Friday, August 31, 2012

Update on Advantage sinking

Kodiak radio station KMXT is reporting the skipper of the sunken fishing vessel Advantage ended up dying after a Coast Guard helicopter hoisted him and two others from a life raft.

Meantime, a fourth crewmember remains missing at sea.

Three rescued, one missing after Kodiak sinking

Three crewmen have been rescued but a fourth is missing after the fishing vessel Advantage sank 14 miles southeast of Kodiak, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

A search began just after midnight when the Coast Guard in Juneau picked up an emergency position indicating radio (EPIRB) beacon.

After several unsuccessful attempts to contact the vessel, the Coast Guard sent a helicopter out of Kodiak.

The helicopter crew located a life raft with three Advantage crewmen aboard, and began hoisting them to safety.

The three were showing signs of hypothermia and were taken to Kodiak.

"We are continuing to search for the missing crewman with helicopters from Air Station Kodiak," said Coast Guard Lt. Robert Baysden. “Having the EPIRB aboard the fishing vessel was key to alerting us that there was an emergency.”

The 58-foot Advantage is homeported in Kodiak. State records show it uses longline, pot and trawl gear. The owner is listed as Advantage Fisheries LLC of Gig Harbor, Wash.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Public service announcement

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has announced the following appointments:

Fishermen's Fund Advisory and Appeals Council

Parnell appointed Donald Stiles to the Fishermen's Fund Advisory and Appeals Council. The council consults with the commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development regarding appeals filed in relation to care of sick and disabled fishermen, and advises the department on administration of the fund.

Stiles, of Nome, is a commercial fisherman and high school basketball coach. Active in the community, Stiles is a Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. board member, former chair of Siu Alaska Corp., and a former fisheries specialist with Kawarek Inc.'s fisheries department. Stiles also served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is named to a seat reserved for a resident of Northwest Alaska.

Pacific Salmon Commission Transboundary Panel

Parnell nominated James Becker, Rod Brown, Arnold Enge, Gary Gray and Dale Kelley to the Transboundary Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission.

The panel supports the Pacific Salmon Treaty, signed by the United States and Canada in 1985. The panel makes recommendations to the commission on management of in-river and terminal fisheries for salmon originating in the Alsek, Taku and Stikine river systems in Southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia.

The governor's nominations are subject to final appointment by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Becker, of Douglas, has been a commercial fisherman for more than 35 years and is a lifetime resident of the Juneau area. He is a board member of United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters Association and chairs the City and Borough of Juneau Fisheries Development Committee. Becker was first appointed to the panel in 2000.

Brown, of Wrangell, is a retired biology, marine biology, math and photography teacher. He fished commercially during the summers and is an avid sportfisherman who has lived in Wrangell since 1969. He was first appointed to the panel in 2005.

Enge is a longtime Petersburg resident who fishes commercially for salmon, herring and halibut. He serves as vice chair of the Petersburg Fish and Game Advisory Committee. Enge was first appointed to the panel in 2000.

Gray, of Yakutat, owns and operates Alsek River Lodge and provides guide services for hunters and fishermen in the Yakutat area. He fished as a commercial setnetter for 15 years and serves as a member of the Yakutat Fish and Game Advisory Committee. Gray was first appointed to the panel in 2006.

Kelley, of Juneau, has served as executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association since 1989. She also has served on the board of United Fishermen of Alaska, and as a commissioner of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. Additionally, she was an alternate member of the Pacific Salmon Commission's Northern Panel for three years.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Final judgment entered in epic Carlson case; thousands of fishermen could soon see refunds

The state of Alaska is on the brink of refunding millions of dollars in the Carlson case, an epic class action concerning overcharges to nonresidents for commercial fishing licenses and permits.

On Monday, a state Superior Court judge entered this final judgment ordering a payout of more than $33.5 million.

The state Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission has prepared this list of fishermen to receive refunds. As you can see, some of the payments will be substantial, even exceeding $50,000.

The CFEC is expected to publish a public notice soon with more details.

