Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fritz Johnson appointed to Board of Fisheries

Gov. Sean Parnell today appointed Bristol Bay commercial fisherman Fritz Johnson to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

Johnson replaces board veteran Vince Webster, who in April failed to win legislative confirmation for another term.

For more background on Johnson, read the governor's press release.

Monday, July 29, 2013

No new IPHC commissioners anytime soon

We've been waiting quite a while for the Obama administration to decide on appointments to the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

And it appears the wait could last months longer.

The IPHC is a Seattle-based fishery management panel with three members from the United States and three from Canada.

The regular terms for U.S. members expired some time ago.

Now their terms have been extended pending new presidential appointments, says a recent update to nominees from Jim Balsiger, Alaska regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service and himself an IPHC commissioner.

Here's the update:

June 28, 2013

Dear 2013 IPHC Nominee:

This note is to bring you up-to-date on the latest developments concerning commissioner appointments for the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Current U.S. IPHC commissioners Ralph Hoard, Phillip Lestenkof, and myself received letters of alternate appointments this week from the U.S. State Department, notifying us that our terms as IPHC commissioners had been extended until June 2014, or until the President appoints two new commissioners, whichever occurs first.

Our appointment terms had expired in March. The extension of current appointments is to ensure U.S. representation on the IPHC until new presidential appointments can be made.

The process to fill the two vacant IPHC commissioner seats — for which you have been nominated — continues to go forward at this time.

Thank you for your continued patience.



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Salmon notes

We're now smack in the middle of Alaska's commercial salmon season. Here are a few observations.

• The statewide all-species catch stands at nearly 89 million fish, or roughly half the preseason forecast of 179 million.

• Harvest of the state's most valuable salmon crop, sockeye, is nearly done, and the catch is likely to end up short of forecast. The tally of 27.8 million fish is well short of the projected 34.3 million.

• We're entering prime time for pink salmon purse seiners. Prince William Sound boats already have taken nearly 25 million pinks, while Southeast Alaska seiners have bagged 15 million. The statewide forecast calls for a big haul of nearly 118 million pinks this year.

• Kodiak has taken nearly 5.5 million salmon of all species so far, including a strong 1.9 million sockeye.

• The Lower Yukon River summer chum salmon fishery is over, and the catch of about 378,000 fish is the highest since 1989, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports. During the fishery, 928 Chinook salmon were caught and released and 436 Chinook were reported kept but not sold.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More time to weigh in on halibut catch sharing

The National Marine Fisheries Service has extended the deadline for public comments on the proposed halibut catch sharing plan. The new deadline is Aug. 26.

The agency says it still aims to implement the catch sharing plan for the 2014 fishing season.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

State fights Cook Inlet setnetter suit

Here are three documents the state filed yesterday in response to the lawsuit seeking additional fishing time for Cook Inlet salmon setnetters.

State opposition to preliminary injunction

Affidavit of Jeff Regnart, director, Division of Commercial Fisheries

Affidavit of Robert Clark, chief scientist, Division of Sport Fish

State, industry lose Steller sea lion appeal

Here's the opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Teen on four-wheeler hits setnet cable, dies

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Clam Gulch
Type: Fatality
On 7/20/13 at about 1242 hours, troopers responded to a report of a single-vehicle collision on Clam Gulch Beach in Clam Gulch. Central and Ninilchik EMS responded to the scene with troopers and located Peter J. Janke, 15, of Clam Gulch, deceased after he struck a setnet cable anchored into the bluff while riding a four-wheeler. Next of kin was notified. Janke's remains have been sent to the state medical examiner for autopsy. Investigation is ongoing.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Vessel reported aground at Ketchikan

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Ketchikan
Type: Agency assist
On 7/20/13 at approximately 0216 hours, the Alaska State Troopers in Ketchikan received a report of a fishing vessel grounded on the beach near Sunset Drive. Investigation revealed the F/V Kelly Anne, out of Washington, had run aground. No injuries were reported. The U.S. Coast Guard was notified and responded. USCG investigation continues.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cook Inlet setnetters sue Fish and Game

An organization called Cook Inlet Fisherman's Fund is suing the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in an effort to force additional fishing time for eastside salmon setnetters.

CIFF alleges Fish and Game mismanagement has cost the setnetters millions of dollars this season and last.

