Laine Welch

Alaska pollock vs. Russia; crab season underway

When is Alaska pollock not really Alaska pollock?

When it is listed as such by the Food and Drug Administration, which governs what every seafood product will be called in U.S. commerce.

For pollock, one of the most widely eaten seafoods in the U.S., the FDA applies the “Alaska” moniker to all fish of that species on its market list, regardless of where it is caught.

Hot halibut and crab permits, not so much for salmon

“Unsettled” best describes the mood among brokers in the business of buying, selling and trading Alaska salmon permits and quota shares of various catches.

For salmon permits, “the dust hasn’t really settled” since the season ended, said Doug Bowen of Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer, but at the moment, prices are tanking across the board.

“There were a few bright spots but several areas in the state did not do well, either because of production or price or both. That’s put a downward press on permit prices,” he added.

Crabbers fear shutdown; UAS offers troubleshooting courses

Bering Sea crabbers are again facing the possibility of a delayed fishery as congressional Republicans threaten to shut down the government, this time over federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

A shutdown two years ago stalled the crab opener by two days, costing the fleet more than $5 million in food, fuel and other fees as the boats stood idly by for a week or more awaiting an outcome.

Crab takes a dip; marine debris Christmas ornaments

Catches for Alaska’s premier crab fisheries in the Bering Sea could take a dip this year based on results from the annual summer surveys.

The annual report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries division, called “The Eastern Bering Sea Continental Shelf Bottom Trawl Survey: Results from Commercial Crab Species” (long dubbed the ‘crab map’), shows tables reflecting big drops over the past year in abundance of legal sized males for both snow crab and red king crab at Bristol Bay. Only legal males are allowed to be retained for sale.

Regnart retires at ADFG; Kodiak boat repair courses offered

Alaska’s fishing industry was dismayed by the sudden news that Jeff Regnart, director of the state’s Commercial Fisheries Division, will leave the job on Oct. 2.

“I’m resigning due to family reasons, aging parents…I just can’t be in the state full time like this job demands,” Regnart explained.

Jeff Regnart started as an Alaska Department of Fish and Game field tech in high school, and over 30 years worked his way to management positions at Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay.

Bumper haul of humpies adds to salmon price woes

Alaska’s pink salmon catch is pushing 180 million fish, making it the second largest harvest ever (219 million pinks was the previous record set in 2013).

The humpie haul has been pushed by record production in three regions — more than 15 million pinks were taken at the Alaska Peninsula, compared to less than 1 million last year. Kodiak’s record pink catch was nearing 30 million, triple last year’s take; and Prince William Sound’s harvest so far had topped a whopping 97 million pink salmon. 

Eye on 'the Blob'; Crabbers drop survey pots in Aleutians

Fish deaths, drought in California, tropical creatures appearing in cold waters — those freakish happenings and more are being blamed on a giant splotch of warm water that for two years has been pushing against coastlines on the West Coast, Canada and into Alaska.

“They call it the Blob because of its original circular shape on the sea surface,” explained Dr. Carol Janzen, an oceanographer and Operations Director at the Alaska Ocean Observing System, or AOOS, in Anchorage.

Chinook research victim of cuts; proposals out for board

One of the casualties of this year’s budget cuts was funding for a program aimed at discovering why Alaska’s chinook salmon stocks have been declining since 2007.

A five-year, $30 million Chinook Salmon Research Initiative launched in 2013 included more than 100 researchers focused on three dozen projects in 12 major river systems from Southeast to the Yukon. Now the ambitious effort has been cut to just over one dozen projects.

Salmon harvest inching to forecast; Gulf trawlers get kings

Alaska’s salmon season so far has been characterized by ups and downs, and it will be a stretch for the total catch to make the forecasted 221 million fish.

“It just depends on how these late returning pink salmon at Prince William Sound performs, and whether or not pinks pick up at Southeast. It’s possible, but we would still have to harvest around 30 million more salmon,” mused Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the state’s Commercial Fisheries Division.

August hearings could change face of salmon management

Two hearings this month could change the face of Alaska’s salmon fisheries forever.

