Fisheries

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 www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.  

Charter group proposes plan to acquire commercial quota

As halibut bycatch cuts of 50 percent or more loom for the Bering Sea flatfish trawlers, charter halibut fishermen are pitching a plan to acquire a bigger piece of the fishery on the other side of the Alaska Peninsula. During its February meeting, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council finalized a working group to complete an initial analysis of CATCH, a program that would potentially replace the current halibut quota transfer program in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska. Catch Accountability Through Compensated Halibut, or CATCH, has been developed as a way to efficiently transfer quota between the commercial and charter halibut sectors. This takes place under a regional catch-sharing plan instituted in 2014 that replaced a guideline harvest level for charter vessels with a percentage of the overall harvest. In 2004, the coastwide Pacific halibut catch limit was 76.5 million pounds. By 2014, that had been cut 64 percent to 27.5 million pounds. The charter sector exceeded its allocations under the 2014 catch-sharing plan, which has led to tightening restrictions on the trip, bag and size limits in 2015. The workgoup will consist of North Pacific council member Ed Dersham as chairman, charter operators Ken Dole and Richard Yamada representing Southeast Alaska, or Area 2C, and charter operators Andy Mezirow and Martin Spago representing Southcentral Alaska, or Area 3A. Bruce Gabrys will represent Area 3A longliners and council member Duncan Fields will represent Community Quota Entities. Steve MacLean, halibut fishery analyst for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, says one name has been submitted to represent Area 2C longliners, but not yet appointed to the position. CATCH would either replace or run concurrently with the current Guided Angler Fish transfer program, or GAF. GAF allows individual charter guides in Areas 2C and 3A to lease commercial Individual Fishing Quota, or IFQ, from commercial shareholders to allow their clients to harvest halibut in addition to or instead of the daily bag limit while keeping the charter sector within its annual allocations. Individual Fishing Quota, or IFQ, assigns an individual level of halibut quota to commercial permit holders based on their historical harvest levels and involvement in the fishery. Southeast Alaska charter guide Yamada authored the CATCH proposal, which was introduced to the North Pacific council in October. The workgroup will put together an initial analysis of CATCH, tentatively scheduled for the council’s June meeting in Sitka. “The object is to match up willing buyers with willing sellers,” said Yamada, a board member of the Alaska Charter Association. “This is a market-based solution to allocation problems.” The CATCH program would differ from GAF in that charter operators could purchase, rather than simply lease, quota from commercial users. They program would also be sector-wide rather than individual; purchased quota would be held in a common pool for all charter vessels to draw from as needed to stay within their allocation. The current industry quota transfer program, GAF, has only been in place for a year, since the beginning of the 2014 halibut season. National Marine Fisheries Service fishery management specialist Julie Scheurer says GAF usage exceeded expectations. “As of September 15, 2014, NMFS Restricted Access Management Program processed 111 transfers totaling 41,152 (pounds) of IFQ to 43 different charter halibut permit holders,” reads a National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, report on GAF usage. “These transfers allowed the harvest of up to 2,027 additional halibut as GAF by charter vessel anglers. Overall, nearly 20 percent of all GAF transfers were ‘self-transfers,’ i.e., the same person held both the IFQ and the charter halibut permit and transferred the IFQ to himself.” According to NMFS, Area 2C transfers totaled 29,498 pounds of halibut IFQ at an average price of $5.62 per pound. Area 3A transfers totaled 11,654 pounds at an average $5.01 per pound. CATCH would rely on the establishment of Recreational Quota Entities, or RQEs, to make the quota purchases and hold them for communal charter use. Similar organizations exist in the form of Community Quota Entities, or CQEs, which perform the same task on behalf of small fishing communities, but are infrequently used due to the expense of halibut quota. The expense of halibut quota fuels the discussion around CATCH. Shares are currently selling for about $50 per pound, far greater than the cost of leasing. The biggest question is exactly how the charter industry would fund the RQEs to make quota purchases. Yamada says there are several possibilities for funding, but the most likely is some form of state-issued halibut conservation stamp, which would require legislative approval and be paid for by charter customers. The plan addresses several concerns the halibut charter industry had moving into a catch-sharing program they don’t feel GAF adequately addresses, the foremost of which is absence of publicly accessible IFQ trading platform. “There’s no mechanism to make this GAF available,” Yamada said. “If you’re a charter operator and you want GAF, there’s no marketplace. You have to know a commercial IFQ holder who’s willing to sell.” Yamada also says the usage caps on IFQ holders hold back many charter operators, as the 10,000- to 15,000-pound block requirements cause charter operators to lease more IFQ than needed and wind up stuck with the remainder. A common pool would allow each to draw as needed instead of lose capital investment on quota overstock. Lastly, Yamada is afraid GAF will price smaller charter operators out of business as customers justify the price of the GAF purchase with fishing for larger and larger halibut, known as high-grading. The average weight of a GAF halibut in Southeast Alaska was 26 pounds in 2014. At an average 2C transfer price of $5.62 per pound, that one fish cost $146. Anglers will likely only pay that much extra for a trophy-size fish, which will inflate the average GAF weight. NMFS projects that the average GAF weight for Area 2C in 2015 will be 68 pounds, making single GAF fish $382 for the angler who buys it. Yamada says he worries that high grading could lead to GAF fish of 90 or 100 pounds that could cost as much as $600. Larger, deep-pocketed lodges may have the clientele wealthy enough for that, but the smaller operators and their blue-collar clientele will be effectively priced out of the GAF program, according to Yamada. The commercial opposition to CATCH worries about a similar negative impact on coastal communities and entry-level commercial halibut fishermen if Outside money floods the IFQ market in pursuit of trophy fish and raises the price of entry into the halibut industry.  “The halibut stamp funding mechanisms proposed for CATCH threatens to distort the market,” reads a letter from Tom Gemmell, executive director of the Halibut Coalition, which is made up of commercial and subsistence fishing members, “requiring individual commercial fishermen to compete for quota against a purchasing entity (the RQE) that is fed by an external revenue stream.” Further, the Halibut Coalition questions the motivation for Outside quota buyers to harvest halibut responsibly. “The investment required of commercial quota share purchasers creates a long-term commitment to sustainable harvest— ‘skin in the game’ means the quota share holders pay attention to safeguarding the resource.” The Halibut Coalition supports the idea of quota transfer with options to lease and to purchase, but feels GAF adequately addresses the concerns of the charter halibut industry or could be modified to do so as more time passes. DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

Kenai plans for dipnet access

KENAI — The City of Kenai’s plans for a road providing access to the southern bank of the mouth of the Kenai River are currently being permitted by the Army Corps of Engineers. The 1,500-foot gravel road would lead from Bowpicker Lane through a city-owned wetland to the beach. Beach-front property owner Jason Yeoman said that the road is one solution to a problem he and his neighbors have experienced during Kenai’s personal use fishery in July. “Almost every single person that went to the mouth of the river had to go through my property last year,” said Yeoman, whose home lies between the southern river mouth and the closest current access point at the end of Dunes Road. “If they want to get to the mouth of the river, they have to basically trespass private property.” The proposed road would curve around Yeoman’s property and others in the area. In addition to trespassing, the present route to the river mouth requires dipnetters to travel through tidal areas where vehicles can become stuck in soft sand and clay. According to Kenai’s permit application, the access road will provide safe access not only to dipnetters, but to maintenance, sanitation, and emergency vehicles that will service them. An alternative plan avoids impact to the undeveloped wetland by routing the road around its border, through land that is currently in private ownership. The permit says that the City of Kenai has unsuccessfully tried to purchase this property. The permit notice lists two measures that Kenai may take to mitigate environmental impact to the wetland surrounding the route of the currently proposed road: decreasing the roadbed area by lessening the extension of its sloped shoulders, and to compensate for the loss of habitat with a conservation easement preserving a 3.2-acre wetland area near Sea Catch Drive. In order to serve the road’s expected dipnetting users, the construction will include electrical and data lines beneath the roadbed leading to a pair of fee stations by the beach entrance. Yeoman said that nearby property owners hope the road will lessen the nuisance created by the large number of dipnetters traveling to the river mouth, which he said caused stress to his family and damage to his property. “They’d be going up and down all night,” Yeoman said. “And there’s no noise buffer between our house and the beach, and so they’d keep the children up all night. Bonfires would be near the house. They’d be partying all night. Literally, there was one day that we had a band out there, with an amplifier, a lead singer, and drums.” Yeoman said that litter was another problem arising from the lack of beach access. “I’ve got many photos of feces on my property,” Yeoman said. “Because it’s a long way to go down the beach, so they’d just run up in my trees, or right by my house and just go to the bathroom there. Toilet paper everywhere. Broken bottles everywhere on my property.” Ben Boettger can be reached at [email protected]