My understanding is that refunds could be mailed at the end of October.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Begich backs national seafood marketing idea

The U.S. seafood industry is fishing for a $50 million annual subsidy for marketing.

And U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, will help pursue the funding.

Begich on Friday in Anchorage announced he intends to introduce legislation to create a national seafood marketing and development effort.

The program would feature five regional seafood marketing boards.

The legislation evidently has not yet been introduced. When it drops, Deckboss will provide a link.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Oil watch

About a year ago we told you a jack-up rig had begun exploratory drilling in Upper Cook Inlet.

It was the first such rig to work in inlet waters in a very long time.

Well, now it seems an Australian company, Buccaneer Energy, has brought in a second jack-up rig. It arrived on Friday at Homer.

Click here for a press release with photo.

One interesting note is that a state agency, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, is a big investor in this second drilling rig.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Yes, a salmon disaster in Upper Cook Inlet

Alaska's congressional delegation has sent the Obama administration a letter supporting Gov. Sean Parnell's request for a fishery disaster declaration for Upper Cook Inlet.

Poor Chinook returns forced painful commercial and sportfishing closures this summer.

Parnell names familiar fisheries adviser

Stefanie Moreland, who took Arne Fuglvog's place as fisheries aide to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, is returning to state government as Gov. Sean Parnell's fisheries adviser.

Here's a press release from the governor's office:

Aug. 22, 2012

Moreland named adviser for fisheries, oceans and Arctic policy

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell today named Stefanie Moreland to the position of senior adviser for fisheries, oceans and Arctic policy.

Moreland currently serves as a legislative assistant for Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the areas of fisheries, oceans and the Arctic.

She also has held several positions in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, including federal fisheries coordinator and manager of the Extended Jurisdiction Program.

"Stefanie's knowledge of Alaska's diverse fisheries and understanding of Arctic issues, and her broad experience at both the state and federal level will be a great asset to my office and the state," Parnell said.

Moreland will be an adviser and coordinator on Alaska fisheries policy between the governor's office and other state and federal agencies. She also will interface and coordinate with state and federal agencies on Arctic policy matters.

Moreland received a bachelor's degree in natural resources and environmental studies from the University of Minnesota and a master's degree in resource and applied economics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"I'm honored to have this opportunity to return to Alaska and serve the governor," Moreland said. "I particularly look forward to helping ensure that state interests inform the major federal initiatives under way in the Arctic and waters off Alaska."

Moreland will begin her duties on Sept. 17. She will be based in Juneau.

Activists aim to protect 'stunning' Alaska coral

The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning the federal government to protect Alaska coral under the Endangered Species Act.

"Human impacts on cold-water corals are devastating, in particular the destructive fisheries practices that can wipe out many square miles of coral habitat in a single day," the center says.

Trawls, longlines and pots can all damage coral, but "the greatest threat" is climate change, the group says.

The nonprofit organization, based in Tucson, Ariz., says Alaska corals "occur in greatest abundance and variety a few miles off the Aleutian Islands, in underwater canyons in the Bering Sea, and on the slopes of submerged volcanoes in the Gulf of Alaska."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Salmon season update

Alaska's commercial salmon catch is now well above 100 million fish.

The little pink salmon is the big story at this point in the season. Pinks are the most abundant kind of salmon, and seiners are really hauling them in.

Of the 107 million salmon of all species taken so far this season, nearly 55 million are pinks, according to the latest tally from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Sockeye salmon is the second-largest catch at 35 million fish, followed by chum salmon at almost 16 million.

It'll be interesting to see whether the industry can reach the state's preseason harvest forecast of more than 132 million salmon.

Even if it does, it won't be a particularly large salmon harvest this year, as the state has seen a number of seasons with catches exceeding 200 million fish.

Here are a few more salmon items of interest:

• We heard a lot of complaining from Cook Inlet setnetters over the extended closures they endured this season due to poor Chinook salmon returns to the Kenai River. The closures denied the setnetters a shot at their main money fish, sockeye. Well, now have a better understanding of their pain. In a letter to federal officials seeking a fishery disaster declaration for Upper Cook Inlet, Gov. Sean Parnell said the eastside setnet fishery was worth about $1.1 million to fishermen this year, compared to the annual average of $10.9 million.

