Bulldog reporter Tkacz dies at 61

JUNEAU — Bob Tkacz may not have always been well-liked, but he was always respected, according to those who knew the longtime reporter. Tkacz was found dead Tuesday evening in his Fourth Street office in Juneau. He was 61. Lt. David Campbell with the Juneau Police Department reported there were no immediate signs of foul play and nothing that indicated he died of unnatural causes; there were indications of medical issues, but no further details could be shared. Tkacz, originally from Ohio, graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Newspaper and Magazine Editing, according to his LinkedIn page. Friends and colleagues of Tkacz weren’t certain when he left Ohio and found his way to Petersburg, eventually landing in Juneau. Fellow journalist Gregg Erickson, editor of the Alaska Budget Report, said Tkacz claimed to have covered the Alaska State Legislature for 33 years — and “he’s not the kind of guy who would throw that around unless he was sure of it.” Tkacz maintained his independence as a journalist, never working for a large paper and freelancing for publications like the Alaska Journal of Commerce and Alaska Budget Report. In addition to covering the legislature, he was known for his reporting on maritime and fisheries issues, publishing his own newsletter “Laws for the Sea,” which he established in 1994. Fellow journalists respected Tkacz for his unwavering dedication to tell the story as he saw it, saying he made few, if any, compromises along the way. Alaska Journal of Commerce Editor Andrew Jensen said Tkacz had the “relentless sort of spirit that I think every journalist should aspire to.” He wasn’t always well-liked, Jensen said, but “I don’t think any journalist should aspire to be well-liked. Bob certainly never worried about that.” Said longtime friend and colleague Dave Donaldson: “I always wished that everybody was like that. We were supposed to be, that was what our dream was in journalism school anyway.” Tkacz was at the Capitol every day of session, asking the hardest questions. “Around the Legislature, he was known for his tenacity and his unshakeable honesty,” Erickson said. “He’d ask the same question again and again and again until they answered or shut him up in a not-so-gentle way.” Former State Rep. Beth Kerttula remembered him as “asking the really tough, sometimes embarrassing questions.” “Sometimes I was on the other side of it,” Kerttula admitted. “And that could make you feel uncomfortable about it. But Bob was always after the truth, and there’s not much higher you can say about a reporter.” Former State Sen. Kim Elton, who also served as a newspaper editor, executive director of Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and most recently with the Department of the Interior, had a number of experiences with Tkacz, He said their encounters that stand out most were at press conferences. “He was the person who would ask the question that other journalists wanted to ask but didn’t know how to do it,” he said. Elton said he pictured Tkacz fitting in well in a 1940s film, though he didn’t chew on unlit cigars. “He was kind of pugnacious, but in a good way,” Elton said. “Some people thought him impolite, but I liked the way he didn’t let anybody not answer the question — in politics that can be difficult. The follow up question to the follow up question to the follow up question was Bob’s hallmark.” Tom Cosgrove, a friend of Tkacz for about 20 years, said one thing Tkacz was particularly proud of in his career was his role in keeping the pressroom in the Capitol from shutting down. “He basically refused to leave the Capitol. There was a huge fight between (Legislative) Affairs and him. They were pretty much tearing down the office around him,” Cosgrove said. “He fought to get the press room that is now downstairs.” With his many years of experience, he was referred to as a “human encyclopedia” or “human database” on both Alaska politics and fisheries. Barbara Belknap served as executive director for ASMI starting in 1997 and said she interacted with Tkacz frequently. “He was everywhere there was anything to do with fisheries,” she said. When there were hearings about the funding of ASMI, Belknap said Tkacz would show up at each one with a notebook, taking notes. Though the most common descriptor for Tkacz might be “fiercely independent,” he was also known to have a sense of humor. “He was a hard-nosed reporter with a huge heart,” Kerttula said. “He had a real heart for people and he was funny. That’s so rare.” Cosgrove said Tkacz “had an absolute Rasputin look about him,” and a sense of humor about how he looked and how he presented himself. Alaska was the right place for him, Cosgrove added. “It gave him the latitude to be both a professional and an oddball... he was where he needed to be.” Others who knew him agreed. “He was a real character. You’ll hear a lot of people say that. He’s a rarity,” Kerttula said. “Most of us are trying so hard to fit in and be part of the group — Bob was a real individual. Iconoclastic wouldn’t be too big a word to use about Bob.” An avid sailor, Tkacz lived on a boat and got out on the water whenever possible. Cosgrove also described him as “an adventure traveler” who explored new places “under the guise of learning more about fisheries and fishing.” Jazz was another passion of Tkacz, who had a show on radio station KRNN. Donaldson said if Tkacz hadn’t been a political and fisheries reporter, he’d have been most happy reporting on music. “He would go in the evenings to jazz clubs in Beijing and Seoul; that’s what he would talk about,” Donaldson said. “He would talk about these wonderful musicians and wished he could get them to play here in the U.S.” However people knew him, the consensus is that Tkacz’ death is a huge loss for Alaska. Kerttula voiced the sentiments of many when she said: “I’m going to miss him terribly as a friend, and the state’s going to miss him as a great reporter.”   Reactions from those Tkacz covered: Gov. Sean Parnell: “Sandy and I were sad to hear that Bob Tkacz had passed away earlier this week. As a longtime member of the Capitol press corps, his absence will be felt by many. Bob’s persistence and understanding of Alaska government and issues will be missed. We extend our condolences to Bob’s family and friends, as well as his colleagues in the press.” Sen. Mark Begich: “I was saddened to learn today about the death of Bob Tkacz. Bob was an institution among Alaska media. He was tough, tenacious and very, very persistent but he always had the best interests of his readers in mind. The Alaska press lost a great asset.” Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage: “Bob was an institution in the Capitol press corps.  He brought a unique candor and distinctly direct approach to reporting.  He was a friend to Alaska and his presence will be sorely missed,” Former House Democratic Press Secretary Mark Gnadt: “Bob Tkacz wouldn't let anyone duck the hard questions, and Alaska is a better place for it. Many times I would warn legislators with 'Bob won't let you get away with that answer.' Bob Tkacz was the one reporter you wanted to show up at the other guys' press conferences.”  

11 groups helping NMFS develop disaster funds spending plan

The National Marine Fisheries Service has selected 11 groups to help determine how it will spend $20.8 million in federal funds for the king salmon disaster declarations made in 2012. Congress appropriated the funds earlier this year in response to the disaster declaration made for poor king runs on the Yukon River in 2010, 2011 and 2012, the Kuskokwim River in 2011 and 2012 and for Cook Inlet’s 2012 salmon fisheries. Now the agency, or NMFS, has been working to determine how to spend that money. In late March, NMFS announced that it was proposing to have 10 organizations act as represenative groups to provide input on how the money would be spent, and solicited public comment on whether or not affected fishermen felt the groups represented them. For Cook Inlet, the Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna boroughs, Northern District Setnetters Association, Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association, Kenai River Sportfishing Association and Kenai River Professional Guide Association were proposed as representatives of the affected communities. For the Yukon-Kuskokwim area, the Association of Village Council Presidents, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association and Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association were the proposed representatives. According to a May 21 email from NMFS spokeswoman Julie Speegle, those groups were originally chosen in consultation with the State of Alaska and the state’s congressional delegation. According to that email, NMFS is now working with those groups to determine how to spend the money. Kenai Watershed Forum was also named as an additional representative group, according to the email. In March, NMFS also proposed having the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission work to distribute the money, and took comment on that. According to the same email, Pacific States is expected to use the spending plan created by NMFS and the representative groups to submit a grant application by June 1. The spending plan has not yet been made publically available. After the grant is applied for, Speegle wrote that the getting relief funds to impacted fishermen will be a priority. “We anticipate that any direct payments to impacted fishermen will happen as early as possible in the grant award period,” Speegle wrote. Funds for research projects and to support fisheries and communities will take place over the next few years, she wrote. That grant application is expected to be approved by NOAA Grants in July, and will also require approval from the Office of Management and Budget.

Court hears oral argument in setnet ban initiative appeal

The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance and the State of Alaska each made a case to an Anchorage Superior Court judge today about why — or why not — a proposed ballot initiative to ban setnetters should be allowed to move forward. The alliance, or AFCA, filed a ballot initiative petition in November seeking to ask voters whether to ban setnets in urban parts of the state, which would primarily impact Upper Cook Inlet setnetters. At the heart of the case is a question about whether a ballot measure eliminating setnetting is considered an appropriation under state law, and thus not a question that can be placed on a ballot for the public to decide. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell struck down the initiative in January based on a state Department of Law opinion asserting that it would be a prohibited appropriation. AFCA appealed, and during oral argument Tuesday, attorney Matt Singer said that organization believed the initiative is not an appropriation, and that the 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. Upper Cook Inlet setnetters target sockeye salmon for commercial harvest. Their permits also allow to them to target other salmon species, including kings, that swim into the nets. Eliminating setnetters in Cook Inlet would likely result in increased catch for in-river sport fishermen, personal use fishermen, and for the fleet of drift boats targeting sockeye. AFCA members have said they believe that eliminating setnets is necessary to conserve the kings. Alaska Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar, who is representing Treadwell in the case, argued that because the ballot initiative would eliminate an entire fishery — Upper Cook Inlet setnetters — and send their catch to others, it was an appropriation. Singer, however, said that while it eliminated a gear type, it did not necessarily allocate them to any other users. Singer also said that the case was in line with the state’s first fisheries ballot initiative, which eliminated fish traps at the same time Alaska became a state, and other efforts to ban aerial wolf hunting and bear baiting since then. Bakalar said that this case is different, however, because it does not allow a simple change in gear types. Instead, it would allow a majority user — sport and personal use fishers — to allocate fish away from a minority group — setnetters. The state has also said that the voter’s act to ban fish traps would not necessarily standup if it were challenged in court today, and has referred to the decision in the Pullen vs. Ulmer case, in which the court said an initiative giving preferential treatment to one user group was a prohibited appropriation. Bakalar said that eliminating setnetters would infringe on the board’s allocation discretion. The state has also said that it could result in more fish in the river for sport and personal use fishers. AFCA has said that it would simply remove one gear type that could use the fish. Judge Catherine Easter said at the conclusion of the hearing that she would try to make a written decision in 60 days. If she rules in favor of AFCA, the group would still have to collect about 35,000 signatures and would be targeting the August 2016 ballot. Either side could also appeal her decision to the state Supreme Court. Although the case is focused on Upper Cook Inlet, both sides have cited concerns over the precedent it could set throughout the state. Singer said that if this initiative were found unconstitutional, it could limit the public’s ability to enact direct legislation, an express public right. “If this stands, there’s no room for the public to participate in fish and wildlife management,” he said. Jerry McCune, president of United Fishermen of Alaska and a member of Resources for All Alaskans, a nonprofit that filed an amicus brief in the case supporting and extending the state’s position, said he was concerned about what it could mean if a ballot initiative could be used to change fisheries allocations and appropriate fish from one user group to another. “What happens here could happen statewide,” he said after the hearing. The initiative itself could also have implications for other fisheries in the future. The initiative’s language uses the Board of Fisheries-designated nonsubsistence areas to define urban, meaning that setnetting would be prohibited in the Anchorage bowl, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, most of the Kenai Peninsula, Valdez, Fairbanks and Juneau. If other regions were designated as nonsubsistence areas in the future, such as was considered for Kodiak and Bethel last October but rejected, setnetting would no longer be allowed there, either.

