Laine Welch

Comment deadlines approaching for Alaska fish issues

Nowhere in the world do people have more say in shaping fisheries policy than in Alaska. While the outcomes might get mixed rants and reviews, no one is ever denied the chance to state ideas, concerns and gripes to decision makers. Several opportunities are available right now. First off, a revised draft of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, or MSA, was just released for public review and comment. The MSA is the primary federal law that governs all fisheries management in U.S. waters; it is undergoing reauthorization targeted for completion at the end of this year. Comments will be taken until the bill moves through the Senate to the full Congress for final action. Find more information at the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard website. Comments also can be sent to Sen. Mark Begich, who chairs the Senate committee on Oceans, Fisheries and Coast Guard. Revised protection measures are proposed for Steller sea lions in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The changes could reopen fishing for Pacific cod, Atka mackerel and pollock for the first time in five years in certain areas. Comments to NOAA Fisheries are accepted through Aug. 15. It’s the last chance to comment on the proposed KSM gold/copper open pit mine just 19 miles north of the Alaska border. KSM would be one of the largest mines in North America, operating at the headwaters of trans-boundary rivers flowing to Juneau, Petersburg and other Southeast Alaska regions. Currently, there are no enforceable policies in place to safeguard Alaska’s fish and clean water from upstream industrial development. The deadline to comment is Aug. 20. The public has until Sept. 19 to comment to the Environmental Protection Agency on its intent to protect salmon and habitat at Bristol Bay by imposing tough watershed restrictions on large mines in the region. The EPA has scheduled a series of seven public hearings starting Aug. 12 in Anchorage, followed by meetings throughout the Bristol Bay region.  Fish skin baskets Audrey Armstrong of Galena remembers the day she was first inspired to make beautiful things from salmon skins. It was Sept. 4, 2002, and she was mesmerized by a king salmon she had caught. “The colors were so beautiful, and I said to myself, I know a long time ago they used to make garments and baskets and different containers out of fish skin. I wonder if I could make something out of this skin. And that is how I started,” Armstrong said in a phone interview. It was difficult to learn the traditional techniques, as the history for the old ways was lost. “There was nothing really written. And I think the oldest piece I saw from my culture was from 1849. It was a child’s mittens made out of fish skins. They are so beautiful. So now the majority of us working with fish skin it is all by trial and error, and by talking to other people who are working with fish skin and trying to bring it back. We are all learning from each other,” she said. Armstrong uses an ulu to clean and scrape any fat from the skins, which keeps them from spoiling. She cleans and freezes the skins and hand sews each piece as it is pulled from a cooler.  “Because it will dry out real fast as you are sewing, so you have to keep putting it back in the cooler,” she said. “And then you put it over your mold and it becomes a basket, or a vase or a bag. It becomes whatever you are making. So my baskets have this hard surface to the skin and then I decorate them with beads, abalone shells, and dentalia shells, which represent the status of our Athabascan chiefs.”
 Armstrong’s favorite fish skin to work with is king salmon. She has won numerous art awards for her work, which is displayed across Alaska and elsewhere. She also shares her skill at workshops all over the state.   New fish advisor Gov. Sean Parnell on July 25 appointed Ben Mohr as his new fisheries advisor. Mohr previously was public information specialist for the Pebble Partnership for six years, and was former campaign manager for Dan Sullivan, candidate for U.S. Senate. Mohr replaces Stephanie Moreland as the governor’s fisheries advisor. Fish funds Two Sitka fishing projects received grant awards from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s  Fisheries Innovation Fund, a program launched in 2010 to support sustainable U.S. fisheries and fishermen. The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust received $135,000 to develop and deploy processes “for inter-generational transfer of fishery rights and best practices.” The proposed project “utilizes existing legal and financial mechanisms in a novel way to achieve the goal of increased retention of economic benefits from fisheries in Gulf of Alaska communities.” Another $38,000 went to the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association to move electronic monitoring systems from a pilot stage to use out on the water. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run strong, but prices aren't

It came as no surprise when the first price postings last week tanked for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon to $1.20 per pound, with an extra 15 cents for chilled fish. That compares to a base price of $1.50 a pound last year. The Bristol Bay catch topped 28 million reds by July 18, 11 million more than projected, and the fish were still coming. (Alaska’s total sockeye salmon catch as of July 18 was more than 37 million and counting.) Demand for the fish is strong among both foreign and U.S. buyers, but the downward press on prices stems from lots of competing red salmon rivals in the works this year. The sockeye run at the lower Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam set a record last week, topping a half-million fish, the most since the dam was completed in 1938. Russia’s sockeye salmon catches topped 31 million early in July, and that number will go higher. And all eyes will be on British Columbia’s Fraser River, where sockeyes are just beginning to show. The largest sockeye return in 100 years is expected at the Fraser this summer, up to 75 million fish. It’s a matter of wait-and-see if the Fraser run materializes in the next month. If it fizzles, it could mean some nice retro payments for Alaska salmon fishermen months from now after most of the sales are made. But it remains to be seen how all the sockeye dynamics play out in global markets, both this year and next. “If we get more Russian sockeye coming into our more premium markets, if we get a large Fraser River harvest, and if processors aren’t able to move a lot of the product before that happens, then we could see wholesale values take quite a tumble,” said Andy Wink, lead fisheries economist with the McDowell Group in Juneau. “We will have to see how things shake out, because a lot will happen after our season is done. But processors are going to have to pay a certain amount to assure themselves of supply in the bay this year. Where that comes in next year will depend on what happens this fall at Fraser River.” Pebble push back First Alaskans, fishermen and sportsmen around the country applauded the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement that it plans to impose restrictions on large scale mining operations in the Bristol Bay region, such as the proposed Pebble Mine. A draft report released last week said development of such a mine would have “unacceptable adverse impacts” to the Bristol Bay watershed, and that the action is necessary “to protect the world’s greatest salmon fishery” from what the EPA called “an open pit for copper and gold extraction nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon.” The EPA began an official push in February to protect the Bristol Bay watershed from large scale mining. In May, Pebble owners sued to stop EPA from shutting down the mining project and the state has sided with Pebble in the lawsuit. EPA administrator Dennis McLerran said on July 18 that the agency’s action is not a “preemptive veto” before the mine owners apply for a permit. Using its authority under the Clean Water Act, the EPA proposes to ban any mine that would destroy more than 5 miles of salmon streams, or 19 miles of tributaries; fill in 1,100 or more acres of wetlands; and reroute flows of salmon streams. Public meetings in Alaska are scheduled in August. The deadline to comment on the EPA report is Sept. 19. Dock talk In a nod to gender neutrality, bureaucrats and media have adopted the term “fisher” when referring to those who harvest fish from the sea. Here’s a sampler of Kodiak responses when fishing men and women were asked how they feel about the term: • “I would much rather be called a fisherman than a fisher women. I don’t want to be treated like a woman on the boat. I want to be treated like a crew member.” • “As a woman I have always considered myself a fisherman. My dad has always taught me how to fish, and I feel like it is something that is important to many families. I think it should stay the way that it is” • “You can put too much weight on the gender bias thing. Accept people for who they are. Why do we have to change it because somebody is offended? We are changing so many things in this country because somebody is offended.” • “It’s been used for hundreds of years. Whether you’re a fisher guy or a fisher woman, it’s always been fisherman.” • “A fisherman is a fisherman. That’s the term. This gender neutrality has gone too far.” • “I’m offended to change. And I’m tired of it. An oldsquaw (sea duck) will always be an oldsquaw and they came up with a new name for that duck (long-tailed).” • “I understand it is a historical thing. It eliminates the women and it would be nice to have something, but fisher is not it.” • “A fisher person would be just fine. And if a woman wants to be called a fisher lady, that would be acceptable as well.” • “A fisherman will always be a fisherman. Whether it is a female, boy, child, man, or woman. It doesn’t really matter.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Glacial melt changes ocean chemistry, study says crabs hear

Ocean chemists are calling it “revolutionary technology” as unmanned gliders track how melting glaciers may be intensifying corrosive waters in Prince William Sound. “It’s been hugely successful. We’ve flown these things all over inside and outside of Prince William Sound, we’ve had great control over them, we’ve been able to move them to exactly where we want them to be. They are making thousands of measurements all over,” said Jeremy Mathis, director of the Ocean Environment Research Division at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle. Mathis also is an affiliate faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and oversees studies at Newport, Ore. In different regions of the world, natural processes (like glacial melt) are worsening the effects of ocean acidification so that a region like Prince William Sound may already be preconditioned, Mathis explained. Ocean acidification is a global phenomenon being driven by increased, human produced levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. It is changing the chemistry of the entire ocean at a slow, methodical pace. “So now we have this anthropogenic (manmade) process combining with natural process, and it makes some regions more vulnerable to the impacts of ocean acidification than others. And Prince William Sound is very high up on that list because of the processes that go on inside of it.” Since May, two Carbon Wave Gliders resembling yellow surfboards have been propelled around the Sound by wave motions to test surface water conditions. The gliders are controlled remotely back in the Seattle lab with an iPad. Another so-called Slocum Glider, also controlled remotely, resembles a yellow torpedo and makes dives down to 600 feet and then resurfaces.     “It makes these gliding, up and down profiles and when it breaks the surface, all the data is transmitted via satellite back to the labs. It’s been working flawlessly,” Mathis said.  Prior to using the gliders, researchers were limited to contracting with boats and crews and taking only about four water samples each year. “This is a revolution. I’ve been working on ocean acidification in Prince William Sound for six years and ship time is so expensive, that’s all we could afford to do. That has severely limited our ability to understand what’s going on because we don’t have the opportunity to collect more than a few data points every year. These gliders are a fraction of the cost and we can leave them out for five months,” he added. “It will change the way we collect data, the way we can understand ecosystem environmental processes. The ultimate goal is to make sure we understand what is going on with the fisheries and the biology and communicate that back to the fishing communities and stakeholders in Alaska.” The gliders were tested once off the West Coast, but the PWS project is the first time they’ve really been let loose, Mathis said.    “To hedge our bets, we have people we can call with fast boats in Valdez, Seward and Whittier if a glider gets run over by a tanker, or it dies for some reason. So we have this human insurance policy if we do have trouble and they can get to them for us,” he said.   The data is already showing some preliminary results. “We are seeing that the glacial plume inside and moving out into the Gulf of Alaska is far more extensive than we thought it was going to be. One of our conclusions is that the glaciers are having quite an extensive impact on the water chemistry of Prince William Sound,” Mathis said. The unmanned gliders will soon be deployed throughout the entire Gulf, the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean. Crabs can hear Creepy soundtracks of noises made by predators had mud crabs running for shelter and proved, for the first time, that the animals can hear. Marine acoustic experts at Boston’s Northeastern University made the discovery in lab tests on 200 mud crabs during a two-year study. When they piped in certain noises, the crabs didn’t dare venture out to eat juicy clams placed in their tanks and their skittishness lasted for several hours. The scientists said the crabs hear through a small sac at the base of their antennae called a statocyst. It contains thousands of sen¬sory hairs impor¬tant for the animal’s bal¬ance but also, the study found, for responding to sounds. Might it be the same for Alaska crab?  “That’s unknown. I’m not aware of any studies that have gone into that level of detail on the sensory organs or abilities of any of the commercial crab species in Alaska,” said Bob Foy, director of NOAA Fisheries top crab lab at Kodiak. “I would not be surprised if it was the same,” he added. “Sound is just a pressure wave, so I’m not surprised that the crab can hear the sound. The interesting fact is how they are reacting to a predator or to another organism being there, and being able to measure that stress that the animal is undergoing at the same time.” Other studies showed that ship sounds affected foraging behavior of shore crabs. Foy said all of the findings can be important for crab scientists and managers on a couple of fronts. “Just knowing that the animals have that additional sensory capability is huge for us to understand how they are interacting with their environment. Crab communication is very important,” he explained. “We are trying to understand the behavior of the crab, such as how the males and females find each other. Crabs don’t broadcast spawn like a fish does; they have to find each other in a very large ocean. So knowing more about their behaviors at that level would be critical for understanding how these animals are moving throughout their environment. Another thing is how the impacts of sonar from oil drilling or ship noises and other kinds of sensory environmental impacts may or may not affect these animals. Knowing that they do have this (hearing) sensitivity helps us think about how we might test for these things.”    Foy called the crab hearing studies “fascinating” and hopes they continue. Foy says he hopes the crab hearing studies continue.  “If you had asked me if crabs can hear prior to this, I probably would have said they probably have a way of detecting sound,” he said. “But seeing how they are detecting it and then responding to noises and other predators is very intriguing in terms of how we might be able to use this in the future. Fish prices impact state, local governments The various business and landing taxes on fish usually equal 3 to 5 percent of the dockside values, and are shared 50-50 between the local areas where the fish is delivered and state coffers, to be distributed at the whim of the Alaska Legislature. Seafood economist Andy Wink with the McDowell Group in Juneau points out that with commercial catches on the order of 5 to 6 billion pounds per year, even adding or losing one penny per pound makes a difference of nearly a million dollars for the state and local governments each. The industry also pays other taxes and fees, which cover management, marketing, hatcheries and other costs. Wink said Alaska’s seafood industry accounts for the vast majority of hatchery funding, allowing both sport and commercial fishermen the benefit of more salmon. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Bay haul beats forecast; Alaska fish get clean bill of health

