Laine Welch

FISH FACTOR: Latest fishing facts by the numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FISH FACTOR: Seafood Appreciation Month gets more love outside Alaska

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

FISH FACTOR: Marine convention kicks off in Anchorage

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

FISH FACTOR: Salmon harvest tops forecast

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

FISH FACTOR: Sea cucumbers as cancer fighters

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

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

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

FISH FACTOR: Weaker dollar boosts export value of state seafood

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

FISH FACTOR: Alaskan seafood has opening in home meal kits

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

FISH FACTOR: Fishing deaths renew reminders for safety measures

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

FISH FACTOR: ASMI keeps up export push on shoestring budget

Seafood is Alaska’s top export by far, usually topping $3 billion in sales each year to 120 countries around the world, and comprising 55 percent of our nation’s total seafood exports. Credit for the state’s export sales goes mostly to the international program run by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or ASMI, which runs eight regional offices in Japan, China, Brazil, London, Spain, France, Germany and Eastern Europe. The overseas marketing reps, or OMRs, work under contract with ASMI to coordinate hundreds of seafood promotions each year to build the Alaska brand. “We work closely with overseas trade groups, food service and HRIs (hotels, restaurants, institutions),” said Hannah Lindoff, ASMI international director. “We also do promotions with chefs, schools, and caterers, and some programs have advertising elements as well.” China is Alaska’s largest seafood export market in terms of volume and value accounting for 35 percent and 27 percent, respectively in 2015. The fish isn’t ending up on Chinese dinner plates, however, as up to 90 percent of the seafood is sold to secondary processors which send finished products to other markets around the world. Japan is Alaska’s largest and most established market, Lindoff said, and the bulk of ASMI’s shoestring budget goes to maintaining customers there. “Alaska is facing lots of competition and a declining consumer base in Japan,” she added. Europeans rank second as customers for Alaska seafood, especially in the U.K. “Alaska salmon has been going to the U.K. for over 100 years and canned salmon is a traditional product for them. It’s part of their culture, but it is a declining market,” Lindoff said. Alaska’s newest marketing program is in Brazil where ASMI has been able to capitalize on its Japan connection. “Brazil has the largest population of expat Japanese in the world so we already have a population there that is familiar with Alaska seafood. We do several trade shows in Brazil, including a Japan Trade Show every year,” Lindoff said. Spain is another new and growing buyer for Alaska seafood. “This is a country where Alaska salmon is competing to be seen as better quality over farmed fish,” Lindoff said, adding that ASMI has taken advantage of a big downturn in farmed production from Chile due to a deadly fish virus. “The growing trend for sushi and Asian cuisine also has really helped Alaska salmon gain a foothold in Spain,” she said, “and it is a traditional market for Alaska cod.” ASMI also is trying to expand the brand in Eastern Europe to make up for losses from an ongoing Russian embargo on U.S. seafood, by building a presence in Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Ukraine. It’s a tough go, Lindoff admits, because many nations simply are not familiar with Alaska or its seafood. “We think of ourselves as having the greatest seafood in the world, but we are only 2 percent of the world supply and we are up against a lot of competition,” she explained. “Especially in Europe where Norway can provide a lot of farmed fish and they have a very aggressive marketing agency. It’s not a fair fight.” Norway’s annual marketing budget tops $50 million derived from a small tax on its seafood exports. That compares to an ASMI export budget of less than $7 million from a mix of grants and federal dollars. The State of Alaska contributes $1 million to ASMI’s overall budget of roughly $22 million, of which $16.5 million is paid by the seafood industry. The state plans to zero out its funds to ASMI in the coming fiscal year. Another marketing challenge is that many nations are only newly aware that Alaska is part of the United States. “It wasn’t until Sarah Palin was running for vice president in 2008 that some people learned that Alaska was part of the U.S,” Lindoff said with a laugh. She added that the popularity of the “Deadliest Catch” television show also “did tremendous things for creating awareness of Alaska seafood.” More recently, that recognition has helped increase buyer interest because Alaska (and the U.S. in general) is regarded as a source of clean and wholesome “free from” foods. “Especially in countries like China where they have a lot of food contamination problems, Alaska seafood is seen as a trusted source,” Lindoff said. She added that ASMI is partnering with several other regional groups as part of a USA global seafood initiative with a focus on Southeast Asia. “It’s definitely an advantage having a clean and pure environment in Alaska,” she said. Other sales benefits are coming from the use of eCommerce, especially in China, where the appetite for Alaska seafood is growing. “Our marketing dollars can go much farther online. It allows us to widely advertise Alaska’s core messages and we’ve seen millions of dollars in sales through eCommerce in China,” Lindoff said, adding that the same strategy is paying off with canned salmon in the U.K. To boost more brand awareness, ASMI also brings chefs and seafood savvy press people from Asia and Europe to Alaska to generate free publicity when they go home. Overseas marketing reps from eight countries are scheduled to arrive in Kodiak on Aug. 7 to tour processing plants, visit a remote salmon fishing site and hold brainstorming sessions. “Visiting Alaska is always one of our most powerful tools,” Lindoff said. “It’s great when you have limited time and budget to go to a place like Kodiak where you get so much of the seafood industry in one place.” Bringing in the chill Bristol Bay fishermen are chilling their fish like never before, and they are setting up to do even more. Two former longtime Bay fishermen are converting a 150-foot helicopter logging barge into a floating fish processor with plans to operate it next summer on the Ugashik River, about 85 miles from the nearest processing plants at Naknek. Co-owner Ben Blakey said the barge will freeze up to 300,000 pounds of whole sockeye salmon per day and employ about 20 people, compared to the 200 or more needed to run a shore-based processor. “There are a lot of communities in Alaska that can’t support a full-time processor with that many people because they don’t have enough volume,” Blakey told KCAW in Sitka. “If an outfit like this can get by with less overhead and lower labor costs, they might be able to park it in front of an isolated area and process the fish at a more effective cost.” The refurbished four decker will provide ice and help reduce the time the salmon spend in the fish hold before being delivered, especially for the many boats that don’t have onboard chilling systems, said co-owner Pat Glaab, who built the fish processing plant at Leader Creek and Silver Bay Seafoods at Naknek. The revamped barge is his 11th fish processor. “There’s nobody in the world who wouldn’t say that there isn’t a portion of that Bay fleet that doesn’t have the ability to take care of this fish properly. We feel this thing will fill that need,” he said. Glaab and Blakey operate as Northline Seafoods out of Sitka’s industrial park, where they are testing out the revamped plant on pinks this summer. If it’s successful, the duo plans to build at least three more brand new barges at a cost of about $5 million each. Red flag from afar U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross this month dismissed a report from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that concluded New Jersey was violating a conservation plan for summer flounder, also called fluke. The decision, which allows New Jersey to harvest nearly 100,000 more summer flounder, marked the first time the federal government has disregarded such a recommendation by the commission, according to the Boston Globe. Congress established the multi-state commission 75 years ago to ensure the region’s fisheries are managed sustainably. The commission lowered fluke catch limits after it found that their population was down almost 25 percent since 2010. Ross, who oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, overruled the commission and allowed New Jersey to go ahead with its plan. Outraged members of the commission, fishery managers, and NOAA officials said it was unprecedented for a Commerce secretary to make a decision without seeking their input. The broader impact of the decision remains unknown, the Globe said. Fishery managers worry that Ross’ decision sets a precedent for states to reject the commission’s findings and appeal to the federal government whenever they don’t like what they’re hearing. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: UFA getting message out through tech; ‘Frankenfish’ sales loom

