Fisheries

FISH FACTOR: Upcoming Summit tackles ‘graying of the fleet’

The biggest classes of Alaska fishermen are phasing out of the business and fewer young cohorts are recruiting in. The Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit has convened over a decade to help stanch that outward flow, and facilitate a future for fishing leaders. The average age of a commercial fisherman in Alaska was 50 in 2014 compared to 40 in 1980. At the same time, the number of Alaskans younger than 40 holding fishing permits fell to just 17 percent, down from nearly 40 percent of total permits across the state. The Summit coming up this year Anchorage provides three days of fast-paced networking and skill-building for newcomers to fishing and those considering the occupation as a career, although everyone from “graybeards to greenhorns” are welcome to attend. “Age is secondary to what we are trying to accomplish and that is getting folks oriented to the whole suite of fisheries aspects from management to markets, as well as a real solid hit on looking critically at their business model,” said Torie Baker of Alaska Sea Grant in Cordova, which hosts the Summit. “If you’re thinking about diversifying your operation or getting into another fishery or upgrading, we have a lot of great folks who come and help us with all aspects of the business parts of it.” Besides business, the Summit focuses on Alaska’s role in world seafood markets, the latest science affecting fisheries and the regulatory process, which features a mock Board of Fisheries meeting. “We actually assign roles and have folks get up there and practice public speaking, and we bring in people who play those roles in real life,” Baker said, Networking with industry professionals and fishing peers is always one of the most popular Summit draws. “People get totally new perspectives about fisheries across the state,” Baker said. “Just for salmon alone, there are 26 districts from Ketchikan to Kotzebue, and our longline fisheries are all over the place. It is an eye opener for these folks to get together, compare notes and challenges and aspirations.” Fishermen’s concerns have changed over time, she said, and based on recent exit surveys, it is the environment that is now drawing the most interest. “There is definitely a sensitivity in the oceanography and physical processes going on out there. That’s the source from which this all comes,” Baker said. “We’re working with hunter/gatherers who connect the dots every day in their lives and livelihood.” The Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit is set for Dec. 6-8 at the Dena’ina Center. Cost is $125 for registrations before Dec. 1 ($150 after) and travel scholarships are available. Salmon watch The world’s biggest sockeye salmon fishery keeps getting bigger. The red run next year at Bristol Bay is projected at 51.3 million fish. That would produce another whopping catch approaching 40 million, 18 percent higher than the 10-year average and 41 percent more than the long term mean. Last year’s sockeye run to the Bay was in the all-time top five, with record surges to several rivers, especially on the west side. And more of the same is predicted. Area manager Tim Sands said he believes recent warmer winters are providing better conditions for baby salmon. “Early ice-out, late ice-in…having extra growing time in those higher, upper lakes made those fish healthier, bigger, and more competitive when they got to the ocean,” Sands told KDLG in Dillingham. Biologists admit that predicting Bristol Bay sockeye runs is a tricky science. This past summer, for example, 42 percent more fish returned than projected, yielding a 37 percent higher catch. Using salmon data from nine river systems in five districts, Bristol Bay managers have had a mean error of 14 percent in harvest forecasts since 2001. See a complete breakdown for 2018 Bristol Bay salmon runs at KDLG. Projections for pink salmon next summer at Southeast Alaska are less robust. Managers at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game are forecasting a catch of 23 million humpies, below the 10-year average of 38 million fish. Biologists said abnormally warm water temperatures may have reduced fish survival and are driving a sense of “uncertainty.” Pink salmon that went to sea from 2014-16 returned in numbers below expectations and below recent odd/even year averages, managers said. Man-made salmon is proving to be a flop for investors. AquaBounty, the makers of genetically modified Atlantic salmon, admitted they may never make a profit as they seek to raise $20 million from the sale of its company stock. Seafood Source reports that AquaBounty made the comment in its U.S. Securities Exchange Commission filing earlier this month. The decades-long lab project to create faster-growing, genetically-modified salmon has caused “significant losses” the company said in its filing, and they expect to continue losing “for the foreseeable future.” AquaBounty shares on the NASDAQ were at $5.18 in early November down from more than $20 in January. The first batch of so-called “Frankenfish” was sold to undisclosed supermarkets last summer, most likely in Quebec. The company reported that five tons of GM salmon were shipped from its farm site in Panama, generating $53,000 or roughly $4.82 per pound. No one besides AquaBounty knows where the GM fish were sold, and no labels are required to alert customers what they are buying. AquaBounty said it plans to produce 1,300 tons of GM salmon annually (nearly 3 million pounds) starting next year. The U.S. gave a nod in 2015 to the “safety” of eating Frankenfish making it the first GM animal approved for human consumption, but it has yet to make it to American markets. More than 80 U.S. grocery chains and restaurants, including Costco, have stated they will not sell the GM salmon. Hats off to highliners Two Alaskans have merited National Fisherman’s prestigious Highliner of the Year awards: George Eliason of Sitka and Bruce Schactler of Kodiak. Both have spent decades in the wheelhouse and on deck, but it is their work beyond the fishing grounds that sets each year’s chosen Highliners apart. For Eliason, it was due to his years of dedication in finding ways to help young fishermen afford to have careers in local longline fisheries. Schacter was recognized for the years of heavy lifting he has done on writing and advocating on legislation to benefit seafood marketing, along with helping to expand global feeding efforts with Alaska seafood. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Seafood jobs in 2016 mirrored decline in harvests

