Friday, December 29, 2023

Thursday, December 28, 2023

A colossal Sitka herring quota

The guideline harvest level for next year's Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is 81,246 tons, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced.

That's by far the largest preseason quota ever set for the fishery.

The previous record was 45,164 tons set for the 2022 season.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Another company looks to sell

Readers will recall a big deal in 2020 when two legacy processors, Ocean Beauty and Icicle, announced a merger of their salmon and Gulf of Alaska groundfish operations, forming a new company called OBI Seafoods.

Remnants of both Ocean Beauty and Icicle were left over.

Now, one of those remnants, Ocean Beauty, says its distribution business is for sale. The operations include seven seafood distribution locations in Astoria, Boise, Dallas, Helena, Portland, Renton, and Salt Lake City.

Ocean Beauty's owners, including Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. and three individuals, are "looking to turn their focus to other investments," a press release says.

Ocean Beauty also operates two smoking and processing plants in Washington state.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Here's the Togiak herring forecast, if anyone cares

Once again, a large volume of herring is forecasted at Togiak.

But we might see a repeat of last season, when the fishery never opened due to lack of industry interest.

Facing halibut crackdown, trawlers sue

As expected, a Bering Sea bottom trawl fleet has sued the National Marine Fisheries Service over an action to tighten halibut bycatch limits.

The 17-vessel fleet, operating under the banner Groundfish Forum, contends the NMFS action could cost the fleet in excess of $100 million annually and could bankrupt some vessels.

The suit says Groundfish Forum members are "already being forced to mothball fishing vessels for the 2024 season."

Here's the 42-page lawsuit, filed in Alaska federal court.

Monday, December 18, 2023

BBRSDA loses its skipper

Andy Wink is leaving his position as executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

Wink became the organization's executive director in 2018.

Fritz Johnson, BBRSDA board president, will act as interim director.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Robin Samuelsen steps down as BBEDC chairman

This news was a little slow reaching us, but here it is.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

BBRSDA enlists ex-Peter Pan CEO Collier

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association has contracted with Barry Collier, the former CEO of processor Peter Pan, to "advise on industry and global market initiatives."

More in this BBRSDA update.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

A thunderclap announcement from Trident

Trident Seafoods says it will seek buyers for its shoreside plants at Kodiak, Ketchikan, Petersburg, and False Pass.

"The restructuring effort is not confined to Alaska alone," the Seattle company says. "Trident is also streamlining and optimizing its head office support functions, resulting in a 10 percent reduction in headcount."

More details in this news release on Trident's website.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Pollock power

The Bering Sea pollock fishery is enormous, and it will continue so next year.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting in Anchorage, has recommended a 2024 total allowable catch of 1.3 million metric tons — the same level as this past season.

Vacant AP tribal seat filled

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has appointed Eva Burk to the Alaska Native tribal seat on the council's Advisory Panel.

Here's an application letter Burk submitted to the council earlier this year.

The AP seat came open after the abrupt resignation of the previous occupant.

Friday, December 1, 2023

What killed the killer whales?

The National Marine Fisheries Service says it has confirmed the cause of death or injury for 11 killer whales taken as bycatch this year in Alaska.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Personnel file

The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation has named Kristy Clement as chief executive officer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Hard times at the halibut commission?

The following is taken verbatim from the latest Alaska Charter Association newsletter:

Halibut Coalition Visits D.C. To Request IPHC Funds

On November 14 and November 15, 2023, representatives from the Halibut Coalition met with members of Congress to try to secure supplemental funding for the International Pacific Halibut Commission. The IPHC is currently facing an estimated shortfall of $2.43 million, which may necessitate curtailing or eliminating its survey, sampling, and stock assessment program. Lacking timely data on which to base its management decisions will probably result in the IPHC taking a more cautious, conservative approach to minimize the possibility of overfishing the resource. This could have significant adverse consequences for commercial, charter, recreational and subsistence anglers and their communities.

The Halibut Coalition contingent consisted of the following members representing their corresponding organizations:

• Linda Behnken, Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association
• Jeff Kaufmann, Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association
• Heather McCarty, Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association
• Brian Ritchie, Alaska Charter Association and Homer Charter Association
• Peggy Parker, Halibut Association of North America
• Bob Alverson, Fishing Vessel Owners' Association, IPHC Commissioner

They had appointments with members of Alaska's Congressional delegation including Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and Representative Peltola, as well as Senators Murray and Cantwell from Washington state, and Representatives Huffman (CA) and DelBene (WA). These members of Congress were presented with a letter, signed by representatives of an array of concerned organizations, requesting additional funding and urging State Department leadership involvement in asking for a similar contribution from Canada. The aim is to enable the IPHC to continue collecting much needed scientific data and to secure its long term ability to fulfill its mandate of managing halibut stocks in a sustainable manner.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

An escalating legal battle

In April, we reported how two prominent Alaska tribal organizations had gone to court to challenge the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries. They raise concerns about trawl bycatch of salmon amid ecosystem change.

Since the lawsuit was filed, the case has expanded with new parties jumping in.

The two main Bering Sea trawling organizations, the At-sea Processors Association and United Catcher Boats, have intervened on the side of the defendant, the National Marine Fisheries Service, which manages the groundfish fisheries.