Here are three documents:

CIFF complaint

Memorandum in support of motion for preliminary injunction

CIFF press release

Walmart keeps hearing it from Alaska

Another Alaska pol, Gov. Sean Parnell, has fired a letter to Walmart questioning the retail giant's devotion to the Marine Stewardship Council ecolabel when it comes to buying salmon.

Halibut catch sharing plan stirs opposition

The National Marine Fisheries Service is taking public comment until Aug. 12 on the proposed halibut catch sharing plan.

As expected, the plan is drawing considerable opposition. And the opposition has succeeded in sinking past attempts to end Alaska's halibut war.

Deckboss yesterday saw the above advertisement on an Alaska news site. Clicking on the ad took me here, where we learn that halibut charter operators are lining up lawyers, lobbyists and donations to try to block the catch sharing plan.

The plan would establish a clear allocation of halibut between the rival charter and commercial fleets.

To supporters, the plan would settle the rivalry, allow enough halibut for both sectors, and protect fish stocks.

To opponents, the catch sharing plan means charter anglers "will have their halibut taken away and then offered back to them, for rent."

Tony Weaver, a sportfishing columnist for the Anchorage Daily News, yesterday offered his take on the plan.

He urges the sportfishing masses to oppose it, saying: "I don't want to end up getting my halibut at Costco."

Any comeback, commercial guys?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

USCG conducts Prince William Sound medevac

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter out of Cordova this morning hoisted a possible stroke victim off the processing ship Island Enterprise in Prince William Sound.

The patient, 61, was taken to Valdez, the Coast Guard said.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Aleutians golden king crab quotas stay steady

The state today announced Aleutian Islands golden king crab quotas totaling 6.29 million pounds for the 2013-14 season opening Aug. 15.

The quotas match those of last season.

More details in this Department of Fish and Game announcement.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Big price on small catch at Bristol Bay

Bristol Bay will finish with a relatively small catch this season, but fishermen could enjoy a better payoff.

Deckboss just heard from the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association that a couple of major processors have posted a base price of $1.50 a pound for sockeye salmon.

That's a huge increase from the $1 base seen in the 2012 and 2011 seasons.

Does Alaska salmon qualify?

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, says certain agencies have adopted sustainable seafood policies that could bar wild Alaska salmon from federal programs.

She's asking for a meeting with agency officials to straighten them out. Check out the senator's letter.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A subpar season in Bristol Bay

Well, we're now well past the traditional season peak at Bristol Bay, and the catch stands at a fairly dreadful 13.7 million salmon.

Coming into the season, the state had forecast a weak harvest of 16.6 million sockeye. Now it appears unlikely gillnetters will be able to scratch up enough fish to meet even that modest projection.

And so, Deckboss imagines the docks, canneries and bars in Naknek, Dillingham and elsewhere are becoming more lonely by the hour as folks head home.

I'm guessing no one is more dejected than the setnetters at the Igushik River, where persistent fuel leakage from the sunken fish tender Lone Star has kept the fishery in that area closed for days now.

Still no word on the base price processors are paying fishermen this season. Anyone heard anything?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Salmon way up north

Kotzebue Sound hosts the farthest north commercial salmon fishery in Alaska. And the 2013 season opens tomorrow.

A good run of chum salmon is expected, and the harvest could reach 250,000 fish, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says.

The buyer, Great Pacific Seafoods, is putting a strong emphasis on quality this season, requiring fishermen to bleed their catch.

More details here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Contaminated Bristol Bay salmon dumped

State pollution regulators say 27,109 pounds of salmon were contaminated as a result of the sinking of the fish tender Lone Star in the Igushik River, south of Dillingham.

The salmon, collected from setnetters in the area, yesterday were hauled 12 miles offshore and dumped, the Department of Environmental Conservation says.

It bears stressing that this is a relatively minor volume of salmon, from one small and fairly isolated corner of the enormous Bristol Bay fishing grounds.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Salmon notes

Here are a few observations from the Alaska salmon season thus far.

• The Department of Fish and Game reports a total salmon harvest, all species, of 34.9 million fish. The forecast for the full season is 179 million.

• Sockeye account for more than half the catch at 20.3 million fish. We'll likely see pink salmon rise to the top the tally board later in the season.

• In Upper Cook Inlet, eastside setnetters have had four openers, taking 113,864 sockeye and 271 Chinook through the Fourth of July. The setnetters were largely shut down last season due to Chinook bycatch concerns.

• It's pretty clear now we'll finish with a lackluster catch this year at Bristol Bay, with the peak of the sockeye fishery now past. The catch stands at just over 13 million fish, on a preseason forecast of 16.6 million. No word yet on what processors intend to pay fishermen.

