded in equalizing the annual "base fee" all fishermen pay to obtain or renew a permit — though nonresidents continue to pay a "surcharge" of $140.

Anyway, government lawyers have battled with considerable success through the years to whittle down the state's liability under Carlson. Out of a class that once numbered 95,000 members, only 4,705 now stand to receive any money. These are limited entry permit holders; crew license holders no longer qualify for refunds.

Under the latest ruling from state Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski, the state owes about $12.4 million in refunds plus $62.4 million in interest.

While the Legislature has appropriated these sums, that doesn't mean the state is yet prepared to pay out the money. No, this 26-year court fight is not over.

On March 24, the state attorney general appealed the Carlson case again to the Alaska Supreme Court, asking the justices to either toss the $62.4 million in interest or apply a lower interest rate.

What does it all mean?

"We're not about to cut checks," said Bill McAllister, spokesman for the attorney general.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Council bumps up Gulf of Alaska pollock quota

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has set the 2012 total allowable catch (TAC) for Gulf of Alaska groundfish.

Here are the TACs for key species and the percent change from 2011.

Pollock, 116,444 tons, up 21 percent
Pacific cod, 65,700 tons, up 0.9 percent
Pacific Ocean perch, 16,918 tons, down 0.5 percent
Sablefish, 12,960 tons, up 14.8 percent

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

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Council trims Bering Sea pollock quota

Great for salads and sandwiches. NMFS photo

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has set the 2012 total allowable catch (TAC) for Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish.

Here are the TACs for key species and the percent change from 2011.

Eastern Bering Sea pollock, 1,200,000 tons, down 4.2 percent
Pacific cod, 261,000 tons, up 14.5 percent
Yellowfin sole, 202,000 tons, up 3.1 percent
Atka mackerel, 50,763 tons, down 4.4 percent
Pacific Ocean perch, 24,700 tons, no change
Sablefish, 4,280 tons, down 9.9 percent

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

Stikine River king salmon bounce back

Looks like Southeast Alaska commercial fishermen next spring will get a crack at those gorgeous Stikine River king salmon.

For the first time since 2008, the state is forecasting a run large enough to support a fishery.

The U.S. allowable catch under the forecast is 5,890 large Stikine kings.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Want to save on fuel costs?

Check out this new publication from Alaska Sea Grant.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The season for lucrative council business

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council begins a seven-day meeting tomorrow at the Hilton hotel in downtown Anchorage.

The Christmas meeting is always a big one for the council, the time when catch limits are set for the coming year.

Looking over the packed agenda, three items stand out:

Halibut — The council will receive a report from the National Marine Fisheries Service that explains how the embattled halibut catch sharing plan might be saved — or simply killed.

Crab — The council has blocked out a full day to talk about lingering issues with "crab rationalization," including the theory — will Deckboss get in trouble for using that word? — that crewmen have taken a pay cut under the new management regime.

Groundfish — As already mentioned, the council will set the "total allowable catch" for important species in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. I'd be surprised to see much excitement here. Government scientists seem to have blessed a Bering Sea pollock TAC well in excess of 1 million metric tons, similar to what the industry enjoyed this past season. Another important Bering Sea target, cod, could see a decent increase.

Council actions are subject to U.S. commerce secretary approval.

Monday, December 5, 2011

More on halibut

Here is the official press release from last week's International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting in Seattle, where the scientific staff recommended catch limits for the 2012 season.

Evidently, at least one prominent Alaskan, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, was none too pleased with the proceedings and issued this statement:

"It is disappointing to hear further reductions are likely, and that the IPHC is suggesting potentially drastic model changes may be needed that would cause steeper reductions. Whether the changes are incorporated this year or in future years, the discussion creates more uncertainty for the commercial fishing industry, sport charter businesses, and Alaska's fishing communities that have already taken a serious economic hit from reduced harvest levels and changing management measures.

"I'm also concerned at the manner the commission staff presented its findings and data. Conflicting information, lack of clear recommendations, topped off by an abrupt end to the public portion of the meeting combined to leave important questions unanswered about the crucial steps needed to ensure the health of our halibut resource and fisheries."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

19 percent cut recommended for halibut fishery

The scientific staff of the International Pacific Halibut Commission today made recommendations on catch limits for the 2012 season.

The commission itself will consider the recommendations at its Jan. 24-27 annual meeting in Anchorage.

Here are the numbers, expressed in millions of pounds.

Regulatory area2011 catch limits2012 staff advice% change

Monday, November 28, 2011

Courtroom showdown coming in Steller case

Deckboss is sure you've not forgotten that the state as well as a big segment of the Alaska fishing industry are suing the National Marine Fisheries Service.

At issue are commercial fishing restrictions NMFS put into place this year along the Aleutian chain to protect the endangered Steller sea lion.

The state and the industry argue the restrictions are unnecessary, and don't reflect sound science.

Each side has filed reams of paper arguments in the case.

Now opposing lawyers are preparing to duel in person before federal Judge Timothy Burgess of Anchorage. According to this order from the judge, oral argument will begin at 1 p.m. Dec. 21.

This hearing could be crucial in deciding a case in which fish harvests worth millions of dollars are at stake — not to mention the credibility of NMFS and the well-being of the Stellers.

Friday, November 25, 2011

PSPA weighs in on Pebble

The Pacific Seafood Processors Association has updated its stance on the proposed Pebble copper and gold mine in Southwest Alaska.

PSPA now concludes that "the level of risk posed by the Pebble mine is simply too high."

Read the organization's two-page statement here.

Deckboss snagged the statement off the website of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which also opposes the mine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

News of interest

This just in from the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank:

Nov. 22, 2011

The Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank (CFAB) will be lowering its lending interest rate by 2 percent on existing and new loans effective Jan. 1, 2012.

Lela Klingert, CFAB chief executive, made the announcement at CFAB's annual meeting on Nov. 18.

CFAB is a private, member-owned cooperative providing financing to Alaskan-owned commercial fishing, tourism and resource businesses since 1980.

At the same meeting, incumbent board member Roseleen "Snooks" Moore was re-elected to a new three-year term.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More from Begich on halibut catch sharing plan

Here's an interesting letter from Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, to Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator.

Fuglvog's fate will wait a bit longer

Arne Fuglvog won't be sentenced until after the holidays.

Fuglvog, you'll recall, is the former fisheries aide to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

He pled guilty in August to a federal fisheries violation, and was to be sentenced on Dec. 7.

Fuglvog, through his attorney, last week asked to delay sentencing, and Judge H. Russel Holland has reset the matter for 8 a.m. Feb. 7.

A plea agreement calls for Fuglvog to draw 10 months in prison.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Here we go again

Work has begun to determine whether Alaska's salmon fishery deserves Marine Stewardship Council certification for a third time. Read about it here.

Feds throw wrench into seine permit buyback plan

Deckboss trusts you recall our recent posting of the proposed plan for a buyback of salmon seine permits in Southeast Alaska. The plan listed the names of seiners who had submitted acceptable bids in a reverse auction, and the bid amounts.

Well, now the National Marine Fisheries Service has rejected the plan, saying the auction was premature. Here's the letter from NMFS.