Senate draft of fisheries act begins circulating

The newest version of the Magnuson-Stevens Act out for discussion adds subsistence users and Tribal governments to the fisheries management law and has the potential to create new Community Development Quota in the Arctic, but it has not yet been made widely available to the public for review. The act passed in 1976, which was last reauthorized in 2006 and is up for renewal this year, regulates most fisheries in American federal waters from 3 to 200 miles offshore, and authorizes the eight regional fishery management councils. The most recent draft was produced by the Senate Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee chaired by Alaska U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. That committee held several hearings on various perspectives on the MSA, including one focused on the North Pacific in February in which Alaska Native and Tribal groups called for more inclusion and recognition of subsistence voices in the fishery management process. The Senate’s discussion draft of the law adds subsistence to the types of fishing being managed alongside commercial and recreational, adds subsistence to the fishery categories eligible for representation on regional fishery management councils, and refers to Tribal governments’ role in managing fish. The language also calls for an expansion of the Community Development Quota program if the North Pacific council amends the Arctic fishery management plan, or FMP, to allow commercial fishing there. The draft does not provide many specifics on the CDQ program changes, but does state that 10 percent of the total allowable catch in the Arctic Management Area would be set aside for coastal villages north and east of the Bering Strait. The Community Development Quota, or CDQ, program, was implemented in 1992 and allocates 10.7 percent of the Bering Sea federal fisheries harvest to six organizations representing 65 Western Alaska villages within 50 miles of the coast. Currently, there is no fishing allowed under the Arctic FMP. That draft is dated April 3. It had not yet been posted online for the general public to review as of April 16, although Begich spokesperson Heather Handyside wrote in an April 15 email it had been circulated to “other senate offices, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), sportfishing users, commercial users, NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) and individuals.” A specific list of those recipients was not available. Although many in the fishing community had received a copy of the draft by mid-April, not everyone had seen it. Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Ricky Gease said he had not received a copy as of April 14. Gease was one of several Alaskan stakeholders to testify at the North Pacific hearing in February. Other Alaskans who testified there, or lobbyists for the groups they represent, had received a copy by April 14. On April 8, a Senate Commerce Committee staffer emailed the draft to a list of lobbyists and executives representing various commercial fishing interests throughout the country, including processors and harvesters in Alaska, and some who represent Pacific Northwest Tribal groups, although no Alaska Native or Tribal organizations were on that list. In the email obtained by the Journal, the committee staffer Sean Houton asked those individuals to “please be discrete with the draft as you develop your comments.” He did not respond to an email asking why he asked for discretion in the draft, or if he had sent it to anyone else. The executives on the distribution list include Pacific Seafood Processors Vice President Dennis Phelan, West Coast Seafood Processors Association Executive Director Rod Moore and At-Sea Processors Public Affairs Director Jim Gilmore, and lobbyists representing Bering Sea Crabbers, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., US Seafoods and United Catcher Boats. Other lobbyists on the list represent Northeast, South Atlantic and Gulf Coast fishing interests.  Houton’s email also invited the lobbyists and executives to a meeting on Capitol Hill April 15 to discuss the draft. Handyside did not respond specifically to a question about whether other meetings were planned on the hill for others to review the draft, but noted that listening sessions and hearings had been held during the past year to get stakeholder input. “Right now we are talking informally with stakeholders to get their ideas.” Handyside wrote. “It’s still a work in progress. We are getting many comments from individuals and groups across the state.” Handyside also said the working draft of the legislation would be circulated more broadly in the coming weeks. Until then, public input is being taken through Begich’s fisheries staffer Bob King. Begich spoke briefly about the draft at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Anchorage on April 14. Since this draft was released, Begich said his office has received significant feedback from Alaska fishery stakeholders. Their concerns will be addressed, he said. “We’ll be back at it,” he said, noting that the bill won’t move without working on Alaska’s interests. Begich said the draft currently out for review was based on the hearings and listening sessions held in Alaska and elsewhere in the country throughout the past year. Begich said that this iteration will likely be out for a couple weeks, and then in the first part of May the subcommittee will work on another draft that incorporates people’s concerns, with additional hearings toward the end of May. A final bill could pass in late summer or early fall, he said. The House Natural Resources Committee released its own discussion draft of the act in December. At that time, the draft was posted online, a press release was sent out, and the committee set up an email specifically for MSA comments. Mike Tadeo, a House Natural Resources Committee staffer, said the House had gone through a public process to develop the draft and make it available for comment. However, he did not respond specifically to a question about whether the House discussion draft had been made available to select groups before it was released to the public as a whole. Bycatch, ecosystems also changed The draft also addresses capital funds for fishing infrastructure, and allows facilities other than vessels to be eligible for funding.  The draft also changes the language relative to bycatch. Instead of calling for fishery managers to minimize bycatch, it calls for bycatch to be avoided. The draft also calls for certain ecosystem-based policies and goals, and more explicit management of forage fish, including accounting for dependent fish when setting annual catch limits. It also requires more study and use of electronic monitoring, specifically in the North Pacific. As currently proposed, stock assessments would be required at least every five years.

NMFS OKs North Pacific council's Steller sea lion protections

Note: This story was updated to add comments from Rep. Don Young and Oceana. Fishermen targeting Atka mackerel, Pacific cod and pollock in the western Aleutians will likely have additional fishing opportunity next year. The National Marine Fisheries Service announced today that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s preferred management measures to protect the western distinct population segment of Steller sea lions in the western Aleutian Islands would not cause jeopardy to the sea lions. Jeopardy or adverse modification, also known as JAM, are terms from the Endangered Species Act, and no federal action, such as allowing commercial fishing, can be taken that could result in such impacts. The council selected the less restrictive management measures in 2013, and has been waiting for NMFS to form an opinion on whether or not they would cause JAM. The determination is based on a new biological opinion that incorporates additional information about how commercial fisheries compete with Steller sea lions for food, rather than the 2010 opinion. In the JAM announcement, the agency said that the proposed changes will relieve roughly two-thirds of the economic burden imposed on fishermen from the 2011 regulations, which severely restricted fishing for pollock, Pacific cod and Atka mackerel in the western Aleutians. “Finding a way to protect endangered sea lions while minimizing costs to the fishing industry is a real challenge,” said Jim Balsiger, NOAA Fisheries Alaska regional administrator, in the agency's formal statement. “I applaud the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and stakeholders for recommending a new suite of measures that effectively balances those two objectives." NMFS implemented the 2011 restrictions to protect food sources for the sea lions, based on an environmental assessment that relied on the 2010 biop, but a federal judge found that action violated the National Environmental Policy Act and ordered the agency to conduct a full environmental impact statement, or EIS regarding the western distinct population segment of Steller sea lions. The judge did, however, temporarily uphold the protections until the new work was done. The court-ordered environmental impact statement, or EIS, should now be completed before the August deadline extension. Earlier this year, a judge extended the timeline for the new EIS to August to enable the agency to work with the council and stakeholders on developing new protections if it had determined that the council’s preferred fishery management measures would result in JAM. The prior EA was based on a 2010 biological opinion that has since been reviewed by multiple entities, who were critical of its findings. According to the NMFS announcement, the agency conducted several new analyses in response to the reviews, and those were incorporated into the new 2014 biop. The new opinion notes change to the Aleutian Islands fisheries, and also includes new data, along with the new analyses, according to the agency. Together, the information helps “give the agency a better picture of the potential for commercial fisheries to compete with sea lions for Pacific cod, Atka mackerel and pollock,” according to the release. The council previously decided to split the total allowable catch for Pacific cod between the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, which went into affect in 2014. That results in less allowable Pacific cod harvest in the Aleutians. The other changes proposed would limit the amount, timing and location of harvests of the three major species in the Steller sea lion critical habitat area. Alaska’s congressional delegation responded positively to the news that NMFS had revised its biological opinion. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a formal statement: “It is critical that policies that do concrete and immediate economic harm to Alaskans be based on science and rigorous analysis, and I would like to thank NOAA for listening to the Center of Independent Experts in issuing the new biological opinion. This means increased fishing opportunities in the Aleutian Islands in 2015 and the end of restrictions that resulted in tens of millions of dollars per year in economic harm to (fishermen) and Alaska’s coastal communities.” Sen. Mark Begich issued a similar statement. “Today’s announcement is a victory for good science and common sense,” said Begich in the formal statement. “We need practical steps to protect sea lions but not look for scapegoats.” Rep. Don Young said in his statement: "This is good news. We may get a lot of our fishermen and a lot of our villages back in the taking of fish from the Western Aleutians, and to me I'm excited about that. This goes to show you that the government doesn't know everything and I'm glad we were able to have some input on the decision." Oceana, however, opposed the move in a formal statement.    “Today’s decision is a clear statement from the National Marine Fisheries Service that large-scale industrial fishing is more important than stewardship, science, and sustainable fisheries," wrote Oceana's Deputy Vice President Susan Murray. "The conclusion is inconsistent with decades of scientific analysis, court decisions, and the government’s commitment to ecosystem-based management. Oceana has supported the government, including in court, as it has taken necessary steps to protect Steller sea lions. We cannot and will not support today’s unwise decision. "For decades, there was large scale shooting of Steller sea lions, and now fisheries are competing with them for prey. The Western Population of Steller sea lions has declined by more than 80 percent, and sharp declines continue in the western Aleutian Islands. In the more than 20 years since the Western Population was first protected under the Endangered Species Act, steps have been taken to reduce competition with fisheries. Now, just as we were seeing progress, the agency has taken a huge step backwards. The law, best science, and the agency’s stewardship obligations demand precautionary steps, not reckless actions like this one.”   Molly Dischner can be reached at [email protected]

Reps question AIDEA fisheries quota financing deal

Note: This story has been updated to attribute comments to correct legislator. The Alaska Legislature could consider allowing a state entity to get involved in fisheries financing if bills in House and Senate committees continue moving forward, but some legislators are raising questions about the plan. The most recent versions of Senate Bill 140 and House Bill 288 — introduced by Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, respectively — include language that adds fisheries projects to the proposed Arctic infrastructure fund. The infrastructure fund would enable the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to get involved in developing Arctic ports, roads, emergency services and telecommunications, subject to certain limitations. The authority already has the ability to engage in certain work in the Arctic, and has partnered on other projects there. The new language in both bills would enable AIDEA to use the fund for financing, loans or bond guarantees for fishing vessels, quota shares or individual fishing quota in federally-managed fisheries, or to construct or enhance a plant, facility or equipment used in support of a fishery in the Arctic. The state has not previously gotten involved in loans to finance quota purchase. AIDEA has been involved in other aspects of financing fisheries, although it hasn’t made any quota loans. Fisheries-related businesses in Juneau and Sitka have received funding through the Loan Participation Program, and the organization is also involved in the Ketchikan shipyard. The legislation defines the Arctic as including the Bering Sea and Aleutian chain, where the majority of Alaska’s rationalized federal fisheries take place. The fisheries language was originally added to the Arctic Infrastructure fund in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee March 14, where it easily passed on to Senate Finance. When the identical bill was discussed at a March 17 House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing, however, legislators had questions. Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage said she was a commercial fisher, and aware of the variety of programs available to help support fishermen. She wasn’t sure there was a need for another, she said, or for state funds to support that value of loans. Millett questioned whether the loans should support vessels, but said she did support financing for other fisheries infrastructure, like equipment and plants, that are fixed to a location. Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, also asked about the provisions to ensure the loans supported Alaskans, and the instances in which Outside entities could benefit. AIDEA Deputy Director for Infrastructure Development Mark Davis said the authority supported the fund, and said that generally, anything it is involved in must have a “nexus” to Alaska. Davis also said that generally, the idea of the program is to “repatriate” quota to Alaska, and help provide a stronger base for the fishing industry here. Currently, the boats participating in the rationalized Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands fisheries are largely based in Seattle. However, AIDEA could possibly wind up providing loans to businesses based outside the state through the program, although the vessels would need to work in the eligible fisheries, he said. According to AIDEA spokesman Karsten Rodvik, however, the entity did not pursue the amendments that could create the new program, and has not yet done analysis on expanding its fisheries financing as proposed. Previously, Rodvik wrote in an email that even if the amendments were added to the bill and passed the legislature, such a program would not necessarily be enacted immediately. “The Fund would need to be capitalized before any new infrastructure projects could be financed through the Fund,” Rodvik wrote in a March 4 email. “Also, before any investment or Arctic or fisheries infrastructure would be funded through the new Fund, the potential financing would go through the same rigorous due diligence that all of our infrastructure financing goes through.” AIDEA financing for quota purchases was an idea originally floated at the authority’s February board meeting. Anchorage-based asset management firm Pt Capital, which focuses on the Arctic, made the pitch to AIDEA’s board of directors Feb. 20 on behalf of three groups interested in such a program: the City of Seward, the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Community Development Association, or APICDA, and the Association of Village Council Presidents, or AVCP. AVCP President Myron Naneng and Seward’s Ron Long both testified in support of the fisheries financing during the March 17 House committee hearing. Rodvik wrote that to his knowledge, Pt, various communities, APICDA and Seward were behind the most recent push to get the fisheries financing enacted. The program as originally proposed would specifically allow low-interest loans or guarantees for quota purchases by community-based nonprofits, municipalities, and community quota entities. Community Development Quota, or CDQ, groups would not be eligible for the loans. CDQ groups are six entities representing 65 Western Alaska villages that receive 10.7 percent of Bering Sea fishing quota each year. Those community non-profit groups would then need to form joint ventures with others in the industry, like fishing companies or CDQ groups, to harvest the quota. APICDA, one of the proponents of the plan, is a CDQ group and would act as a partner in harvesting quota, not as an eligible entity for financing, under the original proposal. As proposed through the Arctic infrastructure fund, however, it appears that APICDA and other CDQ groups could receive the loans without community partners. That’s because those community requirements do not appear in the legislation, although they are mentioned in a supporting document submitted by Pt Capital. Rodvik said in an email March 18 that AIDEA will need to wait and see what the legislative intent is before determining whether the community requirement is part of the final program, or what other eligibility requirements might exist.