Supreme Court to weigh setnet ban initiative

The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance filed its final brief with the Alaska Supreme Court on March 5 to allow a ballot initiative that would ban commercial setnet harvest in five non-rural areas around Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula, Valdez and Juneau. If allowed, the initiative could be on the Alaska Primary Election Ballot as early as August 2016. Following receipt of the brief, the Alaska Supreme Court will receive a reply from the State of Alaska. A final decision will be made following oral arguments expected later this year. “Typically the court hears arguments a few months after the briefing,” said Matt Singer, who is representing the alliance, or AFCA. “I would expect it in summer or early fall.” The initiative would ban Upper Cook Inlet setnetters who target sockeye salmon for commercial harvest. Their permits also allow to them to harvest other salmon species, including kings, that swim into the nets. AFCA is largely comprised of sport fishing stakeholders and one of the members of its board of directors is Bob Penney, the founder of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. Eliminating setnetters in Cook Inlet would likely result in increased catch for in-river sport fishermen, personal use fishermen, and for the fleet of commercial drift boats targeting sockeye. The ballot’s authors deny that their initiative is anti-commercial. “I want to be very clear that AFCA supports commercial fishing as a whole,” said AFCA board member Derek Leichliter. “We simply want to see one devastating means of take thrown out for the sake of conservation.” AFCA president and Soldotna lodge owner Joe Connors, who refers to setnets as “walls of death,” says the organization has only conservation of the resource in mind, as setnets are a non-selective gear type in a time of crashing chinook salmon stocks. “It has nothing to do with allocation,” Connors said in a telephone interview. “There’s not a single word about giving anybody anything in our proposal. It’s about not killing salmon.” Connors said AFCA’s non-allocative stance should be evident considering the group’s opposition to the Ninilchik Traditional Council’s allowance by the Federal Subsistence Board for a subsistence gillnet on portions of the Kenai River. AFCA recently filed a request for reconsideration on the Kenai gillnet measure, and Connors believes the state’s own rationale supports a commercial setnet closure.  “When the state was interviewed about it, and the federal people were, and they both said things that support our initiative,” said Connors. “They said that setnets are indiscriminate, they target anything, and fish caught in those nets will probably not survive. We couldn’t have bought that kind of support for a press release.” To qualify for the ballot, initiative sponsors must gather signatures of qualified voters equal in number to 10 percent of those who voted in the preceding general election and are residents of at least three-fourths of the House districts and who, in each of the house districts, are equal in number to at least 7 percent of those who voted in the preceding general election in the House district. AFCA has chipped away at the 30,000 or so signatures it needs during legal proceedings. The brief is the latest in a drawn-out legal battle regarding the legality of the initiative. AFCA filed the original ballot initiative petition in November 2013 seeking to ask voters whether to ban setnets in urban parts of the state. Former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell struck down the initiative in January 2014, based on a state Department of Law opinion asserting that it would be a prohibited appropriation of resources, which are not allowed for ballot initiatives. Commercial fishing group Resources for All Alaskans, or RFAA, filed an amicus brief supporting Treadwell’s position that the initiative represented an appropriation of state resources, a prohibited measure under the state constitution, and also argued that it would be an effort to enact local or special legislation by ballot initiative. Anchorage Superior Court Judge Catherine Easter overturned Treadwell’s decision not to certify the proposed ballot initiative in a July 23, 2014, ruling and ordered the lieutenant governor to certify the initiative and allow proponents to continue the process toward getting the question on the 2016 ballot.  “(The initiative) does not result in a give-away program or usurp legislative control over the salmon allocation process,” Easter wrote. The State of Alaska challenged Easter’s ruling, citing Pullen vs. Ullmer, a 1996 Alaska Supreme Court decision that ruled salmon were public resource and therefore exempt from allocation by legislative action of any kind, including ballot initiatives. “The State plans on appealing the Alaska Superior Court’s decision in the set-net ban initiative case (Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance v. State) once the final judgment is filed,” Mills wrote in an emailed statement in August 2014. “Alaska’s Constitution requires sustainable and responsible allocation of our fisheries for the benefit of all Alaskans. The Alaska Constitution also prohibits use of the initiative process for appropriations, including appropriations of our resources. “We believe the Superior Court erred in finding that the proposed ban on set-netting does not amount to an appropriation and look forward to presenting our arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court.” Singer argues that Alaska’s history has examples of ballot initiative usage aimed at fish and wildlife conservation, notably the banning of fish traps upon Alaska’s entry into statehood and the banning of wolf snares, as well as an initiative to ban aerial wolf hunting. He advocates public’s right to weigh in on fish and wildlife management using the ballot initiative process should be interpreted broadly, with the appropriations limitation interpreted narrowly. DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

$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 www.ufafish.org/ 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 www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for [email protected] for information.

Upper Cook Inlet forecast

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game released the forecast for the 2015 Upper Cook Inlet sockeye salmon run and commercial season. The sockeye salmon run to the Upper Cook Inlet will be approximately 5.8 million fish, 3.7 million of which will be harvested by all user groups. This is equal to the 20-year average harvest. The Kenai River sockeye salmon forecast is approximately 3.6 million fish, which is 0.2 million fish less than the 20-year average run for this system of 3.8 million. The Kasilof River sockeye salmon run forecast is 1,092,000, which is 12 percent greater than the 20-year average of 953,000. The Susitna River sockeye salmon run forecast is 276,000 fish, which is 31 percent less than the 9-year average of 402,000. The Fish Creek sockeye salmon run forecast is 61,000, which is 38 percent less than the 20-year average of 98,000. Due to concern over king salmon stocks, commercial chinook restrictions will be similar to those of the 2014 season.  