Fewer men and women went out fishing in Alaska last year, in a familiar cycle that reflects the vagaries of Mother Nature. A focus on commercial fishing in the November Economic Trends by the Alaska Department of Labor shows that the number of boots on deck fell by 5 percent in 2016 to about 7,860 harvesters, driven by the huge shortfall in pink salmon returns and big declines in crab quotas. Fishing for salmon, which accounts for the majority of Alaska’s fishing jobs, fell by 6.4 percent statewide in 2016, a loss of 323 workers. The only Alaska region to show gains in fishing jobs last year was Southcentral, which includes the Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet fisheries, as well as fishing boats out of Homer, Seward and Kenai. All of the region’s fisheries added jobs in 2016, even salmon, scoring the state’s second-highest total employment at 1,661 harvesters. Southeast Alaska had the state’s largest slice of fishing jobs in 2016 at 29 percent, or 2,275 fishermen. But that reflects a decline for the third straight year. The Panhandle’s harvesting employment dipped 0.8 percent in 2015 and then 2.3 percent in 2016, declining by 53 jobs. Fishing jobs at Kodiak fell by 8.5 percent in 2016, erasing the job gains of the few prior years. That reflected a poor salmon season, where fishing jobs dropped 14 percent, combined with slight drops in fishing for pollock, cod and other whitefish. Bristol Bay, where fishing jobs rely almost entirely on salmon, took the hardest hit last year. The 1,276 permits fished reflect a loss of 133 fishing jobs, or 9.5 percent. For Alaska crabbers, fishing jobs were down by nearly 19 percent to 464, a loss of 107 fishermen and the lowest level since 2009. That was due to lower crab numbers and a called off Tanner crab fishery in the Bering Sea. The crab cuts cost the Aleutians and Pribilof Islands more than 122 fishing jobs in 2016, a 7.8 percent decline. Looking ahead, state economics said reports of record catches and a 67 percent higher payday for Alaska salmon fishermen this year suggests a resurgence in harvesting jobs for 2017, while other catches, such as cod, appear weaker. Symphony of Seafood Fourteen new Alaska seafood products will be showcased and judged this week at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle. The products are competing in the annual Alaska Symphony of Seafood, hosted for 25 years by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation. In the foodservice category, the entries are Smoked Black Cod dip by Saltwood Smokehouse in Seward, Hot and Spicy Wild Alaska Pollock Fish Sandwich by Trident Seafoods and Alaska Sockeye Salmon Bites by Orca Bay Seafoods. Saltwood’s dip also is entered in the retail category, along with Kelp Campfire Salsa by Barnacle Foods of Juneau, Smoked Sockeye Trio by Trapper’s Creek Smoking Co., Wild Alaska Skillet Cuts by Trident, Jack Link’s Salmon Jerky by Link Snacks of Minnesota and Alaska Flounder Parmesan with Marinara by Orca Bay. The Beyond the Egg category, intended to introduce more roe products, attracted one entry — Trident’s Barako Style Wild Alaska Pollock Roe, meaning in a squeezable tube. Beyond the Plate entries highlight the many items that can be made from fish byproducts. Cod Crunchies Pet Treats by Alaskan Leader Seafoods is competing against three crab shell-based entries from Tidal Vision LLC of Juneau: High Tide, a plant immune booster, Game Meat Protector, a spray that prevents spoilage and repels insects, and Crystal Clarity, a 1 percent Chitosan Fining Agent for beers, wines and other beverages. Fish watch The eight-month Pacific halibut season ended on Nov. 7, with Alaska longliners taking 96 percent of their 17.6 million-pound catch limit. Kodiak led all ports for halibut landings topping 3 million pounds, followed by Seward and Homer. The industry will get a first glimpse of next year’s potential catches at the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting Nov. 28-29 month in Seattle, and final numbers will be announced in January. The Alaska pollock fishery called it a wrap on Nov. 1 with a catch topping 3 billion pounds. The pollock harvest is pegged at that amount for 2018. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will announce catch limits for pollock, cod, flounders and myriad other fish species under its purview during its Dec. 4-12 meeting in Anchorage. The state Board of Fisheries meets Dec 1-5 in Valdez to take up commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fisheries at Prince William Sound and the Upper Copper and Susitna River regions. A one-hour training session on “How to Navigate the Board Process is set for Dec. 1 during the noon break. Frances Leach of Juneau will take the helm at United Fishermen of Alaska, the nation’s largest commercial fishing trade association. Leach currently works in the commercial fisheries division at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Having grown up in a commercial fishing family in a coastal community (Ketchikan), I understand the importance of commercial fishing to Alaska’s economy and cultural heritage. The commercial fishing industry faces many challenges at the state and federal level, and I look forward to addressing these challenges as UFA’s Executive Director,” Leach said in a press release. UFA represents 34 member organizations from fisheries across Alaska and its offshore waters. Leach will begin her new job at UFA on Jan. 5. Got gas? “Not since the campfire scene in Mel Brooks’s film Blazing Saddles has the world been exposed to flatulence on such an epic scale.” So reads the recent headline in The Times UK announcing that, unlike cowboys eating gassy beans, in this case it is shellfish that are producing vast amounts of