Monday, April 30, 2012

A big day

We should know very soon now whether Southeast Alaska salmon seiners will go through with a permit buyback.

That's because 5 p.m. today is the deadline for permit holders to return their ballots to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

If a majority of the 379 ballots comes back in favor, 64 permits will be retired using a $13.1 million federal loan.

Seiners remaining in the fishery will then pay a tax of up to 3 percent on the dockside value of their catches to settle the loan over 40 years.

So, a big day. Any predictions how the vote will turn out? Deckboss doesn't dare.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

All fisheries to remain closed

Another year, another bummer announcement on Prince William Sound herring.

A safer flight into Dutch Harbor?

The state is getting a $35 million federal grant to extend and rehab the runway at the Unalaska airport, the Alaska congressional delegation says.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another sorry salmon season expected on Yukon

State and federal agencies have come out with the Yukon River salmon outlook for this year, and it's not great.

No commercial fishery for Chinook salmon is anticipated, due to a "below average to poor" run projection.

Managers also expect to ban the sale of Chinook caught incidentally in the summer chum fishery.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Conflict expands over rockfish catch shares

As expected, more fishing vessel owners are asking for a say in the big rockfish lawsuit Kodiak processors have brought against federal fishery regulators.

United Catcher Boats, a Seattle-based trawl association, today filed this motion to intervene in the case.

This declaration from UCB executive director Brent Paine also was filed with the court.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Big news on Steller sea lions

A line in the North Pacific divides the Steller sea lion population into eastern and western "distinct population segments."

This just in from the National Marine Fisheries Service:

April 18, 2012

NOAA proposes removing eastern Steller sea lions from endangered species list; agency seeks public comment

JUNEAU — NOAA is proposing to remove the eastern Steller sea lion, currently deemed "threatened," from the list of endangered wildlife, after a status review by its biologists found the species is recovering sufficiently.

"This proposal reflects the continued recovery of the eastern population of Steller sea lions and the strong conservation partnership among NOAA Fisheries, the states, the fishing industry, and other stakeholders," said NOAA's Fisheries Service Alaska Regional Administrator Jim Balsiger.

More here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The salmon situation

At last week's ComFish trade show in Kodiak, fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp delivered this important presentation, Trends in Alaska Salmon Markets.

It's a concise overview of the salmon industry's remarkable resurgence in recent years, and some potential trouble on the horizon.

Anyone seriously interested in this business should review the entire report — it's a fast-moving 101 pages.

Here are three key points Deckboss took away from it:

• Strong harvests and surging prices have nearly quadrupled the dockside value of Alaska salmon since the terrible 2002 season. But when adjusting for inflation, the value remains well below levels seen in the late 1980s and early 1990s (see the graphs on pages 47-48).

• Japan once was practically the only destination for frozen sockeye, the state's most valuable salmon species. Now the market is diverse, with a great deal of sockeye going to the Lower 48, the European Union and China (see graph on page 17).

• While long-term prospects for wild Alaska salmon are good, some recent developments don't bode well for prices this year. These include rapidly growing world farmed salmon supply, sharply lower farmed prices the past six months, and recent declines in foreign purchasing power.

"Both economic theory and past experience suggest that if farmed salmon prices fall and the value of the Japanese yen and the Euro fall, it will be difficult for wild salmon sellers to continue to sell wild salmon for the prices they could get in 2011," Knapp says.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Kodiak shooting victims named as FBI investigates

From the U.S. Coast Guard:

April 13, 2012

Coast Guard mourns loss of two shipmates

JUNEAU — The Coast Guard Investigative Service continues to work with the FBI, Alaska State Troopers and the Kodiak Police Department to investigate the shooting deaths of two Coast Guard employees that occurred Thursday at Coast Guard Communications Station Kodiak.

The Coast Guard has been informed by the FBI that they are treating this investigation as a double homicide. There is no evidence to suggest these deaths are the result of a murder suicide. No arrests have been made and all residents are advised to use reasonable safety precautions and to report any suspicious activity to their local law enforcement agency.

The victims have been identified as Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins, an electronics technician, and Richard Belisle, a civilian employee and retired Coast Guard chief petty officer.