With salmon fisheries going on every summer all across Alaska, you might wonder why so much attention is focused on Bristol Bay. The answer can be summed up in two words: sockeye salmon. Bristol Bay is home to the largest red salmon runs in the world and sockeye is Alaska’s most valuable salmon fishery by far. In most years, well over one-third of Alaska’s total earnings from salmon fishing stem from Bristol Bay. Whereas other fishing regions like Copper River, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Southeast and the Alaska Peninsula might get sockeye catches ranging from 1 million to 5 million fish, Bristol Bay’s harvests can reach into the 20 million to 40 million range. “The Bay” also has the most salmon fishermen with more than 2,800 active permit holders. Fishermen were expecting to catch about 17 million reds at Bristol Bay this summer, but it could blow past that by the time you read this. Catches already were topping 2 million per day and by July 4, the harvest was at 14 million — with another surge of sockeyes on the way. Salmon trackers already were predicting that the run of sockeyes homing in to Bristol Bay could top 38 million, 45 percent over the preseason forecast. Alaska’s statewide sockeye catch this summer is pegged at nearly 34 million, a 14 percent increase over 2013. The total salmon catch this year is projected at 133 million fish, down 47 percent from last year’s record haul. (Summed up in two words: pink salmon.)  Independence Day thought Commercial fishermen are the world’s only remaining hunter/gatherers for a wild capture resource. Alaska fish tests clean Ramped up testing this summer shows Alaska fish is free of all signs of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown after Japan’s horrific earthquake/tsunami three years ago. “The results of the testing of the Alaska fish that were just collected look very good. There is no detection of any radiation that would have originated from Fukushima. That was very good news,” state veterinarian Bob Gerlach announced last week. From the beginning, state and federal agencies have partnered to test and track Alaska seafood for radiation. Concerns over contaminants that showed up recently in salmon and tuna caught off the Pacific coast prompted them to do more Alaska-specific testing prior to salmon season. “The state has worked with the state Department of Health and DEC to develop a sampling plan to select certain species of fish from the Aleutian islands and Bristol bay, Gulf of Alaska and Southeast and we will be collecting additional samples through the summer from other species of fish to try and get background information. But at this point we haven’t been able to detect anything at all — all the samples have come up as ‘non-detects,’” Gerlach told KDLG. Oceanographers have predicted that radiation from Fukushima was expected to hit Alaska waters this year. “Because fish come in at different time periods, we were collecting as early as possible when the salmon fishery started, and will continue to the end of the season,” he added. Scallops status quo There’s been no stampede to Alaska’s scallop beds that is newly opened to all comers. The fishery has been managed under a limited entry system for years, but was changed to “open access” starting July 1. “To date we haven’t had anyone register or obtain an observer to fish in that fishery, so we anticipate the same four vessels that have historically fished the last four to five years to be the only vessels that will fish during this scallop season,” said Mark Stichert, fishery manager at ADFG in Kodiak. Weathervane scallop beds dot Alaska’s waters from one end to the other, yielding a stable total harvest each year of around 400,000 pounds of shucked meats. “Historically, the two largest beds are Yakutat and here in Kodiak,” Stichert said. “Some fishing has occurred inside Prince William Sound and up in Cook Inlet, but those two areas are both closed this season due to low abundance. We have scallop fishing that occurs in the Alaska Peninsula, a small fishery in Dutch Harbor, and a fairly sizeable harvest in the Bering Sea.” Managers also are re-opening an old scallop bed along the Alaska Peninsula that has been closed for five years to allow the stocks to regenerate. Fishermen’s prices for scallops can be at or above $10 a pound, making the fishery worth $4 million at the Alaska docks. Comments wanted Federal fishery managers want comments on plans to relax Steller sea lion protections and allow more fishing for cod and Atka mackerel along the western Aleutian Islands. It could lead to those fisheries being reopened in January after a five-year closure. Deadline to comment is August 15. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishfactor.com or contact [email protected] for information.

More than just sockeye salmon fisheries underway around state

Salmon takes center stage in Alaska every summer, but many more fisheries also are going on all across the state. The world’s biggest sockeye salmon run is expected to surge into Bristol Bay any day, where a catch of about 17 million reds is projected. Elsewhere, the annual summer troll fishery in Southeast Alaska kicks off on July first with a target of just over 166,000 chinook salmon. Lots of crab fisheries are underway each summer — dungeness fishing began on June 15 in Southeast where a harvest of 2.25 million pounds is expected. The region’s golden king crab fishery will close on July 10, with a catch of about 234,000 pounds. The 6 million-pound golden king crab fishery continues way out along the Aleutians. Norton Sound’s red king crab fishery started on June 26 with a harvest set at 382,000 pounds, down 23 percent. Trawlers are targeting pollock and cod in the Bering Sea, and the Gulf of Alaska jig fleet continues to make a dent in that 7 million-pound quota. Halibut longliners had taken 53 percent of their 16 million pound catch limit, with just 7 million pounds to go. For sablefish, 62 percent of the nearly 24 million-pound quota has been landed with nine million pounds remaining. Both of those fisheries end in November. A lingcod fishery opens in Prince William Sound on July 1 with a catch set at about 33,000 pounds. Alaska’s statewide scallop fishery, which has a combined limit of 407,000 pounds of shucked meats, also opens July 1. In other fish news — Simon Kinneen of Nome has been named to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. He replaces outgoing Eric Olson. Also reappointed is John Henderschedt for a Washington seat. Both terms are for three years.  United Fishermen of Alaska, the nation’s largest commercial fishing trade group, has endorsed two congressional candidates.  “We have put our support behind Sen. Mark Begich for another term in the U.S. Senate, and we have also voted to endorse Don Young for another go-around at the U.S. House of Representatives,” said UFA executive director Julianne Curry.  UFA President, Jerry McCune also has thrown his hat in the ring as a Democratic contender for Alaska’s state house, representing District 32. Maritime workers wanted Alaska’s coastal economies depend on the seafood industry, and the entire state relies on ships to get goods from one place to another. Getting more Alaskans into maritime trades is the goal of a new workforce development plan released by the state Department of Labor. It is the result of two years of collaboration by numerous industry sectors, five state agencies and university educators. For the first time the plan breaks down maritime jobs into a unique, related workforce and identifies 23 different occupation types ranging from fishing to research to shipbuilding and repairs. “One thing the plan really points out is how reliant our economy is on the maritime industry. Not only do we have a huge economic sector with seafood harvesting and processing — but also everything in maritime and marine trades. And then all the scientific work that goes on to support it. It is a real network of economic activity,” said Wanetta Ayers, director of business partnerships at the Department of Workforce Development. Right now, she said, there are not enough skilled workers to meet demand. “One of the occupations identified in the plan is machinist,” Ayers said. “There is increased automation and complexity with a lot of our seafood plants, and we need young people with those kinds of skills so circuit writers from the Lower 48 aren’t being called to come up and keep our plants working. We need to look beyond the frontline jobs, which may make up the largest count in terms of workers but there are good well-paying jobs in maritime and I want to see Alaskans working in those occupations. “One of the main areas of focus is helping Alaskans identify what those good, career living wage opportunities are in the maritime industry and there are lots of them. Mostly it is a factor of identifying what the right pathways are to get into some of these long term legacy jobs in the maritime industry and will provide for a livelihood that can take you through your entire life.” She added: “I can tell you in working with this industry advisory committee, what’s motivated them throughout this entire process is to really showcase what the opportunities are and make sure there are clear pathways for people to movie into those great jobs.” A new maritime workforce webpage is already online at the Department of Labor’s Workforce Development site. www.labor.alaska.gov/maritimeplan/ State publishes Chinook News Chinook News is keeping Alaskans updated as the state seeks clues about why numbers of the king of all salmon are on the decline. “Right now we are in the thick of our Chinook Salmon Research Initiative which is a $30 million, five-year effort, and we want to make sure that we share what we know and what we hope to learn with Alaskans and get the public fully engaged in the process,” said Candice Bressler, communications coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.  As part of the effort, salmon scientists are studying chinook stocks from 12 main rivers from Southeast to the Yukon.  “For this first newspaper edition we wanted to introduce the major issues surrounding chinook salmon in Alaska,” Bressler added. “We wanted to give folks an overview of what we are doing to understand the stocks, but also what we are doing to sustainably manage and rebuild chinook in Alaska. The colorful Chinook News is loaded with much more than science. “You’ve got articles about the role of research and the impact of bycatch, for example, written by some of our top scientists and they are very insightful. But we’ve also included an awesome article called ‘A century of salmon’ about the chinook tradition written by Ken Marsh,” she said. Another article highlights how salmon find their way in the deep blue maze of ocean, and there is a fun section on chinook fast facts. “Did you know the largest sport caught Chinook was 97 pounds? What a whopper!” Bressler said. Chinook News is available now at any ADFG office and online at www.adfg.alaska.gov/ Bressler said the public is encouraged to email the department questions or comments about chinook at [email protected] Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. This article is protected by copyright and may not be reprinted or distributed without permission. Visit www.alaskafishfactor.com or contact [email protected] for information.  

