FISH FACTOR: ASMI launches new marketing for old crabs

“It’s what’s on the inside that counts” is the message Alaska crab marketers are pushing to their customers, encouraging them to put appearances aside.

“We’re telling them to ‘Get Ugly,’” said Tyson Fick, executive director of the trade group, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, speaking of the new campaign launched last week in partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute at the big Seafood Expo in Boston.

The promotion showcases Alaska crabs with darker, discolored or scarred shells or adorned with barnacles, that may be less appealing to shoppers.

Halibut fishery poised to open as NMFS works on 2018 catch limits

Alaska’s halibut fishery is set to open this month, but the final quota was still not completely set as of March 14, even as fishermen began to receive permits in the mail.

Indications, however, are that the quota will decrease this year compared to last.

Under regulations published by the National Marine Fisheries Service this month, the fishery will open March 24 and run through Nov. 7. But the total catch limits remain unknown.

FISH FACTOR: Discarded nets find new use; still waiting on halibut quotas

More big bundles of old fishing nets will soon be on their way from Dutch Harbor to Denmark to be remade into high-end plastics. It will be the second batch of nets to leave Dutch for a higher cause and more Alaska fishing towns can get on board.

Last summer a community collaborative put nearly 240,000 pounds, or about 40 nets, into shipping vans that were bound for a Danish “clean tech” company called Plastix. The company refines and pelletizes all types of plastics and resells them to makers of water bottles, cell phone cases and other items.

As habitat initiative debate swirls, ADFG outlines current best practices

The Alaska Supreme Court will still have its say, but there’s a good chance voters will be asked whether or not the state should overhaul its permitting regime for construction projects impacting salmon habitat.

It’s the latest battle in the ongoing debate over how far the state should go to protect its prized fish resources while at the same time promoting development of the state’s renowned petroleum and mineral resources.

Cook Inlet salmon plan back in front of federal council in April

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will continue its discussion of who should manage Cook Inlet salmon fisheries, and how, at its April meeting in Anchorage.

The council is continuing court-ordered work to develop a federal fishery management plan, or FMP, for the salmon fisheries currently managed by the state in Cook Inlet, including creation of a new salmon management committee.

FISH FACTOR: State’s seiner fleet still slow to adopt winch safety gear

The most common piece of gear on a seine vessel is also one of the deadliest: the rotating capstan winch used for winding ropes. Anyone who has ever worked aboard a seiner has horror stories of close calls, or worse.

FISH FACTOR: ASMI gives world buyers a taste of life in Dutch Harbor

The nation’s top fishing port welcomed seven European seafood buyers in late January — all women — and showed off its massive seafood industry during peak operations at Dutch Harbor.

The women, whose companies import more than $60 million in U.S. seafood, hailed from France, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, and the U.K., said Hannah Lindoff, international program coordinator for the trip host Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

“They are interested in Alaska pollock, cod, surimi, octopus, salmon, roe, black cod and king crab,” she explained.

FISH FACTOR: Millennialls a major potential market for Alaska seafood

Millennials are now the nation’s “peak spenders” and they are gravitating towards healthier eating which favors more seafood.

“We see year over year that there is this cohort aged 35 to 54 that is going to be spending far more across categories, including food expenditures, than any others,” said Will Notini, consumer insights manager at Chicago-based Technomic, a leading market tracker for over 50 years.

Mallott, Sullivan meet with top Canadians on transboundary issues

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Sen. Dan Sullivan watched Super Bowl LII together in Ottawa and spent time strategizing on their approach to the next day’s meetings.

They were there to discuss issues as far-reaching as ocean debris, missile defense and the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canadian federal officials as well as provincial and First Nations leaders, according to Sullivan, but the priority topic brought up in every discussion was that of Canadian mines at the headwaters of rivers that terminate in Alaska.

FISH FACTOR: US-Canadian impasse a first for halibut allocations

As expected, catches of Pacific halibut will decrease for this year, and likely into the foreseeable future.

Following an increase in catches last year for the first time in several decades, the International Pacific Halibut Commission on Jan. 26 set a “suggested” coastwide catch for 2018 at 28.03 million pounds, a 10.7 percent reduction.

Alaska’s share could be 20.52 million pounds, a drop of 2.1 million pounds from 2017.

FISH FACTOR: Divers keep pushing for changes to Southeast sea otter plans

Sea otters and their devastating impacts on Southeast Alaska shellfish were among the many emotionally-charged topics at the state Board of Fisheries marathon meeting running from Jan. 11-23 in Sitka.

