Conscientious chefs, shoppers, and restaurant goers in search of sustainable seafood just got a heap of new options to choose from. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s highly regarded Seafood Watch program recently announced an unprecedented upgrade in the listing of 21 species of fish caught on the U.S. West Coast. The sustainable seafood ranking program no longer cautions consumers to avoid these species, thanks to improvements to fisheries management in the 14 years following the collapse of the entire West Coast groundfish fishery, when many species were considered dangerously overfished.
When Alaskans fish for salmon, most are hoping to bring home those gorgeous — not to mention delicious — red fillets for the barbecue, freezer, or canning jar. When the fish are cleaned, the long skeins of pink or red eggs often go overboard with everything else.
Not so in the commercial fishing industry, where salmon eggs — or roe — have become big business. Russia’s embargo of American seafood has been a setback to Alaska’s caviar industry, but demand for the product is growing elsewhere.
Something odd is happening in Northern Pacific waters: They're heating up. In fact, it hasn't been this warm in parts of the Gulf of Alaska for this long since researchers began tracking surface water temperatures in the 1980s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The warming began last year in the Gulf of Alaska and has since been dubbed "The Blob" by Nick Bond, of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean. Temperatures have been as high as about 5 degrees Fahrenheit (3 Celsius) above average.
Prices are down compared to last year due to the high supply, although not nearly as drastically as buyers had hoped, Canadian processors told Undercurrent News.
The president of a sockeye processor in Canada told Undercurrent sockeye wholesale prices are currently down 20 to 30% from last year’s price due to low supply, but the price is far less attractive than buyers had anticipated.
Leading companies from Alaska's USD 6 billion seafood industry have announced their support for a ban on Russian seafood imports to the United States and urged Russia to rescind its ban on US food imports, in force since 7 August.
The seafood companies believe such a move would not only further squeeze Russia's faltering economy as Russia threatens European stability, but would support America's sustainable, high-quality fisheries.
As Bristol Bay wrapped up its 2014 salmon season, with a harvest just shy of 29 million sockeyes, other fisheries in Alaska were picking up speed.
As of Aug. 12, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary salmon harvest added up to a total of 125,271,000 fish, including 72,541,000 humpies, 41,718,000 reds, 8,471,000 chum, 2,128,000 silver, and 413,000 Chinooks.
The final statewide harvest of 272,629,000 fish for the 2013 season included 219,160,000 pink, 29,257,000 sockeye, 18,578,000 chum, 5,353,000 coho and 281,000 Chinooks, according to ADF&G.
Russia last week banned imports of food for one year from the US, Canada, Europe, Norway and Australia due to sanctions they imposed due to its aggressive actions in Ukraine. That makes for a direct hit to Alaska seafood which last year exported nearly 20 million pounds of seafood to Russia, valued at more than $60 million.
Alexa Tonkovich is International Program Director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. The biggest impact, she says, will be on salmon roe.
Ocean acidification, the chemical transformation that occurs when large amounts of carbon dioxide are absorbed into marine waters, imperils Alaska’s fishing-dependent economy, says a new study funded led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Gov. Sean Parnell has asked a federal agency to buy about 1 million cases of canned pink salmon to ease a glut that has weighed down prices for Alaska fishermen this year.
Parnell made the request in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week. He wants the USDA to purchase $37 million worth of canned pink salmon under a federal law that allows for buying surplus food from farmers and donating it to food banks or other programs.
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.)
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.
Despite the name, don't confuse the Pinbone Wizard with the classic The Who song about a pinball phenom.
Although, once you see the machine in action, quickly and efficiently pulling tiny pin bones out of a salmon filet without wrecking the meat, it's hard not to walk away with the descending chord progression of the classic rock 'n roll song stuck in your head.
In Congress today, a bill that would allow foreign students to work in Alaska fish processing plants cleared a major committee. The provision is part of a spending bill now headed to the Senate floor. Both Alaska senators say they pressed for the return of the J-1 visa program to help meet demand for seasonal seafood processors. But the program is controversial.
J-1 visas are intended to promote cultural exchange. As the State Department explains it in promotional materials, it’s all about “hands-on experience to learn about U.S. society and culture.”
Frustration is growing in the Kuskokwim region of western Alaska, as subsistence fishermen challenged managers for more openings on the river that has seen harsh restrictions this season in an effort to conserve king salmon.
Managers heard their concerns at the Kuskokwim River Salmon Working Group meeting in Bethel Tuesday, but reiterated that their efforts were for conservation, as the king salmon run in the region appears on track to be abysmal going into the 2014 season.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks has a new bone removal machine receiving patents.
Larry Kozycki invented the Pinbone Wizard in the 1990’s. But when Kozycki died in 2001, the manager of the Geophysical Machine Shop at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Greg Shipman took over the development. Shipman says when he is current developer but Kozycki was the brains behind the original prototype.
Salmon prices at wholesale show marked seasonal variations for both wild and farmed fish. It’s a pattern that has been tracked for decades by Urner Barry, the nation’s oldest commodity market watcher in business since 1895. The prices tend to decline through June, July, August and September and they begin rising again from November through the following April or May.
Two things drive the well-established pattern, said market expert John Sackton, who publishes Seafood.com, an Urner-Barry partner.