Political group Bristol Bay Forever is sponsoring a ballot measure that would put additional environmental protections on the area known as the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve. The area, consisting of 36,000 square miles of land and rivers in Southwest Alaska, was established in 1972 as a way to protect the local salmon populations from the effects of oil and gas development. For any oil or gas company to get surface entry rights, they need to obtain a legislative declaration that says their activities won’t harm the fish.
Extreme Seafoods made waves as they entered the Bristol Bay fishery this year. The company, founded in 2013, purchased the Paug-Vik Corp facility in Naknek that most remember as the old Baywatch plant. A company email circulated around the fleet promised $2 per pound for sockeye, long before the season began, as well as a $5,000 signing bonus and up to a $10,000 advance. Payments would be made within weeks of each delivery, and a fleet of tenders, including two new vessels, would service both the Naknek and Egegik River fishermen.
Perhaps the biggest fish story this week is the Dungeness crab fishery in Southeast, which is seeing its best season ever. The total catch this year is pegged at nearly 6.5 million pounds for 150 crabbers who are getting about $3/pound, up 50 cents from last year. The summer dungie fishery closes August 15 and reopens October 1.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.