Laine Welch

FISH FACTOR: Discarded nets find new use; still waiting on halibut quotas

More big bundles of old fishing nets will soon be on their way from Dutch Harbor to Denmark to be remade into high-end plastics. It will be the second batch of nets to leave Dutch for a higher cause and more Alaska fishing towns can get on board. Last summer a community collaborative put nearly 240,000 pounds, or about 40 nets, into shipping vans that were bound for a Danish “clean tech” company called Plastix. The company refines and pelletizes all types of plastics and resells them to makers of water bottles, cell phone cases and other items. “It seems so unreasonable and not logical to just throw it away when we know that if handling plastics right — if sorting and homogenizing it — you can actually reuse it over and over again,” said Plastix CEO Axel Kristensen. The collaboration with Dutch Harbor is the company’s first venture into the U.S., he told radio station KUCB. It was a news story about fishing nets being turned into footwear by Adidas that spawned the Dutch Harbor/Denmark connection, said Nicole Baker, founder of netyourproblem.com and leader of the net removal project in Dutch last summer. As a former fishery observer for five years, Baker had seen massive piles of derelict nets at far flung Alaska ports and the story inspired her to find a solution. “A light bulb went off in my head. I thought if this group is looking for more fishing nets to turn into shoes, I certainly know where they can get some,” Baker said. It turned out that Adidas can only use nylon nets it its footwear and fishing gear that targets cod, pollock and flounders is made of different plastics. With guidance and financial help from the Global Ghost Gear Initiative Baker connected with a taker and charted a course for Dutch Harbor. “I went to different boats and knocked on the door and said ‘hey, we’re doing net recycling, do you have any nets to get rid of, and if you do, would you go with me to the net yard and show me which ones they are,’” Baker said. From there, others in the fishing industry kicked in. “Swan Nets bundled them and delivered them to OSI (Offshore Systems, Inc.) where they were stored. They were loaded into containers and Trident and Plastix arranged the shipping,” Baker said. “They did not even require sorting. We basically bundled up the nets and put them in shipping containers and off they went.” Baker believes that fishermen have so few options for net disposal, they are becoming more receptive to recycling. “The reason that the nets are sitting around is because it costs too much money and preparation to take them to the landfill, or they literally do not have another option,” Baker said, adding that nets can weigh from 5,000 to 20,000 pounds each. At Dutch Harbor net storage costs were listed at over $1,000 per cubic yard. There have been many ambitious and successful marine debris and removal projects in Alaska over the past decade or more, but they come and go. Meanwhile, the old fishing nets continue to pile up. Baker hopes to expand the Plastix project to St. Paul Island this summer, and hopefully, to Kodiak and other fishing towns. “Each fishing port will have its own logistics plan but the general role will be the same,” Baker said. “You need somebody to truck the nets around, load them, ship them. Basically, I see my role as connecting fishermen with the recyclers. “This is a long-term vision,” she added, “but I would like to set up a program that when you buy a new net you know exactly what to do with the old one.” The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is now offering grants on fishing gear removal programs. Deadline to apply is April 19. Contact Nicole Baker at [email protected] Fish watch Hundreds more boats will be out on the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska fishing grounds this month when halibut and herring fisheries get added to the mix. They will join a segmented patchwork of fishing fleets that have been targeting pollock, cod and other whitefish since the start of the year. The Bering Sea snow crab fishery that got underway in mid-January is winding down, while at the same time, the first Tanner crab fishery in decades is just starting at Prince William Sound. The year’s first red king crab fishery kicked off at Norton Sound on March 3. The winter king salmon season in Southeast closes to trollers earlier this year on March 15 to help conserve the dwindling stock. That fishery usually stays open through April. Alaska’s first herring fishery will begin in mid- to late March at Sitka Sound. The projected catch is 11,128 tons, down from 14,649 tons last year. The Pacific halibut fishery is scheduled to open on March 24 but there’s no word yet on how much fish might be caught. Because U.S. and Canadian halibut commissioners could not agree in January on how to divide the stocks between the two countries, the catch limits and fishing regulations are being set instead at each nation’s capital. “The Canadians refused to agree to the U.S. recommendations because they don’t agree with the way the coastline stock is apportioned among the management areas. They haven’t agreed with the process for a number of years,” explained fishery adviser Heather McCarty. “The U.S. commissioners refused to vote for the one management area off Canada because they believed it was too high from a conservation standpoint.” The interim rule from NOAA Fisheries will hopefully be out this week with the new quotas and halibut charter management measures. “It will be close to sending out permits for the March 24 opening,” said Tom Gemmell, director of the Juneau-based Halibut Coalition. The 2018 Pacific halibut catches are expected to decline in all regions. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: State’s seiner fleet still slow to adopt winch safety gear

The most common piece of gear on a seine vessel is also one of the deadliest: the rotating capstan winch used for winding ropes. Anyone who has ever worked aboard a seiner has horror stories of close calls, or worse. “The deck winch is the most powerful thing on the boat. It’s the scariest piece of machinery that we work with. My feeling when I was caught in it was that I was completely helpless. There was nothing I could do,” said fisherman Noah Doncette, who participated in a video for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, called “The Most Powerful Thing.” “The corner of my raincoat caught under the capstan and started wrapping around. It snapped my head back and broke my neck,” said Randy Dobrylnia. “I was lifting the ring and I reached over with a pair of nylon gloves. My arm went down and started going around again and again. Then it jammed me against the deck and started to pull my arm off. It all happened in seconds,” said Gunnar Neilson. A simple device called an E-Stop has been available for more than 10 years to prevent deck winch injuries. “It’s a button that can be put on the horn of a capstan winch on a seiner. When the button is hit, it triggers a solenoid valve that stops the flow of hydraulic fluid to the winch and locks the capstan in place to prevent further entanglements,” said Ted Teske, a NIOSH Health Communications Specialist who invented the device. “It was in response to guys being wrapped in the winch and being pulled away from the controls back at the wheelhouse. This gives them an option right on the winch itself to lock the device and keep them from getting further injured,” he said. Between the years 2000 and 2014 there were 16 fatalities from winch entanglements in the U.S. In 41 percent of the cases, loose clothing or gloves were cited as the first thing getting entangled in the gear. But fishermen have been slow to adopt the devices aboard their seiners. In the Northwest and Alaska, only 50 to 60 E-Stops are being used out of a fleet of about 1,500 boats. Teske and his team are determined to find out why. “We are interested in talking to any seiners who have either installed one and what was the tipping point, and their experience using it, as well as guys who have considered it and did not install an E-Stop. Both perspectives are extremely valuable for us,” Teske said. “If we can identify the barriers, we can address them through other types of interventions – whether it’s risk awareness or developing rebate programs, or talking with insurance companies to see if they might offer a lower rate for installing safety equipment on their boats.” In a major success story for NIOSH’s Research to Practice initiative, all three major manufacturers in the Northwest now provide E-Stops as standard features on their new seine winches. Retrofits for older boasts cost around $3,800. The E-Stop outreach is part of a new multi-year NIOSH project to increase adoption of deck safety interventions in fisheries. Contact Ted Teske at [email protected]/ Ocean awareness challenge “Our oceans in a changing climate” is the theme for the seventh annual Bow Sea Ocean Awareness program, an online contest for kids aged 11 to 18 around the globe. The goal of the program is to create a generation of ocean advocates, said founder and president Linda Cabot, who created the program based on three guiding principles. “One was my love for the ocean and coastal communities. The second was a belief that youth have the power to change society. The third was to understand that art and creative literacy is a very powerful and necessary skill,” Cabot explained. She believes there is a general lack of education about the world’s changing oceans and was inspired to get young people involved by having them express environmental impacts through creative arts. Students are encouraged to submit entries individually or in groups in writing, art, poetry, film and music. “It can be self-driven, or teachers can use it as projects in their classrooms,” said program director Alyssa Irizarry, adding that submissions in multiple categories are welcomed. Last year’s contest attracted entries from 63 countries and 48 U.S. states, including several from Alaska. Irizarry said the ways in which the kids connected with ocean issues through their research and arts was “astounding.” “They are connecting emotionally and then becoming leaders in advocating for raising awareness and finding solutions,” she said. The program provides online resources and tools for students and teachers, along with a gallery featuring past winners. Cash prizes ranging from $100 to $1,500 are awarded in two divisions, along with $750 sponsor recognition awards. Deadline to enter the Ocean Awareness Student Contest is June 18. Get more information at www.fromthebowseat.com. Expo ideas The call is out for compelling ideas and speakers for Pacific Marine Expo, the largest commercial marine trade show on the West Coast which marks its 52nd year this November in Seattle. Topics can include but are not limited to safety, technology, marketing, boat building, climate change and more. “We strive to provide the most critical information and education every year and an important piece is hearing directly from mariners and service providers in the industry. The feedback provided in the Call for Proposals lets us know exactly what’s important to our customers. We encourage you to be creative and think outside the box!” said Denielle Christensen, Expo Director. Deadline for submissions is March 16. Visit www.pacificmarineexpo.com. Grants give back The Alaskan Leader Foundation is accepting applications from non-profits and projects for its annual grant giveaways in Kodiak and Bristol Bay. Funding typically goes to programs such as food banks, shelters, educational and youth programs, museums and recycling efforts. Alaskan Leader Foundation was founded in 2000 by six Kodiak fishing families and was joined in 2007 by the Bristol Bay Economic Development Foundation. Since 2009, the group has donated nearly $600,000 to local projects. Deadline to apply is March 30. For an application, contact Linda Kozak at 907-539-5585 or [email protected] Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: ASMI gives world buyers a taste of life in Dutch Harbor

The nation’s top fishing port welcomed seven European seafood buyers in late January — all women — and showed off its massive seafood industry during peak operations at Dutch Harbor. The women, whose companies import more than $60 million in U.S. seafood, hailed from France, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, and the U.K., said Hannah Lindoff, international program coordinator for the trip host Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “They are interested in Alaska pollock, cod, surimi, octopus, salmon, roe, black cod and king crab,” she explained. “The whole point was to show off Alaska and build relationships between these buyers and the seafood industry,” echoed Alice Ottoson-McKeen, the assistant program coordinator who made the trek to Dutch Harbor with the group. “ASMI often does trade missions, but this trip was really special because it was all women buyers and they could talk to one another about their shared experiences,” she said, adding that the trip was inspired by an inaugural women in seafood leadership summit last summer by Intrafish Media. The women spent four days in Dutch (including getting weathered in) at the busiest time of year when Alaska pollock, cod, crab and flatfish seasons are in full swing. “They didn’t realize how far away and remote it is. They were in awe of the landscape with no trees and all of the mountains and islands surrounding you,” Ottoson-McKeen said. “It’s obviously unlike anywhere else in the world.” The group experienced fish processing action on a massive scale at the Unisea and Westward processing plants, which handle much of the nearly 800 million pounds of seafood that crosses the docks each year. “They were really impressed with the size and scope of the operations and the degree of automation,” said Mayor Frank Kelty who also showed off Dutch Harbor’s cold storages, warehouses, container ships from around the world and the small town itself. “It was a real eye opener for them to see our world class facilities and the 24/7 activity in a bustling town of 4,500 people. They were a little amazed and frustrated with our spotty internet and cell phone connectivity. Welcome to our world!” Kelty added with a laugh. A highlight was time spent aboard fishing boats, including one bigger than 300 feet that catches and processes the fish at sea. “There was so much pride from the captains and crews in their jobs and their boats, and that was something the women were really impressed with. They could see that the people working in this industry really love it,” said Ottoson-McKeen. “Even getting stuck for an extra day was nice because we were able to meet up and have dinner with some of the crew we’d met, and talk in a more informal setting. That really added to the depth of understanding of our seafood industry.” Ultimately, the goal of the trip was to enlighten the buyers about Alaska seafood, and to entice them to buy more or try new products. “A lot of them already are buying Alaska seafood, but they saw firsthand how our industry cares about quality and sustainability and the environment,” she added. “They all are knowledgeable buyers, but seeing it at the source means so much more,” said Pat Shanahan, program director for the trade group Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers, who acted as a tour guide. “They got to see what they’ve been hearing about for years. Now they will be able to connect the story to the Alaska brand.” “We definitely felt like we created some wonderful Alaska seafood ambassadors,” added ASMI’s Ottoson-McKeen. Processors pay for doctors at the Bay During the salmon season at Bristol Bay, the number of people in the borough, which includes Naknek, South Naknek and King Salmon, surges from around 900 to 10,000 or more. That brings with it the need for more medical care. Many processors traditionally brought in their own doctors or relied on telemedicine programs. But that changed two years ago. “We approached the idea of bringing in an emergency room trained doctor and having him here locally and it’s gone very well,” said Mary Swain, executive director at Camai Community Health Center in Naknek, which staffs physician assistants and nurse practitioners. It was a spike in pricey medevacs, she said, that prompted the idea of having a doctor available from mid-June through the end of July. Medivacs can cost a company up to $40,000 to bring badly hurt or sick patients from the remote region to Anchorage. Now seven of Bristol Bay’s dozen processors each chip in $10,000 to bring in a doctor, including Ocean Beauty, Trident, Alaska General Seafoods, Leader Creek Fisheries, Alaska Marine Lines, Icicle and Peter Pan. The fishermen-funded/operated Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and the health center also contribute the same amount. “It pays for the housing, trip up here and the doctor’s time,” Swain said. A new satellite clinic also is located at Leader Creek “right in the processors’ backyard” for non-emergency cases, Swain said. The Camai Center and the clinic treated a combined 1,600 patients last year. Swain said getting the processing companies on board was an easy sell. “In fact, one of the processors gave extra money so we could get x-ray equipment at the clinic, and we are looking to potentially use that to bring in ultrasound technology next year,” she said. “Having a doctor in Naknek saves on medevac incidents and it also gets people back to work more quickly,” said Ron Nebert, plant manager for Ocean Beauty Seafoods. “There are also occasional life-threatening scenarios that a doctor is more qualified to handle.” For some, the clinic is the only place where they have ever had any kind of health care. “The people deserve it,” Swain said. “We saw a bunch of people last year who had never seen a doctor of any kind even for basic medical care. But we see that more and more as we bring other cultures and nationalities into Naknek to process salmon.” The clinic has ‘round the clock translation services available for more than 200 languages through Language Select to accommodate the mix of people who work in the Bay’s processing plants each year. Swain said they use professional recruiters to make sure the doctors are aware of the region’s remoteness, but it is still a surprise. “They think they have seen rural when they’ve been 200 miles from a hospital,” Swain said. “When they come out here and realize that we are so remote and isolated that you must depend on yourself, your skills, your knowledge, and that’s about all. The first doctor was very shocked. It’s a learning curve for all of them. But I think we’ve done a better job at vetting so people really understand what they are getting into.” This year’s doctor hails from Montana, Swain said. “He has worked with Indian health and on reservations,” she added. “He’s written a paramedic program for the community where he lives, and is very skilled in both what we see out here and emergencies in rural areas where he is the only person available. We are very lucky.” Fish watch Crab and groundfish dominate winter fisheries and hundreds of boats are out on the waters of both the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. In Southeast, fishing for rockfish could remain open through late March in some regions, and diving for sea cucumbers and geoduck clams continues throughout the Panhandle. Openers for golden king crab and Tanners will opened concurrently on Feb. 10. The harvest limit for golden kings is 70,000 pounds; a guideline for Tanners will be determined after a few days of fishing. Last year the catch came in at about 975,000 pounds, or 400,000 crabs. Southeast’s winter troll fishery for Chinook salmon will close on March 15 to help conserve dwindling stocks. That fishery usually stays open through April. Fishing for black rockfish is ongoing around Kodiak, Chignik and the Southern district of the Alaska Peninsula. There’s lots of action in the Gulf and Bering Sea for cod, flounders, pollock and other whitefish. Trawl fisheries opened on Jan. 20, but Gulf boats tied up for eight days before settling on an 11-cent pollock price, just a penny or so below the price in the Bering Sea. The season is winding down for crabbers targeting snow crab and Tanners in the Bering Sea. The year’s first opener for red king crab will kick off at Norton Sound in early March with a small 50,000-pound harvest. A bigger opener will occur in the summer and the combined catch will total 319,000 pounds, down slightly from last year. For fish meetings, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is convening through February 12 in Seattle. The state Board of Fisheries will wrap up its meeting cycle March 6-9 in Anchorage with a focus on statewide Dungeness crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish. The board also has a call out for proposals for its next cycle that targets fisheries at Bristol Bay, the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim, Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands. The proposal deadline is April 10. The Pacific halibut fishery will open on March 24 and run through Nov. 7. The year’s first herring fishery also will get underway when the fish arrive at Sitka Sound next month. The harvest is set at 11,128 tons, down from 14,649 tons in 2017. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Millennialls a major potential market for Alaska seafood

