Seawatch

Robust sockeye run forecast for Inlet

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.

Experts teach new fishermen the ropes

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.

Halibut season opens; SE fleet already lands 260,000 lbs.

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.

Walker picks Homer man to fill seat on NPFMC

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.

Cod season: fish sizes, quota both smaller

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.

Forecasts mixed on next season’s salmon prices

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.

Life rafts mandatory for boats under 36’ 3 miles out

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.

Bids sought for Tanner crab test fishery

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 quotas up for most areas

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.

Bill would establish permit for fisheries enhancement

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.

Bill aimed at helping younger fishermen

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.

UCIDA study points to big opportunities for all in inlet

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. 

Setnetters celebrate court ruling

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.

Fisherman wants to stop tax that funds Bristol Bay seafood group

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. 

It’s expensive for fishermen to participate in BOF meets

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.


Slightly lower quotas expected for halibut fishermen

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.

New regs likely will add to cost of fishing

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.

Strong harvest of sockeye in Cook Inlet forecast for ’16

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.

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