Thursday, February 28, 2013


Check out this panoramic promotion from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The package, running today as a banner ad on the Food Network website, features profiles of fishermen as well as state biologists.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In case you care

Once again this year, a great deal of herring is expected to be up for grabs in remote Western Alaska waters including Norton Sound, Goodnews Bay and Security Cove.

In fact, a harvest up to the anticipated quota of 23,172 tons would be "one of the largest on record" in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, says this news release from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The perennial question with AYK herring, however, is whether any processors will show up to support a fishery.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We want in

Deckboss reported in December how The Boat Co., a Southeast Alaska sportfishing outfit, had filed suit challenging the federal government's expanded fishery observer program.

The suit argues program regulations don't ensure adequate observer coverage to estimate bycatch of halibut and Chinook salmon in Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries.

Now a group called the Fixed Gear Alliance is looking to intervene in the case, also to challenge the expanded observer program.

This memorandum in support of the motion to intervene explains the group's many complaints, including "excessive and unnecessary costs" and other burdens associated with the program.

The memo says the Fixed Gear Alliance is "an Alaska nonprofit corporation whose membership represents commercial fishing vessel owners, commercial fishing vessel operators, commercial fishing crewmembers, halibut and sablefish Quota Share holders, and commercial fishing associations who operate, or who have members that operate, fixed longline or pot fishing gear in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, or Aleutian Island management areas."

Juneau attorney Bruce Weyhrauch is representing the Fixed Gear Alliance.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Larger salmon haul expected this year

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is predicting a commercial catch of about 179 million salmon this year, which would be a big jump from last year's harvest of 127 million.

A greater abundance of pink salmon will drive the larger catch, the department says.

See the 2013 forecast here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Can hatcheries help?

We've heard plenty about the poor Chinook salmon returns to some parts of Alaska in recent years.

One possible fix is to supplement wild runs with hatchery fish.

Here's a new report from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that examines the idea. Recommendations are on page 14.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A leadership change at Icicle

Amy Humphreys is the new president and chief executive officer of Icicle Seafoods Inc., taking over for Dennis Guhlke, who has resigned.

So says this press release from Paine & Partners, the private equity firm that holds Icicle.

Icicle is a major processor of Alaska salmon, pollock, halibut, crab and other seafood.

Humphreys comes to Icicle from Delta Western Inc., where she was president of the Alaska petroleum distributor. She previously was an executive with American Seafoods.

In the press release, Humphreys says she believes Icicle has "many opportunities to continue its growth in both wild and farmed seafood product offerings."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A hundred bucks a hide!

State Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, has introduced a bill to authorize the Department of Fish and Game to pay a $100 bounty for each sea otter taken lawfully under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Now why would anyone want to kill our cute and furry friends the sea otters?

Because they're rapidly recolonizing Southeast Alaska waters, consuming mass quantities of commercially harvested species such as Dungeness crab, urchins, clams and sea cucumbers.

McDowell Group, a Juneau consulting firm, in 2011 issued a study on the problem.


Lots of news, plus the Dutch Harbor report, today on The Brig.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The new list of IPHC nominees is out

The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced a new slate of nominees for two U.S. seats on the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Here's the list:

Robert AlversonStephen Joner
Kiril BasarginDonald Lane
Linda BehnkenStephanie Madsen
Alfred "Bubba" CookHunter McIntosh
Richard DeaverHenry V.E. Mitchell
Kevin DelaneyRichard Yamada
James Hubbard

For more information, click here.

Baranof crewman needs medevac

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter yesterday hoisted a crewman off the 180-foot fishing vessel Baranof about 60 miles southwest of St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea.

The 39-year-old crewman, whom the Coast Guard didn't name, was said to be suffering from "circulatory complications."

"Due to icing conditions in St. Paul Harbor and the Baranof's inability to enter the harbor, the helicopter medevac was determined to be the safest and quickest means to get the fisherman to needed medical care," the Coast Guard said.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Big shrimp ahead!

Again this year, the state intends to open a commercial fishery for those enormous, delectable spot shrimp in Prince William Sound.

The season will open April 15 with a 66,300-pound quota, says this announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Last year was a bit of a bust with 33 boats landing a total of 20,615 pounds, or only about 40 percent of the preseason quota.

The fishery, however, rotates around the Sound. The 2012 harvest was in Area 3, while this year's fishery will be in Area 1.

