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.