New group supports state denial of setnet ban initiative

A new commercial fisheries group is getting involved in the lawsuit over the proposed ballot initiative to ban setnets. Resources for All Alaskans, or RFAA, filed an amicus brief March 6 supporting the State of Alaska’s decision that the setnet ban initiative was unconstitutional and sponsors could not attempt to collect enough signatures to put it on the August 2016 primary ballot. The ballot initiative to ban setnets in urban parts of the state was proposed by the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, or AFCA. If the initiative made it on to the ballot and passed, its primary effect would be to eliminate Cook Inlet setnetters. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell denied the initiative petition in January based on a Department of Law opinion that found it was a prohibited appropriation of state resources. AFCA, however, has said that the effort is conservation focused, and filed an appeal of Treadwell’s decision Jan. 22 in Alaska Superior Court in Anchorage. AFCA, which is comprised largely of sport fishing interests, formed in 2013. The initiative filed in November is its first major action. Resources for All Alaskans, or RFAA, filed its 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. It is up to Judge Catherine Easter to determine whether to allow RFAA’s amicus brief to be considered as part of the lawsuit. Motions for summary judgment by both the State of Alaska and AFCA were filed March 7. In AFCA’s motion for summary judgment, Matthew Singer wrote that other states have seen voters enact legislation that disallowed gillnets in particular areas. The nonprofit’s motion also refers to the Alaska initiative passed at statehood that prohibited fish traps, although RFAA noted in its own motion that measure would likely not survive a court challenge today. Singer also argued that the initiative is not an appropriation because it does not set the salmon aside for a specific group or purpose, as prior cases have determined is necessary to be considered an appropriation. According to the motion: “The proposed initiative would provide the Board of Fisheries with a specific directive as to one gear type in the commercial fishery. But unlike the impermissible in Pullen, (the initiative) does not dictate a preference for sport fishermen over commercial fishermen. The set net ban merely regulates the use of one gear type.” The state disagreed. Assistant Attorneys General Libby Bakalar and Michael G. Mitchell, representing Treadwell, wrote that the initiative would “appeal to the self-interests of an electoral majority to transfer a state asset to itself and would significantly reduce the Legislature’s and Board of Fisheries’ control of and discretion over allocation decisions.” The state motion asserts that the initiative would reallocate salmon from Cook Inlet East Side setnetters and Northern District commercial fisheries to in-river, non-commercial, users, and could set a precedent that allows voters to reallocate stocks to any fishery by eliminating a gear or means and methods for catching a fish. That’s exactly what concerns RFAA. “Allocating resources by initiative is not only unconstitutional, but it is also bad public policy,” said RFAA President Jim Butler in a formal statement. “The proposal to ban set netters is particularly destructive because it doesn’t address the real reasons for declining king salmon populations and would instantly destroy 500 small Alaska family businesses and hundreds of other jobs.” RFAA registered as a state nonprofit corporation named Salmon for All Alaskans in December according to state records, and changed its name to Resources for All Alaskans in late February. Butler said the group’s federal nonprofit status is pending. RFAA is registered in Kenai, but has a statewide focus. Board members include Kodiak setnetter and North Pacific Fishery Management Council member Duncan Fields, United Fishermen of Alaska President and Cordova District Fishermen United President Jerry McCune and Trident Seafood Executive Vice President John Garner. Snug Harbor Seafood co-owner Paul Dale and former Lt. Gov. Loren Lehman, a Cook Inlet setnetter, are listed as members of the group’s advisory council. Dale was also listed as president when the group was founded. Butler said that in this case, the group is concerned about the implications of allowing allocation decisions to be made by ballot initiative, and filed its brief to add another voice to the case. “There was an interest in making sure that the voice of the industry affected was heard on this important issue,” Butler said. The organization’s filing was two parts: a motion asking to be allowed to submit the amicus brief, and the brief itself, which argues that Treadwell’s decision not to certify the initiative was generally correct, and also that the initiative could be considered a prohibited attempt to enact local or special legislation by ballot initiative. RFAA’s motion, signed by attorney William Falsey, asserts that the proposed initiative is not of general or statewide application, while ballot initiatives are supposed to operate evenly throughout the state, and that there is no statewide interest in setnet use or fish conservation when only applying it to non-subsistence areas. According to the motion: “Tellingly, there is also no basis upon which to conclude that conservation needs within non-subsistence areas cannot be fully and adequately addressed by the statewide process of fisheries management that is generally applicable throughout the state.” Responses from the State and AFCA to the other’s motions are due March 21 and oral argument is scheduled for April 22 in Anchorage. The hearing is at 3:30 p.m., and expected to take an hour. AFCA is trying to have the case proceed on an expedited schedule so that alliance could still collect signatures in 2015 and get the ban on the ballot in 2016.

Halibut fishery underway; seafood sales increase for Lent

March 5 marked the start of Lent, a time of fasting, soul searching and repentance for hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. And what the burst in the holiday sales season from Thanksgiving to Christmas means to retailers, Lent means the same to the seafood industry. The 40-day Lenten season, which this year runs from March 5 to Easter Sunday on April 20, dates back to the 4th century, and it has been customary to forego meat ever since. While nearly all seafood enjoys a surge of interest during Lent, the most traditional items served are the so-called “whitefish” species, such as cod, pollock, flounders, and halibut. Food Services of America 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. (Ash Wednesday is so called from the ritual of placing ashes from burned palm branches on the forehead to symbolize “that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”) Overall, Americans ate more seafood during Lent in 2013 than in previous years, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. GrubHub, the nation’s top online and mobile food-ordering company which works with nearly 30,000 restaurants in 600 cities, said the number of people eating fish on Fridays increased by 20 percent during Lent last year since 2011. The Filet-O-Fish sandwich, which was launched by McDonald’s on Good Friday, is made with Alaska pollock and sales top 300 million a year. Nearly 25 percent of the fish sandwiches each year are sold during Lent. No matter what the seafood favorite, the long Lenten season is good news for Alaska, which provides nearly 60 percent of the wild-caught seafood to U.S. restaurants and grocery stores. Halibut’s here Alaska longliners are ready to haul in the year’s first fresh halibut with the March 8 start of the fishery. Alaska’s halibut catch of roughly 19 million pounds is down about 11 percent. Sablefish, or black cod, also opens on March 8. That quota was reduced by 10 percent this year to just under 34 million pounds.  Less overall fish might bump up dock prices, but it will take a week or so for markets to settle out. Buyer resistance to the high priced fish came into play last year and sales started off slowly.  The first fresh landings last year fetched $5.25 to $5.75 at major ports, then dropped about a dollar in the first week. Likewise, starting sablefish prices were down by 40 percent, ranging from $3 to $5 across five sizes. As a price watch: Last year’s average Alaska fish prices were $5.06 per pound for halibut and $2.84 per pound for sablefish. That compares to $5.87 and $4.11 in 2012. Alaska fishermen provide more than 95 percent of our nation’s halibut and over 70 percent of the sablefish.  Switching to herring The upcoming roe herring harvest at Sitka Sound has been clipped to 16,333 tons, about 1,200 tons less than announced in December. State managers are already set to start aerial surveys for signs of the roe herring run. Herring managers also think the warm spring means the fish might show early at Togiak in Bristol Bay. That is Alaska’s largest herring fishery with a catch this year at nearly 28,000 tons. A push is gaining steam to use all of the herring, not just the female roe, instead of grinding it into fishmeal. In Norway, herring is sold smoked, canned, pickled and more. Fishermen there get 47 cents a pound for their catch; that compares to $100 per ton at Togiak. A McDowell Group report showed that if male herring from Togiak and Kodiak fisheries were made into frozen fillets, the wholesale value would approach $15 million. Bring ‘em back Researchers at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center are tops at the work they do — the Center is the research arm of NOAA Fisheries. Their science forms the basis for setting Alaska fish quotas, running observer programs, tightening bycatch limits, to name just a few. But the Alaska Fisheries Science Center is located in Seattle. Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford wants to bring those science jobs closer to the sources they study. “There are other places in Southeast where some of these jobs could go, and there’s also Kodiak which has a big fishing industry where some of the jobs could go. We want to look at all of that,” he said at a recent meeting. Sanford has created a task force to learn how those science jobs might be brought back to Alaska. Attracting more federal jobs to Juneau is an Assembly priority, he said, as well as lab techs and research vessels. “If we could move even a few to our own research centers in our own fisheries areas, I think it would be a big advantage to us,” he said. NOAA Fisheries has fewer than 200 researchers in Alaska, mostly in Juneau. The Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle lists more than 400 on the job. That’s a long commute to and from the fishing grounds. So how did the Center end up there in the first place? “That is where the geographical distribution of the labor force developed around the time of statehood,” NOAA spokesperson Julie Speegle told KTOO in Juneau, “and it’s mostly just been maintained there.”   The Assembly task force will reveal its findings in six months. Fish flash! Eileen Sobeck, the new director of NOAA Fisheries, will attend the ComFish trade show next month in Kodiak. U.S. Senator Mark Begich is bringing Sobeck to the event; it will be her first trip to Alaska. Begich frequently attends ComFish and holds informal, open meetings with all comers. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

NMFS administrator highlight ComFish 2014

Note: This story was corrected to reflect NMFS head Eileen Sobeck's correct title. Kodiak’s 34th annual ComFish will host a first-time visitor to Alaska when National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eileen Sobeck arrives in April for the three-day fisheries event. Sobeck, who was named to the top position at the National Marine Fisheries Service on Jan. 15, will attend with Sen. Mark Begich on April 17, said coordinator Laine Welch. “That’s really exciting to have her come here for her very first visit,” Welch said. Sobeck and Begich are scheduled to speak that afternoon. ComFish is a three-day fisheries gathering that includes forums and a trade show, as well as related events throughout the community. This year, the theme is “The Business of Fishing,” and it’s scheduled for April 17-19. Welch, who has been involved in ComFish since 1990, said she invited Sobeck to ComFish at Begich’s suggestion. “If she wants to see a working waterfront, this is the place,” Welch said, noting that Kodiak has top federal and state fisheries scientists, several processing plants, the nation’s largest Coast Guard base and one of the largest fishing fleets. Sobeck won’t be the only thing different for the 34th annual fishing industry event, now the largest of its kind in Alaska. This year, the usual political debates will be held in May and August instead of during ComFish, and a new processing-related event has been added to the schedule. Assuming that space and liability issues are worked out, the processing sector is planning a competition to showcase the skills used in that part of the industry is scheduled for April 19. Likely events include filleting contests, comparing how different fish are filleted, and possibly a shucking contest, Welch said. “It gives an opportunity for people in our community to just get a little bit closer to what this resident workforce in Kodiak is doing behind the doors of all these processing plants that line our community ... It should be really lively and a lot of fun,” Welch said. The other forums focus on current issues in the fisheries. During the last two decades of ComFish, Welch said she’s seen growing interest in other sides to the industry by fishermen, and increasing cooperative research between the industry and government agencies. “I’m always amazed at how smart these fellows are, mostly fellows, and with a broad brush,” Welch said, referring to the diversity of issues fishers are knowledgeable about and engaged in. Fishery participants are paying attention because they know how the decisions policy-makers make, whether in Washington, D.C., or locally, can affect the fleet, Welch said. Some of the highlights include a presentation organized by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council about how fishing communities can retain rights to local resources when catch share programs are implemented and a discussion on health insurance organized by Julie Matweyo from the Alaska Seagrant and Marine Advisory Program. There will also be a presentation on the economics of Alaska seafood and market trends by the McDowell Group. Presentations about the marine observer program, electronic monitoring projects and other fisheries research are scheduled. Welch said that the research conducted out of the Kodiak Alaska Department of Fish and Game lab is particularly interesting, including a project where two local researchers have a robot taking video of the ocean floor. “We’re seeing things just with this basic little sled that they’re dragging around with this camera — mating behavior of tanner crab, all kinds of things,” Welch said. This year, the various presentations will be streamed online at the ComFish website,, Welch said. The trade show will also run as usual. Kodiak Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Trevor Brown said it will be full, with about 40 vendors, ranging from government agencies providing outreach and information to companies selling fishing gear. “It’s a small show, but we try to pack as much in there as we can,” Brown said. About half come from off the Island, he said and provides a nice boost in spring tourism. “It’s a good shot in the arm for Kodiak in April,” he said.

