Fisheries

FISH FACTOR: Seafood jobs in 2016 mirrored decline in harvests

Fewer men and women went out fishing in Alaska last year, in a familiar cycle that reflects the vagaries of Mother Nature.

A focus on commercial fishing in the November Economic Trends by the Alaska Department of Labor shows that the number of boots on deck fell by 5 percent in 2016 to about 7,860 harvesters, driven by the huge shortfall in pink salmon returns and big declines in crab quotas.

Fishing for salmon, which accounts for the majority of Alaska’s fishing jobs, fell by 6.4 percent statewide in 2016, a loss of 323 workers.

Report: Alaska tops nation in total fishing volume for 20th year

The annual report detailing national and regional economic impacts of U.S. fisheries totaled $9.6 billion in value in 2016 with Alaska as usual producing more than the rest of the nation combined.

Alaska produced 58 percent of all landings and for the 20th straight year brought in the highest volume, according to the 2016 Fisheries of the United States report by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Seaweed bar wins innovation competition

Despite its abundance, Alaska seaweed isn’t harvested for commercial use to the extent it can be found on local grocery shelves.

That’s potentially a loss for the Alaska economy as projections for the commercial seaweed market are expected to reach $22.13 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon permit values soar, halibut quota slides

It’s steady as she goes for the values of Alaska salmon fishing permits, with upticks in the wind at several fishing regions.

“There’s a lot of cautious optimism,” said Jeff Osborn of Dock Street Brokers in Seattle.

As well there should be after a salmon fishery that produced 225 million fish valued at nearly $680 million, a 67 percent increase over 2016.

FISH FACTOR: Latest fishing facts by the numbers

Alaska’s fishing fleet of 9,400 vessels would span nearly 71 miles if lined up from bow to stern.

And Alaska’s fishing industry catches and processes enough seafood each year to feed every person on the planet one serving; or a serving for each American every day for more than a month.

Those are just a few of the fish facts highlighted in the annual “Economic value of Alaska’s seafood industry” report by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute compiled by the McDowell Group.

State appeals habitat initiative ruling

The ballot initiative proposed to strengthen laws protecting salmon habitat is headed for a supreme resolution, which doesn’t bother the initiative’s primary sponsor.

On Oct. 20 the state Department of Law appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court to have a Superior Court ruling upholding the initiative on constitutional grounds overturned.

FISH FACTOR: Dept. of Energy looks to seaweed as energy source

Kodiak is at the center of a national push to produce biofuels from seaweeds.

Agents from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, ARPA-E, recently traveled to the island to meet with a team of academics, scientists, businesses and local growers to plan the first steps of a bicoastal pilot project to modernize methods to grow sugar kelp as a fuel source.

The project is bankrolled by a $500,000 grant to the University of Alaska Fairbanks through a new DOE program called Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources, or MARINER.

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.

‘Bioblitz’ turns up no new non-native aquatics

WHITTIER — When on the hunt for invaders, no news is usually good news.

That’s exactly the kind of good news Smithsonian Environmental Research Center scientists were able to report to the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council after a summer-long search in 2016 for non-indigenous species in the waters around Valdez.

FISH FACTOR: Seafood Appreciation Month gets more love outside Alaska

October is National Seafood Month, a distinction bestowed by Congress 30 years ago to recognize one of America’s oldest industries.

Alaska merits special recognition because its fishing fleets provide 65 percent of the nation’s wild caught seafood, more than all of the other states combined.

Ironically, there is little to no fanfare in Alaska during seafood month. My hometown of Kodiak, for example, (the No. 2 U.S. fishing port) never gives a shout out to our fishermen and processors, nor do local restaurants celebrate seafood on their October menus in any way.

Building the Alaska ‘Blue Economy’

Alaska’s blue economy leadership potential is tremendous; we maintain over half the nation’s coastline and a third of the U.S. exclusive economic zone with access to vast natural resources.