The organizers, I'm told, are seriously annoyed with this setback.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pardon my rant

So, I took the redeye out of Anchorage last night, heading to Fish Expo. Thus far the trip is not going well.

My Boeing took off nearly three hours late. It's raining in Seattle, of course. McDonald's put cheese on my dang sausage biscuit. And Starbucks is playing nonstop Christmas music. On Nov. 16.


Lots of interesting news today on The Brig.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Expo time

Step right up, gents. Deckboss photo

It's a question you hear often this time of year: "Are you going to Fish Expo?"

Officially known as Pacific Marine Expo, Fish Expo is a huge trade show in downtown Seattle where working fishermen can find just about anything — from engines to electronics, buoys to bait.

This year's event will run Thursday through Saturday in the exhibition hall at CenturyLink Field, where the Seattle Seahawks play.

The show strongly targets Alaska fishermen, and many figure to be walking around with extra cash this year thanks to strong prices in salmon, halibut and other fisheries. I've heard the Expo will have more vendors than usual, all looking for a piece of the action.

Fish Expo also features some panel discussions on safety, marketing and other topics.

One session sounds particularly intriguing: "The North Pacific Fishery Management Council: Public process under scrutiny." The one-hour session, scheduled to begin at 11:45 a.m. Saturday, could generate some fireworks, considering the discussion we've heard recently about perceived political imbalances on the council. The panel includes well-known industry players Arni Thomson, Larry Cotter, Lori Swanson, Steve Minor and Merrick Burden.

So, are you going to Fish Expo?

Deckboss will be there. Find him hanging around Pacific Fishing magazine, booth 729.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Homer's Bob Moss — hall of famer

United Fishermen of Alaska has named retired fisherman Bob Moss, of Homer, to its Alaska Seafood Industry Hall of Fame.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Here's the 2012 Bristol Bay sockeye forecast

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a catch of 21.8 million sockeye salmon next year.

That compares to this year's catch of 21.9 million sockeye on a preseason forecast of 28.5 million.

Another big herring haul possible at Togiak

Plenty of herring again will be available for seiners and gillnetters next year at Togiak.

Here's the state forecast for the 2012 Togiak sac roe fishery.

It specifies a quota of 21,622 tons of herring.

The industry took 22,699 tons this year at Togiak, worth about $2.3 million at $100 a ton.

'No confirmed cases'

Here's an update from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on reports of infectious salmon anemia in British Columbia.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hot pinks!

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says this year's pink salmon harvest set an all-time record for value at more than $170 million.

Chum and sockeye also did very well. Read all about it here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Quick hits

Here's a few noteworthy items I couldn't get posted yesterday.

Are those reports of a virus outbreak in Canada's wild salmon bogus?

Citing the chronic high death rate of commercial fishermen, the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending crewmen wear a "flotation aid" at all times while on deck. Vessel owners, be sure to check out the other NTSB recommendations.

The Department of Fish and Game has posted a preliminary tally of the dockside value of this year's Alaska salmon harvest: $603 million. That's about the same as last year's adjusted value of $605 million.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has posted a draft assessment of the eastern Bering Sea pollock stock, and the numbers suggest we'll see a lower catch limit in 2012. The best reading is on pages 22-23. Deckboss tips his cap to KUCB radio at Dutch Harbor for breaking the story.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Severe weather coming; trawler needs assist

Deckboss is sure you've seen some of the many media reports of rough weather sweeping into the Bering Sea and Western Alaska.

The U.S. Coast Guard this afternoon issued this press release talking about its preparations, plus efforts to asset a disabled trawler.

The release says in part:

The Coast Guard and commercial services are currently responding to a request for assistance from the 143-foot fishing trawler Rebecca Irene 138 miles northwest of Unimak Pass in the Bering Sea.

Communications Station Kodiak received a call from the master of the fishing vessel at 3:45 a.m. reporting that one of their engines had become inoperable and they were under way with limited propulsion. They are headed toward Unimak Island at about 6 mph with 34 people aboard. The weather is forecast to degrade to 55 mph winds with seas of 35-feet by late afternoon.

The cutter Sherman is currently on scene and is planning to take all nonessential Rebecca Irene crewmembers aboard. The transfer will be conducted using the Sherman's small boat.

The parent company of the Rebecca Irene has contracted with Magone Marine of Dutch Harbor for the tug Double Eagle to respond and tow the fishing vessel.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yukon notches strong fall chum, coho catches

Here are highlights from a Department of Fish and Game summary of the 2011 fall salmon season on the Yukon River:

• The commercial harvest of 238,979 fall chum salmon was the largest since 1995.

• The commercial harvest of 76,303 coho salmon was the largest since 1991.

• All salmon were sold "in the round" and no salmon roe was sold separately.

• The ex-vessel value of the catch was an excellent $2.1 million, including $1.6 million for fall chum and $478,960 for coho.

• A total of 410 permit holders participated in the fishery.

Crewman airlifted off crab boat Wizard

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

Nov. 7, 2011

Coast Guard medevacs fisherman north of Cold Bay

KODIAK — A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew today medevaced a man from a 150-foot fishing vessel 60 miles north of Cold Bay.

Communications Station Kodiak received a radio call at about 1:22 p.m. from the crew of the Wizard reporting a 28-year-old male had collapsed and was showing signs of dehydration and shock.

The Jayhawk rescue crew was on a training flight when it heard the call. It self-diverted to the location of the Wizard and safely hoisted the man.

The rescue crew transferred the man to Cold Bay clinic personnel for further evaluation at about 3:20 p.m.

The Wizard is a crabber based out of Seattle.

Who wants out of Southeast salmon seine fishery?

Last month we told you the National Marine Fisheries Service had published regulations for a potential buyback of Southeast Alaska salmon seine permits.

The fishery currently has 379 permits.

Naturally, Deckboss was wondering how many permits we might retire, and at what cost.

Well, here's a reduction plan buyback organizers submitted to NMFS.

They accepted bids on 67 permits, with the bids totaling $13.65 million.

The document lists the owners of the 67 permits, and bid amounts for each.

The idea of the buyback is to trim the number of permits, especially latent permits, to preserve the value of the fishery for those who remain.

With the high price of pink salmon seen the past couple of seasons, active seiners are worried new boats might pile back into the fishery and water down profits.

Thus, they say, the timing for the buyback is ideal.

The expectation is that permit holders soon will vote on whether to shoulder a federal loan to actually carry out the buyback.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What, trust those Canadians?

Sens. Maria Cantwell, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich want U.S. testing of British Columbia salmon reportedly infected with the ISA virus. Here's the press release.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

More albatross trouble in Bering Sea

We've noted before the serious matter of short-tailed albatross bycatch in Alaska's longline fishery.

Now comes word that another endangered albatross has been taken, the third since August 2010.

The governor goes to London

Gov. Sean Parnell is promoting Alaska seafood as part of a European trade mission focused on fish — and oil, of course.

Here's a press release.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Southeast red king crab fishery opens tomorrow; commissioner delegates authority to deputy

The Southeast Alaska red king crab fishery opens at noon tomorrow.

It's a fairly big deal, as this will be the first opener in six years for this fishery. The quota is a modest 201,000 pounds.

Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell has recused herself from any involvement in managing the fishery "due to participation by an immediate family member."