As state lawmakers mull ways to update permitting laws to protect salmon habitat, a dual sweepstakes is using text messaging and social media as the means to keep more fishermen informed. “One of the things we’ve learned over the past two years is that most fishermen are getting almost all of their information on their phones,” said Lindsey Bloom, program manager for United Fishermen of Alaska’s Salmon Habitat Information Program, or SHIP. “Since the start of this program we have heard from thousands of Alaska fishermen who say they care deeply about all issues related to salmon habitat, from ocean acidification and water quality to in-river impacts such as dewatering and blocked fish passage,” Bloom added. They also have learned that fishermen have a variety of preferred communication styles, and Bloom said the sweepstakes were created “to increase our reach to fishermen through multiple channels.” To test the waters, SHIP is encouraging fishermen to text “ufaship” to 313131, and UFA will send back four chances to win gift cards of up to $200 from Alaska Airlines or LFS, Inc. A second “Predict the Bay” contest at SHIP’s Facebook page invites guesses of this year’s Bristol Bay’s total sockeye catch and offers similar prizes. “Highlighting Bristol Bay is intentional, as it’s an incredibly prolific fishery that is based on superb quality habitat,” Bloom added. Fishermen who opt in will receive monthly SHIP updates, as well as alerts about other issues. “We are trying to incentivize participation and get the numbers up a little higher,” Bloom said. “Throughout the year we’ll be able to send out messages about what’s going on with certain policies, whether it’s at the federal level or state issues with the Board of Fish or the legislature or something else.” “We have a vast range of age groups who are participating in fishing and we’re trying to get a better sense of how to best communicate and get the farthest reach for our efforts,” she added. Various state and federal agencies, such as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also are interested in bettering communication with fishermen, and Bloom said they are closely watching the SHIP outreach efforts to mirror what is most effective. The sweepstakes also aims to boost membership in UFA, the nation’s largest commercial fishing trade group. “If habitat is as important of an issue as fishermen are telling us it is, it would be excellent if they would put some money where their mouths are and support UFA by signing up through the SHIP program,” Bloom said. Winners of the SHIP sweepstakes will be announced in September. ‘Frankenfish’ moves forward Plans are in the works to send genetically modified salmon to markets in the U.S. and Canada by next year. Despite an outpouring of nearly two million messages opposing the manmade fish, in 2015 it got the nod by the Food and Drug Administration. That followed a more than 20-year push by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts for approval of what will be the first GM animal OK’d for human consumption. Health Canada approved the fish for consumption last year saying that fillets derived from so called AquAdvantage salmon “are as safe and nutritious as fillets from farmed Atlantic salmon.” Lab technicians at Prince Edward Island currently are creating fertilized Atlantic salmon eggs that include growth-enhancing DNA from two other fish that make them grow twice as fast as real salmon. The eggs will be shipped to growing tanks in Panama, and then transferred to a land based aquaculture system in Albany, Ind. A second facility also is planned in Canada. AquaBounty said they plan to produce 1,300 tons of Frankenfish annually starting in 2018. Meanwhile, last week a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators from Alaska, Washington and Oregon filed a Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act that would require any manmade salmon must be labeled as such. The act also requires an independent third-party review of the environmental assessment process within the FDA. “The primary purpose of this bill is to ensure that consumers have all the facts and can make an informed decision when they are purchasing salmon,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “There’s a huge difference between ‘Frankenfish’ and the wild, healthy, sustainably-caught, delicious real thing — and I want to make sure folks are aware of that. I will not accept that this ‘fake fish’ will be sold in stores without clear labeling.” “Additionally, this bill would create a much-needed review of the environmental assessment process within the FDA for the approval of these new species that are being created in labs,” Murkowski added. No matter how it pans out, the salmon will be a tough sell. More than 80 grocery chains and restaurants have stated they will not sell the genetically modified fish. Wisdom on the airwaves Older Alaska fishermen are taking to the radio airwaves to offer career advice to new and younger industry entrants. It’s part of a wrap up of a three-year study that has attempted to define the problems associated with the “graying of the fleet” and to find ways to turn the tide. The average Alaska fisherman today is older than 50, a decade older than the average of a generation ago. Since limited entry programs began in state fisheries in the late 1970s, permit holdings by local rural residents have declined by 30 percent. The trend is similar in federal fisheries since the mid-1990s, with Gulf of Alaska communities showing a 53 percent decline in individual fishing quota holdings. The lack of recruits threatens the healthy succession of fishing as an economic and cultural mainstay in Alaska’s communities, and creates a public policy concern for Alaska, concludes the “Next Generation of Fishermen Study” done by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Sea Grant. “It is getting more and more challenging for young people to enter into our fisheries and once they are there, to make sure their fishing businesses are viable and successful,” said Danielle Ringer, a UAF researcher. The project, which targeted Kodiak and the Bristol Bay region, included more than 130 interviews with permit holders, processors and other stakeholders to identify problems and come up with ways to attract more industry participants. The group has compiled a white paper that speaks to policy solutions called “Turning the Tide — How Alaska can address the Graying of the Fleet and Loss of Fisheries Access.” “It summarizes current efforts in Alaska, as well as in other U.S. fisheries and other nations to address access problems,” Ringer said. The researchers also have launched a serious of public service announcements for Alaska radio stations in which fishermen pass along tips on how to improve their success in a fishing career. Throughout the three-year project, Ringer said there was one agreement among all fishermen. “They love fishing!” she said. “And they want people to keep doing it and they want it to continue to be a thriving industry.” Learn more at fishermen.alaska.edu. Correction Fishermen in Southeast averaged 70 cents a pound for chum salmon last year, not 25 cents as was reported last week. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon surge to Bay as prices rebound

