Cristy Fry

Cod season: fish sizes, quota both smaller

The Cook Inlet state-waters cod season is progressing as usual, albeit with a smaller quota and smaller fish.

The 2016 total Pacific cod state-waters quota for the Cook Inlet management area is 4.1 million pounds, with 85 percent of the quota, or 3.5 million pounds, going to pot boats, and 15 percent, or 611,000 pounds going to jig.

This represents a reduction of about 1 million pounds from the 2015 quota.

Forecasts mixed on next season’s salmon prices

News outlets have been offering conflicting reports about what to expect for next season’s salmon prices in recent days, with fisheries reporter Laine Welch saying in the Alaska Dispatch News that things do not look good and Seafoodnews.com run by John Sackton saying they do.

Sackton reported Tuesday that salmon roe sales are picking up in Japan. For the current year, ending March 31, U.S. exports of salmon roe to Japan are predicted at about 6,000 tons, and that good roe is in short supply.

Life rafts mandatory for boats under 36’ 3 miles out

Commercial fishing vessels under 36 feet operating more than 3 miles from shore will be required to have a life raft as of Feb. 26, in addition to the mandatory dockside safety exam.

The rule requires approved survival craft that ensures no part of a person’s body is in the water.

It is an expensive requirement. 

Eagle Enterprises in Homer has rafts starting at about $3,000. 

After the first two years, they have to be sent in and re-packed every year for an additional cost.

Bids sought for Tanner crab test fishery

Lobbying from Cordova residents has prompted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to set up a test fishery for Tanner crab in Prince William Sound.

Assistant area management biologist Maria Wessel said the primary driver for the test fishery has been industry.

“Industry here in Cordova lobbied our mayor, and the mayor lobbied the governor, and between the governor and the commissioner of Fish and Game we were directed to run this test fishery to find out what kind of abundance is out there,” she said.

Halibut quotas up for most areas

Halibut fishermen in most areas of the state got good news last week when the International Pacific Halibut Commission raised quotas for all areas except 3A, the Central Gulf of Alaska that includes the three busiest halibut ports in the state.

Area 2C, Southeast Alaska, saw the biggest increase with a total quota of 4.95 million pounds, up 6 percent. Out of that, 906,000 pounds goes to the guided sport fishery, and 120,000 pound gets set aside for commercial wastage/mortality, leaving 3.92 million pounds for the directed commercial fishery.

Bill would establish permit for fisheries enhancement

There is quite a bit of fisheries-related legislation flying around the Capitol at the beginning of the legislative session that began Jan. 19.

In addition to the bill being worked on in the House Fisheries Committee to establish Community Permit Banks, there is also legislation to ban the Alaska sale of genetically modified seafood, dubbed “Frankenfish,” HB 238 bill submitted by House Resources Committee member Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage.

Bill aimed at helping younger fishermen

As young Alaskans gather in Juneau for the sixth annual Young Fishermen’s Summit next week to explore ways to get a leg up in an increasingly challenging and expensive industry, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, a member of the House Fisheries Committee, is trying to help.

Kreiss-Tomkins and other members of the committee are working on a bill to create community banks to buy limited entry permits from people selling out in order to be able to lease them to people primarily in rural communities who cannot afford to buy them outright.

UCIDA study points to big opportunities for all in inlet

At a time when the state of Alaska is counting its pennies, a recently released study showing the state spends $27.2 million more than it takes in for commercial fishing is making waves.

The study, conducted by Bob Loeffler and Steve Colt of  the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, looked at commercial fishing, mining and tourism, and found that all three generate about the same amount of money for the state, between $120-$135 million annually. 

Setnetters celebrate court ruling

Upper Cook Inlet setnetters were handed a significant victory by the Alaska Supreme Court when it overruled a decision by a Superior Court judge that would have allowed a ballot measure to ban setnets in “urban areas,” but was targeted at Cook Inlet.

The ballot initiative was proposed by Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance as an attempt to eliminate the catch of Kenai king salmon by UCI setnetters at a time when king salmon were in serious decline state-wide.

Fisherman wants to stop tax that funds Bristol Bay seafood group

An effort is underway to stop Bristol Bay salmon fishermen from paying a 1 percent tax to fund the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, in part because of the president’s ties to Pebble Mine.

Fisherman Erick Sabo is circulating a petition to stop the tax from being collected. It requires signatures from 10 percent of Bristol Bay permit holders, which then get submitted to the state, which would then instruct BBRSDA to hold a vote. 

It’s expensive for fishermen to participate in BOF meets

Editors note:  This story has been edited to delete comments from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association president about testimony from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. Ricky Gease, executive director or KRSA, said the association did not provide testimony about having the Board of Fisheries meetings in Anchorage.


Slightly lower quotas expected for halibut fishermen

Halibut fishermen can expect fairly flat, if slightly lower quotas in most areas if commissioners settle on the “blue line” catches at next month’s International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting, set out last week at the interim meeting in Seattle.

The blue line is the level of catch that represents even odds for maintaining current levels of spawning stock biomass, what used to be called staff recommendations.

Strong harvest of sockeye in Cook Inlet forecast for ’16

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists are predicting a fairly robust commercial harvest of around 4.1 million sockeye salmon in Upper Cook Inlet next season, 1.1 million over the most recent 20-year average.

It is nearly 60 percent lower than the historical high harvest of 9.5 million sockeye in 1987, but certainly a marked improvement from the historical low of 497,185 sockeye in 1974.

Bristol Bay fishermen seek state’s help on prices

A group of Bristol Bay fishermen have started a petition to have a mediator from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development intervene between Bristol Bay fishermen and the processors to negotiate a fair price prior to next season after being paid a base price of 50 cents this season.

Based on Alaska Statute 16.10.280, if one-third of Bristol Bay permit holders, or about 900 individuals, sign the petition, the state will assign a mediator.

Numbers tell sad story of season

The numbers are in and Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishermen have been griping about their season for a reason.

The total harvest of 3.1 million salmon was 15 percent less than the most recent 10-year average, and the ex-vessel value of around $24 million was 20 percent below the previous 10-year average, even though the total run was 7 percent above forecast.

The commercial sockeye harvest was 2.6 million.

And yes, it was late. 

Red swamp crawfish turning up in Alaska

Warming oceans have brought news of many new and invasive species in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports that crawfish, also known as crayfish or crawdads, a species of freshwater crustaceans related to shrimp and lobster, have been caught twice in the last four years in gillnets in the Kenai River, a long way from their native habitat of the swamps of Louisiana and other areas of the southern United States.

Research shows Pacific cod can withstand warming better than Arctic cod

Arctic cod are proving highly susceptible to warming ocean temperatures, but the good news is that Pacific cod, the kind caught commercially in pots and trawls around Alaska, not so much.

A NOAA lab in Newport, Ore., is reportedly the first to successfully spawn Arctic cod in captivity, and the resulting science has shown that the species has a very narrow window of temperature viability.

In waters between 32 and 36.5 F., and even colder with the lower freezing point of salt water, Arctic cod do very well. However, water above 41 degrees is fatal to them.

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