methane. Researchers off the coast of Sweden showed that underwater flatulence by mussels, oysters and clams produced one-tenth of greenhouse gases released in that part of the Baltic Sea, equivalent to 20,000 cattle. The Stockholm University scientists said they believe the shellfish are farting more robustly due to increased digestion of agricultural fertilizers in coastal waters. On a more helpful note, fish farts also are giving researchers and managers clues to fish distributions. ScienceShots, a publication from the American Association of the Advancement of Science, reports that a University of South Florida team picked up barely audible, cricket-like noises using a robot glider that sampled ocean sounds in Tampa Bay. The sounds lasted throughout a day and night, and were most likely from massive schools of menhaden and herring releasing gas from their swim bladders. NOAA estimates that of the 30,000 or so fish species in the world oceans, fewer than 1,000 have been recorded. The tiny cusk eel, for example, can sound like a jackhammer. A drum fish protecting its nest makes a mix of thumping and fog horn sounds. And for years the mating calls of cod fish have wreaked havoc for the Norwegian navy, because the love sounds are similar to enemy submarines. Researchers believe that tuning into the underwater soundscape can offer more clues to where sea creatures are and what they are doing. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

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

The annual report detailing national and regional economic impacts of U.S. fisheries totaled $9.6 billion in value in 2016 with Alaska as usual producing more than the rest of the nation combined. Alaska produced 58 percent of all landings and for the 20th straight year brought in the highest volume, according to the 2016 Fisheries of the United States report by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The top spot for all ports in the nation went to Dutch Harbor, which brought in 770 million pounds with Alaska pollock accounting for 89 percent of that volume. Dutch Harbor also produced the second-highest value in the nation at $198 million, behind New Bedford, Mass, which reeled in 77 percent of its overall catch in sea scallops to account for its No. 1 spot in the nation at $327 million in value. The Aleutians, where Trident Seafoods operates the largest processing plant in the nation on Akutan, was the second-ranked port by landings in the nation with 508 million pounds for $105 million. Kodiak was ranked No. 4 in landings with 417 million pounds and a value of $109 million. The report on landings of Alaska pollock, 3.4 billion pounds, increased from 2015 numbers. That fishery brought in 336.2 million pounds more than the previous five-year average. By volume, the nation’s largest commercial fishery remains Alaska pollock, which showed near record landings of 3.4 billion pounds. That represents 35 percent of the total U.S. commercial and recreational seafood landings. Alaska led all states in volume with landings of 5.6 billion pounds. The lineup shows Alaska was followed by Louisiana, 1.2 billion pounds; Washington, 551.9 million pounds; Virginia, 363.3 million pounds; and Mississippi, 304 million pounds. Alaska led all states in value of landings with $1.6 billion followed by: Maine, $633.6 million; Massachusetts, $552.2 million; Louisiana, $407.2 million; and Washington, $321.0 million. Under the review of major species, the count of Pacific cod landings was 708.6 million pounds, an increase just more than 1 percent from 699.1 million in 2015 to 708.6 million in 2016. Rockfish landings were down by 12 percent between the two years at the catch of 42.3 million pounds and valued at nearly $16.8 million, down by nearly 13 percent from 2015. Halibut landings in the Atlantic and the Pacific were 25.2 million pounds valued at $127 million, an increase of 3 percent or 627,000 pounds over 2015. The Pacific halibut accounted for all but 285,000 pounds of the 2016 total halibut catch. It brought in 6 percent higher value at $5.05 per pound, compared with $4.86 in 2015. Alaska brought in 97 percent of all U.S. commercial salmon landings, but the catch volume was down by more than 47 percent, a decrease of 505 million pounds compared with 2015. By salmon species, there was a decrease of nearly 2.8 million pounds of sockeye; chinook salmon decreased by 6.2 million pounds; and pink landings were down by 79 percent at 477.2 million pounds less than 2015. But coho landings had increased by 20 percent or 5 million pounds. Average prices per pound increased to 70 cents in 2016, almost 30 cents higher than 2015 prices. The 2016 pink salmon numbers widely missed the forecast and Gov. Bill Walker sought and received an economic disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Commerce, but so far Congress has not appropriated any funds for it. Julie Speegle, the public information officer for National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska Region in Juneau said Alaska had a 7.5 percent decline in salmon landings overall by volume from a record 2015 harvest. “Much of this decline is accounted for by the expected large decline in the cyclical pink salmon harvest in 2016,” she said. Other highlights from the report show Alaska landings were almost 542.6 million pounds valued at almost $380.5 million. This was a decrease of 498.2 million pounds, or 48 percent, and almost $32.7 million less, or nearly 8 percent, in value compared with 2015. Salmon catches and prices rebounded in 2017, with a catch of 213 million fish, beating the state forecast by 9 million. The state sockeye catch was more than 50 million fish for the 10th time in state history and Alaska saw one of the best chum salmon harvests ever at 22 million fish. Under stocks of interest, the Pacific herring harvest of 52.3 million pounds was valued at $5.5 million but that fishery saw a decline of 24 percent overall in 2016. Alaska accounts for 99 percent of the Pacific coast herring catch and saw a decrease of 16.6 million pounds or 24 percent compared with 2015. In the employment sector, there were 9,788 jobs at 160 processing plants in Alaska. Among recreational anglers in Alaska, 319,000 people took more than 632,000 trips in 2015 and caught a total of 2.6 million fish. Catch included halibut, rockfish, Pacific cod, lingcod and salmon. Coho and chinook salmon were the most abundant in the catch numbers. Economic impact numbers will be released by NOAA in an upcoming economic report, available at alaskafisheries.noaa.gov ^ Naomi Klouda can be reached at [email protected]