As predicted, Alaska fishermen are getting higher prices for their salmon this year. It’s good news following a 2016 season that saw lackluster catches in all regions but Bristol Bay, a failure of pink salmon runs, and paltry paychecks nearly across the board. Prices paid to Alaska salmon fishermen depend on the region, the species, the type of fishing gear and, most importantly, global market conditions. Salmon prices also reflect bonuses for iced fish, dock deliveries and other agreements between a buyer and seller. As a fishing season unfolds, details can be sketchy as buyers watch the strength of the salmon runs. Until the fish are actually sold at the wholesale level, prices are in flux, and it’s tough to determine what a final outcome will be. It all adds up to a lot of uncertainty, making it tough for sellers and buyers to pencil in a bottom line. That said, a canvassing of fishermen, processors and managers shows that early indicators are good. Bristol Bay started the optimism when Copper River Seafoods in late June posted a price of $1.35 per pound for top quality sockeyes. Bay reds averaged 93 cents per pound last summer. No word yet from other buyers as the sockeye run blows past the 27 million forecast with no end in sight. At Kodiak, sockeye prices were posted at $1.40 for bled and chilled fish, compared to a 96 cents average last year. Chums, which are arriving in record numbers at parts of the island, were posted at 40 cents per pound for bled and chilled fish, up from 29 cents on average at Kodiak last year. For early Kodiak pinks, a price of 35 cents was on the board for bled/chilled fish, a 20-cent increase from 2016. Icicle Seafoods at Kodiak’s Larsen Bay has chums posted at 55 cents per pound for bled/chilled fish and $1.40 for sockeyes. Troll caught kings from Southeast’s four-day July fishery fetched nearly $7 per pound according to fish tickets, up $2 from last summer’s average. Trollers now have switched to coho salmon and are averaging $1.40 per pound. Other Southeast fishermen also are seeing some record chum catches which are fetching 80 cents per pound for chums compared to just 25 cents on average last year. Gillnetters so far have caught nearly five times as many chum salmon this year compared to last year. Similar chum prices were reported from Prince William Sound, up from 32 cents. It’s the demand for roe that’s driving the interest in chums, most of which goes to Japan. Steady declines of Japan’s local fishery over a decade, which normally accounts for 70 percent of total chum roe supply, have sent prices soaring 30 to 40 percent over the past year. The news site Seafood.com reports that salted chum roe is selling at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market for $30 to $35 per pound, the highest prices in 30 years. Seafood Symphony switch The timeline for Alaska’s most celebrated seafood bash has been advanced by several months to broaden the exposure for new products. The 2018 Alaska Symphony of Seafood is switching its popular events from the traditional winter unveilings to the fall. “We heard from a number of companies that the timeline was a bit late for preparing new products and participating in national and international competitions. It will give winners more time to plan their travel and to enter their products in the Seafood Expo North America contest in Boston in March,” said Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, host of the Symphony for 25 years. The annual contest showcases new products in four categories: retail, food service, Beyond the Egg and Beyond the Plate, which features items made from seafood byproducts. The judging now will occur during Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, set for Nov. 16-19. The November event also will feature a Hall of Fame that highlights winners over the past quarter of a century. “It will be a really interesting opportunity for everyone to see product development trends over time,” Decker said. “With some of the winners, people will recognize common, everyday items that were actually Symphony winners many years ago. It will be a really fun way to encapsulate what 25 years has meant to the industry.” An official awards ceremony is planned at a special seafood soiree set for February in Juneau. For 2017, Coppa of Juneau took home the grand prize and tops in food service for its candied salmon ice cream. Dear North Alaska Salmon Bites, a product of the Huna Totem Corp., won first at retail. Bruce Gore Coho Salmon Bottarga by Triad Fisheries won in the Beyond the Egg category, and Tidal Vision of Juneau’s Crystal Clarity pool cleaner made from crab shells was the winner of Beyond the Plate. The call for products is set for mid-August with an entry deadline of Oct. 6. Get more info at the AFDF website. Bay brand expands The world’s biggest sockeye fishery at Bristol Bay is living up to its name with a catch already topping the 27 million fish forecast with no end in sight. Many of the reds will soon be showcased during an expanded program that builds on the success of a three-month pilot project last fall in Boulder, Colo. “During that time our retail partners saw an 8 to14 percent lift in sales compared to year over year. Based on those results, we decided to move forward and continue with some expansion and keep building our brand in other markets,” said Becky Martello, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. The fisherman-run group is bankrolling the “Wild Taste, Amazing Place” branding program with a one percent tax paid by drift netters on the landed value of their catch. Details of the expanded promotion are still being worked out and Martello could not disclose the regional chains that plan to participate. “We’ll be focusing on larger areas rather than retailers in one city as we did in Boulder,” she explained, adding that a big push will include National Seafood Month in October and during Lent. In partnership with Anchorage-based Rising Tide Communications, the group has created in-store videos and digital images, recipes, chef specials, even fish wrapping paper and stickers bearing the Bristol Bay logo. The most important component, Martello said, is training the people behind the seafood counters. “We educate the retail staff so they can be champions of the brand and really sell it to customers. They are able to talk about why Bristol Bay salmon is a good choice, and explain how they are supporting small boat fishermen,” she added. Support for the program has been strong all along the supply chain, including Bay processors. “I feel like we’ve really opened the door for communication and collaboration between us as a fishermen’s group and the processing sector,” Martello said. Five Bristol Bay processors this year also will send out their fresh and frozen sockeye salmon with 200,000 labels featuring the Wild Taste, Amazing Place brand which directs customers to learn more at www.bristolbaysockeye.org. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Robotic technology emerging as tool for fish processing

