Wednesday, February 23, 2011

'Historic opportunity'

The Northern Hawk coming to roost in Seward? CVRF photo

Steady followers of Deckboss know we pay a good bit of attention to the federal Community Development Quota program, which allocates shares of Bering Sea fish and crab to six companies for harvest on behalf of Western Alaska villages.

Since the program started in 1992, the companies have acquired numerous fishing vessels.

Many are based in Seattle, long the traditional home port for the bigger boats working in Alaska.

Now one of the CDQ companies, Coastal Villages Region Fund, is seriously looking to move its fleet to Alaska, including its 341-foot flagship, the Northern Hawk.

Coastal is working with the city of Seward, which is stoked at the prospect of landing a new fleet to support jobs and local businesses.

The company and Seward say they have a "historic opportunity" to base Alaska's fishing fleet here, where it belongs.

Naturally, Seward officials are now doing what people do when pursuing big dreams in Alaska — hit up the state Legislature for money.

The city envisions a major port project at its Seward Marine Industrial Center, on the eastern shore of Resurrection Bay, and is asking legislators for $400,000 to conduct preliminary engineering and other studies.

In a rousing letter to Seward's mayor, Coastal touts its "quarter of a billion dollar balance sheet" and supposes that the other five CDQ companies just might follow Coastal's lead in relocating their fleets to Alaska.

The letter and other interesting documents are in this packet of papers obtained from the city of Seward.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cook Inlet's fortnight of fish

Gillnetters at ease in the Kenai River. Deckboss photo

The Alaska Board of Fisheries is now two days into a meeting set to last a solid two weeks, until March 5.

That's obviously a long, long time to talk fish. But the talk always runs at length whenever the topic is Upper Cook Inlet finfish management.

The board has more than 210 proposals before it — ideas from anyone and everyone looking to tweak, modify or flat-out revolutionize the fisheries.

Deckboss reviewed the proposals and frankly found little to get too excited about. Most are pretty arcane, so we're unlikely to see any genuine revolutions or knockout victories from this marathon meeting.

That's mainly due to the bitter battles of the past, which seem to have created pretty much of a stalemate between the commercial, sport, subsistence and dipnet fishermen competing for salmon in Alaska's most popular fishing hole.

But certainly we'll keep an eye on the meeting, open to the public at the Egan Center in downtown Anchorage.

If I had to pick one area of interest, it would be the proposals from commercial fishermen to restrain a growing rival — the dipnet fisheries that draw thousands of Alaskans each summer to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers to scoop up salmon returning from the sea. One proposal would cut annual household limits to prevent "excessive harvest beyond actual food needs."

Hmmm, can't imagine a fight over that.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Begich: I got fish

Here's some news from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska:

Feb. 17, 2011

Begich named chairman of Oceans Subcommittee

With fisheries one of the Alaska's leading industries, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today was named to chair the Senate panel with prime jurisdiction over that industry and other ocean and coastal issues.

Begich was named chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The subcommittee is responsible for legislation and oversight of matters that impact our oceans, coasts and climate, including: coastal zone management; marine fisheries and marine mammals; oceans, weather and atmospheric activities; marine and ocean navigation; ocean policy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The subcommittee also is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Coast Guard.

"With Alaska fisheries such a vital part of the state's economy, producing over half the seafood landed in the nation, this is a key assignment for Alaska," Begich said. "Management of these fisheries as well as protection of the oceans and the Coast Guard's work on fisheries enforcement and search and rescue are also critical functions for our state."

The importance of NOAA's weather service functions for safe air travel and marine activities add to the value of chairing the subcommittee, Begich added.

Regnart rises to director of commercial fisheries

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

Feb. 17, 2011

Jeff Regnart appointed commercial fisheries director

JUNEAU — Commissioner Cora Campbell today announced the appointment of Jeff Regnart as director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries. Regnart will step into his new role today from his regional Central Region supervisor position.

"Jeff comes to this position with outstanding qualifications," Campbell said. "He combines a wealth of knowledge and experience, from commercial fishing and sportfish guiding while attending college in the '80s to recently overseeing some of the most complex and competitive fisheries in the state."

During his career, Regnart has held diverse and increasingly complex positions within the department, in addition to serving on numerous fisheries panels and forums.

In his recent position as supervisor for the Central Region, he was responsible for program administration and supervision of all management and research activities including those for Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound.

Before being appointed regional supervisor in 2003, Regnart worked his way up from biologist I in 1990 to biologist IV in 1998. He started his career with the department as a fish and wildlife technician in 1984.

"I'm humbled and honored to be appointed director and look forward to working with commercial fisheries staff and department leadership to carry out our mission," Regnart said.

Regnart attained a bachelor's degree in biology from Western Washington University and attended Humboldt State University where he completed his master's in fishery management.

