Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Jack Schultheis crosses the bar

Jack Schultheis, a longtime Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board member, died at home on Dec. 22, ASMI announced today.

Need a cannery?

Trident Seafoods is asking $1 million for its defunct South Naknek cannery at Bristol Bay. Here's the listing.

OBI pulls back a bit

Seattle-based OBI Seafoods just issued the following:

After careful consideration, OBI Seafoods announced today the company's decision not to operate its Larsen Bay plant, located on Kodiak Island, for the 2024 salmon season.

Salmon caught on Kodiak Island by the OBI Seafoods fleet will be processed at its facility in Kodiak town. Capacity should not be an issue, with OBI's Seward and Cordova facilities able to support Kodiak during the peak of the season in August.

The decision to not operate the Larsen Bay plant is due to the poor pink salmon forecast issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and tough market conditions for salmon products in general, according to OBI Seafoods CEO John Hanrahan.

"The Kodiak town plant operates year-round and has the ability to process salmon in a greater diversity of product forms making it better suited to respond to salmon markets in 2024 as we navigate this challenging time for the industry," Hanrahan said.

The Larsen Bay facility, ideally situated close to the island's westside fishing grounds, will remain open with a small team fully dedicated to providing services to its fleet. This team will include OBI's fleet manager, office manager, chief engineer, port engineer, welder, general maintenance, fishermen's services, laundry and beach gang.

OBI has every intention to operate its Larsen Bay facility again in the 2025 salmon season.

About OBI Seafoods:

OBI Seafoods was formed in 2020 through a merger with Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods, two of the oldest and most successful seafood companies in Alaska. The company operates 10 processing plants throughout the state and is a leading producer of fresh, frozen and canned Alaska seafood.

Monday, January 29, 2024

More disaster relief

The U.S. commerce secretary today announced the allocation of more than $42 million to address fishery disasters nationally, including nearly $1.6 million for the 2022 Yukon River salmon fisheries.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Halibut dips again

Halibut quotas will be down again this year.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission, meeting in Anchorage, today announced a coastwide catch limit of 35.3 million pounds, a 4.6 percent decline from last year.

The IPHC recommended a fishing season beginning at 6 a.m. local time March 15 to midnight Dec. 7 for all directed commercial Pacific halibut fisheries in Canada and the United States.

Here's a press release with catch limits by regulatory area. For comparison, here's last year's press release.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Wild Alaska Sole Association

Alaska flatfish producers have formed a new nonprofit marketing organization.

Addressing the court's concerns

The National Marine Fisheries Service is grinding through a tedious process that, once complete, could form a bulwark against the lawsuit aiming to shut down the Southeast Alaska salmon troll fishery.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Roughed up trawler makes injury stop at Kodiak

The factory trawler Araho called on Kodiak over the weekend to seek medical attention for six crewmembers injured in rough seas, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reports.

Disaster relief for crabbers advances

Staggered by recent fishery closures, the Alaska crabbing industry has been waiting patiently for federal disaster relief to arrive.

Now, we see a significant step toward that end.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has finalized a spend plan for more than $190 million in congressionally appropriated disaster funds covering the 2021-22 and 2022-23 Bristol Bay red king crab and Bering Sea snow crab fisheries.

The spend plan divvies the money among crabbers, processors, and communities. It also allocates — over the grumbles of many industry players — 12 percent of the money, or $22.5 million, to research.

Finalizing the spend plan does not mean relief checks are about to hit mailboxes. No, some additional steps remain in the process.

The spend plan has been forwarded to the Portland, Oregon-based Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission for administration.

The city of Unalaska, the main port for the crab industry, is expecting a share of up to $5.5 million, the city manager said in a recent memo.

"We are hopeful that the funds will be disbursed either in late 2024 or early 2025," the memo said.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Four rescued after vessel capsizes near Kodiak

Details in this press release from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Shutting down Chinook bycatch

Tribal organizations have submitted an emergency petition to "institute a cap of zero on any further Chinook salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands pollock trawl fishery."

The emergency regulation should stay in effect for 180 days, the petition says.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Here's the Copper River salmon forecast!

This year's commercial harvest is predicted to be nearly 1.3 million sockeye. That's pretty good!

Here's the forecast announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Hope for herring

An updated Prince William Sound herring stock assessment shows an estimated spawning biomass of 29,253 short tons.

"It is the largest estimate since 2008 and is 119.9 percent above the 10-year average (2013-22) of 13,305 short tons," says this advisory announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Juneau watch

The Alaska Legislature opened its new session today, and Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, introduced a resolution opposing orca bycatch.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

How many Cook Inlet EEZ salmon?

With the feds poised to take over management of salmon fisheries this year in the Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone, we're beginning to get a sense of how many salmon will be available for harvest in the area.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is recommending a total allowable catch of nearly 1.3 million sockeye. For more detail, see this SAFE report, particularly Page 60.

This number is very preliminary. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is expected to address the matter at its February meeting in Seattle.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Metlakatla's powerful ally

The Metlakatla Indian Community continues to press its federal lawsuit against the state seeking expanded fishing rights in Southeast Alaska.

