Laine Welch

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. “We can produce the same quality and durability products with no formaldehyde, no chrome based tanning chemicals or EPA regulated chemicals to dispose of. And we can do bigger batches with less labor per skins,” said Craig Kasberg, company CEO – that’s Captain Executive Officer. “We’ve come up with a way to remove and dry the skins without any manual labor, and we have a pneumatic heat press that presses the resin into the salmon skins and gives them a consistent durability and glossy finish,” he added. Tidal Vision launched its aquatic leather line on Kickstarter, a web-based crowd funding community that has helped bring nearly 90,000 creative ideas to life since 2009. The company reached its $17,500 funding goal in less than 24 hours and now has 764 backers who have pledged $55,664 to the project (only 14 percent of the business hopefuls raise $20,000 or more through their whole campaign, according to Kickstarter’s website). Now Tidal Vision aims to attract business partners to grow the small company. “We want to grow the business through joint ventures with businesses that want to use our leather,” Kasberg said. “It’s ideal for the upholstery industry, foot wear; we’ve even been approached by a gentleman who owns a guitar company and wants to make guitar cases out of our salmon leather. There are a lot of different applications that we are excited to explore.” Coming this fall is a line of clothing and textiles made from a polymer in crab and shrimp shells called chitin, whose applications range from commercial water filtration to textile and pharmaceutical uses, such as dissolvable sutures. Chitin has not been able to be produced in the U.S. because of the harsh chemicals used. For about 40 years it has been made in China and India because those countries have less stringent regulations on disposal. “Our chemist, who has a Ph.D. in ‘chitonous biomass’ from the University of Alabama has derived a much simpler solution that has turned chitin production on its head,” Kasberg said. “We use one mixture that contains no hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide. It’s an ionic solution extraction that dislodges the chitin from everything else in the shells and disperses itself into a fluid. From there it goes through a series of pumps and filters in a closed loop system so all of the fluid is recycled and can be used repeatedly.” Another plus: the system is being designed for use in mobile shipping containers, so the units can be sent to remote locations and the valuable products returned for production elsewhere. In fabrics, chitin acts as a natural antibacterial, antimicrobial polymer that kills odors from sweat. Other textile and apparel companies use chitin as a coating that tends to wash out and wear off over time. The proprietary Tidal Vision process extrudes the chitin molecules into a fiber, which is then spun into yarn or blended, and used to knit the textiles into apparel products. “The process of spinning the fibers into the yarn makes chitin a structural component of the fabrics so the odor fighting properties last longer,” Kasberg said. “There is actually more value than just the chitin. For mine waste filtering, you actually need the phosphate lipids as well. And since we are not using acids that break everything down, our system also allows for co-product isolation and opens up those doors as well.” Yet another plus: crab from Alaska contain a higher percentage of chitin than species found elsewhere. “We’ve tested brown king crab from Southeast Alaska, tanners, Dungeness and blue crab and shrimp from all over the country. The Alaska crabs can yield up to two times as much chitin from their shells,” Kasberg said. Tidal Vision will launch its line of Chitoskin aqua-fabrics this fall. Toddler tags Tracking the movement and growth of young halibut is the focus of a new project underway since May in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. “Although we have done a lot of tagging over the years we haven’t done much with the smallest category of juveniles that we encounter,” said Bruce Leaman, executive director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission, or IPHC. “And by the smallest I mean the 15 to 45 centimeter range (about four pounds), which is what a lot of the juveniles in the Eastern Bering Sea are.” Part of understanding and solving the bycatch issue is knowing much more about what the distribution and movement rates of the juveniles are, Leaman explained. “We know a fair amount about the fact that juveniles do migrate out of the Bering Sea, but we don’t know very much about the rates,” he added. “Studies of young halibut were done throughout the 1970s to early 1990s, but that research was more localized. Now we are casting a much bigger net.” The tagging is being done during the annual summer trawl surveys used for overall halibut stock assessments. IPHC researchers have a standard set of survey “stations” that are widely spaced so fish will be able to be tagged in many different locations. About 1,000 toddler halibut have been tagged in the Gulf, and 800 in the Bering Sea. Researchers hope to tag 2,000 fish by August. “We are trying to figure out if we can tag these things with any kind of facility, what kind of condition they are in, and whether or not it’s worthwhile for us to try and think about doing this on a much bigger scale,” Leaman said. Fishermen catching a tagged halibut should notify the IPHC in Seattle and report the information on the tag. Better yet, bring the tagged fish to IPHC port samplers stationed from Dutch Harbor to Petersburg so they can sample it Fish watch Icicle Seafoods has been sold to Convergence Holdings, Inc. and Dominion Catchers LLC of Indonesia. Paine & Partners, a global private equity agribusiness firm announced the sale in late June and hopes to have the deal completed in August. Along with a fleet of 11 vessels, Icicle owns shore plants in Petersburg, Seward, and Egegik at Bristol Bay, Larsen Bay at Kodiak, and near Dillingham. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. North Pacific Seafoods has reached an agreement with Inlet Fish Producers, Inc. to buy their Kenai and Kasilof processing facilities. North Pacific is owned by Marubeni, one of Japan’s largest seafood trading houses, which paid an estimated $8 million for the company. North Pacific’s John Garner said that no personnel changes are expected as a result of the purchase. With the Inlet acquisition, North Pacific expands its processing presence in Alaska to seven facilities: three in Bristol Bay, one each in Kodiak and Sitka, and two on the Kenai Peninsula. Russia has extended its ban on food imports from the U.S., the European Union, Canada, Australia and Norway for another year. For Alaska, that adds up to a loss of $60 million and 20 million pounds of seafood sales, mostly pink salmon roe and pollock surimi. The food ban resulted from trade sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and several other nations due to its aggressive actions in the Ukraine. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. “Overall, the dollar is up anywhere from 11 percent to 45 percent or more in some cases, versus the currencies of our buyers,” said Andy Wink, a seafood economist with the Juneau-based McDowell Group. “That makes it really difficult to maintain pricing, because those buyers have to pay more and usually it adjusts somewhere in the middle.” Exports typically account for 60 percent to 70 percent of Alaska’s wholesale seafood sales each year. However, the strong dollar will force more sellers and buyers to turn towards U.S. retail outlets, Wink said, and that could be a good thing. “The expectation is this will entice retailers because anytime you’re able to buy at lower wholesale prices, typically you’re able to turn better margins,” Wink said. “Hopefully, it will get them to do more promotions and spur more sales because we certainly need it. After last year’s big run of sockeye, the 2013 record pink run, and heading into this year, we’ve got a lot of product out there. But that is great for the long term, because building that consumption is going to build demand.” That is exactly what has happened over the past year, said Larry Andrews, Retail Director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or ASMI, the state’s lone marketing arm. To shrink the amount of carryover heading into another bounteous salmon season, ASMI has hosted over 5,000 frozen sockeye demos at 10 retail chains, representing 4,530 stores in the Pacific Northwest, California, the Rockies, Texas, the Midwest, South and Southeast. “To date, chains have reported sales thus far ranging from 26 percent to 243 percent increases over the same period last year!” Andrews said. Sockeye promotions are up 26 percent across all U.S. retail outlets over the past 52 weeks, he added, and the number of stores promoting sockeye at prices below $9 per pound is up 146 percent. The lower seafood prices also are playing well against other “what’s for dinner” items, such as poultry, pork, and beef, which is at an all-time high. “For the time being, Alaska seafood products are at a better value than they’ve been in a long time relative to other proteins,” Wink added. Other bright spots for Alaska: sales of competing farmed salmon also are in a slump, and unlike last summer, fewer wild sockeyes are expected at the Fraser River in British Columbia. “The Fraser River typically only pops every four years so that should be less supply,” Wink explained. “On the farmed salmon side, the expectation is that production will be pretty flat. So that’s really nice. Anytime you see flat farmed production, it feels like supply is being taken off the table because the fish is grown so steadily and it is always so available over time.” McDowell Group produced a complete analysis of 2015 sockeye salmon markets for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association site. Fish watch More salmon fisheries are opening up all across Alaska and the catch so far of primarily sockeyes has topped two million fish. Most of the catch has come from the Copper River, although more reds are starting to come in along the Alaska Peninsula and disappointing takes are reported at Kodiak so far. Trollers are seeing good chinook salmon catches at Southeast, and a first seine opener for pinks is set for June 21. A humpie harvest of 58 million is expected at the Panhandle this summer. The Dungeness crab fishery got underway June 15 at Southeast Alaska where the catch should top a couple million pounds; a small Dungeness fishery also takes place around Kodiak. A small boat red king crab fishery at Norton Sound gets underway any day with a 394,000-pound harvest. Two of Alaska’s largest fisheries — trawl caught pollock and cod in the Bering Sea — were back out on the water for the summer season starting June10. Pollock will reopen in the Gulf of Alaska on August 25. In other fish news: Sitting commissioners Don Lane of Homer and Bob Alverson of Seattle were the only names submitted for two vacancies on the International Pacific Halibut Commission, or IPHC. Both are likely to be reappointed by the Secretary of Commerce. The IPHC also is seeking a new executive director to replace Bruce Leaman. Applications must be submitted by July 1. Finally, electronic monitoring systems will be advanced by a $492,553 federal grant given to the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, or ALFA, in Sitka. ALFA, one of only five recipients nationwide, plans to integrate the monitoring on up to 120 small fishing vessels to help relieve the burden of onboard observers. ALFA’s work will obtain reliable data and advance the use of EMS for other local boats. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. The ban is being pushed one-handed by the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, or AFCA, whose board of directors delivered stacks of signature booklets, followed by a press conference rife with talking points, table pounding, bravado and buzzwords. “I believe now more than ever that Alaskans want to end the devastating and outdated mode of commercial fishing called setnetting,” exhorted Joe Connors, AFCA president, and a Kenai lodge owner and sportfishing guide. “I spent six years as a setnetter in Upper Cook Inlet and during that time I caught a lot of red salmon. However, my nets also caught sharks, birds, ducks, flounders, Dolly Vardens and a lot of king salmon. Setnets are decimating other species in Alaska.” “Urban, commercial setnet fisheries are unhealthy and unmanageable,” echoed AFCA member Derek Leichliter. “Setnets are a predatory means of fishing that kill or maim most anything that gets in their path. It’s time to put the fish first and end this setnet bycatch,” said AFCA founder Bob Penney, to the sound of loud duck quacking from an errant cell phone in the background. “We strongly support commercial fishing; it’s just this one gear type that we oppose.” If salmon setnets are such indiscriminate killers, why aren’t they banned statewide? “That’s what we’re trying to do,” the AFCA group retorted with hearty chuckles. Better hold that laughter. Over the last 10 years the harvest by Alaska’s 2,200 setnetters was 99.996 percent salmon, according to data from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “So .004 percent would be species other than salmon, what some might consider bycatch. It’s almost not measurable,” said Jeff Regnart, Director of the Commercial Fisheries Division. The breakdown of 2014 setnet participation in the regions where it would be outlawed includes: Valdez/Cordova-29 permits; Ketchikan-0; Juneau-12; and Upper and Lower Cook Inlet-735, which includes Anchorage and the Mat-Su. Of those regions, 84 percent were Alaska residents. In total, the setnetters topped $47 million in gross earnings, according to data compiled by United Fishermen of Alaska. Support for the setnet ban has yet to extend beyond Cook Inlet. Of AFCA’s $116,000 in campaign contributions, $97,000 was donated by Bob Penney, the rest came