Fishermen use pot gear to capture the big shrimp, also known as spot prawns.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Trawler hit with $325,442 enforcement action

Federal enforcement officials have charged the owner and operator of the F/V Pacific Challenger with fishing for Pacific cod in the Western Gulf of Alaska without having a license limitation permit.

A $325,442 notice of violation and assessment has been issued.

The case is listed in a NOAA enforcement summary for the second half of 2012.

You can see several more Alaska cases starting on page 1 of the summary. And on page 16 are five Alaska cases that have settled. One of those, involving the F/V Alaska Dawn, settled for $130,326.

According to state records, the Pacific Challenger is a 116-foot trawler that belongs to Pacific Dawn LLC of Seattle.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Arrest made in Coast Guard double homicide

Federal prosecutors just issued the following press release:

Feb. 15, 2013

U.S. attorney announces arrest for murder of Coast Guard employees in Kodiak

ANCHORAGE — U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that James Michael Wells of Kodiak was arrested today for the murder of U.S. Coast Guard Electrician's Mate 1st Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Boatswain's Mate Richard Belisle.

Hopkins and Belisle, who was working as a Coast Guard civilian employee, were murdered at the U.S. Coast Guard Communications Station Kodiak on April 12, 2012.

Wells was arrested under a federal arrest warrant based on a criminal complaint.

Loeffler notes that the arrest comes after an extensive investigation led by the FBI and the Coast Guard Investigative Service, with support from the Alaska State Troopers.

It is anticipated that Wells will appear in court in Anchorage next week.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dear Mr. President

A bunch of U.S. senators, including Alaskans Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, have sent a letter to President Obama urging emergency funding for fishery disasters declared in 2012 in a number of states.

Crewman aboard Starbound needs medevac

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter yesterday hoisted an ailing crewman off the factory trawler Starbound in the Bering Sea, about 69 miles southeast of St. Paul.

The 44-year-old man was reported to be suffering from symptoms of a heart attack.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

$9 an hour

President Obama, in his State of the Union address tonight, proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

The federal minimum wage currently is $7.25 an hour.

The Alaska minimum wage is somewhat higher at $7.75 an hour.

UFA going to the authorities

We told you recently how United Fishermen of Alaska suspected a rival had eavesdropped on one of UFA's private teleconferences.

UFA is now taking the matter to the authorities, including the Juneau district attorney.

Here's a press release UFA issued today:

UFA begins process of releasing information to the Alaska authorities regarding unauthorized eavesdropping of UFA teleconference by office of Kenai River Sportfishing Association

On January 17, 2013 the United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), Alaska’s largest statewide commercial fishing trade association representing 34 member organizations, held a private teleconference. In addition to 25 UFA Board members, an individual or individuals at the offices of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) was also on the line during the teleconference. This fact was later confirmed by the teleconference vendor, who provided a phone log, which included a phone number registered to the KRSA office. KRSA is not affiliated with UFA in any way. KRSA is not a member of UFA. KRSA was not invited by UFA to join the teleconference. The person or persons who listened in on UFA’s meeting from the KRSA offices did not acknowledge their presence when joining the teleconference. UFA was not aware of this intrusion until it received an email on January 18, 2013 indicating that information regarding UFA Board member discussions had been transmitted to a third party. On February 8, 2013 UFA began the process of turning over information to the authorities with the expectation that a full investigation would be initiated.

Endangered coral? NMFS says nope

The National Marine Fisheries Service has shot down a petition to list 44 coral species off Alaska as threatened or endangered. More here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hey kids!

Need money for college?

The International Pacific Halibut Commission offers scholarships to support university and other post-secondary education.

The IPHC scholarship fund is intended to assist U.S. and Canadian students "connected to the halibut fishery and its industry."

For information on how to apply, click here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fear of super salmon

As has been widely reported, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made a preliminary finding that production of a genetically engineered line of supersized Atlantic salmon "would not have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment in the United States."

A Boston-based company, AquaBounty Technologies, wants to produce eggs at a facility on Canada's Prince Edward Island, then ship the eggs to a land-based salmon grow-out facility in the highlands of Panama.

Market-sized fish would be processed into fillets and steaks in Panama prior to retail sale in the United States.

Naturally, Alaska's wild salmon industry and its political defenders believe this is just a horrible idea, and are resisting in much the same way they have always resisted competition from aquaculture.

Last week, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich introduced a bill to bar sales of genetically engineered salmon in the United States unless another agency, NOAA, also finds it would have no significant impact.

"The FDA lacks the expertise to judge the impact of escaped Frankenfish on wild salmon stocks," Begich said.

