Laine Welch

Glacial melt changes ocean chemistry, study says crabs hear

Ocean chemists are calling it “revolutionary technology” as unmanned gliders track how melting glaciers may be intensifying corrosive waters in Prince William Sound.

Bay haul beats forecast; Alaska fish get clean bill of health

With salmon fisheries going on every summer all across Alaska, you might wonder why so much attention is focused on Bristol Bay. The answer can be summed up in two words: sockeye salmon.

Bristol Bay is home to the largest red salmon runs in the world and sockeye is Alaska’s most valuable salmon fishery by far. In most years, well over one-third of Alaska’s total earnings from salmon fishing stem from Bristol Bay.

More than just sockeye salmon fisheries underway around state

Salmon takes center stage in Alaska every summer, but many more fisheries also are going on all across the state.

The world’s biggest sockeye salmon run is expected to surge into Bristol Bay any day, where a catch of about 17 million reds is projected. Elsewhere, the annual summer troll fishery in Southeast Alaska kicks off on July first with a target of just over 166,000 chinook salmon.

Not much talk about fish on candidate sites

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: the seafood industry is Alaska’s largest private employer, putting more people to work than mining, oil/gas, timber and tourism combined. The annual revenue the seafood sector contributes to state coffers is second only to Big Oil. So where does the seafood industry rank among the major candidates running for Alaska governor and the U.S. Senate?

Here’s what a thorough look at each of their campaign websites reveals, starting with the race for governor (all in alphabetical order).

Farmed salmon, big Fraser River run impacting 2014 prices

Salmon prices at wholesale show marked seasonal variations for both wild and farmed fish. It’s a pattern that has been tracked for decades by Urner Barry, the nation’s oldest commodity market watcher in business since 1895. The prices tend to decline through June, July, August and September and they begin rising again from November through the following April or May.

Two things drive the well-established pattern, said market expert John Sackton, who publishes Seafood.com, an Urner-Barry partner. 

GM salmon labeling amendment moves ahead

If genetically modified salmon gets a green light by the federal government, it will be labeled as such if U.S. senators on both sides of the aisle have their way. The Senate Appropriations Committee last week passed the bipartisan Murkowski-Begich amendment requiring that consumers be advised of what they are buying.

During testimony, Sen. Lisa Murkowski questioned if the so-called Frankenfish can even be called a real salmon.

Plenty of pink salmon in stock from 2013; price info hard to get

Salmon season is just getting underway, but seafood companies are still selling last summer’s record catch of 226 million pink salmon — and it has prompted lots of creative thinking.

“The challenge is to market all this fish and still maintain the value,” said Tyson Fick, communications director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or ASMI, the state’s marketing arm.

First Copper River salmon reach state, national markets

Trollers in Southeast Alaska provide fresh king salmon nearly year round, but the runs of reds and kings to the Copper River mark the “official start” of Alaska’s salmon season.

On May 15 the fleet of more than 570 fishermen set out their nets on a beautiful day for the first 12-hour opener amidst the usual hype for the first fish.

Commercial sector dwarfs sport impact; gear contest underway

The debate over which sector – commercial or recreational fishing — provides the bigger economic punch can finally be put to rest.

The annual “Fisheries Economics of the United States” report by the Department of Commerce shows once and for all that in terms of values, jobs, sales and incomes, the marine commercial sector far outscores saltwater recreational fishing.

Halibut prices up; acidification is a problem for salmon

The basic laws of supply and demand are resulting in a nice payday for Alaska halibut and sablefish harvesters.

Prices for both fish are up by more than a dollar per pound compared to the same time last year. Fresh halibut has been moving smoothly and demand is steady since the fishery opened in early March, said a major Kodiak buyer, where dock prices were reported at $6 per pound for 10- to 20-pounders, $6.25 for halibut weighing 20 to 40 pounds, and $6.50 for “40 ups.”

