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.
Upper Cook Inlet setnetters were handed a significant victory by the Alaska Supreme Court when it overruled a decision by a Superior Court judge that would have allowed a ballot measure to ban setnets in “urban areas,” but was targeted at Cook Inlet.
The ballot initiative was proposed by Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance as an attempt to eliminate the catch of Kenai king salmon by UCI setnetters at a time when king salmon were in serious decline state-wide.
There are only a few more days to vote on which Coast Guard rescue video deserves to be Video of the Year for 2015.
The videos lean heavily toward Alaska.
An effort is underway to stop Bristol Bay salmon fishermen from paying a 1 percent tax to fund the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, in part because of the president’s ties to Pebble Mine.
Fisherman Erick Sabo is circulating a petition to stop the tax from being collected. It requires signatures from 10 percent of Bristol Bay permit holders, which then get submitted to the state, which would then instruct BBRSDA to hold a vote.
Editors note: This story has been edited to delete comments from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association president about testimony from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. Ricky Gease, executive director or KRSA, said the association did not provide testimony about having the Board of Fisheries meetings in Anchorage.
Halibut fishermen can expect fairly flat, if slightly lower quotas in most areas if commissioners settle on the “blue line” catches at next month’s International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting, set out last week at the interim meeting in Seattle.
The blue line is the level of catch that represents even odds for maintaining current levels of spawning stock biomass, what used to be called staff recommendations.
Boat owners should be bracing for a new round of regulations for older boats more than 50 feet in length.
The Alternate Safety Compliance Program, part of the U.S. Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2010, is due to take effect in 2020, which seemed far into the future when it was first proposed, but is now only a bit more than four years away.
However, the rules have to be written by 2017 in order to give boat owners time to come into compliance.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists are predicting a fairly robust commercial harvest of around 4.1 million sockeye salmon in Upper Cook Inlet next season, 1.1 million over the most recent 20-year average.
It is nearly 60 percent lower than the historical high harvest of 9.5 million sockeye in 1987, but certainly a marked improvement from the historical low of 497,185 sockeye in 1974.
A group of Bristol Bay fishermen have started a petition to have a mediator from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development intervene between Bristol Bay fishermen and the processors to negotiate a fair price prior to next season after being paid a base price of 50 cents this season.
Based on Alaska Statute 16.10.280, if one-third of Bristol Bay permit holders, or about 900 individuals, sign the petition, the state will assign a mediator.
Bristol Bay is expecting another whopping sockeye salmon run, the third consecutive year of above-average harvests.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists predict that 46.5 million sockeye will return to area rivers, meaning a commercial harvest of around 30 million.
The forecast range is actually somewhere between 36 million and 56 million sockeye, which even at the low end would be a decent run.
The numbers are in and Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishermen have been griping about their season for a reason.
The total harvest of 3.1 million salmon was 15 percent less than the most recent 10-year average, and the ex-vessel value of around $24 million was 20 percent below the previous 10-year average, even though the total run was 7 percent above forecast.
The commercial sockeye harvest was 2.6 million.
And yes, it was late.
The Juneau-based Halibut Coalition is putting out a last-minute call for people to send comments to the International Pacific Halibut Commission regarding the appointment of two commissioners.
Commercial fishermen operating more than three miles from shore have until today to get a mandatory dockside safety exam from the United States Coast Guard.
Boats that are out of the water or tied up for the winter will need one before resuming operation next season.
The dockside exams have been voluntary since the 1990s, but the latest Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill created the mandatory requirement.
Warming oceans have brought news of many new and invasive species in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports that crawfish, also known as crayfish or crawdads, a species of freshwater crustaceans related to shrimp and lobster, have been caught twice in the last four years in gillnets in the Kenai River, a long way from their native habitat of the swamps of Louisiana and other areas of the southern United States.
Arctic cod are proving highly susceptible to warming ocean temperatures, but the good news is that Pacific cod, the kind caught commercially in pots and trawls around Alaska, not so much.
A NOAA lab in Newport, Ore., is reportedly the first to successfully spawn Arctic cod in captivity, and the resulting science has shown that the species has a very narrow window of temperature viability.
In waters between 32 and 36.5 F., and even colder with the lower freezing point of salt water, Arctic cod do very well. However, water above 41 degrees is fatal to them.
Red king crab fishermen in Nome parked their snowmachines today after a record harvest of around 95,000 pounds.
That eclipses the previous record harvest of 62,000 pounds set in 2013 and is 12 times the long-term average of 6,900 pounds.
The winter fishery takes place through the ice, and people ride snowmachines or drive pickups or four-wheelers, traveling anywhere from three-fourths of a mile to two miles or more offshore, according to Scott Kent, assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The support from commercial fishermen and local governments apparently prevented a nominee for the Alaska Board of Fisheries with no commercial fishing experience whatsoever from being confirmed by the Legislature.
The nominee, Robert Ruffner, lost on a 30-29 vote.
The strongest opposition came from Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, who spent nearly nine minutes of the 35 minutes of discussion about Ruffner talking not about Ruffner’s lack of qualifications, but about how much unprecedented support Ruffner had.