Laine Welch

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.

FISH FACTOR: Seafood Appreciation Month gets more love outside Alaska

October is National Seafood Month, a distinction bestowed by Congress 30 years ago to recognize one of America’s oldest industries. Alaska merits special recognition because its fishing fleets provide 65 percent of the nation’s wild caught seafood, more than all of the other states combined. Ironically, there is little to no fanfare in Alaska during seafood month. My hometown of Kodiak, for example, (the No. 2 U.S. fishing port) never gives a shout out to our fishermen and processors, nor do local restaurants celebrate seafood on their October menus in any way. That’s not the case elsewhere in the USA. To launch Seafood Month, 250 fans across the nation will be holding house parties on Sept. 30 to sing seafood’s praises, swap and compete with recipes and, ultimately, get more Americans to pledge to eat more fish. (Join the conversation at #seafoodparty) The house parties are sponsored by the non-profit Seafood Nutrition Partnership, or SNP, which has a single goal: to inspire Americans to include more seafood into their diets for improved health. The SNP operates grassroots programs in large cities in Alabama, West Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Ohio and Georgia. The group also will hold a series of Heart Healthy Summits during October in five states, sponsored in part by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “We are celebrating the third year of our public health campaign by coming together with the communities for a half-day session to learn about the progress that’s been made in each city, and how we can continue the movement of helping everyone understand the need to eat sustainable seafood,” said SNP President Linda Cornish. The message is getting across, based on annual tracking in the target cities. “We’re happy to share that one in three Americans over the past year has intentionally added seafood to their diets. That’s not to say they are eating it twice a week, but they’ve added more seafood to make sure they are eating healthier,” Cornish said. U.S. dietary guidelines recommend eating seafood two times a week, a suggestion followed by only one in 10 Americans. The Partnership’s Healthy Heart Pledge program has made a dent in that dismal statistic. Cornish said 60 percent of the survey respondents signed a pledge to eat seafood twice a week, bringing the total to over 38,000 so far. “We work in mostly landlocked states and there has been the perception that they don’t have access to good seafood,” Cornish said. “We’ve helped to dispel that notion with the facts that there are all kinds of seafood available from Alaska and around the country where it’s fresh frozen, easy to prepare and affordable.” The SNP also is taking its ‘eat more fish’ messages directly to America’s kids during seafood month. For the first time, districts in West Virginia and Oklahoma will feature seafood on their school lunch menus in October. “They are very excited to introduce seafood to their students,” Cornish said. “It takes time to build this awareness and also for them to figure out how they can incorporate seafood into their menus more. But it’s working.” The SNP launched a program and curriculum at the start of this school year that provides classroom-sized aquaponics systems for elementary and middle school grades. “It helps them understand how fish is grown and can co-exist with growing vegetables, so they can see it all living and breathing right in their classrooms,” Cornish said. Learn more at www.seafoodnutrition.org/ Fish bill lives A proposed ballot initiative that aimed to modernize Alaska’s 60-year-old salmon habitat protection and permitting laws was denied (and quickly appealed) last week, but the move remains very much alive in the Alaska legislature. Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, will be holding meeting around the state to build support for the Wild Salmon Legacy Act (House Bill 199) that she introduced last session. The draft bill says that it “protects the interest of subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fishermen while creating efficiency and predictability in permitting and enforcement.” “My intent is not to put any resource out of business. We all are trying to make a living here,” Stutes said in a phone interview. “My intent is to ensure that our fisheries continue in a sustainable manner with their waterways maintained in a clean, safe way.” The Legacy Act presumes that all state waterways are anadromous, meaning paths for salmon returning from the ocean to spawn in their home streams. It also specifies that the burden of proving a stream is not anadromous would fall to a developer. Stutes believes that will save the state millions of dollars. “Let’s face it. I think we have all come to the conclusion that we cannot continue to depend on oil as our mainstream income. We have to diversify. And in the meantime, we all have to tighten our belts. The state cannot continue to pay these huge costs,” she said. Under current law, each water body must be sampled and added to the Anadromous Waters Catalog. The catalog serves as the trigger for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s authority to manage fisheries habitat and issue permits. Currently, less than 50 percent of Alaska’s anadromous waters are now listed in the AWC. “Right there it’s going to save millions in labor just by saying that we will consider all waterways and streams are anadromous unless proven otherwise,” she said. Stutes, who also chairs the legislative Fisheries Committee, will be traveling to Fairbanks, the MatSu and Bethel in advance of next year’s session when many hearings will be held on the salmon bill. Crab knuckle biter Bering Sea crabbers have gotten a first glimpse at how their upcoming fisheries may play out. Crab managers and stakeholders met in Seattle last week to review results of the summer trawl surveys for snow crab, bairdi Tanners and red king crab at Bristol Bay. Overall, the slow-growing stocks appear to be declining, but there were several encouraging signs. For snow crab, Alaska’s largest crab fishery, the abundance of mature males, the only crabs allowed to be retained for sale, was at its lowest on record. The number of young male snow crab recruits, however, was the highest since 1995. The numbers of mature and young female snow crabs also showed big increases. Industry watchers say chances look hopeful that there will be a snow crab fishery, similar to or smaller than last season’s 21.5 million pound-catch. For bairdi Tanners, snow crab’s bigger cousin, the number of mature males dropped in both eastern and western fishing districts. The number of female crabs increased significantly, and young male Tanners also appear to be on an upswing. The Tanner crab fishery was called off last year, following a 20 million pound-catch the previous season. An opener this fall is still anyone’s guess. Likewise, a red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay is also an unknown. The fishery produced 7.6 million pounds last year. The summer survey showed the number of adult males at the lowest point in five years. Young male crabs, however, showed a 10 percent hike and the number of young females doubled, boding well for the future. Crabbers have their fingers crossed they will get to drop pots in all three fisheries, said Tyson Fick, executive director of the trade group Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers. “You have to look at these across multiple years,” Fick said. “Hopefully, the trends we’ve seen in this year’s survey will continue and that will allow for a little bump up in harvests.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Marine convention kicks off in Anchorage

