Thursday, June 30, 2011

Norton Sound herring pays gillnetters $339 a ton

Here's a summary of Norton Sound's herring fishery from Norton Sound Economic Development Corp.

June 30, 2011

Norton Sound herring harvest sets another record for roe recovery

NOME — Norton Sound herring fishermen in June topped their own high mark set a year ago by harvesting herring with an all-time record recovery of roe.

The 744 tons of herring harvested this year were comprised of 14.8 percent roe, on average. The previous record, set last year by Norton Sound harvesters, was 13.5 percent roe recovery.

In total, approximately 25 Norton Sound herring fishermen harvested 810 tons of herring, of which 66 tons were directed to a bait fishery.

Fishermen were paid out a total of more than $274,700 for the entire fishery, an average of $339 per ton.

Prices paid per ton were determined by a sliding scale depending on the roe percentage. Roe recovery ranged from 9 percent to 20 percent, with the majority of the harvest coming in between 13 and 17 percent. Fishermen harvested the herring with gillnets.

Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. has worked to bring a herring buyer to the region for the last two years to conduct a fishery after several years of no commercial herring fishing.

Through an agreement with NSEDC, Icicle Seafoods brought a processing vessel and tenders to Norton Sound in 2010 and 2011.

The roe harvested is sold as a luxury food item in Japan and is often given out during the holidays as gifts.

In addition to negotiating an agreement with Icicle, NSEDC supports the fishery through aerial surveys to determine when the fishing effort should begin and to direct fishermen to high-quality herring once the fishery commences.

This year, biologists from NSEDC's Norton Sound Fisheries Research and Development division flew 29 hours during 15 flights in support of the fishery.

"We would like to thank all our resident fishermen as well as the great crew Icicle brought to Norton Sound. From the crews of the processing vessel and tenders to the aerial survey support, Icicle provided excellent service to all aspects of the fishery," said Reese Huhta, southern manager for NSEDC's Norton Sound Seafood Products.

Petersburg cutter captain permanently relieved

A U.S. Coast Guard officer temporarily removed last month as commander of the Petersburg-based cutter Anacapa has now lost the post permanently.

The action comes after an investigation into allegations that Lt. Matthias Wholley was intoxicated when he directed his cutter to get under way.

Here's the Coast Guard press release.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I fought the law...

Alaska's commercial salmon season is now in full swing.

That means the Alaska State Troopers are running flat out, too. With their ticket books.

You can find enforcement news on The Brig, a companion blog to Deckboss. See the link in the green box.

Generally, we have time during summer to post only the major commercial cases. A charter or sportfishing case occasionally makes the cut.

Plenty of fresh items on The Brig right now, so check it out.

Locke addresses post-tsunami seafood safety

Back in April we showed you a letter U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, sent to President Obama urging seafood industry protections in light of Japan's tsunami and nuclear crisis.

Begich has now received a reply from Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who details some recent federal efforts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's to blame for PWS herring collapse?

A new journal article examines hypotheses for the decline and poor recovery of Prince William Sound herring, and identifies hatchery pink salmon among possible culprits.

The article finds "no evidence that oil exposure from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, harvest effects, spawning habitat loss, the spawn-on-kelp fishery, or disease have led to either the decline or poor recovery of PWS herring."

Here's the article abstract:

This paper updates previous reviews of the 1993 stock decline of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and focuses on hypotheses about subsequent poor recovery. Recent age structured assessment modeling with covariate analysis indicates that the population dynamics of the sound’s herring are influenced by oceanic factors, nutrition, and, most substantially, hatchery releases of juvenile pink salmon. For the 1993 decline, poor nutrition remains the most probable cause with disease a secondary response. Concerning poor recovery, we examined 16 potential factors and found three to be causal: oceanic factors, poor nutrition, and hatchery releases of juvenile pink salmon. Absences of strong year classes at both Sitka and Prince William Sound after 1993 indicate the action of large-scale ocean processes. Beyond regional-scale environmental factors, two factors specific to the sound influence the population dynamics of herring and are likely impeding recovery. First, pink salmon fry releases have increased to about 600 million annually and may disrupt feeding in young herring, which require adequate nutrition for growth and overwintering survival. Juvenile pink salmon and age-1 herring co-occur in nearshore areas of bays in late spring and summer, and available data on dietary overlap indicates potential competition between the age-1 juvenile herring and juvenile pink salmon. Field studies demonstrate that juvenile herring reduce food intake substantially in the presence of juvenile pink salmon. Second, overwintering humpback whales may consume potentially large amounts of adult herring, but further studies must confirm to what extent whale predation reduces herring biomass.

