Laine Welch

FISH FACTOR: ComFish funding adds study on king salmon decline

A shuffle in some funding leaves Alaska’s commercial fisheries division in good shape to manage the resources and target important projects across the state. At first glance, the $69 million operating budget for fiscal year 2019 appears to be down slightly from last year’s $72.3 million, but that’s not the case. “Most of that difference is a sort of ‘cleanup’ in authority we no longer had funding for, such as the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, test fishing and some interagency items. The rest is due to $1.1 million shortfall in Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission revenue which was made up from other Department funds,” said Scott Kelley, Commercial Fisheries Division director. Added to the budget was a nearly $1 million unrestricted increment offered by Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan, which got the nod from Alaska lawmakers. The extra money will be distributed among 11 projects in four regions: Southeast, Central, Westward and the AYK (Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim). The biggest project focuses on research to help determine the causes of declining chinook salmon. “It’s a $300,000 project for a juvenile chinook marine survey in the Bering Sea,” Kelley said. “Almost the first thing I get asked at meetings around the state is what’s going on with king salmon. That project looks at the early marine survival, which is where we think these mortality events are most affecting the species. It’s the only project in the state that really gives us a first look at what’s going on there.” Other projects back on the funding track include Southeast and Togiak herring research, westward salmon weirs, Southeast sablefish research and Prince William Sound Tanner crab. One thing cut from the commercial fisheries budget was nearly $400,000 for unpopular test fishing programs, where portions of fishermen’s catches are used to help cover management costs. “We don’t need to test fish because we got the general funds. I view that as a very positive development,” Kelley said. The entire state budget still awaits final approval but Kelley expressed confidence in a good outcome, thanks in part to Gov. Bill Walker. “I do believe that the governor is strongly supportive, not just of the Commercial Fisheries Division but for the Department of Fish and Game in general,” he said. Kelley also praised United Fishermen of Alaska and other fishing stakeholders for going to bat for their industry during the legislative session. “Their advocating has been extremely beneficial for the division and greatly appreciated,” Kelley said. Crab share shuffle It’s slow going for brokers who deal in quota shares for crab in Bering Sea fisheries. Most holders are taking a wait-and-see approach on the crab stocks, hoping for an uptick before they sell. Few sellers make it tough to place a value on the shares, said Jeff Osborn at Dock Street Brokers in Seattle, the “go-to guy” for crab quotas. “Red crab is down from around $70 to between $60 and $65 per pound,” Osborn said. “For opilio (snow crab) it’s hard to say because there are no sellers to speak of. For vessel shares, I’ll speculate somewhere in the $27 to $28 range. For bairdi Tanners, people see a lot of crab but nobody really knows what to expect for next season so everyone is gun shy on sales.” Crab shares are bought and sold in two categories: vessel shares and skipper shares. “Skipper shares are reserved for people who are actively fishing on crab boats,” he explained. “You have to have participated in the crab fishery in the past 365 days to purchase those shares. Vessel shares are much more lenient and can be held by a qualified entity, corporation or business regardless of recent participation.” On the skipper side, Osborn said crabbers face a looming “use it or lose it” deadline. “Basically, there needs to be participation in the crab fishery or another Alaska fishery within the past three years if you are an initial quota share recipient. Otherwise, effective June 30 for the upcoming season they will not receive any quota to harvest. And then if they still have not satisfied the recency requirement by June 30, 2019, they will lose their quota share, it will