A growing cluster of entrepreneurs is seeding prospects for Alaska’s new “blue economy” and it is attracting interest from around the world. Marine technology experts are meeting at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage this week as part of the Oceans ’17 conference and the conversations and a competition will continue into October. It’s a first visit to Alaska for the global event that is hosted by the Marine Technology Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Founded in 1884 by the likes of Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, the IEEE declares itself as “the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology for the benefit of humanity.” The theme of the free Sept. 18-21 conference is “Our Harsh and Fragile Ocean” and it will focus on how modern technology and traditional knowledge can combine to tackle such issues as climate change, increased Arctic vessel traffic, energy extraction and the new blue economy. “Globally, the oceans are being viewed as the last economic frontier. There is huge potential to develop the oceans in a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable way and our hope is that Alaska becomes a leader in this blue economy,” said Joel Cladouhos, director of Alaska’s Ocean Cluster Initiative, a collaboration of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, the College of Fisheries and Oceans Science at University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Global Entrepreneurs Institute at UA Anchorage. (The cluster holds Ocean Tuesday video talks at UAA that include multiple Alaska communities and countries.) Ocean Clusters are modeled after a concept that began in Iceland in the 1970s that create an “economic ecosystem” to connect “startup” people with a common goal. “We’re all familiar with marine ecosystems, but an economic ecosystem involves innovators and entrepreneurs and educators to create a foundation to grow businesses, innovate new products and grow from the bottom up,” Cladouhos explained. “Blue growth” is defined as the application and commercialization of new technologies and innovation to fisheries and marine science and engineering. It is said to be one of the fastest growing global sectors and is expected to triple in value to $3 trillion by 2030 (measured as marine based industrial contribution to economic output and employment). For Alaska, the blue economy includes traditional sectors such as fisheries, oil and gas, mariculture, coastal tourism and transportation, as well as new arenas such as robotics, biofuels, undersea drones, renewable energy and marine biotechnology. The ocean visionaries project such blue ventures for Alaska would boost the state’s economy by 50,000 jobs and $3 billion in wages by 2040. “Alaska holds over half the nation’s coastline and a third of the U.S. exclusive economic zone. There is huge potential to develop our oceans in a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable way,” Cladouhos said. “It’s time for Alaska to get on board with the blue economy because it has the potential to be bigger than oil and gas if we have the appropriate long-term strategy.” A conference presentation on growing Alaska’s blue economy is set for Sept. 21 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and will be streamed via Zoom video. Following Oceans ’17, a first ever Ocean Technology Innovation Sprint, or OTIS, will kick off on October 7. OTIS is based on the Google Ventures Sprint process that engages interdisciplinary teams to create prototype solutions to problems over five days within a three-week period. “The Sprint process works very well and is used by many corporations. It has not been tried anywhere else in the world and is an Alaska innovation, very cutting edge,” said Nigel Sharp, Global Entrepreneur in Residence at the Business Enterprise Institute at UAA. Applicants can apply to be in a pool of 30 Alaskans to make up teams that will “go through an iteration of a product cycle” in one of nine blue growth areas. Top prize is a trip to BlueTech Week in San Diego. “No experience needed. Just a passion and willingness to share ideas” is the OTIS logo. “Hopefully it will start a movement that allows Alaska to get a foothold into the global ocean economy and show we are a base for innovation and ideas,” Sharp said. Alaskans can apply to the Sprint at www.otis.blue through Sept. 26. Fish fine print Every year vessel owners must renew documentation with the U.S. Coast Guard with the boat’s name, ownership, tonnage, home port and other basic criteria. It costs $26 — unless you get scammed by a private provider that charges three times as much. Fishing groups are warning that is the case with an online company called U.S. Vessel Documentation. Fisherman Norm Hughes of Haines received a letter saying he needed to renew his documentation at a website called uscgdocumentation.us. and he paid $150 for a two-year renewal. Then he learned it was a legal scam. The outfit is sending misleading letters to boat owners across the country, said Steve Ramp, a Coast Guard spokesman in Sitka. “This company is making themselves look very close to an official letter from the Coast Guard when they’re not,” Ramp said. “They are not doing anything illegal. They are offering a service to the owners of documented vessels and they are performing that service.” U.S. Vessel Documentation spokesman Zachary Johnson called any mixups “regrettable.” “We don’t have the same logos. We have a completely unique and trademarked logo. We aren’t on a government URL or anything like that,” he told KHNS in Haines. Johnson said a disclaimer in small print at the bottom of the company website states that it is a private service, and it also is specified in the terms customers agree to when renewing their registration. He would not say why the company charges three times as much as the Coast Guard or reveal the number of complaints they’ve received. They extend to recreational fishermen. “We are actively trying to get the company to change its policies to make it more transparent. These third party companies are permitted to do this but the issue we have is they tend to look like they are official Coast Guard website and letters,” said Charles Fort, director of consumer protection at the U.S. Boat Owners Association. Bay watch The total sockeye salmon harvest at Bristol Bay topped 37 million, the third-largest catch in 40 years. Sockeye prices averaged $1.02 per pound, up from 76 cents per pound last year. That pushes the preliminary sockeye value to fishermen to $209.8 million, compared to $153.2 million last season. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon harvest tops forecast

