Homer Alaska - Seawatch

Story last updated at 1:53 PM on Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fish board takes up shellfish next week

By Cristy Fry

The Alaska Board of Fisheries meets next week in Anchorage to take up shellfish issues statewide. Those issues include proposals for:

• Establishing super-exclusive registration for the Dungeness crab fishery in Area J, the southern Alaska Peninsula;

• Opening up new waters to scallop fishermen around Mitrofania Island west of Kodiak and Unimak Bight south of Unimak Island;

• Developing octopus management plans; and

• Closing commercial pot shrimping in Prince William Sound.

The board added an extra day to the meetings in order to accommodate the volume of proposals.

Fisherman Mike Clark of Kodiak, who submitted the proposal to restrict the Dungeness fishery, also had submitted a proposal to limit boats to 1,000 pots each, but he withdrew that proposal.

"That was kind of a knee-jerk reaction" to boats coming up from Outside and stringing pots from Kodiak to Unimak Bight, he said. "They really have no respect for our lifestyle up here."

Clark said boats coming from Oregon and Washington have put undue pressure on what had been a rebounding fishery.

There is no quota for the Dungeness fishery, only time and area, and no pot limits. It also is open-access, meaning there is no limited entry permit required. Super-exclusive registration, which would prevent boats that fish Dungeness in other districts from entering the Kodiak fishery, is one way to limit the fishery.

Clark's issue statement in the proposal submitted to the Board of Fisheries says, "Large transient boats can come to Kodiak, fish a large amount of gear for a short period of time and then move to another district and do the same thing. The fishery is becoming less and less viable for long-term participants."

The Dungeness fishery in Alaska has been around a long time. The Alaska Fishery and Fur Seal Industries publication made the first historical reference to it in 1916, and it was first commercially canned in Seldovia in 1920. The crab are found from Cook Inlet to Mexico.

The commercial pot shrimp fishery in Prince William Sound is the subject of three separate proposals to shut it down, and other proposals to ease restrictions.

There is a thriving personal-use pot fishery for shrimp in the Sound, and re-opening the commercial fishery in 2010, after it had been closed for 18 years, was controversial.

The 2010 fishery had a Guideline Harvest Level of 55,000 pounds, and a 20-pots-per-boat limit. There were also restrictions on the hours per day that boats could run gear. Eighteen boats participated, and only caught 45,000 pounds of spot shrimp.

The 2011 fishery had 33 boats participate (although 155 registered) in a 52,000 pound GHL. The personal-use GHL was 132,000 pounds. The personal-use fishery also saw a reduced pot limit, from eight down to five, in part due to an increased number of participants.

The proposals to end the commercial fishery all essentially say the same thing: The value of the catch per vessel is a mere pittance compared to the quality of life value to the personal-use participants, the stocks are over-exploited, the fishery was already fully allocated before the commercial fishery was implemented, and managers are going to cause the fishery to collapse again like it did in 1991 if they keep increasing the pressure.

The value of the commercial catch last season was about $200,000, which came to about a $6,000-per-boat ex-vessel value.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Whittier Advisory Committee is proposing to open new waters to commercial shrimping and lift restrictions on what hours the boats are allowed to operate, as well as lift restrictions on how many pots can be set on a single line.

The Board of Fisheries meeting runs March 20-24 at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel. For an agenda and proposals, visit the board's website at www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.main.

AVTEC, the vocational/technical school in Seward, has received funding from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development to provide training for 10 individuals to enter their Tankerman AB Program.

This will be free training and a job. An applicant need not have prior sea service or a TWIC/MMC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential or Merchant Mariner Credential), as obtaining those certifications is part of the training. Major shipping company Edison Chouest Offshore has signed on to provide the sea service, as on the job training to meet the USCG sea service requirements under this training.

AVTEC is trying to get the word out because time is running short. The training begins March 26.

For more information and an application, visit the AVTEC website at www.avtec.edu/amtc.htm.

The University of Alaska Southeast Fisheries Technology Program has developed a high school level program that is aimed at introducing young men and women to fisheries careers, to be made available state-wide.

The class will expose students to the various fishing sectors in Alaska such as fisheries management, fish processing, marketing, commercial fishing, charter operations, and salmon enhancement projects. Students will then visit fisheries professionals and tour a breadth of fishing operations and facilities in their home communities.

The goal of the class is to emphasize to Alaskan students how important fisheries are to our coastal communities. The class will highlight regional opportunities while letting students know what they may need to study to take advantage of these prospects.

The class is being expanded based on a pilot offering in Sitka last year. In this pilot class, students toured commercial fishing boats, seafood processing facilities, salmon hatcheries and state fishery agency offices. Students heard first-hand from people in the industry about the career paths.

The Fisheries Technology Program hopes to offer the class in interested communities, working with the local school districts and industry sectors. Mentors will be recruited to escort students on field trips, encourage students to ask questions and discuss opportunities amongst themselves. Students will be asked to create a blog so that students in different communities can learn from each other regarding various careers and opportunities statewide.

Funding for this project is from the Carl Perkins Grant fund and donations from Icicle Seafoods.

For more information about the class, contact the UAS Ketchikan Fisheries Technology Program at (907) 228-4565 or (907) 747-7742.

Cristy Fry has commercial fished out of Homer and King Cove since 1978. She can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.