Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sitka herring season closes as full quota taken

The Sitka Sound seine fleet saw a fourth and final herring opener Saturday, taking an estimated 3,935 tons.

That brings the total to 17,231 tons. The "guideline" harvest limit going into the season was 16,333 tons.

The season is now closed, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today.

As for prices paid to fishermen, Deckboss has no definitive numbers at this point.

The full value of the catch generally isn't established until after processors market the product.

The size of the Sitka catch isn't the only price factor. It also matters what other Pacific herring fisheries produce. These fisheries stretch from California to remote Western Alaska, with some occurring before Sitka and some after.

Sitka herring are valued primarily for their eggs, or roe. The pack goes almost entirely to Asia.

The notoriously combative Sitka fishery apparently proceeded without incident this season. Either that, or news of any trouble simply hasn't reached us yet.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What's the best use of disaster funds?

Several groups from the Yukon-Kuskokwim and Cook Inlet regions have been tabbed to help fashion a spending plan for $20.8 million in federal disaster relief coming to Alaska in response to poor Chinook salmon runs. Details here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Closing in on the finish

We've now had three openers in the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery, and seiners have taken an estimated 13,500 tons, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says.

That leaves us only about 2,800 tons shy of the preseason quota.

The fleet could polish that off as soon as tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A professional Board of Fisheries?

Down in Juneau, a legislative committee this week is holding a series of hearings on Upper Cook Inlet salmon.

The inlet is the most contentious fishing zone in the state, with commercial, sport and other sectors continually battling over the salmon resource.

The state Board of Fisheries recently finished a tough, two-week meeting on Upper Cook Inlet.

One topic arising in the hearings before the Senate Resources Committee, chaired by Anchorage Sen. Cathy Giessel, is whether it might be time to move to a professional fish board, rather than the appointed, volunteer and generally layman board we have now.

Serving on the Board of Fisheries, if done right, is a big and tedious job. Members annually must sit through a string of multiweek meetings, consider hundreds of often arcane proposals, and read mountains of paper from advocates, biologists and fishermen.

Tempers can flare at these meetings, as seemingly everyone in attendance argues his particular issue is absolutely just and vital.

One wonders, in fact, why any sane person would care to sit on the seven-member Board of Fisheries.

The question is whether a professional board might be better suited for the weighty job of setting state fisheries policy.

Today, the Alaska Senate Majority held a press conference and spent a few minutes talking about the board.

Click here to see the press conference. The pertinent discussion begins about 21 minutes in.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Peter Pan says, yo, it ain't about us!

Peter Pan Seafoods, which operates a huge processing plant in remote King Cove, has come out with a statement on the proposed road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Supporters including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski say the road is vitally needed for public safety. It would connect King Cove to Cold Bay, which has a better airport for medevacs.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, however, has denied construction of the road.

Peter Pan's statement responds to criticism such as this from Bruce Babbitt, who argues the road would be an exorbitant gift to the company.

But the road isn't about Peter Pan, writes Dale Schwarzmiller, vice president for Alaska production.

By law, he says, the road would be for "noncommercial purposes."

Making more salmon

Southeast regional planning teams are scheduled to meet April 8 in Juneau to review, among other things, some interesting hatchery proposals.

Hatcheries, of course, are very important in Alaska. The state's annual salmon harvest wouldn't be nearly so large or lucrative without them.

For some years now, processors have lobbied for increased hatchery production to satisfy market demand for Alaska salmon.

One proposal on the April 8 agenda comes from the Sitka-based Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, which is seeking a capacity increase of 50 million chum salmon eggs.

Fry would be set to sea from a new remote release site in Crawfish Inlet. NSRAA projects an average return of 1.1 million chums worth about $6.5 million annually.

Another hatchery operator, Juneau-based Armstrong-Keta Inc., has submitted a plan to increase pink salmon production.

Another decent herring haul at Sitka

Sunday's opener at Sitka, the second of the season, produced an estimated 5,000 tons of herring.

Total harvest to date is now about 10,300 tons, the Department of Fish and Game says.

That's well over half the preseason quota of 16,333 tons.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sitka herring opens, fleet nets 5,000 tons

The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery saw its first opener Thursday afternoon.