from Southcentral donors, plus $200 from Oregon. AFCA also bankrolled the signature booklets by paying $87,000 to the Alaska Libertarian Party to gather the names of voters, according to the Alaska Public Offices Commission. “The start of this has to start someplace. We haven’t reached out for any further contributions anyplace until we pass the Supreme Court,” Penney said, referring to the final hearing on the measure’s legitimacy scheduled for late August. “Once that takes place, we’ll be in a position to say ‘this is going to be on the ballot’ and that’s what we are waiting for.” The State of Alaska is appealing a lower court ruling that determined the ballot initiative is not allocative in nature, which allowed AFCA to begin collecting signatures. Most Alaskans believe that setting fish allocations at the ballot box is bad public policy. But Matt Singer, AFCA legal counsel, said Alaska has a long history of voting on resource management issues. “With regard to methods and means of take, which is what we are dealing with here,” Singer said, “Alaskans have exercised the right to have a say in how people catch fish and wildlife since statehood, not just with fish traps, but with a vote on wire snares, two votes on aerial wolf hunting and a vote on bear baiting because it was not in line with Alaska’s values.” The State disagrees. “We don’t think this is the best way to address this issue,” said Regnart, adding that since voting against fish traps at statehood, no fish allocations have been put before Alaska voters. “Setnetting in Alaska is very important to these local coastal economies. They are long time, family based operations and very important for our ability to manage these sockeye and other salmon populations in these different fisheries.” AFCA insists that the state Board of Fisheries would decide how to allocate the fish taken from the setnets, and what gears might take their place, such as beach seines, purse seines, dip nets, fish wheels or other options. “Those would stop the devastating setnet bycatch occurring today,” Penney said. But they “don’t fit with the terrain,” Regnart rebutted. “This issue is about Upper Cook Inlet and it would change the allocation of who catches what. The setnetters there catch about half of the sockeyes, and if they were not around, the fishery would look very different. In many years it would be very difficult for us to be able to exert enough exploitation to keep the escapements within the necessary balance,” he explained. “Setnetters in Cook Inlet are an integral part of us being successful in any given year to control that sockeye run. And if they weren’t there, it’s hard for me to imagine what we might do.” Should the Alaska Supreme Court rule in favor of the ACFA challenge, the setnet ban must be finally approved by the state legislature. A mighty wind Chinook salmon are returning to the Yukon River delta, and while low numbers mean no commercial fishery again this year, the counts are becoming more encouraging. Even with 55 years of Yukon data, it’s a tough run to track because the timing is so unpredictable, said Phil Mundy, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries’ Auke Bay lab in Juneau. Mundy has been studying Alaska salmon since the 1970s, but said it was Yukon elders who taught him how to fine-tune the run timing. “They told me ‘the wind blows the fish in the river — everyone knows that, young man.’ And I wondered how that works,” he said, adding that Cook Inlet fishermen told him he same thing about sockeye salmon. “They said, ‘it’s when the wind blows and you get the biggest tide closest to July 17. Everyone know that.’ But we couldn’t figure out exactly how the wind was doing what it did. I didn’t think the fish put up their dorsal fin like a sail to blow into the river, but there had to be something because they seemed to be right,” Mundy mused. “I used to count fish from airplanes, and I’ve seen this at Cook Inlet and at Bristol Bay where you get the river water piling up against the marine water on the river plume. Then you’ll see the salmon weaving in and out along the edge of the front between the fresh water and the salt water. And I never knew why they were doing that. They will pile up if there is no wind to mix that fresh and salt water to make it brackish. If there is no wind to blow, they will pile up on that front until some other trigger, which we probably don’t understand, sends them all in.” In 2006 Mundy saw a scientific article that focused on how salmon make the change from fresh to salt water and vice versa. “There’s this thing called a calcium ion switch, and it is triggered by alternating exposure to different salinities,” he explained. “Young salmon can’t swim straight into salt water because it will kill them, and it’s the same for adults in the ocean returning to their home streams. They have to have alternating exposure to different salinities.” At the Yukon, Mundy said the wind mixing the water even trumps early ice melts as the best indicator of the salmon arrivals. Today satellite observation from the Alaska Ocean Observing System makes predictions easier and more reliable. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. Speaking of high prices — Alaska halibut fishermen are fetching well over $6 per pound for their catches at major ports. The longline fleet is nearing the halfway mark, with 10 million pounds left remaining in this year’s 17.4-million pound catch limit. Kodiak is in the lead for halibut landings, followed closely by Seward and Homer, which has yet to top the 1-million pound mark. Likewise, sablefish, or black cod, is nearing the halfway point of that fishery’ 23.5-million pound quota. Fishermen are getting more than $7 a pound for larger sizes (over seven pounds) and over $6 for medium weights. Southeast’s summer Dungeness crab fishery opens on June 15 at 8 a.m., a new starting time. Crabbers are hoping the price will match last year’s $2.95 per pound for the two pound dungies, bringing the dockside value to $15 million for 192 fishermen. Just 16 vessels showed up for Alaska’s largest herring fishery at Togiak, taking an estimated 20,374 tons by June 2. At $50 per ton, the fishery will be valued at over $1 million to the region. Herring fishing is still going on around Kodiak and the runs will continue all the way up the coast to Port Clarence. Nearly 27,000 tons or roe herring can be taken in fisheries in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, with half of that coming from Norton Sound. Fishing continues for cod, flounders and other groundfish in the Gulf and Bering Sea, where the pollock fishery will reopen in late August. Bering Sea crabbers wrapped up their 61-million pound snow crab fishery, and are still tapping away at the 15-million pound Tanner crab quota with one million pounds left to go. A red king crab fishery will open at Norton Sound on June 15 with a catch of 394,000 pounds. Shutdown impacts It’s going on seven weeks since Alaska legislators walked off the job leaving the state budget behind. Layoff notices went out last week to thousands of state employees who could be off the job at the start of the July 1 fiscal year. Here’s an overview of potential fishery related impacts from various divisions: Hit hardest of all is the Commercial Fisheries Division, which receives nearly all of its management money from the state general fund. A core staff will remain to manage salmon fisheries, but field staff at remote weirs and other counting projects would be laid off in a phased approach during July and August. The division’s five research vessels will be tied up and office staff, labs, data support, subsistence surveys and other services will be cut back or halted. ComFish Division Director Jeff Regnart said other fisheries besides salmon are likely to be put on hold. “I think there will be an impact across the board,” Regnart said. “Other fisheries that aren’t salmon that could be put off if it’s possible from a biological perspective and may be taken at another time; we’ll look at that.” Also significantly curtailed or halted effective July 2 would be Title 16 permits issued by the Division of Habitat, subsistence harvest surveys done by the Division of Subsistence, and support to the Board of Fisheries and Board of Game as well as advisory committees. Functions of the Division of Sport Fish, the Division of Wildlife Conservation, and the Commercial Fisheries Limited Entry Commission will remain operational without the use of general funds: The budget impasse would delay or prevent fish shipments from getting to customers. The Dept. of Transportation will tie up all 11 state ferries meaning no passenger service, and no fish transports to awaiting mainland customers. Likewise, many state airports will operate with reduced hours. Public Facilities would provide emergency monitoring and response only, and Transportation staff would be reduced to paying bills and doing payroll. Core services by the Department of Environmental Conservation will be suspended. That includes shellfish PSP testing, air and water monitoring and permitting and inspections. The Department of Administration will delay or cancel vendor purchases and payment on supplies statewide, meaning a loss of nearly $2 million in state contracts paid out each day to Alaska small businesses. Finally, the Department of Natural resources will delay issuance of various permits and authorizations. Find a list of all threatened services by state agencies and departments at More online features More options have been added to the popular on line store operated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where license sales are up more than 30 percent since a new “print and go” feature was launched in mid-March. Nearly every license and permit is included — for commercial fishing, sport fishing, bear viewing, hunting and more. “Fishermen, families, fishing and hunting lodges that purchase licenses for their customers, as well as commercial processors who purchase all the licenses for their crew members. They can get all those licenses and then print them in one fell swoop,” said Michelle Kaelke, the department’s Financing and Licensing Supervisor. A new option added this week is personal use licenses. And an E-vendor project also will be tested out this summer in Anchorage, Fairbanks in Juneau. “We’re going to prototype it there and work all the bugs out. Then when things slow down after the busy summer season, we will be working with our license vendors to see who wants to go to E-licenses,” Kaelke said, adding that there are 1,000 license vendors in the state. Customers will continue to go into stores to purchase their licenses and it will all be done electronically, but the vendors will not have to do paper accounting of the information. “All the reporting, all the calculations, will automatically be done for them, so it will be a really nice benefit,” she added. Seventy percent of the department’s licenses are paper, and data entry of the all the information can take months. “Now, it can be instant,” Kaelke said, adding that the state Troopers also will benefit from the speedy information. Also just added to the online store: permits to visit the Round Island walrus sanctuary. Coming soon: commercial crew buoy tags, shooting range permits and signups for hunting classes. Find the online store at the ADFG home page. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. “There is some budget, about 27 percent of our normal amount for us to work in the field, and do our management responsibilities. But how we proceed from July 1 is what we’re working on,” said Jeff Regnart, director of Commercial Fisheries at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or ADFG. “This year has some record forecasts and Alaska salmon is a multi-million dollar industry. That means we are going to be out there managing these fisheries,” Regnart said. “We might have to make some changes based on the fiscal climate, but we’re going to make sure that we do our very best to have the tools to maximize the opportunity in these fisheries. That, to me, is our main mission.” Alaska’s 2015 salmon catch is projected at 221 million fish, totaling one billion pounds. That’s a bulk weight that has been topped only once before in 2013, according to the Seafood Market Bulletin by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Regnart said the major management focus would be on the “significant” salmon fisheries, such as pink salmon in Southeast Alaska and sockeyes at Bristol Bay, where a 40-million fish harvest is expected, a 41 percent increase. Statewide, a sockeye salmon forecast of nearly 60 million is the largest since 1995. “The salmon fishery is short,” Regnart said. “In the next three months, it will all be over. It is compressed and we need to be able to respond to that. It might be different from past years, but we’ll do our darndest to make sure we can make the calls necessary to provide access to that resource.” Other salmon fishing regions could feel even more of a management pinch. “Kodiak, South and North Peninsula, Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, all those are significant fisheries and our plan is to put them in the water,” Regnart said. “We might have fewer enumeration programs, fewer aerial surveys, and fewer people at the front counters in some offices, all those are possibilities. But the essential function of allowing access to that resource in a sustainable way, we will try to preserve.” “I have no idea which department employees, if any, would be prioritized over others,” said James Jackson, a regional salmon manager at ADFG in Kodiak, where the fishery opens June 1. “Reliable, in-season salmon escapement and catch data is the hallmark of a well-managed fishery,” he added. “Without department employees counting fish and keeping track of catch, it is very difficult to manage a commercial salmon fishery, especially one as large as Kodiak’s.” Of course, lots of other fishing is going on besides salmon, such as cod, shrimp, rockfish and Dungeness crab. Those could simply be put on hold. “I think