Monday, December 7, 2020

Unalaska outbreak

The city of Unalaska is reporting numerous crewmen aboard two trawlers, the Enterprise and the Legacy, have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

'Contrary to the public interest'

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the proposed Pebble gold and copper mine near salmon-rich Bristol Bay.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Southeast pink salmon outlook

An "average" pink salmon harvest of 28 million fish is forecast for Southeast Alaska next year.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Halibut hangs in there

Halibut season closed yesterday in Alaska, and it appears fishermen in key areas took the great majority of the quota despite this year's COVID-19 challenges.

The latest landings report posted today by the International Pacific Halibut Commission shows the commercial fishery in Area 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska) has landed 96 percent of the quota, while the commercial fishery in Area 2C (Southeast Alaska) has landed 93 percent.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Bristol Bay forecast is out!

The state is forecasting a Bristol Bay harvest of 36.35 million sockeye salmon next year.

This past summer, the industry took 39.46 million sockeye.

Monday, November 9, 2020

A big hit for Alaska salmon

The value of this year's salmon harvest is down 56 percent from last year, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports. More details here.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sale of Peter Pan Seafoods announced

Details in this notice from Peter Pan's parent company, Maruha Nichiro.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

King crab down, snow crab up

Fishery managers have announced a total allowable catch of 2.6 million pounds for the Bristol Bay red king crab season opening Oct. 15. That's a very poor quota, down 30 percent from last season.

Managers also have announced a TAC of 45 million pounds for the Bering Sea snow crab fishery, a 32 percent increase.

The Bering Sea Tanner crab TAC is 2.3 million pounds. The Tanner crab fishery was closed last season.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

'Dangerous and completely unacceptable'

Here is remarkable congressional testimony from Stephanie Madsen, executive director of the At-sea Processors Association, describing the American fishing fleet's recent encounter with the Russian military in the Bering Sea.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Halibut season extended — in Canada

The International Pacific Halibut Commission has approved an extension of the commercial season in British Columbia (Area 2B) by three weeks, until noon local time Dec. 7.

The original closure date of Nov. 15 still applies in all other areas.

Canadian interests had proposed an even longer halibut season extension to Feb. 20, 2021.

The Canadians sought the extension "in order to increase market opportunities and alleviate the impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis," according to this IPHC memo.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Feds announce enforcement action

A Kodiak fisherman will plead guilty to misreporting halibut and sablefish catches, federal prosecutors say.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

APICDA sues Trident

A partnership involving a processing plant at False Pass has gone sour, and now the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association is suing Trident Seafoods in federal court.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

UFA likes Sullivan

United Fishermen of Alaska is endorsing U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan's reelection bid.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A major COVID-19 outbreak in Seward

Here's the press release.

Bristol Bay update

The industry has tallied a big harvest of more than 36 million sockeye so far at Bristol Bay. And it has done so despite daunting COVID-19 challenges.

But fishermen likely won't be happy with the payoff. Media reports say processors are posting a base ex-vessel price of 70 cents a pound, a big drop from last year's average of $1.35.

Kenai closure

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game just announced the following:

In an effort to conserve the Kenai River king salmon population for future generations of Alaskans, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is closing sport fishing for king salmon on the Kenai River and in marine waters of Cook Inlet north of Bluff Point and is closing all commercial setnet fisheries on the east side of Upper Cook Inlet effective ... July 24.

More in this press release.

Disaster relief plans proposed

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has posted distribution plans for federal disaster funds.

The state is inviting public comments on the proposed plans, which cover two fisheries:

2018 Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod
2018 Chignik sockeye salmon

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Coronavirus slams another American Seafoods boat

The city of Unalaska is reporting that 85 of the 119 persons aboard the factory trawler American Triumph have tested positive for COVID-19.

More details in this news release.