• Coho, or silver, salmon generally are the latest to arrive each season. In Southeast Alaska, trollers have caught just over 580,000 silvers since July 1, receiving an average price of $1.81 per pound, Fish and Game reports. That price, times the average coho weight of 5.9 pounds, gives you a fish worth better than $10.50 at the dock.

• In the Kodiak area, the catch of 1.9 million sockeye is below average for this date in the season, but pink harvests are improving with 13.9 million taken so far, Fish and Game says.

• At Chignik, much of the seine fleet has quit for the season. It appears to have been a good one, with 1.8 million sockeye taken. A total of 68 permit holders made deliveries, the most in several years.

• Something unusual happened at Bristol Bay this season. Gillnetters in the Nushagak District took 877,000 pink salmon. Normally, the only fish in demand from the bay are its millions of sockeyes.

IPHC wants 'mushy halibut' help

The International Pacific Halibut Commission is seeking information from anyone encountering fish with a condition known as "mushy halibut syndrome." Details here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Parnell wants Cook Inlet added to disaster list

Here's the press release:

Aug. 16, 2012

Governor requests Upper Cook Inlet fishery disaster declaration

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell today urged Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank to declare a fishery disaster for the Chinook salmon fisheries in the Cook Inlet area.

Last month, the governor requested a federal disaster declaration for the 2011 and 2012 Chinook salmon seasons on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, and at that time he noted Cook Inlet fisheries were on a similar path.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act authorizes various forms of federal assistance through the National Marine Fisheries Service when the Commerce secretary determines there is a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster.

"Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries were severely restricted and even closed for much of the season in order to conserve Chinook salmon for escapement," Parnell said. "These fisheries are economic drivers for the local and regional economy, providing direct and indirect jobs, income to families, bringing in tens of thousands of visitors, and supporting local businesses. Alaskans suffered substantial losses as a direct result of the decline of the Chinook salmon runs.

"I cannot overstate the importance of fisheries to the economy of the Upper Cook Inlet region. Throughout this area, impacts are being felt by commercial fishermen, sport guides, fish processors, and those who sell fuel, tackle, supplies, groceries and lodging. Local governments will feel the impact of lost revenue to their economic base. The Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries affected by the decline of the Chinook salmon runs are crucial to the economic vitality of the region and the well-being of Alaskans."

A federal disaster declaration will not bring automatic assistance to the region as federal appropriation is necessary to provide funding.

In July, Parnell announced the creation of a top-level team of fisheries scientists to conduct a systematic analysis and provide more data about why Alaska is experiencing low returns of Chinook salmon.

Here's the governor's letter to the acting secretary.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Norton Sound's king crab feast

Norton Sound permit holders took 440,000 pounds of red king crab this summer in the open access fishery.

It was the biggest catch since 1986 and produced a record $2.4 million payday for crabbers, the Department of Fish and Game reports.

Suspected high-seas drifter released to Chinese

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Rush, out of Honolulu, escorts the 177-foot Da Cheng, a suspected illegal high-seas driftnetter seized 850 miles east of Tokyo. The vessel was targeting albacore tuna and had 30 metric tons aboard, along with 6 tons of shark carcasses and fins, the Coast Guard said. No mention was made of any salmon on the vessel. The Rush sighted the Da Cheng and boarded her on July 27. The Coast Guard today transferred custody of the vessel to Chinese authorities. USCG photo

Monday, August 13, 2012

ASMI — semper paratus

The guy retiring as head of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is a former U.S. Coast Guard officer.

And the guy who's coming in to replace him? You guessed it, a former Coast Guard officer.

Here's the press release:

Aug. 13, 2012

ASMI announces new executive director

JUNEAU — Following an extensive nationwide search, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors has selected retired U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Michael Cerne to replace Executive Director Ray Riutta.