Electric boat makes debut; Costco cuts Chilean salmon

The first seagoing electric powered passenger vessel in the U.S. is set to launch next summer in Juneau.

The E/V Tongass Rain is a 50-foot, 47-passenger catamaran designed for eco-education and whale watching tours. Its primary fuel source will be rain, delivered to the boat via Juneau’s hydroelectric power grid and stored in a bank of lithium batteries.

Sockeye price plunges; comments for Gulf catch shares

Shock and dismay were heard from Bristol Bay fishermen when they finally got word last week that major buyers would pay 50 cents a pound for their sockeye salmon. That’s a throwback to the dock prices paid from 2002 through 2004, and compares to $1.20 advanced last year, or $1.33 on average after price adjustments.

Bristol Bay's comeback, SE pinks, Murkowski vs. Frankenfish

The world’s biggest sockeye salmon run at Bristol Bay went from “bust” to “unbelievable” in one week.

Landings last week broke records every day for five days for that time frame, bringing the total sockeye catch to nearly 28 million fish on an unusually long-tailed run — and the reds were still coming on strong.

Kodiak debris sweep; new Coast Guard regs for old vessels

Kodiak volunteers were scrambling with front end loaders and dump trucks to ready 200,000 pounds of super sacks for the first pick up of a massive marine debris removal project that begins in Alaska this week.

The month-long cleanup, which is backed by a who’s who of state and federal agencies, non-profits and private businesses, will deploy a 300-foot barge and helicopters to remove thousands of tons of marine debris from some of the world’s harshest and most remote coastlines.

Salmon leather upstarts and GOA juvenile halibut tagging

“Upcycling” seafood byproducts is the business model for Tidal Vision, a Juneau-based company of five entrepreneurs who are making waves with their line of aquatic leather and performance textiles.

The start-up is making wallets, belts and other products from sheets of salmon skins using an all natural, proprietary tanning formula from vegetable oils and other eco-friendly ingredients.

Silver linings for sockeyes as domestic market widens

As Alaska’s salmon season heads into high gear, a few bright spots are surfacing in an otherwise bleak global sales market.

Sales and prices for all salmon (especially sockeye) have been in a slump all year. And amidst an overall glut of wild and farmed fish, Alaska is poised for another huge salmon haul, with the largest run of sockeye salmon in 20 years predicted along with a mega-pack of pinks.

Meanwhile, the single toughest thing stacked against Alaska’s sales to traditional overseas customers is the strong U.S. dollar.

Examining anti-setnet group's claims about 'bycatch'

A one-handed clap best describes the reaction to the 43,000-signature drop off by anti-salmon setnet advocates at the Division of Elections last week.

It means enough signatures were gathered to include the question on the 2016 primary election ballot, and let Alaska voters decide whether to ban setnets at Cook Inlet, Mat-Su, Anchorage, Juneau, Valdez, Ketchikan, and any communities designated as “urban” and “non-subsistence” in the future.

Salmon, other big summer fisheries getting underway

Salmon fisheries are opening up this month from one end of Alaska to the other. Total catches so far of mostly sockeye, were under one million fish, but will add up fast from here on. A total haul for all Alaska salmon this season is pegged at 221 million fish.

A highlight so far is a 40 percent increase in troll action at Southeast regions, where nearly 300 fishermen are targeting king salmon. That’s likely due to a boosted price averaging $7.54 per pound, up $1.88 from last year.

Government shutdown may wound Alaska salmon season

Alaska’s salmon industry is ready to get corked by the inability of state lawmakers to pass a budget.

More than 20,000 state workers are bracing for 30-day layoff notices, meaning they’ll be off the job when the new fiscal year starts on July 1. The timing couldn’t be worse for Alaska’s salmon managers who are nearing the peak of a season that could set new records.

Chuitna water reservation decision delayed until this fall

Alaskans will have to wait until fall to learn if salmon habitat prevails over a coal mine proposed at Upper Cook Inlet.

A decision due earlier this month by the state Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, has been delayed until after a public hearing later this summer, said Ed Fogels, DNR Deputy Commissioner.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Laine Welch