Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nice save

The grounded fishing vessel Nor'Quest was successfully removed yesterday and will be towed to Dutch Harbor for inspection and repairs, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reports. The boat, which was in Togiak Bay to tender herring for Icicle Seafoods, lost its anchor and grounded May 25 on a gravel beach along the north side of Hagemeister Island. The vessel refloated after fuel was removed. State records indicate the Nor'Quest is owned by SRW Marine Services LLC, whose organizer is John Casperson of Seattle. DEC photo

Former SoCal power exec to head Commerce

The White House today announced President Obama will nominate John Bryson as commerce secretary.

If confirmed, the former CEO of Southern California electric power company Edison International will succeed Gary Locke, the former Washington state governor now in line to become ambassador to China.

The commerce secretary, of course, is a highly relevant position for fish folk, as the Commerce Department includes such agencies as the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Weather Service.

Commander of Petersburg cutter relieved of duty

From the U.S. Coast Guard:

May 30, 2011

Cutter Anacapa commanding officer temporarily relieved

JUNEAU — Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander, 17th Coast Guard District, and Capt. Melissa Bert, commander, Coast Guard Sector Juneau, today temporarily relieved Lt. Matthias Wholley from his duties as commanding officer of the cutter Anacapa for loss of confidence in the ability to command.

Final determination regarding a permanent removal or resumption of command is made by the commandant of the Coast Guard in Washington, D.C.

Lt. j.g. James Toomey, executive officer of the Anacapa, has assumed temporary command of the cutter.

Wholley will been temporarily reassigned to Coast Guard Sector Juneau in Juneau.

The Anacapa is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in Petersburg.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

That's it for smelt

Deckboss confesses he previously was unaware, or maybe just forgot, that Alaska has a commercial fishery for smelt, also known as hooligan.

It's a small fishery, in Cook Inlet. Smelt fishermen are required to have state permits, and legal gear is a hand-held dipnet.

The season opened May 1 and closed at 5 p.m. today as the harvest reached the 100-ton annual limit, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced.

I know nothing about the marketing of these fish, or even how they taste. Can anyone enlighten us?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Red-hot Copper River

Copper River salmon fishermen have another opener today starting at 7 a.m.

Deckboss is sure they're anxious to get their nets in the water, considering how the young season has unfolded so far.

We've had three quick, 12-hour openers in the Copper River District, and by my count the cumulative sockeye catch is 459,300 fish.

That's more than two-thirds of the 635,968 sockeye caught all of last season.

The numbers also are looking pretty good for Chinook. The catch stands at 6,400 fish, compared to 9,654 in 2010.

Could it be we're headed for a breakout season after last year's disappointment?

Search ends for man overboard

The U.S. Coast Guard reports it suspended its search at 5:50 p.m. yesterday for a missing crewman on the Bering Sea trawler Alaska Victory.

The Coast Guard has not identified the man, other than saying he is Japanese and 55 years old, not 50 as initially reported.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vessel aground in Togiak Bay

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

May 25, 2011

Coast Guard, DEC monitor grounded fishing vessel in Togiak Bay

JUNEAU — The Coast Guard is working with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to monitor the 102-foot fishing vessel Nor'Quest, which grounded on Hagemeister Island in Togiak Bay at 1:12 a.m.

Sector Anchorage received notification through VHF radio from a crewmember aboard the Nor'Quest stating they ran aground after the anchor wire parted, causing them to drift ashore with two crewmen aboard.

The vessel was reported to be carrying 16,000 to 18,000 gallons of diesel fuel with approximately 1,000 gallons of miscellaneous lube oils.

A Coast Guard HC-130 aircrew flew over the vessel this morning and stated there was no pollution.

A commercial salvage company is working with the vessel owner and operators to lighter the Nor'Quest before attempts are made to refloat the vessel.

The two crewmembers were uninjured and are planning to remain aboard.

Man lost off Bering Sea trawler Alaska Victory

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

May 25, 2011

Search on for man overboard 110 miles west of Togiak

JUNEAU — The Coast Guard is searching for a man reported overboard today from the 226-foot commercial fishing vessel Alaska Victory 110 miles west of Togiak.

The Coast Guard in Kodiak received notification at 6:45 a.m. by VHF radio from a crewmember aboard the Alaska Victory reporting a 50-year-old Japanese man fell overboard at 6:30 a.m. with no survival gear or life jacket on.

Crews aboard an HC-130 Hercules aircraft and a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Kodiak are searching for the fisherman.

The Hercules aircrew arrived on scene at 7:40 a.m. and the Jayhawk rescue helicopter aircrew are expected to arrive on scene at 10:30 a.m.

There are also four fishing vessels in the area searching for the overboard fisherman.