What's more, Campbell is going on personal leave starting Wednesday through Nov. 15.

Reefer madness!

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program is bringing its popular fishing vessel refrigeration workshop to Kodiak.

Click here for more information, including how to register.

Council seeks funds to expand observer program

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is asking the Obama administration to provide $3.8 million to launch an expanded fisheries observer program.

Here's the letter requesting the money.

Fishery observers — people who ride aboard boats to monitor catch and bycatch — already are used extensively off Alaska, with industry paying most of the cost. The observers provide data vital for managing pollock, cod and other fisheries.

The council wants to fill in gaps in the program by expanding observer coverage to more boats, including halibut vessels and small trawlers.

The $3.8 million is needed as a one-time subsidy to put the expanded observer program into place faster, the council letter explains.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Congratulations, guys

Two Alaska fishermen, Dan Falvey of Sitka and Bill Webber Jr. of Cordova, are among National Fisherman magazine's 2011 Highliner Award winners.

Weak pink catch expected next year in Southeast

The projected harvest of 17 million pink salmon would be far below the recent 10-year average of 40 million, says this Department of Fish and Game forecast.

Some blowback from New England

At the request of two Massachusetts congressmen, federal fishery management councils will be evaluated on how they're complying with the law on "socioeconomic impact of regulations on fishermen and fishing communities."

Here's a press release.

Cod boat to be towed to Dutch after engine fire

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

Oct. 28, 2011

Coast Guard escorting fire-damaged fishing vessel

KODIAK — The Coast Guard cutter Sherman is escorting the fishing vessel Alaskan Leader toward Dutch Harbor after the vessel sustained fire damage.

The Coast Guard in Kodiak received notification Thursday night of a fire in the engine room aboard the 150-foot Alaskan Leader.

The vessel was 103 miles northwest of Unimak Pass in the Bering Sea.

The Coast Guard issued an urgent marine information broadcast over HF and VHF radio channels requesting the support of any vessels in the area.

The fishing vessels Frontier Explorer, Frontier Spirit and Eastern Wind responded to the broadcast and arrived on scene to render assistance. The Coast Guard also diverted the cutter Sherman from its patrol to assist.

The Alaskan Leader crew was able to extinguish the fire themselves by 9:30 p.m. No injuries have been reported among the 23 crew.

The engine room reportedly suffered extensive damage from the starboard engine fire.

The master of the vessel reported they were able to resume their voyage using their port main diesel engine and auxiliary generator, manual steering and manual throttle control.

The Sherman arrived on scene at 3:30 a.m., allowing the three good Samaritan fishing vessels to return to their previous activities.

The vessel is currently under way at 6 mph about 63 miles from Dutch Harbor.

A commercial tug, contracted by the owner, is on scene with the vessel. It will tow the Alaskan Leader to Dutch Harbor. Once in tow the Sherman crew will return to its patrol.

The tug and fishing vessel are expected to reach Dutch Harbor this afternoon.

"The Coast Guard takes fishing vessel safety very seriously and the vessel will be met by marine casualty investigators and inspectors from Marine Safety Detachment Unalaska to assess the damage," said Lt. Cmdr. Bradley Clare, the Coast Guard Sector Anchorage chief of inspections.

The Alaskan Leader is a Kodiak-based catcher-processor and is carrying 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 9,000 pounds of frozen cod.

The Sherman is a 378-foot high endurance cutter from San Diego.

Monday, October 24, 2011

State monitors ISA report, but suggests little risk

Here's a press release the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

Oct. 21, 2011

ADF&G monitoring reported evidence of disease exposure in British Columbia sockeye salmon

JUNEAU — The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is closely monitoring and evaluating a recent report that samples taken from sockeye salmon in British Columbia show exposure to infectious salmon anemia virus. The test results, reported by researchers from Simon Fraser University, are based on a very limited sample of sockeye salmon smolts from Rivers Inlet in central British Columbia. The smolts were not exhibiting any outward signs of infection.

Research on ISA indicates that the risk to Alaska's salmon stocks is low. Pacific salmon have been shown to be mostly resistant to ISA, which is a flu-like disease of Atlantic salmon. ISA does not transmit to humans and is not a human health or food safety issue.

"Right now, there is a lot of misinformation out there about this finding and this disease," said Ted Meyers, ADF&G fisheries scientist. "The Rivers Inlet results are being analyzed through additional testing in a second laboratory to rule out any false positives. At this point we are concerned, but do not want to overreact as we await more definitive information from Canada."

Live Atlantic salmon are not allowed to be imported into Alaska. However, if the virus is confirmed present in British Columbia migratory Pacific salmon or the Atlantic salmon stocks prevalent in British Columbia fish farms, there is concern over potential impacts to Alaska salmon stocks.

"The department's pathology lab is in contact with agencies in Canada and will continue monitoring the situation," said Cora Campbell, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "We will take all necessary measures to protect our stocks."

Additional information on ISA and the reports from British Columbia can be found here. The department will keep Alaskans informed as additional information becomes available.

Diver dies prior to sea cucumber opener

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Juneau
Type: Death investigation
On 10/24/11 at 0530 hours, John Robert Pugh Jr., 35, of Juneau, was in the vicinity of Funter Bay on the west coast of Admiralty Island on a 21-foot skiff working as a deckhand in a sea cucumber fishery opener that was scheduled to start at 0800. Pugh was on his second recreational scuba dive of the morning and diving alone at 0630 when the boat operator and permit holder noticed that Pugh's activity in the water had stopped. The skiff moved closer to Pugh's location where a diver entered the water and contacted Pugh, who was unresponsive near the bottom in 20 feet of water with his regulator out of his mouth. Pugh was brought to the surface and hoisted on the boat where CPR was initiated and Pugh remained unresponsive. Pugh was immediately transported back to Auke Bay and the U.S. Coast Guard was notified via marine radio. Upon arrival at the Auke Bay boat launch the skiff was met by the Juneau fire and rescue squad who determined that Pugh was deceased. Based upon the scene investigation and the interview with the witness, the medical examiner's office was contacted and ordered the deceased sent to Anchorage for an autopsy. There were no signs of trauma to the body detected and the cause of death is unknown. The Juneau Police Department assisted with the notification of next of kin. The deceased was an experienced and certified PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) diver and owner of a local dive business for the past year.

Here are those AFN resolutions

Resolution 11-19 pertaining to the Magnuson-Stevens Act and tribal seats on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Resolution 11-20 pertaining to a 50-mile trawling buffer.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

AFN convention spawns controversial resolutions

Delegates to the Alaska Federation of Natives convention today passed two resolutions of interest to the commercial fishing industry.

One calls for reserving seats on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for Native or trial representatives.

The other resolution calls for establishing a 50-mile no-trawl zone around Alaska's coastline.

Deckboss is reporting, as best he can, details gleaned from television coverage of the Anchorage convention. Unfortunately, I don't have the written resolutions.

Anger over trawl bycatch of salmon would appear to be the main driver behind these resolutions.

The council, we should note, currently has a Native member in chairman Eric Olson.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Virus in salmon prompts congressional action

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment calling for an investigation and "rapid response plan" to prevent the spread of the ISA virus reported in wild sockeye in British Columbia.

