Cristy Fry

Small crabs, slow fishing reported in Bering Sea

The Bering Sea opilio crab season appears to be on track to be wrapped up in an average amount of time, despite tales from fishermen still on the grounds and returning crew members about very slow fishing or multitudes of undersized crab.

Deckhands reporting back to Homer have told stories of fishing on a 30-crab-per-pot average, which would not even cover fuel expenses with crab that average less than one and a half pounds each.

Funding for Kenai smolt study uncertain

Cook Inlet commercial fishing groups are concerned about a potential lack of funding for studying the smolt out-migration on the Kenai River, a basic tool used to help determine future run strength.
There is funding for this year, but it is not currently included in the budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which is what the Legislature is currently working on.

UCIDA again sues over fed management of Cook Inlet salmon fishery

The United Cook Inlet Drift Association has once again filed suit against the federal government over management of the Cook Inlet salmon fishery.
UCIDA and Cook Inlet Fishermen's Fund are suing the National Marine Fisheries Service over the decision to transfer control of the fishery from federal to state control, saying the move violates the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

‘Alaska Fish Wars’ airs on Friday

Homer boats and the Upper Cook Inlet salmon drift fishery take center stage Friday when the National Geographic channel airs “Alaska Fish Wars,” filmed during last summer’s hectic fishery.
Fishing vessels Night’s Edge, Paragon and North Crow are featured throughout the series, which covers six days of fishing over the course of three episodes.
Wes Humbyrd on Night’s Edge said that having a camera in your face all day was “interesting.”

Exams again voluntary for some vessels


Coast Guard safety inspections on most vessels traveling more than three nautical miles from shore that had been voluntary but were then made mandatory in October 2012 now appear to be voluntary again for another two years as a result of the recently signed Coast Guard authorization bill in Washington, D.C.

While Bering Sea crab boats and any vessel that carries a federal observer must have the decal that comes with a successful safety exam, those decals will now be good for five years instead of two.

Fish board member quits, cites personal reasons


 

Bill Brown of Juneau has resigned from the Alaska Board of Fisheries half-way through his second term, citing personal and personality reasons.

In a brief, three-line letter to Gov. Sean Parnell dated Jan. 7, Brown stated that his resignation was effective immediately, apologized for not fulfilling his term and thanked the governor for the opportunity to serve.

Strong sockeye run predicted for ’13 season


The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is predicting another strong run of sockeye salmon to Upper Cook Inlet next season, on the heels of two above-average years.

The forecast is for a return of 6.7 million sockeye to all river systems and a harvest by all user groups of 4.9 million sockeye, 1.1 million fish above the UCI 20-year average of a 3.8 million sockeye harvest. 

The 2012 harvest was 4.4 million sockeye by all user groups.

Many tanner crab areas closed; quotas reduced


 

The bairdi tanner crab season in Kodiak and along the Alaska Peninsula continues its quota yo-yo this year with quotas either down or areas closed entirely when the season begins Jan. 15.

On Kodiak Island, only two areas out of eight are open, the east side and southeast sections, for a total of 660,000 pounds, down from 950,000 pounds in 2012 and 1.47 million pounds in 2011.

NMFS hikes fees used for enforcement


The National Marine Fisheries Service added insult to injury to the halibut fleet, which is potentially facing another round of drastic cuts to the quotas, by increasing the cost recovery fee that covers fisheries enforcement as well as other expenses related to fishery management.

NMFS announced that it raised the fee from 1.6 percent of the ex-vessel value of the catch to 2.1 percent, a 25 percent increase.

Changes to observer program criticized

A large cross section of Alaska fishing groups, including the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, the Alaska Marine Conservation Alliance, the Petersburg Vessel Owner’s Association and the North Pacific Fishermen’s Association have signed on to a letter protesting the implementation of changes to the North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program that are set to go into effect in January.

Forecasters predict lots of ice, snow

Bering Sea crab fishermen need to prepare for another bad ice year, according to Kathleen Cole, ice forecaster for the National Weather Service.

“I hate to say this to them, but yeah, we’re going to have an ice year that is above normal again,” Cole said.

She said it is not expected to be quite as bad as last year, though.

“It would be hard to top that, it was such a record breaker,” she said.

Cole said the long-range outlook model at this point shows a push of cold air in January that will bring the ice down earlier than normal.

Bering Sea crab season opens Oct. 15

The Bering Sea crab fleet hits the grounds this week with the Bristol Bay red king crab quota the only one not taking a significant hit, while the quota for the bread-and-butter opilio crab season is down 25 percent, and the St. Matthew Island blue king crab quota is down 31 percent.

As expected, the bairdi tanner season and Pribilof blue and red king crab seasons will remain closed again this year.

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