Voters could be asked to decide whether to ban setnets in certain parts of Alaska under a court decision made Wednesday.

The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, or AFCA, filed a ballot initiative petition in November seeking to ask voters whether to ban setnets in urban parts of the state, which would primarily impact Upper Cook Inlet setnetters.

The proposed open-pit copper and gold Pebble Mine will not be built, according to billionaire mining financier Robert Friedland.

"The United States Environmental Protection Agency has just killed the Pebble Mine in Alaska. It will not be built," Friedland said Wednesday during a presentation at the Sprott Natural Resource Symposium Vancouver.

Last Friday, the EPA suggested it might invoke a little used provision that may block the mine's construction.

One of the most prestigious colleges in the United States is using Bristol Bay’s massive salmon fishery as a teaching tool. KDLG’s Mike Mason has the story.

A new draft of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which guides fisheries management, was recently released by the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.

The new Senate draft is shorter than the April version, and has been released publically online. The act is up for reauthorization, and both the House and Senate have released amended versions.

The MSA authorizes the regional fishery management councils, including the North Pacific Fishery Management Council that makes decisions for federal fisheries offshore from Alaska.

The court will make a decision about reimbursements in the lawsuit over Steller sea lion protections after federal defendants and the fishing companies who sued them could not reach a decision during the original time allotted for the two sides to work it out.

The Alaska Seafood Cooperative, The Groundfish Forum and the Freezer Longline Coalition filed motions in February asking the federal government to reimburse them $1,208,409.87 for their attorney fees and costs in bringing the suit forward and arguing their case.

It came as no surprise when the first price postings last week tanked for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon to $1.20 per pound, with an extra 15 cents for chilled fish. That compares to a base price of $1.50 a pound last year.

The Bristol Bay catch topped 28 million reds by Friday, 11 million more than projected, and the fish were still coming. (Alaska’s total sockeye salmon catch as of July 18 was more than 37 million and counting.)

The Regulatory Certainty Act of 2014 has received an approval vote from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bill, introduced in June by Ohio Congressman Bob Gibbs, curbs the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. Specifically, it would prohibit the EPA from halting a project before the environmental permitting process begins, like what happened with the proposed Pebble mine, and limit the period of consultation to a minimum of 30 days.

Today the U.S. EPA released its proposed determination in the Clean Water Act 404(c) process, issuing draft protections for the Bristol Bay watershed related to the proposed Pebble Mine.

With recent culinary trends pointing to a heightened interest in domestic seafood sources, it’s worth noting that Alaska’s pristine Prince William Sound, home to more than 570 drift and set gillnet permit holders, is one of our country’s premier yet best kept secrets when it comes seafood resources.

Supporters of the embattled Pebble Mine project in Alaska are making a desperate effort in Congress and the courts to keep it alive in the face of warnings from the Environmental Protection Agency that it could devastate the finest run of wild salmon left on the globe.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are pushing a bill to keep the EPA from blocking the mine, despite opposition from Washington state lawmakers who say the project could be devastating to the fishing industry in their state.

Sport and commercial anglers will see additional restrictions to protect late-run Kenai River king salmon beginning this weekend.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that king salmon can not be retained on the Kenai River as of July 19 due to concerns about meeting the escapement goal for that species.

A new project aims to show fishermen how they can save money with do it yourself energy audits on their boats. And volunteer vessels are wanted to test drive some of the technologies and methods.
Just as with a home audit to try and understand where your energy is going, how your vessel is consuming energy and finds places where it might be wasted or not used as efficiently as possible, and frankly, most fishing vessels are not very energy efficient.

An advance sockeye price of $1.20 a pound has been posted at Bristol Bay by Alaska General Seafoods, with an extra 15 cents for chilled fish. Other processors are likely to match, according to reports from the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association. That compares to a base price of $1.50 a pound for Bristol Bay reds last year. The Bay catch yesterday was approaching 28 million sockeyes, 11 million more than forecasted and the fish are still coming.