there will be an impact across the board,” Regnart said. “We’re just going to put our resources where they make the most sense. With salmon, if you miss it, you’re done until next summer. Other fisheries that could be taken at another time, if it’s possible from a biological perspective, we’ll look at that.” “The situation is changing every day,” Regnart added. “We’re going to do everything we can to make this work, and try and pull a rabbit out of the hat.” R2AK Kayaks, paddle boards, sail boats and other man powered water craft are geared up for the Race to Alaska, dubbed the Iditarod of the Sea. On June 4 more than 30 teams will leave Port Townsend, Wash., and head north 750 miles to Ketchikan. “It’s an adventure endurance race with very few rules,” said Joe Bersch, president of Premier Pacific Seafoods, a race entrant with partner Dalton Bergen on a 24-foot sailing outrigger called Pure & Wild. “Our team is centered on promoting pure and wild, sustainable Alaska seafood along the race route,” Bersch said. The race is expected to take seven to 10 days. If the Pure & Wild team crosses the finish line first, they will donate the $10,000 winnings to SeaShare, a nonprofit that has donated seafood to U.S. hunger relief since 1994. “The reach of this race is international, and it is a good opportunity to broaden awareness of SeaShare,” Bersch said. “We want people to see the benefits of sustainable fisheries management in Alaska; and that it isn’t just about harvesting resources, but to show that the industry gives back by providing seafood meals to hungry people across the nation.” Track the race at Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. At issue are competing water rights claims filed in 2009 by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and PacRim Coal of Delaware and Texas. The coalition wants to protect spawning tributaries of the salmon-rich Chuitna River, dubbed the Kenai of the West Side; PacRim wants to dewater the streams and dig Alaska’s largest coal mine. DNR received over 7,500 public comments in favor of water rights for salmon by the May 9 deadline. It’s no surprise that the coal vs. fish face-off moves on to a hearing, as both sides want a final say. “This will be a public hearing with testimony to be provided by individuals or groups who filed objection(s) to the reservation of water applications, or to the information and analyses produced by water resources section staff,” Fogels said via email, adding that the hearing details are being worked out. Should DNR rule in favor of coal over salmon habitat, the decision will set an unsettling state precedent. “It would be the first time in Alaska’s state history that we would allow an Outside corporation to mine completely through a salmon stream,” said Bob Shavelson, a director at Cook Inletkeeper. “And the sole purpose is to ship coal to China. It’s really a very dangerous precedent because if they can do it here in Cook Inlet, they will be able to do it anywhere in the state. It could soon be coming to a river near you.” Cook Inletkeeper, along with the Coalition and Alaska Center for the Environment, requested the hearing. They objected to aspects of DNR’s analyses, such as including only coho salmon and using only dock prices to quantify the value of the entire Chuitna watershed. PacRim spokesmen have argued for years that they can restore the salmon habitat after all the coal is extracted. PacRim data show that the first phase alone would remove and dewater 20 square miles of salmon habitat, dig down 300 feet and discharge seven million gallons of mine waste a day into the Chuitna River. The total project calls for extracting 12 million tons of low-grade coal per year for 25 years. Dave Schade, DNR’s Water Resources Section Chief, agreed that the water rights decision is precedent setting, and that it comes down to “saying yes to one applicant, and no to the other.” The hearing is scheduled for Aug. 21 at the U.S. Federal Building Annex in Anchorage. DNR’s Ed Fogels said a decision is expected on or before Oct. 9. Council conundrum Two Alaskans will not be able to vote on cutting halibut bycatch when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council convenes the week of June 1 in Sitka. Council members Simon Kinneen of Nome and David Long of Wasilla are recused from voting due to financial conflicts of interest. Kinneen is vice president and quota and acquisitions manager for the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp.; Long is a Captain and Fish Master for Glacier Fish Company. Both will be able to participate in deliberations as the 11-member council (seven from Alaska counting the National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska Region representative) grapples with reducing the more than 6-million pound halibut bycatch allowance in Bering Sea groundfish fisheries by up to 50 percent. Fish futures North Pacific Processors is poised to put pen to paper and purchase Inlet Fish of Kenai and Kasilof. reports that John Garner, chief operating officer of North Pacific, confirmed last week that the company is “in advanced talks to purchase Inlet Fish.” Inlet buys and processes salmon from Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Rivers. The purchase would expand North Pacific’s processing plants to seven, including at Kodiak, Bristol Bay and Southeast Alaska. Garner said he is “optimistic about the future of Alaska salmon.” Likewise, Alaskan-owned Cannon Fish Company opens its doors last weekend in Kent, Wash. The company was purchased in 2013 by the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, or APICDA, one of six western Alaska Community Development Quota, or CDQ, corporations. The CDQ program gives a percentage of all Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands fishing quotas to regional communities to enhance economic opportunities. Cannon Fish is a high-end seafood processing and marketing company started in 1991 that caters to a nationwide network of retailers, restaurants, and specialty grocers. Most of the fish processed at Cannon is caught by fishing families from six Aleutian Island villages, said Larry Cotter, APICDA chief executive officer. “It ties directly to our Alaska processing plants, Atka Pride Seafoods in Atka and Bering Pacific Seafoods at False Pass,” he added. Off the radar The appointment of U.S. Air Force veteran Bob Mumford to the state Board of Fisheries came as a surprise to most Alaskans. Gov. Bill Walker announced the news on May 20, crediting Mumford’s “vast range of experience in multiple fields as a commercial pilot, hunting instructor and state trooper, which has taken him all over the state.” Mumford, who lives in Anchorage, is a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife trooper, worked for 18 years on sport and commercial fishing enforcement and also has served on the state Board of Game. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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). The bycatch levels, which are set by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, have not been changed for 20 years for the so-called “Amendment 80” fleet of 28 Seattle-based trawlers. At the same time, the halibut catches for commercial, sport and subsistence users have been slashed every year for 14 years due to stock depletion and slow growing, small fish. The North Pacific council will decide on cutting the halibut bycatch level by up to 50 percent when it meets the week of June 1 in Sitka. Federal data show that the multi-billion pound trawl fisheries discarded seven times more halibut in 2014 than were landed by fishermen in the same Bering Sea region.  “Halibut bycatch comes off the top,” said Jeff Kauffman of St. Paul, one of nearly 2,000 Alaskans who holds fishing shares of the halibut stocks. Kauffman has seen his region’s share of the small boat halibut catch dwindle by 63 percent to less than 400,000 pounds.  “There has been a de facto reallocation from the directed fisheries to the bycatch fisheries,” he said. “Conservation of the stock is riding solely on the backs of the halibut fishermen.” “Alaska is the model for fishery sustainability and we should not prioritize bycatch over all the other harvests. And this is what we are seeing out in the Bering Sea,” agreed Theresa Peterson of Kodiak, an outreach coordinator for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. Just because the fish is far away, doesn’t mean it has no impact on all other fishing communities, she pointed out. “Tagging studies show clearly that a halibut born in the Bering Sea could end up virtually in any management area within a couple years of its life. It’s a bycatch issue that affects all user groups throughout the state,” Peterson said. Data also show the average size of the halibut caught as bycatch last year in the Bering Sea was 4.76 pounds, less than half the weight of a typical 26-inch halibut. Between 70 percent to 90 percent of those smaller fish are slated to migrate out of the region upon maturity. So far, 16 Alaska groups and communities have passed resolutions and/or written strongly worded letters to the North Pacific council pushing for a 50 percent bycatch cut. A dozen Alaska legislators also have written to urge the council to make the cut. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Bering Sea fleet said the current bycatch issue draws “reckless conclusions.” The fishermen have worked extremely hard to reduce bycatch by maximizing halibut avoidance, said Chris Woodley, executive director of the Groundfish Forum. “Suggesting that a 50 percent reduction in bycatch is a ‘fair share’ action is ridiculous. There is nothing fair, equitable or reasonable in using the blunt tool of a 50 percent reallocation that could cost hard working Alaskans and fishermen hundreds of jobs, and could remove well over $100 million dollars from the State of Alaska’s economy in a single year,” Woodley wrote in an open letter to the industry. “This iconic species to subsistence, commercial and sport users is too valuable to waste and we can do better,” Peterson rebutted. “It has been 20 years since that bycatch level has been addressed in a meaningful way. It is absolutely time to act.” Public comments will be accepted by the council through May 26. Email them at [email protected]/ Poke preventer Few fishermen go to sea without their Vicky – the small, sharp Victorinox Swiss Army knife used for everything that needs a quick cut. But traditional knife sheaths point downward, and Vickys can badly poke fishermen scrambling atop huge pots used for crab or cod. To prevent injuries, fishermen customarily duct tape the knives sideways to their belts. Anne Morris of Sand Point knew there had to be a better way. She designed and made a snazzy new Vicky sheath that lies horizontally on belts — pokey problem solved. The knife sheath topped 23 entries to win the $1,000 first place prize last month at the Aleutian Marketplace Business Idea Competition, hosted each year by the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association and the Aleut Corp. “A big safety issue in my presentation was it is quicker to get the knife out of the sheath with it lying horizontal,” Morris said. “A big reason they wear the Vicky, too, is because nobody wants to go over with a crab pot.” She credits her son, Justin Drew, a pot cod fishermen, for the winning idea and has dubbed it the JD Beltz. The Marketplace competition is two-tiered and Morris now moves to a business plan phase that begins in October. “My idea is to include the sheath, the belt and the knife as a package deal. It might change as I get further along,” she said, adding that she hopes to work with a manufacturer and have the Vicky sheaths available by next year. Salmon starts Alaska’s 2015 salmon season officially began on May 14 with the first runs of reds and kings to the Copper River near Cordova. In coming weeks salmon openers will kick off all over Alaska and regional catch forecasts are up across the board. In all, Alaskans are bracing for a huge season – state managers project a harvest of 221 million salmon, 39 percent higher than last year. Driving the numbers are big forecasts for both sockeye and pink salmon. A whopping 59 million sockeye catch is set to come out of Alaska this summer, a 33 percent increase and the largest harvest since 1995. A sockeye catch of more than 38 million is projected at Bristol this summer. For those hard to predict pinks, the statewide harvest could top 140 million, a 46 percent increase. At Southeast Alaska, home to the state’s largest wild pink salmon runs, the catch is pegged at 58 million fish. Chum salmon harvests are expected to double this year to more than 17 million. On the downside, a coho harvest of 4.6 million would be a drop of nearly 2 million fish from last year. You can track salmon catches daily during the season via the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Blue Sheet. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. Baker is the point person for the project being done by the School of Public Health at the University of Washington and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, which is funding the study. “The genesis stemmed from wanting to take a proactive look at the contributing health factors and health issues that are in commercial fishing,” Baker explained. “They’re trying to compare what the offseason health habits and behaviors are versus what might be sacrificed or stressed during the fishing season. So it’s set up as a pre- and mid-season effort.” The things the researchers are interested in include hearing loss, the presence or absence of hypertension, the amount of exercise that can be documented during the offseason and the fishing season, and sleep and fatigue management. “That is a really big one,” Baker said. “The big body of literature on fatigue and sleep management in the marine world is largely informed by tests and research done in the military. There are a lot of folks in high risk occupations, such as airline pilots or truckers and ship captains where fatigue is a big driving force in productivity and safety management.” The first part of the study was a basic online survey that ended May 8. Another will be done in mid-July. At that time, volunteer fishermen also will take a basic health exam. Many also are wearing Fitbit watches to track steps and activity, and most importantly, to remotely monitor sleep behavior over a three-day span.  “It will be interesting to be able to do some remote sampling and see how those devices work in an outdoor, very physical industry to learn how that technology might inform researchers,” Baker said. She called the study an “intriguing first attempt” at helping an industry that  from a health perspective, hasn’t had much attention. “The ultimate goal,” Baker said, “is to learn ways to reduce risks and keep fishermen healthy. Clam diggers beware! The state confirmed the first case of paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP, was confirmed this month near Ketchikan prompting reminders that it’s the time of year to pay close attention to shellfish advisories. PSP is caused by tiny marine organisms in algae blooms often referred to incorrectly as red tides. The toxin is commonly found in all kinds of clams, and neither cooking nor freezing neutralizes it. PSP attacks the nervous system and it can be a quick killer. “It’s a thousand times more toxic than strychnine,” said Ray RaLonde, a long-time aquaculture specialist with Alaska Sea Grant in Anchorage. “It often starts out with a tingling around the face and extremities, the hands. Then it works its way through a number of symptoms, blurred vision, double vision, nausea, ultimately, paralysis and cardiac arrest. Death is very quick.” PSP is a tricky array of 24 different toxins, some deadly, some not, RaLonde said. Toxicity levels can differ from one clam hole to another on the same beach, and change with the tide. RaLonde says PSP levels also differ between popular clams. “The two most likely to be confused are littleneck clams, called steamers, and butter clams,” RaLonde explained. “Both are about the same size, so it’s important to be aware of the differences between the two. A littleneck clam is relatively nontoxic compared to a butter clam, which can retain the toxin for two years, so you can get toxicity off-season. Both can be dug in the same hole in the tide flats, but butter clams tend to be a little deeper.” No one is sure why, but Kodiak Island and parts of the South Peninsula have some of the highest PSP levels in the world. “The PSP blooms on occasion can be quite intense. In one incident, the level on blue mussels reached 20,000 micrograms. The FDA level is 80 micrograms,” RaLonde said. Some clam diggers test for PSP with their tongues, he said, and believe that if it tingles, it’s not safe. But from tongue to tummy, toxicity can increase six-fold. “To put that in perspective, at 20,000 micrograms I tell people if you eat a blue mussel your life is worth 11 cents. A dime and a penny worth of mussel weight and you just got a lethal dose,” he said. The state strictly monitors all commercially caught shellfish catches for PSP, but that is not the case for recreational clam diggers. The Alaska Department of Epidemiology claims those folks are playing “Alaskan Roulette.” Fish watch Alaska’s 2015 salmon season officially got underway on May 14 with the first 12-hour opener at Copper River. The forecast calls for a catch of 2.2 million sockeye salmon and about 6,000 kings. A dozen trawlers are tying up for the year early due to tripping the 2,700 chinook salmon bycatch cap in Central and Western Gulf groundfish fisheries. Only half of the allotted cod catch and 10 percent of the flatfish were taken when the closure was called last week, said NOAA Fisheries. The closure is set to last until the end of the year, although a re-opening is set for consideration Oct. 1. This is the first year for chinook bycatch caps in the federally managed (non-pollock) trawl fisheries — the total cap for the Gulf of Alaska is 7,500 salmon. The pollock and rockfish fleets are far from their caps and are still fishing. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. The project was aimed originally at finding causes for declining sockeye runs at British Columbia’s Fraser River in 2009, but has since broadened to include the whole North Pacific. “Hatcheries in Alaska, Russia and Japan have continued to increase production of salmon, primarily chums and pinks. Up to five billion hatchery salmon are released into the Pacific Ocean each year,” Ruggerone said in a phone interview. “Concerns have been raised at fisheries conferences that the release of so many salmon is impacting the growth and survival of wild stocks, including salmon originating thousands of miles from those hatcheries.” Ruggerone also has published similar food competition studies for Bristol Bay. So how does he account for big back-to-back red runs to the Bay? “Because there are relatively few pinks in Western Alaska compared to Russia, the sockeyes most likely encountered favorable conditions in their early marine life that supported these large runs,” Ruggerone said. “But that doesn’t mean the pinks don’t have an adverse effect on them during the second or third year at sea. It’s just overshadowed by very favorable conditions earlier.” The report recommends a Pacific Rim approach to managing salmon resources, and more immediately, capping hatchery production. “Do you think we can control Russia?” quipped said Steve Reifenstuhl, longtime general manager at Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture in Sitka. “If there was a cap, Russia and Japan would quickly move to fill any void,” Reifenstuhl called the food competition claims “alarmist,” and cited several peer-reviewed reports that refute Ruggerone’s claims. “My reaction is that he is speculating that there is a correlation, and that it is causative,” Reifenstuhl said. “I would disagree that it’s causative.” He pointed out that Alaska’s largest pink salmon runs occur at the Panhandle and over 95 percent are wild stocks. “Certainly increased competition can decrease salmon body size, as we’ve often seen in big runs, but it doesn’t mean more will die,” he added. “Where 10 to 90 percent of the sockeyes do die is in nearshore waters, before they even head out to sea.” Kodiak hatchery operators agree. “If the ocean’s carrying capacity has reached its limit, we wouldn’t be seeing returns like we had in 2013 for pink salmon, which also wasn’t a bad sockeye year,” said Tina Fairbanks, executive director for the Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association, or KRAA, which operates two hatcheries. “Look, too, at the Bristol Bay forecast for 2015, it’s huge, and it’s the same for Southeast pinks. I don’t believe it is a valid argument.” “I don’t see how we are a primary contributor on the grand scale,” said Trent Dodson, KRAA Production and Operations Manager. He also pointed out that Ruggerone’s Alaska pink salmon hatchery numbers are way off. Whereas his report claims that 1.4 billion hatchery-produced pink salmon are released into the ocean annually, primarily in Prince William Sound and at Kodiak, Dodson said Kodiak releases average 144 million juvenile pinks each year. State data show the Prince William Sound pink salmon release for 2014 was 672 million fish. The report titled “Productivity and life history of sockeye salmon in relation to competition with pink and sockeye salmon in the North Pacific Ocean” was featured in the March Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Capital celebration! The Sixth annual Juneau Maritime Festival celebrates fishing and every other industry that moves upon the water, and makes its home in the state capital. “Just the seafood industry alone — there are about 800 Juneau residents who make their living from ocean harvests. And we have the Coast Guard and NOAA, our marine transportation, cruise ships, just a myriad of other professions that are linked to the sea,” said Brian Holst, executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council, host of the event. Several thousand people always attend the Saturday event, Holst said, which starts with the arrival of two canoes from the One People Canoe Society and a traditional Native welcoming ceremony. Events include a Coast Guard rescue in the channel, onboard vessel visits and a fillet contest. The date is May 8. Bycatch begone Alaskans have had it with high rates of halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea and a push is afoot to slash it by half. At issue is 6 million pounds of halibut allowed as bycatch in the multi-billion pound Bering Sea flatfish fisheries, a rate that hasn’t been changed for 20 years. At the same time, declining halibut stocks statewide have seen managers cut catches by commercial, sport and subsistence users by 70 percent. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is set to make a decision at its meeting in June and advocates are really putting on the heat. Last week in a strongly worded letter, 16 Alaskan groups and communities urged Alaska’s Congressional reps to push for the 50 percent bycatch cut, saying, “Conservation of the halibut stock is riding solely on the backs of the halibut fishermen.” That follows a similar action in April by a dozen Alaska legislators who urged the NPFMC to make the 50 percent cut as soon as possible. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. Alaska’s hatchery program is very different from fish farming, where salmon are crammed tightly into net pens until they’re ready for market. All salmon born in Alaska’s hatcheries come from wild brood stock, and are released as fingerlings to the sea. When those fish return home, they make a huge contribution to the catch. According to the annual Salmon Enhancement Report by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 58 million hatchery salmon were caught in the common property salmon fishery last year. That equated to 34 percent of Alaska’s 157 million fish harvest, with a dockside value of $113 million. The breakdown by species: 56 percent chums, 47 percent pinks, 23 percent coho, 12 percent chinook and 5 percent of the sockeye were hatchery starts. Prince William Sound fishermen have the highest hatchery fish catches. Last year, 45 million salmon returned to the five hatcheries there, accounting for 87 percent of the total harvest; 93 percent of the fish were pinks and 68 percent were chums. In all, the Sound’s hatchery catch added up to 62 percent of the total with a dockside value of $64 million. It’s a different story at Southeast Alaska where 95 percent of the pinks are from wild production, and 85 percent of the chums are hatchery starts. “Southeast has the largest pink production in the state of Alaska,” said Steve Reifenstuhl, general manager at Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture at Sitka. Coho salmon returned in record numbers (1.6 million) last summer to the region’s 21 hatcheries, and accounted for 27 percent of the coho catch. In all, hatchery salmon contributed 12 percent to the Panhandle harvest and $28 million, 26 percent of salmon fishermen’s earnings. Reifenstuhl said he believes the hatchery programs in both Southeast and Prince William Sound are not likely to grow much more. “We have utilized the water sources we’ve been able to find and it’s not easy to locate a new hatchery at all,” he said. “I think we are getting to the point where we are not going to have major increases in production.” Kodiak ranks third in terms of Alaska hatchery production. Two facilities accounted for 41percent of the island’s total salmon take last summer, mostly pinks and chums. The hatchery catch value was $10 million, 22 percent of the Kodiak total. At Cook Inlet, small hatchery returns of sockeyes (2 percent) and pinks (6 percent) contributed $547,000 of the fishery value, or 2 percent. This year nearly 63 million hatchery produced salmon are projected to return home to Alaska, similar to last season. The Salmon Enhancement report also shows that over 180 Alaska elementary schools participate in hatchery salmon egg take and release programs each year. Fish watch Salmon trollers are back out on the water at Neets Bay near Ketchikan and it’s hard to believe that the 2015 salmon season will officially kick off in about two weeks at Copper River. About 35 boats have dropped pots for nearly 70,000 pounds of spot shrimp at Prince William Sound. A beam trawl shrimp fishery opens in Southeast May 1 for pinks and side stripes. Kodiak’s roe herring fishery was slow going two weeks into the fishery. Still no action at Togiak, where boats and five buyers await a herring harvest of 29,000 tons. Halibut landings have topped 2 million pounds, on par with last year’s pace. The Alaska catch limit this year is 17 million pounds. Prices remain in the $6-$6.50 per pound range or slightly higher at major ports. Nearly half of the halibut has crossed the docks at Seward, and that port also stomps all others for sablefish, or black cod, landings. Nearly 4 million pounds of sablefish have been landed statewide out of the 23.5-million pound quota. Dock prices reportedly have ranged from $3 per pound for small sizes to more than $7 per pound for large fish. The snow crab fishery in the Bering Sea is winding down with the fleet’s 61-million pound quota within reach. About 80 percent of the 15-million pound bairdi tanner crab catch has been landed. Commercial fishing also is ongoing for cod, pollock, mackerel, perch, rockfish, numerous flounders and more throughout the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. The Alaska legislature ended up lopping $8 million from the ADFG budget; $5.5 million of that from the Commercial Fisheries Division. Frankenfish watch As a decision to approve genetically modified salmon languishes at the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C., the longtime activist group Food and Water Watch has taken the “very unusual” step of filing dual petitions to stop the manmade fish. According to the FDA Law Blog, Food and Water Watch filed both a Citizen Petition and a Food Additive Petition in an effort to block marketing of AquAdvantage salmon, should it be approved. The genetically tweaked fish grow three times faster than normal fish. The application has been under consideration by the FDA for two decades. Specifically, Food and Water Watch seeks to have the AquAdvantage Salmon listed as a substance which is prohibited from use in human food, the Law Blog said. “Under Food and Water Watch’s petitions, FDA would promulgate a regulation that would specifically and explicitly deem AquAdvantage Salmon adulterated food as a matter of law, irrespective of whether the food from AquAdvantage Salmon poses any risk at all to consumers. Seemingly unsure of how to go about making such a request of FDA, Food and Water Watch filed both petitions, each asking FDA to consider the other in the event that one of the petitions is not the proper avenue for making the unusual request,” the Law Blog said. If the Frankenfish gets the nod from the FDA, it will be the first animal ever approved for human consumption. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. “We’re trying to see how well our population is mixed with the population in the wider Gulf of Alaska,” Wessel explained. The state research vessel Pandalus has done several swipes of the grounds to no avail. Both ends of the gear were anchored with 400 fathoms of buoy line with sets of three buoys each. Wessel called it “unusual” to lose a string of pots. “It’s buoyed on both ends and unusual to lose both and not be able to retrieve it. But it does happen as witnessed by this event.” Prince William Sound has an exclusive sablefish fishery that has been limited entry since 1996. Its 59 participants divide the annual 242,000-pound harvest using a shared quota system that is based on the vessel size and catch percentages of permit holders from 1991-1994. Wessel said the lost string of gear poses no threat to navigation, but sablefish longliners could get snagged. “There is a potential hazard of longline gear getting hung up on these lost pots and we want guys to be aware that is there.” The missing gear poses no threat to the 53 shrimpers out on the grounds, she added. “It’s highly unlikely. The sablefish pots were set in about 1,200 feet of water so it’s far deeper than someone targeting spot shrimp would be fishing,” Wessel said.  Fish opp flop Alaska is trying to provide new and more fishing opportunities inside state waters but the two latest have fallen flat as a flounder. A scallop fishery that reverted to open access this year drew no takers by the April 1 deadline, said Mark Stichert, state area manager for groundfish and shellfish for the Westward Region, which includes Kodiak, Chignik and the Western Peninsula. “We only had four vessels that registered, and those are the same vessels that have historically been participating in the fishery in recent years,” he said, adding that one vessel registered to fish for scallops near Yakutat. Stichert said he wasn’t surprised at the apparent lack of interest in the fishery. “The scallop fishery is a high capital investment and there’s not a lot of extra scallop gear laying around the state. So I think if the fishery were to grow, it’s going to take some time,” he said. Alaska’s Weathervane scallop fleet typically produces about a half million pounds of shucked meats each year, mostly dredged from federal waters, three to 200 miles offshore. It is pricey scallops that each year make New Bedford, Mass., the nation’s most valuable fishing port. In 2013, for example, the dockside value of New Bedford’s landings was $380 million; over 80 percent from scallops. Likewise, there were few takers once again for a pollock fishery that opened this month and will continue into June. It’s the second year for the trial fishery, and while it attracted a couple of Homer boats this winter, it’s only been tire kickers at Kodiak. The pollock catch limit for seiners is 100,000 pounds per trip. Even at 12-13 cents a pound, it adds up to a good payday. Icicle update Of all the global fish news sites, London-based Undercurrent News has risen to the top when it comes to scoops on sales of Alaska seafood companies. The latest: Icicle Seafood owners Paine and Partners of San Francisco are having a tough go selling their wild salmon assets in the face of a tight market and another big wild harvest on the horizon. Icicle produces fresh, frozen and canned salmon at plants in Petersburg, Seward, Egegik/Bristol Bay, Larsen Bay/Kodiak Island; and near Dillingham. “Final bids are in and news on if Icicle will be broken up, or sold as a combined entity should come in early May,” wrote Undercurrent’s Tom Seaman and Matt Whittaker. Other Undercurrent inside info: Thai Union Frozen Products is a possible bidder on the canned salmon side only. Trident Seafoods may be interested in the wild salmon business along with Icicle’s pollock block; likewise, Coastal Alaska Premier Seafoods, a part of the Coastal Villages CDQ group, also is named as a “strong contender” for those same components. Canada’s Cooke Aquaculture is likely to be the winner of the farmed salmon business, Undercurrent said, although Pacific Seafood Group is said to be very interested in the fish farms. Pacific also may be interested in taking on more, if not all, of Icicle at the right price. Asking prices are reportedly $80 million for the salmon farms, $125 million for the wild salmon part of the business and $100-$125 million for the groundfish, Undercurrent reported.  Good job, fish watchers! The number of U.S. fish stocks listed as overfished or subject to overfishing has dropped to an all-time low since 1997, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, began tracking stock status. According to the annual Status of U.S. Fisheries report to Congress released last week, by the end of 2014 just 26 stocks were on the overfishing list and 37 stocks were on the overfished list, a seven percent reduction in one year. The only Alaska fishery named to the overfished list was blue king crab at the Pribilof Islands. Overfishing means the annual catch rate is too high to support a maximum sustainable yield, or MSY; an overfished stock means a current fish population is well below that parameter, which can be the result of environmental issues such as disease. NOAA Fisheries tracks 469 stocks and stock complexes via 46 fishery management plans across the nation. The number of stocks rebuilt since 2000 increased to 37, the report said. “Our agency wants to let consumers know that the United States’ global leadership in responsible fisheries and sustainable seafood is paying off,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. Currently, well-meaning state laws intended to prevent the commercial sale of wild game make the practice illegal if a program accepting food donations charges for the meal at any point before it is consumed. This means schools and senior centers, for example, are unable to provide meals containing subsistence- or sport-caught wild food if they accept any payment, including from federal or state meal programs. Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, introduced the measure, saying: “It will nourish Alaska’s children and elders, both physically and spiritually. It will limit the amount of expensive and unhealthy processed food shipped to communities that have incredible food available just a short boat or snow machine ride away. Children will develop an appreciation where their food comes from and elders will be able to keep eating the foods they love. “Out in the bush, a lot of people in Western or Northern Alaska will frequently donate caribou to the senior center, so that elders can eat caribou stew. And that’s technically not simpatico with the rule of the law,” Kreiss-Tomkins said in a KCAW/Sitka interview. “So this bill basically brings what happens in Alaskan communities — which is people coming together and donating fish and game for children or for elders — and makes that compatible with what Alaska’s laws say.” The measure affirms the Department of Environmental Conservation’s authority to oversee the safety of the donated foods. HB 179 already has garnered seven co-sponsors across party lines from Kodiak, Juneau, Anchorage, Ketchikan, Nome and North Pole. Kreiss-Tomkins credited its momentum to a statewide movement within schools to offer healthier, local foods, such as Sitka’s Fish to Schools program, Dillingham’s salmon donation programs, and community shared agriculture in the Mat-Su Valley. He said he is very optimistic the measure will pass this session. “We’d like to see pass this into law quickly, and we’re on that path right now. It’s got hearings coming up, it’s got a huge list of co-sponsors, and it’s a ‘kumbaya’ Alaska issue. Everyone gets it.” Fish budgets The (last) 10 days (of the session) will tell the tale of just how painfully Alaska’s budget will be cut. Three lawmakers each from the state Senate and House were appointed last week to a conference committee, which will dicker over differences between their respective budget drafts until they can come to agreements. They include Sens. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, Donald Olson, D-Nome, along with Reps. Mark Neuman, R-Wasilla, Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, and Les Gara, D-Anchorage. The lawmakers disagree on a number of differences in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game budget, reports Juneau Resources Weekly. The department is set to lose $12 million in state general funds; that could increase to $15 million depending on the whims of the conference committee. Already slashed by the Senate are a dozen conservation projects, and funding for Marine Mammal Protection Act compliance. Senators added $850,000 to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s budget, although it could be taken back if the committee opts for the House version of the ASMI budget, which stands now at almost $25 million. More buyers at Bristol Bay Copper River Seafoods has purchased the Extreme Seafoods salmon plant in Naknek. Company CEO Scott Blake confirmed the deal to Undercurrent News last week. “It’s likely no coincidence this comes as Copper River’s new sockeye salmon jerky takes off. Demand for the product — which is similar to outdoor clothing company Patagonia’s successful salmon jerky — had outstripped supply as of the Boston Seafood Show (in mid-March), at which point the company was looking to move processing in-house to a new plant and expand production,” Undercurrent reported. It added that the purchase “grew partly out of a desire to fill an increasing market need for Marine Stewardship Council certified sockeye.” Extreme Seafoods arrived in Bristol Bay in 2013, amid promises of $2 per pound reds for fishermen. It left amid gripes of slow or no pay. Extreme no longer lists any contact information on its website, but claims to specialize in wild sockeye salmon products. Bycatch breakdowns As federal managers grapple with reducing levels of chinook salmon taken as bycatch in groundfish fisheries, they are learning where the accidentally caught kings come from and where they are bound. A report by ADFG outlines the genetic origins of the chinook bycatch. Some highlights based on 2013 data: For chinook taken by Bering Sea pollock trawlers, 71 percent were estimated to come from Alaska river systems, mostly from Western Alaska (50 percent), followed by the North Alaska Peninsula and Upper Yukon. Chinook bycatch in the Bering Sea declined to 13,033 in 2013, over 24,000 fish below the 22-year average. In the Gulf of Alaska, pf 693 samples of chinook taken as bycatch in the pollock fishery, 43 percent were from British Columbia, 42 percent originated from the U.S. West Coast, followed by Southeast Alaska at 11 percent and the Northwest Gulf at three percent. For the Gulf rockfish fleet, 60 percent of the chinook bycatch came mostly from U.S. West Coast stocks, 31 percent from British Columbia, and 6 percent from Southeast Alaska. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. Driving the numbers are the big forecasts for both sockeyes and pinks — a whopping 59-million sockeye salmon catch is set to come out of Alaska this summer, a 33 percent increase and the largest harvest since 1995. Those reds will follow on the heels of last year’s big haul of 44 million sockeye, tons of which remain in freezers. For those hard-to-predict pink salmon, the statewide harvest is projected to top 140 million, a 46 percent increase.  