Conditions in the search area include seas of 6 to 8 feet, wind speed of 20 mph and an air temperature of 42 degrees.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tsunami relief effort tops $300,000

An Alaska fishing industry group says it has raised more than $300,000 in donations to help victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami. Details here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Southeast seine buyback advances

The National Marine Fisheries Service today published this notice in the Federal Register regarding another proposed round of permit buybacks in the Southeast Alaska purse seine salmon fishery.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Three fishermen rescued, Cordova boat adrift

From the U.S. Coast Guard:

May 20, 2011

Coast Guard rescues three southeast of Hinchinbrook Island

KODIAK — A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew, forward-deployed to Cordova, on Thursday rescued three fishermen 17 miles southeast of Hinchinbrook Island.

Sector Anchorage command center received a distress call via VHF radio from the crew of the Knee Deep, a 28-foot aluminum bowpicker, reporting their vessel was disabled due to engine trouble and their attempt to drop anchor had failed.

The helicopter crew, already flying in the area, diverted to assist the Knee Deep crew at 8:39 p.m.

When on scene, the helicopter crew found the fishermen in survival suits and struggling to anchor their vessel.

The helicopter crew deployed their rescue swimmer and safely hoisted all three men into the helicopter.

The rescue crew flew the fishermen to Cordova where they were taken to the Cordova Community Medical Center reportedly showing signs of mild hypothermia but in good condition.

The Coast Guard is plannning an overflight of the last known position of the Knee Deep to check on the vessel's current location and condition.

Sector Anchorage command center continues to issue a broadcast notice to mariners over VHF radio informing all vessels in the vicinity of Hinchinbrook Island to be aware of the adrift vessel.

The vessel is reportedly carrying 50 gallons of gasoline on board and no pollution has been reported.

The weather at the time of the rescue was reported as low visibility with winds of 35 to 45 mph and 15-foot seas.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Strong start for Copper River sockeye

Copper River gillnetters are fishing their second 12-hour opener of the season today, no doubt still excited about the results of the first opener on Monday.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates the fleet took 105,300 sockeye salmon, which strikes Deckboss as a very impressive tally for opening day.

The Chinook catch totaled 1,700 fish.

Opening day prices reportedly were high, which is always the case and doesn't mean much. Let's see what sockeye are paying in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tragedy strikes Cook Inlet clam diggers

The Associated Press has the details here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Small fleet nets big herring haul at Togiak

The industry has taken a lot of herring at Togiak, as you can see from today's announcement from the Department of Fish and Game.

But participation in the fishery is light.

The fleet consists of 22 seine boats and 25 gillnetters. That's four fewer seiners than were seen last season and 10 fewer gillnetters, said Tim Sands, management biologist for the Togiak fishery.

"We have the same number of processors as last year, but only five of
the six companies are buying gillnet fish," he said. "Last year all six bought."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Salmon time!

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

Good fishing and be safe, guys.

Togiak herring fishery a third of the way through

After a slow start the big Togiak sac roe herring fishery has picked up with the harvest now totaling 8,406 tons, or just over a third of the 24,805-ton quota.

The seiners are faring best, taking 7,275 tons or about 42 percent of their allocation so far, with the gillnet fleet taking 1,131 tons or 15 percent of its share.

New directors named at Fish and Game

Here's the press release:

May 12, 2011

Alaska Department of Fish and Game announces new subsistence director and Board of Fisheries executive director

JUNEAU — Commissioner Cora Campbell recently filled two leadership positions for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Hazel Nelson was appointed director of the Division of Subsistence, and Monica Wellard has been appointed executive director of the Board of Fisheries.

"I'm pleased that Hazel Nelson and Monica Wellard have joined the department's leadership team. Both are highly respected professionals with excellent leadership skills and experience," Campbell said. "I look forward to their contributions to the department and the public."

Hazel Nelson's many years of experience include hands-on work with state and federal resource regulatory processes, local governments and economic development bodies. She has worked with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the Lake and Peninsula Borough, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., the U.S.-Russia Intergovernmental Consultative Committee and the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference. Hazel was born and raised in Egegik and understands the importance of providing sustainable subsistence opportunities for all Alaskans. She will be stationed in the Anchorage office.

Monica Wellard has 18 years of service with ADF&G in which she has held several positions, each with increasing levels of responsibility and authority. Wellard served for five years as assistant director with the Division of Sport Fish, and previously held the administrative operations manager position with the Division of Commercial Fisheries. Her experience and familiarity with fisheries are great assets in her new position. Monica will be stationed in the Juneau headquarters office.

Nelson takes over the lead position in the Division of Subsistence from Jim Simon, subsistence program manager, who has been serving as acting director for the last few months. Wellard will replace Jim Marcotte, who is retiring after 28 years with the department.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Alaska senators push for Arctic fishing ban

Here's a letter from Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to work toward an international fishing ban in the central Arctic Ocean.

The letter notes the loss of ice and the possibility of exploratory or unregulated fisheries popping up in the Arctic high seas.

Further, it says we "have been here before" when a similar situation developed in the Bering Sea some decades ago.

Definitely worth reading.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Big boat, big ice get together

From the U.S. Coast Guard:

May 11, 2011

Coast Guard investigates allision

JUNEAU — The Coast Guard is investigating an allision between the 935-foot cruise ship Westerdam and ice in the vicinity of Yakutat Bay.

