Posted Wednesday, January 06, 2016 - 1:56 pm
2016 marks a quarter of a century for this weekly column that targets Alaska’s seafood industry.
At the end of every year, I proffer my “no holds barred” look back at the best and worst fish stories, and select the biggest story of the year.
The list is in no particular order and I’m sure to be missing a few, but here are the Fishing Picks and Pans for 2015:
Posted Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - 3:44 pm
“Tis the season for even bigger Alaska fish catches when groundfish seasons open at the start of the New Year.
Catches of pollock, cod, flounders and other groundfish account for nearly 85 percent of Alaska’s harvest poundage, and 67 percent of the nation’s total groundfish harvests. Those numbers could increase due to boosts in several catch quotas in both the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea for the next two years.
For pollock, the nation’s largest fishery, the catch is up slightly to 1.3 million metric tons, or just under three billion pounds.
Posted Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 4:11 pm
Alaska crab shells are fueling an eco-revolution that will drive new income streams for fabrics to pharmaceuticals to water filters. And for the first time, it is happening in the U.S. and not overseas.
The entrepreneurs at Tidal Vision in October made the leap from their labs in Juneau to a pilot plant outside of Seattle to test an earth-friendly method that extracts chitin, the structural element in the exoskeletons of shellfish and insects. Their first big run a few weeks ago was tested on a 60,000 pound batch of crab shells delivered by Trident Seafoods from St. Paul Island.
Posted Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - 12:57 pm
Caught by Alaskans for Alaskans is a business concept that bested 170 others in a global fisheries business competition last month at Stanford University in California.
The contest, sponsored by Fish 2.0, awards creative approaches that build demand for sustainable seafood, reduce waste and support fishing towns. The Alaska Community Seafood Hub model, presented by Kelly Harrell of Anchorage, won $5,000 in cash and is in the running for more money to be awarded this month.
Posted Wednesday, December 09, 2015 - 4:20 pm
Despite some encouraging signs that Pacific halibut stocks are stabilizing after being on a downward spiral for nearly two decades, catches could decrease slightly in most regions again next year. That’s IF fishery managers accept the catch recommendations by halibut scientists, which they don’t always do.
At the International Pacific Halibut Commission interim meeting Dec. 1-2 in Seattle, the total 2016 catch, meaning for the West Coast, British Columbia and Alaska, was recommended at 26.56 million pounds, down from 29.22 million pounds this year.
Posted Wednesday, December 02, 2015 - 2:16 pm
The call is out for products to compete in Alaska’s most celebrated seafood bash, and another new category has been added to the mix.
For the 23rd year, the Symphony of Seafood in 2016 will showcase innovative new products that are entered both by major Alaska seafood companies and small “mom and pops,” such as last year’s top winner, Pickled Willy’s of Kodiak smoked black cod tips.
Posted Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 2:34 pm
Alaskans are being asked to weigh in on two tough issues: budgets and halibut bycatch.
First off, the state Boards of Fisheries and Game are asking for ideas on cutting costs within their annual meeting cycles, as well as for the state agencies involved with providing all of the backup information to the boards.
Both boards include seven members who are appointed by the governor and approved by the Alaska legislature for three-year terms.
Posted Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 12:15 pm
The popular January Tanner crab fishery has been called off for the third year running throughout the Westward Region (Kodiak, Chignik and the South Peninsula), leaving fishermen and managers wondering where all the crab has gone.
State managers for several years have been tracking a huge plug of crab that appeared poised to enter the 2016 Tanner fishery, but based on this summer’s surveys, the crab have failed to materialize.
Posted Wednesday, November 04, 2015 - 2:16 pm
Alaska claimed the top three fishing ports for landings again last year, and led all U.S. states in terms of seafood landings and values.
“The Alaska port of Dutch Harbor continued to lead the nation with the highest amount of seafood landings – 761.8 million pounds, 87 percent of which was walleye pollock,” said Dr. Richard Merrick in announcing the national rankings last week from the annual “Fisheries of the U.S.” report for 2014.
Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2015 - 2:26 pm
Alaska’s 2015 salmon season produced the second largest harvest ever, but rock bottom prices yielded the lowest pay out to fishermen since 2006. That will cut into the tax base of coastal communities and state coffers, which collect fully half of all fish landing taxes.
Preliminary tallies from the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game show that the statewide salmon catch topped 263 million fish (the record is 273 million in 2013) with an ex-vessel (dockside) value at $414 million, a 28 percent decrease from last year.
Posted Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 1:48 pm
Fish pirates are coming under fire as more countries band together to stop them from pilfering the world’s oceans.
So-called Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated, or IUU, fishing accounts for one-fifth of global catches, according to the Global Ocean Commission, valued at $10 to $25 billion each year.
Posted Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - 2:45 pm
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.
Posted Wednesday, October 07, 2015 - 2:10 pm
“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.
Posted Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 3:10 pm
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.
Posted Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 1:48 pm
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.
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 3:24 pm
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.
Posted Wednesday, September 09, 2015 - 1:28 pm
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.
Posted Wednesday, September 02, 2015 - 2:50 pm
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.
Posted Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - 2:15 pm
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.
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 10:28 am
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.