just go away,” Osborn said. Why? “It’s to ensure that those who own skipper shares are actually participating and not accumulating it and leasing it out and collecting a check and depriving the market of shares that could be used by guys that are actively participating,” he said. Osborn estimates between 100 to 120 crabbers have transfer eligibility for skipper quota but many could lose it under the new rules. Another right of first offer option, or ROFO, also makes crab shares available to crew to help them become invested in the fishery. “The intention of the ROFO is to set aside 10 percent of any transaction of vessel shares to be sold to qualified individuals,” he said. “They can then purchase some or all at the same price that is sold to whoever is buying the 90 percent of the quota. So it provides an avenue for people to pick up smaller chunks than they might be able to otherwise.” Candidates come to the Bay! Four candidates for Alaska governor will face off in a debate at the 2nd annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo at Naknek in early June. Naknek is the key logistics hub for 10 major seafood processors and a fleet of nearly 1,000 at the northeastern end of Bristol Bay. The debate is just one of the events in a lively line up that benefits childcare in the community. “We turned to our natural resource, salmon, to support Little Angels Childcare Academy and it has just been phenomenal,” said Sharon Thompson, Expo co-founder and organizer. “Salmon is supporting their early childhood education.” The first Expo last year raised $17,000, enough to open the doors of the childcare center. This year is likely to see even more donations. “We are getting boat builders and engine manufacturers and others from Texas and Washington and Oregon; it’s caught their eye. It just blows my mind,” said co-organizer Katie Copps-Wilson. The theme of the June 8-9 event is “Celebrating our Past, Sustaining our Future,” and a history of the region’s canneries will be highlighted. Historian Katie Ringsmuth will kick things off on June 8 with highlights of the Diamond NN Cannery History Project which aims to document, preserve and share the unique experiences of cannery life. The Diamond plant was the first industrial processing plant on the Naknek River in 1890. On that theme, Mug Up events will be ongoing during the two-day Expo. “Anyone who has ever worked in a cannery knows that mug up is a colloquial term for coffee break. Coffee and donuts will be available along with storytelling, because we all know that’s where the best stories are told,” Thompson said, adding that archivists from the National Park Service and project curators will be on hand to scan, photograph and identify old photos, labels, maps and other artifacts. The popular “speed hiring” will be back, which connects captains with potential crewmembers. “It’s like speed dating and many happy matches were made last year. That face-to-face contact is so important. We expect it will be bigger than ever,” Thompson said. One of the biggest hits of the Expo, Thompson said, is a fashion show and wearable art auction. “We always joke that Bristol Bay has a style of its own. Grundens has donated lots of gear from their new line for women, so we’re really stepping it up this year,” she said. “We are still accepting donations and it is a great way for businesses to get their names and services out there. All the products and services will be listed in an online catalog that will be on social media everywhere.” The Expo will end with a gubernatorial candidates debate on June 9 from 7-9pm that will include Gov. Walker, Scott Hawkins, Rep. Mike Chenault and Mike Dunleavy. The debate will be broadcast live on KAKN and KDLG. Looking ahead, the organizers plan to include more communities. “From Togiak to Ugashik and everwhere in between and beyond, we would love to expand our Expo to embrace crab, halibut, pollock, herring – all those other wild seafood products from Bristol Bay that are feeding the world,” Thompson said. “The bottom line is everything benefits Little Angels,” echoed Copps-Wilson. “Our mantra is kids, fish, future.” Learn more at www.bristolbayfishexpo.com Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Early Cook Inlet fisheries near; ballot initiative draws big bucks