And this past week, five environmental and tribal organizations moved to file an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs. The group includes the Ocean Conservancy, SalmonState, Native Peoples Action, Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

We probably can expected quite a legal battle here, as this case would appear to represent a very serious challenge to Alaska's trawl industry.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Cracking down on halibut bycatch

The National Marine Fisheries Service is amending regulations to tighten halibut bycatch limits on Bering Sea bottom trawlers known as the Amendment 80 fleet.

Now that NMFS is taking this final action, we'll wait to see whether the fleet sues the agency.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Monday, November 20, 2023

Looking up at Chignik

The remote Southwest Alaska fishery at Chignik saw a catch of nearly 1.1 million sockeye this year, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

That's a decent tally after five dreadful seasons of producing as few as zero sockeye.

Through its history, Chignik has yielded on occasion more than 2 million sockeye annually, and in 1999 actually cleared 3.1 million.

The fishing fleet was small this season, with 35 active permits, and the sockeye catch paid about $3.85 million ex-vessel, the department said. Other species including pink salmon added almost $1.3 million, bringing value per permit to $146,491.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Bycatch report released

We haven't read it yet, but here's a report to Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang from the Alaska Bycatch Advisory Council.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Kodiak crab quota is out!

The state just announced a Kodiak Tanner crab quota of 3 million pounds, down considerably from last season's strong 5.8 million pounds.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Changes at the top for OBI Seafoods

Longtime Alaska seafood industry leader Mark Palmer is retiring as OBI Seafoods chief executive.

Here's a press release detailing this and other management moves at the company.

Palmer is on the board of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Setnetters say no

Bristol Bay setnetters have voted against joining the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

"Over 30 percent of the setnetters voted, and the vote narrowly failed by a margin of 19 votes," BBRSDA said.

Bristol Bay forecast is out

The state is forecasting a 2024 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon harvest of 25 million fish.

That would be a big drop from this season's catch of 40.6 million sockeye.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Alaska's disappointing salmon season

This year's harvest topped 230 million salmon, far more than last year, but the value took a huge drop due to adverse market conditions, the state reports.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Remembering an Alaska fisheries pioneer

A celebration of life for Al Burch is set for noon Saturday at the Kodiak Elks Lodge.

We understand donations in his honor can be made to the Kodiak Maritime Museum.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

More BBRSDA news

The election closes today for salmon setnetters voting on whether to join the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

We're told, however, that it might be some days or even weeks before the mail-in ballots are counted and we have results.

Anyone care to predict the outcome?

Monday, October 16, 2023

A new BBRSDA director

Matt DeWitte, owner of the F/V Ruthless and resident of Whitefish, Montana, has been appointed to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board of directors.

He will finish out the term of Michael Jackson, who resigned.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Red king crab yes, snow crab no

After a two-year hiatus, the Bristol Bay red king crab crab fishery will reopen Oct. 15 with a modest quota of 2.15 million pounds.

The Bering Sea snow crab fishery will remain closed for the second consecutive season. This year's bottom trawl survey showed snow crab mature female and commercial-size male abundance is at an all-time low, scientists say.

The Bering Sea bairdi Tanner crab fishery will open Oct. 15 with a quota of 2.08 million pounds.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Huge harvest, poor payoff

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Friday posted this summary of the Bristol Bay salmon season. Here are a few key points:

• The sockeye harvest was very large at nearly 40.6 million fish. But fishery value tallied only $116.8 million ex-vessel, roughly 37 percent below the 20-year average.

• The major buyers paid an average base price of 52 cents a pound.

• Average sockeye weight was 5.5 pounds, slightly larger than recent years due to the prevalence of fish with three years of ocean growth.

• The Naknek-Kvichak was tops among fishing districts with a harvest of about 13.2 million sockeye, edging out Egegik with 12.7 million.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Orca bycatch outbreak

The National Marine Fisheries Service says it is "evaluating data collected on 10 killer whales incidentally caught in Alaska by Bering Sea and Aleutian Island groundfish trawl fisheries in 2023."

In addition, NMFS says a killer whale was caught this summer during a longline survey for sablefish and groundfish.

More details in this agency statement.

Free money

This year's Permanent Fund dividend is $1,312, state officials announced today.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Bristol Bay salmon notes

Here are a few items of interest.

• The projected Bristol Bay harvest next year is 26.4 million sockeye. That's according to a preliminary forecast from the University of Washington Fisheries Research Institute. A harvest of that size would be much smaller than this year's 39.4 million sockeye.

• Bristol Bay setnetters are voting now by mail on whether to self-impose a 1 percent tax on their harvest to join the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, whose membership currently includes only driftnetters. The election closes on Oct. 19.

• Michael Jackson has resigned, creating a vacancy on the BBRSDA board of directors.

• The Alaska Board of Fisheries is being asked to clarify the rules regarding the 32-foot vessel length limit in the Bristol Bay fishery. The board will meet for a work session Oct. 12-13.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Russian military activity planned in the Bering Sea

The U.S. Coast Guard is advising of a Russian notice of missile operations set for Sept. 14-19 in the Bering Sea.