Kodiak roe herring prices, participation, down

Kodiak’s roe herring fishery began on April 15 with little notice and rumors of fire sale prices. The fleet of 22 seiners was down a bit; they are competing for a harvest of 5,800 short tons, similar to the past five years. No gillnetters had signed up for the herring fishery.

Test fishing from the east side of the island were showing nice roe counts, said James Jackson, herring manager at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak.

Salmon permit values on the rise; grant funds mariculture

Alaska salmon permits in many fisheries have tripled in value since 2002 and the upward trend continues.

An overview of April listings by four brokers shows that Bristol Bay drift net permits are valued at nearly $134,000 by the State, and listed for sale at $150,000 to $170,000. That compares to $90,000 this past January.

At Southeast Alaska, seine permits are the priciest in the state at more than $300,000. That’s an increase of $50,000 since January.

Off-year pinks mean 2014 won't match record salmon haul

Alaska’s total salmon catch for 2014 is projected to be down by almost half of last year’s record haul. State fishery managers are calling for an all species harvest of just under 133 million salmon, a 47 percent drop from last year’s whopping 283 million fish. 

A pink catch of 95 million in Southeast pushed the record last year and it is pinks that will bring the numbers down this summer. Pink salmon run in on/off year cycles and this year the catch is pegged at about 75 million, a 67 percent decrease from last summer’s 226-million humpy haul.

Kodiak seiners get first shot at pollock; fish talk in Juneau

Kodiak seiners will be scooping up pollock in their nets starting this week.

You heard right. Seiners have a chance to test the waters to determine if a directed pollock fishery makes sense for that type of gear in the Gulf of Alaska.

Except for a small jig fishery, the only pollock fishery operating in state waters (out to three miles) is at Prince William Sound where trawlers this year have an 8.5 million-pound catch.

Board nominations in; Southeast herring fishery finished

Nine names are vying for three seats on the state Board of Fisheries, including six newcomers.  That gives Governor Parnell the unique opportunity to replace a majority of the seven-member Fish Board, should he choose to do so, and should the Alaska legislature go along with it — an unlikely scenario. 

It took filing a Freedom of Information request and a 10-day wait to get the names of the Fish Board hopefuls, said veteran legislative watchdog Bob Tkacz in his weekly Laws for the Sea.

Halibut fishery underway; seafood sales increase for Lent

March 5 marked the start of Lent, a time of fasting, soul searching and repentance for hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. And what the burst in the holiday sales season from Thanksgiving to Christmas means to retailers, Lent means the same to the seafood industry.

West coast scallops are suffering from ocean acidification

Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, U.S. policy makers are quibbling over climate issues as bivalves dissolve in an increasingly corrosive Pacific Ocean.

Any kid’s chemistry set will show that big changes are occurring in seawater throughout the world. As the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning outputs (primarily coal), it increases acidity to a point where shellfish can’t survive. It is referred to as ocean acidification and results in sea creatures’ inability to grow skeletons and protective shells. The process occurs much faster in colder climes.

IPHC tests pollock as bait to replace spendier salmon

Bait is a big expenditure for many fishing businesses and pollock could help cut costs for Alaska halibut longliners who fish in the Gulf of Alaska.

Researchers have tested pollock in two projects to see if it might replace pricier chum salmon as halibut bait. Fish biologists use more than 300,000 pounds of chums in their stock surveys each year, costing nearly $500,000. The baits are used at more than 1,200 testing stations from Oregon to the Bering Sea.

State DEC says seafood is free from Fukishima radiation

Alaska seafood is free of radiation stemming from Japan’s 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster.

That was the take home message from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to the state Senate Resources Committee at a recent hearing.

Debut of new seafood products planned at annual gala

Eleven new seafood products from seven companies will be showcased at the upcoming Symphony of Seafood galas in Seattle and Anchorage. In its 21 years the event has introduced and promoted hundreds of new Alaska seafood items to the marketplace.

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