Southeast trollers fight for chums

Regulations to increase the chum harvest for southeast trollers fell short. The Alaska Board of Fisheries held a meeting from Feb. 23 to March 3 to hear proposals regarding southeast Alaska and Yakutat finfish, which includes salmon, herring, and sablefish fisheries for commercial, sport, and subsistence harvest. The meeting limped along with only four voting members during many of the proposals, which kept at least one contentious measure from being passed for lack of board input. Board members were alternately excused from deliberations over potential conflicts of interest, and the board only six of its normal seven members in attendance. Former chairman Karl Johnstone submitted his resignation in January following gubernatorial disappointment of the board’s Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner interview process. Johnstone’s nominated replacement, Roland Maw, dropped his name from consideration on Feb. 20 in light of a Montana criminal investigation of which he is a principle, leaving the board one member short. The biggest and most contentious of this session’s 107 proposals concerned commercial salmon, particularly the troll fleet’s allocation of enhanced stock chum salmon. The southeast Alaska troll fleet says it has consistently fished less than its enhanced salmon fishery share, the details of which were drawn up in 1994 under the Southeast Alaska Area Enhanced Salmon Allocation Management Plan to regulate how much hatchery salmon each fleet is entitled to during the commercial season. Under the plan, the seiners receive 44 percent to 49 percent, gillnets 24 percent to 29 percent, and troll fleet receives 27 percent to 32 percent of the enhanced salmon released into the common property fisheries of southeast Alaska. Troll fleet representatives claim their 2009-13 average is closer to 17 percent, and that they have only fished their entire allocation one of the 20 years the enhanced salmon plan has been in place. “Trollers have remained well below their allocation under the Southeast Enhanced Salmon Allocation Management Plan for many years,” read a proposal from the Chum Trollers Association. “These allocation ranges were established to ensure a ‘fair and reasonable distribution of the harvest of salmon from enhancement projects among the seine, troll and gillnet commercial fisheries.’ At least with regard to the troll fleet, the actual harvest has persistently fallen well short of the fair share of 27–32 (percent) provided.” Troll fleet organizations fought for increased allocations, loosened restrictions, and greater in-season freedoms in an effort to pull more salmon, but the board did not pass most proposals submitted by trollers. The other gear groups of gillnetters, seiners, and longliners voiced unanimous opposition during the public commentary portions of the board’s Committee of the Whole. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game opposing many of the proposals that would have restricted its management flexibility or created conservation concerns. A proposal by the Chum Trollers Association summarized the troll fleet’s ultimate goal when it asked for revision of enhanced salmon allocations by the Board of Fisheries and respective hatchery organizations. The proposal met unanimous opposition from both industry and ADFG. Steve Reifenstuhl, general manager of the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, or NSRAA, which operates several area hatcheries for pink, chum, and coho salmon, said he works for all groups equally and couldn’t condone the reallocation of a manageable resource. “I didn’t sleep last night really, all about this proposal here,” said Reifenstuhl. “I have put my heart and soul into developing program for chum trollers, for gillnets, for seiners, for the common property of Alaska. The allocation imbalance is true, but we have grown the pie.” The net fleets voiced unanimous opposition, insisting that a regulatory action undermines the spirit of voluntary solutions among fishermen and could set a precedent for interference in the future. “Industry is concerned about proposal 176 because it highlights the concern that we cannot work things out amongst ourselves without Board of Fisheries intervention,” said Haines troller James Moore. Another contentious proposal, submitted by the Alaska Trollers Association, would have changed the summer king salmon harvest from 70 percent to 60 percent if the preseason abundance index is at or above 1.6, or following a chum salmon closure. This would theoretically give the troll fleet more king salmon to fish in August. Support was evenly split, and board members Reed Morisky and John Jensen, both of whom have stake in the southeast troll industry, recused themselves. With only four votes and an even distribution of positive and negative public commentary, board members were reluctant to make any decisions, even though the board generally supported the proposal as a well-constructed and fair way to ease the troll fleet’s allocation woes. “We’re down to four,” said board member Orville Huntington. “To pass a proposal now, we’d need four votes (majority). Since it’s already a divisive issue, I feel like even if we pass it, it wouldn’t sit well with me. The process is not quite right here. That reason is the only reason I oppose this.” The proposal failed on a 2-2 tie vote, with Huntington and vice chair Tom Kluberton voting against and Sue Jeffrey and Fritz Johnson voting in favor. The board ended its meeting with a closed executive session to discuss three legal cases, including the Upper Cook Inlet Drift Association’s lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the subsistence case involving fisherman Rocky Estrada. During the meeting, the board mentioned that board-generated proposals should be made available for public review with enough time for the public and advisory committees to prepare responses. Several proposals were tabled to give the public more time for review. Alaska Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, submitted House Bill 103, which would bar the Boards of Fisheries and Game from introducing or amending proposals without having submitted them to public or advisory committee review. The bill was scheduled for fisheries subcommittee hearing on both Feb. 26 and March 3, and has been cancelled both times. DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

Board of Fisheries keeps Southeast herring status quo

In addition to typical family squabbles over commercial salmon harvests, the Alaska Board of Fisheries had a full helping of subsistence matters to oversee during its meeting in Sitka for Southeast Alaska finfish, the bulk of which the board rejected to keep fisheries steady. The board held its lengthiest discussions for the proposals involving Southeast herring. Tribal and village organizations like the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Organized Village of Kasaan, and the Hoonah Indian Association submitted requests to close portions of Southeast Alaska waters to commercial fishing, raise the levels of harvest necessary for subsistence, and tweak the biological stock thresholds that would disallow commercial harvest. Commercial herring fishermen had their own proposals for each subject in exact opposition to the subsistence proposals. In the end, the board opted to keep the fishery status quo in most regards. A proposal submitted by the Southeast Herring Conservation Alliance, a group of commercial herring fishermen, would have removed an area from the closed waters of District 13 in Sitka Sound in order to allow for more harvest. It cut to the core of the board’s feelings regarding herring management; herring fisheries are well-managed, and keeping the fishery as it is will benefit user groups most. Though the board voted unanimously against the proposal, some members expressed a desire to open up the waters to balance the Federal Subsistence Board’s closure of the federal waters around Maknahti Island. “In light of the recent federal decision to grab up more water, I’m going to support this,” said board member John Jensen of Petersburg, though he later voted the proposal down. The board took the opportunity to consult with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game liaison to the federal board, Jennifer Yuhas. “Did the feds make that closure with the knowledge that we’d already closed these waters?” asked vice chairman Tom Kluberton. “That info was provided to the board with the department objection to the closure,” said Yuhas. “They had the information when they made the decision.” “Is the state going to ask for reconsideration?” asked Jensen. “We are of course disappointed by the (federal board’s) decision and currently reevaluating our options for reconsideration,” answered Yuhas. During its January meeting, the Federal Subsistence Board passed a unanimous motion to close the federal waters of Sitka Sound around Maknahti Island to all but federally-qualified subsistence users, including commercial purse seine herring harvests. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska submitted the Maknahti Island proposal, which was endorsed by the Southeast Regional Advisory Council. State and federal advisors both recommended against the measure in the absence of evidence that it is necessary to preserve herring stocks. Conservation management for herring in Sitka Sound is based on a minimum biomass requirement. The mandatory minimum annual biomass for herring returning to Sitka Sound is 25,000 tons. If the estimated biomass drops below that number, the federal board can restrict fisheries in public waters to federally qualified subsistence. The Sitka Tribe submitted three similar proposals to the fish board. The first would have established that fishing can only occur of the annual biomass exceeds the minimum for five consecutive years. Tribe representatives argued that herring stocks, while today appearing abundant, are in fact in a state of decline from their level 30 years ago before modern survey methods were being used, and should be treated as a declining stock. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or ADFG, opposed the proposal with the same response that it opposed the Sitka Tribe’s federal proposal to the subsistence board: there is simply no conservation need for the herring stock in southeast waters. “There’s not current consensus in the literature what the level was prior to the survey,” said ADFG statewide herring biologist Sherri Dressel. “It’s possible that the stocks are depleted, but it’s not proven. We do have scientific consensus that the stock is not depressed.” The proposal failed with a 2-4 vote of the six board members. Reed Morisky and Orville Huntington, the board’s subsistence representative, voted in favor. The Sitka Tribe also submitted a proposal to expand waters in Sitka Sound currently closed to commercial herring harvest, arguing that the amount necessary for subsistence, or ANS, has only been met twice in the last seven years. The board rejected the proposal unanimously. Other proposals came from commercial herring harvesters trying to offset subsistence regulations. One such proposal, submitted by Craig herring fisherman Larry Demmert, would have required a commercial fishery to take place if the herring stocks were about the minimum threshold. The board voted unanimously against the proposal. Another commercial herring group, the Southeast Herring Conservation Alliance, submitted a proposal to lower the ANS, which the board unanimously opposed. DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

