Tuesday, February 27, 2024

'The true cost of cheap seafood'

Joe Bundrant, CEO of Seattle-based processing company Trident Seafoods, addresses a seafood worker scandal in China.

Russian trawlers are hurting Alaska, Peltola says

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola on Monday addressed the Alaska Legislature and devoted a good part of her speech to fish and fisheries.

Curiously, the word bycatch appears nowhere in the address.

She does go after "lawless" Russian trawl fleets "pushing ever closer to our waters."

Read Peltola's full address here.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Juneau watch

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang is scheduled to present a budget overview to the House Finance Committee at 1:30 p.m. Monday.


Be sure to check our companion blog The Brig for fisheries enforcement news.

AMCC's legal fundraiser

The Alaska Marine Conservation Council has launched a GoFundMe campaign to "help stop halibut bycatch."

Friday, February 23, 2024

Transit scheme costs American Seafoods $9.5M

Two subsidiaries of American Seafoods, a major harvester of Bering Sea pollock, have agreed to pay $9.5 million to settle violations of a shipping law known as the Jones Act, federal prosecutors say.

More details in this press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage.

We've asked American Seafoods for comment.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Cook Inlet battle royal set

The Alaska Board of Fisheries holds lots of meetings, none more contentious than those devoted to Upper Cook Inlet.

Tomorrow in Anchorage, the board begins a 12-day meeting to consider 185 Upper Cook Inlet finfish proposals.

Debate around Cook Inlet salmon management is always intense as multiple user groups — commercial, sport, dipnet, and subsistence — compete for the fish.

We won't attempt to describe all the proposals at play for this meeting. But we note one that's generating quite a lot of buzz.

Proposal 43 would reduce production of hatchery pink salmon, which some people see as detrimental to wild fish.

The state's hatchery industry is lined up against the proposal. Here are some others opposing it:

BBRSDA board candidates announced

Five candidates will vie for two seats on the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board of directors.

Read about the candidates here.

Sullivan's 'big idea'

During his Wednesday address to the Alaska Legislature, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan had quite a bit to say about fisheries, including this:

As it relates to fish, I believe it's time to go on offense. Thousands of Alaska fishermen are going through a very difficult time right now. Our fishermen are the farmers of the sea. Farmers get loans. Why shouldn't our fishermen? Farmers get crop insurance. Why shouldn't our fishermen get insurance? Farmers get federal relief when foreign markets are closed. Farmers get help when extreme weather hurts their harvest. Why shouldn't our fishermen?

The Farm Bill that we're currently negotiating presents an opportunity to de-risk our fishing operations in ways the U.S. government does for farmers. My legislation, called the National Seafood Supply Act, begins to accomplish this. It's a big idea. But there are many naysayers who are against my bill, even though it will dramatically benefit our hardworking fishermen and their communities. Stay tuned.

Read Sullivan's full address here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Bristol Bay association names new skipper

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents salmon driftnetters, has promoted Lilani Dunn to executive director.

She succeeds Andy Wink in the position.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Rep. Vance proposes a sea change

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, today introduced a resolution urging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to extend state fisheries management jurisdiction out to 15 nautical miles from the current 3 miles.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Juneau watch

The Senate Finance Committee on Monday will take up Senate Bill 82 establishing a buyback program for eastside Cook Inlet setnet permits.

Here's a letter from United Fishermen of Alaska with thoughts on the legislation.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Murkowski's fish worries

In her Thursday address to the Alaska Legislature, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski had this to say, in part, about the state's struggling seafood sector:

I mentioned earlier the unequivocally bad state of so many of our fisheries. The 'absence of abundance' is threatening subsistence, commercial and recreational fishing alike. Fish racks hang empty on the Yukon and Kuskokwim. The processing industry is undergoing a wave of consolidation. Outside groups are attempting to shut down entire fisheries and list the king salmon as endangered. So much we thought we knew is changing. The changes in our climate threaten our food security and our economic security. I worry about King Cove, False Pass, Kodiak and all the coastal communities that depend on fish, fish processing and the fish tax. Just as I worry about those who are not able to fill their freezers with fish from the river.

Read Murkowski's full address here.

Friday, February 16, 2024

A chicken halibut survey

The International Pacific Halibut Commission has released details about this year's setline stock survey.

"We intend on sampling 525 stations in 2024, with the first hooks expected to hit the water on May 25," the Seattle-based commission says.

It's a drastic reduction from last year's survey, which was planned for 958 stations with 864 ultimately sampled.

