Story last updated at 12:41 p.m. Thursday, June 6, 2002

Homer regains top ranking in halibut landings


Sepp Jannotta
HALIBUT LANDINGS are picking up in Homer and dropping in Seward, and this week Homer regained its No. 1 standing. Through Sunday, landings here were 4.8 million pounds, while Seward stood at 4.5 million. Statewide, more than 20 million pounds have been landed out of the Alaska quota of 61.9 million pounds. Blackcod landings in Homer are up to 1.6 million pounds.

BARBARA BELKNAP, marketing director for Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, will be stepping down after five years. During that time she was responsible for domestic and overseas marketing programs for all species of Alaska seafood. Belknap began working at Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute 12 years ago. The institute will begin its search for a new director immediately.

THE FISHING VESSEL SANTA ROSA, based out of Kodiak, was forced to terminate its voyage last week after the U.S. Coast Guard found it lacked sufficient safety gear. A team from the Coast Guard cutter Anacapa boarded the vessel and determined that it did not have a life raft or skiff on board nor did it have a ring buoy. The Santa Rosa was also lacking a certification of documentation and was not properly marked. The Anacapa escorted the Santa Rosa to Pelican where it will remain until a life raft is has been placed board. The vessel's movements are likely to be restricted until the owner has corrected all the discrepancies.

SALMON FISHING IN KAMISHAK was restricted in one area and given more latitude in another as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game seeks to protect fish where their numbers are down and lift restrictions where they are obsolete. The department issued an emergency order closing, for a third straight year, the Chenik subdistrict to commercial salmon seining because adult returns are expected to be minimal due to the lingering effects of the IHN virus outbreak which hit those stocks. As a result, commercial as well as the hatchery cost-recovery harvest will be closed for 2002.

ON THE BRIGHTER SIDE, the same emergency order stated that seine fishermen can now operate on a seven-days-a-week fishing schedule in the Kamishak Bay District, with the exception of Chenik. The Kamishak district opened to commercial salmon seining on Saturday. In years past, a schedule of two 48-hour openings a week was the norm at Kamishak. But since the departure of on-site tenders at the fishery from the beginning of the season, the fishing effort and subsequent harvest have declined as fishermen have been forced to find another method of transporting their catch. The new schedule will not jeopardize escapement requirements because of what Fish and Game calls a "shift in effort levels" and the limiting effects of the area's harsh weather.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI got the endorsement of the United Fishermen of Alaska last week for his race for governor.. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the group's board voted 15-2 with five members abstaining to give the Republican their support. Democrat Fran Ulmer, the lieutenant governor, said she was surprised and unhappy that she didn't fare better. Both candidates were given a questionnaire to fill out several weeks ago, then interviewed. Ulmer said the board never read her answers to the questionnaire; UFA president Bob Thorstenson Jr. said her answers weren't read because Ulmer failed to deliver them on time. "I'm sorry, but if people don't have time to read her questionnaire (answers), it's because she didn't give them to anybody," he told the Anchorage Daily News. "It's sort of like dropping your test off five days late and asking the teacher why she didn't grade it." Murkowski called the endorsement "very important." Ulmer said she would take her message directly to fishing families.

A NEW MARINE CONSERVATION group has hired former Knowles administration staff member Ron Clarke as its first executive director. The Marine Conservation Alliance, which was created by western Alaska fishing interests "to ensure that fishery conservation and management decisions are based on sound science," the group's Web site says. Among its board members are representatives of CDQ groups, factory longliners, shore-based trawlers and factory trawlers. Clarke was a special assistant to both Gov. Tony Knowles and former Gov. Steve Cowper, and also worked as a journalist and legislative aide.