The amendment to a pending appropriations bill, H.R. 2112, calls on the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force to evaluate the risk the virus could have on wild salmon off the West Coast and Alaska.

Here's a press release from the office of Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who authored the amendment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Alaska's 'escalating campaign'

Back in September, we heard from interests who believe Alaska is using its majority on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to the detriment of Washington and Oregon industry players.

Now comes another voice urging greater Washington and Oregon representation on the council to balance out Alaska's advantage.

In this memo to Washington's congressional delegation, Bob Alverson of the Seattle-based Fishing Vessel Owners' Association says ... well, you really should read it.

Sure to draw an "Amen!" from Washington and Oregon folks, and raise the hackles of Alaskans.

Alaska senators keep up 'Frankenfish' fight

Democrats click here, Republicans here.

NTSB report examines cause of Katmai tragedy

The National Transportation Safey Board has posted its report on the October 2008 sinking of the cod boat Katmai in Aleutian waters, killing seven crewmen. Here's the conclusion:

Probable cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the sinking of the Katmai was the loss of the vessel's watertight integrity because watertight doors from the main deck to the processing space and the lazarette were left open by the crew at a time when the vessel was overloaded and navigating in severe weather, which allowed water to enter the vessel resulting in progressive flooding and sinking. Contributing to the accident was the master's decision to continue fishing operations during the approach of severe weather rather than seeking shelter and to load twice the amount of cargo addressed in the vessel's stability report. Also contributing to the accident was the owner's failure to ensure that the stability information provided to the master was current and that the master understood it and operated the vessel accordingly.

The report's accident narrative makes for some riveting reading, unfortunately.

The NTSB report follows the U.S. Coast Guard investigative report released last year.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Legislators to review AYK salmon management

The Alaska House Special Committee on Fisheries will hold a hearing Wednesday on salmon management in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region of Western Alaska.

The hearing is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center in downtown Anchorage.

The committee will hear from the state Department of Fish and Game, village councils and commercial industries, and will take public testimony, says this committee press release.

People in the huge AYK region have long depended on salmon fisheries, the release says.

"Over the past 10 years, there have been declines in the salmon returns to Western Alaska, which has led to severe restrictions on commercial and subsistence fisheries, as well as state and federal disaster declarations."

The hearing coincides with the huge Alaska Federation of Natives convention, which begins Thursday in Anchorage.

Monday, October 17, 2011

ISA virus reported in wild Pacific salmon

Here's worrisome news about the surprise discovery of infectious salmon anemia in British Columbia sockeye. ISA is a virus that has decimated salmon farms in Chile.

Was this anything?

The House Natural Resources Committee today held a hearing in Seattle on how "unsubstantiated" federal science on the Steller sea lion is jeopardizing Alaska's fishing industry.

Here's a one-sided and rather sloppy press release from the committee majority — the headline references "Stellar" sea lions, and quotes "Doug Vincent-Land of the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife." Uh, that would be Doug Vincent-Lang of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The chairman of the committee is Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.

In September, Hastings held a similar hearing stacked with witnesses urging oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Environmentalists called that hearing "political theater."

One wonders which will happen first: the National Marine Fisheries Service saying nevermind on fishing restrictions meant to protect an endangered species, or drilling rigs poking holes in ANWR.

Public service announcement

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell just announced his picks for the following organizations:

Yukon River Panel

Gov. Parnell appointed Myron Naneng to the Yukon River Panel. The panel is focused on the conservation of salmon stocks originating from the Yukon River in Canada. The panel also manages the new Yukon River Salmon Restoration and Enhancement Fund.

Naneng, of Bethel, serves as president of the Association of Village Council Presidents. He is appointed to a seat reserved for an Alaskan who represents the lower Yukon River region.

North Pacific Research Board

Gov. Parnell nominated Michael Castellini and Mike Miller to the North Pacific Research Board, whose members are appointed by the U.S. commerce secretary. The board recommends marine research initiatives relating to fisheries and marine ecosystems in the North Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean.

Castellini, of Fairbanks, is dean of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. He is nominated to a seat reserved for a representative of the academic community.

Miller, of Sitka, has 30 years of professional experience in the marine industry, including work in marine towing, salvage, emergency response, research, passenger service, fisheries, piloting and cargo as a U.S. Coast Guard licensed vessel captain. He is a member of the NPRB's Advisory Panel and a member of the Sitka Tribal Council. He is nominated to a seat reserved for a representative of Alaska Native interests.

The 'pirate' arrives

Here's the accused high-seas driftnetter Bangun Perkasa, now tied up at the Magone Marine dock in Dutch Harbor. NOAA has custody of the boat. Deckboss thanks James Mason for the fine photos.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Anybody want this thing?

Here's an update from the U.S. Coast Guard:

Oct. 15, 2011

Coast Guard transfers custody of Bangun Perkasa to NOAA

JUNEAU — The Coast Guard today transferred custody of the Bangun Perkasa, a 140-foot fishing vessel seized for illegal high-seas driftnet fishing 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak, to the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement.

NOAA will survey the Bangun Perkasa to determine the value of the vessel and its catch, which includes 30 tons of squid and 30 sharks.

NOAA will then coordinate the sale of the catch and the U.S. government will retain the proceeds of the sale.

Federal law provides a process where the owner is afforded a reasonable period of time to come forward and claim the vessel. If the owner is not identified within the statutorily allotted time, the Bangun Perkasa will be forfeited and sold.

Read the full Coast Guard press release here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Factory trawler needs a tow in Bering Sea

A tug was dispatched from Dutch Harbor today to assist the factory trawler Alaska Victory, which was reported adrift due to a "mechanical failure," a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said.

The trawler, part of the Fishing Company of Alaska fleet, was located about 19 nautical miles west of Akutan.

It was drifting at only a knot to a knot and a half, and was not in any danger, said Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley.

The Coast Guard was notified of the situation shortly before noon.

A Magone Marine tug was on the way to retrieve the Alaska Victory, which is more than 200 feet long and has a crew of 48.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Almost lamprey time again on the Yukon

Lamprey fishing on the Yukon. Kwik'pak Fisheries photo

Looks like we'll see another commercial fishery for Arctic lamprey this year on the Yukon River.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game today announced a catch limit of 44,080 pounds of lampreys.

The harvest could begin as soon as Oct. 31. Like last year, the buyer will be Kwik'pak Fisheries.

Pacific Fishing magazine in March published this summary of the 2010 lamprey fishery:

An experimental commercial fishery for Arctic lamprey in late November on the lower Yukon River produced the second-best result since the harvest began in 2003. Fishing with hand-held dipnets through holes sawed in river ice, 22 fishermen delivered 30,713 pounds of the anadromous, eel-like fish to processor Kwik'pak Fisheries, which operated a buying station at the village of Grayling. At $1.25 per pound, the harvest paid $38,391 with an average value per fisherman of $1,745, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported. The best lamprey harvest was 49,657 pounds worth $62,000 in 2003. Kwik'pak general manager Jack Schultheis says the lampreys are frozen in the round and sent into Asian and European food markets, with some demand also from research institutions.

