Story last updated at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20, 2002

Kodiak fleet ends strike, agrees to salmon prices


Sepp Jannotta
THE KODIAK SALMON FLEET ended its strike late last week after the United Salmon Association's Kodiak negotiators agreed to a contract that will pay fishermen 59 cents a pound for sockeye and 7 cents a pound for pink salmon. The deal was reached with a single fish processor, True World Foods. "This has been a rough year for negotiations, but we believe the prices offered by True World Foods match market conditions more closely than those prices offered by any other Kodiak area processor," Thom Wischer, USA-Kodiak's chairman, announced in a news release.

The first offer, which precipitated the five-day stand down by Kodiak fishermen, came in from the processors at 45 cents for sockeye and 5 cents for pink salmon. The deal with True World also offers fishermen the possibility of post-season price adjustments, should the market price of sockeye salmon rise above $1.65 per pound or the price of pink salmon top the $41-per-case mark. For at least the first 48 hours of the opening that began Sunday, Kodiak fishermen were obligated to sell to True World, since none of the four remaining Kodiak fish processors had agreed to the terms USA hammered out with True World. Fishermen will continue to deal solely with True World if no other processors are willing to make an acceptable offer, according to the USA-Kodiak.

"Solidarity among the fleet <> seiners and gillnetters alike <> was unwavering. We could not have asked for more support for the work of our negotiating team," Wischer said in a prepared statement. "The Kodiak fleet has proved its strength in the face of harsh adversity," he said.

PRICES ARE WORRISOME to fishermen beyond the waters of Kodiak as crews from Southeast to Bristol Bay turn their nets to sockeye fishing. Prices for sockeye vary from 45 to 90 cents a pound, according to an Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute report released earlier this month. Yakutat fishermen are getting 45 cents a pound for sockeye salmon. Copper River fish are fetching 80 cents a pound. Upper Cook Inlet gillnetters got 50 cents a pound, while fishermen in Lower Cook Inlet have received 90 cents a pound.

THE KING SALMON CATCH was somewhat small in the Northern District of Upper Cook Inlet as a steady batch of Turnagain winds hampered fishing effort. With the fishery now closed, Fish and Game reports that just over 1,200 kings were caught, as compared with 2,000 to 3,000 in a typical season. When the Turnagain winds blow, the commercial boats fishing out of Anchorage stay home, according to Upper Cook Inlet area biologist Jeff Fox.

CENTRAL DISTRICT HERRING fishermen in Upper Cook Inlet finished up their season last week and Fox estimated the east side catch to be close to 20 tons while fishermen on the west pulled in several tons.

THE DARK STAR, a 60-foot vessel skippered by John Lyman, sank near Unalaska Island after hitting a rock Thursday afternoon. In an attempt to save the boat, a Coast Guard helicopter deployed a rescue swimmer armed with submersible pump. A second pump was added later, but the water continued flooding through what the Kodiak Daily Mirror described as a 6-inch hole with a 2-foot crack down the keel below the water line. The three-man crew abandoned the vessel and waited in their life raft in calm seas. The fishing vessel Republic eventually picked them up.

SOME 67,000 RED SALMON should return to Kachemak Bay's enhanced commercial fishery at China Poot, according to Fish and Game projections. But while the seine fishery opened on Monday, the Homer fleet had yet to fish it as of Wednesday morning because the sockeye run is only in its early stages. Meanwhile, Kachemak Bay set-netters have landed 7,900 sockeye salmon and 975 kings.

RESURRECTION BAY SOCKEYE fishery remains closed with seiners there recording a catch of 13,500 fish, a number somewhat higher than Fish and Game's preseason forecast of 11,000. By comparison, the escapement numbers look to fall far short of expectations: with the run beginning to taper off, the number of sockeye salmon returning to spawn at just 5,500 as of Monday. Fish and Game had expected to see a return of 12,000 spawning fish. Area biologist Lee Hammarstom said the fishing wasn't too bad in light of the less-than-sunny forecast numbers.

THE FISH WILL HAVE THEIR DAY, according to a press release from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Gov. Tony Knowles has proclaimed June 30 to be the state's first Alaska Salmon Day, an official day called for by the Alaska State Legislature during the 2002 session. The purpose of the move is to recognize the importance of the wild Alaska salmon industry to the state's culture and economy. The executive proclamation calls for the people of Alaska to mark the day by participating in activities focused on the catching and eating of salmon.

THE UNITED COOK INLET Drift Association will be holding its annual membership meeting on Tuesday between 1 and 4 p.m. at the Kenai Elks Lodge. For more information, call Cindy Hall at 260-9436.

TRAWLING IS THE METHOD the International Pacific Halibut Commission plans to use for a sampling project it plans to conduct in the Sitka area later this summer. The IPHC hopes to contract out a boat to perform small-scale trawls for juvenile halibut in order to study nursery use and juvenile migration. The boat is not required to be a trawler, but skippers and crews with trawling experience are preferred. For more information, Bruce Leaman, executive director, at (206)-634-1838. Bids must be received by IPHC no later than 4 p.m. on July 5.

NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES Observer Training Center representatives will join a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association undersea expedition. Two people from the center, which is part of the University of Alaska Anchorage's Community and Technical College, will take part in the Gulf of Alaska Seamount Exploration project. The trip departs Astoria, Ore., on Saturday and will include Peter Risse, Observer Training Center director, and Greg Morgan, observer training specialist. Using an Alvin submarine, the crew of scientists and educators will explore the unique habitats of five previously unexplored seamounts in the Gulf. More information on the expedition is available at the NOAA website:

PETER PAN SEAFOODS agreed to pay $15,000 in an out-of-court settlement stemming from charges of harassment of a NOAA observer at its King Cove fish-processing plant. The seafood company agreed to a settlement of $40,000, with $25,000 of that to be suspended and waived after three years of compliance with federal rules governing the treatment of fisheries observers. In April of 2000, a female NOAA observer complained that, for nearly two months, she had been repeatedly subject to sexual harassment, with plant workers clanging the knives together and cat calling each time she entered the workplace. She claimed that plant workers often banged on her window when she was trying to sleep. As a part of the settlement, Peter Pan agreed to up the level of sensitivity training for its plant employees. NOAA attorney Susan Auer said the company will also produce a training video addressing the problem of sexual harassment in the fish processing plant environment.

HOMER HALIBUT LANDINGS are still tops in the state, with 6 million pounds in the books. Seward is in the second spot with 5.2 million pounds. Homer's halibut fleet has pulled in 20 percent of its allotted catch. The blackcod catch for Homer boats stands at 1.8 million pounds.