The blue economy vision is that by 2040 Alaska would grow by 50,000 jobs and $3 billion in wages, approximately equal to the oil and gas industry today. Alaska’s blue economy includes existing traditional sectors such as fisheries, coastal tourism and oil and gas, as well as additional “new” blue economy sectors such as ocean technology, renewable energy and marine biotechnology.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon harvest tops forecast

Alaska’s salmon season is nearly a wrap but fall remains as one of the fishing industry’s busiest times of the year.

For salmon, the catch of 213 million has surpassed the forecast by 9 million fish. Highpoints for this season are a statewide sockeye catch topping 50 million for the 10th time in history (37 million from Bristol Bay), and one of the best chum harvests ever at more than 22 million fish.

The total 2017 salmon catches and values by Alaska region will be released by state fishery managers in November.

Ballot measure would give greater say to ADFG

Alaska fishing groups concerned about the impacts that large-scale development projects could have on salmon habitat are pushing to reform the state’s permitting requirements through a voter initiative on the 2018 ballot.

FISH FACTOR: Bumper salmon hauls around state as season winds down

Alaska’s salmon season is winding down and while catches have made the record books in some regions, the statewide take will fall a bit short of the 204 million fish forecast.

“We are within about 10 percent of the forecast, so that’s very positive and overall it’s been a pretty good season,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Commercial Fisheries Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The statewide salmon catch through Aug. 25 topped 191 million. The shortfall, Bowers said, again stems from the arrival of fewer pink salmon.

Judge orders council to get to work on Cook Inlet salmon plan

KENAI — The United Cook Inlet Drift Association’s lawsuit against the federal government has finally reached its conclusion, though its repercussions are far from over.

Stakeholders voice preferred changes to federal fisheries act

SOLDOTNA — Sportfishing groups and advocates want to see the federal government separate the management of sport and commercial fishing in the upcoming renewal of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The act, originally passed in 1976 and co-sponsored by the late Alaska U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, establishes the management system for federal and state fisheries in marine waters.

FISH FACTOR: Alaskan seafood has opening in home meal kits

Alaska aims to get in on the growing popularity of Home Meal kits that will deliver seafood directly to American kitchens.

The kits typically offer a subscription service where customers order weekly meals based on how many people they plan to feed and their food preferences. The kits include portioned, high quality ingredients with foolproof cooking instructions and can be delivered within hours or overnight to nearly all locations. Many grocery stores also are providing in-store options that don’t involve delivery.

FISH FACTOR: Fishing deaths renew reminders for safety measures

“It’s time for a checkup from the neck up” — meaning an industry time out to evaluate fishing operations and behaviors, advises Jerry Dzugan, the director of the Sitka-based Alaska Marine Safety Education Association for more than 30 years.

Dzugan was speaking in response to the 11 fishing deaths that have occurred in Alaska so far this year. It’s the most in 13 years and follows a 76 percent decrease in commercial fishing fatalities since the 1980s.

FISH FACTOR: ASMI keeps up export push on shoestring budget

Seafood is Alaska’s top export by far, usually topping $3 billion in sales each year to 120 countries around the world, and comprising 55 percent of our nation’s total seafood exports.

Credit for the state’s export sales goes mostly to the international program run by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or ASMI, which runs eight regional offices in Japan, China, Brazil, London, Spain, France, Germany and Eastern Europe.

The overseas marketing reps, or OMRs, work under contract with ASMI to coordinate hundreds of seafood promotions each year to build the Alaska brand.

Ocean Tuesday starts conversation on innovation

Picture crustacean DNA that allows crabs the ability to grow a new leg. That chemical makeup, in an innovator’s hands, becomes a product to seal up a human puncture wound.

Imagine a band-aid made of it.

Alaska has lots of crab, but getting from raw seafood byproducts to a marketable commodity will take a new infrastructure. A blue economy movement now in its Alaska infancy is involved in engaging all the human resources necessary to help such innovations evolve.

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