Not much talk about fish on candidate sites

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: the seafood industry is Alaska’s largest private employer, putting more people to work than mining, oil/gas, timber and tourism combined. The annual revenue the seafood sector contributes to state coffers is second only to Big Oil. So where does the seafood industry rank among the major candidates running for Alaska governor and the U.S. Senate? Here’s what a thorough look at each of their campaign websites reveals, starting with the race for governor (all in alphabetical order). Byron Mallott (Democratic candidate) only mentions fishing commercially in Southeast in the “About Byron” section. byronmallot.com Gov. Sean Parnell (Republican, incumbent) only mentions fishing in the “Issues/Standing Against Federal Overreach” section, saying he “fought off the federal government’s attempt to implement “ocean zoning — known as marine spatial planning,” and  “To protect the livelihoods of our fishing fleet in Southeast, the State of Alaska petitioned to de-list the Eastern stock of Steller sea lions that had been protected by the Endangered Species Act.” An article about “Wal-Mart to keep buying Alaska salmon” appears in the Blog section. parnell2014.com Bill Walker (Independent candidate) has a complete section listed under “Issues/Fish Management” saying: “Having spent 30 years in Prince William Sound, I am familiar with the importance fisheries play in all aspects of the economy…. Furthermore, I will protect, maintain and improve the fish, game and aquatic plant resources of the State, and manage their use and development for the well-being of the people of the State, consistent with high-sustained yield principles.” walkerforalaska.com Candidates running for U.S. Senate need to be aware that nearly 85 percent of Alaska’s seafood harvests fall under federal jurisdiction. Sen. Mark Begich (Democrat, incumbent) lists fishing resources under the “Priorities/Economy and Jobs” section saying: “In Alaska, fishing isn’t a hobby or a sporting event. More than 76,000 jobs in our state are directly or indirectly linked to the fishing industry. Our fisheries bring in $5 billion to our state’s economy. For us, fishing is a way of life.” Begich also mentions his ongoing fight against genetically modified salmon called Frankenfish. markbegich.com. Joe Miller (Republican candidate) has no mention of fisheries on his site. joemiller.us Dan Sullivan (Republican candidate) posts a picture of a fishing boat in the “Issues/Jobs and the Economy” section but does not mention anything about fishing or the industry. Under “Improving Lives & Opportunities in Rural Alaska” Sullivan says he “continues the time-honored activities of his wife Julie’s family at their fish camp on the Yukon River.” There is no mention of fish in his “Natural Resources” section. sullivan2014.com Mead Treadwell (Republican candidate) lists “Fishing industry” in the “Issues” section and says “Alaska’s fishing industry supports thousands of jobs and produces billions for our economy.” treadwellalaska.com For candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Forrest Dunbar (Democratic candidate) mentions two summers fishing commercially at Cordova. forrestforalaska.com Rep. Don Young (Republican, incumbent) does not appear to have a 2014 campaign web site. alaskansfordonyoung.com I fish, I vote! Seafood Harvesters of America, or SHA, is a newly-launched group that has garnered coast to coast representation in a united voice for “accountable and thriving fisheries.” “There is no national organization that only represents U.S. fishermen here in D.C.,” said Brett Veerhusen, a lifelong Alaskan who serves as executive director for the group. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu here. So it is important that we as fishermen lend our voices in a united way on key federal issues affecting fishermen.” The SHA already has 14 member groups who claim their operant word is “accountability” by fishermen, scientists, policy makers and other users of the oceans.    “The ocean is bipartisan and the most important thing as fishermen is to pass down this tradition for generations. Without the fish, nothing else matters,” Veerhusen said in a phone interview. The group is closely watching the Magnuson-Stevens Act (law that govern U.S. federal fisheries) as it undergoes reauthorization this year in Congress. “We believe the act is something to be proud of,” he said. “What is working are decisions based on sound science. That is extremely important to this group. We are advocating for better stock assessments and more funding to be gathering the best science so we can have strict accountability measures and strict annual catch limits.” Veerhusen said the harvester group plans to work with the Coast Guard on new compliance requirements that in some cases will increase costs by 30 to 50 percent.  “That’s really affecting the business men and women who are building new boats or doing a lot of boat work. We want to make sure we are coming up with a more reasonable approach that involves the fishing industry on those requirements,” he explained. Likewise, the group is tracking a discharge moratorium that is set to expire in mid-December. “If that moratorium is not extended by the EPA, vessels in Alaska and nationwide will need to get an incidental discharge permit for deck wash. It’s already been extended for recreational vessels, but not for commercial vessels. We want to make sure there is an even playing field,” Veerhusen said. He added that ocean acidification also “is very much on the radar screen.” The seafood harvesters group has been several years in the making, and Veerhusen said response has been “overwhelmingly positive.”  “A lot of people said it’s about damn time that we start coordinating and collaborating with each other,” he said. “As fishermen we believe it is our patriotic duty to be harvesting America’s fishery resources sustainably for the public to enjoy.” Stay stable Fishing boats rock and roll, pitch, yaw, surge, sway, and heave. A new iPhone app helps skippers respond to the movements as they navigate rough seas in tough weather. It is called SCraMP — for Small Craft Motion Program, and it has a variety of tools for boat operators. “There is a view that gives them the accelerations they’ve seen so they can have a sense of how bad they are being beat up. There is a screen that will tell them how severe their roll motions have been, and a screen that gives them a choice of three different warning metrics on the heave, roll and fishermen can plug in numbers they feel comfortable with,” said Leigh McCue, a professor at Virginia Tech’s Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering who created the app.  She said stability indicators have been talked about for years, but prototypes were too bulky or expensive. After getting a smart phone she realized it had all the computing power that was needed, and input from fishermen helped hone the app to their needs. “Tracking roll periods came about from a conversation with a fisherman who said that when he is sleeping in his bunk and wakes up, he’ll count off a roll period or two to make sure things seem right to him. I figured it’s easy enough to have that being calculated so he can look at a screen that shows what the roll periods have been for the time he was asleep, and see if there is anything trending that he doesn’t like,” McCue said.

Farmed salmon, big Fraser River run impacting 2014 prices

Salmon prices at wholesale show marked seasonal variations for both wild and farmed fish. It’s a pattern that has been tracked for decades by Urner Barry, the nation’s oldest commodity market watcher in business since 1895. The prices tend to decline through June, July, August and September and they begin rising again from November through the following April or May. Two things drive the well-established pattern, said market expert John Sackton, who publishes Seafood.com, an Urner-Barry partner.  “There’s a growth cycle for farmed salmon when they eat more and grow faster at certain times of the year, and so the harvests, particularly those that come into the U.S. market from Chile for example, really peak in June, July and August, which are our summer months and the winter months in Chile,” Sackton explained. “Then there is the opening of the wild salmon season each summer and all of a sudden you get a lot more diversity and availability of Alaskan salmon.” Sackton said buyers of both wild sockeyes and farmed salmon are starting to push back a bit on high prices. That’s likely reflected in the $3.50 advances for the first reds at Copper River in mid-May, which was down 50 cents from last year’s starting price. A big wild card for North American salmon this summer is the projected (an upper end of) 72 million sockeye return at British Columbia’s Fraser River. Sackton said Japanese buyers, who have been somewhat priced out of the sockeye market in recent years because there has been so much demand elsewhere and a drop in the yen has made it harder for them to buy, are hoping that a big run will open up more opportunities for them. Even though they’ve been buying less, Japan is still an important part of a three-legged stool. “You’ve got your U.S. fresh/frozen market, the Japanese market and the European customers. If the Japanese part of that equation is a bit cautious because they are hoping to see some big price break at Fraser, they will be slow to commit to contracts for the pack earlier in the year and that can put price pressure on everybody,” Sackton said. Timing also will come into play — the Fraser River run typically arrives in August, several weeks after the big sockeye haul at Bristol Bay. “So what this is going to mean this year, in my opinion, is that there will be more uncertainty about what the final price is because you’ve got a run coming in later,” he added. “I don’t know how it will affect the fishing price except that tends to follow where people expect the markets to go.” Fish Watch The first week of June saw salmon fisheries opening all across the state and the streak of warm weather had fish showing up a bit earlier than usual. Bristol Bay’s fishing season officially opened on June 2 and fishermen and processors are hurriedly gearing up in anticipation of an early sockeye run. No one wants a repeat of last year when the reds arrived eight days sooner than expected and caught many off guard. South Peninsula salmon fisheries are underway, and Kodiak’s season kicked off a bit earlier on June 5 and Yakutat on June 3. Trollers at Southeast have been out on the water for spring kings since May 1 and seiners will begin fishing throughout the region on June 15.  Alaska’s total salmon harvest this season is projected at about 133 million fish, down 47 percent from last year’s record catch of 283 million fish. That’s due to an off year for pink salmon – this summer’s catch of 75 million is a 67 percent decrease from last summer’s record take of 226 million humpies. The breakdown for other catches call for a 14 percent bump up in sockeyes to nearly 34 million; 4.4 million coho salmon, and nearly 20 million chums. A total catch of 79,000 Chinook salmon is projected in areas outside of Southeast and Bristol Bay. You can track Alaska salmon catches by region and species on a daily basis with Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s “Blue Sheet.” Find it under “Commercial Fisheries/Salmon/Harvest.” A weekly in-season summary also charts the progression of all commercial salmon harvests and compares them with the five-year averages. As always, lots of other fisheries are underway besides salmon — the summer pollock season opens in the Bering Sea on June 10; likewise, cod reopens for hook and line catcher processors. Halibut longliners have landed 45 percent of their 16 million-pound catch limit with the ports of Homer, Seward and Kodiak getting almost equal shares of landings so far. For sablefish, 54 percent was taken out of a nearly 24 million pound quota, with most deliveries going to Seward. Jig fishermen around Kodiak were still tapping away at their 7.3 million-pound cod quota. In Southeast, the Dungeness crab season opens June 15 — managers will use catch and effort information from the first week of fishing to predict the total season harvest, which usually is between two to three million pounds. At Norton Sound a herring bait fishery is underway.  Fascinating ugly fish One of Alaska’s ugliest and most abundant fish is set to be tracked for the first time by federal managers — the giant grenadier. Also called rat tails, there are several species of the deep dwellers and little is known about their life history. Trawl surveys by NOAA Fisheries in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska have shown that grenadiers are the most abundant fish, in terms of weight, in depths from 600 to 3,000 feet and have been caught deeper than 6,000 feet. The fish are most commonly taken as bycatch in the sablefish longline and Greenland turbot fisheries. Sketchy catch data estimate that 16,000 metric tons (35.2 million pounds) of grenadiers are discarded which annually with 100 percent mortality due to the pressure difference experienced by the fish when they are brought to the surface. “There really is not a lot known on their niche in the ecosystem, but just the fact that they are so abundant, they likely have a large impact on other species on the slope,” said Cara Rodgveller, a biologist at the Auke Bay Laboratory in Juneau. “They are most likely feeding off both fish and invertebrates, and also as a prey species for other fish.” There have been attempts to develop a fishery for giant grenadier, but because of their jelly-like flesh quality, high water content and low fat levels, there has been little interest in world markets; likewise, endeavors to develop treatment processes to make the fish palatable have been unsuccessful.   Federal fishery managers in February included grenadiers in their oversight as an “ecosystem component” in Alaska waters. That means they will be tracked for overfishing officially, and their retained catch is required to be reported, Rodgveller said. And while there is no directed fishery for the grenadiers, which can reach lengths topping six feet, genetic research is continuing to learn more about the fish. In aging studies, scientists discovered that the otoliths (ear bones) were variable in shape, unheard of within a species. “Giant grenadiers have the potential to actually be more than one species,” Rodgveller said. “They have different otolith shapes that are dramatically different, and haven’t been seen in any other fish species.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