Alaska’s salmon season is nearly a wrap but fall remains as one of the fishing industry’s busiest times of the year. For salmon, the catch of 213 million has surpassed the forecast by 9 million fish. Highpoints for this season are a statewide sockeye catch topping 50 million for the 10th time in history (37 million from Bristol Bay), and one of the best chum harvests ever at more than 22 million fish. The total 2017 salmon catches and values by Alaska region will be released by state fishery managers in November. Hundreds of boats are now fishing for cod with Sept. 1 openers at Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, Kodiak and throughout the Bering Sea. Pollock fishing reopened to trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska on Aug. 25. More than 3 billion pounds of pollock will be landed this year in Alaska’s Gulf and Bering Sea fisheries. Fishing also is ongoing for Atka mackerel, perch, various flounders, rockfish and more. Halibut are still crossing docks across the state, and Alaska longliners have taken 75 percent of the 18 million-pound catch limit. Most of the halibut catch (more than 2.5 million pounds so far) is crossing the docks at Kodiak, followed by Seward. Homer, which bills itself as “the nation’s top halibut port,” is a distant third for landings. The sablefish (black cod) catch is at nearly 70 percent of its 22.5 million pound quota. Both the halibut and sablefish fisheries continue this year through Nov. 7. Crabbers are gearing up for the Oct. 1 start of the fall Dungeness fishery in Southeast Alaska, and mid-October crab openers in the Bering Sea. The dungy fishery should produce more than 1 million pounds; the catch quotas for red king crab, snow crab and (hopefully) Tanners will be released in a few weeks. Shrimpers also will drop pots on Oct. 1 for nearly a half million pounds of big spot prawns from Southeast waters. Dive fisheries also open that same day for sea cucumbers, where a harvest of usually around one million pounds (“poke weight,” meaning drained) will be delivered over a few months. Smaller sea cucumber fisheries also occur at Kodiak, Chignik, the South Peninsula, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea with a combined take of 185,000 pounds. Seafood sways Getting people to eat your products is the goal of any food provider and industry watchers closely track what people are buying, and why. Latest reports indicate that more Americans are aware of the health benefits of seafood, and they will pay more for fish from well managed sources. That’s according to a new survey by Cargill, one of the nation’s largest producers and distributors of agricultural products. Seventy-two percent of more than 1,000 shoppers said they know fish is good for you; 88 percent said they are willing to reward good stewardship with their wallets. That figure rose to a whopping 93 percent of millennials. In all, 70 percent said where and how their seafood is sourced affects their buying decisions; 84 percent said they trust their seafood purchases are sourced in a safe and responsible way. Despite its popular pull, touting seafood sustainability has not transferred into U.S. restaurants. Market researcher Datassential reports that just 1.1 percent mention the word or a derivative on their menus, three times higher than in 2013. Other terms are more popular among diners: “wild” appears on 9.3 percent of seafood menus and “local” is mentioned on 4.6 percent, also up a third over four years. The sustainability concept is getting a wider push from chefs who launched Smart Catch under the James Beard banner in Seattle two years ago and now includes nearly 300 restaurants. The program lets chefs key in information about seafood purchases and quickly receive a good or bad rating based on data from the nonprofit FishChoice and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. The Smart Catch program “is well-timed, with growing consumer interest in both eating seafood at restaurants and learning more about the provenance of their food,” said Bloomberg News. Sustainability is a winning marketing component for Alaska seafood, which is regarded as a model for responsible management around the globe. “An increasing number of retailers and food service companies either have or are updating policies that include purchasing and selling sustainable seafood because consumers are increasing their demand for it,” said Jeremy Woodrow, communications director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Fish bits Global fish trade is projected to hit an all-time high this year, boosted by an economic recovery of key European importers and high prices of popular fish such as salmon. The Financial Times reports that the value of the world’s fish trade is expected to rise more than $150 billion this year as demand for salmon and shrimp increases, an increase of about 7 percent compared with 2016 and on course to eclipse the previous record of $149 billion in 2014. The global aquaculture market is expected to continue growing at four to five percent a year over the next decade and should exceed the 100 million ton mark for the first time in 2025. Salmon was second to shrimp as the most sought-after seafood product last week at Seafood Expo Asia, one of the continent’s largest trade shows. A survey of over 3,300 attendees at the Hong Kong event revealed that 41 percent wanted to purchase shrimp, followed by salmon at 40 percent. Scallops were third in demand (36 percent), fourth was abalone (34.6 percent), lobster ranked fifth (34.5 percent), crab came in sixth at nearly 34 percent, oysters finished in seventh place (30 percent), tuna was eighth (25.5 percent) cod was ninth with 25.3 percent. Squid rounded out the top 10 with over 24 percent of participants expressing purchasing interest. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that Asia will lead world seafood consumption by 2025. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Sea cucumbers as cancer fighters