Comments flood Interior Dept. over Kenai gillnets

It’s been more than a month since the Federal Subsistence Board passed a proposal to allow a subsistence sockeye gillnet on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers on Jan. 21, and the public is on a tight deadline if it wants to reverse the decision before the Kenai River summer glut of sport and personal use fishermen. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, under which the board operates, a request for reconsideration, or RFR, must be submitted within 60 days after a regulation takes effect or is published in the Federal Register, whichever comes first. Currently, the board has not yet published Kenai or Kasilof rivers decisions. Representatives say it will likely be a few weeks until the Federal Register has the decision published. The Kenai River personal use dipnetting season begins July 10, and the Kasilof River personal use opens July 25. If the Federal Register doesn’t show the decision until late March, the 60-day period of comment generation could potentially push the board’s final reconsideration of the subsistence gillnet to the end of June or later, depending on the length of public review for the RFRs. According to the Office of Subsistence Management, or OSM, which serves as a support service for the board within the Interior Department, organizations and individuals have submitted nearly 50 comments and RFRs regarding the Kenai subsistence gillnet. Only four of the submitted comments actually qualify as RFRs. According to OSM, it’s unusual to get any at all. The board will accept a request for reconsideration “only if it is based upon information not previously considered by the board; demonstrates that the information used by the board is incorrect; or demonstrates that the board’s interpretation of information, applicable law, or regulation is in error or contrary to existing law,” according to the DOI. “The next step will be that an analysis of each RFR will be completed and presented to the board,” wrote Theo Matuskowitz, regulations specialist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Once the analysis is presented to the board it will be considered a public document and be available to the public. If the board finds that the RFR has merit, a final analysis will be presented to the board in a public meeting and the board will act on the RFR.” The board made the controversial vote Jan. 21 to add a subsistence gillnet for the Ninilchik Traditional Council along public segments of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers in pursuit of sockeye salmon. State and federal biologists recommended against the measure on conservation concerns for the chinook salmon and trout that will inevitably be caught in the non-selective gear type. The Kenai measure narrowly passed with a 4-3 vote; the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Forest Service opposed the motion on conservation grounds. State Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, began the flood of RFRs, citing the same conservation concerns for chinook salmon biologists did during the board’s January meeting. DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

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 www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

State waters pollock working group holds final meeting

A limited entry state waters pollock fishery could ease some of the impending Gulf of Alaska rationalization headaches, but the experimental permits fishing for pollock with non-trawl gear haven’t yet proven their value. A working group of stakeholders and fisheries officials met for the third and last time on Feb. 18 to discuss adding a limited entry state pollock fishery to Alaska waters for both trawl and non-trawl vessels. The group intended to have a report on the matter the present to the Board of Fisheries for its March 17-20 meeting, but will end up with only a notes package. Board of Fisheries members Sue Jeffrey and John Jensen chaired and co-chaired the group, respectively, and board vice-chairman Tom Kluberton was in attendance. Duncan Fields and Ed Dersham from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council were in the working group as well. Most of the meeting discussed each paragraph of Proposal 44, which Matt Hegge submitted to the Board of Fisheries 2013 to develop state pollock and groundfish fisheries. The proposal served as a template; the workgroup discussed different vessel sizes, percentages of guideline harvest level, or GHL, that would result in emergency closures, percentages of guideline harvest level allowed in each fishery area, landing limits, and permits. At the Lower Cook Inlet meeting in December 2013, Hegge said he proposed the new fisheries to get a conversation started about how the state will respond to changes in federal management. Currently, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is working on a bycatch management program that would likely rationalize federal fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska, and allocate a portion of the allowed harvest each year to certain participants. Although that would not apply in state waters, it will require the state to alter its own management for certain fisheries. Currently, the state operates parallel fisheries for some of the species that will be rationalized, including an open access trawl pollock fishery. In those fisheries, participants prosecute the fishery in state-waters, but under management that mirrors federal regulations. Hegge and other fishermen have also asked that the state try to provide some additional entry-level fishing opportunity in state waters in addition to the current open access state waters fishery, because rationalization typically makes it more difficult for new participants to enter the federal fishery. Potentially, the limited entry fishery could operate under an overall GHL for all gear types and only establish fleet limits after the fishery is more robustly defined than the current experimental phase. The vessel length most commonly discussed was 58 feet in overall length. A limited entry pollock fishery for non-trawl gear has seen mixed results. Experimental fisheries opened in 2015 for non-trawl gear in Kodiak, Chignik, and Cook Inlet state waters. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or ADFG, the experimental non-trawl fisheries yielded a total of just over 65,000 pounds of pollock, a small catch compared to the trawlers. According to ADFG management biologists, Kodiak seiners expressed interest, but none ultimately put a net into the water. The Kodiak jig fishery had 46 apply for permits, of which 42 made pollock landings for a total of 33,000 pounds and an average landing of 245 pounds per vessel. The experimental Cook Inlet pollock seine fishery had four permit applicants, two of which made landings totaling 32,000 pounds. The fish sold poorly; a Korean market interest fell through, and only 20 percent of the pollock caught were small enough for the large bait market. Janet Rumble, a ADFG Cook Inlet management biologist, said the low returns for the experimental fishery wouldn’t be worth the management costs. “Harvest rates were low, the fish weren’t marketable,” Rumble said. “The amount of time that staff and I spent was substantial because of mandatory 100 percent observing. If we continued this fishery, it would have a significant financial impact.” The poor returns for non-trawl gear might be expected, as trawlers take the lion’s share of pollock in the ocean. Prince William Sound trawler season in the current open access state pollock fishery ended with a total fleet catch of 9.8 million pounds of pollock, about 99 percent of the GHL. Some trawlers in attendance expressed little interest in instituting the fledgling fisheries. “I don’t support this,” said Kodiak trawler Paddy O’Donnell. “I think you should continue the seine just with commissioner’s permits. I think there’s a lot of work to be done here.” Seiners, however, said that a non-trawl, limited access pollock fishery simply needs time to prove a sound investment, and that it offers opportunity for Alaskan small vessel owners and entry-level fishermen. “We’re trying to develop things that keep money inside these local communities,” said Kodiak purse seine vessel owner Raymond May. “These aren’t the big guys who live in Seattle. The fish belong to the state. Why don’t they manage them?” The Board of Fisheries will review the notes at its meeting on March 17-20. The board will also take part in a statewide pollock regulation meeting set for October. DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

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 www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Kuskokwim kings meet escapement in 2014

Kuskokwim River king salmon are hurting, but efforts for a low subsistence harvest allowed the kings to reach their drainagewide escapement goals in 2014, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The preliminary estimate for the 2014 total run of Kuskokwim River Chinook salmon is 130,000 fish. While this indicated run size is an improvement over the 2012 and 2013 returns, it is still considerably smaller than the 25-year average run size of 243,000 fish. What’s good for the salmon isn’t necessarily good for the users. The preliminary subsistence Chinook salmon harvest estimate for 2014 is approximately 12,000 fish, which is the smallest estimated Chinook salmon subsistence harvest on record. This is well below the average annual Chinook salmon subsistence harvest of 84,000 fish. The 2014 Kuskokwim River drainagewide Chinook salmon escapement was estimated to be 118,000 fish. The 2014 escapement was within the drainagewide escapement goal range of 65,000–120,000 fish. Subsistence communities in the Yukon and Kuskokwim river valleys use 85 percent of the salmon subsistence allocations. The 2015 chinook salmon forecast for the Kuskokwim River is 96,000 - 163,000 fish. ADFG warns that if the run comes back near the low end of that range, both subsistence and escapement goals could fall short. The department recommends continued conservation measures and will collaborate with U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for pre-season outreach activities. Preseason salmon fisheries meetings will be held in Bethel on March 25–27, 2015 at the ONC meeting Hall. DJ Summers covers fisheries for the Journal. Reach him with tips and ideas at [email protected]