GM salmon labeling amendment moves ahead

If genetically modified salmon gets a green light by the federal government, it will be labeled as such if U.S. senators on both sides of the aisle have their way. The Senate Appropriations Committee last week passed the bipartisan Murkowski-Begich amendment requiring that consumers be advised of what they are buying. During testimony, Sen. Lisa Murkowski questioned if the so-called Frankenfish can even be called a real salmon. “This takes a transgenic Atlantic salmon egg, which has genes from an ocean pout that is somewhat akin to an eel, and it combines with the genes of a Chinook salmon. I have questioned time and time again, why we would want to be messing with Mother Nature like this,” Murkowski said. “We are trying to invent a species that would grow quicker to out-compete our wild stocks. This experiment puts at risk the health of our fisheries not only in Alaska, but throughout the Pacific Northwest.” “We’re not talking about GM corn or something else that is grown. We are talking about a species that moves, migrates, and breeds,” Murkowski said. “This is an experiment that if it went wrong could be devastating to the wild, healthy stocks that our farmers of the sea depend upon.” The “AquaAdvantage” Frankenfish, created by a company called AquaBounty, based in the U.S. and Panama, has been vying for Food and Drug Administration approval for two decades. The company has spent nearly $80 million on what would be the first genetically engineered animal ever to be approved for human consumption. Because the gene tweaking is considered a “veterinary procedure,” the fish will not be required to use any labeling identifying it as a man-made product. Murkowski pointed out that more than 1.5 million people have written in opposition to FDA approval and 65 supermarkets (including Safeway, Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target) have pledged not to carry it. Salmon farmers also are distancing themselves from Frankenfish; both the International Salmon Farmers Association and the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance have issued statements in opposition to GM salmon. AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish called critics of the fish “bullies” and “terrorists” in a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article last week. Murkowski said, “We are not doing anything more than telling the FDA if you move forward with a wrongheaded decision to allow for the first time ever this genetically engineered salmon for human consumption, at a bare minimum you’ve got to stick a label on it that says so.” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., agreed. “Whether we look at this from the viewpoint of a citizen’s right to know what they’re buying, or we look at it from the viewpoint of ensuring a healthy industry that’s so important to our states, this amendment is absolutely 100 percent right on,” Merkley said. “And if you buy salmon, you should buy 100 percent salmon.” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland and chair of the Appropriations Committee, added: “If something is a GMO food, we ought to know what it is. I don’t want to eat a Dolly-burger and I don’t want to eat a Frankenfish.” A voice vote on the Murkowski-Begich amendment passed with only one dissenter. It now goes to the Senate floor as part of the agriculture spending bill. Words matter Whoever represents Alaska in Congress needs to be seafood savvy, as nearly 85 percent of Alaska’s total harvests fall under federal jurisdiction, meaning in waters from three to 200 miles offshore. That’s a lot of poundage hauled aboard, but when it comes to fish delivered to the docks, state waters win the day. And the difference between “volume” and “landings” is often confused. “You can imagine the number of deliveries, for example, that happen in Bristol Bay in the month of July — every setnetter and every drift gillnetter who is pitching off fish, that’s a delivery, a landing. And there are hundreds of those happening every day. But you contrast that with the volume or poundage of fish harvested, that’s another thing,” explained Kurt Iverson, the Research and Planning project leader at the state Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. Likewise, there is an important distinction between fishery poundage and values. Some are high volume with relatively lower value on a per pound basis, and vice versa.  “A good example of a fishery that has very high value but relatively low volume is sablefish. Compare that to other fisheries and the total poundage harvested may not measure up, but the value is very high,” Iverson said. Furthermore, when people talk about the overall value of Alaska’s fisheries, they use the ex-vessel, or dockside numbers. But that represents only 40 percent of what it is really worth — it’s the first wholesale value that gives a more accurate number after the first fish sales are made by seafood processors. Iverson said fisheries terms can easily be misconstrued and it is important to make distinctions. “Not only for someone who is expressing it, but for a reader. Are you considering a value or poundage or a harvest, a delivery or something else?” he said. “We all have a responsibility to be clear about what we’re talking about, and our audiences should be aware that there are differences.” Shell shocks The shells of crabs, shrimp, lobsters and other crustaceans are being turned into bio-plastics for food packaging and more. The shells contain a compound called chitin, which is also found in insects and fungi, and it is one of the most abundant biodegradable materials in the world. Estimates say more than 25 billion tons of chitin from seafood is disposed of each year. Bankrolled by funds from their government, scientists at the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research are turning chitin into so called “active” packaging aimed at reducing plastics made from petro-chemicals. The products can range from hard bio-plastics to thin films that cover food products. The food sector alone, including beverages, accounts for nearly two-thirds of global packaging from non-biodegradable plastics. Chitin has a rich research history for use in agriculture, medicine and other fields. As a seed treatment added to soil, it works as a bio-pesticide, increases blooms in plants and extends the life of cut flowers and Christmas trees. The U.S. Forest Service has conducted research on chitin to control pathogens in pine trees and increase resin pitch outflow that naturally resists pine beetle infestation. Chitin also can be used in water filtration, as it causes fine sediment particles to bind together. Tests show that chitin combined with sand filtration removes up to 99 percent of turbidity in water. Chitin’s hemostatic properties cause blood to clot rapidly and it is used in bandages by the U.S. and United Kingdom militaries. Scientists also have recently developed a polyurethane coating that heals its own scratches. When added to traditional coatings to protect paint on cars, for example, the chitin reacts chemically to ultra violet light and smoothes scratches in less than one hour.   Crossing the bar Alaska lost one of its finest fishery writers with the untimely death last week of Bob Tkacz. Bob covered seafood industry issues in Juneau for 33 years and published the weekly Laws for the Sea during the legislative sessions. He was well known (and feared) for asking tough questions, having the facts at his fingertips, and tenaciously demanding answers. As one politician put it: “Bob was someone you wanted covering the other guy’s press conference.” Bob was a friend and mentor for 25 years and saying he will be missed is an understatement. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. This article is protected by copyright and may not be reprinted or distributed without permission. Visit www.alaskafishfactor.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Plenty of pink salmon in stock from 2013; price info hard to get

Salmon season is just getting underway, but seafood companies are still selling last summer’s record catch of 226 million pink salmon — and it has prompted lots of creative thinking. “The challenge is to market all this fish and still maintain the value,” said Tyson Fick, communications director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or ASMI, the state’s marketing arm. “It wouldn’t be any problem for the producers just to flood the market, and then we would see a tremendous downward pressure in years to come. More so, we see this as a great opportunity to introduce more people to wild Alaska salmon at a price they can afford,” Fick added. ASMI has put forward an additional $1.5 million to promote pink salmon, both at home and overseas. And while Alaska has been shifting away from lower valued canned pinks — 72 percent was canned a decade ago, compared to less than half in 2012 — now it’s looking “back to the future” with a smaller sized can. “We’ve been really successful in marketing pink salmon which has greatly increased the value over the past 10 years. The idea is that with a smaller can size, and the market will tell us what that is, we can then hit a price point to be competitive with other protein options,” Fick explained. The smaller size cans also will let processors use the expanded product development tax, passed this year by the Alaska legislature, to upgrade canning lines, many of which are from the 1950s. Alaska marketers also are targeting endurance athletes with magazine ads in Runner’s World, Bicycling and Competitor, Triathlete and others, as well as onsite promotions. “We’re going to some rock and roll marathons, which is a series of road races with routes lined with live bands and cheerleaders, and we’re working with people like Kikkan Randall who are pressed for time and want a lean protein that is very nutritious. Canned salmon certainly fits that bill,” Fick said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also announced in January that it would buy $20 million in canned pinks for food assistance programs. Meanwhile, the huge pink pack is moving to market, said Tom Sunderland, vice president of marketing for Ocean Beauty Seafoods. “Prices haven’t crashed or anything and things are selling at an OK rate. Business looks good, so there’s absolutely no reason to panic,” Sunderland said. State figures show a tally of 2.7 million cases of canned pinks (talls); and 1.7 million cases of halves produced from the 2013 catch. That compares to 1.3 million and 55,000 cases, respectively, from 2012. The market should see some relief from a much smaller pink run this summer — the Alaska forecast calls for 75 million fish, a 67 percent decrease from last year’s humpy haul. Greenland calling A new television pilot featuring Alaska fishermen will take them halfway across the world to the iceberg filled waters of Greenland. A recent classified ad in the Kodiak Daily Mirror called for the best and bravest halibut longliners, stating “Crybabies need not apply.” “We are looking for Alaska halibut fisherman that have braved the waters of Alaska and are looking for the next great challenge,” said David Casey, executive producer at Los Angeles-based Moxie Pictures. “The Greenlandic and Atlantic halibut of Greenland are much larger, and much harder to catch. You have to get right up next to the glaciers to catch them. So it is a completely different environment and we want to see if the Alaska fishermen can hack it.” Casey said in a phone interview that only three of the toughest men will be accepted for what he described as a very different halibut fishery that is “very abundant but hard to get to.” “They longline down with two hundred hooks into the deepest fjord fishing waters in the world, and the fishery changes with the season,” he said. “In the winter they use Greenlandic sled dogs to sled out into the inland fjords where ice extends out over the deep waters where the biggest halibut are. For the summer they go out on to the fishing waters on very small 5-meter boats; they are basically glorified bathtubs. It’s the same process, but they have to get up near the largest icebergs in the world. You are in open ocean, but what you are fighting is not necessarily the waves but the melting ice around you.” Greenland’s halibut quota this year is 55 million pounds, and fishermen average $7 per pound. The Greenland halibut is marketed in Europe; any sold in the U.S. is known as Greenland turbot. “It is a completely different fishing environment,” Casey said. “I understand that halibut is ebbing and flowing commercially in Alaska, and I know those changes are creating new opportunities elsewhere.” Filming of the pilot will start this summer. For more information contact Christian Skovly at [email protected] Price check Call salmon buyers around the state for fish prices and you’ll get widely different responses — if any at all. Prices paid to Alaska salmon fishermen depend on the region, the types of fishing gear and markets. Prices also reflect bonuses for iced fish, dock deliveries and other agreements between a buyer and seller. But finding any information during the fishing season is a challenge. “You are kind of in the dark,” said Geron Bruce, assistant director of the state Commercial Fisheries division. “You have to call around and talk to fishermen; sometimes our biologists know what the prices are because sometimes there are prices on fish tickets, but a lot of times there are not. And the prices are also in flux. Until the fish are actually sold at the wholesale level, you really don’t know what the price is going to be. So there’s a lot of uncertainty, and just a lack of information. Bruce added that in-season price information also may not be very accurate “even if it’s showing up someplace.” “That’s one of the reasons some staff don’t like to deal with it because they know it’s not accurate, and there is no way they can actually arrive at an accurate figure. So they don’t want to be putting out information that they don’t feel they can be certain about, so they don’t do it. Besides, tracking salmon prices is not an agency priority. “There are no critical decisions being made by the agency in which in season fish prices are an important piece of the information,” he said. Still, he agreed not being able to pencil in a bottom line makes it tough to run a fishing business. “I know there are many fishermen who don’t know what they are going to get paid who are frustrated by that,” Bruce said, “but there is nothing that we can do as the Department of Fish and Game to alleviate that frustration.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

First Copper River salmon reach state, national markets

Trollers in Southeast Alaska provide fresh king salmon nearly year round, but the runs of reds and kings to the Copper River mark the “official start” of Alaska’s salmon season. On May 15 the fleet of more than 570 fishermen set out their nets on a beautiful day for the first 12-hour opener amidst the usual hype for the first fish. “We’ve got a lot of people riding around in the sky checking out the conditions, and a lot of people are getting ready to move the fish to other places for first fish celebrations,” said Kim Ryals, executive director of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association. Out on the fishing grounds, it was a “very slow day, to say the least,” according to veteran high liner Bill Webber of Cordova.  “Even with the warmer environmental conditions we had this spring, I think we are in front of the run,” Webber said. “I just hope we stay on the return trend we have been enjoying in recent years. Well, it is the first period and we have to get a few more to see the trend for this year.” Prices for the first fish dipped a bit — Copper River Seafoods posted advance sockeye prices at $3.50 and $6 for kings; that compares to $4 and $6 to $7, respectively, for last year’s opener. In what has become a traditional rite of spring, Alaska Airlines whisked away the first 24,000 pounds of the famous fish to Seattle where pilots traversed a red carpet to hand deliver a 48-pound king salmon to three chefs for a cook-off at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. At least five other jets carried fresh fish from Cordova to eager buyers throughout the U.S., as well as to Anchorage.  “This year, along with sending salmon to high end markets in Seattle and the Lower 48, the first fish also will be enjoyed closer to home,” said Kim Ryals.  Several events are planned in Anchorage, she said, and fishermen also donated salmon to a shelter called Clare House. “It is for women and children and pregnant women over 18,” Ryals said. “We feel like we have so much to be thankful for here in Cordova with our rich natural resources that we want to share some of these things with the people here in our own state.” A special locator app tells where Copper River salmon is being sold, and customers also can upload information. www.copperriversalmon.org. The Copper River forecast calls for a catch of 1.8 million sockeyes and 33,000 kings this summer.  Seeing red Red salmon from the Copper River are a unique brand that fetches an average premium of nearly $2 per pound above all other sockeye salmon in U.S. grocery stores. The average price of “unbranded” sockeye was $10.23 per pound during the past year, according to a market analysis by the Juneau-based McDowell Group. The report was done for Bristol Bay fishermen, but it covers all regions and markets. Sockeyes are by far Alaska’s most valuable salmon, typically worth about two-thirds of the total statewide salmon haul. But in terms of global supply, wild sockeye are rare creatures — they account for about 5 percent of all wild and farmed production, and represent just 15 percent of the world’s wild salmon harvest. Alaska typically accounts for 70 percent or more of global sockeye production, with nearly half of that coming from Bristol Bay. The U.S. is the single largest market, purchasing nearly 44 percent by value in 2012. Japan and the U.K. are next, followed by Canada. The McDowell report said it will be increasingly important to defend the Alaska sockeye brand from “craft” farmed salmon producers. Niche producers, such as Verlasso and Skuna Bay have a big advantage because they can offer fresh salmon on a year-round basis. The high-end fish farmers also message their salmon as being sustainable, environmentally friendly and “harmoniously raised.” Alaska’s sockeye salmon catch this year is projected at nearly 34 million fish, five million more than last year. Average statewide price last year was $1.60, an increase of 30 cents from 2012. Going grey As older fishermen retire from the business, fewer young people are recruiting in. The average age of Alaska permit holders is 47 — and there are twice as many permit holders aged 45 to 60 as there are between 30 and 44.  The issue — dubbed the Graying of the Fleet — has been discussed for years. Now an ambitious project is underway to find ways to overcome the obstacles facing young recruits. Armed with a $335,000 grant from the North Pacific Research Board, a multi-year project is underway to focus on young fishermen in the Bristol Bay and Kodiak regions. “We are really going to be diving into some of the factors that allow young people to be successful and what motivates them to stay in the business, and what are some of the challenges and solutions to make it easier for young people to live, work and be successful as fishing business owners,” said Kelly Harrell, director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council that has teamed with Alaska Sea Grant for the project. The “Graying of the Fleet” project will include interviews with permit holders, processors and other stakeholders in an attempt to come up recommendations. It will be completed in August 2016. Weed power! “When the tide is out, the table is set” is an Alaska Native saying. Now scientists at North Carolina State University have found that seaweeds commonly found in waters and beaches near Sitka are packed with compounds that can protect against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The researchers said there is nothing on grocery shelves that can compare to the levels of antioxidants and other healthy compounds seen in Alaska seaweeds, which have to be really tough to withstand strong tides and temperatures. That results in “more bang for your buck,” and the Alaska seaweeds produce much stronger chemical defenses than commercially grown fruits and vegetables. In a presentation at a biology conference in San Diego last week, lead seaweed scientist Joshua Kellogg showed how the high levels of “bioactive phytochemicals” in Alaska seaweeds appear to combat the chronic inflammation that causes obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Find more information in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Commercial sector dwarfs sport impact; gear contest underway