The affected area includes a portion of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone along the Maritime Boundary Line south of St. Lawrence Island.

"We will be positioning a Coast Guard asset in the area to provide a continued U.S. presence and facilitate commerce," a U.S. Coast Guard officer said in an email to industry.

The Russian notice comes in the form of a HYDROPAC message. Search for "Russia" to find the notice of Bering Sea missile operations daily Sept. 14-19 in an area bound by certain coordinates.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Crewmember death on factory trawler reported

A crewmember on the American Seafoods factory trawler Northern Eagle died at sea, likely from an ammonia leak, KUCB radio reports.

Al Burch, Kodiak fisheries pioneer, crosses the bar

Here's an obituary.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Alaska Native tribal AP member resigns

Shawaan Jackson-Gamble recently resigned from his seat on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council's Advisory Panel.

His appointment to the AP was notable, as he was the first to fill the newly designated Alaska Native tribal seat on the panel.

"A call for nominations to fill the vacancy will be posted on the council's website soon," council Executive Director David Witherell tells us.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

A new point person for processors

The Pacific Seafood Processors Association has named Julie Decker as its new president.

Decker, of Wrangell, currently is executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation.

She succeeds Chris Barrows as president of PSPA. Barrows left the organization last December and joined Golden Alaska Seafoods.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Trident's Unalaska plans

Trident Seafoods is confirming plans to build a major new processing plant at Unalaska to replace its outdated plant at nearby Akutan.

But the Seattle-based company says it'll delay breaking ground on the new plant until 2025 due to adverse market conditions.

"The rate and pace at which markets are collapsing across our key species is staggering," says Trident CEO Joe Bundrant.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Salmon notes

Here are a few observations from the middle of the salmon season.

• The statewide, all-species catch now stands in excess of 145 million fish. Ongoing pink salmon fisheries appear capable of powering us past the preseason forecast of 189.5 million.

• Trident Seafoods, in a fleet letter dated Aug. 5, reported grim conditions in the salmon markets, including "a sharp decrease in wholesale prices across all species." The Seattle-based processing giant said chum markets had "collapsed," and that the company would stop buying salmon in most areas on or about Sept. 1. Trident further said Russia, with a huge pink salmon harvest this year, had "shown a willingness to offload inventory at very low prices in part to fund the war in Ukraine." Trident added: "We haven't seen a collapse in value like this since the 1990s when pinks went well under 10 cents a pound."

• Have state fish cops confirmed the long-suspected practice of "chum chucking" in Area M? Here's an Alaska Beacon article exploring the issue. And here's a press release from the Area M Seiners Association.

More catch shares coming

Quite a few Alaska fisheries operate under some form of catch shares.

Now comes another catch share program, the first implemented in Alaska since 2012.

This program applies to the Pacific cod trawl catcher vessel sector in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

Fishing under the program is scheduled to start in January. Read more about it here.

Are they in or out?

Setnet permit holders will vote by mail in October on whether to pay a landings tax to join the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

More details in this notice of election.

A new factory trawler arrives

A brilliant new factory trawler, the Arctic Fjord, has landed in Seattle.

Built at the Thoma-Sea shipyard in Louisiana, the vessel is expected to be ready to fish next year's Bering Sea pollock season, operator Arctic Storm Management Group says.

The new vessel originally was announced in 2018 at 328 feet long.

Click here for more on the Arctic Fjord, including a video of its arrival in Seattle.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Salmon notes

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

• The statewide commercial salmon catch just clicked over 100 million fish. We still have a long way to go to reach the preseason forecast of more than 189 million. But it's certainly possible as the high-volume pink salmon fisheries start to kick in.

• It appears the Southeast Alaska pink salmon run is "much higher than forecasted," the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports. Effort is down this season with an estimated 180 purse seine boats fishing compared to 194 last year and 208 in 2021.

• The Bristol Bay sockeye fishery is all but done, and it's another strong catch this year of nearly 39 million fish, well over the preseason forecast of 36.7 million. Fishermen are unhappy, however, as processors are paying 50 cents per pound, a huge drop from last season.

• The nearly 12 million sockeye taken in Bristol Bay's Nushagak District ranks as the sixth-largest harvest since 1893.

• In Area M, the Alaska State Troopers have charged several cases of "salmon chucking," or the unlawful discarding of fish. Details on these cases can be found on our sister blog The Brig.

• Copper River driftnetters have tallied a decent 842,000 sockeye this season.

• Chignik has produced 668,000 sockeye.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Calling out Copper River salmon fishermen

Federal officials came out today with some pointed counsel: "Do not kill or injure seals and sea lions and harm the good name of your world-class fishery."

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Bristol Bay price mediation?