Bristol Bay heats up

Looks like the sockeye are really starting to storm into Bristol Bay.

The daily catch topped a million fish on Sunday — 1,231,000, to be exact.

Monday's catch was 1,312,400 fish.

Track the fishery yourself here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Four out of five ain't bad

The Metlakatla Indian Community has won Marine Stewardship Council certification for its salmon fishery in waters surrounding the Annette Islands Reserve, a federal Indian reservation in Southeast Alaska.

The MSC certification, which signifies sustainable management, covers pink, chum, coho and king salmon taken with gillnet, seine or troll gear.

And what about sockeye, you ask?

The MSC press release mentions something about "depleted local sockeye salmon populations."

Friday, June 24, 2011

A satisfying salmon season so far

We came into the summer expecting a huge commercial salmon harvest — about 203 million fish, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecast.

It's way too early to know if we'll get there, but so far the statewide catch has been encouraging.

The harvest as of today stands at 7.9 million salmon, about 6 million of them sockeye.

The sockeye, of course, is the main money fish among Alaska's five salmon species. Sockeye runs have come in early and strong around the state, to the delight of many fishermen.

The real key to making the forecast is the little pink salmon. We'll have to wait a bit for the humpy hordes to hit.

Here's a few regional highlights from the young season:

• Copper River District gillnetters already have taken more than 1.1 million sockeye, nearly double what they caught all of last season.

• Chignik seiners are smiling, too, having bagged more than 1.5 million sockeye. The June 1-22 timeframe saw the second-highest harvest since 1970, Fish and Game says.

• At Bristol Bay, scene of the world's biggest sockeye run, the catch has topped 1.8 million fish, with 1 million of them coming from the Egegik District. In a very few days, we should see the fishery explode for much bigger numbers.

Icicle powers ahead at Adak

We certainly have talked a lot on Deckboss about the troubles with the seafood processing plant on Adak Island.

We've also taken note of Adak's escalating electricity costs.

In April came word that a big Seattle processor, Icicle Seafoods Inc., would be taking over at Adak. This holds the promise of stability not only for the plant but also the island's thin economy.

It appears a priority for Icicle is securing reliable power, something that bedeviled the plant's former operators.

Icicle subsidiary Western Star Seafoods is installing two diesel generators at Adak that will burn ultra low-sulfur diesel, according to this public notice.

Further, a special contract between Icicle and the local power company, TDX Adak Generating, is pending before the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. Much more on that here.

The contract could presage possible relief for all ratepayers on Adak, as this discussion between the RCA staff and TDX suggests.

So, more power to Icicle and Adak, I guess.

By the way, Deckboss called the Icicle brass in Seattle to ask what the official name of the rejuvenated Adak plant will be. I didn't get a call back, so we'll just call it that Adak plant.

When the siren sounds...

Donald Graves, UniSea manager at Dutch Harbor, directs the evacuation of processing plant workers after a tsunami warning around 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The warning came in response to a magnitude 7.3 earthquake occurring 20 miles southeast of Amukta Pass. Unalaska police and fire units reported "most if not all citizens" reached high ground by about 8:15 p.m. But no tsunami came and the warning soon was canceled. Jim Paulin photo

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tsunami warning canceled

Here's the notice.

Tsunami warning issued for Aleutian chain

We have a tsunami warning in effect for the Aleutians from Unimak Pass west to Amchitka Pass, with special notice to Adak Island.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More on the Yakutat tragedy

Deckboss asked the Alaska State Troopers whether the three salmon fishermen involved in the Dangerous River capsizing that left two dead Monday were wearing life preservers.

Here's the reply from AST spokeswoman Megan Peters:

Two of the three had PFDs (personal flotation devices). After the boat was swamped and capsized, they were able to crawl up on the vessel and sit out of the water. They were there for about four hours. They were pretty cold and shivering. After sitting for so long, the two with PFDs decided to make a swim for the shore since it was 'so close' (maybe a few hundred yards). As they swam, hypothermia likely set in very quickly. They drowned while attempting to get to shore. The one without the PFD stayed with the boat. A plane spotted him sometime after. A helo was sent out, but the man was too exhausted to pull himself up into the helo or onto the skids. It was a small two-seater without floats so it couldn't land. Skiffs from a nearby community set out and collected him. The bodies of the two deceased were spotted by a fixed-wing flying overhead. They had washed up on the shoreline by then. One a half mile away, the other about two miles away.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CDQ company seeks new leader

Here's a mighty interesting job availability.

Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. is looking for a president and chief executive officer.

Dillingham-based BBEDC is one of six Alaska fishing companies operating under the federal Community Development Quota program.

