Monday, April 29, 2013

Still trying

Alaska's senators, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, continue to pursue federal fisheries disaster relief for the recent poor Chinook salmon returns.

Here's a letter the two signed with 14 other senators also seeking funds for fisheries disasters declared elsewhere in the country.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some herring notes

A fine mess of Togiak herring. Tim Sands photo
As previously reported, the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery was less than fulfilling this year. The harvest came in at less than half the preseason quota of 11,549 tons.

Deckboss hears reliably that processors advanced $500 a ton. We'll see if the market pushes that higher.

Sitka, of course, is just the start of herring season around Alaska. Several other fisheries are either under way or soon will be.

In Southeast Alaska, for example, 83 permit holders recently took part in a spawn-on-kelp fishery at Ernest Sound.

At Kodiak, purse seiners and gillnetters are prosecuting the local sac roe herring fishery.

In May, the action will shift to the remote village of Togiak, in Bristol Bay. This historically has been the scene of the largest herring fishery by volume in the state.

Togiak once was highly competitive, with scores of boats and processors operating under the direction of a small air force of spotter planes.

Today, the fishery is a much more leisurely affair, as the traditional Japanese market for herring roe simply isn't what it used to be.

A very large quota of 30,056 tons is available for this year's Togiak sac roe fishery. Details in this announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

A great deal of herring also will be up for grabs in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region along Alaska's western coast.

Coastal Villages Region Fund has announced it intends to pay fishermen a base price of $350 per ton this year for AYK herring.

Victoria allision under investigation

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating Tuesday's mash-up at Victoria between the factory trawler American Dynasty and the Canadian navy frigate HMCS Winnipeg.

From the look of these photos, the warship got the best of it!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

American Dynasty hits Canadian navy frigate

Media reports out of Victoria, British Columbia, say the factory trawler American Dynasty yesterday crashed into a docked Canadian warship.

Here's a report from the Times Colonist of Victoria.

And here's another report with better video of the bizarre mishap.

The 272-foot American Dynasty belongs to Seattle-based American Seafoods. It's one of several factory trawlers the company operates in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

The news reports say tugs were moving the trawler for maintenance when the incident occurred.

Six people were said to be injured, apparently none seriously.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fleet reduction in Bristol Bay?

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association is conducting an "informal poll" of drift gillnetters on the idea of a permit buyback.

The association has told its members to expect a letter from the board very soon.

Bristol Bay, of course, is Alaska's most important commercial salmon fishery, attracting hundreds of gillnet boats each summer.

The BBRSDA works to advance the fishery in a number of ways, and relies on a landings tax the drift fleet self-imposed in 2006.

Bristol Bay setnetters rejected the tax and aren't part of the association.

Shrimping starts slow in Prince William Sound

Last week's four-day season opener in the Prince William Sound shrimp pot fishery produced a modest catch of 8,761 pounds, with 21 vessels participating.

Another four-day period begins today, the state Department of Fish and Game says.

The quota for the year is 66,300 pounds, so plenty of shrimp left to catch if fishermen can find them.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Icicle calls it quits on Adak

Here's a press release from Icicle Seafoods:

April 19, 2013

Icicle continues Alaska expansion, plans to close Adak operation

Icicle Seafoods Inc. has decided to close its operation in Adak, in the Aleutian Islands, citing concerns about the short- and long-term health of the region's Pacific cod resource and increased regulatory uncertainty.

"Icicle has worked incredibly hard in the two years since we took it over to make the Adak plant a viable operation," said Amy Humphreys, Icicle's new president and CEO. "We strongly support policies that encourage the development and sustainability of Alaska's coastal communities and recognize this goal is often best achieved with a resident fishing fleet and year-round seafood processing operation. However, given the questionable outlook for the Pacific cod fishery in the area and the high costs of operating in this remote location, we have decided to focus our resources in other areas within our Alaska operations."

Icicle Seafoods has invested heavily elsewhere in Alaska in recent years, most recently completing the purchase of a second shore-based seafood processing facility in Bristol Bay. The addition of the Wood River facility in Dillingham will significantly increase Icicle's capacity to produce high-quality sockeye salmon fillets. Herring and chum and pink salmon will also be processed at the facility.

The purchase was the final step of Icicle's acquisition of Snopac Products assets, which began in 2012.

"The strategic acquisition of the Wood River facility is yet another step in our growth strategy as a leading processor of salmon and other seafood products," Humphreys said. "Icicle is well-positioned with its diversified harvesting and processing infrastructure and its broad, quality product offerings to further strengthen and build upon the founding vision put into motion almost 50 years ago: to be a superior, diversified seafood company offering premier service and commitment to our customers, fishermen and employees."