Millennials are now the nation’s “peak spenders” and they are gravitating towards healthier eating which favors more seafood. “We see year over year that there is this cohort aged 35 to 54 that is going to be spending far more across categories, including food expenditures, than any others,” said Will Notini, consumer insights manager at Chicago-based Technomic, a leading market tracker for over 50 years. The company has contracted with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to identify trends in seafood consumption and how best to position Alaska seafood in a changing marketplace. The bottom line is that America’s households are becoming much more diverse and changes in taste and technology will shape the future of seafood eaters. A presentation called the Seafood Consumer of the Future showed that there has been a 30 percent increase in seafood consumption by millennials in the past year, and 70 percent have changed their diets to eat healthier foods. The trend is especially noticeable with millennial preferences for proteins. Nearly 60 percent of those consumers said that seafood is healthier than beef or pork; 43 percent said the same for chicken or turkey. “We’re seeing that people are moving towards seafood and plant-based proteins. There are significant increases among those particular categories, so seafood should expect to see large growth,” Notini said. Technomic surveys also showed that 71 percent of millennials said they are more interested in where their foods come from and how they are grown or produced. “That’s why they buy things labeled as organic or specific sourcing,” he explained. “People are looking for those origins that are known to have high quality products, whether that’s California wine or Georgia peaches, and Alaska is strongly associated with seafood. There is an expectation that those sources will be displayed, whether it’s online, at grocery stores or at restaurants.” Another trend gaining traction among millennials is knowing what’s in their food. “They are looking at labels and ingredient lists, can they pronounce it, have they seen it before — these are tools that consumers are using to identify what in their mind is healthy, familiar and not processed,” Notini said. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed preferred wild seafood over farmed, and said it is important that their choices “don’t hurt the environment.” “In general, wild is the greater draw for consumers,” Notini said. “And I think that Alaska seafood is one of the labels that really speaks to that premium. But there is more education that needs to happen in order to assess the true value in wild caught versus farm raised.” Alaska seafood is very “on trend” in hitting the points consumers are tuned into, Notini added. A second phase of the ASMI study is digging further into the existing trends, he said, and asking consumers specifically about Alaska seafood and “how it fits into this landscape.” There may be some challenges with the growth of e-commerce shopping, but he believes Alaska seafood is better positioned than most others. Digital grocery usage last year increased to 23 percent, according to Technomic, and 43 percent of Americans said they do their online shopping in bed. Tanner trials Crabbers will help test the waters for Tanners next month at Prince William Sound. The fishery will open under a Commissioner’s Permit that is issued in special circumstances. It will be the first time since 1988 that commercial crab pots are dropped in western and eastern portions of outside waters. “Basically, it’s a fact-finding mission,” said Jan Rumble, area management biologist for Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet shellfish and groundfish at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Homer. “We don’t know what is out there and we want to find out. What we do know is there was a small amount of crab in the western district, but we are encouraging people to go and explore.” The trial opener was prompted by increasing numbers of Tanner crabs being pulled up in subsistence pots, and the fact that the department’s trawl survey does not focus on those two districts. “The survey last summer produced poor legal male results but some good numbers of pre-recruits. Much of the western area can’t be accessed with trawl gear and crabbers can help us investigate further,” Rumble added. The fishery, which will open March 1 and could run through the month, will be small scale and it is anyone’s guess how much crab it will produce. “There is no guideline harvest level. This is a fact-finding mission,” she emphasized. Crabbers must get a permit from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and will be required to call in catches daily. The fishery also is super-exclusive, meaning it is off limits to those who have dropped pots for Tanners elsewhere, such as at Kodiak’s recent fishery. “People in Kodiak who are vessel operators and their vessels cannot jump over and participate in Prince William Sound,” Rumble said. Crabbers also must show that they have a market for their catch and Trident is planning to process the crab out of Cordova. Decades ago the Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Yakutat regions kept local processors busy all year with big catches of Tanners, king and Dungeness crab. But stocks plummeted with the arrivals of huge schools of cod and pollock and have been slow to recover, if at all. The Tanner trial gives a glimmer of hope, but Rumble said people should not have unrealistic expectations. “This is exploratory and we are optimistic that we can get some information, but we also are encouraging people to understand why we are doing this and what we are after,” she said, adding that the results of the Tanner test fishery will determine what happens next. Contact Fish and Game in Homer to sign on or learn more at (907) 235-8191. Pebble Mine permit comments The public has until Feb. 20 to comment to the Department of Natural Resources on an application to continue exploratory mining activities near Iliamna. The activities include “the drilling of geotechnical and exploratory boreholes, re-activation of an acid rock drainage test site, and continued reclamation and maintenance activities,” according to a DNR release. Other authorizations requested include Water Use, Miscellaneous Land Use Permits, or MLUP, and Reclamation Plan Approval for exploration and/or care and maintenance operations. The DNR Division of Mining, Land and Water proposes to issue a MLUP for “exploration activity on state mining claims, as well as reclamation approval on state lands. Winter cross country travel on state lands not within state mining claims may also be authorized.” Comments can be mailed to the DNR Division of Mining, Land and Water, attention Hollie Chalup, at 550 W. 7th Ave., Suite 900B, Anchorage, AK 99501 or via email to [email protected] ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: US-Canadian impasse a first for halibut allocations

As expected, catches of Pacific halibut will decrease for this year, and likely into the foreseeable future. Following an increase in catches last year for the first time in several decades, the International Pacific Halibut Commission on Jan. 26 set a “suggested” coastwide catch for 2018 at 28.03 million pounds, a 10.7 percent reduction. Alaska’s share could be 20.52 million pounds, a drop of 2.1 million pounds from 2017. The numbers could decline further, as the six commissioners (three each from the U.S. and Canada) were not able to agree on catch allocations for the eight halibut fishing regions for the first time in memory since the IPHC began its oversight of the stocks in 1923. Halibut catch limits are based on summer surveys at more than 1,200 stations from Oregon to the Aleutians. “There was agreement that the general halibut stock is in decline, but no consensus on what the catches should be. Due to this impasse, the commissioners made suggestions for 2018 for their own countries,” said Tom Gemmell, executive director of the Juneau-based Halibut Coalition. “The Canadian’s main issue on harvest reduction is that they do not agree with the U.S. on the distribution of the stocks. However, all agreed that stocks are down and that reductions are needed.” Gemmell added in email posts from the Oregon meeting. “The bottom line is both parties agreed on what we needed to do in terms of reductions, but couldn’t agree on how to get it done,” said IPHC chairman Jim Balsiger. “That’s an awkward place to be, but I don’t believe for a second that any of the commissioners did anything other than what they thought was best and what they were required to do by their own ideals as we try to get to a solution.” The impasse means that each country will set its own catch guidelines within recommended limits. “The need to adopt quotas outside the IPHC process may result in a delay to the March 24 opening date,” cautioned Gemmell. The U.S. halibut fishery will close on Nov. 7. By all accounts, the five-day meeting was “spirited but agreeable.” “The U.S. and Canada are good friends and neighbors and we do not consider the result a failure,” said attendee Bruce Gabrys in closing remarks that met with sustained applause. “Principled people sometimes disagree. I do not see our relations changing irrespective of what path the IPCH takes as we move forward. We thank the commissioners for their efforts.” Here are the 2018 suggested catches in millions of pounds compared to last year by area with pounds in millions (2017 harvest, suggested 2018 harvest and percent change): 2A (Wash. to Calif.): 1.33, 1.19, -10.5 percent 2B (Canada): 7.45, 6.32, -15.2 percent 2C (Southeast Alaska): 5.25, 4.45, -15.2 percent 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska): 10, 9.45, -5.5 percent 3B (Western Gulf): 3.14, 2.62, -16.6 percent 4A (Aleutians/Bering Sea): 1.39, 1.37, -1.4 percent 4B (Aleutians/Bering Sea): 1.14, 1.05, -7.9 percent 4CDE (Bering Sea): 1.7, 1.58, -7.1 percent Total: 31.4, 28.03, -10.7 percent Total halibut removals in 2017 were 42.8 million pounds, up slightly from 2016. Of that, an estimated 26.6 million pounds were landed from commercial fisheries, 7.9 million pounds from recreational fisheries, 6 million pounds from bycatch, and 1.2 million pounds from subsistence. Gold mine comments due Few Alaskans even know of it, but the world’s biggest “pure” gold mine is being planned by two Canadian companies near Crooked Creek, a tributary 10 miles from the Kuskokwim River. The state plans to issue two draft permits for waste water discharges and waste management for the project and is taking comments now. According to KYUK in Bethel, one permit would allow 4,500 gallons per minute of treated wastewater to be dumped into Crooked Creek for the life of the mine. It also lays out the levels of contamination that would be allowed in the water. The other permit would regulate where other wastes from the mine would be stored. The draft permits also specify how that waste would be monitored. An environmental impact statement says that Crooked Creek and connecting tributaries are classified as essential fish habitat for five species of salmon and 12 other fish species. The Donlin mine, expected to operate for 27 years and yield nearly 40 million ounces of pure gold, would have a footprint of about 25 square miles. The open pit would be over two miles long, one mile wide and nearly 2,000 feet deep. A 30-mile road would be built to the site and include housing and offices, an airstrip, a barge terminal at Bethel, a water treatment plant and a port on the Kuskokwim for offloading. To power the mine, a 40-million gallon tank farm would be built on site for diesel fuel to be delivered via a 315-mile pipeline from Cook Inlet, including along the Iditarod trail from Skwentna to Finger Lake. The pipeline would cross streams for anadromous and resident fish species at 77 locations. Waste materials from the mine, called tailings, would be stored in a manmade pond held back by a 475-foot main dam and a 345 foot high upper dam. The pond will cover 1,356 acres and hold 110 million tons of waste materials forever. Donlin expects to receive a final impact statement from the Army Corps of Engineers in March. State and federal agencies will then decide on more permitting. Comments on the water discharges can be made to the Department of Environmental Conservation through Feb. 13. Crab shells protect meat An all-natural, crab shell-based spray keeps game meat free from bugs, bacteria and contaminants. Game Meat Protector is the latest product from Tidal Vision LLC of Juneau that uses chitosan, a wonder ingredient extracted from the exoskeleton of crab shells. “It protects game meat out in the field from spoiling, and it also prevents bugs and insects from landing and burrowing into it,” said Craig Kasberg, Tidal Vision president. “It’s a way for hunters to preserve the quality of the meat as it is being harvested.” The spray contains only water, chitosan and citric acid. “It leaves a thin film on the game meat, and because of chitosan’s natural, anti-microbial properties and low pH citric acid, it preserves the quality,” Kasberg added. One eight-ounce bottle is enough to cover an entire large game animal, Kasberg said, and it also can be sprayed on game bags for extra protection. The game meat protector is sold on Amazon and will be carried later this year by major outdoor outlets. Learn more about chitosan and Tidal Vision’s other products at tidalvisionusa.com. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Divers keep pushing for changes to Southeast sea otter plans