Seaweed bar wins innovation competition

Despite its abundance, Alaska seaweed isn’t harvested for commercial use to the extent it can be found on local grocery shelves. That’s potentially a loss for the Alaska economy as projections for the commercial seaweed market are expected to reach $22.13 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights. What is stocked in dried spirulina and sushi ingredients tends to hail from Maine — a place where the waters aren’t as pristine as Alaska’s, said Udbhav Naidoo, a GCI solutions engineer who took part in the winning entry at the Ocean Technology Innovation Sprint, or OTIS, competition Oct. 27 at the Loussac Library in Anchorage. OTIS is a program based on the Google Ventures Sprint process tapped by the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative to get ideas generated for sustainable ocean-based economic development projects. It engages innovators as they tackle business or market solutions. In 40 days, five teams finalized five business ideas. Each concept met standards of feasibility, sustainability, desirability and viability in a marketing concept known as “human-centered design.” Naidoo and Team Chukchi members came up with the Green Sea Bar made 20 percent of seaweed — a product no one else in Alaska has developed yet for the market. The recipe consisted of sesame seeds, cashews and maple syrup, ground together with wakame or edible seaweed, and baked. The winning members are Caiming Li, a computer engineering student and software developer, Lowen Guzman a mechanical engineering student focusing on ocean energy, and Alyse Daunis program manager at Launch Alaska, as well as Naidoo. Once Team Chukchi settled on the seaweed nutrition bar, they needed to come up with a prototype. Daunis spent a weekend on a Talkeetna getaway trip where she used a 50-year-old stove and a match to light the oven and bake the bars. “We conducted taste tests, and the first ones didn’t work out so well,” she told the audience. The team had placed the bars next to each judge’s spot. Gunnar Knapp said he didn’t know it was part of a team’s presentation, but ate it and found it quite good. Forty days before the event, none of Team Chukchi members had met. Together with 25 others, they signed on to brainstorm in smaller teams through the ideation process, eliminating 25 to 30 proposals before settling on the seaweed bars. Each team was close to having a marketable project, but may have a ways more to go working out the kinks, said organizer Joel Cladouhos, executive director of the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative. “Everyone was great. I’m sure it was difficult to pick a winner,” he said. Team Pacific analyzed ways to better count fish. For all Alaska’s seafood wealth and recognition for sustainable yield fisheries, the weir counting system still boils down to counting “one fish, two fish,” said team leader Jared Fuller, a chief technical officer of electronic monitoring at Saltwater Inc. Though Alaska has thousands of productive salmon streams, only a portion are monitored by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game due to the expense, Fuller said. They came up with an idea for species recognition counts via a camera that can be placed at more rivers and bring down the expense. Team Arctic came up with a product that identifies bycatch and releases them through a hatch in another fish recognition system. Team Beaufort came up with a small consumer tidal energy product that can be built to scale for small boats or small communities. A virtual team called Team Bering Sea, led by Jay Carpenter, the director of technology at APICDA Joint Ventures, came up with an app that will allow marine industry occupational licensing and other online education courses. Members of this team met on Skype from Fairbanks, Homer, Louisiana, Juneau and Anchorage. A panel of judges posed questions to each team on the feasibility of their products before announcing the winner. They were Christi Bell, director of the UAA Business Enterprise Institute; Gunnar Knapp, retired from the Institute for Economic Research, Jim Jager, Port of Alaska external affairs director, and Wanetta Ayers, executive director of the Prince William Sound Economic Development District. Likewise, each team also had access to solid mentors in the topics they took on. Mentors included Nigel Sharp, the Global Enterprise Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Alaska Anchorage Business Enterprise Institute, Cladouhos and Rachel Miller, an associate business professor at Alaska Pacific University named the Walter Hickel Professor of Strategic Leadership and Entrepreneurship. For their efforts, the Chukchi group wins a trip to network and learn more about the blue ocean economy at Blue Tech Week in San Diego, a meeting that includes professional mentorship and coaching. They also win a Kenai Fjords National Park cruise. All together, it was an amazing group of people to work with, Naidoo said. “One of most impressive things is that none of them were familiar with this. Alyse said she cooks ‘sometimes.’ Li and Lowen didn’t know about ocean resources. But they put in a ton of work to get up to speed and learn.” They aren’t sure what the next step will be in terms of moving forward to market their product. “As a group we’ve all decided we want to be involved in the development of a seaweed product,” Naidoo said. “We will continue the conversation.” Naomi Klouda can be reached at [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: Salmon permit values soar, halibut quota slides