Two commercial fisheries open each spring at Upper Cook Inlet that attract little notice and few participants, but each pays big bucks to fishermen. The first is a food and bait herring fishery that runs from April 20 through the end of May. The 150-ton catch quota is small compared to most of Alaska’s other herring fisheries, but the payout is far higher than all others. “They get $1.00 to $1.50 a pound, or $2,000 to $3,000 for a short ton, and the herring goes primarily into the halibut commercial bait fishery or the sport bait fishery,” said Pat Shields, regional manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna. In contrast, the statewide average price for roe herring at places like Sitka, Kodiak or Togiak is just 12 cents per pound, and fishermen make between $100 to $350 per ton. The Cook Inlet herring fishery serves a small, local market provided by 10 to 20 fishermen. The fish is captured in gillnets by 10 to 20 salmon setnet fishermen who are trying to get some money to start the season, Shields explained. The herring are frozen and sold throughout the year and the demand far exceeds the supply. Shields speculates the price is so high because there are so few bait herring fisheries in the state: two in Southeast, one at Kodiak and Dutch Harbor. Meanwhile, most Alaska fishermen buy pricy herring for bait from processors who usually purchase it from the east coast or Canada. Traditionally, herring management has been geared to sac roe fisheries, which years ago was in high demand by a single customer: Japan. But tastes there have changed. “Now the sac roe is far less valuable and there is a lot of demand for herring as bait,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the state Commercial Fisheries Division. “Management plans could be restructured so that more herring could be harvested as bait. Someone just needs to propose it to the Board of Fisheries. If there is a harvestable surplus that is not being taken, why not allow it in a different fishery?” The other fishery at Upper Cook Inlet from May 1 through June 30 is for smelt, also called hooligan/eulachon or candlefish. That also attracts up to 20 people who compete for a 200-ton quota using dip nets at the Susitna River. Shields said a 2016 study estimated that 53,000 tons of smelt went up the Susitna that one year. “It’s just a phenomenal biomass,” he said, adding that fishermen have had to make their dip nets smaller to accommodate the catches. “If you have a net that’s a couple feet deep you can’t even lift it out of the water,” Shields said, adding that it’s a tough fishery. “Logistically, it’s kind of a nightmare to get drift boats through the mudflats of the Susitna River,” he said. “They bring them back to the Kenai River where they are frozen, boxed up and shipped to the Lower 48. Most of it goes into one of three markets: the human food, sturgeon bait fishery on the Columbia River or the marine mammal food market.” Smelt fishermen also fetch a nice price, twice: 25 to 75 cents per pound for their harvest, and again after it goes to market. “The market can vary widely,” Shields said. “I’ve heard anywhere from 50 cents a pound to a couple dollars a pound.” Both fisheries are open to all comers who get a miscellaneous finfish permit from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. “While they require a permit, it is not a limited entry permit,” Shields explained. “Anyone can get a permit to participate in the herring or the smelt fishery in Cook Inlet.” Salmon money Resource developers are pulling out all stops to block the push to strengthen Alaska’s salmon habitat protection law for the first time since statehood in 1959. Since early January the group Stand for Alaska has raised more than $2 million to stop a ballot initiative that could go to voters this fall. That is about four times more than the $475,560 the grassroots group Yes for Salmon has raised in support of modernizing permitting and habitat protection measures. Filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission show that financial backing for both groups