Sea otters and their devastating impacts on Southeast Alaska shellfish were among the many emotionally-charged topics at the state Board of Fisheries marathon meeting running from Jan. 11-23 in Sitka. The board was set to address 153 proposals for state subsistence, commercial, sport, guided sport, and personal use fisheries for the Southeast and Yakutat regions. Crabbers and fishermen who dive for lucrative sea cucumbers, geoduck clams and urchins again pleaded for changes to regulations to help protect their livelihoods from the voracious appetites of growing numbers of otters throughout the region. Olivia Olsen, who operates Alaskan Quota and Permits in Petersburg, summed up the problem in a previous conversation, saying, “Sea otters are really causing havoc. They are moving in and moving north and just wiping out the grounds behind them. It is a definite problem, a major problem.” About 400 sea otters were reintroduced to Southeast in the early 1960s after being nearly wiped out by fur traders. A 2012 estimate put their numbers at 25,000 and at a reproductive rate of 12 percent per year, the population likely tops 40,000 animals today. A 2011 report by the McDowell Group (the most recent analysis) said otter predation has cost the Southeast economy more than $28 million in losses to the Dungeness crab and dive fisheries since 1995. The report concluded that those fisheries and large populations of sea otters cannot coexist in the same waters, adding: “Once commercially viable numbers of geoducks, urchins, sea cucumbers and crab are gone, they are not likely to return while sea otters remain.” In testimony to the board, Kyle Hebert, dive fisheries research supervisor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, called sea otters “the greatest threat to the future of the dive fisheries,” and said that fewer areas are now open with declines continuing in southern regions. “Although geoduck clam and sea cucumber areas are still open in this area, the populations are steadily declining and with each survey that we conduct, we expect commercial harvest opportunities to drop,” Hebert added. Sea otters are listed as a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Nearly 20 Southeast organizations, municipalities and Native groups are on record asking for management changes to the federal sea otter plan so that it interprets the act for an ecological balance of all species, including humans. Many urge that the state take over otter management from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which they criticize “for doing nothing to rectify or implement a sustainable management policy since the mid-1990s.” The Ketchikan Borough has suggested that more Alaska Natives be allowed to hunt otters, the only ones allowed by law to do so. Only about 1,200 are taken annually, which does not keep up with the otter birth rates. In a 2017 issue paper borough manager Ruben Duran suggested that the blood quantum (percentage) for Alaska Natives be reduced from one-quarter percent to one-16th, or 6.25 percent, to allow for more hunting. The continued loss of revenue through lack of sustainable otter population management, Duran said, is likely to remove over 650 fishermen and other full-time related jobs in the region. “I know the department has to have a sustainable management plan in place, and we don’t argue with that, but our question is that you don’t have a sustainable management plan in place when you have sea otters,” said Phil Doherty, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association. Most decisions on sea otter management are beyond the purview of the state Board of Fisheries. Member Orville Huntington suggested that the otter population would eventually limit itself. “I think nature will take care of itself at some point,” he said. The 2016-17 Southeast Alaska sea cucumber fishery was valued at $5.3 million to fishermen, geoduck clams at nearly $3 million, more than $7 million for Dungeness crab and $677,000 for red urchins. Fish seats Seven people have applied for a seat on the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. Five of the applicants are from Juneau, including previous CFEC employee Yvonne Fink. Carol Petrabourg and Jeff Kasper are Department of Fish and Game Juneau employees. Dale Kelley is longtime director of the Alaska Trollers Association and Jim Sepal is a marine surveyor. Two applicants from Anchorage are Eric Olson, a former chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Werner Jon Dunham who operates Terratechnika, an earth science service company. The CFEC, which oversees a staff of about 20, was created by the Alaska Legislature in 1972, mostly as a means to control entry into salmon fisheries. It now regulates 68 fisheries including herring, crab, state water sablefish, shrimp and dive fisheries. The commission also issues and transfers annual fishing permits and licenses, rules on any appeals and collects commercial fishing data. The new commissioner will join one other: Fate Putman, a Juneau attorney and lobbyist. Stepping down in March is current CFEC chairman Bruce Twomley who has served for 35 years. He called the work of the CFEC “vital.” “Without Commissioners being able to pay attention and respond to emergency situations, fishing time is going to be lost for sure. This remains a demanding job. And it’s all about getting fishermen in the water,” Twomley told radio station KHNS in Haines. Gov. Bill Walker will make a selection in coming weeks. His choice must then be approved by the Alaska legislature. Seafood trends The whole point of catching fish is to get people to buy and eat it, both at home and at restaurants. Here are some of the latest trends for 2018, according to a Seafood Keynote report by Datassentials, a national market tracker. It combines the opinions and behaviors of over 1,000 consumers and hundreds of restaurant, retail, and onsite operators. Salmon remains Americans’ most seafood popular choice, but diners are interested in branching out to other fish and shellfish. Seafood also is becoming increasingly popular for breakfast and brunch, thanks to popular dishes like shrimp and grits, crab Benedict and salmon frittatas. Seafood is becoming more trendy in the growing snack market. Nearly 90 percent of consumers said they have snacked on seafood, such as popcorn shrimp, sushi or calamari. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said they eat seafood because it tastes good; 88 percent said because it is healthy. One-third of the operators said seafood sales increased over the past year. Two out of five said positioning seafood as a healthy, better-for-you choice is the most effective way to market it. The trend for seafood at more upscale restaurants is growing, but declining at fast food. Frozen seafood is perceived to be a great value, more convenient and to have a longer shelf life. “However, many consumers and restaurant operators still prefer fresh seafood, which means that there are opportunities for frozen seafood suppliers to educate restaurant buyers on specifics such as how quickly the fish was frozen and the story of where it was sourced,” the Keynote Report said. More consumers want to know where their foods come from. In a big plus for wild seafood, they also are seeking non-genetically modified foods “in droves.” People are demanding natural foods with fewer additives of anything, and are reading labels like never before. Healthy and light entrees are expected to grow at a faster rate through 2018, another opportunity for seafood. Touting seafood sustainability is still a rarity on U.S. menus, said Datassentials. Just over one percent use the word on menus, nearly three times higher than 5 years ago. The word “wild” is featured on more than 9 percent of U.S. restaurant menus and “local” at nearly 5 percent. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Seafood trimmings have huge uncaptured value

State seafood marketers are rebranding fish parts as “specialty” products and mapping a path for millions more dollars in sales. Alaska’s fisheries produce more than 5 billion pounds of seafood each year. When all the fish is headed and gutted or filleted and all the crab legs are clustered, it leaves about 3 billion pounds of trimmings. Some is turned into meal and oil, but for the most part, the “gurry” is ground up and discharged into local waterways. “Whether that’s heads or guts, milt, or meal or oil or something else, it should be held in high regard,” said Andy Wink, a seafood economist formerly with the McDowell Group. “These are products that are out of our normal range but they are specialty items serving niche markets.” A new Analyses of Alaska Seafood Specialty Products report compiled for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute takes a look at uses for fish heads, oil, meal, internal organs, crab products, roe, herring fillets, arrowtooth flounder, spiny dogfish and skates. It makes the point that Alaska’s combined seafood catches, valued at roughly $2 billion at the docks and twice that when processors sell to their buyers, could be worth an additional $700 million or more if so called “specialty” products were added to the mix. Take fish heads, for example. Alaska produces about 1 billion pounds of fish heads, which account for most of the processing waste. Just 1 percent is sold as frozen heads, although a single large salmon head can fetch up to $5 a pound at Beijing supermarkets. Increasing the frozen market alone could add $100 million to processors’ sales, the report says. Alaska processors produce more than 90,000 tons of fish oil,most ofwhich is burned as a substitute for diesel, or is sold into lower value commodity markets. A study by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority showed that fish oil used as fuel rarely must be processed further and is 75 percent as efficient as No. 2 diesel. Fish oil used as fuel in Dutch Harbor offset 13.4 million gallons of diesel fuel in 2015 and saved operators $44 million. But the payback for fish oils could be much higher. Producing more refined oils for human consumption could help Alaska cash in on the $1 billion supplement market, the ASMI report says, adding that the value of refined fish oil to Alaska could increase to well over $30 million each year. Arrowtooth flounder numbers have exploded for several decades in the Gulf of Alaska; the fish literally blankets the bottom of the Gulf of Alaska and competes for food with dwindling halibut. But arrowtooth has little market value because its flesh turns mushy when cooked, While it is considered a nuisance species, the fish has many unhailed pluses, said Wink. The 81 million pounds caught each year mostly as bycatch in trawl fisheries could provide more protein to the pet food, aquaculture and livestock feed markets. And the pesky flatfish has a pricy trim. “There is this line of frill meat around the edge of the fish that is a very valuable sushi product called engawa – it can go for upwards of $10, even $20 per pound,” he said. Other highlights: • Nearly 70 million pounds of skates are captured by Alaska fishermen each year, but only about a third are frozen flat and stacked in 50-pound boxes for sale. The wings are prized by fish and chips makers in the U.K. and also in upscale French restaurants. Fishermen usually are paid about 30 cents per pound for skates by Alaska processors. • Crab shells have the potential to be one of Alaska’s most lucrative specialty products due to high demand in diverse industries. The exoskeleton of crabs contains chitin, one of the most abundant biodegradable materials in the world. Chitin has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties and is insoluble in water. Uses include blood-clotting products, brewing refining agents, pool water clarifiers, food preservation, textile and fabric components, weight loss supplements and agricultural fungicide treatments. Prices for chitin and chitosan, a refined derivative, range from $10 to $3,000 per pound, depending on quality. • Alaska’s seafood catches produce 700 million pounds of internal organs such as milt, livers, stomachs and enzymes. Salmon milt is being used as a substitute for silicon in computers and in LED lighting. The ASMI report clearly lays out the challenges Alaska faces in fully tapping the specialty markets: industrial-scale production costs, additional labor, freezer/storage capacity, transportation, marketing – all compounded by the remoteness and the vast distances between fishing ports. A suggested solution, Wink said, could be a cooperative approach. “Co-ops could be a way to bring the raw material together, share the investment costs and hopefully, bring down the breakeven point on a lot of these things,” he said. The project goal was to provide a one-stop, user-friendly reference with key takeaways on volumes/values, uses, markets, challenges and opportunities for Alaska’s y seafood offerings. Wink likened it to trail blazing. “Some of these barely have trails. We want to widen the road so more Alaska specialty products so more can go out into the world,” he said. Side note: Andy Wink has left the McDowell Group after seven years to open a research and consulting practice that will focus primarily on the seafood industry. See more at www.winkresearch.com Taste o’ Tanners Kodiak’s Tanner crab fishery opened on Jan. 15 for the first time in four years and Alaskans can pre-order the tasty crab for pick up in Anchorage. “Our plan is to have the crab put up a few days after it opens, ship it to Anchorage and have it available at our office on January 29,” said Theresa Peterson, Kodiak Outreach Coordinator for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. AMCC has offered seafood “Caught by Alaskans for Alaskans” since 2010. Its Catch 49 “boat to plate” program is a Community Supported Fishery that offers pre-orders of seasonal local catches and creates more awareness between customers and fishermen. “The story of where the seafood comes from and who caught it accompanies each box. It tells a little bit about the fishermen who are involved in the program, and provides pictures of the families and boats and recipes,” Peterson said. “It also tells about the fishery and its importance to the community of Kodiak.” The 400,000 pound Tanner fishery will go fast since the cod crash has pushed more boats towards crab, which has a reputation for being especially tasty. The Kodiak crab is the first of several Catch 49 offerings made throughout the year. “Thus far they include Bristol Bay sockeye salmon, Prince William Sound spot prawns, Kodiak jig caught rockfish, Norton Sound red king crab, Homer halibut and Taku River coho salmon,” Peterson said. The 17 pound Kodiak Tanner crab boxes sell for $275 and must be picked up at the AMCC office in Anchorage. Orders must be made by Jan. 17 at Catch49.org or call (907) 277-5357. Salmon ballots The grassroots group “Yes for Salmon” delivered ballot initiative petition booklets signed by an estimated 40,000 Alaskans to the Division of Elections in Anchorage on Jan. 16. The group is pushing to update the state’s law governing development in salmon habitat. The law has not been changed since statehood in 1959. If the signatures are verified by DOE, it will qualify to put the question on the ballot before voters in the November election. Fish quickie The Trump Administration plans to offer 19 offshore oil and gas leases for sale from Southeast Alaska to the Arctic starting next year. One public meeting for Alaska is set for Jan. 23 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage. The Interior Department has stated it could remove some areas from the final plan depending on public feedback. Public comment on the leasing plan is open for two months. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Annual picks and pans