Alaska Congressman Don Young likewise aims to make life difficult for AquaBounty salmon. He has offered a bill to "require all genetically engineered fish sold for consumption to be labeled as such."

The FDA is taking public comment on its preliminary finding until Feb. 25.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The salmon situation

University of Alaska Anchorage fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp last week gave legislators in Juneau an overview of world salmon trends.

You can view the entire presentation here. It's well worth your time.

"In general, as of February the market outlook for 2013 looks relatively favorable," says Knapp, sizing up the short-term salmon situation for Alaska. He cites three key factors:

• Sockeye harvest volumes probably will be lower
• Canned salmon markets are strong and inventories are low
• Farmed salmon prices appear to be strengthening

Lower harvests, Knapp explains, can push up prices, and Alaska's wild salmon value generally rises or falls with prices for farmed salmon, which now dominates world supply.

Here are a few more interesting Knapp notes:

Alaska wild salmon accounts for less than a third of U.S. fresh and frozen salmon consumption.

About two-thirds of Alaska pink salmon production was frozen in 2011, compared to less than 20 percent in the late 1990s.

The first wholesale value of Alaska salmon production has increased dramatically, from $466 million in 2002 to $1.5 billion in 2011. Total processor margin and total ex-vessel value have risen by similar amounts.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What's up with WASSIP?

A number of recent comments on the blog have mentioned WASSIP.

Not being entirely sure of the meaning of this ugly acronym, Deckboss went fishing for answers.

Turns out WASSIP stands for Western Alaska Salmon Stock Identification Program.

Quite a few government, Native, commercial fishing and other organizations are part of the effort, which involves genetic analysis of commercial and subsistence chum and sockeye salmon.

The goal is to "help all stakeholders better understand the composition of harvests" in Western Alaska.

In other words, who's catching whose salmon!

Learn more about WASSIP here.

Battle for Cook Inlet salmon goes to court

United Cook Inlet Drift Association has filed a lawsuit over a recent amendment to the federal fishery management plan for salmon off Alaska.

UCIDA, which represents commercial drift gillnet fishermen, is upset that certain areas, including the federal waters of Cook Inlet, were excluded from the FMP with Amendment 12.

The way UCIDA sees it, the state has done a poor job of managing the Cook Inlet salmon fisheries, and now the feds have formally abandoned salmon oversight.

Cook Inlet, of course, is the most contentious of Alaska's fishing grounds due to the bitter rivalry between the commercial and sportfishing sectors.

The suit, filed in the federal court in Washington, D.C., names the National Marine Fisheries Service and top Commerce Department officials as defendants.

Lance Nelson, an Alaska assistant attorney general, tells Deckboss the state will move to intervene in the suit to defend Amendment 12.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Morisky appointed to Board of Fisheries

Gov. Sean Parnell has chosen Fairbanks resident Reed Morisky to replace Bill Brown on the state Board of Fisheries.

Brown, of Juneau, abruptly resigned mid-term last month.

A press release Parnell's office issued tonight said in part:

Morisky's appointment is effective immediately, expires June 30, 2014, and is subject to confirmation by the Alaska Legislature.

Morisky, of Fairbanks, is the owner and operator of Wilderness Fishing, a sport fishing guide service based in Fairbanks and Nenana. He currently works as a project manager for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Division of Design and Construction. He is a past member of the Sport Fishing Guide Services Task Force, Summit Drive Service Area Commission and the Steese Area Volunteer Fire Department board of directors. Morisky serves as a current member for the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, Trout Unlimited, Alaska Outdoor Council and the National Rifle Association.

Coast Guard conducts medevac west of Kodiak

A Coast Guard helicopter today medevaced a crewman off the fishing vessel New Venture in Shelikof Strait, 95 miles west of Kodiak.

The crewman, whom the Coast Guard didn't identify, was reported to be experiencing chest pain.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Salmon slipping by

At 10 a.m. today in Juneau, the House Special Committee on Fisheries will receive a presentation from the Department of Fish and Game on "foregone harvest of salmon."

In advance of the hearing, the department has provided the committee a report titled Salmon Escapements in Excess of Goals.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Halibut update

Here's a press release summarizing the International Pacific Halibut Commission's recent annual meeting.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Listening in

A potential legal showdown is brewing between United Fishermen of Alaska and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.

Here's a draft letter from UFA to KRSA that explains.

The allegation is that someone eavesdropped on a recent UFA teleconference, heard some stuff, then passed it along to Karl Johnstone, chairman of the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

Well, Deckboss can just imagine what kind of stir this is causing!