And here's a statement from American Seafoods.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Dungeness crabber found dead off Kodiak Island

The Alaska State Troopers posted the following on July 3:

Location: Kodiak
Type: SAR/death investigation
On 7/3/20 at approximately 0623 hours, Alaska Wildlife Trooper Seward received a call that the U.S. Coast Guard was transporting a deceased subject later identified to be 22-year-old Cole Rutzer. Investigation revealed Rutzer was commercial Dungeness fishing off Tugidak Island located at the south end of Kodiak. Yesterday afternoon, Rutzer and Dylan Furford used a Zodiac skiff to go beachcombing on Tugidak Island. Rutzer and Furford did not return later that evening, so USCG was notified and started to search the area via helo. The USCG found the Zodiac skiff capsized and Rutzer deceased on the beach. A second helo was deployed to search for Furford. Members of KISAR participated in search efforts. The USCG has suspended the search. Next of kin for both men were notified.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Big boost for summer troll fishery

The state today announced the summer troll season will begin July 1 targeting 83,900 treaty Chinook salmon.

That's a 51 percent jump over last summer's opening target of 55,700 treaty Chinook.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Some news on Fishermen's News

Fishermen's News, a Seattle-based commercial fishing magazine, has suspended publication.

Managing Editor Chris Philips, writing in the new July issue, cites "the current economic climate" and the effects of COVID-19 as factors for the suspension.

Fishermen's News has been around for a long time, tracing its founding to 1945.

Monday, June 22, 2020

A change at the top for Coastal Villages

Coastal Villages Region Fund has announced that longtime Executive Director Morgen Crow has retired.

Anchorage-based Coastal Villages is believed to be the richest of the six Alaska community development quota organizations.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Processor faces employment complaint

A lawsuit accuses North Pacific Seafoods, a major Alaska salmon processor, of holding up to 150 cannery workers in "forced unpaid quarantine" in a California hotel, according to this press release.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

A likely victory for trollers

A U.S. magistrate judge is recommending denial of a motion to close the commercial troll salmon fishery in the federal waters off Southeast Alaska.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Herring pickle

Bering Sea pollock trawlers have used up their herring bycatch allowance, and now they're getting shut out of productive fishing grounds known as herring savings areas.

This will cause "significant disruption and economic harm to the pollock fishery," and could even lead to increased salmon bycatch, the trawlers say in this emergency petition to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

As a solution, the trawlers propose doubling their herring bycatch allowance from 2,532 metric tons to 5,064 metric tons.

This idea is drawing plenty of opposition from people who say herring is a valuable forage fish best left in the water to help support the marine food chain.

The council is meeting Monday through Wednesday via webconference.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Coronavirus cluster reported in Whittier

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is reporting 11 cases of COVID-19 in seafood workers in Whittier.

"The city of Whittier and Whittier Seafoods are both working together and in coordination with DHSS to respond to the cluster of cases," the department said. "After arriving in Whittier, the workers were quarantined, screened daily and tested. When one worker tested positive, additional testing was immediately initiated to identify the other positive cases and track close contacts. All individuals are now isolated, being monitored and receiving appropriate medical care. The workers have been quarantined on their employer's campus since arriving in Whittier."

Two more American Seafoods boats have virus

Details in this press release from the Whatcom County Health Department in Bellingham.

The vessels involved are the factory trawlers American Triumph and Northern Jaeger.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Major virus outbreak hits factory trawler

Eighty-six crewmembers on the factory trawler American Dynasty reportedly have tested positive for COVID-19.

Seattle-based American Seafoods operates the 272-foot trawler.

Friday, May 29, 2020

COVID-19 plays havoc with surveys

As we all know, sound scientific stock surveys are paramount in supporting commercial fisheries.

But the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging this year's survey plans.

Last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service said it was taking the unprecedented step of canceling five major research surveys, including the Eastern Bering Sea bottom trawl survey.

Now, today brings news that the International Pacific Halibut Commission is scaling back its setline survey.

Ocean Beauty, Icicle announce partial merger

Here's the press release.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Trident worker in Dillingham tests positive for virus

Details in this press release.

Processors and COVID-19

Noting coronavirus outbreaks at Lower 48 food-processing plants, Alaska officials have issued Enhanced Protective Measures for Seafood Processing Workers.

Friday, May 15, 2020

A slow start for the Copper River

The first Copper River opening of the season produced a very light catch of 1,650 Chinook salmon and 1,500 sockeye, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

A blow to owner-onboard fisheries?