We presume the commission's financial troubles factor into the severe downsizing of this year's survey.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Juneau watch

State Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, has introduced a resolution calling on Congress and all federal agencies to "adopt policies and engage in certain efforts to improve the competitiveness and resiliency of the state's seafood industry."

Big federal salmon buy coming

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning to purchase up to $70 million in canned pink salmon and $30 million in canned sockeye.

Read more about it in this press release from the Alaska congressional delegation.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Cook Inlet conundrum

Cook Inlet salmon always has been been a troublesome topic, and this theme continued at the recent North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Seattle.

Federal officials, working under a court order, are preparing to take over salmon management from the state in the inlet's federal waters, or Exclusive Economic Zone.

At the meeting, council member Jon Kurland, head of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Alaska, offered a motion with 2024 total allowable catch levels for sockeye and other salmon species in the Cook Inlet EEZ.

Well, for a variety of stated reasons, the council's Alaska members — Rachel Baker, Angel Drobnica (council chair), John Jensen, Nicole Kimball, Andy Mezirow and Rudy Tsukada — declined to support the motion.

Voting in favor were Kurland and the members from other states — Washington's Kenny Down, Bill Tweit and Anne Vanderhoeven, and Oregon's John Seabourne.

Thus, the motion failed 6-5.

Where do the go from here?

NMFS will set the salmon TACs for the Cook Inlet EEZ.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Unalaska's power plans

With a proposed geothermal power project going nowhere fast, the city of Unalaska is now considering new diesel generation to support the planned Trident Seafoods processing plant.

Read about it in this city manager's memo.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

An escalating fight over halibut bycatch

We told you in December how a trawl fleet known as the Amendment 80 sector was suing over tighter halibut bycatch limits.

Now, halibut harvesters are looking to jump into the case in support of the tighter limits.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Another challenge to Bering Sea trawling

Native governments and an environmental group say they'll sue federal agencies over a planned bottom trawl study in the Northern Bering Sea.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Personnel file

Brent Paine, executive director of United Catcher Boats, says he plans to retire in December.

UCB is a Seattle-based trade association whose membership includes the powerful Bering Sea trawl fleet delivering pollock to shore plants.

Paine has skippered UCB since 1993, or more than 30 years. Previously, he was on the staff of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Fire reported at Peter Pan facility in Sand Point

Peter Pan Seafood provided the following statement regarding a fire at its Sand Point location.

Early this morning Wed., Feb. 7, the Peter Pan Sand Point Facility warehouse and nearby stock room were involved in a fire. We are grateful to report that there were no injuries.

We have staff on the ground in Sand Point and teams en route from King Cove to continue assessing the situation and gathering information on the incident.

We want to express our deepest gratitude to our friends at Trident and to the public safety office in Sand Point for their support and assistance during the fire.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Weighty fishing penalty assessed

NOAA enforcement officials say they have charged Ocean Peace Inc., owner of the F/V Ocean Peace, with fishing in the Nearshore Bristol Bay Trawl Area after it had closed.

A $111,031 notice of violation and assessment was issued, officials said.

An 'average' sockeye run for Upper Cook Inlet

Here's the 2024 forecast.

Fishing for federal help

Numerous Alaska legislators have signed a letter asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist the state's struggling seafood industry.

"Timing is critical as seafood processors will soon be attempting to obtain financing for the 2024 pack," the letter says.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Juneau watch

The House Special Committee on Fisheries is set to meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is expected to give a presentation on hatcheries.

The committee also is expected to take up House Bill 195, which would establish a buyback program for eastside Cook Inlet setnet permits.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Albatross bycatch reported

In December, an endangered short-tailed albatross was taken by a longline fishing vessel in the Gulf of Alaska south of Unalaska Island, the National Marine Fisheries Service reports.

Both legs of the bird were banded.

"The Yamashina Institute in Japan confirmed the bird was banded at the Hatsunezaki colony, Torishima Island, on March 3, 2023," NMFS reports.

A federal biological opinion allows for six takes during a two-year period, leaving an allowance for five additional takes for all federal Alaska groundfish fisheries over the next year, the agency says.

"The carcass is being shipped to the University of Alaska Fairbanks for additional analysis," NMFS says.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Unalaska opposes salmon bycatch petition

In a letter to federal officials, Unalaska's mayor says the city and the fishing industry "face a dire situation" should an emergency petition be implemented to bar Chinook salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock trawl fishery.

Thursday, February 1, 2024