Weather slows halibut opener, first prices similar to 2013

Commercial halibut fishers began targeting 16.7 million pounds of quota March 8, but bad weather kept many off the fishing grounds. Individual fishing quota, or IFQ, holders will take the majority of the Alaska commercial catch limit, about 15.9 million pounds, with Community Development Quota landings from the Bering Sea areas making up the remainder of the catch. Sablefish IFQ holders have access to about 23.6 million pounds this year. Last year, IFQ holders landed about 20.8 million pounds of halibut and 25.5 million pounds of sablefish, or black cod. That was about 96 percent of the halibut limit, and 91 percent of the sablefish limit. The 2013 IFQ halibut fishery was worth about $105 million, and sablefish was worth $72 million, according to an estimate from Laine Welch of Alaska Fish Radio based on cost recovery values. The National Marine Fisheries Service does not yet have a final estimate for those fishery values. As of March 11, 28 IFQ halibut landings were reported to the National Marine Fisheries Service, totaling about 160,974 pounds. Southeast Alaska, or Area 2C, has seen slightly more deliveries, with about 73,738 pounds in 16 vessel landings. Southcentral, or Area 3A, has had fewer landings — 12 — but more total halibut delivered: 87,236 pounds. For sablefish, just 11 landings were reported, at about 136,890 pounds. The majority were in Southeast Alaska, with about 87,565 pounds delivered in seven landings, but the locations of the remaining landings were listed as confidential. Because of the limited number of landings made so far, port-specific information on where the halibut and sablefish landings were made is not yet available. The 2014 fishery will run through Nov. 7. Southcentral and Southeast Alaska fishers both reported bad weather that kept boats in port. Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, said she hadn’t been out yet but heard that people who did go out from Sitka were fighting awful weather, and many had opted to stay on shore. North Pacific Fisheries Association President Malcolm Milne, a Homer fisherman, said he didn’t go out for the opener either. “There’s a big storm here,” he said March 10. Milne said some fishers were also still out targeting Pacific cod, keeping them from getting out for the start of the halibut fishery. Kevin Hogan, owner of The Auction Block in Homer, said iffy weather was probably contributing to the slower pace of the fishery so far this year. However, Hogan said that he thought there might be a slight bright ray as the fishery gets started, although he said it was just an offhand observation. “Fish seem a little bit bigger than last year,” he said. “They’re still small, but not getting smaller.” In Seward, Jim Hubbard said he had been out fishing and made a delivery March 11. “We fished halibut and fishing was pretty decent,” he said. Hubbard confirmed the slightly larger fish Hogan mentioned, and said the smaller fish are a little thicker than in recent years. ‘The quality of the fish looked better than it has in the past,” Hubbard said. Prices throughout the state have varied. In Sitka, fishermen reported an ex-vessel price of $6.50 per pound, regardless of weight. Fishing Vessel Owners Association Manager Bob Alverson said he had a few guys go out fishing and report prices, although most of the fleet hadn’t left yet. In Homer, he heard that prices ranged from $6 per pound for 10 to 15 pound fish, to $7 dollars per pound for halibut 40 pounds or larger. At Yakutat, sablefish prices ranged from $4 to $6 per pound, again depending on weight, Alverson said. Hubbard said he was expecting both halibut and sablefish prices to be similar to what they were in the fall of 2013. That, he said, was somewhat disappointing since the halibut quota had been cut so significantly. Hogan couldn’t provide specific halibut prices due to confidentiality issues, but also said that generally, “it’s similar to last year.” From September 2013 through November 2013, the ex-vessel price for halibut averaged about $5.11 per pound at Central Gulf of Alaska ports according to NMFS. Sablefish was about $2.85 per pound during the same time period for the Central Gulf. Typically, the yen-dollar exchange rate also affects sablefish prices, and when the yen value drops — as it has over the past year — so do Japanese sablefish purchases. Processors this year had asked for a later opening date, March 22, but ultimately the International Pacific Halibut Commission sided with harvesters, who requested the fishery start no later than March 8. The processors’ request came in part because of a concern about halibut already in the freezer, and also because of the timing of other industry events, and a desire to figure out contracts at the Boston Seafood Show before the fishery started. Harvesters, however, said they wanted as long of a season as possible. Last year, the fishery opened March 23.

Crab fisheries, Yukon harvests, Bristol Bay on board agenda

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will discuss a range of new fisheries and increased opportunity for state crab management at its upcoming meeting March 17-21 in Anchorage at the Sheraton Hotel. The proposals on before the board include requests to open commercial tanner crab fishing in Prince William Sound and sport tanner crab fishing in Cook Inlet, increase the golden king crab fishery in the Aleutian Islands, adjust the gear and species regulations in the Norton Sound king crab fishery, develop a red king crab fishery near Adak, and certain Bering Sea changes. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has also proposed regulatory and management changes to nearly all of the crab fisheries up for discussion — Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Chignik, the South Peninsula, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea. Adak Community Development Corp. submitted seven proposals that would develop certain regulations for a western Aleutian Islands red king crab fishery in state waters intended to be a small boat fishery prosecuted largely by local fishermen. The proposals would develop new Adak and Petrel districts in Area O for a guideline harvest level, or GHL, fishery managed on a daily basis, with a July 1 opening date. The group has also asked the board to close the federal waters in the same area when the state-waters GHL is less than 250,000 pounds. ADFG supported some of the proposals, but not all, noting concerns with reducing the timeline for registration or allowing non-ADFG officials to perform required inspections. Adak Community Development Corp. is a nonprofit focused on local seafood harvesting and processing, and successfully argued for vessel size and pot limits for such a fishery at a prior meeting. In public comments submitted to the board prior to the meeting, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers opposed the new fishery, citing a lack of information about it among other concerns. Also in the Aleutians, the Golden King Crab Coalition has asked the board to increase the harvest limit for the golden king crab fishery, and Chad Hoefer, a crab fisherman, submitted a proposal to change the season in that fishery. The coalition, which has worked on cooperative research in the fishery, would increase the total allowable catch, or TAC, by 15 percent, from 6.29 million pounds to 7.24 million pounds. ADFG staff opposed increasing the quota in their written comments to the board, citing a lack of information about the stock. Hoefer’s proposal would shift the fishery to May 15 to Feb. 15, rather than the current August to May timeframe. ADFG staff opposed that proposal because it wouldn’t fit with the current timeline for setting the TAC, which happens after the North Pacific Fishery Management Council establishes the annual catch limit, or ACL. Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., or NSEDC, the local Community Development Quota group, has proposed changes to the king crab fishery there. CDQ groups are six organizations representing 65 Western Alaska villages within 50 miles of the Bering Sea coast that receive 10.7 percent of the annual federal fishing quotas including pollock, crab and halibut. NSEDC’s proposals would add spiny king crab to the defined king crab species, allow commercial fishermen to use hand lines, and change how the summer red king crab fishery quota is set. ADFG opposed the change to the summer fishery harvest thresholds, although the proposal was largely a placeholder and did not specify how it would change the harvests. The spiny king crabs are popular in Japan, and available in the winter crab fishery offshore from Nome. ADFG supports adding them to the defined species, which would mean they would no longer be characterized as miscellaneous shellfish. Hand lines are a common subsistence tool in the Norton Sound region, but not allowed for the commercial fishery. ADFG was neutral on the allocative aspects, but noted that the proposal could enhance the winter fishery in years when the ice conditions are not conducive to fishing through the ice. For Prince William Sound, stakeholders have asked for a new commercial tanner crab limits with various pot limits. In Cook Inlet, it’s a sport fishery that was requested. For Kodiak, a fisherman has asked to close Alitak Bay to tanner crab fishing. ADFG’s primary changes address registration issues, descriptions of fishing areas, weather-delay criteria, and tank inspection requirements in various areas and fisheries. A Cook Inlet proposal, however, would change the department’s harvest strategy for tanner crab to base it on three years of information, rather than five, which ADFG staff wrote would reduce the chance of over-harvesting. Another would change the harvest strategy for St. Matthew Island blue king crab. The proposal changes the threshold for considering opening the fishery, and reduce the proportion of legal males that can be harvested   ADFG also proposed a handful of changes to the crab observer program, which would primarily clarify terms and how the program works. Yukon River, Bristol Bay also up for discussion The board will also tackle other non-crab proposals for the Yukon River and Bristol Bay at the meeting. For Bristol Bay, the board is expected to consider a sport gear change on the Nushagak River and consider a navigational issue in the Ugashik setnet fishery. The proposal would limit the configurations allowed for setting nets on certain parts of the Ugashik. Written public testimony was submitted by a Juneau lawyer on behalf of several setnetters in the Ugashik fishery, however, who wrote that there is not a navigational issue and the change would be allocative. On the Yukon, the board will consider modifying the fish wheel regulations, changing the restrictions on dipnet sizes and allowing purse seines for the summer chum fishery. The Kuskokwim River could also be on the table, depending on whether or not an emergency petition is brought forward at the Anchorage meeting. The Kuskokwim River Salmon Working Group has discussed filing an emergency petition asking for dipnets to be allowed in place of gillnets this summer, but the exact timing of when that should be submitted in order to accommodate the summer fishery had not yet been established. Emergency regulations are limited in duration.

Oral argument scheduled for denial of setnet initiative

Oral argument in the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance appeal of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s decision to not certify a proposed ballot initiative to ban setnetting is scheduled for April 22 in Anchorage. The alliance, or AFCA, wants to ask voters whether to ban setnets in urban parts of the state. If the initiative made it on to the ballot and passed, it would eliminate setnetters in Cook Inlet. Treadwell denied the initiative petition in January based on a Department of Law opinion that found it was a prohibited appropriation of state resources. AFCA, however, has said that the effort is conservation-focused, and filed an appeal of Treadwell’s decision in Alaska Superior Court Jan. 22. The AFCA appeal argued that the initiative would not establish preferences among user groups and “retains for the legislature and the Board of Fisheries full discretion as to how to allocate fish resources among competing users.” The State denied that in its response filed Feb. 27. The State is representing Treadwell, who as lieutenant governor controls the Division of Elections and is responsible for approving or denying ballot initiative petitions. Treadwell’s decision was based on a state Department of Law opinion that referenced a 1996 Alaska Supreme Court decision, Pullen vs. Ulmer, that maintained that salmon are assets that cannot be appropriated by initiative, and that preferential treatment of certain fisheries may constitute a prohibited appropriation. But in AFCA’s complaint, the organization asserted that the initiative at issue in the Pullen case created a harvest preference for sport fishermen, while the AFCA initiative does not create a preference between types of fisheries. The state attorneys denied that as well. In addition to denying much of AFCA’s arguments in the appeal, the State cited several affirmative defenses. In its request for relief, the State asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit and have its costs and fees reimbursed. The defenses the State listed included the argument that the State may have various types of immunity, that the timing of the case may not be appropriate, that the question may have been considered and handled elsewhere, and that the plaintiff may not have standing to bring the case forward. The response came at the request of Judge Catherine Easter, who met with attorneys for the alliance and Treadwell on Feb. 26 to schedule oral argument and discuss other issues that could arise. At that time, she also asked the State to file a response to the original complaint. Both sides are expected to file motions for summary judgment by March 7, with opposition briefs due March 21. If reply briefs are needed, those will be due April 2. The April 22 hearing is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., and expected to take an hour. The two sides agreed that there likely will not be a dispute over facts in the case or any need for discovery, which are conditions needed to reach the summary judgment stage. AFCA lawyer Robert Misulich said the proposed timeline would meet AFCA’s desire to have the case heard at the state Superior and Supreme courts this year, so that the alliance could still collect signatures in 2015 and get the ban on the ballot in 2016. It’s likely a final decision will come from the Alaska Supreme Court, as either the State or the AFCA can appeal the Superior Court’s decision to that body. If there is a dispute over facts, however, Easter said the schedule may need to be changed to accommodate an evidentiary hearing, which could make it difficult to proceed on AFCA’s requested timeline. Easter also agreed that briefs in the case could be 30 pages, but said any longer was not necessary because it is a fairly limited question of law. That was at the request of Chief Assistant Attorney General Libby Bakalar, who called into the hearing from Juneau and said that the byzantine issues of elections law and fisheries law would take more than 20 pages, the usual limit, to explain. In a statement, AFCA Executive Director Clark Penney said the organization was glad about the pace at which the case is moving.  “We are in this process for the long haul because it is about protecting fish stocks in all of urban Alaska,” Penney said. “We appreciate the Superior Court’s prompt actions, and we look forward to getting this issue into the hands of the voters.”