The debate over which sector – commercial or recreational fishing — provides the bigger economic punch can finally be put to rest. The annual “Fisheries Economics of the United States” report by the Department of Commerce shows once and for all that in terms of values, jobs, sales and incomes, the marine commercial sector far outscores saltwater recreational fishing. A breakdown of the extensive report by market analyst John Sackton shows that in 2012, commercial fishing had $140 billion in sales compared to $58 billion for sport fishing. And for the value contributed to the national economy, commercial fishing added nearly $60 billion, double the recreational sector. In terms of jobs, the seafood industry employed 1.27 million people compared to 381,000 for sports anglers. The most striking difference, Sackton said, is in where those people are employed. For sport fishing it was building boats and engines, representing 82 percent of both employment and sales and it is very regionally concentrated. The NOAA report added that less than 20 percent of the jobs in the sport industry come from guides, boat operators, tackle shops and various rentals. For the commercial fishing industry, the value and jobs created are spread throughout the entire country; for the recreational sector, they are concentrated in a few states and industries. For example, Florida accounted for 30 percent of all U.S. recreational fishing jobs; add in the Gulf States and North Carolina and the number jumps to nearly half of the national total. The economic benefits of the commercial seafood sector also penetrate all parts of the U.S. and the economy. Unlike its sport counterparts, a fisherman in Alaska is in fact supporting dozens of other U.S. jobs in retail, wholesale, distribution and import sectors. In short, the facts negate the argument that recreational fishing has a greater or more direct economic impact than the commercial fishery. The economics report also breaks down information by region. In terms of prices, it shows that of 10 key U.S. species, sea scallops, Pacific halibut and sablefish received the highest ex-vessel (dock) prices in 2012 at $9.83, $4.48 and $3.42 per pound, respectively. Menhaden and pollock had the lowest ex-vessel prices in 2012 at seven cents per pound and 12 cents per pound per pound.  However, landings of both species were the largest in the U.S. at 1.77 billion pounds of menhaden and 2.87 billion pounds of pollock. Find a link to the fisheries economics report at www.alaskafishradio.com. Get your gear on The call is out for entries in the international Smart Gear competition! The contest, which was started in 2005 by the World Wildlife Fund, rewards new gear ideas that help fishermen retain target catches while letting marine mammals, turtles, birds or small fish swim away. This year’s competition offers the largest prize pool ever, said program director Michael Osmond in a phone interview. “There is a $30,000 grand prize; two $10,000 runners up prizes, and we also have two $7,500 what we call special bycatch prizes. One of them is a tuna bycatch reduction prize, and the other is a marine mammal bycatch reduction prize,” he said. The competition goes well beyond the cash prizes, he added. “The second step is to get those ideas to the stage where they can actually be out there being used by industry, and doing the job they were designed to do,” he said. WWF and its partners continue working with the gear innovators and to date almost 50 percent of the winning ideas from the competition are now out on the water. That includes the 2011 winners — from Japan, a double weight branchline that prevents seabird bycatch; from Florida, a Seaqualizer that lets fish with air bladders be safely returned to deep water, and from California — simple LED lights or glow sticks that keeps turtles away from gillnets. Osmond said 60 percent to 70 percent of the gear entries come from fishermen, as do the majority of winning ideas. The 2011 competition attracted 74 entries from a record 31 countries. Osmond said Alaska is always in the mix with three or four entries. “We haven’t yet had a winning idea that’s come from Alaska,” he said, “but this year is just as good a chance as any.” Deadline to enter the Smart Gear contest is Aug. 31. For more information go to www.smartgear.org. Pollock opp flop It’s the peak time of year for jig fishing for cod and 60 boats have landed over 1.5 million pounds so far out of a nearly 6 million-pound quota. At the same time, jiggers can keep as much pollock as they catch. But so far it hasn’t been much of a draw. “No one seems to be taking advantage of the pollock jig fishery in the sense that they are going out and targeting pollock,” said Matt Keyse, a regional manager at Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak.  So far 15,000 pounds of pollock delivered by jig boats, which is about average, Keyes said.  “Every year jig cod boats tend to land between 20-30,000 pounds of pollock, and I expect we’ll be in that same range if things remain the same as they are now,” he added. The jig cod price at Kodiak is 35 cents per pound; pollock is closer to 13 cents. A dozen seiners signed up for the first ever pollock fishery and Keyse said he’s just waiting for the boats to show. “At this point we are waiting for someone to approach us and say they are ready to go,” Keyes said. “There has been interest and most people who signed up a few weeks ago indicated it was probably going to be late May or early June because most of those boats are out herring fishing right now. So anytime between now and June 9th a guy can try some pollock seining.” The Kodiak salmon season begins on June 9 and Keyes said there won’t be conflicting seine gear in the water. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Halibut prices up; acidification is a problem for salmon

The basic laws of supply and demand are resulting in a nice payday for Alaska halibut and sablefish harvesters. Prices for both fish are up by more than a dollar per pound compared to the same time last year. Fresh halibut has been moving smoothly and demand is steady since the fishery opened in early March, said a major Kodiak buyer, where dock prices were reported at $6 per pound for 10- to 20-pounders, $6.25 for halibut weighing 20 to 40 pounds, and $6.50 for “40 ups.” At Homer and in Southeast Alaska, halibut prices have yet to drop below six bucks per pound, said local processors. Dock prices at Homer last week ranged from $6.50 to $7.00 per pound “for very small loads.” At Southeast, after reaching a high of $6.75 at Easter, halibut prices were $6.60/$6.40 /$6.10 per pound, depending on size. Processors are reporting “strong halibut catches and lots of nice fish.” The fresh fish is being flown out almost daily from Southeast and distributed in small lots to markets all over the U.S. Alaska’s total halibut catch this year is close to 16 million pounds. The higher halibut prices are likely due to the slower pace of the fishery and less fish crossing the docks. Just more than 3.5 million pounds had been landed statewide by May 2 out of a nearly 19 million pound catch limit. Top ports for halibut landings were Seward, Homer, Petersburg and Kodiak. For sablefish, commonly called black cod, longliners are benefitting from “bare cupboards” and strong demand by buyers in Japan, where the bulk of Alaska’s catch goes. Last year, holdovers in freezers pushed prices down 40 percent to the $3 to $5 per pound range, depending on fish size. Black cod is usually priced in five weights, ranging from less than three pounds to more than seven pounds. At Kodiak the breakout was $6.75, $5.75, $5.00, $4.50 and $4.00. Sablefish prices at Homer were running between $4 and $7 a pound. Southeast processors reported prices at $5.30 to $7 a pound at the docks. Alaska’s sablefish catch this year is about 24 million pounds. Most deliveries are going to Seward, followed by Kodiak and Homer. Snails on acid Argue all you want about climate change — even a Toys R Us chemistry set will prove that the oceans are more acidic. Now, a federal study is revealing its first findings on how corrosive oceans are affecting sea life — and it points to big trouble for pink salmon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, announced last week the first evidence showing the high acid content in the Pacific Ocean is dissolving the shells of tiny free-swimming snails called pteropods. The tiny snails make up 45 percent of the diet of pink salmon; they also are a food source for herring and mackerel. Researchers at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle said the percentage of   pteropods with corroded shells has doubled in near shore areas since the pre-industrial era.  Study co-author William Peterson said scientists did not expect to see pteropods being affected to this extent for several decades. The number of snails with dissolving shells is likely to triple by 2050, he said, when waters close to shore are projected to be 70 percent more corrosive. The problem stems from carbon dioxide being released into the air by human industry that is absorbed by the ocean and becomes carbolic acid. When you combine the corrosion with increasing ocean temperatures, the entire marine mix is affected. “With a 10 percent increase in water temperature, which is what most people fear in terms of climate change, there would be about a 3 percent drop in mature salmon body weight,” said Bob Foy, director of the NOAA lab at Kodiak. “On the other hand, a 10 percent drop in pteropod production would lead to about a 20 percent drop in body weight. Obviously, the system is fairly dynamic, but the loss of pteropod population would be extremely detrimental to pink salmon.” Pinks make up Alaska’s largest salmon fishery by volume and second only to sockeyes in value. Last year’s pink salmon catch was a record 219 million fish valued at $277 million at the docks. NOAA research finds acid dissolving snail shells. Fish Watch Seiners and gillnetters were making their way through a nearly 28,000-ton roe herring haul at Togiak in Bristol Bay. Herring fisheries also were ongoing at Kodiak and Southeast regions. A fleet of 60 jig boats fished for cod and black rockfish in the Central Gulf. Prices were 35 cents and 45 cents, respectively. Trawlers were targeting other rockfish (there are over 30 species), which will add up to 15 million pounds coming into Kodiak. Pot shrimp reopened in Prince William Sound on May 1. The same day, the spring troll fishery for Chinook salmon got underway in Southeast Alaska. The 2014 salmon season will officially kick off when the reds and kings return to the Copper River. The tentative opening date is May 15. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Kodiak roe herring prices, participation, down