Bound to go viral

Tom Casey of Seattle offers this lament as we approach Saturday's start of another king crab season in the Bering Sea.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Southeast fisherman survives scary moment

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Angoon
Type: Search and rescue
On 10/6/11, at 1150 hours, the Angoon VPSO received a report of a life raft signaling a passing plane with smoke in Chatham Strait adjacent to Angoon. Angoon SAR responded in their search vessel and located Peter Roddy, 59, of Sitka, in a life raft. Roddy reported that he was under way in the F/V Jager, a 42-foot crabber, when his vessel rolled and the stern went down under the water. While Roddy was deploying his life raft the vessel rolled over onto its side and sank. Roddy was uninjured and transported safely back to Angoon.

A leadership change in Bristol Bay

Here's an announcement today from the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association:

In September, BBRSDA board member Nick Lee (Seat D, Non-Alaska Resident) resigned his position, which opened up a vacancy for appointment. Our bylaws give responsibility in cases like this to BBRSDA President Robert Heyano. President Heyano asked the other board members to submit to him the names of S03T permit holders who might make good board members and would be willing to serve. After reviewing the submitted names, President Heyano appointed Matt Luck to fill the vacant seat and serve out Nick Lee's term, which ends in 2013. Matt runs the F/V Meg J in Bristol Bay, where he has fished (as crewman and operator) for 12 years. In addition to his work in the Bay, Matt's fishing experience includes longlining, seining and drifting in Prince William Sound, Southeast, Kodiak and Togiak. He is a founding member of the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation, and past chairman of the Copper River/PWS ADF&G Advisory Committee. We hope you'll join us in thanking Nick Lee for his many years of volunteer service to the fleet, and in welcoming Matt to the board.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Oh, those tempestuous New Englanders

Saving Seafood, the very vocal East Coast fishing industry nonprofit, posted this entertaining item on its website.

A step closer to trimming Southeast seine fleet

The National Marine Fisheries Service today published regulations for a possible $23.5 million buyback of state permits in the Southeast Alaska purse seine salmon fishery.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Let's get these guys

Here's an important call for help from the U.S. Coast Guard:

Oct. 5, 2011

Vandalism to lights and buoys endangers mariners

SITKA — The Coast Guard is asking for the public's help to put a stop to the vandalism of aids to navigation throughout Southeast Alaska.

Several navigational lights in the region have been vandalized rendering them inoperable. Recently the batteries were deliberately and illegally removed from a light marking an offshore hazard at Tenakee Springs.

"The loss of this equipment costs taxpayers and the Coast Guard in many ways: first is the obvious financial burden of replacing the damaged or stolen equipment, second is the slowing of commercial and recreational traffic, and third is the possibility of environmental damage that could result from a collision or grounding that occurs because a hazard is not marked," said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Gray, commanding officer of the Coast Guard cutter Maple.

Those found guilty of vandalizing aids to navigation can be fined up to $2,500 and imprisoned for up to five years. Anybody witnessing vandalism to a navigational aid or finding a damaged aid should contact their nearest Coast Guard unit.

"The marine highway is the lifeblood of commerce and transportation in Southeast Alaska and it is vitally important that these aids to navigation remain a reliable tool for mariners in the region," Gray said.

The Maple's crew is responsible for servicing many of the buoys, lights and beacons in Southeast Alaska. Commissioned on Oct. 19, 2001, the Maple is a 225-foot Juniper Class buoy tender homeported in Sitka. Maple is operated by seven officers and a crew of 46 men and women. More information here about the cutter Maple.

Bering Sea snow crab quota surges by 64 percent

Yesterday brought bad news on Bristol Bay red king crab, historically the state's most valuable crab crop.

Today comes good news on another major fishery, Bering Sea snow crab.

The total allowable catch for the upcoming season is 88.9 million pounds, up 64 percent from last season's 54.3 million pounds.

The season opens at noon Oct. 15, but typically the fleet waits until after the first of the year to take most of the crab.

Here's a press release from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bristol Bay red king crab quota cut nearly in half

The total allowable catch for the upcoming Bristol Bay red king crab season will be 7.8 million pounds.

That's a 47 percent cut from last season's TAC of 14.8 million pounds.

Here's a press release from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The fishery opens at noon Oct. 15.

The department says it'll announce the TAC for Bering Sea snow crab as soon as tomorrow.

Yes, Moreland will replace Fuglvog

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today confirmed the hiring of Stefanie Moreland as fisheries aide, replacing Arne Fuglvog.

Use 'pirate' for gunnery practice, Begich says

Two crewmen from the seized fishing vessel Bangun Perkasa arrive in Dutch Harbor. They were transported aboard the Alaska State Troopers enforcement vessel Stimson. Troopers gave no explanation for the crewmen's odd attire: white coveralls, hairnets and facemasks. James Mason photo

"Now that this pirate ship is in custody I have one recommendation: the Coast Guard should sink the Bangun Perkasa."

That's the word from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, an Alaska Democrat and chair of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.

Here is Begich's letter to Coast Guard Commandant Robert J. Papp.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Seized ship to be de-ratted, maybe auctioned

The Bangun Perkasa, left, and the cutter Munro. USCG photo

A U.S. Coast Guard officer today briefed the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on what's planned for the suspected illegal high-seas driftnet vessel Bangun Perkasa.

A contractor today or tomorrow will begin "rat remediation" on the vessel at sea. Presumably this means extermination.

The de-ratting process will take a week. Meantime, the 22 crewmen aboard the vessel will be taken off and repatriated to their home countries.

Once rat-free, the Bangun Perkasa will be brought into Dutch Harbor, where National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration authorities will place the vessel under arrest.

Most likely, the ship will be auctioned. Its owner, said to be "in China somewhere," might buy the vessel back, and this could serve as the owner's fine, the Coast Guard officer said.

ASMI selects representative in Japan

Here's a brief announcement from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute website:

After an extensive RFP process that was conducted this summer, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is pleased to announce that AVIAREPS Marketing Garden (Holdings) Ltd. of Tokyo, Japan was selected and will be its new In-Country representative in Japan to market Alaska Seafood effective Oct 1, 2011.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

USCG rescues crewman with severe ankle injury

From the U.S. Coast Guard:

Sept. 30, 2011

Coast Guard conducts medevac of injured crewman

KODIAK — A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter on Friday medevaced a crewman from the fishing vessel Tanusha 25 miles north of Kodiak.

The master of the Tanusha contacted the Coast Guard over VHF-FM Channel 16 at 3:05 p.m. requesting a medevac for a 44-year-old crewman who had suffered severe injuries to his left ankle when it became tangled in a line on deck.

The rescue helicopter arrived on scene at 4:30 p.m. and successfully hoisted the crewman aboard.

The helicopter returned to Air Station Kodiak at 6 p.m., and the injured man was taken to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.

The Tanusha is a 57-foot Kodiak-based fishing vessel. The crew was fishing on the west side of Afognak Island.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Coast Guard seizes suspected high-seas drifter

The U.S. Coast Guard says it has seized a "stateless" fishing vessel and crew suspected of engaging in illegal high-seas driftnetting in the North Pacific.

A boarding team from the Coast Guard cutter Munro found more than 10 miles of driftnet, 30 tons of squid and approximately 30 shark carcasses aboard — and rats.