Maw drops out, under investigation

Gov. Bill Walker’s shakeup of the Alaska Board of Fisheries is off to a rough start. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is currently investigating Roland Maw — nominated by Walker to a seat on the board to replace former chair Karl Johnstone — over holding resident licenses in Montana while drawing the benefits of Alaska residency, including Permanent Fund Dividend and resident fish and game licenses. Alaska Department of Fish and Game communications coordinator Candice Bressler said Feb. 24 the department will provide Alaska State Troopers with certified copies of Maw’s Alaska licensure. The Montana department has not contacted ADFG, but has confirmed it is cooperating with the Alaska State Troopers. Alaska State Trooper information officer Megan Peters said the department cannot confirm the subject of an ongoing investigation until charges are filed. Alaska law prohibits anyone from collecting a PFD if they are also drawing residency benefits in another state. When asked for records of Maw’s licensing history, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks assistant chief of enforcement Mike Korn said he could not provide any information, as the former executive director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association is currently the principle in an investigation by that body. According to public records, Maw has drawn an Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, or PFD, every year since 2002. Between 2002 and 2014, the PFD has paid out $16,665.88. Between 1996 and 2003, he purchased resident class fishing, hunting, or combination licenses from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. In 2003, he qualified for and purchased a Permanent Identification Card, which is issued to Alaska senior residents for free hunting, fishing, and trapping. The card is void if the holder receives any benefits from another state, including resident licenses, voting rights, or tax breaks. In Montana, the total cost for a resident season fishing license for a 15-61 year old is $26. A non-resident license is $70. For all ages over 62 years old, the resident cost is $8, and the non-resident is $70. Montana hunting licenses vary by animal. The least expensive is wolf, which costs $19 for a resident license and $50 for non-residents. A big game package would cost a resident $70, and a non-resident $996. Walker said at a press conference on Feb. 24 that he has not yet had time to speak to Maw about the investigation, as he has been in Washington, D.C. Like Alaska and Montana law enforcement, the governor says he cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. Walker will now have two vacant Board of Fisheries seats to fill as Orville Huntington’s term is also expiring. “I’ve seen what the media has written on it,” said Walker. “I haven’t really had any contact with him. Because it’s an investigation I don’t really weigh in. I don’t think it would be appropriate.” Walker named Maw to the Alaska Board of Fisheries on Jan. 20, replacing Chairman Karl Johnstone, who resigned when Walker told him he wouldn’t reappointed following public and gubernatorial scrutiny of the board’s actions at the ADFG commissioner nominee selection meeting on Jan. 14. At that meeting, Johnstone and his fellow board members declined to deem Maw qualified to interview for the job of Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner. Roland Maw had unexpectedly withdrawn his name from consideration for the board on Feb. 20 following scrutiny from the media and legislature, despite favorable public support and desirable credentials for Walker’s desired scientific fisheries management. Maw’s resignation came just before his confirmation hearing’s conclusion. On the morning of Feb. 20, the day his Senate confirmation hearing was scheduled to resume and aspects of his former employment brought before the Ethics Committee, Maw had a quiet conversation with someone in the governor’s office, according to Board and Commissions director Karen Gillis. By the end of the conversation, Maw tendered a letter of withdrawal from confirmation consideration. The letter gave no reason for the withdrawal. Maw accepted a call from the Journal on Feb. 20 confirming his withdrawal but declined to comment as to why he had withdrawn. Gillis said she can’t remember an appointee having ever withdrawn his name from consideration, much less on such a tight timeline and with the broad public support Maw had in his favor. The office received over 25 letters of support for Maw, and the public commentary at his confirmation hearing with the Senate Resource Committee was largely positive. “The circumstance is unusual,” said Gillis. “We went into Friday (Feb. 20) thinking that things were going quite well (for Maw). He could’ve wrapped up his hearing on Monday (Feb. 23). He had a tremendous amount of support.” Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, chaired Maw’s confirmation hearing with the Senate Resources Committee. She says the Montana investigation explains why Maw would drop from consideration, which seemed strange considering his public support. “I can certainly see how that (investigation) would be the reason he withdrew his name,” said Giessel in a phone interview. “Before that, I had no idea why. I would say that out of 50 emails I received about (Maw), all but five were positive and expressed support.” Some in the legislature said the votes in Juneau didn’t mirror the positivity the public expressed for Maw, and that the governor’s nomination was doomed from the beginning considering Maw’s commercial fishing past. Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said the legislature, many of whom have heavy dipnetting and sportfishing constituencies, were nervous about altering the Board of Fisheries’ balance, which would have given commercial representatives a majority of the seven-member board had Maw been confirmed. “I think Roland did the right thing by stepping down,” Wielechowski said. “I heard people say he would have been lucky to get 10 or 15 of the necessary 31 votes to confirm him.” Maw’s residency issues are not uncommon in Alaska politics. In 2012, Sitka fishing guide Tom Ohaus was charged with illegally obtaining state fishing licenses due to accepting Massachusetts residency tax exemption benefits. He had been vying for the Alaska resident position on the International Pacific Halibut Commission. The Alaska Democratic Party scoured tax breaks Sen. Dan Sullivan received for his Maryland home during the 2014 elections. Johnstone himself faced scrutiny over his residency, as he spends much of his time in Prescott, Ariz., while serving on the Alaska Board of Fisheries from 2009-15. Prior to the investigation being revealed, Maw’s critics had already leveled several charges they felt disqualified him from serving on the board. His past commercial fishing advocacy while employed with the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, a small violation while a commercial fisherman, residency issues, and a book he contributed to while working in Canada were all brought up as ammunition by members of the legislature and Alaska media.  “You have been a very tenacious supporter of the Cook Inlet fish world, especially the commercial world,” said Alaska Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, to Maw at the opening of the hearing. “It seems to me that there are folks on the northern end who think ‘we’ll never be able to get this guy to think our way.’” Questions came from Wielechowski and Stoltze, both of whom echoed Coghill’s concern over commercial interests. Wielechowski grilled Maw over two UCIDA 2011 Board of Fisheries proposals that would have limited Kenai and Kasilof River dipnetting and reduced the number of personal use Upper Cook Inlet sockeye from 25 per head of household to 10, maintaining the 10 for each additional household member. Maw has tried to neutralize his UCIDA connections by denying he had a working role in the commercial groups proposals and lawsuit. Maw responded with his mantra of “science first,” and replied that he had never been on the board of directors for the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and had no say in what kind of proposals or lawsuits it submitted, a position he would repeat throughout the hearing that Wielechowski later characterized as less than believable. “I think it was pretty obvious to people that he was the executive director (of UCIDA),” said Wielechowski. “He was involved with their lawsuits and with their proposals.” Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, questioned Maw over the UCIDA-filed lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2013 that alleged mismanagement of the Cook Inlet salmon fishery. Maw’s involvement with the lawsuit was to be heard before the Department of Law and Ethics Committee on Feb. 20, the same day as his confirmation continuation. Maw says the suit has been mischaracterized as UCIDA asking for more federal oversight when in fact UCIDA was only suing to bring state management up to the existing fishery management plans in place under the national guidelines of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The act, or MSA, was first passed in 1976 and governs all federal fisheries in the U.S. “My understanding is that UCIDA was asking the federal government to help with managing some of the issues in the Cook Inlet,” Maw told the committee in response to a question from Stoltze. Maw said the commercial organization was asking for assistance from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and that any perceived antagonism between the drift association and the state board did not reflect his personal agenda. Maw said his name was only attached to it by virtue of his employment at UCIDA. "I, Dr. Roland Maw, hereby declare as follows,” the lawsuit reads. “I am over 18 years of age and not a party to this action." Maw also faced scrutiny in the media. Alaska Dispatch-News columnist Craig Medred published an article on Feb. 4 alleging that Maw lied about discovering a new species of fish, bull trout. Maw categorically denied the charges of academic dishonesty and claims Medred’s column amounted to a personal attack. Maw claims he never claimed to have discovered bull trout and merely published that it was previously unrecognized as separate from Dolly Varden trout at the time in that part of Canada. Maw wrote a response to Medred’s column, but the Alaska Dispatch-News did not publish it. “I believe his attack on my integrity was malicious, and primarily intended to advance his personal campaign to discredit members of Alaska’s commercial fishing industry,” wrote Maw to the Senate Resources Committee.   DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

Kenneth Down in for North Pacific council seat

The Commerce Department announced on Feb. 20 the appointment of Kenneth "Kenny" Down of Washington state to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Under this appointment, Down will serve on the council until August 10, 2017. Down is replacing former council member John Henderschedt, who served his last council meeting in early February.  Down currently acts as president and CEO of Blue North, a natural resources development company. He is the former executive director of the Freezer Longline Coalition, and owned stake in Pacific Coast Seafoods until he sold his shares in 2008.  The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional councils established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act that prepare fishery management plans for marine fish stocks in their respective geographical areas of responsibility. NOAA Fisheries works closely with the councils during plan development and reviews, and approves and implements the management plans developed by the councils. Council members represent diverse constituents including commercial and recreational fisheries, environmental interests and academia. Down is being appointed due to the resignation of a council member. If a council member resigns prior to the end of his or her term, NOAA Fisheries solicits nominations specifically for the vacated seat, following the same process that occurs as part of the annual appointment process. Each year, the Secretary of Commerce selects approximately one-third of the total of 72 appointed members to the eight regional councils. NOAA Fisheries annually solicits nominations from the governors of fishing states and oversees the annual appointment process. The Secretary selects council members from the list of nominees provided by the governors to fill obligatory and at-large seats that have become available due to an expiring term, a resignation or other reasons. Obligatory seats are state-specific, while at-large seats can be filled by a person from any of the states in the region. Council members serve three-year terms, and may be reappointed to serve up to three consecutive terms.  DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

