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.
“It’s not going to be an easy ice year by any means,” she said.
The ice conditions during last year’s opilio crab season led to the loss of about 800 crab pots, valued at around $1,000 each, wreaked havoc on delivery schedules in the Pribilof Islands where about half of the crab is required to be processed, caused boats to tie up in Dutch Harbor and send their crews home for weeks, jumbled up tendering contracts for the spring herring fisheries, and led to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game allowing boats into areas that had been closed to protect Pribilof red and blue king crab and eventually extending the season by two weeks to allow the fleet to finish catching the quota, which was up 64 percent from the previous season.
Cole said those conditions were caused by a number of factors, but that much of the problem was that there was so much ice all over the Bering Sea that there was simply nowhere for it to go, even when winds were favorable.
“Normally, the last 100 miles or so of the ice is more broken, there’s enough room in there for the ice to move around, or there might be less ice over on the Russian side and it can move over that way,” she said. “Last year, it was iced in everywhere.”
Air temperatures over the Bering Sea were 11 to 14 degrees colder than normal last winter, which compounded the problem.
Cole said forecasters in her office also were suggesting that it was going to be an above-normal year for precipitation again this winter, which could mean more record snowfall on land.
The Board of Fisheries is forming a task force to identify a set of recommended adjustments to the Kenai Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan that would result in the best mix of in-river sport, guided sport and personal use fishing opportunity, and Upper Subdistrict set gill net fishing opportunity while providing the best means of attaining the escapement goal for Kenai River late-run kings during times of low king salmon abundance such as that experienced in the 2012 season.
The deadline to submit names for people to serve on the task force is Oct. 25.
The primary goal of the task force is to reach agreement on a set of provisions to be brought before the Board of Fisheries during the statewide finfish meeting in March. If the proposals are adopted by the board, they would modify the Kenai Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan.
The task force will be co-chaired by board members Vince Webster of King Salmon and Tom Kluberton of Talkeetna, and will consist of another eight members as selected by the co-chairs from the names submitted.
Those eight members will consist of three Upper Subdistrict gillnetters, one drift fisherman, two sport fishermen, one sports guide, and one personal use fisherman. Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff will participate as appropriate.
Membership on the task force will be finalized by Nov. 1, and the first meeting is expected to take place about Nov. 15, at which time a tentative meeting schedule will be developed with the intent of finalizing its work in time to have it submitted as a public comment for the March 19-24 statewide finfish meeting.
It is anticipated that the meetings will be held in Kenai.
To indicate interest in serving on the task force, email BOF executive director Monica Wellard at Monica.Wellard@alaska.gov, send a letter via regular mail to Wellard at P.O. Box 115526, Juneau, AK. 99811-5526, or by fax to (907) 465-6094.
As low cod prices and high fuel and bait costs kept many boats from participating in the fall Bering Sea pot cod season, Seafood News is reporting that the joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission has set a record quota for cod in the Barents Sea between Russia and Norway.
The quota was set at 1 million metric tons, up 249,000 pounds from last season.
“The current situation concerning the cod stock in the Barents Sea is fantastic,” Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Lisbeth Berg-Hansen said in a press release.
The meager price being paid for Bering Sea cod, reported by one boat at 29 cents per pound, has caused speculation that economic troubles in the Euro zone, a major buyer of cod, could be depressing prices, and the large jump in quota in an area much closer to that market is not expected to help.
Cristy Fry has commercial fished in Homer since 1978. She also designs and builds gear for the industry. She currently longlines for halibut and gillnets salmon in upper Cook Inlet aboard the F/V Realist. She can be reached at email@example.com.