The action lasted two hours 35 minutes.

"Preliminary processor hails total 5,000 tons," the Department of Fish and Game said. "No fishery planned for today to allow for processing of yesterday's harvest."

The quota for this year's fishery is 16,333 tons.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A catch share concept

If federal regulators move forward with a catch share program for Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries such as pollock and cod, some of the catch shares should go to "community fishing associations."


Some Alaska legislators evidently think so. They've introduced this resolution urging consideration of the idea.

The House Special Committee on Fisheries is scheduled to give the resolution a hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, chairs the committee.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Box 'em up!

The state has received an application for a proposed "live geoduck clam boxing facility" at Ketchikan.

See the project details here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Standing by at Sitka

The Sitka herring fleet will go on two-hour notice effective at 8 a.m. Thursday.

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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Good job, bad job

Here are dueling columns, published in the Anchorage Daily News, on the recent Board of Fisheries meeting on Upper Cook Inlet.

Mark Hamilton, chair, Kenai River Sportfishing Association
Frank Mullen, commercial fisherman, Homer

Friday, March 14, 2014

Longtime leader leaving Bristol Bay association

This just in from the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association:

Bob Waldrop resigns as BBRSDA executive director

Robert Heyano, President of the Board of Directors of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, announced today that the board has accepted the resignation of its executive director, Bob Waldrop, who has served in that capacity since inception of the association. The board wishes Bob well in his next endeavors.

The board has appointed Mike LaRussa, who presently serves as the Treasurer of the association, to serve as interim executive director until a permanent successor can be named. The board is currently interviewing candidates and is confident that it will name a successor within 60 days.

Trawler crewman dies in welding accident

A crewman died this week in an explosion aboard the Bering Sea factory trawler Alaska Ocean, Unalaska police said.

Preliminary investigation found that welding set off gas inside a storage locker that held a leaking acetylene tank, said Mike Holman, Unalaska deputy chief.

The blast unhinged the locker door, which struck Franz d'Alquen, 48, from Arizona. He was declared deceased shortly thereafter.

The accident happened at 9:20 p.m. Tuesday. The Alaska Ocean was about 165 miles out of Unalaska at the time.

The 376-foot vessel belongs to Seattle-based Glacier Fish Co.

The body has been sent to the state medical examiner's office, Holman said.

Here's a brief obituary.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Coast Guard suspends search for man overboard

The U.S. Coast Guard just announced it has suspended the active search for a man reported overboard north of Unimak Island in the Bering Sea.

Searchers covered 64 square miles over 10 hours.

The Coast Guard said it received a report this morning from the Seafreeze Alaska that a crewmember of the F/V Seeker had gone overboard.

State records list the owner of the 98-foot Seeker as James M. Seavers, of Newport, Ore.

The Coast Guard has not named the missing man.

A Coast Guard helicopter completed one search of the area, returned to Cold Bay to refuel, and then did a second search.

Shortly thereafter the cutter Alex Haley arrived on scene to assist in the search.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the missing man," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Chris Cole. "The decision to end a search is one of the most difficult choices to make as a search and rescue controller."

Man reported overboard in Bering Sea

The U.S. Coast Guard says a search is under way for a man reported overboard from the F/V Seeker 10 miles northwest of Unimak Island in the Bering Sea.

A Coast Guard helicopter out of Cold Bay and several good Samaritan vessels are searching the area. The cutter Alex Haley also is responding.

Conditions on scene include winds of 35 miles per hour with 10-foot seas.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Man needs medevac after mishap with crab pot

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter conducted a medevac this morning for a man who was "suffering from numerous injuries after a crab pot fell on him."

The injury occurred aboard the F/V Miss Courtney Kim near Sanak Island, the Coast Guard said.

The patient, who wasn't identified, was picked up at King Cove and carried to Cold Bay. From there, he was transferred to Anchorage.

Processor dinged $205K for ammonia dumping

Federal authorities say North Pacific Seafoods today was penalized $205,000 after pleading guilty to dumping ammonia into the Kodiak city sewer.

Here's the press release.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Attention shellfish growers

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is holding a series of public meetings, starting Monday in Homer, on revising the state's aquatic farm regulations.