Maw withdraws from Board of Fisheries consideration

Roland Maw has confirmed his withdrawal for consideration for the Alaska Board of Fisheries. He has declined to comment on his withdrawal. Maw was scheduled to resume on Feb. 20 a confirmation hearing for the Board of Fisheries in the Alaska Senate Resources Committee that ran long due to committee questioning and public comment. His involvement with a United Cook Inlet Drift Association lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service was scheduled for a same day Ethics Committee hearing. More than 40 people had registered for public comment online and were heard only after some aggressive questioning by committee members worried about Maw’s priorities, particularly his involvement with the Cook Inlet commercial fleet, the lawsuits of his former employer, and the consistency of his science and biology championing. “You have been a very tenacious supporter of the Cook Inlet fish world, especially the commercial world,” said Alaska Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, to Maw at the opening of the hearing. “It seems to me that there are folks on the northern end who think ‘we’ll never be able to get this guy to think our way.’” Maw responded with his mantra of “science first,” and replied that he had never been on the board of directors for the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and had no say in what kind of proposals or lawsuits it submitted, a position he would repeat throughout the hearing. Gov. Bill Walker named Maw to the Alaska Board of Fisheries on Jan 20, replacing Chairman Karl Johnstone, who resigned following public and gubernatorial scrutiny of the board’s actions at the commissioner nominee selection meeting on Jan. 14. At that meeting, Johnstone and his fellow board members declined to deem Maw qualified to interview for the job of Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner. At the beginning of the hearing, Giessel said that the Legislature will hold two votes for Maw at the end of the legislative session. One vote will confirm him for the board position he currently sits on, inherited from Johnstone, whose term will end in June 2015. Another vote would have established Maw’s own three-year term to begin in 2015 and end in 2018.    

Crab review due; full coverage for Gulf trawlers proposed

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council had more to think about than just halibut at its February meeting in Seattle Feb. 4-10. A 10-year review of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab rationalization program is due in 2015, 100 percent observer coverage for all Gulf of Alaska trawlers is up for discussion, a new Pacific cod CDQ fishery is opening, and two fishery governance bodies are losing senior members. Crab ratz 10-year workplan How in-depth, and on what timeline, dominated the discussion for a 10-year review of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Island crab rationalization program. Reviews of the program, which established individual quota for crab harvesters and processors in 2005, must be completed every five years under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Based on the council’s past schedule, a review must be completed by December 2015, and council staff said the review could be completed on that timeline. The more data required, however, the more time the review will need, and rationalization’s controversial nature led to a wide array of requested analyses. Council fishery economist Sarah Marrinan said the review is intended to be comprehensive, and with limited resources the staff economist asked for guidance on which areas the council would like to have more detailed data. The council’s Advisory Panel and public comment reflected the dilemma. Advisory Panel, or AP, vice co-chair Ernie Weiss proposed an amended 10-year review workplan that would have bumped the review back another two years. If passed, it would have included review focus on several new elements including the efficacy of the community protections trailing amendment, impacts of intra-company transfers and custom processing outside community of origin, impacts of crab rationalization on captains and crew, and socio-economic impacts of loss of crew jobs to communities, some of which public commentators echoed to council. Tempers on the AP flared over Weiss’ amendment, to the point of an early adjournment by chairman Becca Robbins Gisclair. The amendment passed the next day, but the amended motion failed 14-4, leaving the council with no AP recommendation regarding the workplan. “Including specific items for analysis is premature at this time and disruptive to the intent of the original motion put forward for consideration,” said the panel’s majority report. “There will always be additional data if we wait longer – that does not necessitate a delay in this case.” “Additional data” would be needed from a variety of third party and in-house economic analyses the council wouldn’t have access to until after the review’s due date. Even without the additions Weiss requested, Marrinan said the plan could benefit from some delay. Harvesting data for the 2015 BSAI crab season would be available by that time, but an economic data report, or EDR, would only be available with information current through the 2013 season. “Realistically, EDR data provided by the end of 2015 would provide us with what we have available to us now,” Marrinan told the council. “That’s EDR information up through the calendar year of 2013, because it’s still being audited. If we had the review in February or April (of 2016), we would have a whole new set of EDR information to consider.” Public comment before the council reflected some of Weiss’s proposals, notably his concern for custom processing analysis. Frank Kelty, the natural resources director for the city of Unalaska, urged council to consider its processing regulations under the program. Kelty says a regulatory loophole exists wherein crab processing moves away from community of origin by means of intra-company quota transfer. “We feel the custom processing of crab outside the community of origin is a major loophole in the community protections measures that could be exploited to the detriment of protection measures afforded crab communities under the crab rationalization program,” Kelty wrote the council. Other processors were concerned with a lack of arbitration for cost analysis. Though the BSAI rationalization program institutes an arbitration process to settle disputes, crab cost analysis is left out for anti-trust reasons. John Iani’s company North Pacific Crab Association holds crab-processing share and he is concerned that Alaska’s minimum wage increase, from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour as of January 2015 and scheduled to raise to $9.75 an hour in January 2016, will increase costs for processors, and therefore the product. Iani requested that the council include a section considering the relation of price and processing costs. “Crab hourly wages and processing costs are easily quantifiable, and we can provide the council with exactly how those costs will go up,” said Iani. “But unfortunately, arbitration organizations can’t deal with this issue outside of council’s potentially taking action to allow costs to be considered.” With similar processing concerns, the city of Adak sent public comment to the council asking to amend the regulation that requires crab harvesters fully offload their catch before resuming fishing. Adak’s plant doesn’t have enough processing capability to take that volume, so vessels bypass them in favor of Dutch Harbor. In the end, the council moved forward as planned to get a review ready for the December 2015 deadline. Discussion paper for 100% observer coverage in GOA The council asked its staff to develop a discussion paper on the impacts of requiring 100 percent observer coverage for all trawl vessels in the Gulf of Alaska, or GOA. The motion was introduced by Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten. It passed 9-2, opposed by John Henderschedt and Bill Tweit of Washington state. This follows a lengthy legal and regulatory process implementing the observer program over the last few years and should factor heavily into the development of a GOA rationalization plan currently underway. Because trawlers account for most of the halibut bycatch, the data from observers has to be more comprehensive, the council reasons. Vessels in the GOA are split into two coverage categories, full coverage and partial coverage. Beginning in 2015, smaller boats like halibut longliners 46 feet or shorter are confined to the “no selection” pool, meaning they do not have a requirement for observers. In addition, vessels voluntarily participating in NMFS’s Electronic Monitoring Study will be in the no selection pool. In the 2015 plan, the target rate will be 12 percent coverage rate for the smaller vessels, and 24 percent coverage for the larger vessels. Large boats, including Gulf of Alaska trawlers, are in the “trip selection” pool, where they must log each fishing trip and are randomly selected for coverage on one trip at a time. Several exemptions exist for catcher-processor vessels less than 125 feet, such as size, history, and amount of fish harvested in a given timeline. Catcher-processors longer than 125 feet are 100 percent covered by observers. NMFS implemented the revised observer program in 2013. It was intended to increase the statistical reliability of data collected through the observer program, address cost inequality among fishery participants and expand observer coverage to previously unobserved fisheries, such as halibut longline vessels, according to a summary from the agency. P-cod for BSAI Amid the gloom and panic around the shriveling halibut fishery in the Bering Sea, the council established a bright spot approving an environmental impact report and regulatory structure on a new Pacific cod fishery for small hook-and-line vessels. The new fishery will apply to vessels less than or equal to 46 feet in overall length and allow them to retain Pacific cod Community Development Quota in excess of the 20 percent maximum retainable amount provided for the halibut fishery. Community Development Quota, or CDQ, is a program that gives 10.7 percent of all fishing removals to 65 coastal communities within 50 miles of the Bering Sea coast. CDQ groups in the Bering Sea have been hurt by sinking halibut allocations. This new fishery could allow these groups to recoup some of the losses. Part of the item was an initial review on making requirements for onshore processing for vessels fishing the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The Aleutians Island Pacific cod directed fishing allowance will split between catcher processors and catcher vessels that must deliver to onshore processors west of 170 degrees longitude. Atka and Adak currently house only two processors in that area. Fish bodies get a shakeup Two members of fisheries management bodies will leave their respective seats in 2015 and 2016. John Henderschedt is leaving his position as vice chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to work for the National Marine Fisheries Service, making the February meeting his last. No names have been made available for his replacement. Bruce Leaman will also be leaving his position as executive director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission after his contract expires in early 2016. Leaman is one of several senior members to be leaving, including statistics manager Heather Gilroy and biologist Stephen Kaimmer. DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