comes primarily from outside the state. Mining operations from Canada that put in $200,000 each include Kinross Fort Knox and Pebble Limited Partnership. Japanese-owned Pogo Mine, Illinois-based Coeur Alaska and Hecla Mining of Idaho also contributed $200,000 as well as Donlin Gold and Doyon Ltd. ConocoPhillips has donated $250,000 and BP has contributed $500,000 to Stand for Alaska. Those companies, along with Canada’s Teck Mining and Tower Hill Mines, the Resource Development Council, Alaska Miners Association and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association also have contributed in-kind donations to cover staff time, office expenses, travel, etc. To convince voters that the ballot measure is a bad idea, Stand for Alaska so far has paid $132,000 to Anchorage-based Bright Strategy and Communications; $36,000 to Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Virginia; $20,000 to Blueprint Alaska and $10,000 to Dittman Research, both of Anchorage. Total expenditures by Stand for Alaska also include nearly $612,000, of which more than 40 percent has gone to DCI Group of Washington, D.C., as a subcontractor. DCI Group is widely cited as a “top Republican and lobbying group” that creates campaigns by masking corporate sponsors to make it appear that it is a grassroots effort, a practice known as “astro-turfing.” Most notably, the DCI Group has done campaigns for the tobacco industry and for Exxon’s climate change denial efforts. The APOC filings show that most of the money donated to Yes for Salmon’s campaign also comes from outside Alaska. From Jan. 8 through April 7, the group collected about $205,000 in contributions. Of that, $100,000 comes from John Childs of Florida who also is a board member of the Wild Salmon Center based in Portland, Oregon. The New Venture Fund Salmon State, backed by the Hewlett Foundation of Washington, D.C., has contributed $37,246 of in-kind contributions. The Alaska Center has donated $14,000 for in-kind services, along with Trout Unlimited, the Sitka Conservation Society and Cook Inletkeeper. Other monetary contributions are in the $75 to $250 range by nine individual Alaskans. Total expenditures in the first quarter by Yes for Salmon were reported at $124,388, and overall expenditures total about $317,000, of which $25,000 has gone to the Patinkin Research Group of Portland, Ore., for polling and other work as well as about $16,000 to Element Agency of Anchorage for media support. The salmon protection push must still prove it is constitutional before it goes to the voters. The Alaska Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 26. Fish prices The Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides dock prices for nearly every fish species caught in the state with comparisons going back to 1984. It’s called the Commercial Operator’s Annual Report and is compiled from annual inputs by processors. Here’s a sampler from 2016 (prices for 2017 will be available this summer): The average price for cod was 28 cents per pound; lingcod averaged $1.51. Those billions of pounds of pollock fetched 13 cents per pound for fishermen. Herring averaged 12 cents. Octopus was 46 cents per pound and sea cucumbers were $4.07. Spot shrimp paid out at $8.96 per pound; coon striped shrimp at $5.73 was up more than $2. For 10 types of flounders, pesky arrowtooth was at 7 cents; rex sole was the priciest at 34 cents. For 22 types of rockfish, yellow eye, or red snapper, topped the list at $1.29 per pound; rose thorn rockfish was the lowest at 6 cents per pound. Wolf eels paid out at 84 cents per pound; Geoduck clams were at $6.59. Longnose skates brought fishermen 44 cents per pound. Halibut averaged $6.06 per pound; sablefish, $6.50. The priciest of all was red king crab at $10.18 per pound; the lowest was for sculpin at just 3 cents per pound. Another report shows how much poundage was produced by processors and first wholesale values, meaning how much the fish sold for in initial sales. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon permits stagnate on lower forecasts

