Seawatch

Endangered Species Act at work for 40 years

NOAA is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

President Nixon signed the ESA into law on Dec. 28, 1973. Congress understood that, without protection from human actions, many of our nation’s living resources would become extinct, according to NOAA.

There are approximately 2,100 species listed under the ESA. Of these species, approximately 1,480 are found in part or entirely in the United States and its waters; the remainder are foreign species.

IPHC staff present grim halibut stock assessement

Halibut fishermen are bracing for another huge quota cut after the International Pacific Halibut Commission staff presented a rather grim stock assessment at their interim meeting in Seattle last week.

While there is no longer a “staff recommendation,” staff members do present a decision table with a “blue line” that is essentially the same thing: a harvest level at which the fishery should not diminish too much further in the future.

Strong run of sockeye forecast for 2014

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is expecting another solid sockeye salmon run in Upper Cook Inlet for 2014, but a weak return to the Susitna River may make management problematic.

ADF&G is predicting a total return of 6.1 million sockeye, 3.8 million of those to the Kenai River, with a harvest of 4.3 million by all user groups.

Summit teaches how to run own fishing operation

Young fishermen are preparing to gather for the fifth Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit in Anchorage beginning Dec. 10 and running through Dec. 12.

Put on by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program through the University of Alaska, the summit has taken place four times since 2007, and is intended to be biennial going forward.

The event offers a chance to meet, socialize with, and talk about issues with other young fishermen from around the state, as well as well-known fishing industry leaders.

Bairdi tanner crab fisheries closed in many areas for 2014

The small boat fleet got some bad, but not unexpected news that the Bairdi tanner crab fisheries in Kodiak, Chignik and the Alaska Peninsula will be closed for the 2014 season.

The fisheries have been on a boom-and-bust cycle for years, with only two of the six Kodiak areas open last season, one of the two South Peninsula areas fishing, and Chignik closed completely.

The quota in Kodiak last season was 660,000 pounds, down from 950,000 pounds in 2012 and 1.47 million pounds in 2011. 

Pinks return in record numbers; that’s not the case with other salmon

By most accounts, the 2013 salmon season in Alaska was a barn-burner.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is reporting that nearly 270 million fish were caught in the state this year, more than double last year’s catch of 120 million fish and eclipsing the previous record of 222 million fish caught in 2005.

Pink salmon catches in Southeast and Prince William Sound largely drove the numbers, with each area producing about 89 million pinks. State-wide, 215 million pinks were caught.

Homer group receives grant for electronic monitoring

Homer-based North Pacific Fisheries Association has received a $147,400 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Fisheries Innovation Fund grant for a two-year project to use electronic monitoring in the pot and longline cod fisheries. 

National Marine Fisheries Ser-vice is providing another $120,000 in matching funds.

NPFA president Buck Laukitis said the focus would be on the small boat cod fleet. The grant was awarded while NPFA was wrapping up a similar grant project for smaller halibut boats.

New research: All fisheries important to food security on peninsula

The Kenai River Sportfishing Association has used elements of a recently released study about food security on the Kenai Peninsula to assert that commercial fishing should be curtailed in favor of sport and personal-use fishing.

Not so fast, according to the one of the authors of the study, Philip Loring. 

Cod pot fleet hauls in gear with quota in water

For the first time since its inception, the state-waters Pacific cod pot fleet quit fishing with a substantial amount of the quota still in the water.
The boats have all hauled in their gear, leaving 700,000 pounds in the water. The fleet of boats under 58 feet in length landed 1.7 million pounds this season, and the over-58-foot fleet maxed out their quota of one million pounds a week later than last year on March 9.
The state-waters season opened Feb. 10, one day earlier than last year.

Fishing vessels wanted for energy audit pilot project

The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation is seeking vessel owners for a fishing vessel energy audit pilot program.

The foundation notes that the high cost of fuel is a challenge that affects the entire seafood industry. More than 8,000 commercial fishing vessels are licensed in Alaska, and the operation of fishing vessels accounts for a large percentage of the fuel consumption in the seafood industry. 

This is a significant area to target for energy efficiency and fuel savings.

Sitka sac roe herring fishery gets underway

The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery got underway last week with two openings March 27 and 28 that scooped up nearly half of the 11,549-ton quota.

The two openings combined produced a catch of 5,700 tons of very ripe, “excellent quality” herring, with roe counts averaging between 12.3 and 15.9 percent.

The fleet of 48 seine boats took some time off to allow processors to catch up, but then were given another opportunity March 30. 

Board of Fish does not act on task force proposals

The Alaska Board of Fisheries met last week to look at statewide finfish issues, and took up a proposal submitted by the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force that would have provided new guidelines for the management of Kenai River chinook salmon for the upcoming season. 

The proposal was aimed at allowing harvest of the abundant Kenai River sockeye salmon by the East Side setnet fishery while ensuring adequate escapement of late-run Kenai chinooks.

Pot cod season not as good as in past years

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Homer area management biologist Jan Rumble confirmed last week what fishermen have been saying all season: It has been a lousy pot cod season.

"It's going slower than it has in the past," Rumble said.

She reported that as of the end of last week, the fleet of boats 58 feet long and under have caught just 500,000 pounds of a 2.7 million pound quota.

Fishermen working the mouth of Kachemak Bay have reported catches of 5, 10 or 15 cod per pot at a time when they should be getting 20-30.

2013 salmon numbers look good because of pinks

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released an extensive look at the salmon season just passed mixed with a peek at the one coming up.

The state is predicting a bumper salmon crop next year in terms of numbers, with a total catch expected to be about 179 million fish, an increase of 30 percent over the 2012 season catch of 127 million fish. However, that number is driven by an expected odd-year jump in low-value pink salmon harvest expected to reach 118 million fish, compared to the 2012 catch of 68 million pinks.

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