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association says it has developed a petition to have the state of Alaska initiate price mediation between fishermen and processors.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Four reported safe after seiner capsizes at Kodiak

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Kodiak
Type: Rescue
On 7/22/23, at 12:50 p.m., Alaska Wildlife Troopers became aware of a commercial seine vessel that had capsized in Whale Passage, with four people onboard. Troopers responded to the scene and contacted the four occupants of the vessel, as well as residents of a nearby lodge, who saw the vessel shortly after it capsized and were able to render aid. When the vessel capsized, the skipper was in the wheelhouse and the crew was in the main cabin. The crew estimated they were trapped for approximately three minutes before they were able to escape the inverted vessel. They were then able to get aboard their seine skiff, which had remained upright. They all declined medical attention and appeared to have received only minor cuts and bruises. Another fishing vessel volunteered to tow the seiner to shallow water, by a nearby beach, and secure it. The four crewmembers of the seiner were transported to Kodiak aboard the P/V Cama'i.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Price protest

Bristol Bay radio station KDLG reports the following:

Fishermen are planning to stage a protest in the Naknek River entrance on Thursday, July 20. Organizers say they will anchor from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. across the river entrance to oppose the low price from processors.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Bristol Bay prices take a tumble

Processors have begun posting their prices for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon.

One major company, Peter Pan, provided this statement:

The Peter Pan Seafood price for sockeye is set at $0.50 per pound plus up to $0.30 in quality incentives. Peter Pan is also offering a late season bonus for sockeye. Effective July 18, 2023, there will be a $0.20 per pound late season bonus.

The IntraFish news service reports Trident Seafoods is offering a base price of 50 cents per pound, and another company, North Pacific Seafoods, has matched the price.

A base price of 50 cents represents a tremendous tumble from last year, when Bristol Bay produced a record harvest of more than 60 million sockeye. The average price in 2022 was $1.15 per pound, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says.

All the salmon from last year would appear to have depressed prices this season.

This year's catch currently stands at 33.6 million sockeye.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Bristol Bay update

The Bristol Bay sockeye salmon catch has surpassed 27 million fish, with big daily hauls still coming in.

Yesterday produced a catch of more than 2.5 million sockeye, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

With fishing that strong, we won't be surprised to see the bay reach or exceed the preseason harvest forecast of 36.7 million.

By district, the Nushugak District leads with nearly 10 million sockeye, with the Egegik District at 8.4 million and the Naknek-Kvichak District at 7.7 million.

We still have no reports on what processors intend to pay for sockeye. We imagine fishermen aren't too pleased about that.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

In the hatch

The first opener of the Southeast Alaska summer troll fishery closes at midnight tonight, with the fleet expected to reach the full quota of 77,100 Chinook.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Salmon notes

Once again, Bristol Bay is producing a healthy harvest of sockeye salmon.

Through the weekend, the total commercial catch stood at more than 21.5 million sockeye.

It appears the fishery has peaked, and now we wait to see if the fleet can meet or exceed the preseason harvest forecast of 36.7 million sockeye.

Last year, of course, produced a record-setting 60.1 million sockeye.

The Alaska State Troopers have been busy writing tickets for alleged fishing violations in Bristol Bay. We're tracking the action on our sister blog The Brig.

Elsewhere, the state Department of Fish and Game is testing new setnet gear in Upper Cook Inlet with the goal of avoiding Chinook catches in the sockeye fishery.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Tsukada, Down secure council seats

The commerce secretary has appointed Ryuichi "Rudy" Tsukada to an Alaska seat on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and reappointed Kenneth Down to a Washington seat.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Troll fishery set

Southeast Alaska salmon trollers will go after 74,800 treaty Chinook starting July 1.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

A victory for trollers

The federal appeals court in San Francisco today issued an order removing the threat of a closure of the summer troll Chinook salmon fishery in Southeast Alaska.

It's a victory for troll fishermen and fishery management agencies who argued such a closure was unnecessary and economically ruinous. It's a loss for the Wild Fish Conservancy, which contends the fishery is starving endangered killer whales of a key food source.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals order overrules a Seattle judge's order that could have closed the summer and winter troll fisheries.

The 9th Circuit order likely means the summer troll fishery will open as usual on July 1.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Marketing money

The new state budget, signed over the weekend, includes a $5 million "one-time increment" for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced today.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Monday, June 5, 2023

More on that trawling case

Readers will recall our post last month regarding a trawler being charged at Kodiak.

We were not provided at that time with the names of the vessel or vessel operator.

Now we have much more information in the form of this complaint supplied by the Alaska State Troopers.

The individual charged, according to the complaint, is Steven D. Spain, and the vessel involved in the case is the Mar Pacifico.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Ed Dersham crosses the bar

Here's an obituary posted on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council website.

Reward for sea lion shooter

Federal authorities are offering a reward for information on the shooting of seven Steller sea lions near Cordova.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Aquaculture announcement coming

The National Marine Fisheries Service is inviting reporters to a Thursday teleconference to learn about "new aquaculture efforts in Alaska."

Officials from NMFS and state agencies are expected to be there.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

ASMI's new communications director

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute just released the following:

ASMI is pleased to announce that Greg Smith has been hired to serve as Communications Director. Greg comes to ASMI from the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development (DCCED) where he worked alongside Commissioner Sande as special assistant and legislative liaison. Prior to DCCED, Greg worked for several sessions as the Chief of Staff to Representative Andi Story of Juneau. Greg also serves on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, and, among his other talents, has also worked as a deckhand on a commercial gillnetter. Greg is a lifelong Juneauite, a graduate of Oregon State University, and he is incredibly passionate about Alaska and Alaska seafood. We look forward to Greg applying his passion and skillset within ASMI beginning June 12.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Bad situation at Sitka

One person has been recovered dead and four others are missing from an overdue charter vessel found partially submerged, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Troll legal battle

For important updates, revisit our May 2 post on the Wild Fish Conservancy court case, which is threatening to shut down this summer's Southeast Alaska troll Chinook fishery.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Lackluster Copper River opener

Seems like we say this every year, but the Copper River salmon fishery is off to a slow start.