Robots are cutting up snow crabs in Canada in a sign of things to come in the seafood processing industry. Overall, seafood processing has a relatively small robotic involvement compared to other sectors. Robots have yet to make it into any of Alaska’s 176 fish processing shops, but the lure of reduced production costs, increased fish quality and crews of worker-bots is turning the tide. The CBC reports that the world’s first crab plant robot began work this spring in a plastic chamber about the size of a shipping container in remote Newfoundland. The robot receives crabs on a conveyor belt and quickly dismembers each with a buzzing blade. The crab legs then tumble into a tub below, all sorted, sectioned and ready to go. Another robot in the works will soon shuck all the meat from the crab for a better financial return. “Instead of sending our crab out as sections with the meat in the shell, we thought we could attract a higher price if we sold the meat instead,” said Bob Verge, director of the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation where the crab cutting robots were created. The meat extraction used to be done by hand in Newfoundland plants, but years ago that job shifted to China where the labor is cheaper. Bringing that step back to Newfoundland, Verge said, would make more money for plant operators and get more value from the resource. And for the first time robots also are deboning and filleting cod fish on Norwegian processing lines. New Atlas reports that a machine called APRICOT (automatic pin-bone removal in cod and whitefish) is using x-ray technology to locate the tiny pin bones in the fish and neatly trim them away using water jets. “Unlike farmed salmon, which are similar in size and shape and therefore suitable for automated machine filleting, the variability of wild-caught white fish such as cod has kept filleting of these fish a manual affair,” said a spokesman for Marel of Iceland, the world’s biggest fish processing equipment manufacturer. The APRICOT robot system is expected to be ready for commercial use by year’s end. As the U.S. seafood industry becomes more reliant on products from aquaculture, equipment makers are designing machines for processing those more predictable fish. Complete lines are now operating, for example, where whole farmed salmon enter at one end and portions ready-packed for supermarkets leave at the other. Norwegian processor Nordlaks described the Marel-made system as “a seamless flow of salmon portions without manual handling.” “A robot places the fish pieces directly into the packaging and the system reduces labor costs by up to 20 percent,” a spokesman said. Robot makers say they are hoping their machines will help solve workforce problems in fish plants caused by changing demographics and global markets, and labor shortages. In the near future, they predict more highly skilled humans will work on sophisticated machines and computers, and not on the slime lines. “If we are going to attract young people we need better jobs, not more jobs,” said the crab robot’s Bob Verge. “We have to offer them a better deal. We’ve already demonstrated this technology to young people and they are very impressed with it. They say I’d like to do this.” Robots also are making inroads into the big freezers that hold the bulk of Alaska’s seafood before it goes to markets. A Netherlands company called NewCold has partnered with Trident Seafoods to build one of the nation’s biggest cold storage warehouses outside of Tacoma. Wash. The companies call it “a solution for increased labor, land and energy costs.” Seafood products will be stored on a robot-run system of tiered trollies and racks in low oxygen and in pitch dark, and then transported to the loading area by conveyors and worker-bots. When the $50 million project is completed at year’s end, it will have storage capacity of more than 25 million cubic feet. Fishing updates Alaska’s salmon catch by July 7 was nearing 32 million fish on its way to a forecast of 204 million, with fishing in many regions just getting serious. Fully half of the harvest so far is sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay, where buyers were struggling to keep pace with the surge of fish and most boats were on limits. In other fisheries: Low catches mean Southeast’s summer Dungeness crab fishery will close July 25, an unprecedented three weeks earlier than usual. Alaska’s first red king crab fishery for the year is underway at Norton Sound with a 400,000-pound limit. Shrimp fisheries closed in Prince William Sound last week but opened in parts of Southeast, and lingcod fisheries are now open in both regions. Scallop fisheries opened July 1 at Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula, Dutch Harbor, and a portion of Bristol Bay. Cook Inlet will open to scalloping in mid-August, for a combined Alaska catch of 306,000 pounds of shucked meats. Fishing for pollock, cod and other whitefish is ongoing in the Bering Sea; the Gulf reopens to pollock Aug. 25. Halibut fishermen are about half way to their 18 million-pound catch limit. Kodiak is leading all ports for halibut deliveries followed by Seward and Petersburg; Homer had yet to top one million pounds. Seward and Sitka are the leaders for sablefish landings, each at well over two million pounds. Fishermen have pulled up 53 percent of the 22.5 million-pound catch quota. Stories help salmon Stand for Salmon is calling for photos and stories depicting the role salmon plays in Alaskans’ lives. The grass roots group is working to change salmon habitat laws that haven’t been updated since statehood in 1959, and believes a contest will help spread the word. “It’s always exciting to see where people fish, how they fish, how their families are impacted, how they cook and smoke their fish - the list goes on. I think photo contests like this give us a great opportunity to work with Alaskans and learn why salmon matter to them,” said SFS spokesman Samuel Snyder. Contest deadline is Aug. 31. Learn more at www.standforsalmon.org and on Facebook. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon spawn unusual research

