Coming up this week, Bristol Bay sockeye may have been late but they're finishing in record territory; the Fish Board took action to protect Togiak fishermen; and buyers are struggling to keep up with the number of chum salmon flooding Norton Sound. All that, and the details behind the long awaited peace treaty over MSC labeling.
A robust forecast, followed by what first appeared to be a season gone bust in Bristol Bay, culminated with a run of wild sockeyes exceeding 50 million reds, and the price to fishermen sank.
"Everybody's concerned with the price," said Dave Harsila, president of the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association, and a veteran Bristol Bay harvester. "I don't think anybody expected it to be that low, but that's what it is.
Two seafood industry trade associations have come to an agreement to transfer, effective for the 2016 season and beyond, ownership of the Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certificate for Alaska salmon.
The transfer announced July 21 by the Pacific Seafood Processors Association and the Alaska Salmon Processors Association is to be completed by Oct. 1.
The agreement will have no impact on sales for 2015.
Coming up this week, Bristol Bay sockeye strategically held back from hitting the nets until everyone doubted they'd show at all; Manakotak says “we can annex, too,” and getting to know our friends, the cannery workers. We had help KDLG's Molly Dischner and Dave Bendinger in Dillingham, and KFSK's Joe Sykes in Petersburg.
A massive cleanup effort is getting underway in Alaska, with tons of marine debris — some likely sent to sea by the 2011 tsunami in Japan — set to be airlifted from rocky beaches and taken by barge for recycling and disposal in the Pacific Northwest.
Five weeks into the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery, with a preseason harvest forecast of 40.5 million fish, the estimated catch was climbing ever so slowly, as fishermen and processors waited it out.
As of July 6, biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game were estimating the total Bristol Bay harvest to date at 9.1 million salmon, and the statewide catch of salmon at 20 million fish.
In another hurdle for Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic drilling program, an ice-handling vessel playing a key role in the operation has returned to Dutch Harbor after a gash was discovered in its hull.
The Fennica, a 380-foot Finnish vessel, was damaged Friday as it headed for the drilling grounds in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest Alaska coast, with a state-certified marine harbor pilot on board handling it. The vessel is one of 29 Shell plans to send to the area this summer.
Alaska's first shellfish hatcheries could be its last, given the impact of growing ocean acidification, according to a new report published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
The research -- by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Alaska and a shellfish hatchery -- found that in 25 years, Alaska’s coastal waters may not be able to support shellfish hatcheries unless costly new systems are put in place.
Staff of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council have begun working on a discussion paper for the council’s October meeting, exploring ways to index Bering Sea and Aleutian Island halibut prohibited species catch limits to a metric of halibut biomass.
Mediation talks are set to begin June 8 in Seattle regarding participation in a Marine Stewardship Council client group for Alaska salmon certification held by the Seattle-based Alaska Seafood Processors Association.
The Bering Sea is a tough, unforgiving environment. As Alaska Native peoples we have survived and flourished for thousands of years by sustainably harvesting this sea’s bounty, including the noble Pacific halibut. Our home, the island of Saint Paul in the Pribilof Islands, is located in the central Bering Sea in the heart of the nation’s richest commercial fisheries.
In Sunday’s guest column, the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association referred to trawl fishing as a grave threat and an “environmentally disastrous policy” that has devastated their halibut fishery and “plundered the Bering Sea.”
As a fishery scientist who has worked for more than 20 years with trawl fishermen to reduce salmon, crab and halibut bycatch, I find the recent rhetoric around proposed North Pacific Fisheries Management Council changes to the Bering Sea halibut bycatch cap very frustrating. In particular, I hear media campaigns underwritten by environmental NGOs claiming, “It’s been 20 years since the halibut bycatch cap was last reduced,” implying that this has created a conservation issue.
Shelikof Strait, in the Gulf of Alaska, is an important spawning area for walleye pollock, the target of the largest--and one of the most valuable--fisheries in the nation. This year, a team of NOAA Fisheries scientists went there to turn their usual view of the fishery upside-down.
Nowhere do people have as much opportunity to speak their minds to fish policymakers as in Alaska. And as a key decision day approaches, a groundswell of Alaska voices is demanding that fishery overseers slash the halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea.
Many Alaskans are speaking out against the more than 6 million pounds of halibut dumped overboard each year as bycatch in trawl fisheries targeting flounder, rockfish, perch, mackerel and other groundfish -- not pollock.
In the last ten years, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands trawl fisheries have killed and discarded 62.6 million pounds of halibut as bycatch. A significant percentage of these juvenile halibut, averaging a little less than five pounds, would have migrated over time to the east, populating the Gulf of Alaska, Southeastern Alaska, and eventually all the way to Northern California. So although the bycatch of halibut is occurring far away in the Bering Sea, its effect is being felt all over Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
While studying Chinook salmon in the Bering Sea, researchers have found themselves in the wake of an unlikely killer.
Andrew Seitz is a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who has spent the past several years studying Chinook salmon. He said the first sign of foul play came from satellite tags used in his research this winter. The tags gather behavior and migration data for the salmon, taking temperature and depth readings every two minutes — then relaying them to researchers by satellite later on.