The Division of Commercial Fisheries manages commercial, subsistence and personal use fisheries. The division's core services include stock assessment and applied research, harvest management, aquaculture permitting and information services and statistics.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

This is cool

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program is partnering with Integrated Marine Systems Inc. to offer the one-day refrigeration workshop March 29 in Anchorage.

The workshop is designed to help commercial fishermen better use and maintain onboard refrigeration systems.

Interested? Sign up here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Two factory trawlers collide at Dutch Harbor

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating a collision involving two factory trawlers at Dutch Harbor.

The incident happened last night or early this morning, apparently at a pier.

The trawler Alaska Spirit sustained damaged to its bow, while the hull of the Kodiak Enterprise was cracked above the water line, said Coast Guard Lt. Lane Munroe in Juneau.

No word on injuries.

The 221-foot Alaska Spirit belongs to Fishing Company of Alaska, while the 261-foot Kodiak Enterprise is part of the Trident Seafoods Corp. fleet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Runaway barge!

The 143-foot barge Brittney Moe is adrift in Shelikof Strait southwest of Kodiak Island after the tug Seahawk lost the tow in heavy weather early Tuesday. The tug experienced a partial loss of steering in the mishap, the U.S. Coast Guard said. The barge is laden with a forklift, a shipping container and a layer of ice. She's in no danger of running aground and plans are in motion for the Seahawk or another tug to recover the craft. USCG photo

Coast Guard hoists injured Lilli Ann crewman

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

Feb. 15, 2011

Coast Guard conducts medevac off St. Paul

JUNEAU — A Kodiak-based MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew forward-deployed on St. Paul Island this afternoon conducted a medevac of a 43-year-old male from the 124-foot fishing vessel Lilli Ann 120 miles southeast of St. Paul Island.

Toun Tran, hometown unknown, reportedly injured his foot while the Lilli Ann was transiting between St. Paul Island and Dutch Harbor.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Parties in Steller conflict seek ruling by September

As I'm sure you recall, the state and commercial fishing groups are suing the federal government over its recent closure of some Aleutian waters to reserve more food fish for endangered Steller sea lions.

While they disagree on the science behind the closures, the parties see eye to eye on this much: They want a quick ruling from federal Judge Tim Burgess.

Lawyers for the feds, the state and industry jointly filed this proposed case schedule under which they would move along the proceedings so the judge could render a decision by the first week of September.

This would allow enough time to make appropriate plans for the 2012 groundfish season, the court filing says.

The judge has not yet agreed to this expedited schedule, but a conference is set for 3 p.m. Thursday in his Anchorage courtroom.

Coast Guard hoists ailing man off Golden Alaska

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

Feb. 14, 2011

Coast Guard medevacs man from fishing vessel north of Cold Bay

KODIAK — A Kodiak-based HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, forward-deployed to the Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau, today conducted a medevac of a 40-year-old male from the 280-foot processing vessel Golden Alaska 46 miles north of Cold Bay.

Nery Arriaza, hometown unknown, was reportedly suffering from severe chest pains when the captain of the Golden Alaska contacted the Coast Guard via satellite phone at 9:12 a.m. requesting a medevac.

The Dolphin crew launched from the cutter at 11:57 a.m. and safely hoisted Arriaza at 12:17 p.m.

"Since the start of February, Air Station Kodiak crews have saved 18 lives in some of the harshest weather conditions you can imagine for flight," said Lt. j.g. Edward Michno, a Coast Guard search and rescue controller.

The helicopter crew arrived in Cold Bay at 1:30 p.m. and transferred Arriaza to an emergency medical flight to Anchorage for further care.

The weather at the time of the medevac was reported as 23 to 29 mph winds with 6-foot seas. The 378-foot cutter Morgenthau is homeported in Alameda, Calif.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Another one hits the rocks

The 68-foot fishing vessel Midnite Sun ran aground on Afognak Island northwest of Kodiak early this morning. The U.S. Coast Guard safely rescued all five aboard after another boat, the Sea Warrior, relayed a distress call picked up on an unmonitored VHF radio channel. "Without the help of the Sea Warrior we may never have known that the crew of the Midnite Sun was in need of rescue," said Coast Guard Lt. Michael Anderson. USCG photo

Alaska trawl company Iquique names new CEO

Read about it here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A new look — but better?

If you haven't visited the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website lately, prepare for a shock.

It's been redesigned.

Don't you just love a good redesign?

On the rocks

The fishing vessel TerriGail ran aground Tuesday southwest of Makushin Bay on Unalaska Island. The crew of the 58-foot longliner reported losing power, and efforts to prevent the grounding were unsuccessful. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter hoisted all five crewmen to safety. USCG photo

'Frankly somewhat appalling'

We told you last month about Aleut Enterprise asking a judge to hold its former tenant, Adak Seafood, in contempt for failure to pay $215,739.73 in rent.

As you might imagine, Adak Seafood has quite a different view of the situation, arguing the most it might owe in rent is $33,000.