It’s steady as she goes for the values of Alaska salmon fishing permits, with upticks in the wind at several fishing regions. “There’s a lot of cautious optimism,” said Jeff Osborn of Dock Street Brokers in Seattle. As well there should be after a salmon fishery that produced 225 million fish valued at nearly $680 million, a 67 percent increase over 2016. Bristol Bay drift salmon permits trade more than any other due to the sheer volume (1,800) and it’s no surprise the value is increasing after one of the best fishing seasons ever. But they are not “rocketing up” in value, said Doug Bowen of Alaska Boats and Permits at Homer. “They’re over $140,000 right now, which is up from the start of the season when they were down around $130,000 to $135,000,” Bowen said. “But they are inching up and it seems there’s as many people who want to get into the Bay as there are who want to get out, and so the prices have kind of stabilized.” Osborn at Dock Street agreed. “They haven’t come up at Bristol Bay as much as I would’ve anticipated, but maybe that’s yet to come,” he said, referring to potentially strong 2018 salmon forecasts being released soon by state fishery managers. The trend appears similar for permit values at other major fishing regions. “It’s interesting that some years there can be a huge difference between a drift gillnet permit at Bristol Bay, at Prince William Sound or Area M on the Alaska Peninsula. For whatever reason, this year they are all about in that same $140,000 range,” Bowen said. Elsewhere, the slide in the value of Cook Inlet drift permits reflects three lousy salmon seasons, despite being able to stack permits and fish extra gear. “That wasn’t enough to save the day,” Bowen said. “Those permits started at over $48,000 before the season after getting all the way down to the low to mid $30s. They’ve inched back up to about $40,000 but that’s down from $60,000 to $70,000 just a year or two ago.” Kodiak seine permit values have increased from around $25,000 to over $30,000. At Southeast Alaska, Bowen said there’s not a lot happening for drift permits at $100,000 and seine cards have “slipped a bit to the $180,000 range.” Meanwhile, more fishing boat action is going on fueled by the extra $200 million or so circulating from a great salmon season. “We’re seeing interest in buying and building new boats or upgrading to a bigger or newer boat,” Bowen said, adding “there is definitely movement with gillnetters and seiners.” Some salmon paychecks Wrapups of the 2017 salmon season reveal some rewarding paydays for Alaska fishermen, with a few exceptions. Reports trickling out from regional Alaska Department of Fish and Game offices show that Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishermen were among the losers. A total catch of about 3 million fish was 13 percent below the 10-year average and the sockeye catch was the lowest in 10 years. The preliminary value to UCI fishermen of $23.7 million is down 21 percent. Lower Cook Inlet salmon fishermen fared better. Their 2.5 million-catch fetched about $4.5 million, nearly double the 10-year average. At Prince William Sound, nearly 800 permit holders caught more than 56 million salmon valued at $128 million. That averaged out to $74,000 for drift gillnetters, $54,000 for setnetters and $313,500 for seiners. At Chignik, 67 permit holders caught fewer than 900,000 sockeyes but more than 7 million pinks, five times more than usual. That paid out at nearly $16 million, or $236,000 per fisherman. Norton Sound’s 138 salmon fishermen shared the best payday ever at almost $3 million. On the Yukon River, 401 permit holders fished for chums this summer, with 388 at the Lower Yukon where the average paycheck was about $4,000. At the Upper Yukon, 13 fishermen each averaged $21,000 for their chum catches; both dock values were above the 10-year average. The biggest fish bucks went to Bristol Bay fishermen whose harvest of nearly 40 million salmon paid out at $215 million, double the 20-year average. High halibut stall Prices for catch shares of Alaska halibut remain in the nosebleed area but they’ve been stanched a bit, at least for now. “They seem to have stabilized somewhat at high ranges,” said Doug Bowen. “Seventy-some dollars a pound in Southeast, $60 in the Central Gulf and in the $40s in the Western Gulf. The values stairstep down as you move farther west.” A big nosedive in halibut dock prices also has rippled the market. Prices that had for several years been in the $6 to $7 per pound range dropped closer to $5 at major ports, and some halibut trips were even being turned away. “When they don’t care if you turn that boat around and drive away, then you have to start taking them seriously that there are issues in the marketplace,” Bowen said. The price pushback coincides with a broadside from millions of pounds of cheaper Atlantic halibut flooding fresh fish markets. “That has put a lid on the halibut quota share market and slowed down interest,” said Jeff Osborn. “But it’s still a seller’s market, within reason. There is quota out there at prices people aren’t going to touch. Still, the transactions that have occurred are at lofty prices.” Halibut fishermen will get a first glimpse of potential catches for 2018 and that usually causes a quota share price blip up or down. “If the survey results show it’s really strong for one halibut area or another, you’ll definitely see folks trying to buy to get out ahead of any price increases,” Bowen said. Recommended halibut catch limits for 2018 will be revealed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission Nov. 28-29 in Seattle Fish fanfare and funds The Fall Fishermen’s Expo is set for Nov. 7-9 at Centennial Hall in Sitka. The event, co-hosted by the Sitka Seafood Festival and Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, offers free workshops, training, celebrations and social gatherings, including a first Fishermen’s Job Fair to connect prospective employers and crews. American Seafoods Company is accepting applications for its latest round of grants to Alaska projects that focus on hunger, housing, safety, education, research, natural resources and cultural activities. Most grant awards range from $500 to $3,000 from a total pool of $38,000. Since 1997, American Seafoods has granted over $1.4 million to Alaska organizations and programs. The company also awards educational scholarships to rural Alaska students. Applications are available online or by contacting [email protected] or call 206-256-2659. Deadline to apply is Nov. 27. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Latest fishing facts by the numbers