Last I heard, Robin Samuelsen was BBEDC's president and CEO, and he remains so listed on the company's website.

2 die, 1 survives after skiff capsizes in commercial fishing accident on Dangerous River at Yakutat

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Dangerous River near Yakutat
Type: Boating accident, two fatalities
On 6/20/11 at 1730 hours the Alaska Wildlife Troopers in Yakutat responded to a report of an overturned boat at the mouth of Dangerous River in Yakutat. Jonathan Pavlik, 30, Wayne Gray, 29, and Rex Newlun, 18, all of Yakutat, were commercial fishing on the river when their skiff started filling with water and overturned. Gray and Newlun drowned in the water and Pavlik was able to climb on top of the skiff. A passing aircraft spotted Pavlik on top of the skiff later in the afternoon. Pavlik was recovered by local residents who took a boat out to retrieve him. Gray and Newlun were located and brought to the Yakutat clinic where they were pronounced deceased. Next of kin has been notified.

Monday, June 20, 2011

USCG conducts distant medevac for captain

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter this afternoon medevaced the 61-year-old captain of the fishing vessel Sea Bird.

The 167-foot vessel was far out in the Gulf of Alaska, 253 miles southeast of Kodiak.

The captain, whose name was not released, was reported to be suffering "symptoms of gastrointestinal distress," a Coast Guard press release said.

He was taken to a hospital in Kodiak.

A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft accompanied the helicopter, which was operating at the edge of its range.

Sea conditions on the scene were calm.

The Sea Bird's chief mate will bring the vessel into Kodiak, the Coast Guard said.

The boat's hailing port is Seattle.

PWS dragnet...Kodiak's hot metal...Dungie trouble

All manner of news today over on The Brig.

Friday, June 17, 2011

High and dry

The 53-foot fishing vessel Sisiutl hard aground in Portage Bay off Shelikof Strait, 133 miles southwest of Kodiak city. U.S. Coast Guard aircraft this morning responded to help the three crewmen, who had donned survival suits but were in no immediate danger. The crew hopes to refloat the boat on the evening tide. No word how this happened. State records show the boat belongs to Frederick J. Stager of Kodiak. USCG photo

Want a job on the slime line?

Read this.

Norton Sound king crabbers to see big price jump

This just in from Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., one of the state's six Community Development Quota companies.

June 17, 2011

Norton Sound red king crab prices climb by more than $1.50

NOME — Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. announces its Norton Sound Seafood Products division will pay fishermen $5.29 per pound in 2011 for Norton Sound red king crab at the dock in Nome.

Last year the crab price was set at $3.77 at the dock.

The CDQ crab fishery is set to open on June 28. Once the first deliveries can be checked for quality and meat-fill, NSSP will immediately proceed with accepting deliveries from the open-access fishery.

NSSP is working on plans to continue its offering of tendering services from the Golovin area and in the southern portion of Norton Sound. Tendered crab will fetch a price of $5.04 to fishermen.

"Aided by the strong demand worldwide for crab, Norton Sound Seafood Products is pleased to offer a more than 40 percent increase in the price paid to fishermen over last year," said Rich Ferry, an NSSP manager. "We are proud to support our resident fishermen. With such strong prices this year, we anticipate a great season."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lloyd, former commissioner, pleads guilty to DUI

Here's the story from the Associated Press.

Crab lobbyist to remain UFA chief

Anchorage resident Arni Thomson has been re-elected as president of United Fishermen of Alaska, the Juneau-based organization announced today.

UFA is the state's leading commercial fishing group.

Thomson is the longtime executive director of the Alaska Crab Coalition, which represents Bering Sea crab vessel owners.

Here's the press release, which covers this and other UFA leadership decisions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Move over, salmon, here come the Dungies!

Somebody pass the butter, please? ASMI photo

Commercial salmon fisheries are now open all along the coast, from Southeast Alaska to the Copper River to Lower Cook Inlet to Kodiak to Chignik to Bristol Bay.

But salmon isn't the only game in town.

At noon tomorrow, the 2011-12 Dungeness crab season opens in Southeast. Here's the announcement.

Adam Messmer, a state fishery manager in Juneau, tells Deckboss 126 permit holders have signed for the Dungeness harvest so far.

Dungeness, like salmon, long has been a target of Alaska commercial fishermen. The crab was first commercially canned at Seldovia in 1920, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game species profile says.

Dungies typically are caught in circular pots baited with herring, squid or clams.

Commonly served whole, the Dungeness crab is "treasured for its beautiful orange shell color, distinctive sweet flavor and tender flaky white meat," the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute says.