A press release and photos are here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Injured fisherman airlifted to Kodiak

The U.S. Coast Guard this evening reported a crewman suffered head injuries from a crab pot while working aboard the fishing vessel Van Elliott in Kupreanof Strait, 46 miles west of Kodiak.

A rescue helicopter hoisted Jimmy Cook, 48, off the 70-foot vessel and took him to Kodiak for medical care.

It wasn't clear from a Coast Guard press release exactly when the injury occurred.

CDQ organizations talk back

On Sept. 14, Deckboss posted a 15-page appeal for reform of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The appeal's authors contend Alaska, which holds six of the 11 voting seats on the council, has used its majority to the detriment of Oregon and Washington. And they focus on Alaska's growing Community Development Quota program to make their argument.

Well, now the CDQ players are talking back.

Here's a statement received today from their umbrella organization, the Western Alaska Community Development Association.

NMFS, Begich address halibut catch sharing plan

Here's a press release from the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding its current stance on the halibut catch sharing plan.

And here's a statement from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, questioning the plan's fairness.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is the halibut catch sharing plan unraveling?

The National Marine Fisheries Service came out with this update at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Dutch Harbor.

Trident to pay $2.5 million, build fishmeal plant at Bristol Bay to settle pollution violations with EPA

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

Sept. 28, 2011

Trident Seafoods Corp. to pay $2.5 million to resolve Clean Water Act violations and spend more than $30 million to upgrade processing plants

Settlement to reduce discharges of seafood processing waste by more than 100 million pounds annually

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice today announced that Trident Seafoods Corp., one of the world's largest seafood processors, has agreed to pay a $2.5 million civil penalty and invest millions in seafood processing waste controls to settle alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

Unauthorized discharges of seafood processing waste lead to large seafood waste piles on the seafloor, creating anoxic, or oxygen-depleted, conditions that result in unsuitable habitats for fish and other living organisms.

"Today's settlement signals an important change in how seafood processing is managed in Alaska," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Trident's investment in fishmeal facilities and commitment to improving its waste management practices will help protect our nation's waters and set the standard for Alaska's seafood processing industry."

"This agreement will benefit the quality of Alaskan waters, which host a critical habitat for the seafood industry," said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The upgrades will enable Trident to achieve and maintain compliance with the Clean Water Act, and will protect Alaskan waters, eliminate waste and create efficiencies that will serve as a model of best business practices for the seafood processing industry."

The agreement requires Trident to invest an estimated $30-40 million, and potentially more, in source control and waste pile remediation measures. The source control measures include building a fishmeal plant in Naknek that will have the capacity to handle at least 30 million pounds of seafood processing waste annually, taking in both its own fish waste and potentially that of other local processors.

Trident has also agreed to reduce the amount of seafood processing waste discharged from the Akutan, Cordova, St. Paul and Ketchikan facilities and monitor the amount of seafood processing waste discharged into Starrigavan Bay in Sitka. The actions taken will reduce Trident's fish processing discharges by a total of more than 105 million pounds annually.

The company has also agreed to remediation measures including studying seafloor waste piles at Trident's facilities in Akutan, Ketchikan and Cordova. Based on the results of these studies, Trident will remove or partially remediate the piles. One seafood processing waste pile in Akutan Harbor is currently estimated to be more than 50 acres in size.

The EPA complaint, also filed as part of this legal action, alleges that Trident had more than 480 Clean Water Act violations at 14 of its onshore and offshore Alaskan seafood processing facilities. The alleged violations include discharging without a necessary permit, exceeding discharge limits, failing to comply with permit restrictions on discharge locations (including discharges into at least two national wildlife refuges), and creating oxygen-depleting "zones of deposit" or underwater piles of fish processing waste occupying more than the allowed one acre of seafloor. The company also allegedly failed to conduct required monitoring and implement required best management practices.

Over the past decade, Trident has been a party to multiple administrative enforcement agreements and judicial consent decrees resolving similar violations at many of the same facilities.

The settlement was lodged in federal court in Seattle, Wash., and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

For more information on the settlement and a copy of the consent decree, click here.

Metal Shark makes Kodiak

The U.S. Coast Guard in Kodiak has a sleek new asset with a clunky name: a "special purpose craft — training boat." The 38-foot aluminum vessel is said to be the only one of its kind in the Coast Guard. Seen here running around Womens Bay, the boat will be used for aids to navigation, training and search and rescue missions. It can hold 20 people and operate in 34 mph winds and 6-foot seas. The Coast Guard didn't specify top speed. Louisiana boat builder Metal Shark made the SPC-TB. A second one is scheduled to be stationed at Sitka later this year. USCG photo

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Well worth a listen

Speaking of Arne Fuglvog, APRN's Libby Casey had a heck of a story yesterday on how former crewmen pushed authorities to investigate the ex-aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moreland to replace Fuglvog on Murkowski staff

Stefanie Moreland will become Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's new fisheries aide starting Nov. 7, a reliable source tells Deckboss.

Moreland will replace Arne Fuglvog, who left the position due to his criminal prosecution for an admitted commercial fishing violation in 2005.

Moreland currently is federal fisheries coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The state's stand on the halibut war

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is recommending federal regulators move ahead with a controversial halibut catch sharing plan in Southeast Alaska (Area 2C), but not in Southcentral (Area 3A).

"We are not suggesting permanently postponing implementation of the CSP in Area 3A, but do think a more comprehensive review that is informed by current conditions and the proposed CSP management structure is appropriate at this time," Fish and Game Deputy Commissioner David Bedford writes in this eight-page letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The catch sharing plan would allocate halibut between the competing commercial and charter boat fleets.

In Area 3A, which takes in the flagship halibut port of Homer, the catch sharing plan has sparked controversy for its potential to cut the bag limit for charter anglers from two fish per day to one.

NMFS took public comments on the catch sharing plan through Sept. 21, and received hundreds of comments by the deadline. The Fish and Game letter was among the comments received.

To read comments online, click here.

56 hours in Dutch Harbor

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting this week way out in Dutch Harbor.

As usual, the agenda is packed, with a total of 56 hours of meeting time scheduled.

Deckboss is hard-pressed to find much excitement in this meeting, as the council isn't expected to take final action on any major issues.

One item likely to stir some interesting conversation, however, concerns the council's intent to reduce the allowable bycatch of halibut in the Gulf of Alaska.

The council in April put some options on the table for cutting the halibut bycatch limit by 5 to 15 percent for Gulf trawl and fixed-gear fleets.

Council members are expected to chew on the numbers further in Dutch Harbor, then select a "final preferred alternative" at their December meeting in Anchorage.

When all is said and done, regulators could implement tighter halibut bycatch limits early next year.

Bycatch, of course, is a hot topic these days due to recent declines in Gulf halibut biomass and rising tensions between two competing fleets — charter boats and commercial longliners — dependent on the fish.

Here's the council's draft analysis on the halibut bycatch issue. The first page has a nice summary. Thorough types are welcome to continue through the remaining 464 pages.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Steady on for pollock

This summer's Bering Sea bottom trawl survey showed a "slight decrease" in the pollock biomass compared to 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service reports. Details here.

Coast Guard medevacs crewman with head injury

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

Sept. 22, 2011

Coast Guard medevacs fisherman from Dutch Harbor

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules aircrew medevaced a 26-year-old male today from Dutch Harbor to Anchorage.

