The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released an extensive look at the salmon season just passed mixed with a peek at the one coming up.
The state is predicting a bumper salmon crop next year in terms of numbers, with a total catch expected to be about 179 million fish, an increase of 30 percent over the 2012 season catch of 127 million fish. However, that number is driven by an expected odd-year jump in low-value pink salmon harvest expected to reach 118 million fish, compared to the 2012 catch of 68 million pinks.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
The International Pacific Halibut Commission surprised most industry watchers by veering far off course from the staff recommendations for the 2013 halibut quotas and not implementing an expected 30 percent cut statewide.
The staff had recommended an overall quota of 22.55 million pounds, including the West Coast and British Columbia, with a quota for Alaska waters of 17.26 million pounds. That is down from an overall quota of 33.54 million pounds in 2012 and a state-wide quota of 25.51 million pounds.
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.
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.
The Board of Fisheries Kenai River king salmon task force is back on track after canceling the second of their four scheduled meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 14, at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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.
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.
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.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries met this week in Naknek as residents and other permit holders were grappling with a sockeye forecast for 2013 that is down 20 percent from what was a less-than-robust run in 2012.
Perhaps as a result of that forecast, the board took a cautious approach to some of the proposed changes such as increasing the escapement goals for some area rivers.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecast for sockeye harvest in Bristol Bay is 16.6 million fish, down from the 20.6 million caught in 2012.
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.
The 2013 pink salmon season in Southeast Alaska is expected to be a good one, with a projected harvest of 54 million pinks.
While that number is significantly higher than the most recent 10-year average of 37 million pinks, it is only slightly above the average of the past five odd-year harvests of 51 million fish.
Pink salmon returns in Southeast are stronger on odd years.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries members in charge of filling seats on a task force to recommend adjustments to the Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan have announced their choices.
Task force co-chairs Vince Webster and Tom Kluberton have picked setnetters Jim Butler III, Ken Coleman and Robert Williams; drifter Ian Pitzman; sport fishermen Kevin Delaney and Dwight Kramer; sport guide Andy Szczesny; personal use fisherman Dennis Gease; and marine recreation user Luther Anderson.
Preseason warnings of depressed prices for Bristol Bay red king crab brought on largely by a continued influx of illegal Russian crab in both Japan and the United States are coming true as the advance price of $7.25 per pound comes in more than $3 per pound less than last year’s final settlement.