Maw faces marathon board confirmation hearing

Roland Maw may not get confirmed for the Board of Fisheries until he hears from every Alaskan who’s ever cast a line or a net, whether politician or private citizen. The Alaska Senate Resource Committee held a confirmation hearing Feb. 16 for Alaska Board of Fisheries appointee Maw that was so packed with committee member questions and public comment that Chair Cathy Giessel cut it short and scheduled it to resume on Feb. 20. More than 40 people registered for public comment online and were heard only after some aggressive questioning by committee members worried about Maw’s priorities, particularly his involvement with the Cook Inlet commercial fleet, the lawsuits of his former employer, and the consistency of his science and biology championing. “You have been a very tenacious supporter of the Cook Inlet fish world, especially the commercial world,” said Alaska Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, to Maw at the opening of the hearing. “It seems to me that there are folks on the northern end who think ‘we’ll never be able to get this guy to think our way.’” Maw responded with his mantra of “science first,” and replied that he had never been on the board of directors for the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and had no say in what kind of proposals or lawsuits it submitted, a position he would repeat throughout the hearing. “Yes, I did take number of positions (during employment with UCIDA),” said Maw. “The only requirement I had in the original interview (with UCIDA) is that I wasn’t going to do anything that wasn’t biologically sound, and if there was something before me and my understanding of science, I wasn’t going to do it. I think I’ve held true to that.” Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, probed Maw over personal use, which UCIDA has a record of contesting in certain circumstances. Wielechowski brought up two proposals UCIDA submitted in the 2011 Board of Fisheries cycle. One would have only opened Kenai and Kasilof rivers dipnetting after lower escapement goals had been met. The other would have reduced the number of salmon from 25 per head of household to 10, maintaining the 10 for each additional household member. Maw claimed they were both UCIDA proposals, not his, and that he would not currently support their implementation if brought up again. Wielechowski also expressed concern over a segment of a UCIDA lawsuit that he claimed would open certain dipnetting opportunities to non-residents. Maw said he would not support such an opening. Many of the questions asked of Maw revolved around his position on perceived federal overreach in state fisheries, specifically over his former employer’s legal actions. UCIDA flied a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2013 that alleged mismanagement of the Cook Inlet salmon fishery. Maw says the suit has been mischaracterized as UCIDA asking for more federal oversight when in fact UCIDA was only suing to bring state management up to the existing fishery management plans in place under the national guidelines of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The act, or MSA, was first passed in 1976 and governs all federal fisheries in the U.S. “My understanding is that UCIDA was asking the federal government to help with managing some of the issues in the Cook Inlet,” Maw told the committee in response to a question from Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak. Maw said the commercial organization was asking for assistance from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for salmon studies in light of declining stocks. “UCIDA was asking, ‘will you lend us a hand in trying to understand these problems?’ No day-to-day management was anticipated,” he said. The committee also wanted to know Maw’s response to the Federal Subsistence Board’s recent decision to allow a subsistence gillnet fishery on the Kenai River, which has fueled public backlash. Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, wanted know how Maw will deal with a growing population and user base in Alaska, which he feels is representative in the Kenai decision. “I’ve refrained from using the word ‘circus’ to describe the Kenai River,” said Micciche of the state’s most heavily-fished river. “How do we manage additional users? These are issues that will grow as the state’s population grows.” Maw said he doesn’t have the solution, but that the best way to find one is simply to talk with all user groups. “In working through these problems here and in other places,” said Maw, “first there has to be an honest dialogue. Get people sitting down and talking. That’s the first step.” The majority of public comment expressed support for Maw’s confirmation. Commentators were happy to have Maw’s scientific background in what they’ve come to see as a largely political Board of Fisheries: • “As a director on Maw’s board,” said UCIDA board member Ian Pitzman, “I can tell you that meetings often turned into fisheries science lectures. The way I see it, the governor got rid of a lawyer and replaced him with a fisheries scientist.” • “My concern is that some consider the Board of Fisheries a chess game,” said Paul Shadura of the South K Beach Independent Fishermen’s Association. • “I encourage you to appoint Maw to this fish board,” said George Pierce. “We need science and biologists on this fish board, not buddies. You need to fix this mess and stop confirming the people who are in there.” Others championed Maw as a long-overdue representative from the Cook Inlet commercial fishing industry. If confirmed at the end of the legislative session, Maw will alter the composition of the Board of Fisheries by giving representatives of the commercial fishing industry a majority on the seven-member board. The board hasn’t had a Cook Inlet commercial fisherman since 1980. “We have not had a commercial fishermen in the Cook Inlet in the Board of Fisheries,” said Teague Vanek of Ninilchik. “I’ve been to the Board of Fisheries many times, and you just don’t know how frustrating it is to speak to people who are just clueless about the issues we face there. And it is high time we have someone who understands.” There was scattered dissenting public commentary for Maw’s confirmation, which did not have a common thread. Joe Connors challenged that Maw had received a commercial fishing violation over a halibut permit that should preclude his confirmation. Gary Stevens of the Alaska Outdoor Council referred to Maw’s involvement with the UCIDA lawsuit, and worries about federal overreach in state fisheries. “State sovereignty is of utmost importance to our residents,” Stevens said. Gov. Bill Walker named Maw to the Alaska Board of Fisheries on Jan 20, replacing Chairman Karl Johnstone, who resigned following public and gubernatorial scrutiny of the board’s actions at the commissioner nominee selection meeting on Jan. 14. At that meeting, Johnstone and his fellow board members declined to deem Maw qualified to interview for the job of Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner. At the beginning of the hearing, Giessel said that the Legislature will hold two votes for Maw at the end of the legislative session. One vote will confirm him for the board position he currently sits on, inherited from Johnstone, whose term will end in June 2015. Another vote will establish Maw’s own three-year term to begin in 2015 and end in 2018. The continuation of Maw’s Senate Resource Committee confirmation hearing was scheduled to resume at 3:30 pm on Feb. 20. DJ Summers can be contact at [email protected]