In Monday's 12-hour season opener, driftnetters took about 10,900 sockeye, well short of the 17,600 projected, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

The fleet also took an estimated 1,100 Chinook.

Fishery participation seemed low, with 359 deliveries reported.

We haven't heard anything about prices, but early season Copper River fish typically pay handsomely.

The Copper River District will open again at 7 a.m. Thursday for a 12-hour fishing period.

Monday, May 15, 2023

And the winners are...

Here are the 2023 Southeast Alaska sablefish tag recovery drawing winners.

Illegal trawling charges filed — against somebody

Here is a U.S. Coast Guard press release that regrettably fails to name the vessel or vessel operator involved.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Go time for salmon!

The famed Copper River salmon fishery opens for the season at 7 a.m. Monday with a 12-hour period.

The Copper River fishery marks the start of a new salmon year in Alaska.

Best of luck to all gillnetters, and please stay safe!

Monday, May 8, 2023

Bristol Bay inventory relief?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a purchase of up to $67.5 million in canned sockeye and sockeye fillets, Alaska's congressional delegation reports.

This appears to be a life ring to the Bristol Bay salmon industry, which reportedly is still working to sell off last year's gargantuan sockeye catch.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Chris Oliver on the move

Click here.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Hammer drops on Southeast trollers

A Seattle federal judge today issued a two-page order that would appear to close this summer's Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon troll fishery.

We'll update this post with reaction expected to pour in shortly.


The Alaska Trollers Association says the judge's order "will cause irreparable harm to the communities of Southeast Alaska."

SalmonState, an environmental organization, condemns the Wild Fish Conservancy lawsuit and concludes: "This fight is far from over."

The state of Alaska plans to appeal "a bitter ruling" that takes the "radical step" of closing a fishery.

The Wild Fish Conservancy hails "a landmark order halting the overharvest of Chinook salmon in Southeast Alaska that has persisted for decades, jeopardizing the survival of federally protected Southern Resident killer whales and wild Chinook populations coastwide."

Eric Jordan, of Sitka, writing on Facebook: "Tough news for this lifelong troller."

Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang: "I find this ruling to be wholly unfair and disappointing."

The Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association calls out the court's "disappointing decision" and vows to "continue to fight Wild Fish Conservancy's spurious lawsuit."

The state of Alaska wastes no time in filing its notice of appeal.

The Alaska congressional delegation condemns the court order.

The National Marine Fisheries Service issues a statement saying: "We are working expeditiously to address the court's order."

The state of Alaska moves for a partial stay of the judge's order pending appeal.

The Alaska Trollers Association says it has received confirmation from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that the troll coho and chum fisheries "will occur this year as normal, although without Chinook retention."

Norman Pillen, president of Seafood Producers Cooperative, writes in a column that the company and its fishermen "will survive this debacle."

NMFS also is appealing the judge's order.

Jon Kurland, head of NMFS for Alaska, will be in Sitka on June 7 to give salmon trollers an update on the agency's response to the Wild Fish Conservancy lawsuit.

Seattle federal Judge Richard A. Jones denies the state's motion for a partial stay of his May 2 order. Thus, Southeast Alaska's summer Chinoook salmon troll fishery remains in jeopardy of closure this year.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game releases an update on the situation.

NMFS hasn't ruled out opening the summer troll season despite the judge's rulings, Sitka radio station KCAW reports.

Southeast Alaska tribes and Native corporations have filed papers in support of keeping the troll fishery open. "Approximately 31 percent of Southeast Alaska's trollers are tribal citizens," the filing says.

F/V Northwestern v. Original Productions

Here's an interesting lawsuit.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Bristol Bay setnet election in sight

Bristol Bay setnetters will vote in September on whether to join the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

So says the BBRSDA's new annual report (PDF Page 15).

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Cook Inlet conundrum

The National Marine Fisheries Service is moving to establish federal management of salmon fisheries in the federal waters of Upper Cook Inlet.

This is the latest twist in a long and contorted legal battle over Cook Inlet salmon management.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Juneau watch

Shannon Carroll, of Trident Seafoods, is scheduled to give a presentation on "bycatch management and reduction measures."

The presentation is set for 10 a.m. Thursday before the House Special Committee on Fisheries.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Juneau watch

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, has introduced a resolution "encouraging the Department of Fish and Game to adopt certain regulations relating to fisheries bycatch."

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Cook Inlet setnet buyback in the spotlight

The Senate Resources Committee tomorrow will consider Senate Bill 82 to establish a buyback program for eastside Cook Inlet setnet permits.

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, is the sponsor. Here's his sponsor statement.