Senate hears from North Pacific on MSA reauthorization

While commercial users generally said the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working, subsistence and recreational fishers asked for a louder voice in the management process at a congressional hearing regarding the law up for reauthorization this year. The Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing Feb. 27 to gather Alaska and North Pacific perspectives on the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization currently underway. The act, or MSA, regulates management of federal fisheries from three miles to 200 miles offshore, including in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. It was implemented in 1976, and most recently updated in 2006. Now it’s up for reauthorization, with amendments likely. The House Natural Resources Committee released their draft in December. Sen. Mark Begich, chairman of the Senate oceans subcommittee, said the Senate draft could be out near the end of March, but that the committee wanted to gather as much input as possible before working on the legislation. The hearing in Washington, D.C., was one of several held in both the House and Senate on possible changes. As-is, the MSA primarily addresses commercial fisheries management, but Begich was careful to refer to all three sectors, not just commercial users, when talking about who relies on fisheries in Alaska. He also noted the value of recreational fisheries to coastal economies, particularly anglers targeting halibut and salmon. He also referenced the long history of subsistence fishing. The participants also submitted longer written testimony, and after the hearing, Begich said the committee would keep the record open for two weeks to ask for answers to additional questions. Sport, subsistence users ask for voice Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Ricky Gease was one of several fishing industry representatives to participate in the hearing. He spoke largely about the recreational sector, and what is needed in the next iteration of the MSA. In terms of commercial management, he said, the MSA is being polished, and in terms of conservation efforts, the law is being further developed. “I think for the recreational fisheries in this country, we’re asking to be in stage one in this reauthorization process, where we get the basic definitions, characteristics and tools in the toolbox for regulators and managers to realize the full economic and social values of these very important recreational fisheries,” he said. Gease detailed the major differences between commercial and recreational fisheries management. Recreational fisheries are based on angler days, and reliant on maximum sustained production, which is getting the most fish into an ecosystem, rather than maximum sustained yield, which looks at value from the fishery harvest, Gease said. He also talked about the need to recognize the importance of stable bag limits and fisheries without in-season tweaking, and the need for more information about the economics of recreational fisheries. The value trickles through several industries, including tourism, gear sales, transportation and even real estate, Gease said. In response to a question from Begich, Gease also said that recreational allocations have been based on historical catches, but that doesn’t account for the economic value of the sector. Association of Village Council Presidents Director of Natural Resources Tim Andrew asked the committee to add a designated Tribal seat to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and include the word subsistence throughout the MSA to help protect subsistence resources. AVCP represents Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta communities and Tribes. Andrew said he spoke on behalf of almost 100 Tribes in Alaska because he also was representing the Tanana Chiefs Conference. Right now, Andrew said Tribes don’t have an adequate voice in the management process. Commercial fishermen address catch shares Fisheries managers and commercial fishing groups largely supported how the act is working right now, although some also addressed various sectors’ views of catch share programs. Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association Executive Director Linda Behnken talked about the need to preserve and protect coastal communities, particularly as catch shares are developed. “I would call to Congress’ attention that the new threat to fishing communities is too few fishermen, not too many. Our fisheries are fully prosecuted but by a fragment of the fleet that once filled the harbors, and empty harbors hurt coastal economies,” Behnken wrote in her written testimony. She asked for a change to the MSA national standards governing all fishery management plans that would strengthen the language regarding community protections, and a requirement that fishing community plans be included as part of fishery impact plans. Trident Seafoods legal counsel Joe Plesha talked about processors’ desire to be included in future catch share programs. The Gulf of Alaska rockfish program included linkages between harvesters and their historic processor in the five-year pilot program from 2006-11, but specifically did not allow such links in the most recent iteration that began in 2012. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council did not continue the ties between harvesters and processors when it reauthorized the rockfish program based on federal legal guidance that determined on-shore processing is not fishing, and therefore cannot be included in catch share programs that divide the harvest among users. Plesha said that as the council looks at further rationalization in the Gulf of Alaska, his organization and other processors would like a specific inclusion in future programs. The House language does include processors in the language defining eligible participants in catch share programs. Groundfish Forum Executive Director Lori Swanson said her group, which largely targets flatfish with bottom trawl catcher-processors, generally supports catch shares as a management tool. “Since ending the race for fish, our fishery runs year round and our fishermen can target their operations when and where it makes sense.” Swanson also said the programs have allowed the fleet to work on gear modifications, voluntarily restrict fishing in sensitive areas, and build new vessels. Oceana counsel Mike Levine also praised the council’s efforts so far to implement ecosystem management, and recommended that ecosystem efforts be supported and expanded. National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska Region Administrator Jim Balsiger said the act is working for the NMFS and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. “Conservative management measures implemented through the council process have paid off,” Balsiger said. The council manages federal fisheries offshore from Alaska, such as those in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Balsiger also noted that North Pacific managers would like to continue to be able to use catch share programs and other limited access tools. Chris Oliver, executive director of the North Pacific council, made similar comments. He also suggested that any major changes be region-specific, and not necessarily apply to all councils throughout the country. He also suggested that legislation talk about the intended outcome of a change, rather than prescribing how council’s get to that point. United Fishermen of Alaska Executive Director Julianne Curry also supported the law, and asked for caution in making any changes. Fishers respond to changes proposed by House committee Representatives and managers also addressed some of the changes proposed in the House committee’s draft version of MSA changes, including catch limits, bycatch and electronic monitoring. One would reduce the information made public about bycatch in federal waters. Levine, from Oceana, talked about the importance of information availability. “The oceans are a public resource, managed by public agencies,” Levine said. “And information collected pursuant to that management should be available to the public.” Oliver did not have time to get to bycatch in presenting the council’s testimony, but referred to the council’s written testimony in noting the council allowed the disclose of weekly bycatch summaries by vessel, he wrote. “Such information allows us to identify ‘poor performers’ related to salmon bycatch in Bering Sea trawl fisheries, for example, and to remove this allowance for disclosure would be counter to the Council’s policy intent and goals with regard to transparency, accountability, and minimizing bycatch to the extent practicable,” according to the council’s testimony. Andrew also asked for tighter language mandating bycatch reductions. “That language is extremely weak and it needs to be further strengthened to make the Magnuson Stevens Act more effective in the enforcement of the bycatch provisions,” Andrew said. He talked about the challenges of reduced king salmon runs on the Yukon, and the fishery closures subsistence and commercial in-river fishermen have faced there in an effort to make the treaty-mandated escapement to Canada. “We have our backs against the wall, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee … Our Chinook salmon resources have dwindled down to almost nothing on the Yukon River,” he said. Begich also addressed one of the proposed changes while talking about the 2006 changes: “Another important improvement is the requirement that catch limits not exceed the fishing levels recommended by the council’s, by their scientific and statistical committees.” That was part of the last round of amendments and was a requirement based on how Alaska set its limits, but the House has proposed changing that and allowing councils to use more of their own discretion, and rely less on the Scientific and Statistical Committee recommendations when setting annual catches. Under the MSA, the council cannot choose a harvest level greater than the overfishing limits chosen by the SSC. Oliver said that proposed House change was, “probably not a good idea from a public policy perspective.” The House draft also could speed up implementation of electronic monitoring. Behnken said the Longline Association supports using electronic monitoring in place of human observers on certain vessels. She talked specifically about the challenges of observers for the small boat fleet, and said that in ALFA’s electronic monitoring pilot program, 94 percent of fish could be identified by species, and the daily cost was about one-third of the observer program’s cost. Balsiger also talked about the cooperative research being done by NMFS and the fishing industry to see how electronic monitoring can work, and said some is planned for 2014, with more expected in 2015.

West coast scallops are suffering from ocean acidification

Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, U.S. policy makers are quibbling over climate issues as bivalves dissolve in an increasingly corrosive Pacific Ocean. Any kid’s chemistry set will show that big changes are occurring in seawater throughout the world. As the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning outputs (primarily coal), it increases acidity to a point where shellfish can’t survive. It is referred to as ocean acidification and results in sea creatures’ inability to grow skeletons and protective shells. The process occurs much faster in colder climes. West coast scallops are the latest bivalves to feel the bite. Ten million tiny scallops have died in waters off Victoria, British Columbia, reported the Parksville Qualicum Beach News. Nanaimo-based Island Scallops, a grow-out hatchery with 1,235 acres in production, has shut down its processing plant and laid off a third of its workforce. That accounts for about 16 percent of B.C.’s total shellfish aquaculture valued at $10 million. Island Scallops started seeing problems in 2009 along with other Washington hatcheries, said CEO Rob Saunders. “Suddenly we were getting these low pH values. That level has been so stable that for many years no one bothered to measure it because it never changed. It was really startling,” he told the News. Early last year the company counted three million scallops seeded in 2010 and seven million from 2011, and was gearing up for processing. But the shellfish started to die and by July the losses reached 95 percent. Other local growers faced the same fate. “The high acidity in the local waters interferes with everything they do, their basic physiology is affected,” said Chris Harley, a marine ecologist at the University of B.C. Growers are artificially increasing the pH levels of the water that circulates through the hatcheries to protect the larvae, but that is little help to the shellfish once they are moved to the sea. The B.C. Shellfish Growers Association stated that the acidic ocean is increasingly having an effect on survival and growth of shellfish during grow out in the ocean, and that last year mortalities reached 90 percent in all year classes. Pacific oysters also are one of the most vulnerable to the ocean corrosion. In 2005, growers first noticed oyster failures in natural sets in Willapa Bay in southern Puget Sound, and production was off by 80 percent by 2009.  “The oysters still grow a shell; it’s just that it dissolves from the outside faster than they can grow it. So eventually they lose the race and they die,” said Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms with 11,000 acre in Shelton, Wash. It is the nation’s largest shellfish producer with 500 employees. Growers there have learned that wind direction tells them when to plug intake pipes to the shellfish holding tanks. When the wind shifts from south to north, they know they have about a 24-hour window before corrosive waters show up. Meanwhile, Taylor is planning to move more of its oyster operations to Hawaii. Closer to home, researchers are seeing signs of corrosion in tiny shrimp-like pteropods — which make up 45 percent of the diet of Alaska pink salmon. Carbon dioxide has passed 400 parts per million, or ppm, in the Earth’s atmosphere, according to measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory. That’s up from 280 ppm in the pre-industrial era. Halibut help Halibut researchers will test deeper and shallower water depths to get better data on the dwindling stocks, and more fishing boats are needed to help. Each summer up to 15 boats are contracted to help halibut scientists survey 1,300 stations from Oregon to the Bering Sea. Since 1998 the surveys have been done in a depth range of 20 to 275 fathoms where most of the fishing takes place. This year they want to check out different depths.  “We use the area from zero to 400 fathoms as halibut habitat, but our surveys cover the area from 20 to 275 fathoms,” said Bruce Leaman, executive director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission. “So we’re using the catch rates from our existing survey depths to extend into those areas. We know we are ignoring some habitat where fishing is going on, but we don’t have the data so we are extrapolating from our known survey areas into the unknown.” Leaman said researchers plan to expand the surveys from 275 to 400 fathoms and from 20 down to 10 fathoms along the Pacific Coast and in area 4A — the Bering Sea edge and eastern Aleutians region near Unalaska. There are four survey regions in that region and each one contains 40 to 50 stations. “That’s one of the areas where we are seeing an increasing amount of fishing going on below 275 fathoms,” Leaman said. “Actually, all of the Bering Sea has a significant number of survey stations that are in depths that we don’t currently occupy.” The halibut stock surveys occur from late May through August, and it takes three to four weeks to get the job done. It’s a chance to make a good chunk of change, said survey manager Claude Dykstra. Typical payouts range from $70,000 to $120,000 depending on survey regions. Boats also get 10 percent of the halibut sales and 50 percent of any other fish retained and sold. Vessels using fixed gear can submit a proposal at Fish watch March 8 was opening day for halibut and sablefish. Fishing continues throughout Alaska for cod, flounder and other groundfish. In a few weeks, the jig fleet will be the first to take part in a new small boat pollock fishery, and managers report lots of interest. The Bering Sea pollock fishery will wrap up in a few weeks with a half-million-ton catch for the winter season. Trawlers will be back on the water in June with a total pollock catch this year of nearly three billion pounds. Crabbing continues in the Bering Sea for golden kings, Tanners and snow crab. Seiners will soon head to Sitka for the mid- to late-March arrival of roe herring. They will compete for a nice haul of more than 17,000 tons. Small boats wanting to drop dredges for the new state water scallop fishery must register by April 1. The Board of Fish will hold its final meeting for this cycle from March 17 to 21 in Anchorage. Statewide king and Tanner crab and supplemental items are on the agenda. Fish bits The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will get a $2.5 million cut if recommendations by a House Finance Subcommittee are accepted by the full Legislature and approved by Gov. Parnell. That includes a 10 percent reduction in state funding for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or about $780,000. The ADFG subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Bill Stoltze of Chugiak, who recommended cuts by division and not specific programs, said Juneau watch dog Bob Tkacz in Laws for the Sea. The long awaited book — “Catching a Deckload of Dreams” — recounts the journey of Chuck Bundrant from deckhand to chairman and founder of Trident Seafoods, the largest seafood harvesting and processing company in North America. When he arrived in Seattle in 1961, Bundrant had $80 in his pocket. Currently, Trident has sales topping $1 billion, employs more than 10,000 people and its products are sold in over 50 countries. The book is authored by John Van Amerongen. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