Previous Alaska investments include the major expansion of Icicle's Petersburg processing facility in 2011; the purchase of the processing vessel Snopac Innovator, renamed the Gordon Jensen in honor of one of Icicle's founders, in the spring of 2012; the installation of a new cod production line on the Gordon Jensen; and the purchases of the AFA trawl catcher vessels Hickory Wind and Progress, in 2011 and 2012.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pass the cocktail sauce!

Two commercial shrimp fisheries opened this week in Prince William Sound.

Fishermen using pot gear are going after spot shrimp, also known as spot prawns. The quota is 66,300 pounds.

Trawl vessels are targeting sidestripe shrimp, with a quota of 112,950 pounds.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


"Deadliest Catch," season nine, launches tonight on the Discovery Channel. Check your local listings.

Here are your vessel crews, looking all badass with their hoodies and beards. Not a smile in the bunch.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The politics of scallops and hair crab

State legislators wrapped up their 90-day session late Sunday, having spent most of their time on oil and gas issues.

Later this week, Deckboss hopes to write up a brilliant summary of the fisheries-related action in Juneau.

Here's one quick note for now.

Controversial legislation to extend limited entry for Alaska's weathervane scallop and Korean hair crab fisheries failed to pass the full Legislature.

Both are small fisheries, and hair crab actually has been closed for quite a few years.

These are the only fisheries in which permits are assigned to vessels, not people. Some legislators really disagree with that.

Scallopers lobbied hard, and the Senate did pass a bill, SB 54.

Resistance in the House, however, ultimately stymied things.

And so, at the end of the year, limited entry for the scallop and hair crab fisheries will expire.

Open access might be short-lived, however, as the legislation remains alive for the next session beginning in January 2014.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sitka herring seiner fined after guilty plea

Remember the mash-up during the 2011 Sitka herring fishery that resulted in Daniel Crome getting charged with misdemeanor reckless boating?

Well, the case has finally reached a resolution, with Crome changing his plea to guilty last Tuesday in Sitka District Court.

The judge imposed a $1,000 fine and a year's probation.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Prominent Seward fishing couple indicted

Jim and Rhonda Hubbard have been indicted on commercial fishing and other charges.

Here's a press release from the Alaska Department of Law.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Council orders up salmon bycatch report

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council passed this motion directing staff to prepare a report on Chinook salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How they voted

Here's how state legislators voted yesterday on whether to confirm the appointment of Vince Webster to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.


YEAS: Austerman, Chenault, Costello, Edgmon, Feige, Foster, Gruenberg, Herron, Josephson, Kerttula, Kreiss-Tomkins, Munoz, Nageak, Olson, Seaton, Tarr, Tuck, P. Wilson

NAYS: Drummond, Gara, Gattis, Hawker, Higgins, Holmes, Hughes, Isaacson, Johnson, Kawasaki, Keller, LeDoux, Lynn, Millett, Neuman, Pruitt, Reinbold, Saddler, Stoltze, Thompson, T. Wilson

Excused: Guttenberg


YEAS: Bishop, Dyson, Egan, Fairclough, French, Giessel, Hoffman, Micciche, Olson, Stedman, Stevens

NAYS: Coghill, Dunleavy, Ellis, Gardner, Huggins, Kelly, McGuire, Meyer, Wielechowski

TOTALS: 29 yeas, 30 nays with one member excused

And so, lacking the required 31 votes, Webster failed to be confirmed to the Board of Fisheries.

Source: Senate and House Joint Journal Supplement for April 8

Monday, April 8, 2013

The governor reacts

Here's a statement from Gov. Sean Parnell's office on today's legislative confirmation hearing:

The Legislature voted down the reappointment of Vince Webster to the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Governor Parnell phoned Mr. Webster after the vote to personally thank him for volunteering six years of service to the State of Alaska.

"It is disappointing, discouraging and disheartening when bad information or politics prevent a qualified Alaskan from serving our state," Governor Parnell said. "I appreciate Vince's willingness to serve these past six years."

The Legislature's action requires the governor to make a new appointment to the Board of Fisheries, subject to confirmation by the Legislature.

Webster rejected for Board of Fisheries

After considerable debate, Alaska legislators voted 30-29 against Vince Webster for another term on the state Board of Fisheries.

The governor's other two appointees, Reed Morisky and Tom Kluberton, were confirmed by unanimous consent.

Confirmation time

The Alaska House and Senate will meet in joint session at 11 a.m. today to consider the governor's appointees.

Three names are up for the state Board of Fisheries: Reed Morisky, Tom Kluberton and Vince Webster.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

$10 an hour

The morning crew at the Goodnews Bay plant. CVRF photo
Now here's something Deckboss has never seen before — a processor bragging about what it pays workers on the slime line.

