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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A bill is currently making its way through Congress that could save a world of hassle and possible expense for smaller boat fishermen.
The bill creates an exemption to a regulation that would require an EPA permit for vessels less than 79 feet long for such discharge as bilge water and other common discharges.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced plans to lower the bycatch limits for halibut in the Gulf of Alaska for the trawl and hook and line fisheries effective either immediately or phased in over the next three years.
Hook and line catcher processors will see a 7 percent reduction implemented this year; hook and line catcher vessels and trawlers will see a 15 percent reduction over three years.
The Alaska Legislature’s failure to extend the limited entry program for weathervane scallop fishing, which expired Dec. 30, 2013, has created an open-access opportunity in state waters for the succulent mollusks.
Originally developed during the 2002 legislative session and extended again in 2008, the limited entry program was the only one in the state that was vessel-based, rather than an individual owning the permit.
Commercial and recreational fishermen in the United States are hoping that an amendment to the Magnuson-Stevens Act will address a misnaming issue that has unjustly penalized the fishing industry.
The proposed amendment is contained in the draft, called Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.
The on-going Board of Fisheries meeting dealing with Cook Inlet salmon plans has been rough on the commercial fishermen, taking a big red pen to the Central District drift gillnet plan after potentially reducing fishing time for the setnet fleet by half.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries hammered out a Kenai River king salmon fisheries plan that left the setnetters looking at possibly having only 12 hours of fishing time per week for sockeye depending upon the strength of the king salmon returns.
Under what is being called “paired restrictions,” when the in-river king salmon fishermen are restricted to catch and release, the restriction to 12 hours kicks in.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries began a marathon 14-day meeting on Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishery issues on Jan. 30, and by mid-day Monday had voted on one of the proposals that most concerned the commercial fleet, No. 103.
The first day consisted of Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff reports, all of which can be found at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.main.
The Board of Fisheries meeting to regulate the Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishery kicked off at the Egan Center in Anchorage on Friday with staff reports.
Some lower Kenai Peninsula attendees were unexpectedly late, hampered by a wreck just north of Cooper Landing that closed the road for several hours, prompting board chair Karl Johnstone to push back the deadline to sign up to testify from 9 a.m. Saturday to 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is waging an informational campaign against persistent rumors online and in social media that Alaska seafood is tainted by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown caused by the massive March 2011 earthquake in Japan.
While there have been problems with fish in the waters near the radiation leak, the affected species are not migratory, and are no threat to Alaska seafood.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission made the hard choice last week and slashed quotas in several areas.
The quota for the commercial longline fishery in Alaska waters is 16.75 million pounds, a drop of 23 percent from 2013.
Here is the commercial quota breakdown by area:
• 2C, Southeast Alaska: 3.32 million pounds, up 11 percent;
• 3A, Central Gulf of Alaska: 7.32 million pounds, down 34 percent;
The International Pacific Halibut Commission kicked off its 2014 annual meeting on Monday with newly reappointed commissioner Jim Balsinger acknowledging the concern and anxiety surrounding halibut stocks.
“The biggest concern of course is the status of Pacific halibut,” he said. “To put it in context, in the 90-year history of (the management of) this fishery, of this commission, this isn’t a new state. The halibut stock has been much lower than this before, so we have some confidence that there’s an ability to recover this.”
With the expected growth of the U.S. economy and continued weakness in many other parts of the world, 2014 looks to be a rough year for seafood traders whose fortunes are tied to foreign currencies, according to a story by John Sackton at Seafoodnews.com.
For importers, a strong dollar is positive and helps moderate prices. For exporters, the strong dollar weakens overseas sales by raising the relative cost of exports, and with more products sold at home, also moderates prices.