Cerne will begin working in the ASMI Juneau office in September to allow for several months of overlap before Riutta retires in December.

"While it will be difficult to replace someone the caliber of Ray Riutta, I'm very happy with the board's decision and we are quite confident that Mr. Cerne will be an effective leader at ASMI for years to come," said board Chairman Joe Bundrant of Trident Seafoods.

"I've known Michael and his good work for years. His combination of skills and experience will make him a very good addition to ASMI," Riutta said.

Cerne served in the Coast Guard for 31 years and retired in 2011 with the rank of captain.

He is a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy with a degree in marine science. He also has a master of marine affairs degree from the University of Rhode Island.

Cerne served on five Coast Guard cutters in his career, three of which were based in Alaska, including command of Storis in Kodiak.

Ashore, his assignments included commanding officer of the North Pacific Fisheries Training Center in Kodiak, and chief of fisheries law enforcement from 1998 to 2002 at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Cerne's final assignment was at the Coast Guard district office in Juneau where he managed Alaska fishery patrol operations and served on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the North Pacific Research Board and a number of international fishery management organizations.

He is currently completing a project with the United Nations to improve the management of global tuna fisheries.

Cerne is married to the former Holly Hagerty of North Carolina. They have two children, Kathryn, 18, and Sarah, 16.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Feds propose $543,500 fine, charge fish-weighing violations on factory trawler American Dynasty

The American Dynasty in Dutch Harbor. Jim Paulin photo

The first we heard of a potential scandal involving the Bering Sea pollock factory trawler American Dynasty was more than four years ago, at a meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Federal agents said at the time that they were investigating allegations that hauls of fish were inaccurately weighed aboard the 272-foot trawler, which belongs to Seattle-based American Seafoods.

Well, now we know more.

The NOAA Office of the General Counsel, Enforcement Section, says the vessel owner, manager and operator have been charged with numerous civil infractions.

A NOAA case summary doesn't specify exactly when the charges were filed, just sometime during the first six months of the year.

The agency is proposing a $543,500 fine.

Here's the full NOAA summary on the enforcement action, beginning with the file number:

AK0700698; F/V American Dynasty Owner, manager, and operator were charged in thirty-two counts under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act for failing to maintain or operate a flow scale to obtain accurate weights; for submitting inaccurate or false data, statements or reports; for failing to comply with flow scale testing requirements; for failing to provide notification to an observer and failing to have an observer present; for failing to comply with reporting requirements; and for failing to weigh catch, interfering with or biasing the observer's sampling procedure, and failing to provide reasonable assistance. A $543,500 NOVA (Notice of Violation and Assessment) was issued.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Speaking of ASMI...

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is looking for a contractor to do some China market research.

Here is the request for proposals. The good stuff starts on page 11.

It appears the contractor's main task will be to evaluate the effectiveness of ASMI's marketing strategy in China.

The contract is worth up to $50,000.

Collier, Palmer to stay on ASMI board

Gov. Sean Parnell today reappointed Barry Collier and Mark Palmer to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors.

Collier is president and chief executive officer of Peter Pan Seafoods. Palmer is president and CEO of Ocean Beauty Seafoods.

Both men have served on the ASMI board since 2004, holding seats reserved for large seafood processors.

ASMI is a Juneau-based state agency with an office in Seattle and marketing representatives in several countries. It is funded largely through a tax processors pay on the value of seafood products.

Board members serve three-year terms. See the full board here.

Icicle fined $430,000 for refrigerant violations

Icicle Seafoods Inc. has agreed to pay a $430,000 penalty to resolve Clean Air Act violations including refrigerant leaks from company vessels and processing plants, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.

This is the second major Alaska seafood company to settle refrigerant violations. American Seafoods Co. in June agreed to pay a $700,000 penalty.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Feeling happily crabby in Nome

Norton Sound crabbers are expected to achieve their full quota of 430,540 pounds of red king crab by this weekend, when the season will close.

More details in this announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Coast Guard medevacs crewman near Chignik

A Coast Guard helicopter today medevaced a 32-year-old crewman off the fishing vessel Cape Caution. He reportedly was suffering from "severe abdominal distress."