"As an organization with roots in saving lives and a focus on protecting people, this tragic event has shocked us all," said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander, 17th Coast Guard District. "My thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families, their loved ones and the entire Kodiak community."

"Our Coast Guard team from across the nation has been extremely supportive and we have sent a number of crisis response personnel and resources to Kodiak to assist the victims' families, friends and coworkers as they cope with this tragedy," Ostebo said.

Alaska seafood export value surges

The value of Alaska's seafood exports grew 35 percent to $2.5 billion in 2011, the governor's office just announced.

And where did all that seafood go? Here's a Top 10 list:

CountryValue (millions)
The Netherlands$159.4

Here come the hooligan!

The commercial season for hooligan, also known as smelt, opens May 1 in Upper Cook Inlet.

A total harvest of up to 100 tons will be allowed, says the Department of Fish and Game.

Legal gear for the fishery is a dipnet. More details here.

No go for West Behm Canal herring

Sitka isn't the sac roe herring fishery to come to a less than satisfying conclusion this week.

The Department of Fish and Game yesterday announced that the West Behm Canal purse seine fishery won't open this year.

The announcement cites the lack of a large enough buildup of mature herring to a support commercial fishing.

The preseason quota was 748 tons.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's all over in Sitka

Coming into the season, Sitka Sound herring seiners had a record 28,829-ton quota in front of them.

But the blockbuster harvest wasn't to be.

Today, the Department of Fish and Game closed the season after a scratchy harvest of 13,534 tons, or less than half of that big quota.

The department said the decision was "based on the completion of major spawning in Sitka Sound."

Of course, Sitka herring are valuable only if harvested before they spawn and drop their prized roe.

Well, Deckboss imagines we'll be debating this curious herring season for quite some time.

Maybe a smaller harvest is for the best, given the poor price Sitka herring fetched last year.

Thoughts, anyone?

Two shot dead at Kodiak Coast Guard station

Here's a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

April 12, 2012

Two fatalities investigated at Communications Station Kodiak

KODIAK — The Coast Guard is working with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to investigate the shooting deaths of two members at Coast Guard Communications Station Kodiak.

As a safety precaution the base and local schools are on lockdown until we can ensure no threat exists.

"It is possible that the suspect remains at large," said Capt. Jesse Moore, commanding officer, Coast Guard Base Support Unit Kodiak. "Since we don't have all the details, we strongly advise all Kodiak residents to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement officials."

"We are deeply saddened that we lost two shipmates," Moore said. "This is a rare occurrence and we are going to do everything possible to ensure we find out exactly what happened."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our lost shipmates and we will provide all the necessary support and guidance they need as they grieve their loved ones," Moore said.

The names of the deceased will not be released until next of kin notifications are complete.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

'Threats and challenges'

A new annual report from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute sees several "threats and challenges for Alaska in the global marketplace."

Among the listed items:

• Chilean salmon farmers have greatly increased production and are on track to fully rebound from devastating outbreaks of the ISA virus, infectious salmon anemia.

• Funding could be reduced for the Market Access Program, which helps promote American products abroad. The federal program has allocated millions of dollars to ASMI in years past.

• Aquaculture continues to increase its percentage of world seafood supply, with Alaska's share now down to 1.3 percent.

• With increases in the value of state's wild salmon, halibut and other species, Alaska producers face "price resistance" in the marketplace.

• Alaska always has been an expensive place to operate, and it's getting worse with rising fuel and transportation costs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Legislature approves Fish Board appointees

The Alaska Legislature today confirmed Gov. Sean Parnell's picks for the state Board of Fisheries, Karl Johnstone and Orville Huntington.

Most of the governor's appointees, for posts ranging from state attorney general to the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers, passed by unanimous consent.

Johnstone was among the very few names drawing an objection, meaning his appointment was put to a vote of senators and representatives meeting jointly to consider the governor's appointees.

The vote proceeded without any discussion. Here is the outcome:

Senators: 17 yea, 2 nay
Representatives: 27 yea, 11 nay

Monday, April 9, 2012

For your entertainment

Deadliest Catch begins its eighth season Tuesday night. Check your local listings, potheads.