Spring is usually the busiest time of year for brokers in the buy/sell/trade business for Alaska salmon permits. But that’s not the case this year. Values for several salmon permits had ticked upwards after a blockbuster salmon fishery in 2017, but they have remained stagnant since last fall. “That sort of summarizes the salmon permit market. There is not a lot of excitement about any of them,” said Doug Bowen of Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer. A lackluster catch forecast for the upcoming salmon season — down 34 percent — has helped dampen enthusiasm. Even at the one big bright spot at Bristol Bay, where another big sockeye catch of more than 37 million fish is expected, the value of drift net permits has stalled in the $150,000 range. “Sometimes before the season we see the price go up and up until the fishing begins. This year it just seems like it’s a calmer market and the price actually slipped.” Bowen said. Also at play in the Bay: major buyers will no longer purchase salmon from “dry” boats starting this year. “They put the fleet on notice a few years ago that they will not take any unchilled fish,” Bowen said. “So there has been a scramble for folks to get RSW (refrigerated sea water) systems installed or get a boat with RSW. There’s no doubt people are getting out of the Bay rather than invest another $150,000 to $200,000. I think that issue has calmed the market down for drift permits.” Dock Street Brokers, Permit Master and Bowen’s company all list 10 or more Bay drift permits for sale or lease. There’s not a lot of action for Southeast drift permits, which have slipped to $85,000 to $90,000. Likewise, there is little interest for Cook Inlet drift permits, which after several dreary salmon seasons have stalled at around $45,000 for the past year. A few Prince William Sound seine permits have moved at around $170,000 this year and at Kodiak in the $30,000 range, but there’s been minimal interest in seine cards across the state. “The forecast isn’t great for seine fisheries anywhere this year and you can see that in the permit markets. There’s just not a lot of interest this year,” Bowen said. One permit bucking the trend is salmon at False Pass (Area M) on the Alaska Peninsula. Several good salmon years have piqued interest in that fishery and boosted drift net values to more than $160,000 with listings few and far between. Overall, Bowen said Alaska brokerage and boat sales businesses are chugging along despite the humdrum mood. “Boats are still selling well and permits are selling and quota is selling too. It’s just that there’s definitely some dark clouds out there. I think in general it is going to be a skinnier year for the industry,” he said. Fishing watch April has brought a mixed bag so far for several Alaska fisheries, starting with a huge slump in the herring haul at Sitka Sound. The fishery closed on April 3 after two late March openers when the bulk of the herring size and roe quality was just not up to snuff. The total harvest of 2,800 tons was down by nearly 75 percent from the projected 11,128-ton catch. Meanwhile, 68 herring boats were operating near Craig in a herring roe-on-kelp fishery. Kodiak’s herring fishery opens on April 15 with a harvest set at just under 1,200 tons. Southeast’s May/June Chinook season for a fleet of over 700 trollers will open only in a few select areas and be limited to just 95,000 fish this season. The winter Tanner crab fishery at Southeast produced a catch of 1.2 million pounds, topping the 10-year average. Fishermen got a nice payday at $3.07 per pound, making the fishery worth $3.7 million at the docks. A 70,000-pound golden king crab fishery, which ran concurrently, paid out at $10.10 per pound to fishermen. A quick shrimp fishery opens at Prince William Sound from April to April 30. A fleet of 72 vessels has signed up to compete for the 67,000-pound quota. At Norton Sound, a red king crab harvest is ongoing with a catch of about 15,000 pounds so far out of a 50,000-pound winter catch quota. Halibut catches are still coming in slowly with about 750,000 pounds delivered by 150 landings; for sablefish the catch was at 900,000 pounds by 82 landings. Cod, pollock, flounders and other whitefish are still crossing the docks across Alaska and most of those fisheries will continue throughout the year. And before you know it, salmon season will officially be underway with the first returns of sockeyes and kings to Copper River in mid-May. A catch of 1.7 million reds and 19,000 kings is expected at the Copper River this year. Genders differ Feedback on gender equality in the seafood industry yielded insights on how women’s roles are perceived by women and men around the world. More than 700 survey responses were gathered starting last fall by the international non-profit Women in the Seafood Industry, of which 30 percent were from men and over 200 came from North America. “The questions centered around what is the position of women in your company, for example, and what is your opinion of the situation of women in this industry. Are there areas where things could be improved, or where there is no need for improvement,” said Marie Catherine Monfort, WSI president and co-founder based in Paris. The survey results showed differing perceptions depending on gender. “The majority of men didn’t feel that there is gender inequality in this industry, while the majority of women said there is gender inequality,” Montfort said. A main problem expressed by women in most regions was a range of discriminations; but that view also was not shared by men. “A good number of men think the problem is the lack of women in the industry,” Montfort said with a laugh. “Which is good, because we want to promote more women to enter into the industry. We need them on board as well.” The differing perceptions on what women experience, Montfort added, is one of the study’s most important findings. The top industry need expressed by women as well as some men was improving the work/life balance. “We know that in some countries this is better organized than in others, but the work/family balance is a really important point.” Results of the gender survey are being compiled into a report that will be widely distributed. Meanwhile, WSI has launched a worldwide short video contest (open to both genders) to highlight the lives of women in any segment of the seafood industry. “It may be aboard fishing vessels or at aquaculture sites, in offices or teaching or studying at school. This is a way to show that women are major stakeholders in this industry.” Montfort said. Winners will receive cash prizes and their videos will be showcased at industry events around the world. Deadline to enter is Aug. 31. Questions? Contact [email protected] Fish buzz Gov. Bill Walker and candidates Mike Chenault and Mike Dunleavy will participate in a gubernatorial debate on Saturday, June 9 at the Bristol Bay Borough School at Naknek. Other candidates have been invited. The two-hour event, which will be broadcast statewide, is part of the 2nd annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo and has a theme of “Sustainability in Rural Alaska.” All proceeds from the Expo will again benefit the Little Angels Childcare Academy in Naknek. Visit www.bristolbayfishexpo.com Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon harvests, halibut prices take sharp turn down

