Wednesday marked the opening of the Bering Sea crab season. Quotas are up almost across the board. But one species that usually takes a backseat is outshining the rest -- and as KUCB’s Annie Ropeik reports, that’s got some fishermen changing their game plans.
Two years ago, there was no harvest for Bairdi tanner crab. Without enough legal females in the water, it wasn’t safe to fish.
When the season reopened last year, the quota was kept low. But now, Fish & Game biologist Heather Fitch says Bairdi seem to have bounced back:
Bering Sea crab and pollock stocks all appear to be on the upswing — good news for Washington-based fishermen whose Alaska harvests are mainstays of the multibillion-dollar North Pacific seafood industry.
The improved outlook means some bigger harvests.
The Bristol Bay red king crab harvest that starts Wednesday has a catch limit that’s 16 percent higher than in 2013. Other Bering Sea harvests unfolding in the months ahead for snow crab, blue king crab and tanner crab will have limits set from 26 percent to 480 percent higher than the previous seasons.
Authorities have raised the Bering Sea snow crab total allowable catch (TAC) by nearly 26% and boosted quotas for other crab fisheries for the 2014-2015 season, which begins Wednesday.
Crabbers in Bering Sea District waters this season will be allowed to catch 67.95 million pounds of snow crab, compared with 53.983m pounds last season, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) said last week.
After a year's absence, Unalaska now has somebody working at the Marine Advisory Program and at the Interior-Aleutians Campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. And they're the same person. Melissa "Missy" Good started work last week in the hybrid position
"Right now my plate's pretty open. I want to see what the community wants," said Good, who worked locally as the assistant area shellfish management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for the past 3-and-a-half years.
In the Bering Sea, it’s normal for pollock fishing to continue all the way up to Halloween. That’s what Krista Milani has seen in her time tracking the harvest for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Unalaska.
"I looked back several years, and that tends to be how it usually goes," Milani says.
But this season, the trawl fleet wrapped up a full month early thanks to an abundance of mature pollock.
Changes effective Dec. 1 in the Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries in the Bering Sea/ Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska will require owners of catcher vessel sector individual fishing quota to be on board, rather than a hired skipper.
The IFQ program had allowed initial recipients of catcher vessel halibut and sablefish quota share to hire a vessel master to harvest the annual allocation of IFQ derived from the quota share.
The Association of Village Council Presidents and the Tanana Chiefs Conference are petitioning for emergency changes to bycatch regulations in the Bering Sea.
The current Bering Sea chinook, or king, bycatch cap has two parts: a lower number that is the performance standard of 47,591 and a higher number, the hard cap of 60,000. By joining incentive plan agreements, or IPAs, pollock vessels receive a prorated share of the cap of 60,000. Any vessel that does not join an IPA receives a prorated share of the lower cap.
The last pots are being pulled today in Southeast Alaska for the end of the summer Dungeness crab fishery. It’s been the best season ever with a total catch for the year pegged at nearly 6.5 million pounds. That makes for a nice pay day for 150 crabbers who averaged about $3 a pound, up 50 cents from last year.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.