Alaska sea cucumber divers could be helping to cure cancer! Sea cucumber meat and skins have long been considered a delicacy in Asian cuisines; they also are hailed for having healing properties that soothe sore joints and arthritis. Most recently the soft, tubular bottom dwellers are being added to the list of foods acclaimed to kill cancer cells. Dried sea cucumber or extract is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and an anti-inflammatory, said Ty Bollinger, a leading cancer expert and author of Cancer: Step Outside the Box. “Sea cucumbers are very high in chondroitin sulfate, commonly used to treat joint pain and arthritis. To my knowledge, they have the highest concentrations of any animal,” he said in an interview, adding that scientists have been studying the echinoderms for more than 15 years. “They have properties that are cytotoxic, meaning they kill cancer cells, and that also help stimulate your immune system. The sea cucumber does both,” Bollinger added. The cuke extracts have demonstrated the ability to kill lung, breast, prostate, skin, colon, pancreatic and liver cancer cells, reports Ethan Evers, author of The Eden Prescription. Credit for clobbering the cancer cells goes to a special molecule called Frondoside A isolated from the sea cucumber by researchers at United Arab Emirates University. In a 2013 PubMed.gov report, the researchers said Frondocide A was a “highly safe compound” that in lab tests significantly decreased the growth and migration of lung cancer cells. They said their findings identify it as “a promising novel therapeutic agent for lung cancer.” While sea cucumber capsules, powders and liquids can be bought over the pharmacy counter, Bollinger said you won’t see cancer credentials on the packaging because the claims have not been verified by federal health agencies. A scan of online retail shelves shows a varied mix of products and sizes typically selling between $20 to $40. Alaska Wild Caught Sun Dried Red Sea Cucumbers are priced at $75 to $145 per pound. Cukes sold to the food market fetch $25 to $110 per pound. There are nearly 1,700 species of sea cucumbers in the world’s oceans. Starting Oct. 1, up to 200 Alaska divers will be heading down for the red variety that thrives throughout Southeast waters. The animals, which can grow to 20 inches and weigh just over a pound, typically produce a harvest that tops 1 million pounds. The divers usually get more than $4 per pound for cukes, making the fishery worth nearly $5 million at the docks. It could be worth far more but sea otters have devoured virtually every sea cucumber from the Panhandle’s most abundant bays in recent years Count belugas Citizen scientists and whale lovers are invited to help count belugas in Upper Cook Inlet. The first annual Belugas Count! will begin at 9 a.m. on Sat., Sept. 9 with shoreside counts from 12 stations in Turnagain and Knik Arm using binoculars and aerial survey videos. From noon to 5 p.m., the Alaska Zoo will feature beluga related booths and events; the beluga tally will be announced at the end of the day. The free, all-day event is a collaboration by federal and state agencies and organizations to bring more awareness to the endangered beluga whales. “Belugas are a big part of what makes Cook Inlet a special place, but they need our help,” said Jim Balsiger, head of NOAA Fisheries in Alaska. “This event is a great way for the public to get involved and support beluga whale conservation.” The Cook Inlet beluga population numbered around 1,300 in the 1970s but has dwindled to just over 300 animals today, said Bob Shavelson of Cook Inletkeeper, which has been tracking the belugas for federal overseers for a decade. “They are not rebounding and we need to know what is going on,” Shavelson said. “We’ve seen virtually no change in industrial activity in Upper Cook Inlet as a result of the whales being placed on the endangered species list. The Municipality of Anchorage is still dumping up to 30 million gallons a day of treated sewage into beluga habitat.” Get more information about Belugas Count! on the NOAA website and on Facebook. Fish funds The national Saltonstall Kennedy grant competition — ongoing since 1954 — is calling for simplified advance proposals for its annual backing of projects that focus on the U.S. fishing industry. The money — about $145 million most years — comes from a tax paid to the U.S. Customs Service on seafood imports. About $12 million will fund SK grants this go around, ranging from $25,000 to $300,000 for two years. The popular program is always top heavy with academic and state applicants but it is trying to broaden its range, said Dan Namur, director of external funding for NOAA Fisheries. “Over the past two years we’ve tried to open the door and make it more accessible to everybody,” Namur said during an outreach trip to Alaska. “We’re really seeking applications that demonstrate a direct benefit to the U.S. fishing industry and that have a lot of involvement from fishing communities. “ Alaska received more than $1.5 million in SK grants last year primarily for fishery data collection projects. The call now is for two-page proposals that focus on four areas, including marine aquaculture and seafood marketing. “From marketing existing fisheries to developing new markets for a fish that is underutilized, as well as branching out into areas that we’re not tapping as well as we could,” Namur explained. Another funding target is environmental changes and long-term impacts on fishing communities. “That could be physical changes happening in the environment. It also could be socio-economic impacts on the working waterfront, the communities and the individuals who live there,” he said. A fourth SK grant priority is territorial science. “We’re looking for better information for data poor areas,” Namur said. “One of the things we found in our territories, whether in the Western Pacific or the Caribbean, we need better data to make solid management decisions.” Deadline for SK pre-proposals is Oct. 10. See www.Grants.gov. Video bling The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is holding its first video contest that showcases the fishing life. “Scenery and fishing is great but we also want to see more footage from processors and other parts of the industry. Alaska’s seafood industry may start in the ocean and on the boats, but it ends at the plate. It would be great to capture some of that in the videos,” said ASMI Communications Director Jeremy Woodward. Three winning videos up to five minutes long will be selected to be included in ASMI’s promotional programs around the globe. Cash prizes are $1,500; $1,000 and $500. Deadline to enter is Sept. 30. Questions? Visit www.alaskaseafood.org. Salmon watch Alaska’s total salmon catch has surpassed the preseason forecast of 204 million fish, topping 206 million salmon on Sept. 1 with lots of fishing left to go. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Bumper salmon hauls around state as season winds down

Alaska’s salmon season is winding down and while catches have made the record books in some regions, the statewide take will fall a bit short of the 204 million fish forecast. “We are within about 10 percent of the forecast, so that’s very positive and overall it’s been a pretty good season,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Commercial Fisheries Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The statewide salmon catch through Aug. 25 topped 191 million. The shortfall, Bowers said, again stems from the arrival of fewer pink salmon. “We were expecting a harvest of about 142 million, right now it’s at 114 million. We’re probably not going to catch another 30 million pinks between now and the end of the season,” he said. Still, the “bread and butter” catches are far better than last year when pink returns were so dismal, it prompted a disaster declaration by Gov. Bill Walker. This summer’s humpy haul at the three prime producing regions all are within the lower ends of the forecast ranges with Southeast’s take so far on its way to 28 million, Kodiak at 19 million and Prince William Sound nearing 42 million pink salmon (humpback whale predation is being