Tomorrow is a big day for individual fishing quota (IFQ) halibut and sablefish players.

In a special meeting starting at noon, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will consider emergency proposals to liberalize quota transfer and vessel cap rules.

The effect of such changes could be substantial consolidation of the catch under fewer fishermen and fewer boats.

Such consolidation was certainly not one of the desired outcomes when fishing under IFQ management began in March 1995.

The coronavirus is the impetus for these proposals. Proponents believe the rule changes would help the industry reduce the risks of spreading the virus among fishermen and communities, and could spare many quota holders the costs of travel during the pandemic.

Proponents also note the substantially lower prices paid for halibut so far this season.

The council has received numerous written comments about these and other proposed rule changes. You can read it all here.

The relaxed quota transfer and vessel cap rules, if approved, would be temporary for this season, which has a long way to go before it closes on Nov. 15. But these steps would surely raise concerns about the erosion of a fundamental goal of the IFQ program — the preservation of owner-onboard fisheries.

Tsunami danger flagged in PWS

This just in from state officials:

The threat of a large and potentially dangerous tsunami is looming in Prince William Sound, where an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists using the area, the state's top geologist said today.

More details here.

Feds fight troll fishery shutdown

As we reported last month, the Wild Fish Conservancy is seeking an injunction to block the summer Chinook salmon fishery in federal waters off Southeast Alaska. The environmental organization says the fishery poses a starvation threat to endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

Now the National Marine Fisheries Service is vigorously opposing the motion for injunction. In its 34-page filing, the agency argues that closing the fishery would have only a "very small effect" on the availability of prey for killer whales.

A new salmon season

The famed Copper River salmon fishery was set to open for the season at 7 a.m. today.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has predicted a modest commercial harvest this year of 771,000 sockeye.

But more so than the catch total, we'll be looking at how the fishery performs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

How has the virus affected the markets? Will Copper River sockeye and king salmon command their usual premium prices?

And can processing plans operate safety without the virus causing disruptions?

How the Copper River fishery fares might well tell us a lot about how the balance of the Alaska salmon season goes.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A Bristol Bay field hospital?

Strong concerns remain in Bristol Bay regarding this year's commercial salmon fishery and the potential for a local coronavirus outbreak.

But preparations are in the works that could alleviate some of the worry.

Plans include setting up a field hospital, possibly at King Salmon, in the event of an outbreak.

The field hospital would involve Samaritan's Purse and would be established if requested by the Naknek-based Camai Community Health Center, which serves the fishing industry each season, Camai's executive director, Mary Swain, tells Deckboss.

Local plans also include setting up a major coronavirus testing center, Swain says.

Slicing the pie

Federal officials have posted a plan for distributing the $300 million included in the CARES Act for fisheries assistance.

Under the plan, Alaska and Washington state would be the top two recipients with $50 million each.

More details in this press release.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

'The correct thing to do'

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association has posted its position on testing and quarantine.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Council calls special meeting

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has scheduled a May 15 special meeting to consider emergency requests. Details on the requests are available here.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Give a listen

Here's some maritime music to help you navigate the coronacrisis.

Off to Dutch Harbor
Built on the Clyde
Greenland Whale Fisheries
The Two Conneeleys
Fisherman's Blues

Case dismissed

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit opposing development of the Pebble mine. Here's the ruling.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Injunction sought against troll fishery

Wild Fish Conservancy is seeking an injunction to block the summer Chinook salmon fishery in federal waters off Southeast Alaska. The environmental organization says the fishery poses a starvation threat to endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

Here is a response from the Alaska Trollers Association.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

About that $300M in COVID-19 relief

This just in from Alaska Congressman Don Young:

Alaska's fishing industry is a critical economic driver for our state. Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted fisheries across our country. I sent a bipartisan letter with over 35 House colleagues to the U.S. Department of Commerce, urging immediate distribution of the assistance secured by Congress in the CARES Act to fishery participants, including tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants. Fishing communities are facing extreme hardship, and I will continue doing all I can to support them and the fishermen who depend on these good jobs. Click here to read our full letter.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Here's your 2020 salmon forecast

The state is forecasting a commercial harvest of about 133 million salmon this year, which would be much smaller than last year's haul of 207.9 million.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Heading to court?