Stakeholders ponder protections under Gulf rationalization

SEATTLE — Fisheries stakeholders gathered Feb. 10 to talk about community protections in the pending Gulf of Alaska rationalization program. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has asked for a discussion paper on how to provide bycatch management tools for the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries, in particular through a rationalization program that ends the race for fish by allocating harvest privileges among user groups. In October, the council asked staff to analyze a general structure for rationalizing Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries as a means to minimize bycatch. A program could allocate pollock and Pacific cod to cooperatives in the western Gulf, central Gulf and west Yakutat based on members’ catch history. The prohibited species catch, or PSC, of species such as chinook salmon and halibut would be apportioned out to cooperatives on a pro rata basis. Fishery participants could also have the option of operating in a limited access pool. A portion of the target species allocation could be based on performance standards that emphasize low bycatch rates. The council’s October motion also asked for analysis of regional delivery requirements, inclusion of processors and communities into the cooperatives and certain cooperative requirements addressing active participation, bycatch management and other issues. Caps on the allowable levels of king salmon and halibut bycatch have already been set, and the trawl fleet has asked for the action to help them meet those caps. Some past rationalization programs, however, have had unanticipated consequences for fishery participants and communities, particularly through consolidation of effort that has led to job losses. When the Bering Sea crab fisheries were rationalized in 2005, some 1,000 jobs were eliminated in the first season when the fleet consolidated its effort to about one-third of the boats that had operated under open access. Community entities have asked for certain protections, concerned that the rationalization program could lead to increased consolidation and will raise the cost of entry, limiting the number of participants who can invest in the fishery. At the workshop, the council heard from those who have implemented community-fishing programs in a response to rationalization in an effort to see how inclusion of communities in cooperatives, or in the program via another mechanism, might play out. The workshop was held in a panel format with representatives from East and West Coast community fishing organizations sharing their stories, as well as council members and analysts involved in the relevant rationalization programs. The West Coast representatives were involved in a Morro Bay program in Northern California, while the East Coast individuals were from the Cape Cod area. In Morro Bay, the city worked with other community groups to acquire quota share and vessel permits for the West Coast Groundfish Fishery’s trawl sector. Those are used by local fishermen, and have helped maintain a fishing industry in the community. After rationalization, fishing activity out of that port declined to the point where the only remaining processor considered leaving and other support businesses also faced the possibility of shutting down. A similar program is now being developed for Monterey Bay, according to David Crabbe, who talked about the West Coast program. The Cape Cod Fisheries Trust also provides access to quota to local fishermen participating in Notheast groundfish and scallop fisheries. Generally, the goal is to see help them enter the fishery, or continue fishing, until they are able to buy their own quota. Much of that quota has been purchased from retiring fishermen, and is then leased out with certain requirements for residency and other qualifications. In both regions, the community quota entities developed after the rationalization programs. That detail stuck out to council member John Henderschedt, who represents the state of Washington on the council, who said he thought it provided food for thought. “I was taken by how bottom up both of the models that we heard about were,” Henderschedt said. Ernie Weiss, from the Aleutians East Borough, noted that the North Pacific council has the opportunity to craft such programs from the beginning. “We have the possibility to get out in front of it,” he said. “Even a small initial allocation could help a community leverage more.” Nicole Kimball, who serves as the alternate to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell on the North Pacific council, wrote in an email that the programs showed how a community can develop a way for both long-term fishermen and new entrants to participate in a fishery. “I don’t think they gave themselves enough credit for the community leadership necessary to make these programs successful,” Kimball wrote. “And what came out loud and clear was the need for regional councils to make the hard decisions upfront, both allocation decisions and other provisions that can avoid excessive consolidation and either facilitate or promote the continued direct and indirect participation of the coastal communities that are dependent upon the fisheries you are proposing to change.” The workshop also drew additional members of the public to the council meeting. Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, came down from Juneau for the discussion. Kreiss-Tomkins said he’s had a few conversations with other legislators about the council’s pending Gulf of Alaska action, and that there’s increasing interest from lawmakers in making sure that Alaska fisheries benefit people in Alaska communities. That, he said, is hopefully a “healthy development” in the rationalization conversation. Kreiss-Tomkins said he had the chance to talk to the Cape Cod representatives, and was impressed with their ability to self-govern and deal with management politics. Council members have expressed concerns about creating a mechanism that required constant council oversight. In the case of the Cape Cod program, much of the management has been done by the fishery participants, and Henderschedt said he was interested by the collaborative relationship between managers and the communities. The council is expected to take the bycatch management package up again in April, and Weiss of the Aleutians East Borough said it’s now up to communities to come up with some possible ideas for community fishing associations. How to make one or multiple entities that reflect the diversity of needs and communities throughout the Gulf will be the challenge, he said. “That’s an unanswered question,” he said.

Magnuson-Stevens Act revisions focus of fishers in 2014

SEATTLE — Bycatch reporting, transparency and the role of the National Environmental Policy Act in fisheries management are among the proposed Magnuson-Stevens Act amendments the North Pacific Fishery Management Council scrutinized during its February meeting. The act, or MSA, is currently in the process of being reauthorized and amended. House and Senate committees have held hearings on the changes, and in December the House Natural Resources Committee released its draft version of possible new language in the bill. The Senate has not yet produced its version, but will likely do so this spring. The North Pacific council manages federal fisheries offshore from Alaska. The MSA, which was last reauthorized in 2006 and is up for renewal, regulates most fisheries in American federal waters 3 to 200 miles offshore, and authorizes the eight regional fishery management councils. The council is expected to provide comments for a February Senate hearing on the House draft and share North Pacific concerns. Generally, council Executive Director Chris Oliver said that the current iteration of the legislation is working for the North Pacific, and that much of the last round of MSA revisions were based on how Alaska manages its fisheries, so significant changes probably aren’t needed. But there were some issues he noted in the House committee’s language. That draft contains a provision specific to the North Pacific that would provide more confidentiality protections for bycatch information, and would prevent the current practice of releasing weekly bycatch data to the public, Oliver said. Council member Bill Tweit of Washington said that would essentially “gut” much of what the council has done in terms of requiring full retention. Council Chair Eric Olson said that making more data confidential would affect his judgment on initiating future catch share programs, given that such programs revolve around the use of a public resource. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” he said. Earlier in the meeting, the council also heard a report about the economics of Bering Sea chinook, or king, salmon bycatch that noted that public knowledge of bycatch was an incentive in keeping those numbers low. The survey provided quotes from fishery participants, and top reasons for avoiding bycatch that included pressure, moral responsibility and the quote, “I care about my reputation. I don’t want to be on the dirty list.” The draft House language would implement new standards for transparency in the council process requiring video streaming of meetings and full transcripts of council and Scientific and Statistical Committee meetings. Oliver said he thought those particular standards could be difficult to meet. Council member Nicole Kimball, the alternate on the council for Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, who was at the Board of Fisheries meeting in Anchorage, said she thought the council could signal support for transparency in general, but not a prescriptive way to get there. Olson said that the council might also note cost and logistics issues with such a requirement; not all Alaska meeting locations have the same technology capacities, which would make live video difficult. Another change would address the interplay between the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, and the MSA. Tweit noted that NEPA can get cumbersome for the council process, and a change could simplify things. During public testimony, however, Becca Robbins Gisclair asked the council to consider supporting continuance of the NEPA process, as it provides an additional opportunity for stakeholder input on decisions. Another change on the table in the House draft would give the councils more of a role in setting the annual catch limits. Oliver said he didn’t think the North Pacific council would change its process if that change was implemented, but it would allow councils to override the recommendations of the SSC in favor of setting a higher catch limit. Currently, catch limits must be at or less than the SSC recommendation, and there is generally a buffer between the overfishing limit, or OFL, and the annual catch limit, or ACL, based on the uncertainty of stock assessments. The SSC sets the OFL, and the council approves catch limits based on that. The House draft also proposes to change the term “overfished” to “depleted.” Council member Jim Balsiger, who is the Alaska Region Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said that suggestion has been made previously and the agency has opposed it because “depleted” is a specific term used in the Marine Mammals Protection Act. Council members also said they generally supported the idea of providing more flexibility for rebuilding plans and allowing emergency rules to be used for a year rather than 180 days. The change to allow flexibility is intended as a way to lessen economic impacts of those plans, and to account for species with a lifecycle that may not rebuild on a 10-year timeframe. Another North Pacific provision would also eliminate a loophole that currently could result in vessels not registered with the State of Alaska fishing for salmon in areas exempted from the federal fishery management plan, which the council generally supported. Tweit also noted that the body should be cautious in supporting changes, as any alerted language could have unintended consequences. Council member John Henderschedt of Seattle echoed that, and talked about the need to consider overarching policy in any changes. Council member Duncan Fields of Kodiak also said that the council might want to consider drafting its own priority issues and taking a more proactive stance, rather than reacting to the changes others have considered. Council participates in MSA workshop Several members of the council also participated in a workshop on the Magnuson-Stevens Act organized by the Center for Sustainable Fisheries and National Fisherman magazine. The Center for Sustainable Fisheries is a New Bedford-based nonprofit. President Brian Rothschild was the primary speaker, offering his perspective on what changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act are needed. Generally, Rothschild talked about the need for flexibility for the councils, a broader base of science on which to base decisions and the possibility of additional oversight for fisheries management. He also opened it up for the council members and fishery stakeholders from Alaska and Washington to participate in a discussion. Regarding flexibility, Rothschild discussed the possibility of enabling the council to set quotas without basing them on a single SSC recommendation or model. In Alaska, the SSC recommendations are generally based on more frequent stock assessments, making the numbers more reliable than they are on the East Coast. Some stock assessments here occur yearly, such as pollock and crab, with flatfish and other species surveyed every other year. On the East Coast, many species are surveyed on a triennial basis and severe harvest cuts in recent years have called the models and stock assessments into question. Rothschild also mentioned the idea of removing some of the weight given to science produced by the National Marine Fisheries Service, and  — in lawsuits, at least — giving some additional consideration to other science. For extra oversight, Rothschild mentioned the idea of creating a review board that reports to Congress. If that idea gained traction, he said there would likely need to be a national discussion about how big it would be and its exact role in fisheries. Rothschild’s comments also favored a shift in how overfishing and overfished are treated. He also emphasized that what is sometimes seen as an overfished stock is really the result of environmental factors that are not fully understood by scientists — or controllable. Aleutians East Borough Mayor Stanley Mack echoed that perspective. Mack said his parents moved to the Aleutians to fish cod. That stock declined despite the fact that fishing pressure was limited by the gear used. Now, that fishery has recovered and is again strong, he said. Rothschild also talked about changes to the 10 MSA National Standards that every fishery management plan must meet. His proposed language would essentially help incorporate National Standard 8, which requires plans to protect communities dependent on fisheries, into National Standard 1, which requires plans to achieve optimum yield while preventing overfishing. To do so, it would call for maximizing yield, while living within the constraints set by the applicable council. Currently, the language in National Standard 1 refers only to preventing overfishing while achieving optimum yield. Rothschild said “overfishing” and “overfished” are not well-defined terms, and noted that underfishing can be equally problematic. The regulations for implementing National Standard 1 are currently under revision, and some of those ideas could possibly come up in that process. CSF has previously held workshops elsewhere in the United States to get various perspectives on possible changes. In April, CSF is planning to host a workshop in Washington, D.C. and will provide the information it has gathered around the country to lawmakers.