Alaska is expecting a reduced salmon harvest this year, setting up a trifecta of falling fish revenues for Alaska fishermen, coastal communities and state coffers. Coming on the heels of an 80 percent crash of cod stocks in the Gulf of Alaska and a 10 percent decline in halibut catches, state fishery managers are projecting a 2018 salmon harvest at 149 million fish, down 34 percent from last season. The shortfall stems from lower forecasts for returning pink salmon. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a humpie harvest of just 70 million fish, down by more than half from last summer. For sockeye salmon, a statewide catch of about 52 million is down 1.8 million fish from 2017, which was the fifth-largest red salmon harvest since 1970. By far, most of the sockeyes will come from Bristol Bay’s nine river systems where a projected harvest of 37.5 million would be down by more than a million, but still well above the 10- and 20-year averages for the Bay. Alaska’s chum salmon catch last year of 25 million also was the largest haul since 1970. This year’s statewide catch is expected to produce 21 million chums, down by nearly four million. The 2018 coho catch is pegged at 5.8 million, nearly 600,000 more silvers than last season. For chinook salmon, the forecast calls for a catch of 99,000 kings in areas outside of Southeast Alaska, where the numbers are determined by treaty with Canada. Declining stocks have forced fishery managers to impose tough restrictions on chinook catches for all users. Alaska’s salmon season officially gets underway in mid-May when sockeye and king salmon return to the Copper River near Cordova. That’s followed by commercial openers across the state from Ketchikan to as far north as Kotzebue. Alaska’s 2017 harvest of 224 million salmon was valued at nearly $680 million at the docks. Find a summary of the 2017 season and outlooks for 2018 at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game website. Halibut tanks As feared, prices for halibut sank like a stone as the season’s first fresh fish crossed the Alaska docks last week. The fishery opened on March 24 and traditionally, the first landings fetch high prices and then drop as the market settles out. That’s not the case this year. Prices started at $4.50 to $5 per pound at major ports, or roughly $2 lower than fishermen have received in recent years. At Kodiak, for example, one major buyer paid $4.50 per pound for first deliveries and the price dropped to $4.25 the next day. Seward starting prices were reported at $4.50, $4.75 or $5 based on fish weights. Yakutat was paying the highest price at $5.25 across the board. “The market is really lackluster and buying is on spot,” said one Kodiak processor, meaning purchases and payments are made immediately rather than on longer-term contracts. The push back to escalating Pacific halibut prices began last October when payouts to fishermen tumbled for the first time in four years. Buyer resistance was bad enough to force some Alaska processors to turn away deliveries, or buy only from their long-term boats. One wholesale buyer commented: “Who in their right mind is going to pay $30 or more for a pound of fish?” Adding to the market snub momentum: reports of up to 10 million of pounds of fresh, less pricey Atlantic halibut coming into the U.S. from eastern Canada. The close proximity of that fresh fish to the eastern seaboard has cut into Alaska’s share of those customers, and the Canadian fish already is making inroads heading west. In 2005 Atlantic halibut accounted for just 4 percent of the total North American halibut harvest, said economist Andy Wink of Wink Research. Since then, Pacific halibut harvests have declined by 63 percent while Atlantic harvests have increased 195 percent and imports to the U.S. have nearly tripled. Another headwind for Alaska fishermen as the halibut season gets underway: hefty holdovers of halibut reportedly remain in freezers from last season. A fleet of about 2,000 Alaskans fish commercially for halibut each year from Southeast to the Bering Sea. The average price paid to fishermen in 2017 was $6.32 per pound with a fishery value of $112 million at the docks. The Alaska halibut catch limit for 2018 is 17.5 million pounds; the fishery runs through Nov. 7. Fish bucks for all The lower fish catches and/or prices should concern all Alaskans, even if they live far from the coast. Fishery landing taxes, which are based on dock prices, are split evenly between the port where the fish is delivered and the state’s general fund, to be distributed at the whim of the Legislature. With Alaska’s commercial catches on the order of 5 to 6 billion pounds per year, adding just one penny per pound makes a difference of nearly one million dollars in landing taxes for the state and local governments each. “While the tax implications are important,” Wink said, “the greater issue is that lower prices and lower quotas mean less income coming into coastal economies this year.” Fish map Are you considering your options for diversifying more fisheries? A new interactive map from Alaska Sea Grant lets you search 183 commercial fisheries across the state. “You can sort it by region, by species, and by gear type,” said Sunny Rice, a Sea Grant agent at Petersburg. “As you put in these limiting factors and hit Go, the icons will pop up representing those fisheries.” Fisheries also can be sorted by limited entry, quota shares, open access and other categories. The fishing map came about, Rice said, from frequent comments at the Young Fishermen’s Summits. “People would say ‘I didn’t realize there was this kind of fishery in that part of the state,’ or ‘I didn’t even know that there were other people fishing Dungeness crab in other regions.’ Or, ‘what are my options for moving into additional fisheries when I don’t even know what fisheries are out there,’” Rice explained. The map is an ongoing collaboration with Sea Grant agents across the state and United Fishermen of Alaska, and is aimed primarily at new fishing entrants or those who want to grow their operations. “Maybe you already are fishing a certain species and you didn’t realize there was a possibility of fishing that at another place. Or you already have the gear to do one fishery and maybe you could use that gear somewhere else. You can sort it in those ways,” she added. The map, which is part of Sea Grant’s popular Fish Biz tool kit, also provides links to money matters, such as permit costs and fishery earnings from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. “If you’re really considering getting into a fishery, you can look back into the quartile tables and find out what people in that fishery have earned in the past,” Rice said. The map is a good start, she added, but the best go-to place for answers is local fishery managers. “If fishermen are serious about considering a new fishery, call the manager for that area,” Rice advises. “Those guys are very available and can answer all your questions.” Feedback on the fishing map is encouraged. Contact Rice at [email protected] Fish call The Alaska Board of Fisheries is calling for proposals for suggested changes in the subsistence, personal use, sport, guided sport, and commercial fishing regulations for Bristol Bay, Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim, Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Islands, Chignik, and statewide finfish general provisions. Deadline to submit proposals is April 10. Proposal forms are available at the Boards Support website and may be mailed to Juneau or submitted online or via email at [email protected] Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Halibut faces headwinds as catches drop 10%