Southeast Dungeness is quite a valuable crop.

The 2010-11 season produced a harvest of nearly 3.25 million pounds, worth more than $5.5 million at an average price of $1.78 per pound.

Most of the catch comes in the summer segment of the fishery, which is the part that opens tomorrow. A fall segment opens Oct. 1.

The Dungeness stock is in good shape in Southeast, Messmer says.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said up the coast at Yakutat. The Dungeness fishery there has been closed for the past 11 seasons due to weak stocks, and it'll remain closed this season.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Council said to pass Gulf Chinook bycatch limit

Deckboss has been remiss in failing to note that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has been meeting the past several days in Nome.

It's the first time the council has ever convened in that exciting and faraway town.

And the council, evidently, has used the occasion to achieve yet another first: a limit on Chinook salmon bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska pollock fishery, says this press release from the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Those darned processors

Surely you caught the top news story today in Alaska: the public release of thousands of e-mails from Sarah Palin's time as governor.

Deckboss couldn't resist trolling through the e-mails for something interesting.

Here's a 2008 exchange between Palin and Cora Crome, now Cora Campbell, who was fisheries adviser to Palin and now is Alaska's fish and game commissioner.

Palin mentions yours truly, who at the time was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.

The exchange is about processor buying limits at Bristol Bay, a rancorous subject for commercial salmon fishermen.

The Palins, of course, are Bristol Bay setnetters.

Anyway, for what's it's worth.

Senators urge continued NIOSH funding

Six Democratic senators have signed a letter urging their colleagues to maintain funding for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's commercial fishery research program.

The program's research and outreach efforts have been a lifesaver in the notoriously dangerous commercial fishing industry, the senators argue.

"We recognize that this is a difficult fiscal climate, but the safety of our commercial fishermen must remain a priority," the letter says.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A marine mammal whodunit

The federal fish cops are investigating the possible illegal killing of marine mammals near Skagway.

"Since January, the carcasses of two Steller sea lions and three harbor seals have been discovered," the National Marine Fisheries Service said in a press release issued yesterday.

"Of the five deceased mammals, four showed signs of head trauma, and a bullet was recovered from one harbor seal skull during a necropsy."

Read more here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Abby Louise update

The U.S. Coast Guard says the fishing vessel Abby Louise, which partially sank a few miles outside of Cordova over the weekend, has been raised and towed to the harbor. Here's more.

$1,500 reward

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is offering a $1,500 reward for the recovery of subsurface research equipment in Chatham Strait.

Here's the press release.


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

'Politically dangerous'

Salmon seiners along the south Alaska Peninsula are sacrificing early fishing time rather than risk high chum bycatch while in pursuit of sockeye.

Here's a press release from the Aleutians East Borough.

Trouble in Orca Inlet

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and two good Samaritan boats helped rescue three crewmen off the 44-foot fishing vessel Abby Louise, which partially sank early Saturday about seven miles southwest of Cordova. The Miss Emily radioed the Coast Guard about the sinking, and the Lady Samantha took the crewmen aboard shortly before 1 a.m. and delivered them to Cordova. A Coast Guard helicopter earlier carried dewatering pumps to the Abby Louise, but apparently to no avail. The Coast Guard's Valdez office is investigating the incident. USCG photo

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Olson, Henderschedt keep their seats

The U.S. Department of Commerce today announced that Eric Olson of Alaska and John Henderschedt of Washington state have been reappointed to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Here's the announcement.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hey, hey, Bristol Bay!

Much of Bristol Bay is now open for commercial salmon fishing.

Here's the official announcement.

After power loss, Southeast boat calls for help

From the U.S. Coast Guard:

June 1, 2011

Coast Guard cutter tows disabled boat to Ketchikan

The Coast Guard cutter Naushon on Tuesday towed the disabled 33-foot fishing vessel Ocean Point to Ketchikan from 16 miles south of Duke Island.

Sector Juneau command center watchstanders received a call via VHF-FM channel 16 from the operator of the Ocean Point reporting he lost engine power after setting out his fishing gear.

The watchstanders issued a Marine Assistance Request Broadcast and the good Samaritan crew of the 34-foot fishing vessel Thomasina responded, reporting they were willing to assist the Ocean Point.

The Thomasina began towing the Ocean Point to Ketchikan, but two hours later they reported to Sector Juneau they were not making progress and were concerned about being pushed in the wrong direction during the tide change.

The cutter Naushon crew got under way at 12:30 p.m. to assist the Ocean Point.

The Naushon crew began towing the Ocean Point at about 3:26 p.m. and safely moored the Ocean Point in Ketchikan at 10 p.m.