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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are only a few more days to vote on which Coast Guard rescue video deserves to be Video of the Year for 2015.
The videos lean heavily toward Alaska.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Congressman Don Young, never a friend to environmentalists but never before a foe of fishermen, is coming under fire for his proposed changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary tool used to manage federal fisheries.
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.
Red king crab fishermen in Nome parked their snowmachines today after a record harvest of around 95,000 pounds.
That eclipses the previous record harvest of 62,000 pounds set in 2013 and is 12 times the long-term average of 6,900 pounds.
The winter fishery takes place through the ice, and people ride snowmachines or drive pickups or four-wheelers, traveling anywhere from three-fourths of a mile to two miles or more offshore, according to Scott Kent, assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The support from commercial fishermen and local governments apparently prevented a nominee for the Alaska Board of Fisheries with no commercial fishing experience whatsoever from being confirmed by the Legislature.
The nominee, Robert Ruffner, lost on a 30-29 vote.
The strongest opposition came from Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, who spent nearly nine minutes of the 35 minutes of discussion about Ruffner talking not about Ruffner’s lack of qualifications, but about how much unprecedented support Ruffner had.
Whales and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council potentially transformed the black cod fishery last week when the council voted unanimously to allow pots to once again be used in the fishery as a deterrent to whale predation.
Whales have become an increasing problem in the black cod fishery, with sperm and killer whales both apparently learning that when they hear the hydraulics come on, it means dinner.
The whales do not appear to be as attracted by halibut; they seem to prefer the oilier black cod.
Bad weather and a lack of markets has led to a basic shutdown of the Pacific cod season for state-waters pot boats before it really got started, at least for Homer boats.
“We’re not even close (to catching the quota),” said Jan Rumble, area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
A bill that has been filed and failed every year since 2009 that would create a priority for personal use fishing seems to be getting legs this year.
Senate Bill 42, also called “The Alaskans-First Fishing Bill,” would prioritize personal use fisheries when restrictions are implemented to achieve a management goal. Only subsistence fishing would have a higher priority.