Alaska’s fishing fleet of 9,400 vessels would span nearly 71 miles if lined up from bow to stern. And Alaska’s fishing industry catches and processes enough seafood each year to feed every person on the planet one serving; or a serving for each American every day for more than a month. Those are just a few of the fish facts highlighted in the annual “Economic value of Alaska’s seafood industry” report by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute compiled by the McDowell Group. The report breaks down the numbers of fishermen, processors, species caught, values, and more, by region in a colorful, user-friendly way that can provide every Alaskan with a better understanding of the seafood industry, especially policy makers. Here are some highlights: The Alaska fishing industry employs nearly 60,000 workers, of which nearly half are fishermen. Thirty-six percent of those fishermen live in Southcentral Alaska towns such as Anchorage, Homer, Kenai and Cordova, more than any other region. Most of Alaska’s fishing boats (2,688) are between 23 and 32 feet in length. Southeast Alaska residents own the most fishing vessels at nearly 2,700 and they also own more fish quota shares than any other region. Seafood processing is the largest manufacturing sector in Alaska, accounting for 72 percent of manufacturing employment. Processing includes 169 shore-based plants, 73 catcher-processors and more than a dozen floating processors. At Kodiak, fishing accounts for nearly 40 percent of all jobs; 48 percent of all processing workers are year-round residents, the highest number in the state. Salmon accounts for the greatest economic impact in terms of jobs, value and income, with pollock a close second. Alaska pollock is the largest single species U.S. fishery by volume. Seafood is by far Alaska’s top export; more than 2 billion pounds went to 105 countries in 2016, valued at more than $3 billion. Exports account for about two-thirds of the sales value, with the rest going to U.S. markets. Globally, Alaska pollock provided 44 percent of world supply in 2016, Alaska salmon provided 14 percent, cod at 16 percent and Alaska crab at 29 percent. Since statehood in 1959, Alaska’s seafood industry has harvested nearly 170 billion pounds of seafood. The largest harvest ever was in 2015, which topped 6 billion pounds. Of the numerous fishery taxes and fees, 40 percent goes to state coffers and is distributed at the whim of the Alaska legislature ($58 million in 2016), and 31 percent goes to local governments where the fish was landed. EM deadline approaching The deadline to sign up to use electronic monitoring systems next year instead of human observers to track catches is fast approaching. It applies to boats using longline and pot gear, but preference is given to vessels that are between 40 feet and 60 feet in length. “If you don’t get in by the Nov. 1 deadline you will not be eligible,” said Malcolm Milne, president of the Homer-based North Pacific Fisheries Association, which for several years has helped develop the EM system in Alaska. In trials, the video cameras proved they could track and identify more than 95 percent of the species required for fishery management decisions, and by all accounts, the system is easy to use. “Once your boat is wired you just turn the cameras on and they record everything coming over the rails,” Milne explained. “When the set is done the camera is off and at the end of your trip you mail in the hard drive to be reviewed. It took a trip or two to get used to the system, but after that you don’t even realize it’s there.” Also easy, he said, is the sign up, which takes about 10 minutes. “Anyone who is participating in the observer program already has a user name and password. You can go online and click on a button to opt in to EM and after a couple of quick questions you’re done,” he said. Even better, the electronic monitoring systems come at no cost to users. “It all comes out of the 1.25 percent North Pacific observer fee so we are paying indirectly, but there is no additional cost for having the electronic monitoring installed,” Milne said. So far about 110 longline and pot boats have signed onto the EM program and the new program will only cover as many boats as funding allows. Register by Nov. 1 with a phone call at 1-855-747-6377 or online at the Observer Declare and Deploy System (ODD). Crab con Bering Sea crab fisheries opened on Oct. 15 and eager markets await the first deliveries of snow, Tanner and red king crab. While national surveys clearly show that most Americans want to know where their foods come from, they won’t have a clue when it comes to Alaska crab. Customers can easily tell at retail counters where their salmon, cod and other fish choices was caught, and if the fish is wild or farmed. That’s due to Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL, laws, which went into effect more than a decade ago. But the laws do not apply to seafood that has been “processed,” no matter how minimally. “There is an exemption in the COOL laws for products that are cooked or otherwise altered — steamed, canned, things like that — and since crab are required to be cooked right after delivery they are not included,” explained Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, a harvester group that catches 70 percent of the Bering Sea crab quota. “When a consumer goes into a grocery store they don’t know if the crab comes from Russia or Newfoundland or Alaska. We think that American consumers will prefer Alaskan product and there are good reasons for that,” he added. The push to exclude products that are canned, pouched, smoked or steamed stemmed from a big push by the U.S. tuna fleet. “All we wanted to do was carve out crab, but they had a much more powerful lobby than we did,” Jacobsen said. The crabbers believe the public has a right to know, especially because much of the crab imported into the U.S. from Russia is illegally caught. In past years, an estimated 40 percent of king crab sold in world markets was from pirated Russian harvests. Jacobsen said the situation has improved but the crab import data can be deceiving. “There is still poached crab going into China and Korea and then finding its way into the U.S. But there is no way to tell if it’s legal or not because there is no traceability requirement,” he explained. Crabbers have taken their case directly to U.S. buyers and retailers and several, including HyVee and Publix, only source their crab from Alaska. Meanwhile, Jacobsen said the push to get U.S. labeling on Alaska crab will continue. On a related note: Tanner crab is spelled with a capitol T because the species crab was discovered by and named after Lieutenant Zera Luther Tanner, commander of the research vessel Albatross that explored Alaska waters in the late 1800s. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

State appeals habitat initiative ruling

The ballot initiative proposed to strengthen laws protecting salmon habitat is headed for a supreme resolution, which doesn’t bother the initiative’s primary sponsor. On Oct. 20 the state Department of Law appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court to have a Superior Court ruling upholding the initiative on constitutional grounds overturned. Subsequent to that, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott wrote a letter to lead sponsor and Cook Inlet commercial fishermen Mike Wood informing him of the administration’s decision to appeal the Oct. 9 Superior Court decision. Mallott stressed in his one-page letter that the appeal is meant to settle a legal issue, not a political one. “Although I believe an appeal was the right thing to do, I want to make it abundantly clear that this decision is based solely on the Alaska Department of Law’s unbiased analysis of the constitutionality of your proposed initiative,” Mallott wrote in the second sentence of the letter. The lieutenant governor — whose primary responsibility is to oversee state elections — also noted the Law Department has requested expedited consideration of the time-sensitive issue to ensure it is resolved in time for next year’s elections if the initiative ultimately succeeds. “Despite the spurious claims that my stance is solely political in nature, I want to remind you and all Alaskans that when I became lieutenant governor in 2014 I took an oath of office and swore to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alaska,’” Mallott wrote further. “I do not take those words for granted. I also believe this is an important issue that our highest court should ultimately decide.” Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth echoed Mallott in a formal statement issued by the Department of Law. “We take no position on whether (the initiative) is good policy. This is about the Superior Court’s legal conclusion and our duty to defend the Alaska Constitution, and we believe the Superior Court got it wrong,” Lindemuth said. Wood said in an interview that he understands the public perception bind the issue has put Mallott and Gov. Bill Walker in. “They have to do this. This isn’t a surprise,” Wood said of the appeal. “In many ways, I’m like, ‘go for it,’ let them push it that far. I think we’ll come out on top in the end, which will just strengthen our position.” Mallott refused to certify the “Stand for Salmon” ballot initiative Sept. 12 based on a Law Department opinion that concluded the changes to state law in the language of the measure would constitute prioritizing using state waters as salmon habitat above all other uses, such as in industrial or infrastructure developments. The Alaska Constitution prohibits citizen initiatives from prescribing such resource allocations; that power is reserved for the Legislature. However, Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner overturned Mallott’s rejection Oct. 9, ruling the initiative, which aims to prevent projects that would have “significant adverse effects” on salmon waters as a resource regulation, not an allocation. Wood also chairs the nonprofit group Stand for Salmon. He and other supporters of the law change contend the current language in Title 16, the state’s fish and game habitat permitting statute, which state’s the Fish and Game commissioner shall approve projects that “provide for the proper protection of fish and game,” is too ambiguous and has been eroded over time. Industry groups including the Resource Development Council for Alaska and the Alaska Chamber insist enacting the initiative would kill any meaningful development right down to local infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges and utility projects. In July, the heads of the 12 Alaska Native regional corporations signed a joint letter opposing the ballot measure. Jason Metrokin, CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corp., which has led the fight against the proposed Pebble mine — a project the initiative sponsors have said they also hope to stop — wrote in a statement for the Journal that notwithstanding BBNC’s position on Pebble, the corporation believes developments that align with local opinion and don’t threaten fisheries should be allowed to proceed. BBNC also opposes House Bill 199, which largely mirrors the initiative language, and the Stand for Salmon initiative. “Each would unnecessarily and negatively impact resource development projects and potentially the subsistence activities upon which our shareholders depend,” Metrokin wrote. “Accordingly, BBNC is interested in working with the Walker administration, the Legislature and all stakeholders to appropriately update Title 16’s anadromous fish habitat provisions.” House Bill 199, sponsored by Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, and the initiative were spurred in large part by an open-ended January request by the Board of Fisheries to update Title 16 at the behest of fishing groups. Similarly, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly unanimously passed a resolution last year asking for further habitat protections in Title 16, which hasn’t