For 27 years this weekly column has featured news for and about Alaska’s commercial fishing industry. It began in 1991 in the Anchorage Daily News and now appears in more than 20 news outlets across Alaska, nationally and in the UK. Today, Alaska fishermen and processors provide 65 percent of our nation’s wild-caught seafood, and 95 percent of the wild salmon. The industry puts more people to work than oil and gas, mining, timber and tourism combined. Alaska’s diverse fishing fleet of nearly 10,000 vessels is made up mostly of boats shorter than 50 feet. Each is a small business that supports several families. For towns like Kodiak, Cordova, Homer, Petersburg and Sitka, where 500 to 700 vessels are homeported, boats are the majority of our downtown storefronts. Here are my annual Fishing Picks and Pans — a no-holds-barred look back at the best and worst fish stories of 2017 in no particular order, and my choice for the biggest fish story of the year. Best fishing career builders University of Alaska/Southeast for “on the go” iPad training for fishery technicians, boat hydraulics, electronics, vessel repairs and more. Kodiak College merits honorable mention for same. Biggest new industry potential Seaweeds. Kelp alone is a $5 billion global industry. Gov. Bill Walker will unveil a statewide mariculture plan in March for producing more seaweeds and shellfish. The U.S. Department of Energy already is eyeing Alaska for bio-fuels from macroalgae. Biggest fish break Electronic monitoring systems replacing fishery observers on small boats to track what’s coming and going over the rails. Best fish entrepreneurs Salmon Sisters of Homer. Even Xtra-Tuffs came calling for the sisters’ flair on its boots! Best fish visionaries Tidal Vision LLC of Juneau. Their list of Alaska crab shell-based filters, fabrics and an eye-popping list of other products continues to grow. Best fish legislators Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak; Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins, D-Sitka Best fish knowledge sharers Alaska Sea Grant and its Marine Advisory Agents Best fish giver Sea Share, for donating more than 225 million fish servings to needy Americans since 1994. The program began as a bycatch to foodbanks effort by Bering Sea fishermen and processors. Trickiest fish conundrum Protecting transboundary waters shared by Southeast Alaska and British Columbia. More than a half dozen huge mines are operating or being built directly upstream in B.C.; some straddle headwaters of the Panhandle’s most important salmon rivers. Most earth friendly fishing town Kodiak, for generating nearly 100 percent of its electricity from wind and hydropower, and for turning its fish gurry into oils and meals at a plant owned by local processors. Biggest fish WTF? Over 70 percent of active fishing permit holders call Alaska home, but most of the gross earnings go out of state. In 2015 Alaska fishing residents and crew grossed more than $602 million at the docks, while 6,580 Washington-based fishermen took home over $904 million. Scariest immediate fish threats Warming water temperatures are throwing fish behaviors and diets out of whack. Ocean acidification. The corrosion of shells and skeletons in sea creatures is already documented in the Pacific Northwest. Best fish ambassadors Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. The Alaska seafood “brand” is No. 1 on US restaurant menus. Seafood sales are Alaska’s top export by far, topping $3 billion. ASMI, funded primarily by the industry, promotes Alaska seafood in the U.S. and in more than 120 countries. Most counterproductive fish cut Alaska legislators zeroing out the $1 million state ASMI budget in fiscal year 2018. (see above) In contrast, Norway’s Seafood Council, funded by a tax on seafood exports, has a $55 million marketing budget. Best daily fish news sites Seafoodnews.com; SeafoodSource Town that best promotes fishing futures Sitka. Training young fishermen, marketing local catches, fish quality studies, supporting buy-in options for new entries; the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association helps lead Sitka’s investment in future fishing careers. Best fish watchers Cook Inletkeeper, Trustees for Alaska Most encouraging fish talks The Stand for Salmon and United Fishermen of Alaska educational outreach on the push to update salmon habitat and permitting laws for the first time since statehood (1959). Most unacceptable fish story Nearly 60 million gallons of detergents, road runoff, human wastes, pharmaceuticals and other Anchorage effluent being legally piped into Cook Inlet every day thanks to decades long waivers from the Environmental Protection Agency. Best fish economist Andy Wink, Senior Seafood Analyst, McDowell Group Best go-to-bat for their fishery The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, funded and operated by the Bay’s roughly 1,800 driftnet fishermen Best fish mainstream move Trident’s Fork and Fin food truck that is taking the message to the streets that overlooked Alaska pollock (aka “cod’s cousin”) is what’s for dinner. Most ill-timed fish story U.S. Navy war games held again in May as Alaska’s salmon season gets underway. The area covers 60,000 square miles off the tip of the Kenai Peninsula. The Navy is reportedly considering moving the training exercises to September. Biggest fish unknown Every Alaskan benefits from higher fish prices. Half of the taxes from all fish landings go into the state general fund and are distributed at the whim of the Alaska legislature. Biggest fish pipe dream Pebble Mine. “Wrong mine/Wrong place.” Best fish booster Alaska Symphony of Seafood by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation. For 25 years AFDF has showcased tasty new Alaska seafood products with a level playing field for the majors and small mom and pops. A new category highlights items made from byproducts, such as pet treats and salmon skin wallets. (Teaser: the 2018 Symphony winners will be announced at a gala soiree in Juneau in February.) Best veteran fish writers Margie Bauman, Jim Paulin Best new fish writer Elizabeth Earl Best fish mixer Pacific Marine Expo/Seattle, which has topped the half-century mark and continues to grow each year. Saddest fish story King salmon returns to Southeast Alaska at their lowest levels since the 1970s. Town that celebrates its fish best Cordova. Helicopters and hand delivered salmon herald the salmon season’s kick off! Chefs and media tours, restaurant revels, First Fish delivered to elders. Town that celebrates its fish least Kodiak. Fishing starts Jan. 1. No shout outs. Halibut opens in March, salmon in June. Ditto. No “first of the season fish” featured on Kodiak menus. Most important fish study Turning the Tide, which offers hope and guidelines for Alaska’s next generation of commercial fishermen. Find it at Alaska Sea Grant. Fish story of the year: The cod crash in the Gulf of Alaska, where annual surveys showed stocks of one of Alaska’s largest fisheries are down by more than 80 percent. The cod shortfall, blamed on warm waters over an extended period, is expected to last for three or more years. Alaska typically produces 20 percent of global cod catches. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Grant funds deckhand apprenticeship program

The clamor of “take me fishing” is taking on new meaning in Alaska. Prospects for a deckhand apprenticeship program just got a big lift from a $142,000 national grant awarded to the Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, or ALFA, and the group plans to get more boots on deck statewide. Deckhand apprenticeships are recommended as one way to attract younger entrants into an industry where the average fisherman’s age in Alaska is over 50. ALFA has been crafting a local deckhand training program since 2015, and the grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will be used to develop curricula and protocols for skippers and crew statewide, said ALFA outreach coordinator Alyssa Russell. Salmon troller Eric Jordan gets the credit for inspiring the program, Russell said, adding that he has taken out 25 greenhorns so far for short-term crew jobs on his F/V I Gotta. “Finding crew with some experience, who love fishing in Alaska, is so critical to the future of our individual businesses in the industry as a whole,” Jordan said. “This program gives them the taste of it. Deckhands know they like it, and skippers can recommend them for future employment. It is a win-win for everyone.” ALFA took Jordan’s model and developed it into a more formal ALFA program, and “tried to rope in other skippers and deckhands,” Russell said. “We want to give skippers the tools they need to mentor someone. For instance, safety procedures, crew contracts, and basic checklists of protocol for someone who has never been on a boat before.” Jordan said he has been inspired by the enthusiasm of budding fishermen is his many “experiential trolling” trips. He shared a quote from one: “Crewing was a dream come true. I had never been commercial fishing before; I had never even killed a fish. The days were filled with learning and fun. I learned how fishing works, the lifestyle about salmon and a lot more.” A report released this month called “Turning the Tide” highlights the “graying of the fleet” and recommends ways that a new generation of Alaska fishermen can enter the industry. The user-friendly study was compiled by Paula Cullenberg of Alaska Sea Grant, Rachel Donkersloot with Alaska Marine Conservation Council, and Courtney Carothers, Jesse Coleman, and Danielle Ringer of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Fishery values Alaska’s halibut and sablefish fisheries produced a combined value of $208 million this year, a 10 percent increase. At the same time, the value of Bering Sea fisheries crab tanked. The data come from the tallies of Alaska fishermen who hold catch shares of halibut, sablefish and Bering Sea crab. They each pay an annual fee to the federal government to cover management and enforcement costs for the fisheries. The fee, which is capped at 3 percent, is based on dock prices through September and averaged across the state. For halibut and sablefish, a payback at 2.2 percent yielded $4.7 million for coverage costs. “Enforcement costs for those fisheries went down by 44 percent from last year,” said Carl Greene, cost recovery coordinator for NOAA Fisheries in Juneau. He said bills recently went out to 1,894 quota shareholders, down 74 from 2016. It was sablefish, not halibut, that bumped up the value of the combined fisheries. “The total fishery value for halibut at $111.5 million was relatively flat year-over-year, while sablefish increased 24 percent going from $78 million to $97 million,” Greene explained. “That resulted from an 11 percent increase in pounds landed and a 12 percent increase in average sablefish prices.” Prices to fishermen for halibut decreased by 35 cents this year, while sablefish dock prices increased by 50 cents. “The halibut prices decreased to $6.32 per pound and sablefish increased to average $4.84 per pound,” Greene said. Federal managers don’t track dock prices for Bering Sea crab, only the total value of the fishery, which took a steep drop. The value for the 2016-17 season totaled $188 million, a decrease of $40 million from the previous year. The fee for crab catches paid by 18 quota shareholders remained flat at 1.6 percent and yielded $3 million for enforcement costs. For just the second year, groups of big Bering Sea trawlers that fish for flounders, pollock and other whitefish, including vessels owned by CDQ groups, are pitching in for fishery coverage costs. Their fee of roughly one percent yielded just over $2 million. Fish watch It’s holiday time, but many Alaska fishermen are still out on the water and more openers are coming on line. Catch forecasts for 2018 also are trickling in almost daily from state and federal fishery managers. Trawlers are still able to fish for flounders, mackerel, perch and other whitefish, and cod is open to longline, jig and pot gears through Dec. 31. Then, the very next day, on Jan. 1, a cod season will reopen in both the Gulf and Bering Sea. In Southeast Alaska, divers are still going down for giant geoduck clams and sea cucumbers. Salmon trollers got the good news that the winter chinook fishery will remain open until further notice. A downturn in king salmon has managers using extra caution with catches. A closing date for the fishery, which typically can run through April, will be set at the upcoming Board of Fisheries meeting in Sitka. Also in Southeast: the 2018 forecast for the Sitka Sound herring fishery is 11,128 tons, down from 14,649 tons this year. The Sitka herring fishery usually kicks off in March. At the state’s largest herring fishery at Togiak, the 2018 catch is pegged at 24,042 tons, up slightly from this year. Bering Sea crabbers will be back out on the water in January targeting snow crab and Tanners. Alaska’s largest fishery, pollock, will open Jan. 20 in the Gulf and Bering Sea, including at Prince William Sound, which has a 7.1 million-pound catch quota. The Board of Fisheries meets Jan. 11-23 in Sitka. The board will consider 153 proposals regarding Southeast and Yakutat fish and shellfish issues for commercial, subsistence, sport and personal users. Catch limits for the 2018 Pacific halibut fishery will be announced by the International Pacific Halibut Commission at its Jan. 22-26 meeting in Portland, Ore. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Kodiak, Gulf communities brace for cod disaster

Kodiak officials already are drafting a disaster declaration due to the crash of cod stocks throughout the Gulf of Alaska. The shortage will hurt many other coastal communities as well. Gulf cod catches for 2018 will drop by 80 percent to just under 29 million pounds in federally managed waters, compared to a harvest this year of nearly 142 million pounds. The crash is expected to continue into 2020 or 2021. Cod catches in the Bering Sea also will decline by 15 percent to 414 million pounds. In all, Alaska produces 12 percent of global cod fish. The bad news was announced by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which sets the catches for more than 25 species in waters from three to 200 miles from shore in the Gulf and the Bering Sea. “It’s almost like a double, triple, quadruple disaster because it’s not just one year,” said Julie Bonney, director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank. She added that the cod decline will decrease revenues for fishermen who use longline, pots, jig and trawl gear and make it more difficult for processors to fill their market demands. It also will be a huge hit to the coffers of local communities that get a three percent tax on all fish landings. Kodiak fisheries analyst Heather McCarty called the cod crash “devastating” for the short- and long-term. The cod decline is blamed on younger fish not surviving warm ocean temperatures that began in 2014. “It was different than other years in that it went really deep, and it also lasted throughout the winter. What can happen is the food source can deplete rapidly when the entire ecosystem is ramped up in those warm temperatures,” said Steve Barbeaux, a scientist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. The warm water also hurt cod egg survival and wiped out several year classes of juvenile fish. The harvest numbers for state waters (inside three miles) also will plummet as they are based on the federal catches. That will really hurt small boat fishermen. A breakdown by the Aleutians East Borough shows state water cod catches next year in the Gulf will total less than 10 million pounds compared to more than 48 million pounds in 2017. As further examples of how badly it will play out in some Gulf communities: At Cook Inlet the cod take next year will drop to less than 700,000 pounds compared to more than 6.2 million pounds in 2017. At Prince William Sound, the cod catch will be less than 1 million pounds, down from 4.3 million pounds. At Kodiak, the state waters cod catch in 2018 will be 2.2 million pounds, down from more than 12 million pounds in 2017. Kodiak City Council member John Whiddon said there are criteria for declaring a fisheries disaster prior to an event occurring, which include certain thresholds. “An 80 percent reduction in quota over the five-year average, which in this case is where we are, gets us to the level where we can actually get this letter out prior to the prosecution of the fisheries, so we meet that threshold,” he said at a recent Council meeting. The City of Kodiak plans to get a disaster declaration request into Governor Walker’s hands by the end of this year. Bristol Bay Fish Expo No. 2 It’s more than six months away but participants are already signing up for the second annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo set for early June at Naknek. The Expo was launched last year as a way to open the doors of the Little Angels Child Care Academy. “It was pretty phenomenal. We raised $17,000 and our goal was $13,000. It was awesome,” said Katie Copps-Wilson, an Expo co-organizer. The theme of last summer’s Expo was “Bridging the Bay” with an intent of better connecting the surrounding communities with the fishing and processing sectors. “It really gave the people, the businesses, the fishermen — people who come into our community year after year — a venue to get to know each other better and help celebrate the community,” she said. The first Expo attracted 44 exhibitors plus sponsors of various events that will be repeated this go around. “We had a ‘speed dating’ job fair for captains and crew. It went really well and a lot of matches were made,” Copps-Wilson said with a laugh. Another popular event was a fashion show that showcased fishing regalia and vintage items from around the Bay. That event, sponsored this year by Nomar Fisheries Gear of Homer, will expand to include wearable arts on the fashion runway. The 2018 theme is “Celebrating the Past; Sustaining the Future” and will showcase Bristol Bay’s processing history. Copps-Wilson said local processors are some of the Expo’s biggest supporters. “They had so much fun having booths and are already planning for next year,” she said. “It’s their opportunity to get out into the community and see people and visit. A lot of these people have been coming here their whole lifetimes and they’ve never been able to be in a such an interactive setting.” The Fish Expo dollars will always go towards sustaining the child care center, she said, and next year will also benefit the local Boys and Girls Club. “People really appreciate that it’s not just a trade show and who knows where the money goes. The money is going back into the community to help out kids’ services,” Copps-Wilson said, adding that the Fish Expo has surpassed all expectations. “I don’t think we realized what we created,” she said. “We were interested in finding a way to raise some money so we could open the doors for Little Angels, but it grew into this other thing and we had no idea how big it would be.” Bristol Bay Fish Expo is set for June 8-9 at Naknek High School. Registration is open now at a reduced rate through the end of January. Learn more at www.bristolbayfishexpo.com. Fishing almanac debuts The first Alaska Young Fishermen’s Almanac has debuted in time for holiday giving and it is selling fast. The 140-page book, published by the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network, includes stories, advice, recipes, photos and illustrations from across Alaska. The effort is touted as “a first-of-its-kind cultural touchstone that communicates and celebrates our unique, shared and cherished fishing ways of life”…and “it captures the ingenuity, persistence, humor and passion of the next generation of community and fishing leaders in Alaska and conveys the importance of community-based fishing livelihoods.” “It turned out so beautifully. I am so excited to see it finished and in people’s hands,” said Hannah Heimbuch, who participated in the project. “The vibrancy and beauty of fishing comes through from all of the contributions,” echoed Rachel Donkersloot, Working Waterfronts Director for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, which helped fund the almanac along with the Alaska Humanities Forum. “From the poems and short stories and the colorful photos that bounce off the pages. These are our young Alaska fishermen and they are so creative and courageous and funny and hard-working. We also collected great advice from some of our veteran fishermen. I’m just thrilled with the way it came out.” All proceeds from sales of the $25 almanac will go towards volume #2. Find the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Almanac at the Salmon Sisters website at www.aksalmonsisters.com/. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Pollock push continues with Seattle food truck