blamed on lower pink salmon catches there). One big pink winner this year, Bowers said, is the Alaska Peninsula which had a “spectacular season.” “Their pink harvest (nearly 19 million) and chum catch (nearly 2 million) will end up in the top five on record,” Bowers said. “And the Peninsula sockeye harvest (7 million) is going to the second or third largest ever.” It will be sockeyes that help offset any number shortfalls this season with a statewide take of about 52 million, of which nearly 37 million came from Bristol Bay. “It is the 10th time in history that we’ve harvested over 50 million sockeye salmon,” Bowers said. “Catches for the previous two years also topped 50 million, but prior to that, you had to go back to the mid- to late 1990s to see such a large sockeye harvest.” Perhaps the biggest salmon surprise this year was the huge returns of chum salmon across the state. The catch to date of 21.2 million chums is just shy of the all-time record of 24 million fish set in 2000. “It’s one of the six times we’ve ever harvested over 20 million chums. That was a surprise. We didn’t expect that at all,” Bowers said, adding that coho catches are also stronger than usual. Salmon fishermen way out west also are enjoying some of the best returns ever. At Norton Sound, catches of chums and cohos (more than 300,000 combined) are among the top 10 of all times. At Kotzebue, the chum fishery has topped 400,000 for the second year in a row and could rank as the sixth best in the 56 year history of the fishery. On the Yukon River, a catch of more than 1 million chum salmon have been taken so far, with the best fall catches in history. The Yukon also has seen the biggest king salmon returns since 2005. Salmon even appeared at Barrow where locals were able to pack their freezers with a mix of chums, pinks and kings. “That’s a relatively new phenomenon,” Bowers said. “We don’t have any assessment projects to monitor up there, but it’s pretty exciting. That would be a range extension potentially for some species and it will be interesting to hear if those have established themselves as spawning populations or if it’s just a few strays that wandered up there.” The only westward region that was a total bust was at the Kuskokwim River where enough sockeyes and coho salmon returned to allow for harvest opportunities, but no buyers meant no fishing. Another big salmon downer this year was the unprecedented and complete closure for king salmon in Southeast Alaska, the largest producing area. Catches there totaled just 165,000 fish; the statewide king salmon take stands at 244,000. Bowers said it’s too soon to predict a total dockside value for the 2017 salmon catch, but with higher prices across the board, it will certainly eclipse the 2016 value of $406 million. Preliminary totals for the 2017 salmon season will be released in November. Escaped salmon watch Alaskans should be on the lookout for some of the 100,000-plus Atlantic salmon that escaped a week ago from a failed net pen near Bellingham Bay, Wash. The 10 pounders are reportedly “heading for every river in Puget Sound,” according to the Seattle Times. The salmon were undergoing a yearlong treatment for a bacteria called yellowmouth. They are the property of Cooke Aquaculture, the largest farmed salmon producer in North America, and the new owners of Icicle Seafoods in Alaska. Several hundred Atlantic salmon have been taken in Alaska waters in past years, and Forrest Bowers said some of the latest escapees will probably make their way here. He said it is not likely that the Atlantics would breed with Pacific salmon, or even with each other. “They may be triploids that are sterile but I’m not sure about that,” he said. “But certainly large numbers of these fish competing for food and other habitat resources with native Pacific salmon, Dolly Varden or steelhead trout is a concern for sure.” Anyone catching an Atlantic salmon is urged to report it, and if possible, bring the fish to a local ADFG office. The department’s home page has an “Invasive Species” link with reporting instructions, and a hot line number (1-877-INVASIVE). As a side note: every fish species caught in Alaska has a unique fish ticket number. For Atlantic salmon, the number is “666,” the Biblical number for Satan. Discards drop Fewer fish are being discarded by the world’s fishing fleets, but they still are tossing back 10 million tons of fish every year, or 10 percent of global catches. Nearly half of all discards occur in the Pacific Ocean. The discards are fish that may be too small, damaged, inedible, out of season or of little market value. Prior to the year 2000, discards comprised up to 20 percent of the world catches, reaching a peak of 19 million tons in 1989. The discard levels have been dropping steadily ever since. Those are some of the conclusions in a new University of British Columbia catch reconstruction project that derived discard estimates for all major fisheries in the world going back to the 1950s. High discards result from poor fishing practices and inadequate management, the report says. The biggest reason discards are declining likely reflects lower global fish catches. Fishing operations are catching less fish, so there’s less for them to throw away. From 1950 through 1996, world catches rose from 28 million to 130 million tons per year; since then fish catches have declined by 1.2 million tons a year. Better fisheries management in some areas also has played a role in reducing discards, including strict rules on reducing waste and forbidding discards in Norway and parts of Europe. The location of fish discards also has shifted over the decades. From the 1950s to the 1980s, discarding mostly occurred in northern Atlantic waters off the coasts of the U.S., Canada and Europe. In the Pacific Ocean, discards hit a high of more than nine million tons in 1990 and have declined since to under five million tons per year. Pacific fish discards are happening mostly off the coasts of Russia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. Russian fishing fleets have accounted for more than half of the discards in recent decades. In Alaska waters, much of the fish taken as bycatch is not discarded but instead is donated to food banks. Halibut updates Meeting dates and the call for regulation proposals to be considered for 2018 were just announced by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Any proposed changes to halibut management, including catch limits, must be submitted by Oct. 29 to be on the agenda for the interim meeting, set for Nov. 28 and 29 in Seattle. The proposals considered at that meeting will automatically be included at the IPHC annual meeting Jan. 22-26 in Portland, Ore. Informal statements also may be submitted by email and will go directly to the commissioners at each session. ([email protected]) New this year: people planning to attend the IPHC meetings will be required to pre-register. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Weaker dollar boosts export value of state seafood