Deckboss also recommends you catch Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a really nice movie in theaters now.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Less than half of Sitka herring quota taken so far

The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery opened for a third time Saturday, and seiners bagged 3,740 tons in a little over three hours.

State fishery managers now estimate a total of 13,776 tons have been taken so far this year.

That's less than half the preseason quota of 28,829 tons.

Not to worry, however.

The latest Department of Fish and Game update suggests plenty of herring are still in the area.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

To the deep

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Anacapa opened fire today on the Ryou-Un Maru, sinking her in 6,072 feet of water 180 miles off the Southeast Alaska coast.

Click here for Coast Guard video and photos.

Sinking imminent?

Here's another look at that derelict Japanese fishing vessel, the Ryou-Un Maru, as seen Wednesday about 170 nautical miles southwest of Sitka. The unmanned boat, drifting northwest, got loose after Japan's massive tsunami in March 2011. CNN and other media outlets are reporting the owner of the squid boat has been identified, and that the U.S. Coast Guard today might sink the vessel as a hazard to shipping. USCG photo

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

CDQ champions recognized

Deckboss certainly didn't receive an invitation. Heck, he didn't even known it was happening.

But apparently a big event was held last week in Anchorage to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the Community Development Quota program.

The festivities included recognizing 15 people who helped create one of Alaska's "most innovative and successful economic development projects."

Among the honorees: the late Sen. Ted Stevens, the late Harvey Samuelsen of Dillingham, former state "fisheries tsar" Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove, and former Anchorage banker Ed Rasmuson.

For the complete list and more details on the March 30 celebration, check out this press release.

Launched in 1992, the CDQ program is a government initiative that reserves roughly 10 percent of the Bering Sea's lucrative fish and crab quotas for the benefit of Western Alaska villages. Six companies represent groups of villages, managing their seafood harvests and investments.

The six CDQ companies have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, including interests in large fishing vessels and processing plants. Creating rural jobs and educational opportunities is a major focus for the CDQ program, its leaders say.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A third of Sitka herring quota taken thus far

Sitka Sound seiners scooped up another 5,610 tons of roe-rich herring in yesterday's opener, the second of the season, the state Department of Fish and Game reports.

That brings the year's total an estimated 10,340 tons, or more than a third of the 28,829-ton quota.

"The plan is to stand down on further fishing until Thursday to allow for processing and tendering capacity to become available for the next harvesting opportunity," the department said this morning.

Tsunami ghost ship adrift off Southeast Alaska

Unmanned and unlit. USCG photo

The U.S. Coast Guard says a derelict Japanese fishing vessel, the Ryou-Un Maru, has drifted into Southeast Alaska waters and is posing a navigational hazard some 180 miles west of Dixon Entrance.

The vessel was first sighted more than a week ago in Canadian waters.

The Ryou-Un Maru has been drifting unmanned and unlit at sea presumably since Japan's massive tsunami more than a year ago, the Coast Guard says.

The Coast Guard has dropped a data marker buoy near the vessel to track its location, and a cutter is heading out to assess the situation.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sitka herring update

Saturday's herring opener at Sitka, the first of the season, produced an estimated catch of 4,700 tons, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says.

That's about 16 percent of this season's giant quota of 28,829 tons.

The opener lasted just under three and a half hours.

Fishery managers called a second opening for 11:30 a.m. today, KCAW Raven Radio in Sitka reported.

As usual, the price situation is murky at best. Anybody heard anything credible?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Buyback balloting under way

The voting period has opened for the proposed Southeast Alaska salmon seine permit buyback program.

Permit holders eligible to vote were mailed ballots on Thursday.

Voters must return their ballots by April 30.

If a majority of the 379 ballots come back in favor, the government will proceed with a buyback of 64 permits at a cost of $13.1 million.

Seiners remaining in the fishery will then repay the money over time.

For more information, click here.

And they're off in Sitka

After days of waiting for the right conditions, the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery saw its first opener Saturday afternoon.

No word on the size of the catch.

Or whether seiners and processors were able to reach a preseason price agreement.

Or how many boats rammed other boats.