Chum salmon harvests are expected to rebound and double this year to more than 17 million. For coho salmon, a harvest of 4.6 million would be down nearly 2 million fish from last year. Alaska will be facing a strong headwind when it comes to selling all that salmon this year. Global factors buffeting sales include a strong US dollar which makes seafood more expensive for foreign customers with devalued currencies (conversely, it makes imports to the U.S. a far cheaper buy). The Russian embargo continues against U.S. seafood, meaning another big bite out of Alaska pink salmon roe sales; and large holdovers of Alaska canned salmon, both pink and sockeye, remain in warehouses. Another broadside to Alaska salmon sales in the U.S. will come from Costco’s announcement last week that it is switching the bulk of its fresh, farmed salmon purchases from Chile to Norway “to test the market’s appetite for antibiotic-free fish.” Costco purchases over 600,000 pounds of farmed salmon fillets each week. Fish pros speak out for salmon A group of 20 retired Alaska state and federal biologists and managers has submitted a letter urging the Walker administration to choose salmon over coal at the Chuitna River in Upper Cook Inlet. The public can weigh in on the decision through April 9. At issue is competing claims made in 2009 for rights to the water at Chuitna tributaries: Alaskans want to reserve the water to protect traditional salmon runs; Delaware-based PacRim wants to remove the water, dig down to bedrock and extract the underlying coal. Based on PacRim data, the first phase of the strip mine would remove 20 square miles of salmon habitat, and discharge seven million gallons a day of mine waste into the Chuitna River. The company plans to mine 12 million tons of low grade coal each year for 25 years for export to Asia. In the letter to Deptartment of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Myers the professionals said, “We are greatly concerned with the growing imbalance between resource development and resource conservation in Alaska regarding reservation decisions,” adding: ”Now, we are faced with one of the most important salmon habitat decisions Alaska has ever faced, and the reservation of water in the Chuitna watershed represents a historic precedent for salmon habitat management across the state.” DNR Water Resources chief Dave Schade agreed that the water rights decision is precedent setting, and that it comes down to “saying yes to one applicant, and no to the other.” The public comment period ends April 9 at 5pm. Unless there is an appeal by either party, a decision could be made 30 days after. Contact [email protected]/. More fish for moms & babes For the first time since 1980 the popular Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program is being revised, and the US Dept. of Agriculture is asking for input. Americans can suggest what healthy foods should be offered to moms and their babies — and Alaskans are pushing for more fish, notably salmon. “They want to hear from mothers, heck, they probably want to hear from kids too. They want to hear from the people who are actually eating the product, and raising their families on it,” said Bruce Schactler, Global Food Aid Director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “We are looking for pregnant women to comment, and mothers who have two- to three-year-olds, four- to five-year-olds, and mothers of infants who want to start making salmon baby food in their own kitchen,” Schactler said, explaining that the WIC items fall under designated “baskets” according to kids’ ages. Right now, canned salmon is only included in mothers’ pre-natal packages. “We want them to add salmon to all the WIC baskets,” he said. “They are reviewing that whole thing right now and taking comments in it.” Studies around the world show that omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fish support brain and eye development, and digestive health in babies and children. The Institute of Medicine is reviewing all WIC comments and recommendations until further notice. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. The program will include most of Alaska’s fishing fleet — a 2014 maritime study by the Juneau-based McDowell Group shows that the majority of Alaska’s boats were built between 1970 and 1989. “The requirements won’t become mandatory until Jan. 1, 2020, for most vessels. However the Coast Guard needs to prescribe the program by Jan. 1, 2017,” explained Troy Rentz, Alternate Safety Compliance Coordinator for the USCG 13th District. Right now safety teams are compiling data on losses from fishing fatalities, injuries and vessel sinkings, Rentz said, and from that they will evaluate the risks based on the various regions and fisheries. “That is going to have a big influence on these programs because we know that each fishery has different gear and risks in different operating environments specific to what they are doing,” Rentz said. And that’s where vessel volunteers come in. “We’re looking for volunteer vessels where we could get on board and talk about what their best practices are for preventing casualties from collisions or falls overboard, for instance,” Rentz said. “We have some pretty good ideas, and we want to talk with vessel owners about things that have been recommended and see if it’s something that would be effective for their particular fishery and operating area.” In fact, a Congressional requirement of the new safety compliance program, Rentz said, is that it be developed in cooperation with the industry. “We want people to feel like this is their program, not the Coast guard’s program. It is a cooperative program that is specific to what they are doing and their operations.” Between now and early 2016, safety planners will be meeting with regional work groups and fishing stakeholders to decide what the actual compliance requirements will be. Then they are set to be written up and in place by 2017, giving fishing operators three years to comply. Other safety compliance deadlines are happening faster. By October 15 of this year, mandatory dockside vessel exams take effect. The requirement for survival craft that remove all parts of the body from the water has been extended to Feb. 16, 2016. Troy Rentz will be going over the Alternative Safety Compliance Program during ComFish, April 2-4 in Kodiak. Fish Watch Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan has selected fellow Ohioan Erik Elam as his fisheries advisor. Elam was a former legislative aide for Rep. Don Young. In an email message, Sullivan said: “Mr. Elam is the Staff Director for the Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife Subcommittee, upon which I chair. Additionally, he focuses on energy, federal lands, fisheries, the Coast Guard, and oceans.” More millions were cut last week from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game budget by a Senate finance committee chaired by Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla. The additional $2.1 million cut brings the total ADFG reductions to $15 million. Juneau Resources Weekly reports that commercial fisheries are set to take the biggest hit at $815,000. A half million dollars of that sum comes from compliance efforts for the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Sport Fish Division is set to lose more than $500,000; a dozen habitat conservation projects are set to be slashed, along with one habitat biologist. A $240,000 allotment for the state’s sport fishing enhancement and hatchery program is also on the cutting room floor. Trollers wrapped up their winter king salmon season last week, the earliest closure ever. The fishery opened in October and continues until the fleet catches up to 47,000 kings or until the end of April, whichever comes first. Participation was above average this winter, with 396 permits fished. The average price per pound dropped to $8.73 per pound in the final weeks, after topping $10 per pound for much of the season. Slow but steady sums up the wrap of Alaska’s first herring fishery at Sitka Sound. The week long fishery yielded close to 8,700 tons of roe-rich herring, down by half from last year. Less than half of the Sound’s 48 permit holders participated, instead opting for a cooperative fishery where boats split up the quota and each boat fished for a set amount. Sea farmers Growing less labor intensive underwater ocean veggies is an exploding market around the world, especially for products made from kelp. Globally, kelp drives a $5 billion industry. Some examples: Ocean Approved of Maine, which claims to be America’s first and only commercial kelp farm, launched a line of kelp cubes this month at the Boston Seafood Show. The cubes are aimed at the popular smoothie market, which has expanded the use of green veggie in its juices. The company also sells kelp “sea slaw,” “sea rounds” and “wraps.”  Ocean Approved began in 2009 and has been seeded with a half million dollars in grants from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries and the Maine Technology Institute. The company produces 33,000 pounds per acre on five acres annually and business has increased 400 percent in two years, according to the Casco Times. Kelp also is the latest crop that Canada’s fish farmers are cashing in on. The country’s largest salmon grower, Cooke Aquaculture, recently debuted its own brand of certified organically winged and sugar kelp. It can be cooked or served up fresh, and is sold under Cooke’s True North brand. Chile also is getting into the kelp mix. Based on a 2013 economic study, Chile estimates a kelp industry in its northern fish farming region would bring in $540 million annually. The growing interest and uses for kelp is not lost on Alaska, where a Mariculture Initiative is building support for expansion, notably in Western Alaska. Currently, there are 31 sea farms operating in Alaska; five are growing kelp along with oysters and other shellfish. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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. “It only took Sen. Stoltze, the bill sponsor, chairing the hearing committee himself,” quipped Dave Theriault in his Juneau Resources Weekly. The measure (Senate Bill 42) is dubiously dubbed “The Alaskans-First Fishing Act” and it concerns salmon, without saying so directly. It “directs the Board of Fisheries to place restrictions on sport and commercial fisheries before putting restrictions on personal use fisheries when the harvest of a stock or species is limited to achieve an escapement goal.” The issue is driven primarily by the salmon demands of users at the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, and the popular Chitina dipnet fishery at Copper River. Lawmakers said PU fisheries “need more protections from commercial fishermen.” “I’m more sympathetic to those in streams who see commercial fishermen taking tonnage where we’re restricted to poundage,” said Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole. The PU priority got a friendly reception by lawmakers in a first Senate hearing two weeks ago. Stoltz said that the Board of Fisheries would still hold the authority to set fish allocations; he called a PU preference “an additional tool for managers.” Most messages sent to lawmakers last week were in favor of the shift in fishing priorities; of nearly 70 posted to the legislative website, only four were opposed. The United Fishermen of Alaska’s position on the PU issue has remained the same for seven years: the legislature should leave prioritization of fishery allocations to the Board of Fisheries and management to the Department of Fish and Game. The PU bill is now on its way to the Senate Resources Committee. A duplicate law has been filed in the House by Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake. Fishy bills to watch A bill to limit all Alaska salmon seiners to a maximum 58 feet in length has been offered by Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan. A new law filed by freshman Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, would pull the plug on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and exempt Alaska from the agency’s ability to regulate and limit carbon emissions. Talerico filed the bill two months after retiring from Usibelli, the state’s only active coal mine, where he worked since 1974. The EPA is set to finalize new rules limiting carbon emissions in June, and will draft a plan for Alaska if the state fails to do so. Fifteen other states have filed similar laws to slow or fight the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon limits. The measure breezed through Alaska’s Senate Energy and Resources Committees and is on its way to Finance. Talerico also has proposed increases to fishing and hunting licenses for both residents and non-residents by up to 50 percent. ComFish is coming! Kodiak is rolling out the red carpet for special visitors who are coming to ComFish in early April. Lt. Governor Byron Mallott, ADFG Commissioner Sam Cotten, and commercial fisheries director Jeff Regnart will hold an open meeting the afternoon of April 2. Another highlight on Saturday, April 4: watch those fillet knives fly in a “fish off” among Kodiak’s fastest fish cutters, organized by Ocean Beauty Seafoods. Each of Kodiak’s seven processing companies will field a professional who will cut into piles of halibut, flounders and other species. Each event is timed and then judged based on the trimming quality of the fillets. The top winner receives round trip airline tickets to Anchorage. It’s the 36th year for the ComFish trade show and policy forum, hosted by the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce. Dates are April 2-4, and many of the events will be video streamed as they happen. Names named Gov. Bill Walker has made his selections for two upcoming vacancies on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The council oversees fisheries in federal waters (3-200 miles from shore), which each year produce nearly 85 percent of Alaska’s seafood harvests. Walker’s recommends reappointment of fisherman Dan Hull of Cordova, who has been a council member since 2009. He also named sport fish charter operator Andrew Mezirow of Seward. Other names on the list include commercial fishermen Buck Laukitis of Homer and Paul Gronholdt of Sand Point, sport fish reps Richard Yamada of Juneau and Art Nelson, director of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association. The final decision is made by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, who usually accepts the governor’s top recommendations. Fish Watch By the time you read this, Alaska’s first roe herring fishery at Sitka Sound could be just about over. The 8,712-ton quota is down by half from last year and the lowest Sitka catch since 2003. That, combined with historically low herring prices, has fewer boats fishing and they are doing so as a co-op. Blustery weather kept most of Alaska’s halibut boats off the water for the March 14 start of that fishery. Only 52 landings were made by March 20, totaling about 395,000 pounds. No reliable word on prices until more poundage crosses the docks, and the first fresh landings always fetch inflated prices. However, reports from the West Coast and Canada listed initial wholesale prices coming in higher than the past three March openers. reported $8.05 for 10/20s; $8.25-$8.50 for 20/40s, and $8.50-$8.75 for 40 ups. Anyone interested in weathervane scallops must register with Fish and Game by April 1. The scallop fishery, which was limited to about four boats until 2013, is now an open access fishery in waters near Yakutat, Kodiak and Dutch Harbor. Prince William Sound is closed to scallops this year.