The U.S. dollar has dropped in value all year against a basket of other global currencies. While that may sound like a bad thing, it’s great news for Alaska seafood and anyone doing business overseas. “It’s a good thing for Alaska seafood producers because roughly two-thirds of the value of our seafood comes from export markets. So when our currency is less valuable, the prices are not as high for foreign buyers,” said Andy Wink, senior fisheries economist with the McDowell Group. It’s a turnaround for a strong dollar that has for several years made Alaska seafood very pricey for prime customers of Japan, Europe and the UK. Now they will be inclined to buy more for less. Americans aren’t so lucky. The weaker dollar makes the cost of imported goods more expensive here at home – including the 85 percent of seafood that’s imported into the U.S. each year. “A five percent swing or whatever it is in the value of the dollar will probably make seafood more expensive,” Wink predicted. The weakening dollar is due to uncertainties by global banks and investors about the Trump administration and its ability to accomplish promises of health care reform, raising interest rates, massive tax cuts and infrastructure spending. Many analysts also point to big question marks looming over Trump’s trade policies. “It’s the way that investors perceive the health of the U.S. economy,” Wink said. Still, the dollar losing its mojo couldn’t come at a better time for Alaska salmon sales. “Where we are now,” he added, “is a lot better than where we were at this time last year.” Cameras count fish Cameras can now track what’s coming and going over the boat rails instead of human fishery observers. Starting in 2018 a new law allows for electronic monitoring systems to be used on smaller boats between 40 and 60 feet, and boats harvesting Alaska halibut. The voluntary EM option is open to longline vessels and boats fishing with pot gear, and the chance to get some extra bunk space back is a big relief for the fleet. “Taking a human observer is simply not practical for those boats in terms of space or life raft capacity. I was really glad to see we finally got it on the books,” said Dan Falvey, program director for the Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. Small boat fishermen, who make up the majority of Alaska’s fishing fleet, also had a hard time with escalating observer costs which could range from $300 to $1,000 per day. Boats aligned with ALFA and the Homer-based North Pacific Fisherman’s Association tested the EM program and protocols for several years as part of the “pre-implementation phase.” The camera system proved it could track and identify more than 95 percent of species required for fishery management decisions. Currently, more than 70 Alaska longliners and 18 pot boats are in the EM pool, and Falvey said managers have approved expanding it to include 120 longline and 45 pot boats over the next few years. By all accounts, the on-deck camera systems are reliable and user-friendly. “They are just like any other piece of marine electronics on a boat,” Falvey explained, adding that it takes about a day and a half to install. “Skippers do a small functions test to make sure it’s working properly and if it passes the test, the vessel is free to go fishing. If the EM system leaves town working and they have problems on the water, they don’t have to end their trip. That is a really important part of the program.” Also, the cameras come on only when you’re fishing. “The systems turn on when your hydraulics activate. The camera is rolling continuously while you’re hauling back and for a couple hours after to watch the sorting on deck. Then they turn off until the next time you turn on your hydraulics,” Falvey said. When a boat gets back from a fishing trip, the skipper pulls the hard drive and mails it to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission for review. The EM systems, valued at $8,000 to $10,000, come at no cost to Alaska fishermen. Start-up funds for the hardware and installation were provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the program is covered by fishermen’s fees. “In Alaska, the EM system is provided to the boat as part of the observer program and paid for as part of the 1.25 percent fee we all pay,” Falvey said. All boats planning to participate in the EM program in 2018 must register with the Observer Declare and Deploy System starting Sept. 1 through Nov. 1. Questions? Call 1-855-747-6377. Dungy dive Southeast Alaska’s biggest crab fishery has taken a dive this year with shortened fisheries for the summer and the fall. The summer fishery, which produces nearly three-quarters of the annual catch, landed just 1.3 million pounds of dungies, the lowest in more than 30 years. Managers cut the fishery short by three weeks in late July when crab catches were not meeting set thresholds, the second early closure in 15 years. The fall Dungeness season also will be clipped by a month. State managers announced that it will open as usual on Oct. 1 but will close Oct. 31, instead of running through November. Late molting is a likely cause of the lower catch numbers, said biologist Kelli Wood at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Petersburg. Large numbers of the crabs pulled up in the summer pots were soft shelled, meaning newly molted, and likely hid out from the fishery. “It could be due to the fact that the crabs were just ‘not on the bite.’ After they molt they bury in the mud and don’t come out and they are not hungry. If it was a later molt, they probably would be buried from the fishery,” Wood told KFSK in Petersburg. Biologists are uncertain about the timing and frequency of the crab’s molting habits because no surveys are done on the Dungeness stocks. Managers rely instead on information from commercial fisheries to track the crab. In 2015, Southeast crabbers landed more than 5 million pounds of Dungeness and averaged $2.95 a pound. The crab fishery was worth $15 million to the region. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Alaskan seafood has opening in home meal kits

Alaska aims to get in on the growing popularity of Home Meal kits that will deliver seafood directly to American kitchens. The kits typically offer a subscription service where customers order weekly meals based on how many people they plan to feed and their food preferences. The kits include portioned, high quality ingredients with foolproof cooking instructions and can be delivered within hours or overnight to nearly all locations. Many grocery stores also are providing in-store options that don’t involve delivery. The kits typically cost $60 to $70 per week for three two-person meals. Since the launch in 2012, it has grown into a $2.2 billion business, according to the Chicago-based consulting firm Pentallect, which predicts annual growth at 25 percent to 30 percent over the next five years. The numbers could go higher with Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods and its July 6 announcement that it will enter the meal kit arena using a trademarked logo of “We do the prep. You be the chef.” Ocean Beauty Seafoods, which operates six processing plants in Alaska, is already in the game, said Tom Sunderland, vice president of marketing. “We’ve been involved in home meal replacements (HMRs) since