Alaska pollock is the nation’s largest food fishery, usually producing more than three billion pounds each year. The flaky whitefish dominates in fish sticks, fast food sandwiches and surimi “seafood salad” blends — but most Americans don’t even know what a pollock is. Trident Seafoods is intent on changing that by bringing the fish directly to the people. “It is the most abundant, certified sustainable species in the world. It’s our mission to show how this delicious, cousin to the cod fish can be enjoyed one serving at a time,” said Lo Reichert, Trident’s mobile marketing manager of the Fork and Fin, a retrofitted FedEx truck turned into a flashy mobile kitchen. The truck debuted a few weeks ago at Seahawks games outside of CenturyLink Field in Seattle. “We wanted a mechanism to go from sea to street and let us talk with people about the blessings of wild Alaskan seafood, and particularly, Alaska pollock,” he added. The small menu, priced at $9 to $10, includes fish and chips with Alaskan Amber beer batter, pollock burgers, crispy fish tacos, grilled Alaska pollock salad and one offbeat offering: peanut butter and jelly fish sticks. “It has fish sticks laid atop crispy fries, drizzled with a raspberry chipotle sauce and topped with crushed peanuts and a peanut sauce,” Reichert explained. The ultimate goal, he added, is to show people that they can easily whip up popular pollock meals at home. Reichert said the response has been wonderfully consistent. “They say ‘wow, I just tried this fish and it tastes very similar to cod. It’s delicious and it’s something I can make for my family,’” he said. All of the pollock entrees are big enough to be shareable, something that is done by design. “That becomes a part of getting the word out — literally word of mouth,” Reichert said with a laugh. The Fork and Fin food truck provides an “unexpected experience,” and helps educate people about an overlooked fish that is high in protein, low in fat and packed with heart-healthy omega 3s. For now, the Fork and Fin also is stopping at business parks and schools along Washington’s I-5 corridor, and used at charity events and fundraisers. Based on the good response, more trucks could soon be on the road in other regions. “My laser focus is to get more people eating more wild Alaska pollock in more ways more often, globally,” has been a mantra of Trident CEO Joe Bundrant for several years. See the food truck’s schedule of stops at www.forkandfin.com. Fish forum for all A forum next week in Kenai will highlight diverse perspectives on the push to modernize Alaska’s fish habitat protection and permitting laws, which have not been updated since statehood nearly 60 years ago. Many believe changes are necessary to reflect challenges posed by large resource development projects; others believe the laws are adequate as they are. While there is strong common ground among all Alaskans that salmon are a critical resource and their habitat should be protected, the devil is in the details as to what that protection is, said Lindsey Bloom, director of United Fishermen of Alaska’s Salmon Habitat Information Project, or SHIP, a forum co-sponsor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “Our objective is to provide a venue for the public to get educated about the habitat protections, how they are now and how they might be changed,” Bloom said. “We want people to discuss problems that exist and some of the changes being proposed, including state legislation and the ballot initiative.” The forum will include viewpoints from Alaska natives, conservationists, oil and gas, mining and fishing sectors, legislators and more. “The purpose is to have a good conversation,” Bloom stressed. “It’s not about getting people to agree with each other, or come to conclusions about a specific policy. It is a real opportunity for Alaskans to participate in their natural resource management and to have a voice in the process.” Last January at the urging of citizens, the state Board of Fisheries requested that the Legislature update Alaska’s Fish Habitat Permit Law also known as Title 16. It was introduced by Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, as House Bill 199 and is set for first hearings in the upcoming session. “The goal of SHIP is to ensure that commercial fishermen around the state have access to information and knowledge about what is happening, and also that they are at the forefront of weighing in on the legislative process,” Bloom said. “We want to ensure that we get to an end result that is in the best interest of all Alaskans, including commercial fishermen who are concerned about protecting their jobs and livelihoods.” The Kenai Salmon Habitat Forum is set Thursday, Dec. 14 starting at 5pm at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association Building. It will be live streamed on Facebook at UFA/SHIP. Salmon ballot push Meanwhile, a statewide petition is gathering up to 45,000 signatures to put the salmon habitat protection issue before the voters next November. “We have volunteers collecting signatures from Nome to Sitka,” said Ryan Schryzer, director of Stand for Salmon, a grassroots group that is the primary backer of the initiative. “I’ve been blown away by the response from volunteers who are fired up about collecting signatures. We had hundreds of books go out almost immediately,” he added. Schryzer said getting signatures from Alaskans is an easy sell. “When our volunteers talk about this initiative helping to put the standards in place that will encourage responsible resource development and protect salmon for future generations, people are all in and sign very quickly,” he said. The deadline to submit the petitions to the Division of Elections is Jan. 15 at the start of the legislative session. “I’m extremely confident we are going to hit our goal and that voters will have this option in front of them in 2018.” Find more on the ballot initiative at standforsalmon.org. Fish in court A California man has filed a class action lawsuit in San Diego against Bumble Bee Foods claiming its canned smoked red salmon is falsely labeled as wild-caught from Alaska and not smoked at all. Undercurrent News reports that the suit says the fish is actually farm raised coho from Chile with red color added along with smoked flavoring. It alleges that Bumble Bee is violating state marketing laws on false advertising and consumer protections. In the red flag from afar arena The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Trump Administration for allowing oil companies to dump unlimited amounts of wastes from fracking and drilling into the Gulf of Mexico. In September, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency OK’d new and existing permits to dump unlimited amounts of chemical-laden waste fluids into the Gulf. That adds up to more than 75 billion gallons a year. The filing claims the EPA has failed to conduct any meaningful review of the environmental impacts to marine species of dumping fracking waste into the water, a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. Common fracking chemicals are proven to be among the most toxic in the world to marine animals. In October Trump announced plans to auction off more than 76 million acres of Gulf of Mexico waters to oil companies. That lease sale, scheduled for March 2018, will be the largest oil sale in U.S. history and includes federal waters off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Fish correction The Recreational Quota Entity program, should it get final approval by federal managers, will provide an opportunity for halibut charter operators to purchase catch shares, but it will not automatically increase charter catches. The charter limits would go down by the same percentage as commercial fishing limits. Should the RQE program be implemented, it would begin in 2019 and not 2018. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: After rebound, halibut harvests may drop again

It’s going to be a tough year for many Alaska fishermen. Following on the heels of announcements of a massive drop in cod stocks, the industry learned last week that Pacific halibut catches are likely to drop by 20 percent next year, and the declines could continue for several years. That could bring the coastwide catch, meaning from Oregon to British Columbia to the Bering Sea, to about 31 million pounds for 2018. Scientists at the International Pacific Halibut Commission interim meeting in Seattle revealed that survey results showed halibut numbers were down 23 percent from last summer, and the total biomass (weight) dropped 10 percent. The surveys are done each year from May through September at nearly 1,500 stations from Oregon to the far reaches of the Bering Sea. While the Pacific halibut catches have ticked up slightly over the past three years, indications of a fall back have been noted, said IPHC senior scientist Ian Stewart. The biggest drop stems from a lack of younger fish entering the halibut fishery. Stewart said the 9- to 18-year-old year classes that have been sustaining the recent halibut fishery are not being followed up by younger fish. “In 2018, and especially projecting out to 2019, we are moving out of a fishery that is dominated by those relatively good recruitments starting in 1999 and extending to 2005. We see an increasing number of relatively poor recruitments stemming from at least 2009 and 2010,” he explained. Although they are not factoring them into their halibut catch computations, scientists for the first time are looking closely at environmental and habitat conditions, as well as trends in other fisheries. Stewart said warmer waters starting in 2007 appear to correspond to the lower halibut year classes. Most relevant to the drop in halibut recruitment in recent years, as with Pacific cod, are the effects of “the blob”. “Especially through 2015 to 2016 we saw that warmer water extending even to deeper shelf waters in the Gulf of Alaska,” he said. “We’ve seen a big increase the last several years in pyrosomes, which are these nasty gelatinous zooplankton, well documented sea bird die-offs and whale strandings. So some abnormal things are going on in the Gulf.” The IPHC does not always follow the recommendations of its scientists. Final decisions will be made at the annual meeting Jan. 22-26 in Portland, Ore. Sport halibut hike While commercial halibut catches are set to drop, charter operators will see an increase. A so-called Recreational Quota Entity program was approved by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council that will allow halibut catch shares to be purchased and held in a common pool for charter operators to draw from as needed. Under the plan, the RQE can hold 10 percent of the total commercial quota pool in Southeast Alaska and 12 percent from the Southcentral region, making it the single largest halibut-holding entity in the North Pacific. The program would be phased in over 10 years with transfers of one percent and 1.2 percent from each region, respectively. It is unclear where the RQE will get the estimated $25 million needed to buy halibut shares. Some have suggested a self-funding option such as a halibut stamp, similar to king salmon, or a voluntary tax. The RQE program is strongly opposed by commercial fishermen. In written comments, the Halibut Coalition’s Tom Gemmell stated that the RQE “undermines the goal of maintaining an owner-operated fleet, and will force fishermen to compete for quota against a subsidized entity.” Linda Behnken, director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, said charter effort has remained relatively constant or increased despite catch conservation measures. “Charter operators claim their clients need more harvesting opportunity despite low abundance, ignoring the obvious need for all sectors to conserve during times of low abundance,” Behnken said. Longtime fisheries advocate Clem Tillion called RQEs the “death of a small boat, owner-operated fishery” adding “Holland America and Carnival Cruise lines will buy the quota and hired hands will fish it, and the small boat fleet out of villages is gone.” The RQE plan is set to begin next year. Gender on the agenda Recognizing the roles of women in the seafood industry and making them more “visible” is the goal of the new group International Women in the Seafood Industry, or WSI, and input is being gathered from around the world. The non-profit, launched a year ago, was created by seafood and gender issues specialists to highlight imbalances in the industry, to shed light on women’s real participation and to promote greater diversity and inclusiveness. One in two seafood workers is a woman, WSI claims, yet they are over-represented in low-skilled, low-paying positions, account for less than 10 percent of company directors and a mere 1 percent of CEOs. “There is a gender imbalance,” said Marie Catherine Monfort, WSI president and co-founder. Monfort, who is based in Paris, has been working in the seafood industry for several decades, both as an economist and a seafood marketing analyst. “I noticed that in most meetings I was surrounded by men, and I could only see men speaking in most conversations. Women were very numerous in this industry, but not very visible. They are not taken into account by the policy makers and by employers as well. That was the main motivation,” she said in a phone conversation. To gather more perceptions on women’s roles in the industry, WSI launched a first of its kind survey in September at a World Seafood Congress in Iceland. It went so well, she said, that WSI decided to translate the survey into French, English and Spanish and expand it to the entire world. “The questions center around what is the position of women in your company, and what is your opinion of the situation of women in the industry. Are there areas where things could be improved, or maybe some feel there is no need for any improvement,” Monfort said, adding that responses by both sexes are welcomed. “It is very important to also collect men’s opinions, and it will be interesting to see if men and women have the same or differing opinions,” she said. “The results will help us cultivate a better future with equal opportunities and increase awareness of women’s roles in the seafood industry. The more we are, the stronger we will be.” The “Gender on the Agenda” survey is open through December, and results will be available by early March. Questions? Contact Monfort at [email protected] Crab wrap The Bristol Bay red king crab wrapped up after about five weeks and by all accounts it was an uneventful season. “Fishermen were seeing about what we expected from the survey, with a little bit slower fishing and pockets of crab without real wide distribution,” said Miranda Westphal, area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Dutch Harbor. The red king crab catch quota this year of 6.6 million pounds was down 22 percent from last season, and the lowest catch since 1996. The crab was “big and nice” said Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, a harvester group that catches 70 percent of the Bering Sea crab quota. No word yet on price and Jacobsen said negotiations will likely continue into January. Red king crab averaged $10.89 per pound to fishermen last year, the highest price ever. Jacobsen said the price is likely to be lower this year. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: DiCaprio backs farmed fish to save wild stocks