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. “They can buy it before they go out to the fishing grounds, or if they’re traveling from Seattle or wherever, they can have everything ready for when they head up to Alaska,” she added. Another first: printing out multiple licenses. “Now you can buy for your whole family in one transaction, with different options,” Kaelke explained. “One can have a fishing and a hunting license, or a commercial crew license, and one can just have a sport fish license or a big game tag.” The print-and-go licenses will also be a huge plus for Alaska seafood processors. “They will buy their crew member licenses and they’ve had to do it one at a time, or they mail us paper applications,” Kaelke said. “So now they can do it right from their office and print all their licenses and give them to their crew and off they go.” All transactions are followed up by an email with licenses attached for future use or printings. The print at home procedure also is the same for sport fish guides and anglers, hunting, trapping, or getting king salmon or duck stamps. The department knows people will appreciate the easy new system, Kaelke said, adding that she does, too. “Getting this information right away, we can know what our license sales are, and we don’t have to sit and enter paper licenses into our system. That can be really difficult because people don’t always have the best handwriting,” she said with a laugh. “Now we can immediately have the statistics, and it’s far more accurate and we can quickly get it out to our managers.” Coming soon: electronic license printing setups for vendors across the state and perhaps, licenses to go. “We’re hoping that the legislature this year will give us the ability to allow people to carry licenses on their cell phone and mobile devices,” Kaelke said. Call for future fishing guides A few openings remain for students who want to get schooled on a river. About one dozen students are accepted each year by the Bristol Bay River Academy to participate in its unique to Alaska, place-based curriculum that teaches youths ages 14 to 24 how to make the grade in the guided sport fish business. Now in its seventh year, the free, week long course teaches students the basics of fly fishing, along with customer service skills and the realities and demands of the guiding and hospitality business out in the Bay. A third part of the curriculum is river ecology and what keeps trout and salmon healthy. The training rotates each year throughout the Bristol Bay region and this summer will take place at the Kulik Lodge in Katmai National Park. So far 58 students have graduated from the Academy and many have gone on to good jobs as sport fish guides. “Several of our students have worked multiple seasons in lodges in Bristol Bay; it is a great opportunity and perfect fit for many of these young people,” said Nelli Williams, program coordinator for Trout Unlimited, which sponsors the Academy along with a host of local supporters. For decades, fishing guides were brought in by lodge owners from other states, usually college students. Now, the local guides are the most requested, Williams said. “There is so much value in recruiting locally,” she said. “They know the rivers in and out. They know that July on the Kvichak can be as cold and nasty as in October. So there is a lot of benefit, both from the job opportunities for local young folks as well as the businesses that are thriving out there.” Halibut scholarships The International Pacific Halibut Commission funds several Merit Scholarships to support undergraduate university, technical college, and other post-secondary education. The fund is targeted to Canadian and U.S. students connected to the halibut fishery and industry. The scholarships are for $2,000 per year for four years. Find applications for fall 2015 at the IPHC website, or call Tamara Briggie at (206) 634-1838 (ext. 7660). Deadline to apply is June 30. ‘but’s up! Alaska’s 2015 halibut season opened on March 14 and runs through November 7. The catch to be shared by more than 2,000 Alaska longliners increased 6.5 percent this year to 21.2 million pounds. The sablefish (black cod) fishery runs concurrently with halibut and also is harvested by the longline fleets. That catch quota this year is 10,522 metric tons, similar to last year. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.  

$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. According to Juneau Resources Weekly, the ADFG budget reductions cut across all divisions with sport fishing facing the most personnel losses at 12 seasonal jobs. The Division of Habitat could lose $400,000; commercial fishing programs are set to lose five positions and an additional $2 million in general fund support. Other fisheries-related items include a 40 percent cut in the $7.5 million the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute receives in state funds, double what Gov. Bill Walker had proposed. The JRW said that members of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, voted to cut $2.8 million from the ASMI budget. The state’s lone marketing arm is largely funded by self-imposed fees from the seafood industry. The committee recommended that ASMI increase those fees to support its global marketing efforts. Other cuts proposed by the same committee include $600,000 for a mapping project by the Marine Exchange of Alaska to identify vessel-tracking gaps in the Gulf of Alaska, Western Alaska and the Arctic. Also removed was a $187,500 grant to the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association. The lawmakers recommended eliminating the Department of Environmental Conservation’s fish tissue studies that assure consumers that Alaska’s seafood is safe to eat. Also on the chopping block: the Alaska Farm to School program run by the Department of Natural Resources. The small program promotes local use of farm and seafood products in state schools. Rep. Pruitt, who also chairs the DNR finance committee, advised cutting the program’s $180,000 in the upcoming school year. On a lighter note, Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham has filed a bill to make Aug. 10 of each year Alaska Wild Salmon Day. It would “celebrate the enormous bounty that wild king, sockeye, coho, chum, and pink salmon bring to the state every year,” the bill says, and “may be observed by educational and celebratory events, projects, and activities.” Fishing facts What Alaska town ranks as number one for total commercial fishing participation? Based on the number of fishing permits, crew licenses and skippers, Anchorage comes out on top. Cordova is the leading homeport for 704 vessels, followed by Kodiak at 685, Sitka at 661 and Petersburg is home to 596 fishing boats. Those are just a few of the findings in the latest seafood industry fact sheets provided by the United Fishermen of Alaska. The facts include well-documented statewide data; added new this year are breakdowns for the Nome and Wade Hampton Census Areas, as well as for Washington, Oregon and California, which rank as the top three states for nonresident fishermen in Alaska. Even better — UFA includes a breakdown of how fishery taxes and fees add up to $250 million annually and benefit Alaskans who live far from the coast. “Due to the wide range of state and federal agencies involved in fisheries, it is challenging to understand the many different positive impacts and revenues that Alaska’s fisheries provide throughout the state and beyond. UFA’s fact sheets help consolidate this information and make it easy to understand,” said Julianne Curry, UFA executive director. Some highlights for 2015: the seafood industry remains Alaska’s largest private sector employer creating over 63,000 direct jobs throughout the state. • Alaska resident active commercial fishing permit holders: 7,089 • Percent of Alaska resident active commercial fishing permit holders: 72 percent • Alaska commercial fishing full-year resident crewmember licenses: 10,563 • Total annual landings for Alaska: 5.79 billion pounds • Alaska total seafood export value: $3.27 billion, by far the leading export Find the UFA fishing fact sheets at Pink outputs Forecasts for this year’s salmon season have been trickling in over the past months, and state fishery managers will announce the official projections in a couple of weeks. When it comes to pink salmon  — Alaska’s “bread and butter” catch — one market watcher already is calling the 2015 humpy harvest at just over 117 million fish, 22 percent higher than last year. The fish news site Undercurrent News generated the projection based on Fish and Game’s preliminary wild and hatchery salmon numbers for Alaska’s most productive pink regions: Southeast, Prince William Sound and Kodiak. State managers are calling for “excellent” catches throughout Southeast this summer of 58 million pink salmon. At Prince William Sound, the run forecast of wild pinks is 15.4 million fish; and the hatchery returns are pegged at 36 million. If 87 percent of the Sound’s pink catch is from hatcheries as it was last year, Undercurrent said, it would bring the combined Prince William Sound catch to 46.7 million pinks. At Kodiak, managers are calling for a wild pink harvest of 6.9 million, and combined with local hatchery fish, the total catch should produce 11 million pinks. When Kodiak’s projected take is combined with the other two regions, the pink salmon catch adds up to nearly 116 million. Add in the lower catches from lower Cook Inlet and other regions, and Undercurrent News deduces Alaska’s statewide catch this summer at just over 117 million pink salmon. The 2014 total pink salmon harvest was just over 95 million fish. Image booster Unalaskans are bankrolling a media makeover to contrast the town’s image from what is portrayed on the popular Deadliest Catch program. The goal is to “offset what is seen by some as a negative public image created by the reality show, and to encourage oil company workers to make permanent homes locally,” wrote Jim Paulin in the Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman. The Deadliest Catch presents a “fishing town with a bar problem,” said City Manager Patrick Jordan. The Unalaska City Council has hired Anchorage-based Northwest Strategies to develop an ad campaign to promote the many positives of the far-flung community to Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. With the onset of oil/gas exploration off Alaska’s north coast, Unalaska is uniquely positioned to welcome more families to town. The council’s goal is to “encourage professionals, small business owners and trades people to choose Unalaska as a place to live and work.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for [email protected] for information.

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. “There’s less of a rush this year, but there are less quota shares available,” said Olivia Olsen at Alaskan Quota and Permits at Petersburg. “We’ve had some good sales in Southeast (2C), and we’re seeing very strong interest for halibut quota pretty much across the board. But shares for both halibut and sablefish are practically non-existent in the Central Gulf. I think the increases in both areas and the higher prices might bring out some more sellers, and of course, the buyers are sitting there waiting.” Blocks of halibut shares in Southeast Alaska are selling at $50 per pound, Olsen said. Recent sales in the Central Gulf reached a high of $45 per pound, with others fetching a few dollars less. “These are record high prices, and of course, the folks that are buying must believe that the resource is recovering,” said Doug Bowen at Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer. “I have my doubts with very modest catch increases we’ve seen just this year, but there certainly is a feeling out there that maybe things have bottomed out and will improve from here on. We see that in the prices that people are willing to pay for halibut quota. It’s amazing.” Olsen said the biggest sellers in Southeast at the moment are “the charter halibut permits, and any 2C quota we can come with.” The cost for charter halibut permits is based on the number of anglers aboard the boat. The prices last year ranged from $20,000 to $29,000 for parties of four to six, the most common numbers of clients, Olsen said. Her company also brokers Guided Angler Fish (GAFs) – halibut poundage that charter operators can lease from quota shareholders, which last year started out at $7 per pound. Both brokers said interest in sablefish quota shares also is picking up with those fetching $15-$30 per pound in prime fishing areas. The Alaska halibut catch limit for 2015 to be divided up among shareholders is 21.2 million pounds; the catch quota for sablefish is 10,522 metric tons, similar to last year. Both fisheries open March 14. Dock Street brokers in Seattle is the go-to place for Bering Sea crab shares, which also have more interested buyers than sellers. Listings show 1,750 pounds of red king crab offered at $52 per pound; 5,000 pounds of snow crab at $16; and 16 offers for Tanners at $13-$16 per pound. Salmon or coal strip mine? The state Dept. of Natural Resources is getting ready to choose between giving water rights to a traditional salmon stream or to Alaska’s largest coal mine being proposed at Upper Cook Inlet. If DNR opts for the mine, the decision will set a legal precedent for Alaska. “It would be the first time in Alaska’s state history that we would allow an Outside corporation to mine 14 miles through a salmon stream,” said Bob Shavelson of Cook Inlet Keeper. “And the purpose is to ship all the coal to China. It’s really a very dangerous precedent, because if they can do it here in Cook Inlet they will be able to do it anywhere in the state.” Driving the issue is an application filed back in 2009 by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition to reserve water rights to Middle Creek, a key tributary of the salmon-rich Chuitna River dubbed the “Kenai of the West Side.” The Parnell administration dragged its feet on the decision until two years ago when a Superior Court judge ordered DNR to prioritize the Chuitna application. Meanwhile, mine developer PacRim Coal filed its own application to divert all water from Middle Creek to get to the underlying coal. Based on PacRim data, the first phase of the strip mine would remove 20 square miles of salmon habitat, and discharge seven million gallons a day of mine waste into the Chuitna River. PacRim aims to mine 12 million tons of low-grade coal each year for 25 years. “Never, ever in the history of restoration has anyone ever dug down 300 feet to the geology and the hydrology of a salmon system and put it back together. And experts have not been able to find any examples of where it has been done,” said Shavelson. DNR waters resources chief Dave Schade agreed that the water rights decision is precedent setting, and that it comes down to “saying yes to one applicant, and no to the other.” The public comment period has been extended to April 9. Unless there is an appeal by either party, a decision could be made 30 days after. “Do we leave water in streams for salmon, or do we give it to Outside companies to ship coal to China?” said Terry Jorgensen, who owns a setnet site at the mouth of the Chuitna River.  “For the next few weeks, Alaskans will have the opportunity to weigh in on this important decision.” Seafood three-peat  Record crowds turned out to taste and vote on the latest seafood products debuted last Saturday at the 22nd annual Alaska Symphony of Seafood. The new seafood items always are judged first in early February by a private panel in Seattle with criteria including packaging and presentation, overall eating experience, price and potential for commercial success. Winners are kept secret until the final Symphony soiree a few weeks later in Anchorage. This year the Symphony made a third stop in Juneau, where self-proclaimed “fish snob” Senator Lisa Murkowski welcomed a SRO crowd, and Governor Walker announced the People’s Choice Award voted by ballot at the event. The People’s Choice Award was a surprise three-peat this year. Kodiak’s Pickled Willy’s Black Cod Tips (known jokingly in town as “crack cod,”) won the popular vote at all three venues. “That was very unusual,” said Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, host of the seafood event. “ That was wonderful to see,” and a real testament to what a good product it is.” Pickled Willy’s also took first place in the food service category, as selected by the judges. The biggest surprise was the Symphony’s Grand Prize Winner in a new category this year called Beyond the Plate –Anchorage’s Arctic Paws Yummie Chummies dog treats. “This demonstrates that we have some very good innovative, top quality co-products coming out of Alaska. It’s a perfect time to be promoting them,” Decker said, adding that AFDF plans to expand and separate the category next year. “I know there are a lot of companies in Alaska that are producing products … cosmetics and skin care, fish skin leather, supplements, even clothing from crab and shrimp shells. They would qualify for this and I hope word of mouth will encourage them to enter,” Decker said. Other winners: Copper River Seafoods’ Zesty Cod Portions won top honors in retail; Tilgner’s Smoked Seafoods of Ninilchik took home a first in the smoked category for its Ruby Red Sockeye Salmon Chips and a second for its Ruby Red Salmon Candy. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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.” Salmon permit sales peak from March through May, and early indicators point to lower salmon prices this year in a plentiful market. A strong U.S. dollar against the yen, euro and other currencies also makes it more expensive for foreign customers to buy Alaska salmon. At the same time, record numbers of cheaper, farmed salmon continue to flood into the U.S. from Norway and Chile. Combined, those factors are having a downward press on permit prices — notably, at Alaska’s bellwether sockeye fishery at Bristol Bay. Drift permits last fall were fetching a record $175,000; now they’ve dipped to $164,000. “Permit prices have softened in the Bay and actually kind of across the board for any salmon permits,” said Doug Bowen with Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer, adding that there “is concern about the price in the Bay this year. “A lot of sockeye is left in the market from the big run in the Bay last year, plus from the Fraser River. And another big sockeye run is forecasted for Bristol Bay this summer. So there are some negative price rumors out there about the ex-vessel (dock) price in the Bay dipping below a dollar a pound.” Even if a permit buyer is interested, both brokers said it could be tough going for anyone trying to break into the fishery. “Some of these guys buying in are having quite a bit of difficulty just lining up a market and finding anyone who will take them on, because the processors at Bristol Bay are bracing for another big year and not really looking to expand their fleets,” Bowen explained. Elsewhere, Prince William Sound seine permits have dropped below $200,000 for the first time in several years. Cook Inlet drifts are at $65,000, down from $90,000 two years ago. Kodiak seine permit interest is flat at around $50,000. Still, both brokers said the mood on the Alaska waterfront is very upbeat. “I could feel it in the fall with how busy we were,” Olsen said. “People are looking forward to a good year.” Bowen added: “We do see a lot of optimism among the fleets and people are building new boats. That is definitely the biggest vote of confidence that you can make.” I’ll focus on Alaska broker trends in IFQs/catch shares in next week’s column. Praise seafood! The 40-day Lenten season began early this year — Ash Wednesday was Feb. 18 — giving the traditional boost to seafood sales. The season will end on Easter Sunday, April 5. Lent, derived from the Old English lencten, meaning spring, is a time of fasting and soul searching for hundreds of millions of Christians around the world that dates back to the fourth century. Many believers give up favorite foods, or devote time to volunteering or charity work. What the peak holiday selling season from Thanksgiving to Christmas means to retailers, Lent means to the seafood industry. Food Services of America, for example, reports that Ash Wednesday is the busiest day of the year for frozen seafood sales, and the six weeks following is the top selling season for the entire year. Restaurant trades say weekly sales of seafood increase 25 percent to 40 percent during Lent. In many countries, the day before Lent — called Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday — has become a last fling before the start of the long fast. For centuries, it was customary to not eat meat during Lent, which is why the festival is called carnival, Latin for farewell to meat. While nearly all seafood enjoys a surge of interest during Lent, the most traditional items served are the “whitefish” species, such as cod, pollock, flounders and halibut. But no matter what the seafood favorite, the six-week Lenten season is good news for Alaska, which provides over 60 percent of America’s wild caught seafood to our nation’s restaurants and grocery stores. Crabby clothes Stylish workout gear made from crab and shrimp shells is drawing raves from exercise enthusiasts in Vancouver, British Columbia. “The clothes are breathable, durable and fast drying. Everything we use is non-toxic so they are environmentally friendly as well,” said Quincy Samycia, co-founder of Strongbody Apparel. The fashion-forward line is designed for the gym, and its uniqueness comes from its “odor crush” technology.  “The magic ingredient comes from the ocean – it’s a natural biopolymer in crab and shrimp shells called chitosan. When it is combined with the fabric, it inhibits the growth of bacteria on the clothing and that is what makes it odor free,” explained Megan Conyers. Samycia and Conyers spent years researching fabrics and making designs to fit their active life style before launching the apparel last year (Google chitin-based fabric producers). Between 500 to 700 crab and shrimp shells are used to make a few ounces of solution that is then combined into the fabric. Because chitosan’s structure is similar to cellulose, it blends easily with cotton and other fabrics. “One thing that definitely drew us to this particular solution is that it is environmentally friendly and a by-product of the fishing industry. All that stuff is just going to go to waste, so why not find a use for it,” she added. Estimates claim that nearly 25 billion tons of chitin from seafood is dumped each year. Along with being odorless, the chitosan-infused fabric also is super durable — and it is safe for those who may be allergic to shellfish. The Strongbody line includes workout shorts and leggings, tanks and sports bras, and Quincy’s favorite — the pulse elite tee. He agreed that it’s the chitin technology that has made their clothes stand out in the market of fitness gear.  “People like different. Nobody just wants to go out and get just another T-shirt. There is a strong market for what we are doing, and people are definitely looking to have a unique piece of clothing and they want a story to tell,” he added. Chinook News Volume 2 gives updates on the king salmon stocks and research projects at 12 key river systems, with special features on marine sampling at Kodiak and the Westward regions, Cook Inlet and Southeast Alaska. Chinook News, compiled by Alaska Department of Fish and Game, began last year as part of the Chinook Salmon Research Initiative. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

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.” The links between seafood and love have a long history, including the belief that oysters enhance male desire and performance. Until recently there was no scientific evidence to back that up, but new studies by Miami and Italian researchers revealed that oysters contain compounds that prompt the release of sexual hormones. The scent of oysters resembles the most potent female pheromone; oysters also are loaded with zinc, a key nutrient for testosterone production in both men and women. Many “experts” have touted omega-3 fish oils as serious libido lifters because they help raise the amount of compounds that control “feel good” levels in the brain, and stimulate the release of sex hormones. Author Marrena Lindberg also sings the praises of fish oil in “The Orgasmic Diet.” Fish oil, like Viagra, increases nitric oxide levels in artery linings, she claims, which increases blood flow to the brain and sex organs. Seafoods from colder waters contain the most omega 3s. Pacific oysters pack a special punch at 1,700 micrograms, the same as Alaska king salmon. The Alaska seafood with the most omegas of all? Sablefish. Salmon Love The Salmon Project is spreading the love on Valentine’s Day with special “salmon swag” gift packs created by women whose biggest passion is fish. “We feel like it is a natural holiday for us to help celebrate,” said Erin Harrington, director of The Salmon Project. “One of our brands and one of the key ideas that people really recognize about the Salmon Project is the concept of salmon love.” Since 2012, the Salmon Project has been undertaking in-depth, widely-traveled scientific public opinion research to better understand Alaskans’ relationships with salmon. For the Valentine’s Day promotion, Harrington hooked up with Claire and Emma Laukitis of Homer, aka the Salmon Sisters. They created “his and hers” selections of their popular Salmon Love hoodies for women, and a new Lifeblood t-shirt design for men. “It really speaks to how salmon are the lifeblood of Alaska, and that is something we hear from people over and over again,” said Claire. The Salmon Love packs also include handcrafted salmon soap by Melissa Bravo of Kodiak and salmon rubs from Summit Spice in Anchorage. Fish watch The Alaska pollock fishery opened on Jan. 20 to trawlers in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska; those fleets also will target cod, perch, flounders and other groundfish. Bering Sea crabbers were nearing 40 percent of their 61 million-pound snow crab quota. About 6 million pounds remain in the 15 million-pound tanner crab catch. A tanner crab and golden king crab fishery open concurrently at Southeast Alaska on February 13. The tanner fishery will be assessed after five days to see how many pots are on the grounds. The stocks are looking good, and last year’s take of more than 1.25 million pounds was the best in 13 years. The limit for golden king crab is 336,000 pounds. Also at Southeast: the demersal shelf rockfish season opens on Feb. 6. It includes seven different rockfish species with a combined catch of 72,000 pounds. Black rockfish is another catch around Kodiak while jig and pot boats await a state water cod opener in a few weeks. A pot cod fishery opens Feb. 9 at Dutch Harbor to boats under 58 feet. Up next: the halibut fishery opens on March 14; the herring fishery at Sitka Sound should follow soon after. Mmmm, maggot meal Mix up a batch of manure, flies and fish guts and you end up with a maggot-based meal that’s irresistible to fish. Idaho University scientists (and others around the world) have developed a maggot-based fish feed that also devours manure and fish wastes. Idaho is America’s largest producer of farmed rainbow trout, and with a half million cows, it also is the nation’s fourth-biggest dairy state. But along with all those cows come billions of pounds of poop. With fish meal prices skyrocketing and mountains of manure piling up, Idaho researchers created something cheaper, that also eats up tons of dung and fish guts in the process. To the rescue black soldier flies, used widely in Asia to eat restaurant wastes. In tests by animal waste management engineers, the flies quickly reduced 700 buckets of cow manure by half, and seeded it with their eggs. Two months later, fish guts from local farms were added to the brew to enrich the maggots with omega fatty acids. Then they were cleaned, frozen, ground up and fed to rainbow trout in test stations along the Snake River. The fish snapped up the feed, which made sense to the scientists since flies are a far more natural fish food than corn and soybean-based feeds. Waste engineers believe it could become an important niche industry for Idaho’s dairy farmers who can count on their cows to produce 30 billion pounds of manure each year. Giving back American Seafoods Co. is accepting applications for its Alaska community grant program. A total of $38,000 will be donated to projects that address hunger, housing, safety, education, research, natural resources and cultural activities. The majority of grant awards range from $500 to $3,000 per organization. Deadline to apply is Feb. 17. Contact Kim Lynch at [email protected] or 206-256-2659. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.


Subscribe to RSS - Laine Welch