they started in the 1990s and this is a natural extension for us,” he said, adding that meal kits provide “a different experience.” Whereas HMRs offered selections of ready to eat items like pot pies, salads or pasta dishes, meal kits provide a different experience. Companies such as Blue Apron, Home Fresh or Plated have gone beyond convenience and hooked into people’s desire to cook with high-quality ingredients, Sunderland said. “The convenience comes in the sourcing of the raw ingredients, but it brings the creativity and the home cooking into the mix. You are actually getting a particular experience which is very fulfilling to a lot of people. I think the insight into that is quite great,” he said. Advances in packaging technology and logistics also play a big part in the meal kit popularity by taking the difficulty out of delivery. “We refer to it as the last mile,” Sunderland explained. “The minute you put a frozen product on a delivery truck the cold chain is no longer maintained. That’s always been a deal killer for a lot of this. “But with the advent of oxygen permeable packaging films you can allow a frozen product to thaw out and still have it be food safe. That’s been an enormous change in the market because it allows you to do something you couldn’t do before.” The meal kit concept also reduces waste. “The fish or the meat is portioned just right, the vegetables are portioned to a particular dinner and recipe and the waste stream is greatly diminished. I think that’s appealing to people as well,” he added. But it is the customer focus on high quality ingredients that plays into Alaska’s hands, Sunderland believes. “Over the years Alaska has been constantly improving the quality of the raw materials and the finished goods all the way through the system. That puts us in a great position to take advantage of this,” he said. Also, the ability for home kit providers to rotate products allows Alaska to capitalize on the timing of various fisheries throughout the year. “That can match up really well with how Alaska product is managed in inventory,” Sunderland said. Another plus: for decades research has shown that 65 percent of Americans eat seafood only at restaurants because they claim they don’t know how to cook it properly. Home meal kits will bring fish right into their kitchens. “That’s the key,” Sunderland said. “When they get top quality fish with very specific cooking directions, it maximizes the likelihood that they are going to be successful and they will order it again. It is about as perfect as it can be.” Fish funds Alaska’s fisheries and related programs got a mix of budget guts and gains for 2018 before Congress left for its five-week recess. On the hit list: total funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration budget was set at $5.6 billion — an $85 million cut — but far less than the $900 million cut proposed by President Donald Trump. Senate appropriators also rejected Trump’s call for a 32 percent cut for climate, weather and oceans research, and instead provided a budget of nearly $480 million for those programs. Also rejected were plans to gut the national Sea Grant program that supports more than 20,000 jobs and nearly 3,000 businesses. Sea Grant was funded at $65 million, a $2 million increase. Coastal Zone Management grants also were fully funded, and fisheries data collection, surveys and stock assessments were boosted to nearly $165 million. Regional fisheries councils and commissions also received robust funding of $36 million. Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Funds were maintained at $65 million, and Pacific Salmon Treaty activities received a $2 million increase to $14 million. Weather satellite programs funded at nearly $420 million reflect a $90 million increase, $239 million above the Trump administration’s request. The Senate appropriations bill also provides $75 million to begin building a new NOAA survey vessel, $11 million for addressing ocean acidification, and an extra $3 million to expedite electronic monitoring programs. King closure Fishing for king salmon was shut down on Aug. 10 in Southeast Alaska for all commercial and sport users. The unprecedented move stems from record low returns, resulting in the worst commercial harvest since 1975. “We felt compelled to do as much as we could to look toward the future,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Deputy Commissioner Charlie Swanton. “Ocean conditions don’t look all that promising in 2018, and we want to do whatever we can to turn that around into 2018 and beyond.” The king salmon closure will be reviewed in September. No product pride? The first batch of genetically modified salmon is now being sold in undisclosed supermarkets in Canada. Massachusetts-based AquaBounty reported that five tons of Frankenfish were shipped from its farm site in Panama, generating $53,000 or roughly $4.82 per pound. No one besides the company knows where the GM fish are being sold, and no labels are required to alert customers what they are buying. AquaBounty plans to produce 1,300 tons of GM salmon annually, (nearly 3 million pounds) starting next year. The manmade fish reaches adult size in 16 to 18 months, compared to 2½ years for normal Atlantic salmon. The U.S. gave a nod to the salmon in 2015 making it the first GM animal approved for human consumption, but it has yet to make it to market. Lawmakers are demanding that Frankenfish must be labeled if and when it is sold in the U.S. More than 80 U.S. grocery chains and restaurants, including Costco, have stated they will not sell the GM salmon. Winning! Elizabeth Lind is the winner of the Predict the Bay contest sponsored by United Fishermen of Alaska’s Salmon Habitat Information Project. Her correct guess was a catch of 37.7 million sockeye salmon at Bristol Bay; the total on Friday was posted at 37.6 million. Lind wins an Alaska Airlines gift card for her winning guess. There’s still time to enter for more prizes. Send a text to 313131 and put “UFASHIP” in the message to get four chances to win up to $200 in gifts from Alaska Air and LFS Gear Supply, plus salmon news you can use. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Fishing deaths renew reminders for safety measures