The company's lawyer says the contempt request is "frankly somewhat appalling" given Adak Seafood's cooperation in relinquishing control of the Adak Island fish plant.

Read the company's full argument here.

You might also be interested in this declaration from Adak Seafood manager Asbjorn Drevik.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Five crewmen saved but boat wrecks near Dutch

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew today hoisted five fishermen off a disabled and adrift longliner, but efforts to save the boat failed and now she's gone aground southwest of Dutch Harbor.

The TerriGail, described as a 58-footer out of Kodiak, grounded at 2:50 p.m. in Alimuda Bay on Unalaska Island, the Coast Guard said.

Here's more from a Coast Guard press release:

The crew of the 378-foot cutter Morgenthau received the initial mayday call via VHF radio at 4:04 a.m. from the TerriGail crew reporting a marine casualty and that they were about 40 miles from Unalaska. The Coast Guard 17th District command center diverted the Morgenthau which was about 10 miles away and requested the assistance of the tug Redeemer located in Dutch Harbor.

The Morgenthau arrived on scene about 8:30 a.m. to monitor the situation while the TerriGail crew tried to make any repairs. After the TerriGail crew determined the casualty couldn't be fixed the cutter prepared for towing the fishing vessel. However, the cutter was unable to connect its tow line to the adrift boat.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Coming ashore

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hamilton approaches the Juneau pier Friday after a three-month patrol of the Bering Sea. Commissioned in 1967, the Hamilton is homeported at San Diego. USCG photo

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bristol Bay villages extend their reach

Here are a couple of Bristol Bay notes.

• A new road is planned to connect the village of Naknek to Pederson Point. The North Pacific Seafoods salmon cannery is located on the point, currently accessible only by taking a four-wheel-drive along the beach at low tide. Paug-Vik Inc., the Native village corporation for Naknek, wants to extend an overland road 1.7 miles from the east to reach Pederson Point. Paug-Vik says the road would provide year-round access to the point and would improve transportation of fish to Naknek, hub of Bristol Bay's salmon industry. For more information and a map, start here.

• The staff of a state agency, the Local Boundary Commission, has recommended approval of the city of Dillingham's petition to annex extensive commercial fishing grounds (map). The staff's conclusion starts on p. 84 of this preliminary report. At the end of the report, you can find letters from people for and against annexing the new territory. The annexation is still subject to commission approval, plus a vote of Dillingham area residents. For background, here's an item published in a recent issue of Pacific Fishing magazine:

Dillingham's expansion plan

The Bristol Bay city of Dillingham wants to get bigger, way bigger, and collect a lot more tax revenue.

To achieve its goals, the city has petitioned the state Local Boundary Commission to annex rich commercial salmon fishing grounds adjacent to town, including the Nushagak District and the Wood River special harvest area. In all, the city of about 36 square miles is seeking to add 396 square miles of water plus three square miles of islands.

In conjunction with the annexation, the city aims to impose a new local raw fish tax. The 2.5 percent levy would raise an estimated $710,833 annually beginning in 2012.

In their petition, Dillingham officials say they need more revenue to cover and improve city services. The city's population of 2,350 people nearly doubles during the summer fishing season, with up to 700 vessels jamming the city harbor. Most are not Dillingham residents, yet they use the harbor, boat ramps, parking areas, restrooms and bathhouse, and benefit from the city's trash hauling, street maintenance and more.

The proposed tax would extend to the roughly 50 percent of Nushagak Bay salmon delivered outside the district for processing, Dillingham's petition says.

Dillingham officials note that wrapping city limits around fishing waters is nothing new. The commission approved it for Egegik, Pilot Point, St. Paul and Togiak.

CDQ partnership buys up Wards Cove assets

Two of Alaska's Community Development Quota companies have put together a deal to buy remnants of Wards Cove, once a fishing and processing powerhouse in Alaska.

The deal includes seven trawl vessels, which evidently command nearly 4 percent of the Bering Sea pollock quota, according to a press release issued today.

One crab vessel also is included.

Alas, the press release fails to say whether Wards Cove is selling its interest in Alyeska Seafoods, the smallest of the three pollock surimi plants at Dutch Harbor. Wards Cove owns the plant jointly with Japanese seafood giant Maruha Nichiro.

Naturally, the sale price was not disclosed.

The two CDQ companies partnering on the Wards Cove purchase are Coastal Villages Region Fund and Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. Both are based in Anchorage and invest in Bering Sea fisheries under a federal program to promote economic development for Western Alaska villages.

Wards Cove, you might know, is an old name in the Alaska fishing industry. The Brindle family founded the company in 1928.

Once a major Alaska salmon processor, Wards Cove fell on hard times and closed its salmon plants in 2002.

But the firm kept its Bering Sea groundfish and crab assets — until now, apparently.

"We have confidence that our legacy is in sound Alaskan hands," Alec Brindle Jr., Wards Cove president, said in the press release announcing the sale.