Pacific halibut catches for 2018 won’t decline as severely as initially feared, but the fishery faces headwinds from several directions. Federal fishery managers announced just a few days before the March 24 start of the halibut opener that commercial catches for Alaska will be down 10 percent for a total of 17.5 million pounds. The industry was on tenterhooks awaiting the catch information, which typically is announced by the International Pacific Halibut Commission in late January. However, representatives from the U.S. and Canada could not agree on how to apportion the halibut catches in fishing regions that stretch from the west coast and British Columbia to the Bering Sea. “The Canadians felt there was justification in the survey and commercial fishery data that, in concert with a long-held position that the IPHC’s apportionment scheme was not accurate, supported a higher catch limit. They were also opposed to the slow pace the U.S. has taken in reducing its bycatch of halibut in the Bering Sea,” said Peggy Parker of Seafoodnews.com. The impasse put the decision in the laps of federal managers at NOAA Fisheries in Washington, D.C., who were pushed to the wire to get the halibut catch limits and regulations on the rule books in time for the fishery start. Adding to the halibut drama are reports of hefty holdovers of fish in freezers, and competition again from Atlantic halibut from eastern Canada. Prices for Alaska halibut are typically very high for the season’s first deliveries and then decrease after a few weeks. Last year they started out topping $7 per pound to fishermen at major ports. Prices remained in the $5 to $6 range for the duration of the eight-month fishery, prompting a push back from buyers who complained of “price fatigue” and switched their sourcing to less expensive Atlantic fish. When the first fish crossed after March 24, prices at $4.50 to $5 per pound at major ports are $2 or so lower than fishermen have been accustomed to receiving over the past few years. Kodiak, for example, was paying $4.50 on March 27, and likely to drop a bit. Seward prices were reported at $4.50 to $5. Yakutat was paying the highest at $5.25 across the board.Here is a breakdown of Alaska commercial halibut catches in pounds by region: Area 2C/Southeast: 3.57 million, down 15.2 percent Area 3A/Central Gulf: 7.35 million, down 5 percent Area 3B/Western Gulf: 2.62 million, down 16.6 percent Area 4B/Aleutian Islands: 1.05 million, down 7.9 percent Area 4CDE/Bering Sea: 1.58 million, down 7.1 percent Trump tariffs Seafood is Alaska’s largest export by far, usually totaling over $3 billion annually and China has is the top destination of those exports at nearly 30 percent. It’s too soon to tell how Trump’s nearly $60 billion in tariffs with China will affect Alaska’s seafood sales, but it will likely result in some backlash. Tariffs are taxes on imports that make them more expensive to consumers. “In general, access to international markets is a huge deal for Alaska and anything that restricts trade is generally a negative for the seafood industry,” said Garrett Evridge, a seafood analyst for the McDowell Group. “Often when the U.S goes down this road, other countries will reciprocate with the same industry. If China reciprocates with tariffs, that will raise the cost of all seafood products in those markets.” Evridge pointed to Trump’s refusal to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have been the world’s largest trade agreement with 11 countries covering 40 percent of the global economy. Alaska seafood was set to net a big benefit from the TPP with lowered or zeroed out tariffs on seafood. Currently, the tariffs across the partnership countries range from 3.5 to 11 percent. For Alaska pollock roe and surimi, for example, 4.2 percent tariffs going into Japan would have immediately gone to zero, said Ron Rogness of American Seafoods Company. Tariffs on Alaska sockeye salmon – now at 3.5% - also would have been zeroed out. For other salmon species, the import tax would have been gradually reduced and eventually eliminated. The tariffs on king and snow crab, herring roe and frozen cod also would have ended immediately upon TPP passage. In another trade imbalance, the U.S. continues to import millions of dollars in seafood from Russia, even though that country placed a continuing embargo on purchasing seafood and other goods from the U.S. in 2013. Russian purchases of Alaska seafood totaled at least 20 million pounds of mostly pink salmon roe and pollock surimi annually, valued at $60 million, according to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Through June of 2017, the U.S imported 36 million pounds of seafood from Russia valued at nearly $267 million. According to NOAA Fisheries trade data, so far this year imports to the U.S. from Russia total nearly 4.2 million pounds valued at more than $23.5 million. That includes 185,000 pounds of frozen sockeye salmon valued at nearly $700,000; over 375,000 pounds of red king crab valued at more than $6.6 million and nearly 1.3 million pounds of snow crab worth $4.3 million. Interestingly, the data show the U.S. imported 142,000 pounds of “Alaska” pollock fillets, valued at over $87,000. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: ASMI launches new marketing for old crabs