Details here.

Murkowski wants China meeting on shellfish ban

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is urging U.S. officials to send a delegation to China to try to persuade that country to lift its import ban on geoduck clams and other shellfish from Alaska and the West Coast.

Here's a letter Murkowski sent last week.

Check this NOAA website for background and updates on the China situation.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A new era for halibut

The 2014 halibut season opens at noon tomorrow.

This is the first year for the new "catch sharing plan," which establishes a clear allocation of fish between the rival commercial and charter fleets.

We're also entering another season of generally reduced catch limits, as the halibut stock continues to decline.

Here's an announcement from regulators laying out the various quotas and fishing restrictions for the season.

The fishery for black cod, or sablefish, also opens tomorrow.

The U.S. Coast Guard is urging safety among fishermen, and so is Deckboss!

Good fishing, everybody.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Huge sockeye run coming to Fraser River?

Check this article out of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Governor picks Kinneen for council seat

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell just named Simon Kinneen, of Nome, as his top pick for a seat on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

If the commerce secretary approves, Kinneen will replace Eric Olson, whose third and final term expires Aug. 10.

Olson currently chairs the council, which helps regulate commercial fisheries off Alaska.

Here's the governor's official announcement.

A pollution pass for fishing boats?

Deckboss hears U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and 21 cosponsors today introduced legislation to permanently exempt fishing vessels from having to have permits for incidental discharges.

Here's the relevant language:


(a) IN GENERAL. — No permit shall be required or prohibition enforced under any other provision of law for, nor shall any standards regarding a discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel under this Act apply to —

(1) a discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel if the vessel is less than 79 feet in length and engaged in commercial service (as defined in section 2101(5) of title 46, United States Code);

(2) a discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel if the vessel is a fishing vessel, including a fish processing vessel and a fish tender vessel (as defined in section 2101 of title 46, United States Code);

(3) a discharge incidental to the normal operation of a vessel if the vessel is a recreational vessel (as defined in section 2101 of title 46, United States Code);

Sitka herring quota reduced

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has set a final quota of 16,333 tons for the upcoming Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery.

More details here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Down on the farm

Icicle Seafoods is selling its interest in a Chilean farmed salmon operation to an ownership group that includes two familiar names: Dennis Guhlke and Don Giles.

All the details here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Togiak herring outlook

Environmental conditions suggest the Togiak sac roe herring harvest could go off a bit earlier this year, state biologists say.

The preseason quota remains at 27,890 tons, a very large number.

Daily processing capacity is expected to be up substantially this season.

More details in this fishery outlook.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ocean Beauty wins Philippines food aid contract

Ocean Beauty Seafoods has won a state contract to supply a large volume of canned Alaska pink salmon for disaster relief in the Philippines.

Ocean Beauty edged out three other processors — Icicle, Peter Pan and Trident — with a low bid of $246,758.

The state invited bids for a minimum of 6,048 cases of pink salmon, with each case containing two dozen 14.75-ounce cans.

The fish is going to Cebu, Philippines, where a devastating typhoon as well as a strong earthquake struck last year.

Alaska's salmon industry has a huge inventory of canned salmon onhand, thanks to last year's record pink salmon harvest.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is paying for the Philippines donation with "industry assessment funds," spokesman Tyson Fick says.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The power of the ballot box

As we've reported previously here on Deckboss, one of Alaska's six Community Development Quota organizations — Coastal Villages Region Fund — believes it is getting screwed on fish and crab catch shares.

Coastal argues its allocations are disproportionately small relative to the large population in its region.

That means CDQ companies representing smaller populations enjoy outsized catch shares, Coastal says.

Thus far, Alaska's congressional delegation has rebuffed Coastal's requests to rebalance the CDQ allocations, which have been in place for several years.

Now Coastal is mounting a voter registration drive, which would seem a warning to any elected official not onboard with rebalancing.

“Honestly, we lack the political savvy that some individuals from other smaller CDQ groups possess, but our sheer voting power is a force to be reckoned with," says Coastal's Dawson Hoover. "We are being politically discriminated against because of these unjust allocations."