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.

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.