“It’s what’s on the inside that counts” is the message Alaska crab marketers are pushing to their customers, encouraging them to put appearances aside. “We’re telling them to ‘Get Ugly,’” said Tyson Fick, executive director of the trade group, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, speaking of the new campaign launched last week in partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute at the big Seafood Expo in Boston. The promotion showcases Alaska crabs with darker, discolored or scarred shells or adorned with barnacles, that may be less appealing to shoppers. “It’s the initial step in the campaign to raise awareness among retailers, restaurants and consumers,” said ASMI communications director Jeremy Woodrow. We’re saying ‘go ahead, tell your customers to get ugly.’ After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” “Ugly crab is safe and delicious to eat, it just isn’t as pretty,” a flyer distributed at Boston says, explaining that shell appearance varies based on crab maturity and timing of the molt. It says that shell variations demonstrate “the authentic nature of seafood caught in the wild,” and that “purchasing ugly crab is a way to support our planet’s wild resources.” The Get Ugly team is modeling Alaska crab after similar image enhancement efforts underway by farmers. “We’re taking a page out of the book of what some fruits and vegetable have done; that a blemish doesn’t affect the taste of the thing, and with crab, the meat fill might even be better,” Fick said, adding that avoiding food waste and improving sustainability are also part of the message. Creating more customers for less visually appealing crab also would improve fishermen’s bottom line, as the product drags down prices. “It is graded at the processor and may be graded further at the repacker. There may be several grades for off-color shells depending on the species, quantity and other factors. It varies from year to year,” said Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange that negotiates prices for most Bering Sea crabbers. The ugly crab can comprise up to 30 percent of a catch at certain times of year, which has been the case during this year’s snow crab fishery, said Fick. “We are in a cycle, especially with snow crab, where there is a higher percentage of old shell crab. We are trying to create consumer demand to help with that situation,” he said. By all accounts, the Get Ugly campaign got lots of good feedback in Boston. Fick believes it offers potential for other Alaska seafood. “Fish with net marks or a little bit of blush to the skin color on a salmon; seafood products that have visual imperfections but are still fantastic quality otherwise,” he said. “It truly is what’s on the inside that counts.” Hatchery hauls The number of salmon returning to Alaska hatcheries last year nearly doubled over the 2016 return, but the proportion of the catch that hatchery fish contributed to the state’s total salmon catch declined. Hatchery fish made up 21 percent of Alaska’s commercial salmon catch in 2017, the lowest level since 1995. The hatchery take usually adds up to one-third of Alaska’s salmon catch or more. “The average return of hatchery fish was simply dwarfed by a near record high wild stock harvest,” said Mark Stopha, author of the annual salmon enhancement report for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game in Juneau. Fishermen last year caught just less than 50 million salmon that began their lives in one of Alaska’s 25 privately operated hatcheries. The fish were valued at more than $160 million at the docks, 24 percent of Alaska’s total salmon fishery value. Currently, 29 salmon hatcheries are operating in Alaska — 25 are operated by private nonprofit corporations, which are funded primarily from the sale of a portion of salmon returns. Two sport fish hatcheries are operated by the state, one research hatchery by NOAA Fisheries, and one production hatchery by the Metlakatla Indian Community. Pink and chum salmon by far make up most of Alaska’s hatchery production. The fish are released as fingerlings to the sea and are offspring of brood stocks originally derived from wild salmon stocks near each hatchery. Most hatchery production occurs at Prince William Sound, where the 28 million hatchery-produced fish caught last year were valued at $70 million, nearly 60 percent of the region’s total salmon fishery. Southeast is next with hatchery catches of about 8 million, mostly chums. The fish accounted for nearly 40 percent of Southeast’s total salmon fishery value of $53 million. Kodiak’s two hatcheries contributed $3 million, or 6 percent, to the island’s salmon catch last year, mostly from sockeyes. About 150,000 hatchery salmon, mostly sockeyes, were caught last year at Cook Inlet, valued at over a half million dollars. The Department of Fish and Game also coordinates educational programs with state and private hatcheries at 150 Alaska schools where kids hatch and grow salmon in their classrooms. Hatchery operators forecast a return of about 54 million fish to Alaska this year. Fishing tracker I know that my son has been fishing on the west side of Kodiak Island. How? A new, free interactive map lets anyone zero in on near real-time views of fishing patterns of individual boats and fishing fleets anywhere in the world. Researchers at the University of California’s Bren School of Environmental Science &Management created a Global Fishing Watch map using satellite images and common ship-tracking technology, marking the first time that fishing’s global footprint has been quantified. After observing more than 40 million hours of fishing activity in 2016, they discovered that five countries account for more than 85 percent of high seas fishing: China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Fishing activity now covers at least 55 percent of the world’s oceans, or four times the land area covered by agriculture. The trackers found that 70,000 vessels of the global fishing fleet traveled nearly 286 million miles in 2016, or equivalent to traveling to the moon and back 600 times. The team used machine learning technology to analyze 22 billion messages publicly broadcasted from vessels’ Automatic Identification Systems over four years. Based solely on movement patterns, the Global Fishing Watch algorithm was able to identify each commercial fishing vessel, their sizes and engine powers, what type of fishing they were doing, and when and where they fished down to the hour and mile. By making the Global Fishing Watch public, governments, managers and researchers now have information to make better decisions in regulating fishing activities and reaching conservation and sustainability goals. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

FISH FACTOR: Millennialls a major potential market for Alaska seafood

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

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

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

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

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

FISH FACTOR: Seafood trimmings have huge uncaptured value

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

FISH FACTOR: Annual picks and pans

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

FISH FACTOR: Grant funds deckhand apprenticeship program

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

FISH FACTOR: Kodiak, Gulf communities brace for cod disaster

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

FISH FACTOR: Pollock push continues with Seattle food truck

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

FISH FACTOR: After rebound, halibut harvests may drop again

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

FISH FACTOR: DiCaprio backs farmed fish to save wild stocks

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

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

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

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