Kodiak’s roe herring fishery began on April 15 with little notice and rumors of fire sale prices. The fleet of 22 seiners was down a bit; they are competing for a harvest of 5,800 short tons, similar to the past five years. No gillnetters had signed up for the herring fishery. Test fishing from the east side of the island were showing nice roe counts, said James Jackson, herring manager at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak. “We are fishing a predominantly older age class of mostly nine year olds and it looks like we are hitting those fish right now. They are about 250 to 300 gram fish with 12.5 percent roe counts, so it looks pretty good,” he said. The female herring are valued in Japan for the amount of roe (eggs) they contain as a percent of body weight. As much as 90 percent of the males and female carcasses are mostly just ground up and dumped. Talk of an advance price of $150 to $200 dollars was the word on the Kodiak docks, down by half from last year. Virtually all of Alaska’s herring roe goes to a single market, Japan, where hefty supplies reportedly remain in warehouse freezers. Meanwhile, Alaska’s largest herring fishery at Togiak was poised to take off any day with a harvest of nearly 28,000 tons. With the market in a slump and prices in the pits, some were calling for the fishery to remain closed. “It’s not worth going over there,” said Robin Samuelson of Dillingham, chair of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Association and a lifelong fisherman. “A lot of fishermen are saying we need to hold our spot in case the price comes up. I personally feel them fish are more important to the ecosystem at $50-$65 a ton than catching them. We need to look at how we can capitalize on that market.” The base price for roe herring last month at Sitka Sound was $150 compared to $600 in 2013. The price last year at Togiak was about $100/ton. But things are looking up! A bill just passed by Alaska lawmakers expands the Salmon Product Development Tax Credits to include herring. Senate Bill 71, sponsored by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, will enable processors to purchase equipment and make investments in more valuable herring products, such as canned, powdered, pickled and smoked. “There have been positive trends since this bill was originally enacted (for salmon) in 2003, including product diversity, increased state revenues from the fisheries business tax and increased permit prices,” Micciche said in a press release.  The bill also was expanded to include new product development from fishery byproducts. Quality guides Alaska’s seafood industry will soon enter into a 10-step program. It’s not a program designed to change bad habits; rather, it will help improve good behaviors by Alaska’s seafood processing workers as they turn fish into food. For the first time, Alaska seafood companies will have a 10-step training tool to help them standardize procedures for quality controllers. “This is such a critical point for the industry. You have no quality, you have no control,” said Brian Himelbloom, a microbiologist at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “There is a lot of turnover in the seafood industry and this is something that’s been talked about for a long time.” Armed with a $40,000 grant from Icicle Seafoods, Himelbloom and his colleagues will create 10 modules to guide a quality control, or QC, training program. Icicle CEO Amy Humphreys said “the training will ensure more Alaskans are qualified for quality control jobs, and help others advance their careers.” The modules will include onboard handling and quality of the catch, principles of HAACP (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points), practical seafood sanitation, seafood processing and preservation, adding value to seafood products, seafood safety and quality, sensory analysis of seafood products, quality control programs for both whitefish and salmon, and seafood byproducts utilization and management of processing wastes. The final module covers interfacing with regulatory agencies and recordkeeping in the seafood industry. “We need to reinvigorate that because there is a new federal mandate called the Food Safety and Modernization Act, which is huge on paperwork. It’s HAACP squared,” Himelbloom said. The 10 step QC program will be available later this year in print manuals and online. A matching Technical Vocational Education Grant may carry the program even further with a series of training videos.  Fish fizzle For the first time since 1990, the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce has called off its famous fisheries debate due to non-participation by candidates. Republican hopeful Dan Sullivan’s campaign claims a military commitment and fellow challenger Joe Miller has not responded at all. All candidates received letters of invitation in mid-January to the May 23 debate, which this year coincides with the annual Kodiak Crab Festival. The other Republican, Mead Treadwell, was the first to confirm, followed quickly by Sen. Mark Begich, a democrat. “It is unfortunate that some of the candidates weren’t able to work this debate into their schedules,” said Trevor Brown, Kodiak Chamber executive director. “I can imagine they are extremely busy and must have some considerable obligations to pass up an opportunity to talk about issues that affect such a large portion of our state’s population. It is a true loss to all the fishing communities in the state.” The two-hour debate, has previously been limited to topics relevant to Alaska’s seafood industry and broadcast live to every Alaska community via the Alaska Public Radio Network. Another fisheries debate featuring candidates for Alaska governor is set for Aug. 28 in Kodiak. All gubernatorial candidates have already confirmed their participation. Fish watch Ocean Beauty Seafoods has been awarded the 2014 Supplier of the Year award by Whole Foods Markets for consistently providing the grocer with Alaskan salmon and halibut. Whole Foods said Ocean Beauty’s fish products meet its strict specifications, and that it “admires Ocean Beauty’s partnering with port buyers to ensure fishermen are recognized and treated with respect.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Salmon permit values on the rise; grant funds mariculture

Alaska salmon permits in many fisheries have tripled in value since 2002 and the upward trend continues. An overview of April listings by four brokers shows that Bristol Bay drift net permits are valued at nearly $134,000 by the State, and listed for sale at $150,000 to $170,000. That compares to $90,000 this past January. At Southeast Alaska, seine permits are the priciest in the state at more than $300,000. That’s an increase of $50,000 since January. The asking price for Prince William Sound seine cards exceeds $200,000 compared to the $140,000 range a year ago. After being stalled in the mid $30,000 range for years, Kodiak seine permits are showing a steady uptick, now listing at between $55,000 and more than $80,000. Chignik permits are moving up from the $225,000 range; at Area M/Alaska Peninsula, drift permits were listed at $100,000, up from $90,000. At Cook Inlet, drift permits were listed at $100,000, up from $75,000 less than a year ago. Looking at IFQs (Individual Fishing Quotas) – halibut shares have hit a $50 asking price at Southeast Alaska, the only place where halibut catches have increased in the past two years. (Offers are in the $45 range.) For the Central Gulf of Alaska, the asking prices for halibut IFQs range from $28 to $42 a pound and $16 to $20 in the Western Gulf. That’s an increase of about $6 dollars in both Gulf regions since January. Conversely, the prices for shares of sablefish (black cod) show a big drop in price from a year ago. Asking prices in Southeast of $22 to $30 are down from $28 to $34 per pound; likewise Central Gulf sablefish shares are priced at $15 to $30, down from $28 to $34 per pound. The decline is likely due to a big drop in dock prices for sablefish over the past two years (after reaching a high of $9 per pound for large fish), and a 25 percent drop in the value of the yen in Japan where the bulk of Alaska’s sablefish is sold, said Andy Wink, lead seafood analyst with the McDowell Group in Juneau. Get growing A new Alaska mariculture initiative has a mission to create a plan “to grow a billion dollar industry within 30 years.” That would about double the annual dockside value of all Alaska seafood landings combined. The ambitious project will be bankrolled by a $216,812 federal grant to the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, or AFDF, one of 10 award recipients out of a pool of 250 as part of NOAA Fisheries’ national mariculture expansion policy. “We see it as a real opportunity that has been kind of struggling in Alaska,” said AFDF director Julie Decker, adding that the project will “broaden the concept of mariculture.” “We’re not just talking about shellfish farming or aquatic plants, but also enhancement and restoration. It’s a three legged stool,” she said. “When you start looking at the industry from that point of view, it’s a much broader impact and involves many different sets of stakeholders.” Decker points out many parallels between the mariculture initiative and Alaska’s salmon enhancement program, where the state backed a $100 million low interest, revolving loan fund so salmon hatcheries could get built and operate for several years. That gave them time to develop tax and cost recovery programs to help pay back the long term loans. “It helps people see conceptually that Alaska can do this,” she said. “Now we have hatcheries that have completely paid back those loans with interest, and are producing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of salmon every year. Alaska has done this and done it really well. And we developed something in rural Alaska where it is very difficult to make businesses work.”  Mariculture was approved by the Alaska legislature in 1988; today 69 sites are permitted but  only 28 growers are marketing shellfish, primarily oysters, with an annual value of half a million dollars a year. Alaska has two fledgling shellfish hatcheries – Alutiiq Pride at Seward and OceansAlaska at Ketchikan.   The initiative foresees Alaska grow outs of geoducks clams, scallops, urchins, abalone, king crab, Dungies and various plants. Starting this summer Decker said AFDF will begin harnessing statewide support from state, federal and university researchers who already are active in the field, and include community development quota groups in Western Alaska. “I believe there are things that can be grown out there, whether it’s an enhancement program or private shellfish farming,” she said. The potential for well-planned mariculture is enormous — New Zealand’s grow out of oysters, green mussels and king salmon is worth $400 million now and the value is predicted to top one billion dollars by 2025.  Science made simple Lifestyles of the small and toothy, not all waters are created equal, whales as sentinels in   changing marine environments, salmon excluders for trawl fisheries, economics of killer whale predation — these are just a few topics that people will learn about at next week’s Kodiak Area Marine Science Symposium, or KAMSS. “This is a pretty unique gathering of folks who have been doing research in the Kodiak area that work for state, federal and academic entities — all getting together and bringing their science back to the people of Kodiak,” said Kate Wynn, a marine mammal researcher at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center and co-organizer of the Sea Grant event. Nearly 40 presentations are scheduled over four days covering research from the bottom up.  “From zooplankton to crab research, through birds and mammals and humans and seafood science and archeology — they are all related to marine science and we put them in an order that goes from the bottom of the food web to the top and human dimensions. They just flow together,” Wynn said. The topics flow quickly — each presentation is limited to 15 minutes and five minutes for questions. Wynn said there is one other rule. “That they are presented in a way that anyone can understand,” she stressed. “Don’t overwhelm them with scientific details that you might use in a scientific symposium to your peers. These are school kids, guys off the street, tourists, and others in the community who want to know what you’re talking about.” Alaska Sea Grant has hosted similar “lighter side of science” symposia in other Alaska communities to highlight local research that touches people’s lives. Wynn said a goal is to make science enjoyable and not to scare people away. “We’ve actually had discussions about even using the word science in the symposium name. It can throw people off and be intimidating,” she said. “We are trying to get past that because in a lot of cases these are just fun facts about things that apply to our lives.” The KAMSS event runs through April 26 at the Kodiak Convention Center. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Off-year pinks mean 2014 won't match record salmon haul

Alaska’s total salmon catch for 2014 is projected to be down by almost half of last year’s record haul. State fishery managers are calling for an all species harvest of just under 133 million salmon, a 47 percent drop from last year’s whopping 283 million fish.  A pink catch of 95 million in Southeast pushed the record last year and it is pinks that will bring the numbers down this summer. Pink salmon run in on/off year cycles and this year the catch is pegged at about 75 million, a 67 percent decrease from last summer’s 226-million humpy haul. Other projected catches for this year call for a 14 percent increase in sockeyes to nearly 34 million; 4.4 million coho salmon, and nearly 20 million chums. For chinook salmon, a catch of 79,000 is projected in areas outside of Southeast and Bristol Bay. Along with the salmon forecasts, the annual report released last week by the state’s commercial fisheries division also provides recaps of the 2013 season for every Alaska region. (All values are dock prices and will increase when post-season sales bonuses and other adjustments are made.) Some highlights: A total of 1,917 permit holders participated in Alaska’s salmon fisheries last year, an increase of 1 percent over 2012. The preliminary value of $691 million is the highest since 1985. The proportional harvest composition by species was less than 1 percent chinook, 1 percent sockeye, 3 percent coho, 84 percent pink and 11 percent chum salmon. Southeast Alaska fishermen again caught the most salmon at 112 million, the most since 1962, and 218 percent of the recent 10-year average. The ex-vessel (dockside) value of $238 million was the highest since 1985. Prince William Sound’s salmon harvest barely missed 100 million fish — all but about 7 million were pink salmon. At Upper Cook Inlet, the catch of 3.1 million salmon was down 23 percent from the 10-year average, but high sockeye prices pushed the value to $39 million, the eighth-highest value since 1960, and the second highest in a decade. The Bristol Bay total harvest was 16.4 million salmon, valued at $141 million, 26 percent above the 20-year average and seventh over that same period. At the Kuskokwim region, 469 permit holders went fishing last summer and took home $2.4 million at the docks. The overall chum run at Kotzebue Sound was well above average For the sixth year in a row, there was no fishing for king salmon in the main stem of the Yukon and Tanana rivers. Many of the 467 fishermen had great success targeting chums with dipnets for a dockside value of $3.5 million. At Norton Sound 124 salmon fishermen brought in the highest chum salmon harvest in over 25 years. For three of the past four years, the value has topped $1 million. At Kotzebue, 66 permit holders sold 2.5 million pounds of chum salmon, down 20 percent. A 15 percent drop in chum prices to 27 cents per pound likely caused less interest in the fishery. The dockside value of $689,163 was 16 percent above the historical average. The $23.3 million value of the Chignik salmon fishery was worth $307,076 on average among the 77 permit holders. At the Alaska Peninsula/False Pass, 150 fishermen shared a payday of $33 million. At Kodiak, 335 (55 percent) of the eligible salmon permits fished last year for a catch that topped 59 million, the highest since 1995. It paid out well above the previous average 10-year value of $28.3 million. Seiners accounted for 94 percent of the total Kodiak harvest with earnings averaging $304,105 per permit. Fish to Schools A push by Sitkans is aimed at getting more local seafood onto Alaska kids’ school lunch trays.  A Fish to Schools Resource Guide created by the Sitka Conservation Society is a sort of “tool kit” that outlines procuring and preparing seafood, legalities, tips and recipes. The idea was spawned two years ago at a Sitka Health Summit, a grass-roots effort sponsored by the community’s two hospitals, said Tracy Gagnon, community sustainability organizer for the Society and program coordinator. “The Fish to Schools Program tries to integrate the community into every part of the process,” Gagnon said. “It gets our fishermen and processors involved, our schools and children and parents, community members…I really think that’s what makes ours so successful.” To help make students more aware of where their food comes from, the guide includes a seven-lesson ‘Stream to Plate’ curriculum.  “It really brings salmon to life in the classroom and teaches students how the fish are connected to their lives, the community, the economy and the environment. That is something unique to our Sitka program,” she said, adding that salmon is served once a week at most Sitka schools. Prior to this year, more than 23 local fishermen and Sitka processors donated the seafood to the schools — but now they can be paid, thanks to a $3 million funding grant from the state. “It’s called ‘Nutritional Alaska Food for Schools’ (NAFS) and it’s a fabulous statewide appropriation that reimburses school districts for their Alaska food purchases, including seafood,” Gagnon said. (Credit Rep. Bill Stoltz, R-Chugiak, for sponsoring the bill.) Food for Schools money is in the fiscal year 2015 capital budget and Gagnon hopes it becomes a fixed item. “We are really hoping to see multi-year funding so schools have the ability to invest in infrastructure development so that they can process raw products,” Gagnon said. She added that the U.S. school lunch program has moved away from scratch cooking and most meals are heat and serve, highly processed products. “We are really limited on how schools can prepare food. Some have convection ovens so you can bake fish, and that’s how all of our fish recipes have been so far. But we don’t have skillets or frying pans,” she explained. “I think that’s one of the successes from this program is that we are breaking that habit. We are changing the current system and integrating local seafood that is prepared from scratch. So that is a really cool hurdle we’ve accomplished.” The Food to Schools program also is a boom to Alaskan growers and fishermen because they are able to have secure in-state markets. Seafood purchases through NAFS last year totaled 137,176 pounds by 25 Alaska schools or districts, led by Anchorage, Kenai and Kodiak. Sitkans hope their Fish to Schools guidebook will motivate others to come aboard. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Kodiak seiners get first shot at pollock; fish talk in Juneau