Coastal Villages Region Fund says it's bumping up beginner pay to $10 an hour, "believed to be the highest starting wage for processors in the history of the Alaska seafood industry."

The company's flagship plant is the Goodnews Bay regional facility near the village of Platinum.

Processing hands are an essential, but often overlooked, component of Alaska's commercial fishing industry.

Many come from out of state, and ethnic minorities are predominant.

The work is monotonous and messy. Workers stand for hours in wet, noisy conditions heading, gutting, cleaning and packing fish.

Coastal's starting pay rate does appear favorable compared to other processors in the state.

Icicle Seafoods, one of the state's biggest seafood processors, pays $7.75 an hour to start, which is the minimum wage in Alaska.

Because seafood processing is so labor intensive, companies have a strong incentive to control payroll costs.

In 2009, they lobbied against a state minimum wage hike.

Coastal Villages suggests it is different from other processors. And it is.

It's a nonprofit company operating under the federal Community Development Quota program. The goal of the program is to improve economic conditions in Western Alaska villages.

Coastal says better than 80 percent of its processing hands are Alaskans, including village residents.

The company acknowledges it actually loses money on its salmon, halibut and herring operations in Western Alaska.

Coastal subsidizes those operations with the lucrative income stream from its Bering Sea pollock, cod and crab harvests.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Boot Vince Webster!

The Kenai River Sportfishing Association is going after Vince Webster, member of the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

As you'll recall, Gov. Sean Parnell recently reappointed Webster for another term, and he is now awaiting legislative confirmation.

KRSA has issued this call to action for people to contact legislators and urge a "no" vote on Webster.

The organization says Webster "directly participated in precariously and unnecessarily lowering the escapement goal of Kenai River king salmon during a time of record low abundance and uncertain future production."

Webster did this, KRSA says, to benefit commercial salmon setnetters.

Dismal news for Chinook trollers

Here's the announcement on this year's Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon quota.

"The commercial troll fishery preseason Chinook salmon harvest allocation for 2013 is 129,862 fish, a decrease of 67,410 Chinook when compared with last year's troll allocation of 197,272 fish," the announcement says.

It's over

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery for the season.

The harvest tallied less than half the preseason quota of 11,549 tons.

More details in this announcement. Sounds like the fish just weren't cooperating.

So, can we officially call this fishery a bust? Deckboss isn't ready to say that until we know more about the price processors paid for the herring.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The latest on the Sitka herring fishery

Sitka herring seiners have taken less than half the 11,549-ton quota.

Now these normally fierce competitors are switching to a cooperative fishery in hopes of salvaging what Deckboss imagines has been a frustrating season.

Full details in this update from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

48 hours in Anchorage

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council convenes today for a meeting expected to last until Tuesday.

That's a long time to talk fish, but it's normal for the council, which holds about five lengthy meetings a year. Most are held in Alaska, but occasionally the council meets in Washington state or Oregon.

For this meeting, the council has allotted 48 hours to work through the agenda, which includes items on Steller sea lions, fishing cooperatives, the observer program and the scallop stock assessment.

Also of interest, the council will receive federal reports on genetic analysis of salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska.

We gave you a taste of one of these reports yesterday. Scientists are working to identify the stocks of origin for salmon taken incidentally in the pollock trawl fisheries.

Here are links to the reports:

Genetic Stock Composition Analysis of Chinook Salmon Bycatch Samples from the 2011 Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska Trawl Fisheries

Genetic Stock Composition Analysis of Chum Salmon Bycatch Samples from the 2011 Bering Sea Walleye Pollock Trawl Fishery

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Where do those Chinook come from?

Here's a new technical memorandum on genetic analysis of Chinook salmon taken as bycatch during Alaska's pollock trawl fisheries in 2011.

The following, taken directly from the report abstract, is what federal scientists determined for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands fishery.

Based on the analysis of 2,473 Chinook salmon bycatch samples collected throughout the 2011 BSAI walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) trawl fishery, Coastal Western Alaska stocks dominated the sample set (68%) with smaller contributions from North Alaska Peninsula (9%), British Columbia (8%), and U.S. west coast (6%) stocks.

Monday, April 1, 2013

How much would you pay for pollock?

On a recent family visit in Tennessee, I took a minute to check out some prices in a newspaper circular from Food Lion, a supermarket chain.

Pork tenderloin, $3.99 a pound
Semi-boneless lamb leg, $5.99 a pound
Pollock fillet, $5.99 a pound
Porterhouse or T-bone steak, $7.99 a pound
Sockeye salmon, $8.99 a pound

The ad didn't say if the pollock was fresh or frozen.

Regardless, Deckboss was surprised to see pollock commanding such a hefty price!