Salmon skin, heads, bones and other body parts have long been popular in cultural usages around the world. Now add salmon sperm to the list of desirable byproducts being hailed by specialists in two diverse realms of research. A team of Japanese researchers is calling dried salmon sperm a miracle product for its ability to extract rare earth elements, or REEs, from ore. An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements and metals that can be extracted from the earth through mining. The rocks are refined, usually by smelting, to extract the valuable compounds. Retrieving the REEs involves an expensive process that uses toxic and sometimes radioactive chemicals which often end up polluting the environment. To the rescue: salmon sperm! The Japanese scientists discovered that salmon sperm has phosphate in its DNA. Previous studies showed that phosphate on the surface of some bacteria extracted rare earth elements from ores. To test the idea, the researchers poured dried salmon milt into a beaker containing liquid ore waste. The semen did indeed absorb several rare elements from the solution, which were easily extracted using a centrifuge. The process was accomplished 10 times more efficiently than the more hazardous and costly conventional methods. The scientists claim salmon sperm could someday replace the toxic brew of chemicals currently used to extract REEs. But before it can be used for extraction on a commercial scale, the researchers said an economically viable process would have to be put in place to capture it from commercial fisheries. The team noted that in its dried form, salmon sperm is very easily stored. Salmon sperm also is the first bio-material used to help turn on the lights. LEDs (light emitting diodes) brighten the numbers in digital clocks and every kind of appliance and electronics. Scientists recently discovered that LEDs can be intensified by using biological materials — notably, salmon sperm. It is the unique shape of the salmon DNA that produces the bio-magic, said Dr. Andrew Steckl, a photonics expert at the University of Cincinnati. “The salmon’s double helix has some interesting properties regarding light. Because of the way it is shaped, you can insert light emitting molecules within it that operate more efficiently than in other host materials,” Steckl said in a phone interview. Steckl’s studies, in collaboration with U.S. Air Force researchers, used sperm taken from wild salmon in Japan, where it is widely harvested for its DNA. In Steckl’s lab, researchers refined the DNA molecules into pure fibers, then into thin films of tightly controlled dimensions that produce light. “Starting with this material, you can actually make a competitive, if not a superior device,” he said, adding, “People in the semi-conductor and in flat panel display industries are quite concerned that certain specialty metals that are critical to device fabrication are going to begin to run out. And this is not 100 years from now, this is maybe as soon as 10 years from now.” Steckl said bioorganic materials are abundant and readily available, and reduce the need for heavy metals and other hazardous materials. “We have the biggest and most competitive industries in America in agriculture and fishing, producing huge amounts of biomaterials that have many technologically important qualities — electronic, optical, structural, magnetic and more,” he said. Steckl believes the trend towards “biomimetics” is inevitable. “Mother Nature’s bounty is widely available and renewable,” he said. “We can use the naturally occurring molecules as a model to learn how they operate. They’ve had millions of years of refining their operations. If we understand how they operate, maybe we can mimic them using man-made materials. We are just scratching the surface.” 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 sensory hairs important for the animal’s balance 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, and being able to measure the 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 hearing behaviors would be critical for understanding how these animals are moving throughout their environment.” The impacts of sonar usage for oil/gas exploration, ships and other kinds of ocean noises also could be assessed, Foy said. “Knowing that crabs do have this hearing sensitivity helps us think about how we might test for these things,” he said. Foy called the crab hearing studies “fascinating” and hopes they 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.” Codfish creamsicles, anyone? Coppa in Juneau proved that seafood can add to a winning confection. Its Candied Salmon Ice Cream took home the grand prize in the 2017 Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition, and could follow dessert a la mode that is trendy throughout Asia. Ice cream with seafood chunks has become popular in Japan, where the Kagawa fishery cooperative has been scooping it up for customers for 10 years. The ice cream is available in six flavors — yellowtail flounder, baby sardine, seaweed, octopus, crab and shrimp. According to the Japan Times, the makers have developed a way to remove as much of the fishy smell as possible, while keeping the delicious flavors. The ice cream is sold at some airports, highway parking lots, and resorts. The co-op also sells its ice cream by mail. Although some tend to think of it as a joke product, the sellers take their ice cream very seriously. The Kagawa makers said they developed the desserts because more children and young women are shifting away from a healthful fish diet, and seafood ice cream is one way to draw them back. People in Taiwan also have gotten a taste for seafood ice cream. For about a dollar a scoop you can select from 13 flavors including strawberry tuna, wasabi cuttlefish and pineapple shrimp. The savory ice cream comes in stark colors like orange, green and black and is topped with sprinkles of dried fish, roe or chopped squid. The novel dessert was created by Liny Hsueh, who sells under the brand name “Doctor Ice.” She is expanding to a second outlet and adding scallops as the newest flavor to her seafood ice cream line up. Since the baby food makers won’t do it, perhaps the ice cream industry will lead the charge to get more seafood into the mouths of American kids. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: China poised to snap up even more Alaska seafood