Kodiak seiners will be scooping up pollock in their nets starting this week. You heard right. Seiners have a chance to test the waters to determine if a directed pollock fishery makes sense for that type of gear in the Gulf of Alaska. Except for a small jig fishery, the only pollock fishery operating in state waters (out to three miles) is at Prince William Sound where trawlers this year have an 8.5 million-pound catch. “The initial seine opportunity will just run from April 11 through June 8 so we don’t overlap with salmon season. And during that time the harvest will be limited to 500,000 pounds,” said Trent Hartill, a groundfish manager at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak. Pollock weigh three to four pounds on average. The proposal for the trial pollock fishery got the nod in January from the state Board of Fisheries to operate under a special “commissioner’s permit” Hartill said. “The purpose of that permit is to test the efficacy of seine gear in catching pollock,” he explained. “If it’s successful, it will provide information for the board to determine whether they want to pursue a full blown fishery or move in whatever direction they desire.” Roughly 190 salmon seiners are currently operating out of Kodiak and Hartill said there is lots of interest in giving pollock a try. The dock price in town is 12 to 14 cents per pound. “This is the time when they will have to actually get some gear wet. We may have quite a few that come forward and we may have no vessels,” he said. “April 11 is the deadline to sign up so we’ll see.” Legislature talking fish Lots of fish news this week from one end of the state to the other. It’s status quo for the Board of Fisheries seats — Gov. Sean Parnell has reappointed John Jensen, of Petersburg, Susan Jeffrey of Kodiak, and Reed Morisky of Fairbanks to three-year terms that begin July 1. No grumblings over those choices, which are expected to be easily confirmed by the Alaska legislature on April 17. Alaska lawmakers reined in a misuse of dude licenses, originally intended to let tourists experience “a day in the life” of a fisherman. Over time, salmon permit holders, primarily at Bristol Bay, were buying consecutive seven-day licenses for $30, half the cost of seasonal crew licenses. In 2005 when the program began, 47 dude licenses were sold; that number jumped to 1,344 in 2012. The estimated lost revenue to the state is more than $285,000. The new law will limit crew to one temporary license per year. It was sponsored by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer. Back to the Bay Sue Aspelund will take the helm as director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, operated and funded by more than 1,850 salmon driftnetters. She retired in January after six years as deputy director of Fish and Game’s commercial fisheries division. From 1998 to 2003, Aspelund served as director of Cordova District Fishermen United, which represents Copper River and Prince William Sound harvesters. Her new role will be a sort of homecoming — from 1980 to 2003 Aspelund owned and operated a salmon setnet operation on the Naknek River. Fishing break Fishermen way out west got a break when NOAA Fisheries changed course and agreed to relax some restrictions in the western and central Aleutian Islands aimed at protecting food and habitat needs for Steller sea lions. The Atka mackerel and Pacific cod fisheries have been closed in those regions for three years, at a loss to the industry of $65 million per year. The agency estimates that the proposed fishery management changes would relieve roughly two-thirds of the economic burden imposed on Aleutian Islands’ fishermen by sea lion protection measures that took effect in 2011. New regulations should be set by next January. NOAA Fisheries also decreed last week that a listing of the Southeast Alaska herring population near Lynn Canal does not warrant an endangered species listing. The Juneau Group of the Sierra Club petitioned NOAA to list that stock in 2007. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Board nominations in; Southeast herring fishery finished

Nine names are vying for three seats on the state Board of Fisheries, including six newcomers.  That gives Governor Parnell the unique opportunity to replace a majority of the seven-member Fish Board, should he choose to do so, and should the Alaska legislature go along with it — an unlikely scenario.  It took filing a Freedom of Information request and a 10-day wait to get the names of the Fish Board hopefuls, said veteran legislative watchdog Bob Tkacz in his weekly Laws for the Sea. They include the three incumbents — John Jensen of Petersburg, Sue Jeffrey of Kodiak, and Reed Morisky of Fairbanks. The hopefuls included: Alan Gross of Petersburg, an orthopedic surgeon and new commercial fishing skipper; Dean Scott Risley, a 26-year gillnetter from Haines; Harvey Kitka, a hand troller and Sitka Tribal council member; William Kuhlmann, a retired Bristol Bay setnetter now living in Eagle River; Thane Humphrey, a business/training entrepreneur and outdoor survival expert from Anchorage, and Cary Jones, a Juneau chiropractor. The Legislature has scheduled a joint session for April 11 to vote on all confirmations. Tops to the Rock Kodiak will be one of the first Alaska towns to meet Eileen Sobeck, the newly named NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator, often called the National Marine Fisheries Service. Her visit comes in response to a ComFish invitation from the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce; accompanying her will be Senator Mark Begich, well known for bringing D.C. officials to all corners of the state.  “She is anxious to come and learn more about Alaska specific issues and ComFish is the perfect event for her to really get a good sense of that,” Sen. Begich said in a phone conversation. “There is so much you learn when you go out to the remote communities.” Kodiak will provide an opportunity for Sobeck to see Alaska’s most diverse fishing fleet and busiest year-round working waterfront.  “On the fish end, there is no question that Kodiak is the right place to be and we’re going to give her a good education,” Begich said. As NOAA Fisheries director, Sobeck oversees the management and conservation of all marine life in U.S. waters, from coastal habitat to humpback whales and everything in between.  She is scheduled to spend two days in Kodiak starting April 17. See the line up at  www.comfishalaska.com. Sobeck will also visit the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage prior to her Kodiak visit. Long haul for crab science Alaska’s golden king crab fleet plans to undertake the largest survey ever covering the entire range of the Aleutian Islands golden king crab stock — an 800-mile span from Dutch Harbor to Atka. “It is exciting to think that for the first time we will have a good index of the size of the golden population, the age and sex structure, the distribution and how deep they go and what proportion of the population occurs at different depths,” said John Hilsinger, science advisor for the Aleutian King Crab Research Foundation. Through 2006 state managers surveyed a small area of the Aleutians, but there’s been no budget since to assess the far flung crab stocks. The foundation formed two years ago and its harvester members partner with biologists during the golden king crab fishery. “We plan to design the survey for the entire area, and then start off the first year by doing a portion of it to prove the concept and make sure it works and integrates well with the fishermen. Then we’ll spread it out,” Hilsinger said.    The expanded surveys will start yielding meaningful results in three to five years, and it could be 10 years before a proven track record of the population can be modeled over time. “The crabbers are very committed to help over that time frame. That’s a real major contribution by the fleet,” he added.   The Aleutians golden king crab fishery harvest has operated under a six million pound fixed cap for decades, and crabbers believe the catch could be higher. Eventually, goldens could overtake Bristol Bay and become Alaska’s largest king crab fishery. If the survey gets the nod by stakeholders in May, it will begin when the fishery opens in mid-August. Fish watch Herring seiners at Sitka Sound last week landed close to their 16,000-ton quota and roe counts were high – the only thing missing is a price. Lots of herring roe remains in the freezers of Alaska’s single customer, Japan, who had yet to make an advance price offer. Last year Sitka fishermen averaged about $500 per ton; talk on the dock last week put it closer to $150.  Conversely, freezers of sablefish (black cod) have emptied and pushed up prices for those prized fish. Seafood.com reports fishermen’s prices at Southeast Alaska at $5.25 for 5-7 pounders, $4.50 for 4- to 5-pound fish, and $3.75 for 3- to 4-pound fish. Buyers report good interest in sablefish and more demand is coming from U.S. restaurants. Last year about 70 percent of Alaska sablefish went to Japan, down from nearly 100 percent a few years ago. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Halibut fishery underway; seafood sales increase for Lent

March 5 marked the start of Lent, a time of fasting, soul searching and repentance for hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. And what the burst in the holiday sales season from Thanksgiving to Christmas means to retailers, Lent means the same to the seafood industry. The 40-day Lenten season, which this year runs from March 5 to Easter Sunday on April 20, dates back to the 4th century, and it has been customary to forego meat ever since. While nearly all seafood enjoys a surge of interest during Lent, the most traditional items served are the so-called “whitefish” species, such as cod, pollock, flounders, and halibut. Food Services of America reports that Ash Wednesday is the busiest day of the year for frozen seafood sales, and the six weeks following is the top selling season for the entire year. (Ash Wednesday is so called from the ritual of placing ashes from burned palm branches on the forehead to symbolize “that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”) Overall, Americans ate more seafood during Lent in 2013 than in previous years, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. GrubHub, the nation’s top online and mobile food-ordering company which works with nearly 30,000 restaurants in 600 cities, said the number of people eating fish on Fridays increased by 20 percent during Lent last year since 2011. The Filet-O-Fish sandwich, which was launched by McDonald’s on Good Friday, is made with Alaska pollock and sales top 300 million a year. Nearly 25 percent of the fish sandwiches each year are sold during Lent. No matter what the seafood favorite, the long Lenten season is good news for Alaska, which provides nearly 60 percent of the wild-caught seafood to U.S. restaurants and grocery stores. Halibut’s here Alaska longliners are ready to haul in the year’s first fresh halibut with the March 8 start of the fishery. Alaska’s halibut catch of roughly 19 million pounds is down about 11 percent. Sablefish, or black cod, also opens on March 8. That quota was reduced by 10 percent this year to just under 34 million pounds.  Less overall fish might bump up dock prices, but it will take a week or so for markets to settle out. Buyer resistance to the high priced fish came into play last year and sales started off slowly.  The first fresh landings last year fetched $5.25 to $5.75 at major ports, then dropped about a dollar in the first week. Likewise, starting sablefish prices were down by 40 percent, ranging from $3 to $5 across five sizes. As a price watch: Last year’s average Alaska fish prices were $5.06 per pound for halibut and $2.84 per pound for sablefish. That compares to $5.87 and $4.11 in 2012. Alaska fishermen provide more than 95 percent of our nation’s halibut and over 70 percent of the sablefish.  Switching to herring The upcoming roe herring harvest at Sitka Sound has been clipped to 16,333 tons, about 1,200 tons less than announced in December. State managers are already set to start aerial surveys for signs of the roe herring run. Herring managers also think the warm spring means the fish might show early at Togiak in Bristol Bay. That is Alaska’s largest herring fishery with a catch this year at nearly 28,000 tons. A push is gaining steam to use all of the herring, not just the female roe, instead of grinding it into fishmeal. In Norway, herring is sold smoked, canned, pickled and more. Fishermen there get 47 cents a pound for their catch; that compares to $100 per ton at Togiak. A McDowell Group report showed that if male herring from Togiak and Kodiak fisheries were made into frozen fillets, the wholesale value would approach $15 million. Bring ‘em back Researchers at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center are tops at the work they do — the Center is the research arm of NOAA Fisheries. Their science forms the basis for setting Alaska fish quotas, running observer programs, tightening bycatch limits, to name just a few. But the Alaska Fisheries Science Center is located in Seattle. Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford wants to bring those science jobs closer to the sources they study. “There are other places in Southeast where some of these jobs could go, and there’s also Kodiak which has a big fishing industry where some of the jobs could go. We want to look at all of that,” he said at a recent meeting. Sanford has created a task force to learn how those science jobs might be brought back to Alaska. Attracting more federal jobs to Juneau is an Assembly priority, he said, as well as lab techs and research vessels. “If we could move even a few to our own research centers in our own fisheries areas, I think it would be a big advantage to us,” he said. NOAA Fisheries has fewer than 200 researchers in Alaska, mostly in Juneau. The Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle lists more than 400 on the job. That’s a long commute to and from the fishing grounds. So how did the Center end up there in the first place? “That is where the geographical distribution of the labor force developed around the time of statehood,” NOAA spokesperson Julie Speegle told KTOO in Juneau, “and it’s mostly just been maintained there.”   The Assembly task force will reveal its findings in six months. Fish flash! Eileen Sobeck, the new director of NOAA Fisheries, will attend the ComFish trade show next month in Kodiak. U.S. Senator Mark Begich is bringing Sobeck to the event; it will be her first trip to Alaska. Begich frequently attends ComFish and holds informal, open meetings with all comers. www.comfishalaska.com. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

