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.