Laine Welch

Halibut comments rolling in, salmon opener underway

Nowhere in the world do people have as much opportunity to speak their minds to fish policy makers as they do in Alaska. As decision day approaches, a groundswell of Alaska voices is demanding that fishery overseers say bye-bye to halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea.

They are speaking out against the more than 6 million pounds of halibut that are dumped overboard each year as bycatch in trawl fisheries that target flounders, rockfish, perch, mackerel and other groundfish (not pollock).

Studies for fishermen's health; first yearly shellfish poisoning

How much are fishermen affected by long term health problems like hearing loss, lack of sleep and high blood pressure? A pilot study aims to find out and researchers are using the 500-plus members of the Copper River salmon driftnet fleet as test subjects.

“The Copper River fishing season lasts five months and most of the fleet is very digitally connected so it seemed a great fit,” said Torie Baker, a Sea Grant Marine Advisory Agent in Cordova.

Hatchery cos. dispute study faulting pink salmon releases

Alaskan salmon producers are not buying the presumption that growing numbers of pinks are eating too much food in the ocean, causing sockeye salmon to grow slower and smaller.

That’s the claim of a new study by Seattle and British Columbia researchers, who say the race for food ultimately affects sockeye abundance and survival.

“Our data sets extend up to 55 years each. In terms of looking at productivity or survival of salmon, they’ve included 36 sockeye populations,” said Greg Ruggerone, a researcher at Natural Resources Consultants in Seattle and study co-author.

Hatchery salmon, season updates, and FDA 'Frankenfish'

Each year more than one third of all the salmon caught in Alaska begin their lives in a hatchery.

There are 31 hatchery facilities in Alaska: 15 privately owned, 11 state owned, two federal research facilities, one tribal hatchery at Metlakatla, and two state-owned sport fish hatcheries.

Lost blackcod pots in the Sound, and sputtering state fishery startups

A mile long string of 29 sablefish pots was lost last month in Prince William Sound after being run over by tugs towing barges at Knight Island Passage.

“It appears that some tug boats passed back and forth across where the gear was set, and now we have no idea where it is,” said Maria Wessel, a groundfish biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office at Cordova.

The pots are part of an ongoing tagging study started in 2011 to track the movement of the Sound’s sablefish stock. It was intended to be the third test run for the project.

Subsistence sack lunches; ADFG budget; bycatch breakdown

Caribou instead of corn dogs…salmon instead of Trout Treasures… seal meat in place of spaghetti — all could soon be available to more Alaskans if traction continues on a new bipartisan bill before the Alaska legislature.

The bill, House Bill 179, allows schools, senior centers, hospitals, child care centers and other facilities to accept and serve fish, game, plants and eggs that are donated by subsistence and sport users.

2015 salmon overload, petition for Chuitna salmon rights

File this fish story under the “can there be too much of a good thing” category.

Alaska is expecting another bumper run of salmon this year — state managers announced a projected total catch of 221 million salmon, 39 percent higher than last year (the numbers for chinook salmon are still being calculated). Regional catch projections for this summer are up across the board, according to Runs and Harvest Projections for Alaska’s 2015 Salmon Fisheries and Review of the 2014 season by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

New Coast Guard safety rules; new fish aide for Sullivan

Volunteers are needed to help craft new safety rules that are being written for older boats, which includes the bulk of Alaska’s fishing vessels.

Called the Alternate Compliance Safety Program, or ACSP, it is part of the 2010 U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Act and is aimed at vessels that will be 25 years old by 2020, are greater than 50 feet in length, and operate beyond three nautical miles.

Stoltze fights for personal use priority, other fish bills move

Seven times is the charm for building some momentum on a measure that aims to give personal use, or PU, fisheries a priority over commercial and sport users. As it stands now, the three fisheries all are on equal footing in the eyes and actions of state managers.

The priority shift has been introduced during each of the last seven legislative sessions by (now) Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, but has never made it past a first hearing — until now.

ADFG online store offering print-and-go fishing licenses

Print your licenses at home and go fishing!

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s revamped Online Store is the go to place for all fishing (and hunting) licenses and it now offers two new features.

“Fishermen, both sport and commercial, can now print their licenses at home. They can purchase it online, immediately print it and go out fishing,” said Michelle Kaelke, Financing and Licensing Supervisor for the department.

