Seawatch

Board of Fisheries meeting on Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishery under way

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.

ASMI fights rumors of tainted Alaska fish

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.

Halibut quotas cut 23 percent from 2013

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;

Homer’s Don Lane named to IPHC

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.” 

2014 may be turbulent for seafood industry

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.

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.

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