“It’s time for a checkup from the neck up” — meaning an industry time out to evaluate fishing operations and behaviors, advises Jerry Dzugan, the director of the Sitka-based Alaska Marine Safety Education Association for more than 30 years. Dzugan was speaking in response to the 11 fishing deaths that have occurred in Alaska so far this year. It’s the most in 13 years and follows a 76 percent decrease in commercial fishing fatalities since the 1980s. “The causes are still capsizing, sinkings, swampings and man overboards (MOBs). They haven’t changed much,” Dzugan said. “People need to step back and focus on the basics, such as making sure your vessel is stable and watertight, and that your crew is protected from man overboards.” Flooding and loss of boat stability are the cause of 50 percent of all fishing fatalities. Between 25 percent to 35 percent are from falling overboard, which is easily preventable. Dzugan said a long-term federal study of more than 500 Alaska fishing fatalities showed that not one MOB was wearing a life jacket. “You don’t fall in the water and die right away. You’ve got a half-hour to an hour before you succumb to hypothermia. The biggest risk is drowning and we’ve had a solution to that for hundreds of years, and that’s a life preserver,” he explained. There are a lot of “cultural barriers” to wearing PFDs (personal flotation devices), Dzugan said, combined with a lack of awareness of what is available today. The arguments heard in AMSEA training workshops are that PFDs are uncomfortable, they get snagged on things and they are difficult to work in. Minds are slowly changing, he said, and more fishing operations are now requiring that PFDs be worn on deck. “When you show them products that are built in to your coveralls or comfortable vests that help keep you warm and help absorb shocks from banging around on deck, they go out and buy them,” he said. Test trials by fishermen bear that out. In a 2012 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 400 Alaska fishermen wore six different PFDs for one month aboard crab boats, trawlers, longline and gillnet vessels. They then rated the gear for performance and comfort with a Mustang auto-inflatable PFD vest coming out on top. Most of the fisherman-approved models have PFDs built into suspenders, including Guy Cotton or Stearns rain gear. Stormy Seas, Regatta and Stearns models also feature yokes and bibs that clip into Grundens deck gear. Prices for the PFDs range from $125 to $200 and most are available at local gear shops. Along with wearing life preservers, Dzugan said all vessels should have a mechanical way to get people back on board, at least with blocks and tackle, and a boarding ladder. “Make sure the crew knows what to do in that situation. If you fish alone, be sure you get yourself back on the boat,” he stressed. Many man overboard alarms have an engine shut off capacity (most are in the $400 range), and Dzugan advises not going out on deck alone without telling someone, especially at night. More than half of all MOBs are not witnessed. He added that a lot of fishermen don’t have good technical knowledge of vessel stability. “A swamping takes just one wave,” he cautioned. Have respect for anything that changes a boat’s center of gravity, and make sure your vessel is watertight. “Even if the vessel originally had a watertight bulkhead, people drill holes through them for piping or electrical passages and don’t fill them up again,” he explained. “People get other priorities and they defer maintenance and often forget about the watertight integrity of their vessel.” Vessels also should have high water alarms in every space and good pumps. Check your immersion suits and other survival gear, Dzugan stressed, and do onboard safety drills. The U.S Coast Guard Fishing Vessel Safety Act states “the master, or other person in charge of each commercial fishing vessel, must ensure that basic safety drills and instructions are given to each crewman at least once each month.” “It’s tough for the Coast Guard to enforce,” Dzugan said. “A lot of people think doing a drill is talking about it around the galley table once a year.” Another cause of fishing accidents is simply fatigue and not getting enough sleep. “All the studies show that your decision making decreases the longer you go without sleep, and you start making stupid mistakes,” he said. Another lifesaving safety tip: pay attention to weather forecasts. Dzugan said. “Mother Nature doesn’t care a whit about you,” Dzugan said. “If there’s a storm forecast, don’t go out. It’s not worth it.” Fish watch Salmon takes center stage all summer but lots of other Alaska fisheries are going on as well. For salmon, the catch by Aug. 4 was nearing 121 million fish. Sockeyes totaled about 50 million, of which nearly 38 million were from Bristol Bay. Statewide pink salmon catches were on their way to 52 million with half coming from Prince William Sound. The total Alaska salmon catch for this year is pegged at 204 million fish. A lingcod fishery continues in Prince William Sound through year’s end with a 32,600-pound harvest. In Southeast Alaska, beam trawl shrimping continues through the end of August with a 175,000-pound catch quota. Starting Aug. 15, 78 permit holders in Southeast will set out for 720,250 pounds of pricey sablefish. A small 54,000-pound sablefish fishery also is underway in Cook Inlet. Cook Inlet also opens to scallop fishing on Aug. 15. Dredges are still dropping in other parts of the state with a total catch quota of 306,000 pounds of shucked scallop meats. Nearly 60 percent of the 18 million-pound halibut catch has been taken with Kodiak leading all ports for landings, followed by Seward and Homer. Statewide sablefish catches also are nearing 60 percent of the 22.5 million-pound quota. Both sablefish and halibut fisheries end in early November. Fishing for pollock, cod and other whitefish continues in the Bering Sea. Pollock reopens in the Gulf on Aug. 25 with a 4.2 million-pound harvest. Golden king crab kicked off along the Aleutians on Aug. 1 with a 5.5 million-pound catch quota. Fish agenda The state Board of Fisheries is lining up its agenda items for its annual meeting cycle that will focus on regulation changes for subsistence, commercial, personal use and sport fish fisheries at Prince William Sound, the upper Copper and Susitna regions and Yakutat, along with Dungeness crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish issues. The Board has 227 proposals on its docket so far and the call is out for proposals from other regions to be considered at an Oct. 17-19 work session in Anchorage. “The board will review agenda change requests (ACRs) and decide if they meet the defined criteria to accept them,” said Executive Director Glenn Haight, adding that up to 25 requests are usually submitted. Last year, when the focus was on Kodiak and Cook Inlet fisheries, 12 ACRs came in from other regions and only two were accepted, he said. For an ACR to be accepted it must not be an item that is included in the regions already being considered; it must address a fishery conservation purpose, or correct an error in a regulation; or an impact on a fishery that was unforeseen, Haight explained. Agenda change requests must be submitted by Aug. 17 to be considered at the October work session in Anchorage. No regulations are passed nor are public comments taken at that time, although written comments may be submitted. A special consideration added to the October agenda is a Kodiak/Cook Inlet salmon genetic study. Comments may be faxed or mailed to ADF&G Boards Support Section in Juneau or via email to [email protected] Salmon day! Aug. 10 was Alaska Wild Salmon Day, an annual recognition signed into law in 2016 by Gov. Bill Walker. It also kicks off the upscale, nine day Sitka Seafood Festival hosted by the Alaska Sustainable Trust and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. All proceeds go to the Young Fishermen’s Initiative. www.sitkaseafoodfestival.com. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

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