Council adds 50% option for bycatch cut

SEATTLE — In January, the International Pacific Halibut Commission put a Band-Aid on a Bering Sea halibut situation that needs a blood transfusion from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Halibut fishermen earned a breather in 2015, with slightly raised allocations all around and a status quo 1.285 million pounds for the central Bering Sea quota holders, but the bulk of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s February meeting took a look at every way possible to get those numbers higher. The council voted on Feb. 8 to release an amended table of halibut bycatch reduction options for public review. In the meantime, Northern Economics, an Anchorage firm, will study the economic impacts of the proposed reductions after a rough cross-examination by council and staff for its initial report. The council will take final action on the reduction proposals in their June meeting in Sitka. The motion added 40 percent, 45 percent and 50 percent options to each of the originally proposed reductions and was part of a larger package of halibut bycatch reduction proposals and studies that received no action. It was introduced by council member Duncan Fields of Kodiak and passed with a 9-2 vote. Council members John Henderschedt and Craig Cross, both of Seattle, voted against the motion. The amended motion recommends the following reductions in prohibited species catch limits in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries, more than one of which may be chosen. It covers all fleets in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands fisheries for 10 percent, 20, percent, 30 percent, 35 percent, 40 percent, 45 percent, or 50 percent reductions. The limited access Amendment 80 bottom trawl fleet of catcher-processors has a 60 percent option for a halibut bycatch limit reduction. The original requested study only analyzed reductions up to 35 percent. Fields’ motion incorporated changes recommended by the council’s Advisory Panel to analyze greater options. The panel voted 22-1 to add 50 percent reductions to the study after receiving a wealth of public testimony regarding the projections of halibut to the directed fishery under each option. Now, halibut fishers say they need a higher percentage of cuts to halibut bycatch than the 35 percent formerly considered. According to calculations made by the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, or CBSFA, and used by council, a 35 percent industry-wide halibut bycatch reduction in the Bering Sea would yield less than the current 1.285 million pound allocation for Area 4CDE. Area 4CDE is the regulatory area for the Central Bering Sea surrounding the Pribilof Islands. CBSFA members from St. Paul island stressed the current harvest level is the bare minimum for sustaining their businesses. The 1.285 millions pounds are a historical low, yet are greater than the biological recommendation, or blue line, made to the International Pacific Halibut Commission by its scientists. The commission’s 4CDE allocation more than doubled the blue line of 520,000 pounds on recommendation from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The department has been considering an emergency 33 percent halibut bycatch reduction request sent to it by the six Alaskan members of the North Pacific council after a failed motion to do the same at the council’s December meeting. The department sent a letter recommending higher allocations than the blue line for Area 4CDE, but made no intent known regarding the emergency cut. Cuts now fall entirely on the council’s shoulders to make in time for the international commission’s 2016 halibut season allocations. CBSFA Special Projects Manager Ray Melovidov used commission numbers to reach the conclusions. A 42 percent bycatch cut would be needed to allow for 1.285 million pounds of halibut to the 4CDE halibut fishery. The current 10-year average (2005-14) Area 4CDE catch limit is 3.2 million pounds; the 2011 limit was 3.72 million pounds. A 50 percent bycatch limit reduction would result in 1.5 million pounds of halibut to the directed fishery in 4CDE, and a 67 percent reduction is needed to get back to the average. The council has to consider industry bycatch cap reductions in the light of voluntary fleet measures and the relative value of halibut to the groundfish fleets. In a 2014 meeting, the council asked the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fleets to take voluntary measures to reduce their halibut bycatch by 10 percent. In Seattle, each fleet presented progress reports on how much they had been able to reduce the mortality rates and total encounters with halibut. The of groundfish bottom trawl catcher processors — known as Amendment 80 after that section in the fishery management plan — has the highest encounter rate and mortality rate concerning halibut. According to in-season management report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands fishing sectors took a total of 3,391 metric tons (7.47 million pounds) of halibut bycatch mortality in 2014, which lowered the halibut mortality rate by 3 percent from the 2009-2013 average of 3,482 metric tons (7.67 million pounds). A metric ton equals 2,204 pounds. Of that total, 2,136 metric tons were by Amendment 80 vessels, a 4 percent increase from the most recent five-year average of 2,048 metric tons. The next highest was the hook-and-line catcher-processors with 367 metric tons, a 28 percent reduction from their five-year average of 512 metric tons. Though total mortality reduction fell short of the requested voluntary 10 percent, trawlers and long liners stress that vessel cooperatives have had much greater success rates. The groundfish fleets favor incentives that encourage cooperatives and voluntary measures instead of regulatory measures. The additions of deck sorting and a developing electronic monitoring system, trawlers say, are effective new tools for halibut management, and that no regulatory action can be as effective as the market correcting itself in response to changing scenarios. A 50 percent cap reduction, for some, is simply unreasonable. “Over the last few days and back into December, we heard discussion of these 30 and 35 percent reductions,” said Chris Woodley, executive director of the Groundfish Forum, which represents 14 of 18 Amendment 80 vessels. “Now it’s 50 percent, 67 percent. Those are not practical. Those are not reasonable. We need to have the tools and the time to demonstrate that we can reduce our bycatch.” There were several sticking points in the council process, but the stickiest was an economic impact report the council requested, which was contracted to Anchorage firm Northern Economics. Marcus Hartley of Northern Economics presented the report to a heavy amount of criticism from the Scientific and Statistical Committee, or SSC, and Advisory Panel before being presented to council. The SSC identified four critical areas where the report lacked appropriate depth. First and foremost, the assumptions on which the study was built weren’t made clear enough. Each council body in turn spent the majority of Hartley’s presentation asking for clarifications. The committee objected to the study’s lack of incorporation of the mortality of halibut under 26 inches, or U26 mortality. U26 mortality accounting played a big role in the joint meeting between the council and the International Pacific halibut Commission. Commission scientist Ian Stewart delivered a presentation on a new mortality accounting framework incorporating U26 halibut, which could theoretically lead to more accurate biology and allocations. The committee and Advisory Panel also felt the study lacked adequate analysis of voluntary or incidental changes in the fishery itself. Even though a full report on industry efforts was made to council, the report didn’t incorporate any of those assumptions into its models. Finally, the committee felt that Hartley’s study didn’t have enough analysis considering the indirect economic and social impacts of the bycatch cap reductions, notably to coastal communities. Now, Northern Economics will have to incorporate analysis of 40 percent, 45 percent and 50 percent reductions in addition to more depth on the SSC’s four problem areas. Though the council voted to open the proposed reductions to public review, this new study won’t likely be ready until May, shortly before the June meeting where council will take final action. DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]

Council and IPHC discuss collaboration

SEATTLE — In the midst of the Bering Sea halibut predicament, the two governing bodies managing the species met for the first time on Feb. 5 to see if they could iron out a more collaborative game plan for the future. Most of the discussion revolved around fisheries management concepts that would ease the discrepancy between the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which oversees all halibut for the directed fisheries, and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which oversees all halibut incidentally taken while in pursuit of other species, known as bycatch. Mutual understanding was high on the priority list. The council and the IPHC use different metrics, different regulatory areas, and different processes in their respective management, and much of the joint meeting agenda involved short presentations and discussions about these administrative differences. Of particular importance was the difference in accounting for bycatch and total catch. Commission and council heard a report from IPHC scientist Ian Stewart on how the mortality and catch rates of halibut under 26 inches, or U26, could be accounted for in the overall stock assessment. Currently, commission harvest policy doesn’t account for U26 halibut. Stewart says the 2014 estimate for halibut mortality lacked an additional 2 million pounds of U26 mortality. Stewart incorporates U26 removals into a metric called Spawning Potential Ratio, or SPR. SPR looks for differences in how many fish contribute to the spawning biomass, and how many are killed in fishing versus killed by natural causes. Using U26 accounting and SPR should lead to more accurate allocations, and if both council and commission use it, more synchronized management. “This analysis is just one more step,” said Stewart. “It allows for direct evaluations of tradeoffs between user groups. SPR allows for comparison to other fisheries.” The abundance accounting methods discussed in the joint meeting should have a sizable influence on the council’s deliberations later in the year. Part of the council’s bycatch reduction considerations involves switching to abundance-based bycatch caps instead of the current static caps, which have contributed to the precipitous decline in directed halibut allocations by taking up a larger percentage of total removals. Council and commission also heard public testimony from stakeholders in the Bering Sea halibut fishery, both from the directed fishery and from the incidental users of halibut. Directed users took the occasion to express their concern about their livelihoods and implore the council to make 50 percent cuts to the bycatch caps in the Bering Sea. The IPHC has already made an exception to its biological recommendation by giving Central Bering Sea halibut fishers 1.285 million pounds in 2015 compared to the “blue line” harvest of 520,000 pounds, but that is only a short-term fix to a long-term problem. “If you don’t put (a 50 percent reduction) in,” said St. Paul mayor Simeon Swetzof, “everything you’ve done up to this point will have been a show. A sham.” DJ Summers can be contacted at [email protected]

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