West coast scallops are suffering from ocean acidification

Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, U.S. policy makers are quibbling over climate issues as bivalves dissolve in an increasingly corrosive Pacific Ocean. Any kid’s chemistry set will show that big changes are occurring in seawater throughout the world. As the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning outputs (primarily coal), it increases acidity to a point where shellfish can’t survive. It is referred to as ocean acidification and results in sea creatures’ inability to grow skeletons and protective shells. The process occurs much faster in colder climes. West coast scallops are the latest bivalves to feel the bite. Ten million tiny scallops have died in waters off Victoria, British Columbia, reported the Parksville Qualicum Beach News. Nanaimo-based Island Scallops, a grow-out hatchery with 1,235 acres in production, has shut down its processing plant and laid off a third of its workforce. That accounts for about 16 percent of B.C.’s total shellfish aquaculture valued at $10 million. Island Scallops started seeing problems in 2009 along with other Washington hatcheries, said CEO Rob Saunders. “Suddenly we were getting these low pH values. That level has been so stable that for many years no one bothered to measure it because it never changed. It was really startling,” he told the News. Early last year the company counted three million scallops seeded in 2010 and seven million from 2011, and was gearing up for processing. But the shellfish started to die and by July the losses reached 95 percent. Other local growers faced the same fate. “The high acidity in the local waters interferes with everything they do, their basic physiology is affected,” said Chris Harley, a marine ecologist at the University of B.C. Growers are artificially increasing the pH levels of the water that circulates through the hatcheries to protect the larvae, but that is little help to the shellfish once they are moved to the sea. The B.C. Shellfish Growers Association stated that the acidic ocean is increasingly having an effect on survival and growth of shellfish during grow out in the ocean, and that last year mortalities reached 90 percent in all year classes. Pacific oysters also are one of the most vulnerable to the ocean corrosion. In 2005, growers first noticed oyster failures in natural sets in Willapa Bay in southern Puget Sound, and production was off by 80 percent by 2009.  “The oysters still grow a shell; it’s just that it dissolves from the outside faster than they can grow it. So eventually they lose the race and they die,” said Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms with 11,000 acre in Shelton, Wash. It is the nation’s largest shellfish producer with 500 employees. Growers there have learned that wind direction tells them when to plug intake pipes to the shellfish holding tanks. When the wind shifts from south to north, they know they have about a 24-hour window before corrosive waters show up. Meanwhile, Taylor is planning to move more of its oyster operations to Hawaii. Closer to home, researchers are seeing signs of corrosion in tiny shrimp-like pteropods — which make up 45 percent of the diet of Alaska pink salmon. Carbon dioxide has passed 400 parts per million, or ppm, in the Earth’s atmosphere, according to measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory. That’s up from 280 ppm in the pre-industrial era. Halibut help Halibut researchers will test deeper and shallower water depths to get better data on the dwindling stocks, and more fishing boats are needed to help. Each summer up to 15 boats are contracted to help halibut scientists survey 1,300 stations from Oregon to the Bering Sea. Since 1998 the surveys have been done in a depth range of 20 to 275 fathoms where most of the fishing takes place. This year they want to check out different depths.  “We use the area from zero to 400 fathoms as halibut habitat, but our surveys cover the area from 20 to 275 fathoms,” said Bruce Leaman, executive director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission. “So we’re using the catch rates from our existing survey depths to extend into those areas. We know we are ignoring some habitat where fishing is going on, but we don’t have the data so we are extrapolating from our known survey areas into the unknown.” Leaman said researchers plan to expand the surveys from 275 to 400 fathoms and from 20 down to 10 fathoms along the Pacific Coast and in area 4A — the Bering Sea edge and eastern Aleutians region near Unalaska. There are four survey regions in that region and each one contains 40 to 50 stations. “That’s one of the areas where we are seeing an increasing amount of fishing going on below 275 fathoms,” Leaman said. “Actually, all of the Bering Sea has a significant number of survey stations that are in depths that we don’t currently occupy.” The halibut stock surveys occur from late May through August, and it takes three to four weeks to get the job done. It’s a chance to make a good chunk of change, said survey manager Claude Dykstra. Typical payouts range from $70,000 to $120,000 depending on survey regions. Boats also get 10 percent of the halibut sales and 50 percent of any other fish retained and sold. Vessels using fixed gear can submit a proposal at www.iphc.int. Fish watch March 8 was opening day for halibut and sablefish. Fishing continues throughout Alaska for cod, flounder and other groundfish. In a few weeks, the jig fleet will be the first to take part in a new small boat pollock fishery, and managers report lots of interest. The Bering Sea pollock fishery will wrap up in a few weeks with a half-million-ton catch for the winter season. Trawlers will be back on the water in June with a total pollock catch this year of nearly three billion pounds. Crabbing continues in the Bering Sea for golden kings, Tanners and snow crab. Seiners will soon head to Sitka for the mid- to late-March arrival of roe herring. They will compete for a nice haul of more than 17,000 tons. Small boats wanting to drop dredges for the new state water scallop fishery must register by April 1. The Board of Fish will hold its final meeting for this cycle from March 17 to 21 in Anchorage. Statewide king and Tanner crab and supplemental items are on the agenda. Fish bits The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will get a $2.5 million cut if recommendations by a House Finance Subcommittee are accepted by the full Legislature and approved by Gov. Parnell. That includes a 10 percent reduction in state funding for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or about $780,000. The ADFG subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Bill Stoltze of Chugiak, who recommended cuts by division and not specific programs, said Juneau watch dog Bob Tkacz in Laws for the Sea. The long awaited book — “Catching a Deckload of Dreams” — recounts the journey of Chuck Bundrant from deckhand to chairman and founder of Trident Seafoods, the largest seafood harvesting and processing company in North America. When he arrived in Seattle in 1961, Bundrant had $80 in his pocket. Currently, Trident has sales topping $1 billion, employs more than 10,000 people and its products are sold in over 50 countries. The book is authored by John Van Amerongen. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

IPHC tests pollock as bait to replace spendier salmon

Bait is a big expenditure for many fishing businesses and pollock could help cut costs for Alaska halibut longliners who fish in the Gulf of Alaska. Researchers have tested pollock in two projects to see if it might replace pricier chum salmon as halibut bait. Fish biologists use more than 300,000 pounds of chums in their stock surveys each year, costing nearly $500,000. The baits are used at more than 1,200 testing stations from Oregon to the Bering Sea. A pilot study three years ago in the central Gulf and off of British Columbia showed some promising signs for pollock. “We looked at several different baits — our standard chum salmon, pink salmon, pollock and herring. Pollock showed a very strong indication of both better catch rates and lower bycatch rates, so we were very excited about that,” said Bruce Leaman, executive director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission. In 2012, the bait project was expanded coastwide, and that led to mixed results. “One confirmed what we saw in the Gulf, in that pollock was a very effective bait there relative to chum salmon and we got good catch rates. But when we moved into the Bering Sea, we got completely opposite results where the salmon bait performed better than the pollock,” Leaman said. “In the Bering Sea, pollock is a very significant component of halibut diet, and we were speculating that it may be a sort of novelty seeing salmon down there as bait, and that may have been what the fish were responding to.” When all the raw data were statistically compiled and corrected, Leaman said the bait test results were inconsistent. “We do a number of corrections to the data to actually compare apples to apples across areas. One of the things we correct for is the number of returned baits and the hook competition among areas,” Leaman explained. “And when we did those comparisons, we found that the results were nowhere near as strong as with the raw data. The raw data showed pollock had much better catch rates, lower amounts of sub-legal fish and lower amounts of bycatch. But when we did corrections to the data we found that those results were not so consistent.” The pollock bait still caught fewer small fish, but overall, the halibut catch rates were almost the same as with chum bait. “That’s not necessarily a bad result,” Leaman said. “It’s just that pollock was not as grossly superior compared to what we had been using.” Studies will continue but for now chums will remain the bait of choice for science. Leaman does agree that pollock can be a good bait alternative for halibut in the Gulf. “It’s a good idea,” he said. “It’s far less expensive and can represent a significant savings. In fact, some are already using pollock right now.” Call for fish techs There is a severe shortage of fish technicians and biologists in Alaska’s largest industry, and it is a trend that is predicted to continue for at least the next 10 years. A new statewide outreach programs started last fall aims to fill the bill. “Some of the positions for fisheries technicians include fish culturists, fishery observers, fish and wildlife surveyors, habitat restoration technicians, stream surveyors, fishery management assistants, and hatchery technicians,” said Kaitlin Kramer of Valdez. She is one of six outreach coordinators located also in Petersburg, Kodiak, Homer, Sitka and Dillingham. They work for the University of Alaska Southeast; the Fish Tech program is headquartered at Sitka. “Our role is to reach out to the communities where we live and help promote the fisheries technology program, try to recruit students and facilitate internships with local industries,” Kramer added. Two training programs are offered — a Fisheries Technology certification and an Associates of Applied Science in Fisheries Technology. All classes are available to students on their computers. The classes are recorded online with instructors in Sitka and as long as they have an internet connection, students can view them on their own time, or they have the option of sitting in live as the class is being taught. Classes follow the college semester schedule, Kramer said but people can tune in when it’s convenient. She said most people are surprised at the wide range of good jobs in the seafood industry, beyond catching and processing fish. “A lot of people don’t realize anything about this degree, or even what people in the fisheries technician world do,” Kramer said. ´It’s fun to let them know that there are options available and there are so many opportunities throughout the state. This program is really trying to reach out and let Alaskans know that in every community, there is a related job.” The Fish Tech program offers scholarships and internships. Registration opens April 21. For more information call 907-747-7717 or visit www.uas.alaska.edu/career_ed/fisheries/ SWAMC soiree Energy, fisheries, and politics will be served up at SWAMC’s 26th Economic Development summit next month. The Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference is a non-profit group that represents more than 50 communities, including Kodiak, Bristol Bay and the Aleutians. SWAMC interim director Erik O’Brien said the group networks with more than 100 members and their main connection is fish. “The one unifying need of the whole industry is making the most value out of our fisheries and seafood,” O’Brien said. “That is really the one single thing everyone has in common.” The three-day summit will cover a wide range of economic topics. “On our first day the main thing we will look at is how do you bring down the overall cost of energy. Day two will focus on developing our human capital in our education, training and workforce development systems and how we can make those better. Then on the fisheries day, we will discuss how the maximum sustained yield benefits the people of Alaska,” O’Brien said. Candidates for governor Bill Walker, running as an independent, and Democrat Byron Mallott will participate in a debate on the final night; no word yet if Gov. Sean Parnell will show. The SWAMC Summit runs March 5-7 at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. Debate updates Kodiak is featuring two fisheries debates this year, an event that began in 1990. The first, on May 23, will feature Alaska’s candidates for U.S. Senate. Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell quickly accepted the invite and Sen. Mark Begich is making plans to attend. No word yet from Republicans Joe Miller or Dan Sullivan, said Trevor Brown, director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the event. A second debate on Aug. 28 will bring the candidates for Alaska governor to Kodiak. The two-hour event is broadcast live via APRN to more than 300 Alaska communities. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

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