Seawatch

Transition team’s report puts priority on fish

Gov. Bill Walker’s office has released the report from his fisheries transition team which sets out priorities, recommendations and possible barriers to success for Alaska fisheries.

The document is concise and well organized, with careful thought to possible actions to achieve success, barriers to success and possible actions to address those barriers.

Longliners, trawlers weigh in on bycatch

The halibut crisis in the Bering Sea and the potential for much stricter bycatch limits has the factory longliners and at-sea processing trawlers weighing in with comments to the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which meets Jan. 26-30. That’s something they have not previously done.

The directed fishery for halibut could go as low as 370,000 pounds next season, while nearly 5 million pounds could be tossed overboard as bycatch.

Bycatch debate far from being finished

Bering Sea halibut fishermen narrowly missed getting a reduction of trawl bycatch at the latest North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting after a tied vote on a petition for emergency action by the state of Alaska.

At issue are the drastic cuts being made to the directed halibut fishery in the Bering Sea and the lack of similar cuts to the bycatch mortality by trawlers.

Quota cuts seem to be helping halibut

There may finally be good news on the horizon for halibut fishermen, according to International Pacific Halibut Commission researcher Ian Stewart at IPHC’s interim meeting last week.

Stewart said that halibut are still growing more slowly than normal, their “size at age” is still under-performing for unknown reasons, but the drastic cuts from the past several years appear to be paying off.

Study puts Steller sea lion declines into context

A recent study published in the journal “Fish and Fisheries” by anthropologist and archeologist Dr. Herbert Maschner sheds a more historical and prehistorical light on Steller sea lion populations in Western Alaska, and the effects of human interaction.

In 1997, National Marine Fisheries Service listed the western population of Steller sea lions as endangered after the population went from a high of 250,000 in 1977 to less than 100,000.

Study puts Steller sea lion declines into context

A recent study published in the journal “Fish and Fisheries” by anthropologist and archeologist Dr. Herbert Maschner sheds a more historical and prehistorical light on Steller sea lion populations in Western Alaska, and the effects of human interaction.

In 1997, National Marine Fisheries Service listed the western population of Steller sea lions as endangered after the population went from a high of 250,000 in 1977 to less than 100,000.

Study looks at potential of buyback in Bristol Bay

The Bristol Bay salmon fishery is one step closer to a potential buyback program with the release of a report by Northern Economics, commissioned by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, exploring various possible scenarios and structures of a buyback.

The study is in response to a survey sent out a year ago in which 81 percent of permit holders who sent it back said they would be interested in further information.

UAS course designed to help fishermen

The University of Alaska Southeast is offering an online, self-paced course in marine electrical systems for fishermen who want to be able to work on their own boats and know when to call the pros.

“It’s geared toward people like commercial fishermen, people who own a boat and want to do basic stuff,”  according to Amy Crews at UAS.

It’s also designed to help people see if the work is getting to the point  where they need to have a specialist come and take a look, she said.

New plan helps Mat-Su sport fishing interests

While most drift fishermen are grumbling about the lack of quality fishing time in the Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishery, the contentious new management plan hammered out last winter by the Board of Fisheries did seem to accomplish what the crafters of the plan, sport fishing interests in the Mat-Su Valley, intended.

Most Valley streams reached their sockeye escapement goals, and while the drift fleet was kept out of productive waters, coho salmon flooded into the area.

Bristol Bay red king crab fishery set for quota hike

The Bristol Bay red king crab season scheduled to get under way Oct. 15 is set for another increase, rising 14 percent, from 8.6 million pounds last season to 10 million pounds this year, including 10 percent for community development quotas. 

The quota was up 9 percent last year, from 7.8 million pounds.

The St. Matthews blue king crab season will re-open this year with a cautious quota of 655,000 pounds, after being closed last year.

Dock prices up for halibut, salmon

Dock prices for Alaska’s most popular species of finfish are at the top of their historical range, partly due to a supply shortage and partly due to increasing popularity.

Prices for halibut are at record highs, with current levels at around $6.50 per pound for 10-20  pound fish (smalls), $6.75 for 20-40 pound fish (mediums), and $6.90 for 40-ups (large), according to Jeff Berger, a manager at Copper River Seafoods, which buys fish at multiple ports in Alaska.

Report details commercial fish industry’s value to U.S.

Many Alaskans know the commercial seafood industry is an economic powerhouse, and the largest private employer in the state. But a new report from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration details how important the Alaska industry is to the nation, with each full-time fishing job in Alaska creating 13.5 jobs in the Lower 48.
An analysis of that report by John Sackton at Seafood.com also shows just how much more the commercial sector contributes to the national economy than the recreational sector.

Sac roe herring fishery starts early

The Togiak sac roe herring fishery started nearly two weeks earlier than predicted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game analysis of Bering Sea ice and temperature models.

That analysis called for the fishery to kick off May 10. Instead, it started with a gillnet opening April 27, lasting until further notice, and a 76-hour seine opening on April 28.

The quota is set at 31,490 tons, which is 7 percent less than last year but 20 percent higher than the 10-year average.

Board of Fish members re-appointed by Legislature

Three members of the Board of Fisheries were easily re-appointed to new three-year terms, although not all without objection, by a joint session of the Legislature last week.

The re-appointments of Sue Jeffrey, Reed Morisky and John Jensen were passed through the House fisheries committee the previous week, and although there was public testimony for and against all three, the testimony against Morisky, board member from Fairbanks, was particularly vicious.

Kodiak seine fleet tests viability of new pollock fishery

The Kodiak seine fleet is embarking on a new fishery to test the viability of catching pollock with that gear type, a species that is generally caught with trawl gear.

The fishery will take place in state waters, within three miles of shore, under a special “commissioner’s permit” issued by the Alaska Board of Fisheries in January.

Prices low, but Sitka herring catch strong

The 2014 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery wrapped up last weekend with the fleet of 48 seiners going slightly over the 16,333 ton quota. It was a sharp contrast to the 2013 season when more than half the quota was left in the water because the biomass had spawned out; those herring are harvested for their roe. 

The same thing happened in 2012, on a monster quota of 28,829 tons, with a harvest of 13,534 tons.

Professional fish board proposed

The Alaska Senate Resources Committee held a hearing Monday to discuss Cook Inlet salmon, and one idea came to the forefront: a professional Board of Fisheries.

The idea first came up through testimony by Dwight Kramer, chair of the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition, a group of private anglers with no commercial affiliation. 

Refrigeration class being offered next week

Fishermen looking to get more for their catch by installing refrigeration or wanting to better understand and protect their investment in a refrigeration system can take a hands-on class in Homer from a pro next week.

Marine Mechanical Solutions, which specializes in marine refrigeration, is coming to town for a three-day intensive class that will finish with a certification test.

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