Recurring news headlines that have widely circulated about alarming declines of Pacific salmon have spawned a savvy new marketing strategy that tells consumers they can help save wild fish by eating farmed. Earlier this year actor Leonardo DiCaprio invested in a company called LoveTheWild (“a champion of sustainable, delicious fish”) that is promoting its oven-ready farmed fish dishes to U.S. supermarkets. “With LoveTheWild, we sought to create healthy and easy-to-prepare meals that people can feel good about — both in terms of how the fish is raised and how it tastes,” CEO Jacqueline Claudia told SeafoodSource news. The Denver-based company has now partnered with Amazon-owned Whole Foods Markets to sell its frozen fish dinner kits in more than 400 stores. (The dinners include Salmon with Coconut Red Curry, which features farmed fish from Norway.) Meanwhile, an investment fund called Aqua-Spark is backing LoveTheWild with $2.5 million to help them ramp up social media and marketing outreach to tempt consumers to opt for farmed fish at more than 6,000 supermarkets over five years. “The exploitation of our oceans has left many marine ecosystems on the brink of total collapse, and LoveTheWild is empowering people to take action on the crisis in a meaningful way,” DiCaprio said in a People Magazine splash earlier this year. In terms of salmon, “that is very misconstrued and quite frankly, wrong,” responded Michael Kohan, seafood technical director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “Farmed production is in a completely different arena. It has no basis in terms of a consumer’s decision making whether or not to choose a wild or a farmed product at the supermarket. “Alaska’s science-based management is a model of sustainability for other fisheries around the world.” Andy Wink, senior fisheries economist with the McDowell Group, said the “farmed saves wild push” is misplaced. “Their heart might be in the right place, but I don’t think they are thinking it through,” he said. “They forget that the fisheries they are trying to protect are just a very small portion compared to all the fish that are caught in Alaska. If you’re worried about that, just buy fish from a responsible fishery. Then you’re voting with your dollar to support those who are doing things right.” The economic importance of supporting sustainable fisheries gets lost in the farmed fish message, Kohan pointed out. “Alaska’s fisheries support over 60,000 jobs,” she said. “We have a huge community of people who rely on consumers eating wild fish to support their livelihood. You support wild fish by eating wild fish.” Whitefish wins Cod and pollock were the big winners at the 25th annual Symphony of Seafood competition last week at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle. The popular event, hosted by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, showcases new Alaska seafood products that compete in four categories. Judges chose Wild Caught Lemon Butter Cod from Alaskan Leader Fisheries for the top retail prize. “We take all the fuss out of cooking. You take it from the freezer and pop it in the oven for 35 minutes and you have a dinner for four. It’s the first time it’s ever been done. It’s beautiful,” said Keith Singleton, vice president of marketing. Alaskan Leader also took top honors in the Beyond the Plate category for its cod crunchies pet treats. The category highlights new items created from seafood byproducts. The treats are made from the trimmings of cod fillets that are minced and turned into jerky-style wafers. “The pets go absolutely crazy over it. They do spins and hurdles, whatever you want. It is pretty comical,” Singleton said. Alaska pollock (cod’s cousin) also was a big winner. Trident Seafood’s Hot and Spicy Pollock Fish Sandwich took first place in the Food Service category. Trident also won the Beyond the Egg category for its squeeze tube style pollock roe. Salmon also snagged a win. The Seattle People’s Choice award went to Jack Link’s Salmon Jerky made from Alaska sockeye. The goal of the Symphony is to create more valuable products and expand markets for Alaska seafood, and salmon is a “poster child” for that diversification over the past two decades. “It used to be that we had two different types of salmon, canned and frozen/headed and gutted, sitting in a crate on the floor at the grocery store, like pumpkins during Halloween,” said Bruce Schactler, Food Aid Program Director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “Now we have hundreds of new products that have created a several hundred percent increase in value.” Many second and third place winners also were selected at the Seattle event. Those, along with the grand prize winner, are being kept secret and will be revealed at a second Alaska Symphony of Seafood event in Juneau in February. Crab shares stall While it’s steady as she goes for the values of both Alaska salmon permits and high-priced halibut quota shares, there is little buy/sell/trade action for shares of Bering Sea crab. “It’s stagnant and that’s largely due to availability, and over the years there has been consolidation. Those people are in for the long haul. Likewise, the CDQ (Community Development Quota) groups and they don’t sell,” said Jeff Osborn at Dock Street Brokers, the “go to” guy for crab quota share insights. Also cutting into transactions are the declining Bering Sea crab catches. “Guys don’t want to sell on a low catch, even if the price of quota has increased. They’d rather wait till the quota comes back up.” Osborn said. Red king crab catches at Bristol Bay of 6.6 million pounds this season are down 22 percent. Snow crab at 19 million pounds is the lowest harvest since 2005. After a 20 million pound Tanner crab fishery just two years ago, the take tanked this season to just 2.5 million pounds. It’s hard to pinpoint a price for crab quota shares, Osborn said, since there have been so few transactions among the roughly 480 holders of crab quota. “Red king crab was pushing $70 a pound, but I don’t know if the market would bear that now. Snow crab would at least be in the mid-$20s, if not higher. But that’s a fair amount of speculation on my part,” he added. Osborn said that the “volatile biology” of the crab stocks and the potential impacts of an off-kilter ocean are “tough for crabbers to talk about.” “They aren’t ignoring it, but it’s kinda like what do you do? They wonder if and when it is going to affect the fishery and to what extent,” he said. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Upcoming Summit tackles ‘graying of the fleet’

The biggest classes of Alaska fishermen are phasing out of the business and fewer young cohorts are recruiting in. The Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit has convened over a decade to help stanch that outward flow, and facilitate a future for fishing leaders. The average age of a commercial fisherman in Alaska was 50 in 2014 compared to 40 in 1980. At the same time, the number of Alaskans younger than 40 holding fishing permits fell to just 17 percent, down from nearly 40 percent of total permits across the state. The Summit coming up this year Anchorage provides three days of fast-paced networking and skill-building for newcomers to fishing and those considering the occupation as a career, although everyone from “graybeards to greenhorns” are welcome to attend. “Age is secondary to what we are trying to accomplish and that is getting folks oriented to the whole suite of fisheries aspects from management to markets, as well as a real solid hit on looking critically at their business model,” said Torie Baker of Alaska Sea Grant in Cordova, which hosts the Summit. “If you’re thinking about diversifying your operation or getting into another fishery or upgrading, we have a lot of great folks who come and help us with all aspects of the business parts of it.” Besides business, the Summit focuses on Alaska’s role in world seafood markets, the latest science affecting fisheries and the regulatory process, which features a mock Board of Fisheries meeting. “We actually assign roles and have folks get up there and practice public speaking, and we bring in people who play those roles in real life,” Baker said, Networking with industry professionals and fishing peers is always one of the most popular Summit draws. “People get totally new perspectives about fisheries across the state,” Baker said. “Just for salmon alone, there are 26 districts from Ketchikan to Kotzebue, and our longline fisheries are all over the place. It is an eye opener for these folks to get together, compare notes and challenges and aspirations.” Fishermen’s concerns have changed over time, she said, and based on recent exit surveys, it is the environment that is now drawing the most interest. “There is definitely a sensitivity in the oceanography and physical processes going on out there. That’s the source from which this all comes,” Baker said. “We’re working with hunter/gatherers who connect the dots every day in their lives and livelihood.” The Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit is set for Dec. 6-8 at the Dena’ina Center. Cost is $125 for registrations before Dec. 1 ($150 after) and travel scholarships are available. Salmon watch The world’s biggest sockeye salmon fishery keeps getting bigger. The red run next year at Bristol Bay is projected at 51.3 million fish. That would produce another whopping catch approaching 40 million, 18 percent higher than the 10-year average and 41 percent more than the long term mean. Last year’s sockeye run to the Bay was in the all-time top five, with record surges to several rivers, especially on the west side. And more of the same is predicted. Area manager Tim Sands said he believes recent warmer winters are providing better conditions for baby salmon. “Early ice-out, late ice-in…having extra growing time in those higher, upper lakes made those fish healthier, bigger, and more competitive when they got to the ocean,” Sands told KDLG in Dillingham. Biologists admit that predicting Bristol Bay sockeye runs is a tricky science. This past summer, for example, 42 percent more fish returned than projected, yielding a 37 percent higher catch. Using salmon data from nine river systems in five districts, Bristol Bay managers have had a mean error of 14 percent in harvest forecasts since 2001. See a complete breakdown for 2018 Bristol Bay salmon runs at KDLG. Projections for pink salmon next summer at Southeast Alaska are less robust. Managers at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game are forecasting a catch of 23 million humpies, below the 10-year average of 38 million fish. Biologists said abnormally warm water temperatures may have reduced fish survival and are driving a sense of “uncertainty.” Pink salmon that went to sea from 2014-16 returned in numbers below expectations and below recent odd/even year averages, managers said. Man-made salmon is proving to be a flop for investors. AquaBounty, the makers of genetically modified Atlantic salmon, admitted they may never make a profit as they seek to raise $20 million from the sale of its company stock. Seafood Source reports that AquaBounty made the comment in its U.S. Securities Exchange Commission filing earlier this month. The decades-long lab project to create faster-growing, genetically-modified salmon has caused “significant losses” the company said in its filing, and they expect to continue losing “for the foreseeable future.” AquaBounty shares on the NASDAQ were at $5.18 in early November down from more than $20 in January. The first batch of so-called “Frankenfish” was sold to undisclosed supermarkets last summer, most likely in Quebec. The company reported that five tons of GM salmon were shipped from its farm site in Panama, generating $53,000 or roughly $4.82 per pound. No one besides AquaBounty knows where the GM fish were sold, and no labels are required to alert customers what they are buying. AquaBounty said it plans to produce 1,300 tons of GM salmon annually (nearly 3 million pounds) starting next year. The U.S. gave a nod in 2015 to the “safety” of eating Frankenfish making it the first GM animal approved for human consumption, but it has yet to make it to American markets. More than 80 U.S. grocery chains and restaurants, including Costco, have stated they will not sell the GM salmon. Hats off to highliners Two Alaskans have merited National Fisherman’s prestigious Highliner of the Year awards: George Eliason of Sitka and Bruce Schactler of Kodiak. Both have spent decades in the wheelhouse and on deck, but it is their work beyond the fishing grounds that sets each year’s chosen Highliners apart. For Eliason, it was due to his years of dedication in finding ways to help young fishermen afford to have careers in local longline fisheries. Schacter was recognized for the years of heavy lifting he has done on writing and advocating on legislation to benefit seafood marketing, along with helping to expand global feeding efforts with Alaska seafood. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Seafood jobs in 2016 mirrored decline in harvests

Fewer men and women went out fishing in Alaska last year, in a familiar cycle that reflects the vagaries of Mother Nature. A focus on commercial fishing in the November Economic Trends by the Alaska Department of Labor shows that the number of boots on deck fell by 5 percent in 2016 to about 7,860 harvesters, driven by the huge shortfall in pink salmon returns and big declines in crab quotas. Fishing for salmon, which accounts for the majority of Alaska’s fishing jobs, fell by 6.4 percent statewide in 2016, a loss of 323 workers. The only Alaska region to show gains in fishing jobs last year was Southcentral, which includes the Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet fisheries, as well as fishing boats out of Homer, Seward and Kenai. All of the region’s fisheries added jobs in 2016, even salmon, scoring the state’s second-highest total employment at 1,661 harvesters. Southeast Alaska had the state’s largest slice of fishing jobs in 2016 at 29 percent, or 2,275 fishermen. But that reflects a decline for the third straight year. The Panhandle’s harvesting employment dipped 0.8 percent in 2015 and then 2.3 percent in 2016, declining by 53 jobs. Fishing jobs at Kodiak fell by 8.5 percent in 2016, erasing the job gains of the few prior years. That reflected a poor salmon season, where fishing jobs dropped 14 percent, combined with slight drops in fishing for pollock, cod and other whitefish. Bristol Bay, where fishing jobs rely almost entirely on salmon, took the hardest hit last year. The 1,276 permits fished reflect a loss of 133 fishing jobs, or 9.5 percent. For Alaska crabbers, fishing jobs were down by nearly 19 percent to 464, a loss of 107 fishermen and the lowest level since 2009. That was due to lower crab numbers and a called off Tanner crab fishery in the Bering Sea. The crab cuts cost the Aleutians and Pribilof Islands more than 122 fishing jobs in 2016, a 7.8 percent decline. Looking ahead, state economics said reports of record catches and a 67 percent higher payday for Alaska salmon fishermen this year suggests a resurgence in harvesting jobs for 2017, while other catches, such as cod, appear weaker. Symphony of Seafood Fourteen new Alaska seafood products will be showcased and judged this week at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle. The products are competing in the annual Alaska Symphony of Seafood, hosted for 25 years by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation. In the foodservice category, the entries are Smoked Black Cod dip by Saltwood Smokehouse in Seward, Hot and Spicy Wild Alaska Pollock Fish Sandwich by Trident Seafoods and Alaska Sockeye Salmon Bites by Orca Bay Seafoods. Saltwood’s dip also is entered in the retail category, along with Kelp Campfire Salsa by Barnacle Foods of Juneau, Smoked Sockeye Trio by Trapper’s Creek Smoking Co., Wild Alaska Skillet Cuts by Trident, Jack Link’s Salmon Jerky by Link Snacks of Minnesota and Alaska Flounder Parmesan with Marinara by Orca Bay. The Beyond the Egg category, intended to introduce more roe products, attracted one entry — Trident’s Barako Style Wild Alaska Pollock Roe, meaning in a squeezable tube. Beyond the Plate entries highlight the many items that can be made from fish byproducts. Cod Crunchies Pet Treats by Alaskan Leader Seafoods is competing against three crab shell-based entries from Tidal Vision LLC of Juneau: High Tide, a plant immune booster, Game Meat Protector, a spray that prevents spoilage and repels insects, and Crystal Clarity, a 1 percent Chitosan Fining Agent for beers, wines and other beverages. Fish watch The eight-month Pacific halibut season ended on Nov. 7, with Alaska longliners taking 96 percent of their 17.6 million-pound catch limit. Kodiak led all ports for halibut landings topping 3 million pounds, followed by Seward and Homer. The industry will get a first glimpse of next year’s potential catches at the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting Nov. 28-29 month in Seattle, and final numbers will be announced in January. The Alaska pollock fishery called it a wrap on Nov. 1 with a catch topping 3 billion pounds. The pollock harvest is pegged at that amount for 2018. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will announce catch limits for pollock, cod, flounders and myriad other fish species under its purview during its Dec. 4-12 meeting in Anchorage. The state Board of Fisheries meets Dec 1-5 in Valdez to take up commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fisheries at Prince William Sound and the Upper Copper and Susitna River regions. A one-hour training session on “How to Navigate the Board Process is set for Dec. 1 during the noon break. Frances Leach of Juneau will take the helm at United Fishermen of Alaska, the nation’s largest commercial fishing trade association. Leach currently works in the commercial fisheries division at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Having grown up in a commercial fishing family in a coastal community (Ketchikan), I understand the importance of commercial fishing to Alaska’s economy and cultural heritage. The commercial fishing industry faces many challenges at the state and federal level, and I look forward to addressing these challenges as UFA’s Executive Director,” Leach said in a press release. UFA represents 34 member organizations from fisheries across Alaska and its offshore waters. Leach will begin her new job at UFA on Jan. 5. Got gas? “Not since the campfire scene in Mel Brooks’s film Blazing Saddles has the world been exposed to flatulence on such an epic scale.” So reads the recent headline in The Times UK announcing that, unlike cowboys eating gassy beans, in this case it is shellfish that are producing vast amounts of methane. Researchers off the coast of Sweden showed that underwater flatulence by mussels, oysters and clams produced one-tenth of greenhouse gases released in that part of the Baltic Sea, equivalent to 20,000 cattle. The Stockholm University scientists said they believe the shellfish are farting more robustly due to increased digestion of agricultural fertilizers in coastal waters. On a more helpful note, fish farts also are giving researchers and managers clues to fish distributions. ScienceShots, a publication from the American Association of the Advancement of Science, reports that a University of South Florida team picked up barely audible, cricket-like noises using a robot glider that sampled ocean sounds in Tampa Bay. The sounds lasted throughout a day and night, and were most likely from massive schools of menhaden and herring releasing gas from their swim bladders. NOAA estimates that of the 30,000 or so fish species in the world oceans, fewer than 1,000 have been recorded. The tiny cusk eel, for example, can sound like a jackhammer. A drum fish protecting its nest makes a mix of thumping and fog horn sounds. And for years the mating calls of cod fish have wreaked havoc for the Norwegian navy, because the love sounds are similar to enemy submarines. Researchers believe that tuning into the underwater soundscape can offer more clues to where sea creatures are and what they are doing. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon permit values soar, halibut quota slides

