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 weaker even-year harvests over the past 10 years averaged 23 million fish. That number was boosted by the 2004 harvest of 45 million pinks, which appears to be an anomaly, although the parent year for those stocks, 2002, had a similar catch. If 2004 is tossed out, the 10-year even-year average comes to 14 million pinks.
The smallest even-year harvest in the past 10 years was 2006, which came in at 11.7 million pinks; the strongest odd-year harvests in the past 10 years were 2005 and 2011, both of which saw 59 million pinks caught.
The value of the fishery has been climbing steadily since 2002, when the ex-vessel price was 9 cents, and peaked in 2011 at 47 cents. The 2012 price was 41 cents, putting the total value for the fishery at nearly $30 million.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game notes that there are two primary reasons to expect that the 2013 harvest will be higher than the recent average.
First, biological escapement goals were met or exceeded in the parent year, 2011, and escapements were well distributed throughout the region.
Also, data collected by NOAA’s Auke Bay lab may indicate good freshwater and early marine survival rates for pink salmon set to return in 2013. Pink salmon harvests from years with similar NOAA data came in between 45 and 78 million fish.
The NOAA Auke Bay lab continues to conduct research that has greatly improved ADF&G’s ability to forecast pink salmon returns in Southeast.
NOAA has been using juvenile pink salmon catch and associated biophysical data to forecast adult pink salmon harvests in Southeast since 2004, and ADF&G forecasts that were adjusted according to that data have been much improved over previous forecasts.
Interested parties have until Nov. 19 to submit comments on 89 proposals to the Board of Fisheries for Bristol Bay finfish fisheries.
Some of the proposals seek to introduce new gear types to the salmon fishery.
Proposal 24 asks the board to allow a person with two drift permits to operate a 75 foot seine instead.
The proposal, submitted by Dan Farren, would set up a separate seine allocation based on participation.
Farren notes that it is a quality issue, that live fish caught in a seine are better than dead fish taken from a gillnet, but also says that fewer boats on the water will benefit everyone.
He points out that there may be a steep learning curve for seine fishermen learning to fish shallow waters with strong currents.
Proposal 25, submitted by William Sanchez, seeks to start a troll fishery for silvers outside of the drift gillnet districts.
Sanchez points out that the processors leave before the run is over, and that the superior quality of troll-caught fish would allow for specialty markets to be developed to benefit local fishermen.
He does note that the in-river sport fishermen may not be too happy with the plan, since the current setup allows them to harvest more silvers after the processors leave town, essentially closing the commercial fishery.
Other proposals would allow for vessels larger than the current 32 foot length depending upon what those vessels do with their catch.
One proposal would increase the length to 42 feet if the boat is a licensed catcher-processor. Another one would allow boats up to 36 feet if the fish are chilled on board, and 39 feet if they are frozen on board.
The Bristol Bay finfish meeting takes place Dec. 4-12 in Naknek. For a complete list of proposals and instructions for submitting comments, go to www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.main.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has announced that 10th and M Seafoods has met the requirements of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization-based Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Chain of Custody certification.
10th and M Seafoods joins Triad Fisheries Ltd, Glacier Fish Company, LLC, Seafood Producers Cooperative, Icicle Seafoods, Inc., Ocean Beauty Seafoods, LLC, Canadian Fishing Company, Peter Pan Seafoods, Inc. and Kwik’Pak Fisheries LLC in attaining Chain of Custody to the RFM certification.
The RFM Chain of Custody certification means seafood buyers and their customers can have confidence that the seafood they are buying can be traced to an Alaska fishery that meets the RFM standard.
ASMI caused a stir earlier this year when it left the Marine Stewardship Council’s Sustainable Fisheries labeling program in favor of the FAO-based label, citing the cost of MSC’s program as part of the reason.
Alaska wild salmon was up for re-certification by MSC for the sustainability label in October of this year, and the organization responsible for making that happen, the Alaska Fisheries Development Association, announced in January that it was no longer interested in participating, due to the pull-out of eight major buyers who accounted for 72 percent of the market for salmon in Alaska.
ASMI has continued to champion the FAO-based program, and after the initial flap died down, it appears there is room in the market place for both labels.
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.