Board of Fisheries adopts multiple changes to N. District

Nearly a dozen of the Upper Cook Inlet fisheries management changes decided by the Alaska Board of Fisheries this month will affect salmon that typically return to Northern District streams and the fishermen targeting them. The board met in Anchorage Jan. 31 to Feb. 13 for its triennial Upper Cook Inlet meeting, where it deliberated over more than 200 proposals to change finfish management in the region. Upper Cook Inlet drift gillnetters were handed a new management plan in a 7-0 vote, after much debate and several amendments to the proposal submitted by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission. Ultimately, the goal is to get more fish into Northern District streams, by restricting the commercial fleet to areas away from the central part of Cook Inlet known as Area 1. The plan attempts to shift effort earlier in July, when the fleet is more likely to catch Kenai and Kasilof salmon, and eliminates fishery openings later in the month. It also pushes fishing effort toward the east side of the Inlet, leaving the middle free of nets in an effort to let fish continue swimming north. The plan also creates a new Anchor Point section. The plan also shifts the allowable fishing areas in August, which is intended to allow for coho to swim north. Under the new plan, the allowed fishing areas vary depending on sockeye abundance. The commission that drafted the plan called it a success. “This is a historic day for the Mat-Su, similar to the banning of fish traps at statehood,” said Jim Colver, Mat-Su Fish and Wildlife Commission vice chair and a borough assembly member, in a statement. “We will look back on this action to implement conservation measures, as a game-changer in restoring the once robust salmon runs in the Valley.” The new plan, however, represents a significant loss to drift fishermen. “Like many Alaskans, we are discouraged by the needless, unscientific attacks on the more than 5,000 Cook Inlet commercial fishermen and their families that have occurred over the last 10 days,” said Alaska Salmon Alliance Executive Director Arni Thomson in formal statement. “These restrictions threaten an industry that pumps over $100-million in payroll directly into Southcentral Alaska’s economy every year. Alaskans cannot afford more half-baked attacks on our right to harvest our natural resources.” Although the plan creates more room for early-July sockeye harvest closer to the Kenai and Kasilof river mouths, that harvest opportunity is not guaranteed; other changes passed at the meeting limit commercial fishing when Kenai Kings are a concern, which could conflict with the provisions of the drift plan. Other proposals that change commercial fisheries management in the Northern District include one that changed some regulatory markers. Others changed the registration requirements for set and drift gillnet gear in Upper Cook Inlet to refer to electronic registration capabilities, and removed the registration requirement for joint drift gear. Subsistence, sport changes also discussed Sport and subsistence anglers also saw some changes from the board. The board voted 5-2 to require the use of four-stroke and direct injection two-stroke motors on the Little Susitna River, with Reed Morisky, of Fairbanks, and Orville Huntington, of Huslia, opposing the new regulation. The changeover must occur by Jan. 1, 2017. The Central Peninsula Advisory Committee proposed the new regulation, and noted that it would reduce hydrocarbons and turbidity in the river. The river is not designated as impaired, although the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is considering additional designations this year. Morisky said that only a third of the motors on the river would have to change under the new regulation, and that the problems associated with use two-stroke motors would solve themselves over time without a regulatory change. In supporting the action, several board members cited the fact that motors on the Kenai River are already restricted, and, like the Kenai, the Little Susitna sees a large number of angler days. Board members Sue Jeffrey and Tom Kluberton noted that other fishers have been asked to bear the burden of conservation throughout Upper Cook Inlet, and the board had taken prior actions to get more salmon up to the Northern District streams. The engine requirement would help with habitat conservation, Jeffrey said. The original proposal called for limiting the number of the outboard motors on the river, but the board’s action did not do that, in part because of issues with how that could be enforced. A proposal to prevent sport fishing from a boat entirely during the coho season on the Little Su failed. The board also changed the subsistence fishing regulations on the Upper Yentna River. The fishery is prosecuted with fish wheels, and targets sockeye salmon. The change extended the dates the fishery is open to July 15 through Aug. 7, with four-hour fishing periods on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays during that time. Previously, the fishery ended July 31. Some years, users did not harvest what they needed because of high water during the available fishing window. Board Chair Karl Johnstone noted that the amount necessary for subsistence finding for the river justified a subsistence harvest there, and the extra time would help users meet that need. A proposal that would have created a new subsistence dipnet fishery upstream of the confluence of the Yentna and Susitna rivers failed, however. Board members referenced concerns about future road access to the area — it’s part of Gov. Sean Parnell’s roads to resources plan — and the potential for growth if access got easier. “Once we’ve opened this door we’ll never close it,” Kluberton said. Other Northern District proposals that passed: • Proposal 298 — Push the date for allowing bait on the Deshka River from May 15 to June 1. • Proposal 305 — Close the Fish Creek near Talkeenta to sportfishing. • Proposal 306 — Move several lakes from one unit to another in the Susitna River drainage. • Proposal 319 — Change the regulations for the Jim Creek drainage to close the area to sportfishing on Mondays and Tuesdays from mid-August through December, and preventing anglers from continuing to fish after reaching a salmon bag limit. • Proposal 318 — Open the Fish Creek, near Wasilla’s Knik-Goose Bay Road, personal-use fishery from July 10 to 31 unless the sockeye escapement is projected to be less than 50,000. • Proposal 322, 324, 325 — Change the Eklutna Tailrace fishing regulations, update the stocked lakes listing for the Knik Arm drainage and reduce the bag limit for Anchorage stocked lakes. • Proposal 323, 376 — Create youth-only coho and king fisheries in the Eklutna Tailrace. • Proposal 244 — Close Hidden Lake Creek and Jean Lake Creek to salmon fishing.

IPHC tests pollock as bait to replace spendier salmon

Bait is a big expenditure for many fishing businesses and pollock could help cut costs for Alaska halibut longliners who fish in the Gulf of Alaska. Researchers have tested pollock in two projects to see if it might replace pricier chum salmon as halibut bait. Fish biologists use more than 300,000 pounds of chums in their stock surveys each year, costing nearly $500,000. The baits are used at more than 1,200 testing stations from Oregon to the Bering Sea. A pilot study three years ago in the central Gulf and off of British Columbia showed some promising signs for pollock. “We looked at several different baits — our standard chum salmon, pink salmon, pollock and herring. Pollock showed a very strong indication of both better catch rates and lower bycatch rates, so we were very excited about that,” said Bruce Leaman, executive director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission. In 2012, the bait project was expanded coastwide, and that led to mixed results. “One confirmed what we saw in the Gulf, in that pollock was a very effective bait there relative to chum salmon and we got good catch rates. But when we moved into the Bering Sea, we got completely opposite results where the salmon bait performed better than the pollock,” Leaman said. “In the Bering Sea, pollock is a very significant component of halibut diet, and we were speculating that it may be a sort of novelty seeing salmon down there as bait, and that may have been what the fish were responding to.” When all the raw data were statistically compiled and corrected, Leaman said the bait test results were inconsistent. “We do a number of corrections to the data to actually compare apples to apples across areas. One of the things we correct for is the number of returned baits and the hook competition among areas,” Leaman explained. “And when we did those comparisons, we found that the results were nowhere near as strong as with the raw data. The raw data showed pollock had much better catch rates, lower amounts of sub-legal fish and lower amounts of bycatch. But when we did corrections to the data we found that those results were not so consistent.” The pollock bait still caught fewer small fish, but overall, the halibut catch rates were almost the same as with chum bait. “That’s not necessarily a bad result,” Leaman said. “It’s just that pollock was not as grossly superior compared to what we had been using.” Studies will continue but for now chums will remain the bait of choice for science. Leaman does agree that pollock can be a good bait alternative for halibut in the Gulf. “It’s a good idea,” he said. “It’s far less expensive and can represent a significant savings. In fact, some are already using pollock right now.” Call for fish techs There is a severe shortage of fish technicians and biologists in Alaska’s largest industry, and it is a trend that is predicted to continue for at least the next 10 years. A new statewide outreach programs started last fall aims to fill the bill. “Some of the positions for fisheries technicians include fish culturists, fishery observers, fish and wildlife surveyors, habitat restoration technicians, stream surveyors, fishery management assistants, and hatchery technicians,” said Kaitlin Kramer of Valdez. She is one of six outreach coordinators located also in Petersburg, Kodiak, Homer, Sitka and Dillingham. They work for the University of Alaska Southeast; the Fish Tech program is headquartered at Sitka. “Our role is to reach out to the communities where we live and help promote the fisheries technology program, try to recruit students and facilitate internships with local industries,” Kramer added. Two training programs are offered — a Fisheries Technology certification and an Associates of Applied Science in Fisheries Technology. All classes are available to students on their computers. The classes are recorded online with instructors in Sitka and as long as they have an internet connection, students can view them on their own time, or they have the option of sitting in live as the class is being taught. Classes follow the college semester schedule, Kramer said but people can tune in when it’s convenient. She said most people are surprised at the wide range of good jobs in the seafood industry, beyond catching and processing fish. “A lot of people don’t realize anything about this degree, or even what people in the fisheries technician world do,” Kramer said. ´It’s fun to let them know that there are options available and there are so many opportunities throughout the state. This program is really trying to reach out and let Alaskans know that in every community, there is a related job.” The Fish Tech program offers scholarships and internships. Registration opens April 21. For more information call 907-747-7717 or visit SWAMC soiree Energy, fisheries, and politics will be served up at SWAMC’s 26th Economic Development summit next month. The Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference is a non-profit group that represents more than 50 communities, including Kodiak, Bristol Bay and the Aleutians. SWAMC interim director Erik O’Brien said the group networks with more than 100 members and their main connection is fish. “The one unifying need of the whole industry is making the most value out of our fisheries and seafood,” O’Brien said. “That is really the one single thing everyone has in common.” The three-day summit will cover a wide range of economic topics. “On our first day the main thing we will look at is how do you bring down the overall cost of energy. Day two will focus on developing our human capital in our education, training and workforce development systems and how we can make those better. Then on the fisheries day, we will discuss how the maximum sustained yield benefits the people of Alaska,” O’Brien said. Candidates for governor Bill Walker, running as an independent, and Democrat Byron Mallott will participate in a debate on the final night; no word yet if Gov. Sean Parnell will show. The SWAMC Summit runs March 5-7 at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. Debate updates Kodiak is featuring two fisheries debates this year, an event that began in 1990. The first, on May 23, will feature Alaska’s candidates for U.S. Senate. Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell quickly accepted the invite and Sen. Mark Begich is making plans to attend. No word yet from Republicans Joe Miller or Dan Sullivan, said Trevor Brown, director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the event. A second debate on Aug. 28 will bring the candidates for Alaska governor to Kodiak. The two-hour event is broadcast live via APRN to more than 300 Alaska communities. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