The boat was 69 miles southeast of Chignik. The Coast Guard said it was notified at 3:32 a.m., and the helicopter out of Kodiak hoisted the patient around 6:30 a.m.

The Cape Caution is a 90-foot pot boat out of Homer.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Trident's president, Jerry Dowd, dies suddenly

Jerry Dowd, president of Trident Seafoods Corp., died Monday while on a fly-fishing vacation in Alaska, the company says.

Dowd was 60 years old. Here's a company press release with statements from Trident founder Chuck Bundrant and the company's executive vice president, Joe Bundrant.

A former ConAgra and Tyson Foods executive, Dowd joined Trident in 2004. Seattle-based Trident is one of Alaska's largest seafood processors.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Longliners propose further capacity reduction

Perhaps you remember how, in 2007, the Bering Sea freezer longliner fleet took on a $35 million federal loan to buy out three vessels.

Well, the fleet is now proposing to shoulder an additional $2.7 million loan to retire a latent permit and its fishing history.

The fleet would pay for the permit buyout with a small landings fee collected over 30 years.

The permit isn't associated with a vessel, so an additional boat would not be removed from the fishery.

And why would freezer longliners want to retire a latent, or inactive, permit?

"All vessels ... would benefit from a permit buyback because there will be less potential competition for the harvest," says this notice published July 30 in the Federal Register.

The notice, so far as I can tell, does not identify the permit owner.

With more than 30 large vessels, the freezer longliner fleet is a major player in Alaska's groundfish industry. It targets predominantly Pacific cod.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Prince William Sound seiner burns, crew OK

The U.S. Coast Guard tells me fire broke out in the engine room of a Prince William Sound fishing vessel, the Tempest, and the boat burned to the waterline.

The four crewmen made it onto a Good Samaritan vessel.

The incident happened in the vicinity of Knight Island. The Coast Guard says it was notified at 10:28 p.m. Friday.

The Coast Guard conducted a helicopter flyover of the scene Saturday and found no sign of the burned vessel, nor any fuel sheen.

I've received informal word that folks in Cordova have really come together with clothing and other provisions for the surviving crewmen.

Public records indicate the Tempest, a 41-foot purse seiner, belongs to Jerry Lundli of Shoreline, Wash.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fuglvog's former fishing mate might go to jail

Federal prosecutors say testimony from Arne Fuglvog helped convict an Oregon man, Freddie Joe Hankins, of falsely reporting where he made commercial halibut catches.

Here's a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage.

Fuglvog is a former congressional aide and North Pacific Fishery Management Council member who was convicted of misreporting sablefish catches.

Sentenced to five months in prison, Fuglvog is scheduled for release on Aug. 11.

For the record

Here's the official summary from Wednesday's Board of Fisheries emergency teleconference on Upper Cook Inlet salmon issues.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Five rescued, fishery closed after Sitka sinking

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

Aug. 2, 2012

Coast Guard investigates fishing vessel sinking northwest of Sitka

JUNEAU — The Coast Guard is investigating the sinking of the fishing vessel Evening Star northwest of Sitka.

Coast Guard Sector Juneau received report at 7:44 a.m. today that the 50-foot Evening Star sank in Slocum Arm 40 miles northwest of Sitka in 300 feet of water with about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard.

The vessel reportedly capsized while pulling in loaded salmon nets.

The good Samaritan fishing vessel Chikamin rescued all five crewmen from the Evening Star in good condition and took them to Sitka.

"We are working with the owner of the vessel mitigate the pollution on scene and salvage the vessel if possible," said Lt. Ryan Erickson, Sector Juneau incident management division chief. "We thank the Chikamin crew for rescuing these five fishermen and bringing them to safety."

Personnel from Marine Safety Detachment Sitka traveled to the scene aboard an Alaska State Troopers vessel Thursday afternoon.

They observed a sheen in the area, prompting an emergency closure of an active salmon fishery by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

An overflight of the area is being scheduled for Friday morning.