It’s steady as she goes for the values of Alaska salmon fishing permits, with upticks in the wind at several fishing regions. “There’s a lot of cautious optimism,” said Jeff Osborn of Dock Street Brokers in Seattle. As well there should be after a salmon fishery that produced 225 million fish valued at nearly $680 million, a 67 percent increase over 2016. Bristol Bay drift salmon permits trade more than any other due to the sheer volume (1,800) and it’s no surprise the value is increasing after one of the best fishing seasons ever. But they are not “rocketing up” in value, said Doug Bowen of Alaska Boats and Permits at Homer. “They’re over $140,000 right now, which is up from the start of the season when they were down around $130,000 to $135,000,” Bowen said. “But they are inching up and it seems there’s as many people who want to get into the Bay as there are who want to get out, and so the prices have kind of stabilized.” Osborn at Dock Street agreed. “They haven’t come up at Bristol Bay as much as I would’ve anticipated, but maybe that’s yet to come,” he said, referring to potentially strong 2018 salmon forecasts being released soon by state fishery managers. The trend appears similar for permit values at other major fishing regions. “It’s interesting that some years there can be a huge difference between a drift gillnet permit at Bristol Bay, at Prince William Sound or Area M on the Alaska Peninsula. For whatever reason, this year they are all about in that same $140,000 range,” Bowen said. Elsewhere, the slide in the value of Cook Inlet drift permits reflects three lousy salmon seasons, despite being able to stack permits and fish extra gear. “That wasn’t enough to save the day,” Bowen said. “Those permits started at over $48,000 before the season after getting all the way down to the low to mid $30s. They’ve inched back up to about $40,000 but that’s down from $60,000 to $70,000 just a year or two ago.” Kodiak seine permit values have increased from around $25,000 to over $30,000. At Southeast Alaska, Bowen said there’s not a lot happening for drift permits at $100,000 and seine cards have “slipped a bit to the $180,000 range.” Meanwhile, more fishing boat action is going on fueled by the extra $200 million or so circulating from a great salmon season. “We’re seeing interest in buying and building new boats or upgrading to a bigger or newer boat,” Bowen said, adding “there is definitely movement with gillnetters and seiners.” Some salmon paychecks Wrapups of the 2017 salmon season reveal some rewarding paydays for Alaska fishermen, with a few exceptions. Reports trickling out from regional Alaska Department of Fish and Game offices show that Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishermen were among the losers. A total catch of about 3 million fish was 13 percent below the 10-year average and the sockeye catch was the lowest in 10 years. The preliminary value to UCI fishermen of $23.7 million is down 21 percent. Lower Cook Inlet salmon fishermen fared better. Their 2.5 million-catch fetched about $4.5 million, nearly double the 10-year average. At Prince William Sound, nearly 800 permit holders caught more than 56 million salmon valued at $128 million. That averaged out to $74,000 for drift gillnetters, $54,000 for setnetters and $313,500 for seiners. At Chignik, 67 permit holders caught fewer than 900,000 sockeyes but more than 7 million pinks, five times more than usual. That paid out at nearly $16 million, or $236,000 per fisherman. Norton Sound’s 138 salmon fishermen shared the best payday ever at almost $3 million. On the Yukon River, 401 permit holders fished for chums this summer, with 388 at the Lower Yukon where the average paycheck was about $4,000. At the Upper Yukon, 13 fishermen each averaged $21,000 for their chum catches; both dock values were above the 10-year average. The biggest fish bucks went to Bristol Bay fishermen whose harvest of nearly 40 million salmon paid out at $215 million, double the 20-year average. High halibut stall Prices for catch shares of Alaska halibut remain in the nosebleed area but they’ve been stanched a bit, at least for now. “They seem to have stabilized somewhat at high ranges,” said Doug Bowen. “Seventy-some dollars a pound in Southeast, $60 in the Central Gulf and in the $40s in the Western Gulf. The values stairstep down as you move farther west.” A big nosedive in halibut dock prices also has rippled the market. Prices that had for several years been in the $6 to $7 per pound range dropped closer to $5 at major ports, and some halibut trips were even being turned away. “When they don’t care if you turn that boat around and drive away, then you have to start taking them seriously that there are issues in the marketplace,” Bowen said. The price pushback coincides with a broadside from millions of pounds of cheaper Atlantic halibut flooding fresh fish markets. “That has put a lid on the halibut quota share market and slowed down interest,” said Jeff Osborn. “But it’s still a seller’s market, within reason. There is quota out there at prices people aren’t going to touch. Still, the transactions that have occurred are at lofty prices.” Halibut fishermen will get a first glimpse of potential catches for 2018 and that usually causes a quota share price blip up or down. “If the survey results show it’s really strong for one halibut area or another, you’ll definitely see folks trying to buy to get out ahead of any price increases,” Bowen said. Recommended halibut catch limits for 2018 will be revealed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission Nov. 28-29 in Seattle Fish fanfare and funds The Fall Fishermen’s Expo is set for Nov. 7-9 at Centennial Hall in Sitka. The event, co-hosted by the Sitka Seafood Festival and Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, offers free workshops, training, celebrations and social gatherings, including a first Fishermen’s Job Fair to connect prospective employers and crews. American Seafoods Company is accepting applications for its latest round of grants to Alaska projects that focus on hunger, housing, safety, education, research, natural resources and cultural activities. Most grant awards range from $500 to $3,000 from a total pool of $38,000. Since 1997, American Seafoods has granted over $1.4 million to Alaska organizations and programs. The company also awards educational scholarships to rural Alaska students. Applications are available online or by contacting [email protected] or call 206-256-2659. Deadline to apply is Nov. 27. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Latest fishing facts by the numbers

Alaska’s fishing fleet of 9,400 vessels would span nearly 71 miles if lined up from bow to stern. And Alaska’s fishing industry catches and processes enough seafood each year to feed every person on the planet one serving; or a serving for each American every day for more than a month. Those are just a few of the fish facts highlighted in the annual “Economic value of Alaska’s seafood industry” report by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute compiled by the McDowell Group. The report breaks down the numbers of fishermen, processors, species caught, values, and more, by region in a colorful, user-friendly way that can provide every Alaskan with a better understanding of the seafood industry, especially policy makers. Here are some highlights: The Alaska fishing industry employs nearly 60,000 workers, of which nearly half are fishermen. Thirty-six percent of those fishermen live in Southcentral Alaska towns such as Anchorage, Homer, Kenai and Cordova, more than any other region. Most of Alaska’s fishing boats (2,688) are between 23 and 32 feet in length. Southeast Alaska residents own the most fishing vessels at nearly 2,700 and they also own more fish quota shares than any other region. Seafood processing is the largest manufacturing sector in Alaska, accounting for 72 percent of manufacturing employment. Processing includes 169 shore-based plants, 73 catcher-processors and more than a dozen floating processors. At Kodiak, fishing accounts for nearly 40 percent of all jobs; 48 percent of all processing workers are year-round residents, the highest number in the state. Salmon accounts for the greatest economic impact in terms of jobs, value and income, with pollock a close second. Alaska pollock is the largest single species U.S. fishery by volume. Seafood is by far Alaska’s top export; more than 2 billion pounds went to 105 countries in 2016, valued at more than $3 billion. Exports account for about two-thirds of the sales value, with the rest going to U.S. markets. Globally, Alaska pollock provided 44 percent of world supply in 2016, Alaska salmon provided 14 percent, cod at 16 percent and Alaska crab at 29 percent. Since statehood in 1959, Alaska’s seafood industry has harvested nearly 170 billion pounds of seafood. The largest harvest ever was in 2015, which topped 6 billion pounds. Of the numerous fishery taxes and fees, 40 percent goes to state coffers and is distributed at the whim of the Alaska legislature ($58 million in 2016), and 31 percent goes to local governments where the fish was landed. EM deadline approaching The deadline to sign up to use electronic monitoring systems next year instead of human observers to track catches is fast approaching. It applies to boats using longline and pot gear, but preference is given to vessels that are between 40 feet and 60 feet in length. “If you don’t get in by the Nov. 1 deadline you will not be eligible,” said Malcolm Milne, president of the Homer-based North Pacific Fisheries Association, which for several years has helped develop the EM system in Alaska. In trials, the video cameras proved they could track and identify more than 95 percent of the species required for fishery management decisions, and by all accounts, the system is easy to use. “Once your boat is wired you just turn the cameras on and they record everything coming over the rails,” Milne explained. “When the set is done the camera is off and at the end of your trip you mail in the hard drive to be reviewed. It took a trip or two to get used to the system, but after that you don’t even realize it’s there.” Also easy, he said, is the sign up, which takes about 10 minutes. “Anyone who is participating in the observer program already has a user name and password. You can go online and click on a button to opt in to EM and after a couple of quick questions you’re done,” he said. Even better, the electronic monitoring systems come at no cost to users. “It all comes out of the 1.25 percent North Pacific observer fee so we are paying indirectly, but there is no additional cost for having the electronic monitoring installed,” Milne said. So far about 110 longline and pot boats have signed onto the EM program and the new program will only cover as many boats as funding allows. Register by Nov. 1 with a phone call at 1-855-747-6377 or online at the Observer Declare and Deploy System (ODD). Crab con Bering Sea crab fisheries opened on Oct. 15 and eager markets await the first deliveries of snow, Tanner and red king crab. While national surveys clearly show that most Americans want to know where their foods come from, they won’t have a clue when it comes to Alaska crab. Customers can easily tell at retail counters where their salmon, cod and other fish choices was caught, and if the fish is wild or farmed. That’s due to Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL, laws, which went into effect more than a decade ago. But the laws do not apply to seafood that has been “processed,” no matter how minimally. “There is an exemption in the COOL laws for products that are cooked or otherwise altered — steamed, canned, things like that — and since crab are required to be cooked right after delivery they are not included,” explained Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, a harvester group that catches 70 percent of the Bering Sea crab quota. “When a consumer goes into a grocery store they don’t know if the crab comes from Russia or Newfoundland or Alaska. We think that American consumers will prefer Alaskan product and there are good reasons for that,” he added. The push to exclude products that are canned, pouched, smoked or steamed stemmed from a big push by the U.S. tuna fleet. “All we wanted to do was carve out crab, but they had a much more powerful lobby than we did,” Jacobsen said. The crabbers believe the public has a right to know, especially because much of the crab imported into the U.S. from Russia is illegally caught. In past years, an estimated 40 percent of king crab sold in world markets was from pirated Russian harvests. Jacobsen said the situation has improved but the crab import data can be deceiving. “There is still poached crab going into China and Korea and then finding its way into the U.S. But there is no way to tell if it’s legal or not because there is no traceability requirement,” he explained. Crabbers have taken their case directly to U.S. buyers and retailers and several, including HyVee and Publix, only source their crab from Alaska. Meanwhile, Jacobsen said the push to get U.S. labeling on Alaska crab will continue. On a related note: Tanner crab is spelled with a capitol T because the species crab was discovered by and named after Lieutenant Zera Luther Tanner, commander of the research vessel Albatross that explored Alaska waters in the late 1800s. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Dept. of Energy looks to seaweed as energy source

