Molly Dischner

Electronic monitoring rolling out in 2018 after years of work

Alaska fishermen will see changes to the mandatory observer program next year.

After years of requests, testing and prepping, the National Marine Fisheries Service is rolling out a more-complete electronic monitoring program for small boat fishermen who are directed to have partial observer coverage as part of the 2018 observer program.

Electronic Monitoring uses cameras and sensors to record and monitor fishing activities, and help ensure the accuracy of catch records. Normally, that work is done by human observers who are placed on fishing vessels.

Major crab harvests down again, Tanners reopen

Biologists had some less-than-stellar news about Alaska’s crab fisheries this month: surveys have shown that several species’ biomass have declined in the past year, although Tanner crab are on the rebound compared to past years.

Last year, the big crab harvests — Bristol Bay red king crab, along with Tanner and snow crabs — were all cut, with Tanners closed completely, due to concerns about the amount showing up in surveys. So this year’s news was not out of the blue, and the reopening of the Tanner crab fishery was an upshot.

App makes Alaska coastal data available offline

An Anchorage-based group of entrepreneurs is trying to make it a little easier to learn about Alaska’s coastline with a new app.

CoastView, which launched last spring, relies on the high-quality, publicly-available coastline imagery produced through the ShoreZone endeavor.

Assembly passes tax incentive for fresher fish

DILLINGHAM — Some Bristol Bay fishermen are getting a little extra incentive to upgrade their boats.

On June 5, the Bristol Bay Borough Assembly passed an ordinance that will allow fishermen who install a refrigerated seawater system in 2017 or 2018 to get a one-time $1,500 fish tax credit.

Southwest Alaska education program growing in courses, students

DILLINGHAM — There’s an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. But in the case of the Bristol Bay regional career and technical education partnership it takes nearly two dozen villages to raise more than 100 students.

The partnership brings together industry, local government, school districts and communities in an effort to better prepare Southwest Alaska youth for life after high school, Bristol Bay Borough School District Principal Rick Luthi explained.

Effort continues to replace humans with cameras on fishing boats

Several years into the controversial effort to bolster Alaska’s fisheries observer program, a top federal fisheries official defended the work at a Seattle gathering of fishermen.

Eileen Sobeck, the NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, took the stage this past Nov. 18 to talk to fishermen gathered for the annual Fish Expo event to recap the program.

Observers are the eyes and ears on boats, collecting a range of data, she explained.

“We have been monitoring fisheries for decades, and we do it in a lot of different ways,” Sobeck said.

From the braids of the Kvichak to shores of Bristol Bay

Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts in reporter Molly Dischner’s journey with a Homer fishing family to Bristol Bay on the eve of sockeye season.

DILLINGHAM — About 8 a.m. on June 17, a sportfishing guide tied his skiff to the F/V Eagle Claw and hopped onboard to join our motley crew.

By road, lake and river: Boats make way to Bristol Bay

Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts in reporter Molly Dischner’s journey with a Homer fishing family to Bristol Bay on the eve of sockeye season.

PILE BAY – It’s noon, Iliamna Lake is calm, and half a dozen fishermen are sitting around in the grass outside the bathroom at Pile Bay using free wi-fi.

A soon-to-be setnetter makes a Facebook page for another fisherman. His brother (and this reporter) pitch in with photos and suggestions for friends. The three of us are riding to Naknek with Louie Flora and his daughter Sidney onboard the F/V Eagle Claw.

ADFG opens experimental pollock fishery in Cook Inlet

KACHEMAK BAY — Despite more than 30 years of fishing around Alaska, before this past December Kasilof fisherman Rob Nelson had never let out a net hoping to catch pollock.

But the long-time seiner has been learning how to catch the groundfish in Kachemak Bay as part of an experimental fishery this winter.

ADFG launches study on hatchery impacts on wild salmon

Hatchery salmon and their potential impact on wild populations have been a sticking point in ongoing discussions about seafood sustainability, and a multi-year research project undertaken by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is looking at better understanding the issue.

More than 40 scientists, fishermen, and others interested in the science gathered in Anchorage Dec. 12 for a daylong update on the research progress so far.