• On the Lower Yukon River, the new dipnet and beach seine fishery seems to have worked out well. The commercial chum catch through through July 3 was 203,835 fish, with 837 Chinook released. See our previous post for background on this fishery.

Fish tender runs aground east of Whittier

As if we haven't already seen enough trouble over this holiday weekend, the U.S. Coast Guard now reports a fish tender has run aground and ruptured a fuel tank in Prince William Sound.

The 110-foot Naknek Spirit, with five people aboard, grounded in Passage Canal six miles east of Whittier.

No injuries were reported, but the starboard fuel tank ruptured.

"The tank was reportedly carrying 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel, but crewmembers managed to transfer 1,500 gallons into an intact tank," the Coast Guard says.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Closure ordered in Bristol Bay due to oil threat

The state again has closed part of Bristol Bay's Nushagak District to commercial fishing because of oil leaking from the sunken fish tender Lone Star. Here's the announcement.

And here's the latest situation report on the pollution response and salvage effort.

Man dies in fall aboard vessel in Chignik Lagoon

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Chignik Lagoon
Type: Accidental death
On 7/4/13 at about 2140 hours, AST received a report of a death aboard a boat in Chignik Lagoon. Investigation determined Joey J. Paul, 25, of Dillingham, was working on the 38-foot F/V Aleut Sisters when he fell into an area near the engine of the boat. Paul was retrieved from the boat and transported to the Chignik Lagoon Clinic where he was pronounced deceased. The state medical examiner's office was contacted and an autopsy was requested. Next of kin have been notified. Foul play is not suspected in this incident.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

One dead, two hurt in Bristol Bay boat fire

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Egegik
Type: Fatal boat fire
At 5:56 a.m. on 7/4/13, the Egegik Clinic notified AST of an active boat fire in the village of Egegik at the Alaska General Seafoods cannery dock. At 3:30 a.m., fishermen staying on boats moored at the dock noticed flames coming out of the Pauline II, a 32-foot gillnetter also moored there. Joe Paul, 50, and Paul Paul, 55, were pulled from the boat and taken to the clinic before they were flown elsewhere for treatment of burns suffered in the fire. First responders at the dock put out the fire and kept the flames from spreading to nearby boats. Afterwards, another individual believed to be 56-year-old Harberg Paul was found on the boat. He was taken to the clinic and pronounced deceased at 4:30 a.m. The three are brothers from Kipnuk. The body was sent to the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage for an autopsy and to confirm the identification of the deceased. Next of kin has been notified. Due to inclement weather, AST was unable to respond. Instead, a wildlife trooper who was in the area for commercial fisheries enforcement traveled by a skiff to the village to start the investigation. A deputy fire marshal flew from Anchorage to the village to conduct an investigation into the cause of the fire. Foul play is not suspected. The boat is considered a total loss.

Crewman dies in Cook Inlet winch accident

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Ninilchik
Type: Death investigation
On 7/4/13 at 0910 hours, the skipper of the F/V Anna Lane reported to the Alaska State Troopers that a crewmember was caught in the anchor winch and he was unable to get him out. The vessel was reported to be north of Ninilchik and approximately 1.5 miles offshore. Ninilchik Emergency Services responded aboard a charter fishing vessel. The crewmember was identified as Lewis Byerly, 55, of Wisconsin. EMS determined Byerly was deceased upon their arrival. EMS transported Byerly to Ninilchik. Initial investigation revealed Byerly was pulling up the anchor with the motorized winch and got his hand caught in the chain. The winch pulled the rest of his body in, causing fatal injuries. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were notified. Byerly was sent to the state medical examiner in Anchorage for autopsy. Next of kin were notified. The F/V Anna Lane is returning to its homeport in Homer.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A couple of shellfish notes

The Norton Sound red king crab summer season opens at noon tomorrow with a quota of 495,600 pounds.

Alaska's weathervane scallop fishery opened yesterday. Area harvest limits look much the same this year as last. Details here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Begich to Walmart: Forget MSC

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has fired this letter to Walmart expressing his views on Alaska seafood and the Marine Stewardship Council.

Begich also issued this press release.

Bristol Bay fishery closure lifted

Bristol Bay fishery managers have lifted the closure imposed after the salmon tender Lone Star sank Sunday in the Igushik River.

Meantime, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has issued this situation report, which includes a couple of photos of the partially sunken vessel.