The board was set to address 153 proposals for state subsistence, commercial, sport, guided sport, and personal use fisheries for the Southeast and Yakutat regions.

FISH FACTOR: Seafood trimmings have huge uncaptured value

State seafood marketers are rebranding fish parts as “specialty” products and mapping a path for millions more dollars in sales.

Alaska’s fisheries produce more than 5 billion pounds of seafood each year. When all the fish is headed and gutted or filleted and all the crab legs are clustered, it leaves about 3 billion pounds of trimmings. Some is turned into meal and oil, but for the most part, the “gurry” is ground up and discharged into local waterways.

Initiative sponsors turn in signatures as BBNC shifts to neutral

Advocates of strengthening Alaska’s salmon habitat protection took a big step forward when they dumped roughly 49,500 signatures on the front desk of the Division of Elections Anchorage office Jan. 16.

The signatures from Alaskans statewide were collected by Stand for Salmon, the nonprofit aimed at reforming anadromous fish habitat permitting requirements via the ballot initiative they’ve dubbed “Yes for Salmon.”

Walmart deal makes for year-round processing jobs in Anchorage

Copper River Seafoods highlighted its emerging role as a mainstay in the Alaska economy in a short ceremony Jan. 8 that celebrated selling 250,000 pounds of fish per year to Walmart and Sam’s Club.

Even in winter, the plant on the shores of Ship Creek is filled with 100 employees cutting frozen fillets into portions that go out the door destined for plates in Alaska and the Lower 48.

About 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of sockeye and kita, or chum salmon, per week continue to be processed throughout the winter, according Copper River Seafoods CEO Scott Blake.

FISH FACTOR: Annual picks and pans

For 27 years this weekly column has featured news for and about Alaska’s commercial fishing industry. It began in 1991 in the Anchorage Daily News and now appears in more than 20 news outlets across Alaska, nationally and in the UK.

Today, Alaska fishermen and processors provide 65 percent of our nation’s wild-caught seafood, and 95 percent of the wild salmon. The industry puts more people to work than oil and gas, mining, timber and tourism combined.

FISH FACTOR: Grant funds deckhand apprenticeship program

The clamor of “take me fishing” is taking on new meaning in Alaska.

Prospects for a deckhand apprenticeship program just got a big lift from a $142,000 national grant awarded to the Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, or ALFA, and the group plans to get more boots on deck statewide.

Deckhand apprenticeships are recommended as one way to attract younger entrants into an industry where the average fisherman’s age in Alaska is over 50.

Pollock and salmon projected for big year in 2018

Next year is looking like another big one for pollock in the Bering Sea and sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay. But times are tough for cod fishermen, especially in the Gulf of Alaska.

At its December meeting in Anchorage, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council increased the already huge Bering Sea pollock quota to 1.345 million metric tons for 2018, up from 1.34 million mt in 2017. That’s good news for the pollock-dependent community of Unalaska for local revenues and jobs.

YEAR IN REVIEW: As salmon booms, whitefish and crab take sharp turn down

Dismally low halibut numbers were found in surveys and announced last month by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, but final allocation decisions won’t be revealed until Jan. 22-26 when the commission meets in Portland, Ore.

Scientists at the International Pacific Halibut Commission interim meeting in Seattle revealed that survey results showed halibut numbers were down 23 percent from last summer, and the total biomass or weight had dropped 10 percent. This means the commission may drop commercial Pacific halibut catch limits by 20 percent.

FISH FACTOR: Kodiak, Gulf communities brace for cod disaster

Kodiak officials already are drafting a disaster declaration due to the crash of cod stocks throughout the Gulf of Alaska. The shortage will hurt many other coastal communities as well.

Gulf cod catches for 2018 will drop by 80 percent to just under 29 million pounds in federally managed waters, compared to a harvest this year of nearly 142 million pounds. The crash is expected to continue into 2020 or 2021.

Cod catches in the Bering Sea also will decline by 15 percent to 414 million pounds. In all, Alaska produces 12 percent of global cod fish.

Bering Sea cod conflict brewing between on and offshore buyers

“Cod Alley” is getting crowded, and some fishermen want to limit the boats in the narrow congested fishing area in the Bering Sea.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is looking at changes, including restricting flatfish factory trawlers from buying cod offshore.

The Pacific Seafood Processors Association is pushing for restrictions on factory trawlers to protect its members’ shore plants in Unalaska, Akutan, King Cove and Sand Point.


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