Here's what the major processors are telling Bristol Bay communities and tribal councils regarding coronavirus safety precautions they intend to take during this year's salmon season.

This letter is interesting in two respects. First, it seems to confirm the processors are gearing up for the fishery — a major financial gamble on their part.

Second, these processor safety commitments seem unlikely to satisfy community members who fear the fishery could usher in the pandemic to Bristol Bay.

As we reported earlier, the state appears disinclined to cancel Alaska's most valuable salmon fishery.

Deckboss is sure all parties will keep talking. But don't be surprised if the matter winds up in court.

Bristol Bay coronavirus update

The city of Dillingham and the Curyung Tribal Council have submitted this letter asking Gov. Mike Dunleavy to consider closing this year's Bristol Bay commercial salmon fishery for fear it could unleash the coronavirus pandemic in the local community.

Deckboss asked Jeff Turner, a Dunleavy spokesman, if a Bristol Bay decision was on the governor's agenda.

"The governor has no plans to shut down the Bristol Bay fishery. It is a critical industry," Turner said.

In other news, the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents driftnet fishermen, today posted proposed fleet and community safety ideas.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Bristol Bay's demands

Fishermen and processors expecting to travel to Bristol Bay this summer for the state's richest salmon fishery are facing a rising tide of preconditions and bureaucracy.

Why? Local residents in Dillingham and other Bristol Bay communities greatly fear the influx of thousands of fishermen, cannery workers, and vendors could unleash a local coronavirus outbreak.

Proposals to restrict fishery participants are proliferating.

The latest example is this slate of protocols from local organizations united under the banner Bristol Bay Working Group.

These protocols, which the working group says will be conveyed to the state government, appear to suggest that fishermen and cannery workers will need two negative COVID-19 tests. That's just one of numerous proposed rules for industry.

And woe unto anyone who violates the protocols.

"Failure to comply by employees or fishermen will result in immediate termination of market and removal," the working group suggests.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

New faces for fish board

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has appointed Abe Williams, of Anchorage, and McKenzie Mitchell, of Fairbanks, to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

The governor also reappointed John Jensen, of Petersburg.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

$300 million for fisheries

The U.S. Senate last night passed a gigantic coronavirus economic rescue package that includes $300 million in assistance to "fishery participants."

Here's the actual language from the bill (H.R. 748). The language begins:

"The Secretary of Commerce is authorized to provide assistance to Tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which may include direct relief payments."

The $2 trillion bill still needs House and presidential approval.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Seafood industry plea

A who's who of seafood producers is requesting $4 billion in federal funding to help the industry weather the coronavirus storm.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Could coronavirus hurt Alaska's top salmon fishery?

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents drift gillnet fishermen, today issued this update on the coronavirus situation:

BBRSDA recognizes the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis has the potential to cause significant disruptions to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery. Response working groups have been created at a local, industry, and state level (including the Alaska Economic Stabilization Team created by Governor Dunleavy). Each group has already begun working to address emerging and potential issues. BBRSDA is either directly participating in or is in contact with all these groups to monitor the situation and develop contingency plans as critical needs develop. BBRSDA is also in communication with industry groups working with federal lawmakers to minimize the far reaching impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the seafood industry.

Staffing processing facilities and fishery operations with healthy workers is a key concern. Thus far, there have not been any mandatory quarantines or government-ordered travel restrictions placed on the Bristol Bay industry (outside of a self-quarantine for Bristol Bay Borough staff who've traveled outside the region). A wide range of potential issues are being discussed, identified, and contingency plans are being developed. Rest assured, resources are being mobilized quickly to avoid disruptions as much as possible to fishery business; however, we obviously cannot make any guarantees.

We urge all Bristol Bay fishermen to practice diligent health and hygiene habits. Additional information will be provided as potential impacts or contingency options emerge with greater clarity.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Disaster aid OK'd for cod, Chignik salmon fisheries

Alaska's congressional delegation says $24.4 million in disaster relief has been approved for the 2018 cod crash and $10.3 million for the 2018 sockeye failure at Chignik.