The crew of the 116-foot Constellation contacted the Coast Guard about 5 p.m. Wednesday reporting a crewmember had suffered head injuries from a fall while the vessel was transiting through 10-foot seas about 45 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor.

The Coast Guard diverted the Hercules from a training flight to meet the Constellation in Dutch Harbor.

The Constellation arrived in Dutch Harbor at about 10:30 p.m.

The Hercules arrived in Anchorage at 2:15 a.m., and the patient was taken to Alaska Regional Hospital.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


This year's Alaska Permanent Fund dividend is $1,174, Gov. Sean Parnell announced this morning.

The payments from the state's oil wealth investment account will go out beginning Oct. 6 to 647,549 eligible Alaskans.

Last year's dividend was $1,281.

Last call for coho

Low coho abundance precludes an extension of the Southeast Alaska summer salmon troll fishery, which will close at midnight.

That's the official word from the Department of Fish and Game.

The state's latest tally shows a Southeast summer troll catch of just over 1.1 million coho.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Plenty of news today on our sister blog, The Brig.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Something big is happening

As this day has worn on, it has become clear to Deckboss that a major move is afoot to overhaul the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

And it's not just Oregon's idea.

Some in Washington state also believe the council is stacked too heavily in favor of Alaska. So much so that traditional North Pacific fishing industry strongholds in Washington and Oregon are now in jeopardy.

It's all laid out in this fascinating 15-page appeal to Washington and Oregon political leaders.

As you'll see at the end, the authors include some very familiar names.

The word is that people are making the rounds in Washington, D.C., right now, urging lawmakers to add more Oregon and Washington seats on the council to counter the powerful Alaska majority.

Hmmm. Are we about to see an interstate war break out?

Roy Hyder's view

Roy Hyder is Oregon's lone voting member on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

His view, judging from this e-mail exchange with Newport, Ore., crab boat owner Gary Painter, is that the council is out of kilter.

"There seems to be an attitude that fish and fishing activity in the North Pacific Region EEZ belong to Alaskans," Hyder wrote.

Deckboss obtained this correspondence from the city of Newport. It was among materials the Newport City Council considered in passing a resolution supporting greater Oregon representation on the council.

Oregon vs. Alaska?

Evidently some commercial fishermen in Oregon, specifically crabbers who fish the Bering Sea, are feeling threatened.

Here's a resolution signed yesterday by the mayor of Newport, Ore., supporting the addition of two more Oregon seats on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which regulates federal fisheries off Alaska.

As it stands, Oregon has only one seat on the 11-member council, while Alaska has six seats and Washington three.

The Newport resolution raises fears that Oregon crabbers might soon lose some of their annual crab income due to the "unfair partisan conduct" of the council's Alaska majority.

Deckboss isn't quite sure what to make of this, but of course he'll endeavor to find out more.

Murkowski is co-chair of new Oceans Caucus

Here's more on the new Senate Oceans Caucus, launched yesterday in Washington, D.C.

Looks like Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will co-chair the caucus along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Senators on both sides of aisle to focus on oceans

Here's a press release from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich's office.

Sept. 12, 2011

Bipartisan group of senators to form Oceans Caucus

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With our oceans and coastal ecosystems, and the economies and jobs they support, facing constant and increasingly grave threats from a variety of sources, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators will meet tomorrow to form a new Senate Oceans Caucus.

The caucus will work to increase awareness and find common ground in responding to issues facing the oceans, which support millions of jobs in America and contribute more to the country's GDP than the entire farm sector, grossing more than $230 billion in 2004.

Founding members will meet Tuesday for the caucus' first meeting, during which chairmen will be selected and a founding charter will be approved.

Following the meeting, the senators will hold a press conference to announce the formation of the caucus and discuss their vision and priorities.

They'll be joined at the press conference by representatives from ocean and coastal organizations supporting their efforts, including the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Ocean Conservancy, the National Ocean Industries Association, the American Association of Port Authorities, and Ocean Champions.

The caucus will start with a total of 18 members:

Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Scott Brown, R-Mass.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii; John Kerry, D-Mass.; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Search ends for man overboard in North Pacific

The U.S. Coast Guard, at 8 p.m. Sunday, suspended its long-range air search for a crewman reported missing from a Korean-flagged container ship.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Man reported overboard far south of Kodiak

The U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday searched for a crewman reported missing off a container ship some 900 miles southeast of Kodiak Island.

The Coast Guard was notified about 4:30 p.m. that a 49-year-old South Korean crewman on the Mol Explorer was discovered missing about 2:30 p.m. The man was last seen about 22 hours earlier at dinner.

A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft was launched out of Kodiak to search for the crewman.

The Mol Explorer was bound for Tokyo from Oakland, Calif.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some personnel news

The National Marine Fisheries Service has a new chief scientist.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A concise assessment

This letter to the editor in Sunday's Anchorage Daily News captures perfectly, it seems to me, the situation the commercial halibut industry faces in its perennial struggle with the competing charter halibut fleet.

First, allocate by half and half

When the halibut are allocated on a 50-50 basis between the sport fishery and the commercial fishery, then there should be talk about reducing the sport catch.

— Greg Svendsen, Anchorage

Monday, September 5, 2011

Keeping an eye on the oil industry

Something happened Friday that bears watching.

Texas-based Escopeta Oil Co. started drilling an offshore well in Upper Cook Inlet, north of Nikiski.

Drilling in Cook Inlet is nothing new. The oil industry has been active in those waters for decades.

What makes the Escopeta well unusual is that the drilling is being done with a so-called jack-up rig, which sits on legs pinned to the seafloor. Tugs towed the rig into Cook Inlet in August, capping a long voyage up from the Gulf of Mexico.

The Escopeta exploratory well is the first to be drilled from a jack-up rig in Cook Inlet in nearly two decades.

Oil industry regulators I've spoken with are clearly wary of Escopeta, a small company that went through years of struggle to pull together the money, equipment and state leases for the drilling project.

In recent days, the regulators have questioned Escopeta's adherence to certain regulations. Escopeta's people have rebutted these concerns, and swear they have experienced pros operating the rig.

But the regulators remain less than confident, and on Friday handed Escopeta this letter limiting the depth to which the company can drill.

"A well control incident in Cook Inlet could have devastating consequences for the state and the state's most vital industry," wrote Bill Barron, state oil and gas director.

The industry to which he refers, of course, is the oil industry. But one might easily include the fishing industry.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Respect the rockfish

Send me back down, yo! ADF&G photo

Deckboss has always taken a special interest in rockfish. Maybe it's the vivid red color of some species. Or just the fact that Alaska still has healthy stocks of rockfish, unlike some other states.

So I was glad to see the following press release from the Department of Fish and Game. Bet you will be, too.

Aug. 29, 2011

Department aims to help anglers conserve rockfish

New materials published by the Division of Sport Fish aim to help saltwater anglers and charter operators conserve Alaska's rich rockfish stocks by increasing the survival of fish caught incidentally and released.

The department has dedicated a new Web page to proper deepwater rockfish release and has prepared an updated version of the popular informational pamphlet "Angler's Guide to the Rockfishes of Alaska," available from Alaska Sea Grant in the near future.