UFA wants legislature to put scallops back on the menu

The United Fishermen of Alaska are trying to revive the legislative discussion in Juneau about the vessel-based scallop limited entry program as managers and participants prepare for the new open access state-waters fishery that will open July 1. In a Feb. 16 email, UFA Executive Director Julianne Curry wrote to members of the legislature that extending the limited entry program for scallops was a priority for UFA. Curry cited economic concerns for the fleet, and sustainability issues in the fisheries, as reasons for continuing the program in her emails to the Legislature and to UFA board members. Scallops are fished with dredges in Alaskan waters and many of the scallop beds cross the three-mile line that divides state and federal waters. Previously, the fishery was managed jointly by state and federal entities. This summer, the state-waters scallop fishery is slated to become open-access for the first time in just more than a decade after the previous vessel-based limited entry program was not renewed by the Legislature during the 2013 session due to concerns over consolidation. The scallop fishery was the only vessel-based limited entry program in the state until the program expired Dec. 31, 2013. Curry wrote in an email to the Journal that if the Legislature allowed one limited entry program to expire, it could set a precedent that would concern permit holders in other fisheries. Last year, UFA passed a resolution supporting the program’s extension. Curry was unavailable to elaborate on why it was a UFA priority, however, and referred questions to the Alaska Scallop Association’s Jim Stone, a UFA member. The Senate passed Senate Bill 54 in 2013 extending the vessel-based limited entry programs for both scallops and Bering Sea hair crab for five years. The Senate bill stalled in the House Fisheries Committee chaired by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, because of the concerns over consolidation in the scallop fleet under the limited entry program. Eventually, SB 54 was added to a House bill that was previously expected to pass easily to extend funding for the Alaska Regional Development Organizations, also known as ARDORs. With SB 54 attached, the ARDOR funding bill was not brought to a vote and both programs expired at the end of 2013. Now, a conference committee is working on a version of the legislation that would extend the hair crab program and reauthorize the ARDORs, but leave out scallops and keep the state waters as an open access fishery. The committee held its third hearing Feb. 19, and moved a bill to reinstate the hair crab permits and ARDOR program. Stone, however, attributes the failure to extend the program last year primarily to one legislator: Seaton of Homer. “No basis for ending the program was found by CFEC, ADFG or the Senate with an 18-1 vote in favor to extend the licenses. Rep Seaton knows full well the votes to extend the vessel licenses are on house floor, so he uses (abuses) his power as Chair and refuses to allow the fishermen a fair vote,” Stone wrote in an email (Editor’s note: Stone’s statement included the word abuses in parentheses). “If one man on an anti-scalloper jihad can single handedly burn one fishery’s permits, despite overwhelming support, whose permits are safe? This should scare the hell out of all fishermen across the state.” Open-access regs developed Meanwhile, fishery managers and participants have been preparing for the new open-access fishery. The Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, or CFEC, issued new regulations for the fishery in the fall, and has begun issuing interim-use permits to interested skippers. Under the new program, separate permits are required for state and federal waters, and separate fish tickets will be required for the two areas. As of Feb. 18, five participants had received permits for the 2014 state-waters fishery. Of those, just two are new to the state-waters fishery. The other three hold permits in federal waters. Stone said that only one is a member of the Alaska Scallop Association, and additional participants in that group will also be applying. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is also working on its management efforts. In January, the Board of Fisheries approved a management plan drafted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that calls for vessel registration and provides regulations for the open-access fishery. Even if the legislature takes action to extend the scallop program, that will have to be reconciled with the new regulations. The newly-approved Board of Fisheries management plan will remain in place until the board takes action to rescind it, wrote ADFG’s Division of Commercial Fisheries Deputy Director Forrest Bowers in an email. On the CFEC side, the language in the original bill to extend scallops had a retroactivity provision, and would nullify the new interim-use permits and re-instate the old regulatory framework, wrote CFEC’s Benjamin Brown in an email. Despite the new regulations, ADFG is still figuring out the specifics of management for the fishery. Bowers said the department will formulate its management approach based on the number of vessels registered to participate. Registration opened Feb. 20, with an April deadline.. That will give the department an idea of the maximum participation in the fishery. ADFG’s preferred approach is to have a guideline harvest level, or GHL, fishery in tandem with the federal fishery, Bowers said. That, he expects, would be managed similarly to past years with in-season catch reporting and daily tracking of the harvest. Generally, the dredges used are pretty easy to pull out of the water, so the fishery can be managed close to the limit with a quick closure, Bowers said. If for some reason it appears a GHL fishery isn’t feasible, ADFG’s options include setting a fishery closure date when it opens to limit the season length, or closing the fishery entirely. That’s the worst-case scenario, he said. Until vessel registration is completed, however, it’s hard to judge what participation will look like. “I don’t think there will be any fewer boats scallop fishing,” Bowers said. That worries UFA. “Scallop harvest levels are so low that simple economics will not allow more vessels to harvest,” Curry wrote in her email to the Legislature. The original limitation program allowed for nine vessels to participate. Fewer participate now, due to consolidation and relinquished state permits. Stone wrote that an open-access fishery could also result in higher tanner crab bycatch. “If participants do not cooperate to avoid pockets of crab, then areas could be closed before scallop gets caught, costing crews and the State … The current participants currently work together and communicate to avoid crab, we can move to the federal side where there might not be any crab,” Stone wrote. “The open access fishermen will fish as fast as they can irregardless of crab bycatch. The current fishermen have years of learned experience, new fishermen will not know the beds, will not rig their equipment to it optimal ability and will need to make many more tows to catch the same amount.” Bowers said the potential exists for the scallop fishery to shut down due to hitting the crab bycatch cap more quickly, but couldn’t say how likely it is without knowing how many vessels are participating this year. The current crab bycatch limits reflect a concern for the crab stock, and will still be used, Bowers said. Most likely, ADFG will partition the limits between state and federal waters, and manage the state fishery with the state-waters portions of the limits. In recent years, the scallop fishery has shut down once before the GHL was reached because the crab bycatch limit was reached, Bowers said. However, that is not a common occurrence. Whether or not that’s likely to happen under the open-access program will depend on the number of vessels participating in the fishery, he said. With a smaller cap and relatively high fishing effort, closure could be possible, but it’s not a certainty. However, it is in the fleet’s best interest to avoid crab bycatch and keep the fishery open, Bowers said. Stone also had concerns about product quality. “The current co-op vessels freeze onboard within four hours of capture, locking in the sweet flavor the Weathervane is prized for,” he wrote. “They take their time and ensure a 5-star product is being made. New vessels racing for scallop will most likely tear the meats, put scallops on ice where they will soak in water and drastically loose their famous flavor. This could degrade the Weathervane Scallop name in the culinary markets again costing crews and the State.” In the past, some state-waters participants have delivered fresh scallops and permit holder Max Hulse of Eagle River has told the legislature he would deliver fresh scallops again in the future if he returns to the fishery. Fishermen gearing up for scallops Stone said that the vessels fishing for ASA will continue their voluntary co-operative structure but new entrants may behave differently. So far, the two new entrants are Alaskans with a history in state waters. Matthew Alward and Don Lane, both Homer residents, each said they’re interested in participating in the new open access fishery, which is why they applied for IUPs. Alward has fished for scallops on the F/V Kilkenny in the past. He has a seiner, and said he didn’t know if it would be feasible to fish for scallops on his vessel, but that since the fishery is open access, he thought he might as well try for it. The details of observer coverage, a low GHL and other challenges could ultimately prevent him from fishing, however, he said. The other new participant is Lane, a commercial fisher who longlines for halibut and tenders salmon on his 60-foot steel boat, the F/V Predator. Like Alward, he’s not certain that he will fish scallops. It will depend on the season dates and how some of the details work out, he said. Regardless of whether he fishes, Lane has been involved in discussions about how to manage the new fishery at the Board of Fisheries level. Scallops could provide “shoulder season opportunity” to fishers getting started, Lane said. “I wanted to be part of the process of creating another opportunity for coastal Alaska to participate in a fishery,” he said. Lane also has a history with scallops. In 1992 or ‘93, he said he had plans to fish for scallops with a friend. At the last minute, however, they changed their plans after getting back from longlining. He went to Southeast to fish a black cod opening with his boat, which already had gear ready, and his friend stayed for the scallops. That changed the course of their fishery participation, and when limited entry was instituted — “he got a scallop permit, and I didn’t,” Lane said. Lane also helped the Homer Advisory Committee develop Cook Inlet scallop fishery management in the 1990s, including requirements that made it a small-boat fishery, such as the dredge size limit, he said. “We spent a lot of time working on that fishery,” he said. When the federal management plan was implemented, however, the Cook Inlet fishery was absorbed into that, and it took opportunity away from the small boat fishermen, Lane said. The consolidation that occurred under the limited-entry program didn’t sit well with everyone, Lane said. Now he’s glad to see it revert to open-access and help structure it again. “I’m grateful for that opportunity,” he said.

Board expands area restrictions for Cook Inlet drift fleet

On Feb. 10, the Alaska Board of Fisheries approved several changes to the Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan outlined in a proposal submitted by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish & Wildlife Commission. After more than an hour of discussion, the board voted unanimously to adopt the new regulation that includes provisions establishing a 1 percent rule for the fishery in August and a new area to fish called the Anchor Point section. The fishing season — which opens on the later date of either the third Monday in June or June 19 — will allow fishing from July 9 to July 15 in the Expanded Kenai and Kasilof Sections and Area 1. The expanded Kenai and Kasilof sections follow the shoreline on the east side of the Cook Inlet from the Ninilchik River to an area north of the Kenai River. Area 1 encompasses most of the lower Cook Inlet with the northernmost boundary being a line south of the Kasilof River that bisects the Inlet to a spot near Polly Creek on the west side; the southern boundary bisects the Inlet from a line that starts at Anchor Point. The new Anchor Point section starts just south of the Kasilof section, near Ninilchik and runs down the shoreline before terminating at near Anchor Point.  During board deliberations, commercial area management biologist Pat Shields was asked what kind of sockeye salmon catch rates are observed for the drift fleet in the new area. While the specific number was hard to pin down, Shields said, the ADFG test boat fishery starts in that area and it’s the station where the boat catches the least amount of sockeye. “Speaking with drifters over the years, this is an area where we don’t fish a lot,” Shields said. From July 16 to July 31 at run strengths of fewer than 2.3 million sockeye salmon to the Kenai River, fishing during all regular 12-hour periods will be restricted to the expanded Kenai and Kasilof sections. Previously, fishing during just one of those periods was restricted to those sections. During that same period, if the run strength is projected to be 2.3 million to 4.6 million sockeye to the Kenai River, fishing one of the fleet’s regular 12-hour fishing periods will be expanded to any or all of the Kenai, Kasilof and Anchor Point sections and Area 1. During the other weekly 12-hour regular period, fishing will not be allowed in Area 1. At run strengths of greater than 4.6 million sockeye to the Kenai, just one of the regular 12-hour fishing periods during the week will be restricted to the expanded Kenai, Kasilof and Anchor Point sections. Any additional fishing time given to the fleet will be allowed only in the expanded Kenai, Kasilof and new Anchor Point sections of the Inlet. From Aug. 1 to Aug. 15, if the Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers determine that less than 1 percent of the season’s total sockeye harvest in the driftnet fishery has been taken in a period for two consecutive periods, the fishery will be closed. The 2014 sockeye salmon forecast to the Kenai River is about 3.8 million. Dyer Van Devere, Cook Inlet drift fisher, said the new Anchor Point section would be chaotic as the drift fleet would be competing with halibut fishers and private boats that put out into the Inlet at the Anchor Point boat launch.


Subscribe to RSS - Fisheries