$12 million in ADFG cuts; fun fish facts; pink forecast

A nearly $12 million cut in state funds is on tap for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game if state policy makers have their way. That was one early outcome of legislative House finance subcommittee meetings last week, as they wrapped up the first step in a budget process that will see cuts in agencies and programs almost across the board.

Hot halibut permits, Chuitna, Seafood Symphony hat trick

Right after the yearly halibut catch limits are announced each January, brokers usually are busy with buying and selling and transferring shares of the catch. But it’s been slow going so far, even with slight harvest increases in nearly all Alaska fishing areas for the first time in nearly a decade. The buyers are there – it’s the sellers that are scarce.

A busy year for permits; fish for Lent; crabby gym gear

Last year was one of the busiest years ever for Alaska brokers who help fishermen buy, sell and trade fishing permits and quota shares.

“I was really happy to see such a good mix of permits we were selling — it wasn’t just one thing,” said Olivia Olsen of Alaskan Quota and Permits in Petersburg. “We had a lot of Dungeness crab permits, charter halibut permits, salmon and shrimp permits, sea cucumbers, and then whatever IFQs (individual fishing quota) we could find.”

Valentine's Day fish secrets; 'Salmon love'; pollock opens

Lovers choose lobster as the top Valentine’s Day dish to share with that special someone. Crab legs and shrimp also get the nod as “romantic meals” on Feb. 14 — one of the busiest dining out days for U.S. restaurants.

In a national survey by Harris Interactive, chefs called lobster an “exotic delicacy that results in an intimate moment because it is hand-held and shareable.” In fact, respondents called all shellfish “a catalyst for connection like no other food.”

Alaska seafood line launched; halibut quotas rise in '15

Freezer displays at Walmart superstores in Alaska and Washington now include a new lineup of 14 Alaska seafood items. The world’s largest grocer announced the expanded commitment to Alaska seafood last week.

“We are so proud to bring these to our customers, and we also know how important it is to local fishermen and folks across the state,” said John Forrest Ales, Director of Corporate Communications for Walmart.

Transition team sends suggestions to Walker on fisheries

The need for a clear “fish first” policy in Alaska tops the list of priorities compiled by the Fisheries Transition Team for Gov. Bill Walker. The group also stated that “fish and fishermen in Alaska are viewed as barriers to development,” and that there is “irreplaceable optimism” that fish can coexist with development at any scale.

Symphony attracts new fishy products

Alaska seafood marketers are ramping up promotions and bankrolling a $1 million global media blitz to counteract a tough sockeye salmon market.

Sockeyes are by far the most valuable salmon catch, often worth two-thirds of the value of Alaska’s entire salmon fishery. But last summer’s unexpected surge of reds left lots of inventory in freezers, and record U.S. imports of competing farmed salmon from Chile and Norway combined with the prospect of another big run at Bristol Bay make for a sockeye sales squeeze.

Supply picture, stronger dollar swirl seafood marketing

Alaska seafood marketers are facing some strong headwinds heading into 2015, notably, for sockeye salmon and crab.

Snow crab is Alaska’s largest crab fishery, underway now in the Bering Sea. The fleet has a slightly increased 61 million pound catch quota; boats also are tapping on a hefty bairdi, or tanner crab, catch, the larger cousin of snow crab.

No dull moments for Alaska fishing industry in 2014

Alaska still has its share of naysayers who will quibble about the seafood industry’s importance to our great state. They dismiss the fact that fishing was Alaska’s first industry and was fish that spawned the push to statehood.

“The canned salmon plants started in the 1870s and by the early 20th century, canned salmon was the largest industry and generated 80 percent of the territorial tax revenues. It had a position in the state economy that oil enjoys today,” said fisheries historian Bob King.

High-volume fisheries get underway led by pollock, cod

Salmon will always be the heart of Alaska’s fisheries, and that’s why most people think of summer as the fishing season. But that’s not the case.

The heart of winter is when Alaska’s largest fisheries get underway each year.

On Jan. 1, hundreds of boats with hook and line gear or pots begin plying the waters of the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska for Pacific cod, rockfish and other groundfish. Then on Jan. 20 trawlers take to the seas to target Alaska pollock, the world’s largest food fishery with annual harvests topping three billion pounds.

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