"The purpose of this legislation is to reduce the number of commercial setnet permits on the east side of the Cook Inlet, thereby improving profitability for remaining setnet permit holders and reducing king salmon harvest in the eastside setnet fishery," an Alaska Department of Game fiscal note says.

The hearing is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m.

Bristol Bay salmon forfeiture

The Alaska Department of Public Safety, in a recent legislative presentation, listed the following among its successes in 2022-23.

118,000 pounds of illegally harvested salmon forfeited in Bristol Bay

Thursday, April 13, 2023

'Mistreatment of observers is unlawful'

Federal officials have posted a notice to vessel owners on preventing observer harassment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Disaster in Tacoma

The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation into the cause of the fire that ravaged the Trident Seafoods factory trawler Kodiak Enterprise while moored in Tacoma, the latest incident update says. This photo, from the Washington State Department of Ecology, is cropped tight to show the extensive fire damage across the listing 262-foot vessel. Click on the image to enlarge.

Personnel file

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is seeking candidates for communications director.

The job carries a starting salary of $117,371 to $135,584, according to the position description.

Sitka herring fishery appears done

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is signaling the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is over.

"As of today, the department will no longer be assessing Sitka Sound for commercial harvest opportunity for the remainder of the 2023 season," the department says in this announcement.

Juneau watch

State Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, has introduced Senate Bill 128 titled "An act temporarily closing the commercial salmon fishery in a portion of the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands."

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Trident's $400 million project

We're learning a bit more about Trident's plans for Unalaska.

A brochure posted on the City of Unalaska's website says the company "is investing $400 million to build a new seafood processing plant" at the end of Captains Bay Road.

"It will open in 2025 and requires extension of water, sewer and electric utilities," the brochure says.

The city is trying to round up $68.5 million for a three-phase effort to extend utilities and improve the craggy road.

Trident, a Seattle-based seafood processing and harvesting giant, already operates one of Alaska's largest fish plants at Akutan, about 35 miles to the east of Unalaska.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Groundfish fisheries challenged

The Association of Village Council Presidents and Tanana Chiefs Conference have sued the National Marine Fisheries Service in federal court, challenging the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries.

The 33-page lawsuit cites trawl bycatch of salmon and "rapid and unprecedented" ecosystem change.

Fish politics

Fritz Johnson and Mark Niver have won reelection to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board of directors. More details here.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Trident factory trawler ablaze in Tacoma

A Trident Seafoods factory trawler, the Kodiak Enterprise, has caught fire while moored in Tacoma, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.

"The fire has progressed throughout the ship and was last reported approximately 100 feet from the vessel's freon tanks," the Coast Guard says.

More details in this press release.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Alaska salmon forecast is out!

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a statewide commercial salmon harvest of 189.4 million fish this year.

That compares to last year's total of 163.2 million.

Here's the forecast.

Monday, April 3, 2023

KRSA likes Zuray

The Kenai River Sportfishing Association is supporting legislative confirmation of Stanley Zuray for the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

Personnel file

Jamal Moss will be the next Alaska deputy regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

"Jamal is a highly regarded scientist and leader who currently serves as deputy director of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Auke Bay Laboratories, where he oversees teams of scientists and administrative professionals responsible for fisheries stock assessment, genetics, information technology, facilities management, and other functions," the agency says in a report to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Fish board appointments

Gov. Mike Dunleavy today named three people to the Alaska Board of Fisheries: Gerad Godfrey, Greg Svendsen and Mike Wood.

The governor's office provided a little background for each.

These three presumably will replace current members Mike Heimbuch, John Jensen and McKenzie Mitchell, whose terms expire on June 30.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Troll Chinook limit takes a hit

The state today announced a commercial troll treaty harvest allocation for 2023 of 149,100 Chinook salmon, which is 44,100 fish below last year's limit.

Now, we wait to see if the courts allow the troll fishery to proceed.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

And they're off at Sitka!

The Sitka Sound herring sac roe fishery opened at 1:15 p.m. today, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Togiak is toast

The long, slow decline of the Togiak herring fishery is now complete.

"Processors have indicated that they do not intend to harvest herring in Togiak in 2023 and there will be no commercial fishery," the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports. "The department does not expect this will change."

This despite a gargantuan volume of herring available for harvest this year at Togiak.

Evidently, no one wants it.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Sitka herring watch

The Sitka Sound herring sac roe fishery will go on two-hour notice effective at 8 a.m. Thursday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced.

Council reappointment for Down

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee likes Kenny Down for another term on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Here's the governor's nomination letter.

Uncle Sam's salmon

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has purchased nearly $4.5 million in canned pink salmon from three companies — Silver Bay Seafoods, OBI Seafoods, and Trident Seafoods.

Friday, March 17, 2023

'Several very large schools'

Aerial surveys and test fishing have begun in preparation for the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery.

Here's the latest update from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Tsukada for the council

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has named Rudy Tsukada for a coming vacancy on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Here's the governor's nomination letter.

Tsukada, if approved, would replace Simon Kinneen, who is finishing up his third consecutive three-year term, the maximum allowable.

Trident disability case settles

A notice of settlement has been filed in a case in which a fishing vessel engineer accused Trident Seafoods of firing him because he was missing three fingers.