China holds big promise to become a top customer for Alaska salmon, and not just for the bright red fillets. Since 2011 China has been the No. 1 customer for Alaska seafood with purchases nearing $800 million and comprising 54 percent of all Alaska exports to China. In Chinese food culture, fish symbolizes abundance and prosperity, which plays into a growing middle class that now earns the equivalent of about $25,000 in U.S. dollars a year. That gives buyers significant disposable income to spend on more high-end foods, such as salmon. Add in increasing public concerns about food safety and pollution, and it means Alaska is well poised to send even more salmon to China. A photo-filled Alaska Sea Grant report — called Consumer Preference and Market Potential for Alaska Salmon in China — gives a glimpse of that potential in a country with 1.4 billion people. Researchers from the University of Alaska/Fairbanks and Purdue spent over three months surveying more than 1,000 urban supermarket shoppers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to get their results. Here’s a sampler: While nearly 40 percent of Chinese consumers said they eat seafood at least once a week, only about 9 percent eat salmon that often, and 7 percent have never eaten salmon. The most popular fish consumed by Chinese is carp. More than 66 percent considered seafood to be healthier than other foods, and more than 25 percent preferred wild-caught seafood. Nearly the same number did not pay attention to or understand the difference between wild and farmed fish. Almost 40 percent of Chinese consumers said they eat salmon in restaurants and prefer it raw, as sashimi or sushi. Nearly 18 percent eat salmon in the same uncooked ways at home. On average, consumers ranked the method of harvest as the most important salmon attribute, followed by environmentally friendly certificates, color, the method of preservation, country of origin, and fat content. More than 68 percent said they would be more likely to buy Alaska salmon after knowing it comes from a clean environment and is sustainably harvested. Nearly 59 percent of Chinese urbanites said they definitely or probably would buy Alaska salmon if it were available at an acceptable price. They also find appealing parts of the fish that most Americans toss in the trash. Chinese culinary traditions include cooking fish heads, tails, and bones for various soups and stews. Supermarket prices showed salmon heads selling for $4.99 (U.S.) per pound, salmon skins at $2.46, and salmon bones at $5.10 per pound. The report said those low-value parts can add significant value to Alaska seafood exports to China. “The survey responses show that consumers, if presented with more opportunities to purchase Alaska salmon, would favor the wild fish because of its health benefits, pristine source waters and sustainability,” said Quijie “Angie” Zheng, a study co-author along with H. Holly Wang, Quentin Fong, and Yonggang Lu, all professors within Alaska’s university system. The salmon potential has not been lost on Norway, the world’s top producer of farmed fish. The national fish news site Seafood.com reports that Norway plans to export 343 million pounds of farmed salmon to China by 2025, worth about 4.4 billion yuan, or $646 million (U.S.). Salmon at sea Alaska is the second-largest salmon harvester in the North Pacific, topped only by Russia, and leads all other nations for releases of hatchery-reared fish. That’s according to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission which revealed last month that salmon catches reported by its member countries — Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the U.S. — remain at all-time highs. Since 1993, the commission has tracked the abundance and origins of chum, coho, pink, sockeye, chinook, cherry salmon and steelhead trout in the North Pacific, Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. Salmon abundance is based on the aggregate commercial catches of the five nations which in 2016 totaled nearly 440 million fish, just slightly less than previous years. Russia ranked No. 1 for total salmon catches at 51 percent (967 million pounds), U.S. fleets took 33 percent at 617 million pounds, and all but 19 million pounds of the U.S. catch came from Alaska! That was followed by Japan at 13 percent (245 million pounds), 3 percent from Canada (47 million pounds) and less than 1 percent of the North Pacific salmon catch was taken by Korea. Pink salmon made up 41 percent of the total catch by weight, with Russia hauling in 75 percent of the pink pack. That was followed by chums at 33 percent, sockeyes at 21 percent, coho at 3 percent and Chinook salmon made up 1 percent of the North Pacific catch. Hatchery releases of salmon from NPAFC member countries topped 5 billion fish in 2016 (38 percent of the total salmon catch), similar to numbers over the last three decades. The U.S. released 37 percent of the hatchery fish (1.9 billion fish), followed by Japan at 37 percent (967 million), Russia at 19 percent (282 million) and Canada at six percent (22 million fish). Sixty-five percent of the hatchery releases were chum salmon, followed by pinks at 24 percent. Chinook, sockeye and coho salmon releases were 5 percent of less. Pinger paybacks Alaska salmon fishermen can get rebates on pingers aimed at keeping marine mammals away from their gear. The six-inch, battery operated tubes are tied into fishing nets and transmit animal-specific signals every five seconds. “Pingers can be really helpful to alert the whales to something in front of them, so you have less entanglements, explained Kathy Hansen, director of the Southeast Alaska Fisheries Alliance. SEAFA received a $25,000 Hollings Grant from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to fund the pinger program, which pays out $25 rebates for up to five pingers per permit per vessel. The pingers retail for about $100 each, which adds up by the time you put the number needed for the length of a salmon net. “A Southeast gillnet that is 200 fathoms long needs at least five,” Hansen said. The rebates are good for any Alaska salmon fishery. Along with Southeast Alaska, Hansen said, pingers are also used by fishermen at Kodiak and Sand Point. Hansen uses pingers in her salmon gear and swears by them. “It’s not 100 percent effective — kind of like a red stop light. Ninety-nine percent of the people will stop, and there’s that 1 percent that might not. But we’ve used them on our fishing gear for about six years and are completely sold on them,” she said. And, she added, pingers don’t act like a dinner bell for whales, nor affect the salmon catch. “In our personal experience and all the people we’ve talked to say they have not seen any kind of dinner bell effect with the pingers,” Hansen said. “And they do not scare the fish away. We constantly see fish clumped up next to the pingers.” The rebates will continue while the funds last. Get forms from the SEAFA website and at local gear shops. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Government shutdown would slam salmon fisheries