More details in this press release.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Juneau watch

State Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, has introduced a bill relating to "the delegation of authority to fish under a limited entry commercial fishing permit."

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

'Fishermen shooting at bears from their boats'

Quite an interesting letter here from the National Park Service to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Halibut takes a dip

The International Pacific Halibut Commission today set a coastwide catch limit of 36.6 million pounds for this year.

That's a reduction of 5.2 percent from last year.

The commission set season dates of March 14 to Nov. 15.

The IPHC manages U.S. and Canadian halibut stocks. The bulk of the commercial catch comes from Alaska.

Here is the full slate of 2020 catch limits, by regulatory area, expressed in millions of pounds.

Regulatory area2019 catch limits2020 catch limits% change
2A1.651.65Same
2B6.836.83Same
2C6.345.85-7.7
3A13.512.2-9.6
3B2.93.12+7.6
4A1.941.75-9.8
4B1.451.31-9.7
4CDE4.03.9-2.5
TOTAL38.6136.6-5.2

Click here for a map of IPHC regulatory areas.

Juneau watch

Legislators this week held a hearing on Senate Bill 115, which would raise taxes on motor fuels.

The bill would double the tax on marine fuel to 10 cents per gallon.

"With this increase, Alaska would still have the lowest marine fuel tax in the nation," Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, says in a sponsor statement.

Chile, China and the coronavirus

SalmonChile, the industry association for Chilean salmon farmers, says "all salmon shipments to China have been suspended ... until the health emergency is controlled."

"This measure is not directly related to the infectious effect," SalmonChile says in this public statement. Rather, it's because of a drop in demand as Chinese authorities recommend people avoid crowds, leaving restaurants and supermarkets without customers.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Fresh halibut all the time?

Barring a standoff between the United States and Canada, we should get the 2020 catch limits Friday from the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

Meantime, the IPHC's Conference Board has "requested the formation of an ad-hoc stakeholder working group to review options for shifting to a year-round fishery."

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Russian embargo

We've heard a lot about the trade war between the United States and China.

But another international conflict, this one involving Russia, has been crimping Alaska's seafood industry for more than five years now.

This four-page white paper from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute details the situation.

In 2014, Russia imposed an embargo on food products from the United States and other countries as retaliation for Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

The Russian embargo bans virtually all Alaska seafood products. Alaska seafood producers exported $61.3 million in goods to Russia in 2013, the year before the embargo, with salmon roe accounting for most of the total.

Now, here's the kicker: Although the Russian market is closed to the U.S. industry, the United States remains an open and lucrative market for Russian seafood.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A leviathan exits

The Ocean Phoenix, a 635-foot processing ship active for many years in the Bering Sea pollock fishery, recently went to scrap at Brownsville, Texas. Built in 1964 and originally used as a freighter, the Ocean Phoenix was said to be the largest fishing vessel in the United States. She worked as a "mothership" taking deliveries from trawlers. This photo shows her docked in Seattle in July 2019. The operating company has acquired a replacement ship, the 276-foot Pacific Glacier, and renamed it the Phoenix. Wesley Loy photo

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Say a prayer

The U.S. Coast Guard says it medevaced a man with "severe burns" from the fishing vessel Bountiful southwest of St. Paul.

Copper River salmon forecast

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is predicting a commercial harvest this year of 771,000 sockeye salmon.

That's not great.

Driftnetters took nearly 1.3 million sockeye last year in the Copper River District.

Here's the forecast.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Vessel registration fix

State Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, has filed House Bill 185 to exempt commercial fishing boats from a 2018 law requiring they be registered with the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Troll fishery in the crosshairs

Wild Fish Conservancy, a Seattle-area conservation group, is serving notice of its intent to sue the federal government regarding "overharvest" of Chinook salmon in the Southeast Alaska troll fishery.

"It is irresponsible for NOAA to authorize this harvest in Alaska when they know it undermines efforts to restore imperiled wild Chinook populations in Washington, British Columbia, and Oregon rivers, and contributes to the starvation of endangered Southern Resident killer whales and fishing communities all along the coast," says Kurt Beardslee, the group's executive director.

More here.