Kodiak is at the center of a national push to produce biofuels from seaweeds. Agents from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, ARPA-E, recently traveled to the island to meet with a team of academics, scientists, businesses and local growers to plan the first steps of a bicoastal pilot project to modernize methods to grow sugar kelp as a fuel source. The project is bankrolled by a $500,000 grant to the University of Alaska Fairbanks through a new DOE program called Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources, or MARINER. It has funded 18 projects to develop new tools to help the U.S. grow into a “world leader” in production of macroalgae (seaweed) as fuel, chemical feedstock and animal feed. “By further developing this untapped resource, the U.S. could eventually produce enough seaweed to handle as much as 10 percent of our demand for transportation fuel,” according an ARPA-E release. The group estimates the U.S could produce at least 500 million dry metric tons of macroalgae per year, which could yield about 2.7 quadrillion thermal units of liquid fuel. “The exclusive economic zone of the U.S. oceans (out to 200 miles) is equivalent in size to the nation’s whole land area,” said Marc von Keitz, ARPA-E program director. “Right now we are at the very early stage and it is a very manual, artisanal type operation. If we want to make large quantities so it is relevant for energy, we need to think about how we scale it up.” In 2014, the world produced 25 million wet metric tons of seaweed through a combination of wild harvesting and highly labor-intensive farming techniques. Current operations are not capable of supporting a viable seaweed-to-fuels industry. “The vision is to have a demonstration on the east and west coasts showing that we can grow large fields of seaweed in a way that is efficient and cost effective with petroleum and other energy enterprises,” said Alaska project leader Mike Stekoll, a biochemistry professor at UAS in Juneau. The first ocean tests will be conducted by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, WHOI, in Falmouth, Mass. “We are not sure yet what the final design will be, but it will be scalable to any size. These trial areas would probably be a couple hundred meters long and 50 or so meters wide,” Stekoll said. Kodiak’s role, in collaboration with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, will be to figure out the most cost-effective way to grow, harvest and transport large amounts of sugar kelp based on technologies applied in the fishing industry. “One of the things that intrigued us is that you have this very experienced fishing industry and experts who have done a lot of creative and innovative things on a wide variety of vessels,” said von Keitz. “We want to take that ingenuity and see if we can apply it to macroalgae. I think it’s a big opportunity. “We are not going to get there in two or three years. What is important is have a long-term vision and to develop stepping stones toward growth.” Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed, or KISS, is one of Alaska’s first stepping stones. This year the small growing operation by Stephanie and Nick Mangini produced the state’s first successful harvest of 15,000 pounds of sugar and ribbon kelp on a one-acre parcel. “It is so cool be a part of revolutionizing the way seaweed farming is done. These “out of the box” field tests will really make it happen,” said Stephanie Mangini. Part of the overall project will be to assess hazards to navigation and other potential obstacles in offshore and near shore operations. “As far as feelings of ‘not in my back yard,’ Stekoll said some places in Alaska are more receptive than others. “Kodiak is one of the places that sees the value in this sort of enterprise,” he added. Learn more about the potential for a seaweed industry in a new publication by Alaska Sea Grant titled “Seaweed Farming in Alaska.” Salmon protections proceed The proposed 2018 voter ballot initiative aimed at modernizing salmon habitat protections and permitting laws got a green light last week by an Anchorage Superior Court judge after it was rejected by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. The measure, pushed by the group Stand for Salmon, would update state laws for the first time since statehood in 1959. “I was delighted. I was jumping for joy!” said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, in response to the reversal. Stutes, who also chairs the House fisheries committee, introduced a similar measure last year as House Bill 199, the Wild Salmon Legacy Act. She said the pending voter initiative will “fire up” action by Alaska policy makers in next year’s legislative session, notably, those on the Senate Resources Committee who she claims are “adamantly opposed” to any move that might curtail or cut taxes on oil and gas development. “They would probably just shelve the bill,” Stutes retorted. “This gives us some leverage. The bill and the initiative are strongly supported by the public. If they don’t want to work with us, they are going to get the initiative. And the public is not as accommodating as we might be on the House Fisheries Committee. “My intent is not to put any resource out of business. My intent is if you are going to develop a resource, you have to maintain clean habitat for our salmon. It may require additional permitting, but we can work together.” The judge’s ruling could still be appealed by the state. Meanwhile, proponents must organize to gather nearly32,000 voter signatures to put the salmon protection measure before voters next November. It is possible that legislative action could preempt that need. “I believe that if we get something through the legislature the initiative won’t appear on the ballot,” Stutes said. She added that she is disappointed in a lack of follow through on “fish first” policies the Walker Administration laid claim to four years ago, pointing to the tanked salmon initiative and the threats posed to Southeast waters from upstream large mines in Canada. “I believe to the core of my soul,” she said, “that fishermen and others are seeing this as saying one thing and doing another.” Kodiak crab comeback? For the first time since 2013 Kodiak crabbers might be able to drop pots for Tanners in mid-January. “I’d say it’s the best chance we’ve had in the last five years,” said Nat Nichols, area shellfish/groundfish manager at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak. Crab stocks must reach strict number thresholds before a fishery is allowed to open. Preliminary data from the summer survey indicate two Kodiak districts might have enough legal sized males — the only crabs that can be retained — to allow for a fishery. “We will be looking very closely at the southwest and eastside to see if we can get to an exploitation rate that we are comfortable with and also gets us above that minimum 400,000 pound harvest guideline,” Nichols explained. The survey showed slight improvements at Chignik and the South Peninsula, but Nichols said again no Tanner fisheries will open there. It takes Tanner crabs six to seven years to reach a legal, two-pound size. Nichols said he believes Kodiak has a shot at a small fishery for the next two years. “After that, it looks like we might have a gap for a year or three before we get to the next recruitment pulse that would lead to a fishery,” he said, adding that there are encouraging signs for the future. “We are seeing a good bit of small crab in the water again this year,” he said, “but they are several years out from being legal.” ADFG will announce the fate of a 2018 fishery on Nov. 1. Fish correction The 2017 Gulf of Alaska catch quota for cod in federal waters is 64,442 metric tons (142 million pounds), down 10 percent from 2016; not 150,000 metric tons as was reported last week. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Fishing outlooks for some of Alaska’s largest catches are running the gamut from celebratory (salmon) to relief (Bering Sea crab) to catastrophic (cod). First the bad news. Stakeholders were stunned to learn that surveys yielded the lowest numbers ever for Pacific cod in the federally managed waters of the Gulf of Alaska, meaning from three to 200 miles offshore. Seafood.com was the first to report the bad news as the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting got underway last week in Anchorage. Fisheries biologist Steve Barbeaux of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle said the summer survey, done every other year, revealed that the cod year classes for 2012 and 2013 appeared to be “wiped out,” and the data suggest recruitment failures through 2016. Overall, the surveys reflected a 71 percent decline in Gulf cod abundance since 2015, and an 83 percent decline since 2013. The cod crash coincides with the record warm Gulf water temperatures in 2015, Barbeaux said. Preliminary estimates indicate cod catches in the Gulf of Alaska next year could drop by 60 percent to 85 percent, although the data must undergo further analysis and could change when final decisions are made in December. The 2017 Gulf cod harvest from federal waters was 150,000 metric tons (330 million pounds), which was down 20 percent from the previous year. The cod crash will be felt in waters closer to shore as well. “The state cod fishery harvest guidelines are based on the federal harvest level. So as that declines, the state harvests will decline as well,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Commercial Fisheries Division for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The state waters allowable cod harvest for 2017 is approximately 45 million pounds. Pacific cod accounted for 12 percent of Alaska’s fish harvests by volume in 2016, and 11 percent of the value. Alaska fishermen produce roughly 16 percent of the global cod catch. The 2018 cod catches in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands fishery are expected to remain the same at nearly 527 million pounds. Bering Sea crab breather Crabbers breathed a big sigh of relief when they learned last week that they will be able to drop pots for snow crab, Tanners and red king crab at Bristol Bay when the fisheries open on Oct. 15. Dwindling stock numbers had cast doubts that the fisheries would open at all for the 2017-18 season. For snow crab, a catch just shy of 19 million pounds will be the lowest harvest level since 1971. For bairdi Tanners, the larger cousins of snow crab, a small harvest of 2.5 million pounds will be allowed in the western fishing district, while the eastern region will remain closed. The Tanner fishery produced a catch of 20 million pounds two years ago. The red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay also is a go, albeit with another reduced catch. Fishery managers have OK’d a harvest of 6.6 million pounds, down 22 percent from last year’s take of 8.5 million pounds. Although they would like to have access to more of the crab, crabbers were pleased with the “ongoing progress and dialogue” with fishery managers, said Tyson Fick, executive director of the trade group Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers. “They will continue refining stock assessment and harvest strategies in a way that protects crab species for future generations while also allowing for more consistent fisheries in the future,” Fick added. Salmon celebration Alaska’s 2017 salmon season is being hailed as a “banner year,” which, except for chinook, produced strong catches across the state. The preliminary harvest is just shy of 225 million fish. “We were really pleased with how the salmon fishery went this year. The total harvest came in above the forecast and there were a number of all-time harvest records that were set,” Bowers said. The preliminary dockside value of nearly $700 million is a 67 percent increase over last season, and the third highest since 1975. The values will go even higher after postseason bonuses and other price adjustments are tallied. It is the third year in a row that the statewide sockeye salmon harvest topped 50 million fish. Sockeyes accounted for 48 percent of the total salmon value, topping $326 million. In terms of salmon sizes, Bowers said there were no surprises, unlike recent years where Bristol Bay sockeyes ran small and Kodiak pinks were porkers. “Nothing stood out as an anomaly this year,” Bowers added. Still, the total weight of the big salmon catch topped 1 billion pounds for only the third time. Other highlights: The pink salmon take of nearly 142 million ranks fourth in terms of poundage and accounted for 63 percent of the total harvest. The humpy value of $169 million was the third highest for fishermen. Chum salmon set a record with a catch of 25.2 million fish (11 percent of the harvest), valued at over $128 million (19 percent of the value). The coho catch of just over 5 million (two percent of the harvest) rang in at nearly $38 million (six percent of the value). The chinook salmon harvest of 251,141 fish has a preliminary value of $17.8 million. Prices to fishermen increased for all but pinks compared to last season (in parentheses). Chinook averaged $5.86 per pound ($4.88); sockeyes fetched $1.13 ($1.05); cohos were at $1.19 ($1.17); chums at 66 cents (61 cents), and pink salmon averaged 32 cents, compared to 34 cents per pound in 2016. Fish hurricane help SeaShare, seafood companies, freight transporters and cold storages partnered to donate and deliver 100,000 pounds (two million servings) of salmon, pollock and other seafood to victims of Hurricanes Irma in Florida and Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. SeaShare, a Seattle based non-profit, got its start over 20 years ago with a “bycatch to food banks” program and has since coordinated shipments of more than 200 million seafood servings to hunger relief programs throughout the nation. The group now wants to collect and send shelf-stable (non-refrigerated) seafood donations to ravaged Puerto Rico. “SeaShare is actively seeking donations for our fellow Americans who are experiencing severe food, water, fuel and electricity shortages in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” said executive director Jim Harmon. Those able to donate cans or pouches of seafood should contact SeaShare at [email protected] Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: No dog days for salmon after record chum return

Chum salmon returned home to Alaska this year in numbers never seen before from Southeast to Kotzebue, and set catch records statewide and in many regions. Chums, also called dogs because of their long use as a prime food source for Alaska Native dog teams, are the most widely distributed of all Pacific salmon and occur throughout Alaska. The fish usually comprise about 15 percent of the total salmon catch, and this year’s tally of almost 25 million is the biggest harvest since 2000. At Kodiak, for example, a chum catch of nearly 2 million was 37 percent higher than usual and the highest take since 1995. Southeast Alaska’s chum catch topped 11 million, and at an average price of 80 cents per pound, each fish was worth more than $7 to fishermen. Chums also helped push Norton Sound salmon fishermen to a record $2.8 million payday, the first time the dock value has topped $2 million. At Kotzebue, two buyers showed up for the first time in three years and flew off with a half-million pound chum salmon catch. And at the Yukon, fishermen harvested more than 1 million chums for a fishery value of nearly $700,000. “It’s a great year to have a record catch. The market for Alaska chums could not be better,” said Andy Wink, a fisheries economist with the McDowell Group. “Some years you have a situation where there is not enough demand to soak up all that you produce and prices come down. We might see a little price effect because it’s a record year, but factors coming into this season were really supportive for chums.” Topmost, the harvest in Japan, one of the largest chum producers, was down 30 percent in a run of several years’ bad catches. There is no backlog of fish in U.S. cold storages, and higher priced farmed salmon has buyers looking for other options. Wink said wild chum salmon from Alaska, often marketed with the more upscale name of “keta,” fits the bill. “Those high farmed prices raised the bar for everything else and it gets more people interested in doing something with keta, and it also benefits from all the sockeye promotions,” he said, adding that several big supermarket chains are doing a “salmon series.” “They will do promotions all season long and go from sockeye to chum to coho salmon,” he said. “That makes for a really nice progression.” The chum roe market also is ripe. Chum roe is the most valuable of all salmon and Japan’s harvest shortfall will boost demand for Alaskan supply. Wholesale prices for all salmon roe skyrocketed during the first four months of this year, according to Alaska Department of Revenue data. For chum roe, the price averaged $20.03 per pound, up from $15.44 at the same time last year. Halibut hurt For the first time in four years, fresh halibut prices are taking a tumble with reports of some Alaska buyers turning away deliveries. The stall stems from buyers’ response to exorbitant prices over an extended period. “We don’t even want it,” said a major Kodiak processor, adding that they are buying halibut only from longtime boats. Prices had dropped to the $5.70 to $6.10 per pound range, down from the more than $7 paid for several years running. “Halibut is too expensive. Many restaurants have taken it off their menus and many retailers stopped carrying it a while ago for the same reason,” echoed another major buyer. Not coincidentally, this year saw the highest opening wholesale prices on fresh halibut in four years at $9.25 per pound, compared to $8.10 last year and $8 the year before that, pointed out market expert John Sackton of Seafood.com. “The Alaskan halibut market got ahead of itself this year, and as a result, major foodservice customers have been reacting to the high prices,” he said. “Wholesale prices like that can push retail prices into the $30 a pound range for customers. Who in their right mind is going to pay that much for a pound of fish?” asserted Undercurrent News. Alaska’s halibut catch limit this year is just more than 18 million pounds. The fishery began in early March and this year ends on Nov. 7. Flies feed fish The global search for alternatives to wild fish as a meal source for farmed fish has found a winner – flies! A South Africa company called Agriprotein has just won a first ever “food chain global champion” award in Britain for its MagMeal, a main ingredient in fish and animal feeds made from flies that are reared on food wastes. “Insect protein is an idea whose time has come and we are now producing it at an industrial scale. This award is a vote of confidence in the waste-to-nutrient industry,” said Jason Drew, AgriProtein co-founder and CEO. Fishmeal accounts for 60 to 70 percent of farmed fish production costs (including Alaska’s salmon hatcheries) and each year a quarter of the world’s fish catches — 20 million tons — goes into fishmeal. It can take up to four pounds of wild fish-based meal to grow one pound of farmed salmon, and world growers are facing increased criticism to find other food sources. Tests prove that all kinds of insects can make a good feed but the high fat content in black soldier flies provides an extra nutritional boost. AgriProtein calls the U.S. the “world center” of protein consumers and organic wastes, a natural fit for its fly building business. The company has plans to build 200 fly farms in the US and Canada by 2027 to supply the $100 billion aquafeed market. Scientists from Idaho universities also are embracing a maggot-based fish feed that reduces billions of pounds of cow poop. Idaho is the nation’s largest rainbow trout producer and the fourth-biggest dairy state. In tests by animal waste management engineers, fly colonies quickly reduced 700 buckets of cow manure by half, and seeded it with their eggs. Two months later, fish guts from local farms were added to enrich the maggots with omega fatty acids. The resulting fish feed was “snapped up” by trout in test stations along the Snake River. The scientists said it “made sense since flies are a more natural food than corn and soybean meals.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

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