The Westerdam was reportedly maneuvering through ice Tuesday evening near Hubbard Glacier when it sustained damage about 15 feet below the waterline.

The hull was reportedly not breached and no injuries or pollution were reported.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Captain of tug that hit Bligh Reef in 2009 was playing video games, U.S. Coast Guard report says

Tug Pathfinder, moored in Valdez after grounding. USCG photo

NOTE: This post has been revised to include a link to the Coast Guard investigative report, and to fix a headline error.

The captain of an oil industry tugboat that ran aground in December 2009 on Bligh Reef, spilling 6,410 gallons of diesel, was playing video games at the time of the mishap, a U.S. Coast Guard investigation has found.

The Coast Guard report says the crew of the tug Pathfinder, part of the Crowley Maritime oil tanker assist and escort fleet at Valdez, violated company policies, and the captain and second mate were unclear as to "who had the conn."

Bligh Reef is a charted navigational hazard that gained infamy when the Exxon Valdez hit it in 1989, spilling nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil.

The Coast Guard report says the captain of the Pathfinder, Ronald Eugene Monsen, had just changed course and sped up the tug, doing so without verifying the position of the vessel. He then turned to a computer to play video games, his back to the forward bridge window.

Monsen "deliberately violated company policy and used the vessel's computer to play hearts or other games, directly after changing course and speed. The Master's actions left the vessel's position unknown, other than an assumption made by the Master on the vessel's previous course," the report says.

Read the full report here.

Be advised that the document is very large and might take some time to load unless you have a blazing fast Internet connection.

Also, be aware that the document is really two reports in one. The top part looks at the role of the Coast Guard's Vessel Traffic Center in the Pathfinder incident.

Fair warning: The report is quite cumbersome to read.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Plans finalized for Norton Sound herring fishery

Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. and Icicle Seafoods Inc. have put together a deal to support a sac roe herring fishery in Norton Sound.

"Icicle Seafoods will bring a processing vessel to Norton Sound to purchase herring from resident fishermen," says an NSEDC press release issued today. "Icicle will also bring four tender vessels to the region to facilitate the fast-paced fishery.

"The Norton Sound fishery generally opens three weeks after the Togiak opener farther south. Current estimates would put this year's Norton Sound opener, which is always subject to change, at the end of May.

"The harvest target for 2011 is set at 1,000 tons. Fishermen will be paid on a sliding scale according to the percentage of roe recovery."

The herring will pay between $190 and $350 a ton, depending on roe content, with herring for bait paying $50 a ton, the press release says.

Last year's sac roe herring fishery, the first held since 2006, attracted nearly 30 boats.

NSEDC is a nonprofit established under the federal Community Development Quota program. It represents 15 communities including Nome and outlying villages.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Togiak herring update: We're on

The Togiak sac roe herring season opens at 6 p.m., although fishery managers "do not believe that the herring have mature roe at this time," says this Department of Fish and Game announcement.

Ready for action at Togiak

The sac roe herring fishery at Togiak, historically the state's largest herring harvest by weight, could begin as soon as this evening.

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

The forecast calls for a potential harvest of 24,805 tons of herring.

Motion denied

A federal judge has denied the Aleut Corp.'s motion to intervene in the Steller sea lion lawsuit.

The state and various industry groups are suing the federal government in hopes of killing new restrictions on cod and Atka mackerel fishing along the Aleutian chain. The restrictions are meant to preserve food for the endangered Stellers.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess ruled that Aleut, which opposes the fishing restrictions, missed the deadline to join the suit as an intervenor.

However, the judge is allowing Aleut a say in the case as a "friend of the court."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fishy investment opportunity

Ever thought about getting involved with the seafood business, but couldn't quite see yourself owning a boat, processing plant or aquaculture operation?

Well, here's a way to do it and never touch a fish.

Global X Funds, a New York-based provider of exchange traded funds or ETFs, has launched what it calls the first fishing industry ETF.

Here's the press release.

Don't look for familiar company names such as Trident, Icicle and Ocean Beauty in the new Global X Fishing Industry ETF, as these companies aren't publicly traded.

But some names with huge involvement in Alaska's seafood industry, such as Maruha Nichiro, will be among the fund's holdings.

Here's more reading from Investor's Business Daily.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On patrol

The U.S. Coast Guard's 418-foot national security cutter Bertholf, homeported in Alameda, Calif., will patrol Alaska waters until June. Check our sister blog, The Brig, for details on some of the cutter's enforcement activity thus far. USCG photo

Sitka scorecard

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has posted its final tally from a rollicking 2011 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery.

"Seven processing companies and 48 permit holders participated in the fishery harvesting 19,429 tons of herring, slightly below the guideline harvest level of 19,490 tons," the report says.

Still no word on what, or whether, purse seiners will be paid for the catch.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Feds say radiation poses no seafood safety threat

A trio of federal agencies today issued this fact sheet concluding that seafood imports and U.S. fishing grounds are free of contamination from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.