A mini-price war on the Homer docks turned out to be a boon for a small handful of halibut fishermen this week, with one fishermen selling his large fish, over 40 pounds, for $7.80 per pound. The lowest price on the dock was $7 straight.
Halibut prices have been strong all year, but the flurry of price increases this week went into uncharted territory.
Turmoil is roiling the Bristol Bay salmon fishery long before boats start ramming each other and running over nets.
One major issue is price, which last year averaged 50 cents per pound before refrigeration and production bonuses.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released its annual Commercial Fisheries Management Report for the 2015 season in Upper Cook Inlet.
While the report does extensively cover what happened in the salmon fisheries, it also covers lesser known harvests such as razor clams, smelt and herring, in addition to regulatory changes, enhancement efforts, participation and ex-vessel prices.
Also included are personal use and educational fisheries.
Bad weather, zero state funding to prosecute the fishery, and the early arrival of the fish has thrown a bit of a wrench in to the gears of the Togiak sac roe herring fishery.
“Windier than all get out,” is how area management biologist Tim Sands described current weather conditions.
As of Monday, the total harvest was 7,489 tons, out of a total quota of 28,782 tons.
There is no doubt that 2016 sets or breaks records across the board.
As homeowners turn their thoughts to spring cleaning this time of year, harbormasters are looking at ways to remove abandoned and derelict vessels from their harbors in Alaska.
Enter Cook Inletkeeper and the abandoned and derelict vessels, or ADV, program.
Herring season is in full swing, with Sitka Sound already wrapped up, Kodiak opening April 15 and Togiak on the horizon.
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery fell far short of the quota, catching only about two-thirds of the possible harvest, as managers tried to balance catching the fish before they spawned with not overwhelming processors.
The fishery opened March 23, and managers announced the closure on March 29, with 4,700 tons left on the quota after a harvest of 10,000 tons.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s recently released outlook is predicting a relatively robust sockeye salmon run for Upper Cook Inlet this season. That’s coupled with a fairly strong Kenai king salmon run, which should allow the department to more closely follow the management plan and loosen restrictions of recent years, especially for the setnetters.
The preseason forecast for sockeye salmon is 7.1 million total run, with a commercial harvest of around 4.1 million, which is 1.2 million over the 10-year average.
The Kachemak Bay campus of Kenai Peninsula College is offering half a dozen classes for boat owners, deckhands and others next month at either minimal cost or free.
The classes include three put on by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, which are Drill Conduc-tor, Stability Training and Ergonomics For Fishermen.
The other three are Deckhand Skills, Vessel Systems and Aluminum Fabrication.
A little more than three days into the 2016 halibut season, Area 2C, Southeast Alaska, has had the fleet hitting it the hardest.
Nearly 260,000 pounds had been landed in Southeast, compared to less than 50,000 in Area 3A, Central Gulf of Alaska, and no activity in other areas of the state.
The state-wide directed commercial halibut quota is just over 17 million pounds.
Homer fisherman Buck Laukitis is one of two Alaskans chosen by Gov. Bill Walker to fill two seats being vacated on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
The other is Kodiak resident Theresa Peterson.
The council has 11 voting members, and oversees federal fisheries from 3 to 200 miles from shore.
Laukitis and Peterson both bring coastal community and small boat mentality to the council, which is otherwise largely populated with trawler and CDQ big boat experience.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is considering revising its regulations on water management, and seeking public input.
Cook Inletkeeper and the Chuitna Citizens Coalition are suggesting finally implementing the “fish first” policy suggested by Gov. Bill Walker’s transition team.
The Cook Inlet state-waters cod season is progressing as usual, albeit with a smaller quota and smaller fish.
The 2016 total Pacific cod state-waters quota for the Cook Inlet management area is 4.1 million pounds, with 85 percent of the quota, or 3.5 million pounds, going to pot boats, and 15 percent, or 611,000 pounds going to jig.
This represents a reduction of about 1 million pounds from the 2015 quota.
News outlets have been offering conflicting reports about what to expect for next season’s salmon prices in recent days, with fisheries reporter Laine Welch saying in the Alaska Dispatch News that things do not look good and Seafoodnews.com run by John Sackton saying they do.
Sackton reported Tuesday that salmon roe sales are picking up in Japan. For the current year, ending March 31, U.S. exports of salmon roe to Japan are predicted at about 6,000 tons, and that good roe is in short supply.
Commercial fishing vessels under 36 feet operating more than 3 miles from shore will be required to have a life raft as of Feb. 26, in addition to the mandatory dockside safety exam.
The rule requires approved survival craft that ensures no part of a person’s body is in the water.
It is an expensive requirement.
Eagle Enterprises in Homer has rafts starting at about $3,000.
After the first two years, they have to be sent in and re-packed every year for an additional cost.
Lobbying from Cordova residents has prompted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to set up a test fishery for Tanner crab in Prince William Sound.
Assistant area management biologist Maria Wessel said the primary driver for the test fishery has been industry.
“Industry here in Cordova lobbied our mayor, and the mayor lobbied the governor, and between the governor and the commissioner of Fish and Game we were directed to run this test fishery to find out what kind of abundance is out there,” she said.
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.