The NMFS has posted the Total Allowable Catch for the king crab season. The report is available here:

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay recently announced it would intervene in a lawsuit filed by the Pebble Limited Partnership against the EPA’s use of its Clean Water Act authority in order to stop development of the proposed Pebble Mine. The group of tribes announced the move to help protect the strength of the clean water act. Heather Kendall-Miller is the Senior Staff Attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, which represents the tribal organization.

Sockeye catches through the Port Moller Test Fishery dropped off a bit on Wednesday compared to the huge catches recorded on Tuesday. 136-sockeye were caught on Wednesday. The catch at station 2 was 32-sockeye. That’s the largest daily catch of the season at that station.

This year’s sockeye run to Bristol Bay has exceeded the preseason forecast and 2 of the organizations that follow the run are projecting that there are several million fish still to come.

This weekend, 15 delegates from Russia, Canada and Alaska will travel to the villages of St. Mary’s and Kaltag, with stops in Anchorage and Fairbanks, in an effort to exchange information about the shared salmon resource.

The world’s biggest sockeye salmon run is expected to surge into Bristol Bay any day, where a catch of about 17 million reds is projected. Elsewhere, the annual summer troll fishery in Southeast Alaska kicks off on July first with a target of just over 166,000 chinook salmon.

Lots of crab fisheries are underway each summer — dungeness fishing began on June 15 in Southeast where a harvest of 2.25 million pounds is expected. The region’s golden king crab fishery will close on July 10, with a catch of about 234,000 pounds.

The ongoing Port Moller Test Fishery continues to record sockeye headed to Bristol Bay. Another 193 sockeye were caught on Sunday. The catch at station 2 was just 2 fish but the catch increased up to 26 sockeye at station 4. The catch at station 6 was 46 sockeye and the catch at station 8 was 63 fish. The catch at station 10 was 56-sockeye.

Catches appear to be tailing off at the Port Moller Test Fishery but there appears to be a sizable tail left to this year’s sockeye run. This has led to an updated in-season total run forecast of 38-million sockeye.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has published the proposed rule that would allow Bering Sea fishers some flexibility as they target flatfish.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council created the new regulation in April, which would allow Amendment 80 cooperatives and community development quota entities to exchange harvest quota for three flatfish species — flathead sole, rock sole and yellowfin sole.

It is scallop season again… July 1st marks the start of the fishery and so far it’s shaping up to be the same as prior years.Scallops

“The GHL for the 2014/2015 season in Kodiak is 185,000 pounds of scallops, and that is consistent with the GHL the last couple of years.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is pushing a new rule for ground fish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area that will protect Steller sea lions.

NOAA’s newly released publication says the intent of the rule is to “protect the endangered western distinct population segment of Steller sea lions and its critical habitat, as required under the Endangered Species Act.” The publication also says there is a concern to prevent a harmful economic impact of the fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands areas.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found that Alaska seafood is safe from Fukushima radiation, but a citizen's group plans to conduct a separate study of the water in lower Cook Inlet using a crowdsource funding site.

"The (FDA) results confirm information from federal, state and international agencies that seafood in the North Pacific and Alaska waters poses no radiation related health concerns to those who consume it," said a statement released by state health and environmental officials.

Monday was another big day for sockeye escapement to the Wood and Nushagak Rivers as both rivers have either met or exceeded their escapement goals. The upper end of the escapement goal for the Wood River is 1.5-million sockeye and Monday’s escapement of 158.5-thousand fish put the season total at over 1.7-million. That means that the Wood River is officially over-escaping.

A judge ruled Wednesday that a commercial fishing group should pay part of the State's cost for the lawsuit regarding management of the Cook Inlet salmon fisheries in 2013.

Alaska Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi issued an order asking Cook Inlet Fisherman's Fund to pay the state Department of Law $12,924. That amount was 20 percent of what the state spent defending itself in the fisheries management lawsuit, according to a Department of Law memo filed with the court June 18.

Ramped up testing this summer shows Alaska fish is free of all signs of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown three years ago. State veterinarian Bob Gerlach -
The results of the testing of the Alaska fish that were just collected look very good. There is no detection of any radiation that would have originated from Fukushima. That was very good news.