The U.S. Department of Justice is siding with Metlakatla, filing this amicus curiae brief on Friday.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Peter Pan temporarily idles its King Cove plant

Bellevue, Washington-based processor Peter Pan Seafood today issued this statement regarding its operational status for this year in Alaska:

We are saddened to inform our fishermen and the King Cove community that Peter Pan Seafood will not be able to operate our King Cove facility for the 2024 A Season. This is an unfortunate but temporary step. We will be open for the 2024 B Season, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to Alaska, our fleet, and the communities where we do business.

We did not come to this decision quickly or easily. The current state of the seafood industry is tumultuous, and it has impacted many operators in the region. The industry is facing inflation, interest rates hikes, financing challenges, and high fuel costs. We have worked through these issues as diligently as possible and have explored possible options. This temporary step, while difficult, is necessary to maintain our long-term commitment to the future of our business in Alaska.

We remain committed to continuing to provide the best service and support possible to our fleet, communities, and stakeholders while continuing our mission to be an exemplary global supplier of top-quality and responsibly sourced seafood. Looking to the future, we will employ more than 1,000 this year as we open the King Cove facility for the 2024 B Season and our other three facilities as normal for the salmon season.

We are steadfast in our future commitment to Alaska, our fleet, and the communities we do business in. We are grateful for the strong relationship we have with King Cove and we remain committed to doing everything in our power to support the community and fishermen during this time.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Activists seek listing for Alaska Chinook

The Wild Fish Conservancy, which has been fighting in court to shut down the Southeast Alaska troll fishery, is now petitioning to list Alaska Chinook salmon under the Endangered Species Act.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Maxing out

The 2023 cost recovery fee percentage for the halibut and sablefish individual fishing quota program is 3 percent.

That's the maximum allowed under law and a big jump from the 2022 fee percentage of 1.9 percent.

What accounts for the increase?

The National Marine Fisheries Service explained in a Dec. 28 notice published in the Federal Register:

Between 2022 and 2023 there was a net increase in management costs and a net decrease in fishery value. Management costs increased by approximately 15 percent while fishery value decreased by approximately 34 percent. The net decrease in value was due to lower ex-vessel prices and landings for both halibut and sablefish IFQ fisheries.

IFQ permit holders must submit their 2023 fee payments to NMFS by Jan. 31.

USCG posts report on Scandies Rose tragedy

Click here.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Kids who fish

Is it OK for kids to hold state commercial fishing permits?

In fact, a handful already do.

But what's the policy on minors holding permits?

It's a question the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission plans to address this year.

The agency, which issues permits for participating in dozens of Alaska fisheries, will conduct a review including a fleet survey and hearings, says Glenn Haight, commission chairman.

The goal isn't to keep kids off fishing vessels. Rather, it's to give the commission "a little more structure and process to follow when asked to allow a permit to go to a youngster," Haight said.

The commission's review could look at safety, economic advantage in fisheries, or other considerations. 

State regulations already address the issue to some degree. For example, the Alaska Administrative Code at 20 AAC 05.1707 states "there is a rebuttable presumption" a person acquiring most types of permits is "unable to participate actively in the fishery" if under the age of 16.

But the commission can, and has, issued permits to minors under 16, Haight said. He reckons maybe 10 such minors currently hold permits.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

A threat to weak stocks?

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is raising significant concerns over the proposed federal takeover of salmon fishing in the Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

The international issue of bycatch

Bycatch certainly has been a hot topic of late in Alaska.

Alaska bycatch also is drawing attention from our neighbors in Canada.

In a report submitted ahead of the International Pacific Halibut Commission annual meeting in Anchorage, the province of British Columbia has this to say, in part:

The large trawl fisheries in Alaska experience high volumes of bycatch that impact many species that move between Canadian and U.S. waters. This includes over 157,500 salmon caught as bycatch in Alaskan fleets in 2023, of which over 35,500 were vulnerable Chinook salmon. Incomplete monitoring and Alaskan bycatch of halibut in trawl fisheries impact recruitment of juvenile halibut to the fishery as many halibut caught in industrial trawl nets do not survive release.

'Corporate purgatory'

Readers will recall how federal authorities hit Alaska pollock industry players with huge fines, alleging unlawful transport of fish to the eastern United States. Deckboss wrote about the case in the October 2021 issue of Pacific Fishing magazine.

Well, it seems the two sides have reached a settlement.

But the pollock industry is furious government brass still haven't signed off on the deal struck nearly six months ago.

This has left the industry in "corporate purgatory," with the delay in resolving the enormous penalties interfering with corporate transactions, finances, and operations, according to this court filing.

Friday, January 5, 2024

New leadership for a CDQ organization

The Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association, one of Alaska's six community development quota organizations, today announced Ray Melovidov as its new president.

He takes over for CBSFA's longtime president, Phillip Lestenkof, who is retiring.

CBSFA represents St. Paul Island under the CDQ program.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Federal salmon buy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the purchase of more than $9 million in salmon products.

Three companies including OBI Seafoods, Silver Bay Seafoods, and Trident Seafoods sold $7.3 million in canned pink salmon, with Trident accounting for the bulk of the sales.

The USDA also purchased $1.8 million in frozen wild salmon fillets from Pacific Seafood.