Laine Welch

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.

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.


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