About 45 percent of rockfish caught by anglers statewide are released, according to department estimates. Many of these fish are caught in relatively shallow water and can re-submerge, but those taken from deep water often cannot survive release.

Rockfish caught in deep water often sustain injuries caused by rapid decompression and expansion of gases in the swim bladder. Fish that are released with inflated swim bladders cannot re-submerge and will die. The current effort follows completion of research by the department that suggests survival rates of up to 98 percent can be achieved when fish are released at the depth of capture.

The new Web page, entitled "Rockfish Conservation and Deepwater Release," offers anglers quick and easy techniques and provides details on how to make and employ simple deepwater release tools.

"The best way to prevent mortality in rockfish is to avoid unwanted catches altogether," says Anchorage-based fishery biologist Sam Hochhalter.

The new Web page also offers anglers tips and techniques on how to avoid catching rockfish while seeking other species, such as halibut and lingcod.

More than 30 rockfish species are found in the Gulf of Alaska, though fewer than 10 of these are commonly caught by recreational anglers, writes Homer-based fishery biologist and author Scott Meyer in the "Angler's Guide to the Rockfishes of Alaska." Some rockfish species can live well over 100 years, notes Meyer. However, these slow-growing, late-to-mature fish can be easily fished out.

Both biologists point to rockfish fisheries in California and Oregon that were depleted by overfishing. Alaska has an expanding recreational rockfish fishery, making proper fishing and deepwater release techniques important for sustaining the resource.

Trouble for red king crab

Results from this summer's eastern Bering Sea trawl survey is fueling fears of a painful cut in the catch limit for the state's most valuable crab.

The estimated biomass of legal-sized male Bristol Bay red king crabs is 15,412 metric tons, down 27.8 percent from the 2010 estimate. It's the fourth consecutive year the biomass has fallen.

The numbers are contained in a National Marine Fisheries Service draft technical memorandum now making the rounds. Deckboss reviewed the 117-page document.

The survey results suggest that a significant cut in the total allowable catch (TAC) could be forthcoming. A panel of crab managers and scientists will review the survey at a meeting set for Sept. 19-22 in Seattle.

Bristol Bay red king crab in most years is Alaska's richest crab harvest. Over the most recent 10-year period for which data is available, 2000-2009, the fishery averaged a dockside value of $68 million.

The red king crab TAC for last season was 14.8 million pounds.

Fishery managers are likely to announce around Oct. 1 what the TAC will be for the 2011 season, which opens Oct. 15.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A salmon update

The statewide commercial catch of salmon, all species, now stands at 171.4 million fish, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported today.

The tally grew by close to 11 million fish in the past week.

We're in September now, however, so we probably can't expect many more big catches as the season draws to a close.

As Deckboss observed last week, the preseason harvest forecast of 203 million fish is out of reach. Just not enough pink salmon showed up to achieve such a lofty total.

Still, the industry already has surpassed last year's total of 171.2 million salmon.

With strong prices around the state for sockeye and pinks, I'm guessing the 2010 harvest value of $534 million dockside also will be topped.

Bundrant, Wallace to continue on ASMI board

Here's some news from the office of Gov. Sean Parnell:

Sept. 2, 2011

Gov. Sean Parnell has reappointed Joe Bundrant and Bruce Wallace to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors. The institute promotes Alaska seafood and develops market-oriented quality specifications.

Bundrant, of Seattle, has served as the vice president of sales and marketing for Trident Seafoods Corp. since 1997. Prior to that, he served as the president of the Rogge Commission Co. from 1994 to 1997. He is a former district manager for Sysco in Seattle and worked as a regional sales manager for Trident from 1985 to 1989. Bundrant also worked as a commercial fisherman in Western Alaska, where he fished in Bristol Bay, Togiak, Norton Sound and the Shumigan Islands. Bundrant is reappointed to a seat reserved for the representative of a large seafood processor.

Wallace, of Juneau, is a longtime commercial fisherman who currently participates in the Southeast salmon seine fishery, and he also tenders for other fisheries. He is vice president of United Fishermen of Alaska and a member of the Tongass Futures Roundtable. Wallace also served in the National Guard in Alaska as well as Washington. He is reappointed to a seat reserved for a seafood harvester.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

15 more days to critique halibut sharing plan

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

Sept. 1, 2011

Public comment period extended on halibut catch sharing plan

JUNEAU — The National Marine Fisheries Service is extending the comment period for the proposed halibut catch sharing plan by 15 days, to Sept. 21.

NMFS published the proposed rule in the Federal Register on July 22 with a 45-day comment period, which expires Sept. 6.

The decision to extend the comment period comes following a visit to Alaska last month by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, who attended a luncheon in Homer with U.S. Senator Mark Begich to hear concerns and comments about the draft plan firsthand from both charter and commercial halibut fishermen.

"Alaska fisheries have been among the healthiest and most sustainable in the world, and we are working to keep them that way for both recreational opportunities and the long-term economic benefit of Alaska fishermen and fishing communities," Lubchenco said. "During my recent trip to Alaska, I was honored to visit communities where the local economy is tied to the halibut fishery. I listened to the community's concerns and I want to make sure that everyone has a chance to provide input in this public process of shaping the final halibut catch sharing plan."

"While we need a plan to keep all segments of the halibut fishery within catch limits to sustain and rebuild the stocks, charter fishermen raised several legitimate issues at the Homer meeting warranting further consideration," Begich said. "While many fishermen have already submitted comments, this extension will allow additional time for fishermen still out on the water to make sure they are heard. I am pleased Dr. Lubchenco is taking action and responding to the comments we heard when we spoke to the Homer Chamber of Commerce."

The halibut stock in Southeast Alaska and the Central Gulf of Alaska has seen a steep decline in the past several years. The proposed catch sharing plan is designed to foster a sustainable fishery by preventing overharvest of halibut and would introduce provisions that provide flexibility for charter and commercial fishermen. Currently, the commercial and charter halibut fisheries are managed under different programs.

The proposed catch sharing plan was shaped through an open and public process through the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which recommended the rule to establish a clear allocation between the commercial and charter sectors that fish in Southeast and the Central Gulf.

NOAA is extending the comment period to respond to numerous requests from the public. Comments must be received by Sept. 21.

For options on submitting comments, click here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lineup of presenters set for halibut hearing

Here's the agenda for Thursday's legislative hearing on the proposed halibut catch sharing plan.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Coming up short on salmon

The statewide commercial salmon catch, all species, now stands at about 161 million fish, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

That's a big total. But clearly, with September just around the corner, we won't reach the preseason forecast of 203 million.

One reason appears to be a shortfall of pink salmon, particularly in Prince William Sound. Returns to Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. hatcheries have been weaker than expected.

Here are a few salmon highlights from around the state:

• In Southeast, purse seiners have bagged 51.2 million pinks, 2.4 million chums, 500,000 sockeye and 300,000 coho. "From this year's combination of good returns, above average pink salmon weights and strong prices, the ex-vessel value of the purse seine fishery this season has now reached $100 million," Fish and Game says.

• Upper Cook Inlet's harvest of 5.1 million sockeye ranks as the area's fifth largest ever.

• Kodiak fishermen have harvested 15.5 million pink salmon, fewer than expected for this date.