Conservancy replies

The Wild Fish Conservancy has filed this nine-page response to the Alaska congressional delegation's amici curiae brief.

Conservancy lawyers seem to argue, among other things, that Congress could simply appropriate disaster funds if the court orders a troll fishery closure.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Bob Penney crosses the bar

Bob Penney, Kenai River sportfishing advocate and former member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, reportedly has died at age 90.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Emergency in Cook Inlet?

Eastside Cook Inlet setnetters have submitted an emergency petition to the Alaska Board of Fisheries in a bid to save at least a sliver of their sockeye fishery, which is slated for closure this year to help conserve scarce king salmon.

Halibut box closes in on trawl fleet

The National Marine Fisheries Service has approved a measure to tighten limits on halibut trawl bycatch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

The action is aimed at a fleet of nearly 20 factory trawlers known as the Amendment 80 sector.

The measure replaces the fleet's current static bycatch limit with one based on halibut abundance. It took years to develop and comes over the fleet's strenuous objections.

Here are three letters from companies who urged NMFS not to approve the measure:

Now that the government is finalizing the halibut measure, it'll be interesting to see if the Amendment 80 fleet challenges the action in court.

Friday, March 10, 2023

What's happening at CFEC?

The Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission has posted its 2022 annual report.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Murkowski's new fish guy

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today announced new staff members, including this one:

Matt Robinson, born and raised in Fairbanks, joins the D.C. office as legislative assistant for fisheries and oceans. Matt earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Alaska Fairbanks before joining the North Pacific Fishery Management Council as an Alaska Sea Grant State Fellow in 2015. After his fellowship, he joined Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., where he worked for five years managing the harvest of BBEDC's federally allocated community development quota and representing the organization at various fisheries regulatory meetings.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Congressional delegation weighs in

Alaska's congressional delegation has filed this amici curiae brief arguing against any shutdown of the Southeast Alaska salmon troll fishery.

Funding the fight

As Southeast Alaska trollers anxiously await a federal judge's decision that could dash this year's salmon season, the fishermen are doing a whale of a job raising money to fight in court.

The Alaska Trollers Association reports raising more than $310,000 so far from municipalities, businesses and others.

'Implausible and misguided'

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council has posted a statement denouncing the lawsuit threatening the troll fishery.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Upper Cook Inlet sockeye forecast

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game predicts an "average" run this year.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

More from Juneau

The Alaska House of Representatives has passed a resolution in defense of the embattled Southeast Alaska troll fishery. The vote was 35-1, with Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, the lone nay.

House Bill 92 titled "An act relating to claims against protection and indemnity insurance policies of vessel owners" was introduced today.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Juneau watch

State Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, has introduced Senate Bill 82 to establish a buyback program for eastside Cook Inlet setnet permits.

An update on the CDQ decennial review

The state of Alaska says it has completed its 10-year review of community development quota organizations and determined that all six have "maintained or improved performance."

More details in this press release.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Who is Shawaan Jackson-Gamble?

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has appointed Shawaan Jackson-Gamble to fill the newly designated Alaska Native tribal seat on the council's Advisory Panel.

Here's a letter with Jackson-Gamble's background.

The council received several nominations for the seat, but Jackson-Gamble seemed to have considerable backing from industry, conservation, and Native interests.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

P/V Enforcer decommissioned

The state is looking to replace the Southeast Alaska patrol vessel Enforcer after an inspection turned up lots of problems, the Alaska Beacon reports.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Getting an edge in Bristol Bay

One of the best-known fishing rules in Alaska is the 32-foot length limit on drift gillnet boats operating in the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery.

The rule is a great leveler for the highly competitive harvest.

But make no mistake, the bay's 32-foot boats are not equal. The more aggressive fishermen have found ways to pack more and more fishing power into their boats, making them wider, faster, brawnier and better equipped than other vessels.

It's all about outcompeting other captains for the sockeye that pour into the bay by the millions each summer.

But this coming season, Bristol Bay gilletters are expected to come under extra scrutiny from the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, who issued this letter to driftnet permit holders warning against add-ons or other modifications that could violate the 32-foot vessel length limit.

"In an effort to ensure a fair and equitable fishery, AWT will be measuring vessels for possible enforcement action during the 2023 fishing season," the letter says.

Could be a lot of Bristol Bay fishermen will be scrambling to bring their boats into compliance.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

3,840 cases of pink salmon for Ukraine

A large donation of canned pink salmon has arrived in war-torn Ukraine, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute reports. Read about it here.

PWSAC sentenced to pay $1 million

Here's a press release from the U.S. attorney's office.

'Blatant and continued disregard for crews'

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the operator and owner of the processing vessel Pacific Producer for unsafe and unsanitary conditions, proposing $208,983 in penalties.

More details in this news release.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

A second loss for Fishermen's Finest

Trawl operator Fishermen's Finest filed an ambitious "takings claim" against the federal government, but the claim was dismissed.

Now, Fishermen's Finest has lost again on appeal.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Juneau watch

Legislators have introduced a resolution urging defense of the state's fisheries, including the Southeast Alaska troll fishery.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Halibut retreats

The International Pacific Halibut Commission finally got around to issuing a press release with this year's catch limits and season dates.