Cook Inlet fish wars dominate headlines again in 2014

The Upper Cook Inlet fisheries were tense in 2014, with an emotional Board of Fisheries meeting in the winter and new restrictions in the summer.

Alaska’s Board of Fisheries met in Anchorage in late January and early February to discuss management plans for Upper Cook Inlet. By the end of the two-week meeting, the board for the first time approved changes that paired restrictions for sport and commercial fishermen.

Alaska Communications sale wraps busy year in telecoms

The year in telecommunications closed with a major deal as Alaska Communications System Group Inc. agreed to sell its wireless subscriber business and its 33 percent share of Alaska Wireless Network to General Communications Inc. for $300 million in cash.

The AWN transaction closed in 2013, merging the wireless infrastructure of GCI and Alaska Communications while the two companies sold separate retail products.

Chitina dipnet limit raised; other PWS changes rejected

CORDOVA — Chitina personal use fishermen will have an increased bag limit in 2015, one of just a few changes made at the triennial Board of Fisheries meeting for the Prince William Sound, Upper Copper River and Upper Susitna River region.

During its five-day meeting in Cordova, the board heard 57 proposals for changes to the region’s fisheries. The board made a few changes to area sport, subsistence and personal use fisheries, but declined to make significant changes to commercial salmon fisheries, saying the allocation plan is working.

Another year of halibut quota cuts on the table for 2015

Pacific halibut fishermen could have a reduced catch next year if the International Pacific Halibut Commission opts to go with the “blue-line” projection released Dec. 2, but Alaskan fishermen in some areas may see a slightly higher quota than in 2014.

Waiting game begins in narrow governor's race

For Alaska’s gubernatorial candidates, election night was just the start of the waiting game.

With all precincts reporting, independent candidate Bill Walker had 107,395 votes to incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell’s 104,230, or 47.8 percent to 46.4 percent, but an estimated 20,000 absentee ballots still had to be counted as of early Nov. 5, and the Alaska Division of Elections could still receive more before the final Nov. 19 deadline.

In the meantime, the two planned to continue their work.

Even after restrictions, charter halibut catch exceeds limits

The 2014 charter halibut catch exceeded the allocations in both Southeast and Southcentral despite projections last winter that the management measures would keep anglers within the limits for each area.

Total charter removals, which includes release mortality for certain fish, are estimated at 875,572 pounds of halibut in Southeast, or Area 2C, and 2.17 million pounds in Southcentral, or Area 3A.

The charter allocation for 2C was 761,000 pounds and 1.76 million pounds for 3A.

APOC recommends changes to Kenai River Classic disclosures

ANCHORAGE — Public officials may need to disclose their participation in the Kenai River Classic in the future under a recent decision by the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

The commission discussed Kenai River Classic participation during an Oct. 21 meeting in Anchorage where it addressed three complaints against public officials related to past participation in the event.

Those complaints were filed against Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, Department of Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner Ed Fogels and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.

BOEM updates Chukchi lease sale

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has tentatively increased its estimate of recoverable oil from certain Chukchi Sea leases, but regulatory hurdles remain before offshore oil development could occur.

The BOEM, part of the Interior Department, released a draft revised supplemental environmental impact statement Oct. 31 for Sale 193.

Anchorage entrepreneurs share advice for new businesses

On the surface, snow removal and sprouts don’t have a lot in common.

But two Anchorage business owners in those fields shared similar advice for would-be entrepreneurs at an Oct. 7 event organized by Wells Fargo and the Alaska Small Business Development Center.

Their keys? Provide excellent customer service, be purposeful in growth, and have good employees and advisors on your team.

Nick Hale, who owns Hale Snow Removal and Gravel Trucking, said customer service is a key to running a successful business.

Invasive elodea at Alexander Lake threatens salmon

Researchers working on a pike eradication project in Alexander Lake this summer encountered an unexpected species.

Elodea, an invasive aquatic plant, was spotted at the lake when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game team went to check minnow traps there, said Heather Stewart, a natural resource specialist for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Agriculture.

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