Want a fishing license to crew on a salmon boat this summer? Got friends or family visiting who want to wet a line for a prized Alaska catch? Don’t count on it. If the Alaska Legislature continues to defy its constitutional obligation to pass a budget, those opportunities will be lost because there won’t be any state workers to issue fishing licenses. Layoff notices went out on June 1 to thousands of state employees who will be off the job at the July 1 start of the fiscal year. That’s just one of the lesser impacts of the legislative impasse, hundreds of which are now being outlined by the governor and state agencies as the deadline approaches. Here’s an overview of potential fishery related impacts from various divisions: The Commercial Fisheries Division, which receives nearly all its management money from the state general fund, will be hit the hardest. The budget deadlock would bring all state fisheries to a screeching halt, and thousands of processing workers who live in or come to Alaska each summer would suddenly find themselves out of a job. The biggest punch, of course, would be felt by the salmon fisheries, and the harm could extend well beyond this year. Field staff at remote weirs, towers and salmon sonar counting projects from Southeast to Kotzebue will be pulled, said Scott Kelley, division director with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “A ballpark count is 40 to 50 projects for commercial fisheries. That doesn’t include projects operated by Sport Fish which are oftentimes equally important for overall salmon assessment, as well as aerial and foot surveys,” he said. The stall means that managers’ ability to forecast future salmon escapement goals and collect other critical data also would be significantly compromised. Cancelled harvests also could force too many salmon to head upstream and exceed the carrying capacity of food and oxygen in their home lakes or streams. “That entirely depends on the strength of a given run,” Kelley explained. “In rearing limited systems, where the more spawners we put in the more fry we get, we could see significant impacts in terms of future yields. “If we put a big number of sockeye into a system above the upper end of an escapement goal, the result could be reduced yield when that brood year returns over 3 to 5 years. If there are more fry than feed, they could have reduced in-lake survival, reduced marine survival because they leave freshwater smaller and less fit than normal. Prey densities also take a hit and take a while to recover.” “This is not a conservation issue, but can be a yield issue,” Kelley added. Insufficient sampling also could hinder assessment of the state’s performance for Pacific Salmon Treaty obligations with Canada, ADFG’s ability to manage allocations set by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s stock assessment program. A shutdown will threaten annual production of 4.5 million salmon, rainbow trout and Arctic char at Alaska’s two state-owned hatcheries, and prevent the collection of chinook and coho broodstock. It could take up to four ears to rebuild that mature stock needed to sustain future generations. The Department of Fish and Game’s three patrol vessels and skiffs will be tied up. Also halted effective July 2 would be issuance of Title 16 land and water use permits by the Division of Habitat that protect fish and wildlife areas. Similarly, the Department of Natural resources will be forced to delay issuing various permits and authorizations. Say so long to subsistence harvest surveys done by the Division of Subsistence, and support to the Board of Fisheries and advisory committees. The issuance of subsistence and drawing permits could be delayed, interrupted or even not issued. The budget impasse would delay or prevent fish cargo shipments. The Department of Transportation will tie up all 11state ferries, meaning no passenger service and no fish transports to awaiting mainland customers. Likewise, many state airports will operate with reduced hours, preventing fish from getting delivered to buyers in a timely manner. Core services by the Department of Environmental Conservation will be suspended, including testing for shellfish paralytic shellfish poison, air and water monitoring and permitting and inspections. In a June 9 press release ADFG Commissioner Sam Cotten said that the department is working with the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Law to analyze the impacts of a shutdown on the commercial, subsistence, personal use and sport fisheries, as well as hunting seasons. Cotten said the programs and services at ADFG will continue on their normal course through the month of June. 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 and fishermen can plug in numbers they feel comfortable with,” said app creator Leigh McCue, a professor at Virginia Tech’s Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. She said stability indicators have been talked about for years, but prototypes were too bulky or expensive. McCue said she realized a few years ago that Smart Phones had all the computing power that was needed and fishermen’s input helped her hone the app to their needs. It’s also useful for large vessels. The SCraMP app can be customized to each vessel and downloaded for free or visit www.vesseldynamics.com. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Mariculture industry gains momentum