The commission set a coastwide catch limit of 36.97 million pounds, a 10.3 percent decline from last year.

The season will run from March 10 to Dec. 7.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

CDQ review

A "decennial review" of the community development quota program is underway.

Here's an update from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

How about it, setnetters?

An election will be held this year on setnet membership in the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

The election will come in the fall following the fishing season, the association said today in its Waypoints newsletter.

As it stands now, only driftnet permit holders are members of BBRSDA.

Bristol Bay salmon driftnetters in 2006 voted to approve a 1 percent tax on the ex-vessel price of fish sold.

Presumably, this will be the main question facing setnetters in the election — whether to shoulder a tax to support BBRSDA.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Holding for halibut

It's been 10 days since the International Pacific Halibut Commission concluded its annual meeting, and we're still waiting for the press release specifying catch limits and season dates.

Is there a problem?

Sunday, February 5, 2023

A quiet board appointment

Stanley Zuray, of Tanana, has been appointed to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

He was appointed on Dec. 29, according to Friday's House Journal.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Yukon-Kuskokwim update

Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang is scheduled to appear at 10 a.m. Tuesday before the House Special Committee on Fisheries for a presentation on "Yukon and Kuskokwim fisheries collapse."

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Still holding out in Kodiak

Here's an update on the Kodiak crab strike from KMXT news director Kirsten Dobroth.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A troller speaks out

An ongoing lawsuit that threatens to close their fishery has Southeast Alaska salmon trollers agitated, none more so than David Richey, who bought a full page in the Daily Sitka Sentinel to argue the suit is misguided.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Juneau watch

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, will chair the House Special Committee on Fisheries.

Copper River forecast is out!

A commercial harvest of 987,000 sockeye salmon is expected this year, according to the forecast from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Helping fishermen in need

Deckboss is aware of at least three fundraising campaigns for seriously injured commercial fishermen:

Monday, January 16, 2023

Robert Otto crosses the bar

Robert Otto, 76, of Kodiak, died over the holidays, according to an obituary in the local newspaper.

Best known as a crab scientist, Otto formerly was director of the Kodiak Laboratory, part of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Here's an article marking his retirement in 2005.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Thwarting whales

The International Pacific Halibut Commission is planning experimental fishing with devices "intended to reduce marine mammal depredation of catch from longline gear."

Here's a media release with more details.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Feeling hopeful, and crabby, in Kodiak

Unless delayed by weather, the Kodiak commercial Tanner crab season will open at noon tomorrow, and the harvest could be the biggest in many years.

But word out of Kodiak is that crabbers want higher prices than processors are offering, so the fleet might strike.

The Kodiak District Tanner crab quota is 5.8 million pounds, more than five times last season's quota. Kodiak hasn't seen a harvest this large since the nearly 9 million pounds taken in 1986.

Far larger harvests came in the 1970s, when the Kodiak District twice produced seasonal catches in excess of 30 million pounds.

As for price negotiations, one crabber a couple of days ago wrote Deckboss: "Kodiak fishermen are asking $5 a pound. The processors are not budging and are still at $2.50. Options are being explored to tender the crab west where the starting price is $3.70."

Thursday, January 12, 2023

'An economic catastrophe'

In a court filing this week, the state of Alaska strenuously opposes a shutdown of troll Chinook fisheries, arguing it would be "an economic catastrophe for Southeast Alaska fishing towns for no reason."

BBRSDA's new sounding board

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association has named its new Advisory Panel.

The members are Glenn Biernacki, Craig Chythlook, John Garner, Sean Guffey, Steve Kurian, Tristan Pettigrew and Laura Zimin.

"The purpose of this panel is to aid the association in recruiting good ideas from critics and proponents of initiatives, discussing critical issues and finding solutions through vetting and prioritizing new ideas related to our mission," the association reported today in its Waypoints newsletter.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Who needs a lobbyist?

The Alaska Legislature begins a new session on Jan. 17.

As usual, some fishing industry players are keenly interested in events in Juneau and have hired lobbyists to follow — or push — the action.

We mined the Alaska Public Offices Commission database to compile this list of employers, their lobbyists, and the fees they'll pay this year.

Alaska Salmon Aquaculture Alliance, Confluence Strategies, $60,000

At-sea Processors Association, Legislative Consultants, $40,000

City of Unalaska, Dianne Blumer, $71,000

Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Legislative Consultants, $60,000

Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp., Confluence Strategies, $45,000

Purse Seine Vessel Owners' Association, Confluence Strategies, $35,000

Trident Seafoods Corp., Strategy North Group, $60,000

United Fishermen of Alaska, Tracy Welch, $85,000 (annual wage)

Monday, January 9, 2023


Check out The Brig for some interesting enforcement notes.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Trolling for help

The Alaska Trollers Association is asking the City and Borough of Sitka for $25,000 to help fight a lawsuit that threatens to close the Southeast Alaska Chinook troll fishery.

Here's a letter from the association's president, Matt Donohoe.

And here's a background legal summary from the association's attorney.

The Sitka Assembly is set to consider the funding request on Jan. 10.