Homegrown shellfish and kelp are gaining momentum in Alaska, spurred on by growing markets and the steadfast push by Gov. Bill Walker’s visionary mariculture task force. Applications for more than 1,000 acres of oyster and kelp farms were filed with the Department of Natural Resources by the April 30 deadline, far more than usual. Fifteen are for new farms in the Southeast, Southcentral and Westward regions of which seven plan to grow kelp exclusively. Two farms at Klawok also are adding kelp to their current oyster growing operations. “These permit applications are an indicator that there is developing interest and growth in the mariculture industry in Alaska,” said Linda Mattson with the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development upon announcing the numbers. Along with other state agencies, DCCED is an active part of the 11-member Alaska Mariculture Task Force established by an Administrative Order in 2016. The group’s mission is to provide Walker with a comprehensive report for statewide mariculture expansion by March 1 of next year. Walker believes mariculture of shellfish and seaweeds is a viable means to diversify the economy and provide a $1 billion economy within 30 years. “The timing is right,” said task force co-chair Julie Decker of Wrangell. “It’s exciting that many of the applicants are young Alaska fishermen who are planning to have kelp be an adjunct to help diversify their fishing portfolio. Plus, shellfish are filter feeders and clean the waters and seaweed are a carbon sink and also produce really healthy products. I think we’re on a good path.” For existing aquatic farmers who are growing shellfish, kelp can provide them with a ready cash flow while they are waiting for up to three years for their bivalve crops to ripen. “Kelp only takes about 90 days to grow so you can stagger your plantings and lengthen your seasons,” Decker added. The latest data from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show that 54 aquatic farms, seven shellfish nurseries and two shellfish hatcheries are operating in Alaska, primarily growing Pacific oysters, with sales topping $1 million in 2014 and 2015. Production in 2015 of 10.6 million oysters fetched an average price of $9.84 per dozen, up 24 cents, or 2.5 percent, from 2014. “If just three-tenths of a percent of Alaska’s 35,000 miles of coastline was developed for oysters,” Decker said, “it could produce 1.3 billion oysters at 80 cents adding up to over $1 billion a year!” For blue mussels, production in 2015 showed a 74 percent increase to 16,688 pounds with a value of $5.27 per pound (down 47 cents from 2014) for a total of $70,800. In terms of the fledgling kelp industry, a first 15,000-pound harvest last month on a one-acre plot at Kodiak owned by Nick and Stephanie Mangini paid out at roughly $10,000. Their business, Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed, plans to expand to 17 acres by next year. Find links to Alaska’s Mariculture Task Force at the ADFG home page. Salmon at a glance Want to know the values of Alaska’s salmon catches by every region? Or what products the fish are made into and where each goes to market? Find it at a glance in the latest Seafood Market Bulletin from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. It’s compiled by the McDowell Group and also includes dockside values over a decade, and the rank of each species as a percent of Alaska’s harvests. Here’s a sampler: The projected pink salmon catch this summer of 142 million is up by more than one million fish over last year. The average pink price paid to fishermen last year was 34 cents per pound. Frozen fish accounted for 44 percent of the pink salmon value last year with canned pinks at 37 percent. Chum catches this year should increase to about 17 million due to higher catches in Western Alaska. Chums accounted for 15 percent of the Alaska salmon harvest and value over the past two years. The average dock price in 2016 was 61 cents price per pound. Globally, chum production dropped by 30 percent due to decreased catches in Japan. That pushed up roe prices to over $14 per pound. Roe accounts for 37 percent of Alaska’s chum salmon value. Coho catches are expected to increase to 4.7 million this year. The average coho price to fishermen last year was $1.17 per pound. Coho are the latest running of all Alaska salmon species and account for 3 percent of the harvest and 5 percent of the value. Alaska’s sockeye catch is expected to decline 23 percent this year to about 41 million fish, and prices are expected to increase. Fishermen averaged $1.05 per pound last season, up 23 cents from the previous year. Sockeye accounted for 34 percent of Alaska’s salmon harvest over the past two years and 55 percent of the value, ringing in at $302 million in 2016. The chinook harvest is projected to drop by 27 percent this year and produce the smallest harvest in state history. The average Alaska price last year was $4.88 per pound, for a value of nearly $24 million. Ninety-nine percent of Alaska’s king salmon go to markets in the U.S. Alaska’s 2017 salmon harvest calls for 204 million fish, up nearly one million from last year. A mighty wind A warmer than average April could mean an early return of chinook salmon again to the Yukon River and fish watchers are on alert for signs of the first pulse to arrive around June 10. While low numbers mean no commercial fishery again this year, the kings are crucial for subsistence users. Even with 56 years of Yukon data, it’s a tough run to track because the timing is so unpredictable, said Phil Mundy, director of NOAA Fisheries’ Auke Bay lab in Juneau. Mundy has been studying Alaska salmon since the 1970s, but said it was Yukon elders who taught him how to fine tune the run timing. “They told me ‘the wind blows the fish in the river — everyone knows that, young man,’” he said, adding that Cook Inlet fishermen said the same thing about sockeye salmon. “They said, ‘it’s when the wind blows and you get the biggest tide closest to July 17. Everyone knows that.’ But we couldn’t figure out exactly how. I didn’t think the fish put up their dorsal fin like a sail to blow into the river, but there had to be something because they seemed to be right,” Mundy mused. “I used to count fish from airplanes, and I’ve seen at Cook Inlet and at Bristol Bay where you get the river water piling up against the marine water on the river plume,” he added. “Then you’ll see the salmon weaving in and out along the edge of the front between the fresh water and the saltwater. I never knew why they were doing that. They will pile up if there is no wind to mix the fresh and salt water to make it brackish. They will pile up on that front until some other trigger, which we probably don’t understand, sends them all in.” In 2006, Mundy saw a scientific article that focused on how salmon make the change from fresh to saltwater and vice versa. “There’s this thing called a calcium ion switch, and it is triggered by alternating exposure to different salinities,” he explained. “Young salmon can’t swim straight into saltwater because it will kill them, and it’s the same for adults in the ocean returning to their home streams. They have to have alternating exposure to different salinities.” At the Yukon, Mundy said the wind mixing the water even tops early ice melts as the best indicator of the salmon arrivals. Today, satellite readings from the Alaska Ocean Observing System make predictions easier and more reliable. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. 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