been changed since statehood. Cook Inlet Region Inc. CEO Sophie Minich co-authored an op-ed opposing the initiative while the Eklutna and Chickaloon Native village councils — comprised of CIRI shareholders — have supported HB 199 in written testimony to the Legislature. CIRI spokesman Jason Moore said the regional corporation respects the rights and motivations of the Tribal organizations on this issue, but added that the initiative could restrict economic development opportunities on CIRI land that would ultimately benefit its shareholders. “We just think this measure is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” Moore said. On Oct. 18, RDC Executive Director Marleanna Hall, Alaska Chamber CEO Curtis Thayer and Doyon Ltd. CEO Aaron Schutt and Joey Merrick, a manager for the Laborers’ Union Local 341 filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission to form Stand for Alaska, a group aimed at campaigning against the initiative. Hall said in an interview that the language in the measure “would leave too much speculation and uncertainty” for developers regarding what would be allowable disruption and mostly ignores accepted mitigation practices to improve habitat in one area of another is damaged. She also questioned why the sponsors are not being asked to prove why the initiative is necessary, saying that goes back to her belief that it is “seeking an answer to a problem that doesn’t exist.” “This initiative goes way beyond what the original request was from the Board of Fish to the Legislature in January. It goes way beyond our existing regulations that are already protecting fish habitat,” Hall said. “I think people get really excited about something that they get emotional about instead of looking at the facts.” Supporters insist the measure allows for habitat disruption if corresponding mitigation and recovery efforts are made to the same water body. A court affidavit submitted prior to the Oct. 9 Superior Court ruling by Alvin Ott, a fisheries biologist and manager in Fish and Game’s Habitat Division states that Ott believes the current plan for the massive Donlin gold mine proposed for the Upper Kuskokwim River drainage would not be permissible under the initiative because it calls for destroying American and Anaconda creeks. As an offset, Donlin is planning to enhance coho salmon rearing habitat in nearby Crooked Creek; however, such mitigation to an offsite stream would not be sufficient under the initiative, which requires that the impacted waters eventually be restored, according to Ott. Wood contends the initiative would provide industry interests clarity around about what activities are allowable, instead of relying on the open-ended “proper protection” phrase. He and other initiative backers have also said the only reason Alaska’s premier salmon fisheries have not been damaged so far is the state’s large mines are in the Interior and other areas away from large salmon runs. “We’re trying to make sure that industry can continue with assurances on both sides that it won’t affect fish. This is not designed to stop development at all. This raises the bar again,” he said. ^ Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

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

Kodiak is at the center of a national push to produce biofuels from seaweeds. Agents from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, ARPA-E, recently traveled to the island to meet with a team of academics, scientists, businesses and local growers to plan the first steps of a bicoastal pilot project to modernize methods to grow sugar kelp as a fuel source. The project is bankrolled by a $500,000 grant to the University of Alaska Fairbanks through a new DOE program called Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources, or MARINER. It has funded 18 projects to develop new tools to help the U.S. grow into a “world leader” in production of macroalgae (seaweed) as fuel, chemical feedstock and animal feed. “By further developing this untapped resource, the U.S. could eventually produce enough seaweed to handle as much as 10 percent of our demand for transportation fuel,” according an ARPA-E release. The group estimates the U.S could produce at least 500 million dry metric tons of macroalgae per year, which could yield about 2.7 quadrillion thermal units of liquid fuel. “The exclusive economic zone of the U.S. oceans (out to 200 miles) is equivalent in size to the nation’s whole land area,” said Marc von Keitz, ARPA-E program director. “Right now we are at the very early stage and it is a very manual, artisanal type operation. If we want to make large quantities so it is relevant for energy, we need to think about how we scale it up.” In 2014, the world produced 25 million wet metric tons of seaweed through a combination of wild harvesting and highly labor-intensive farming techniques. Current operations are not capable of supporting a viable seaweed-to-fuels industry. “The vision is to have a demonstration on the east and west coasts showing that we can grow large fields of seaweed in a way that is efficient and cost effective with petroleum and other energy enterprises,” said Alaska project leader Mike Stekoll, a biochemistry professor at UAS in Juneau. The first ocean tests will be conducted by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, WHOI, in Falmouth, Mass. “We are not sure yet what the final design will be, but it will be scalable to any size. These trial areas would probably be a couple hundred meters long and 50 or so meters wide,” Stekoll said. Kodiak’s role, in collaboration with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, will be to figure out the most cost-effective way to grow, harvest and transport large amounts of sugar kelp based on technologies applied in the fishing industry. “One of the things that intrigued us is that you have this very experienced fishing industry and experts who have done a lot of creative and innovative things on a wide variety of vessels,” said von Keitz. “We want to take that ingenuity and see if we can apply it to macroalgae. I think it’s a big opportunity. “We are not going to get there in two or three years. What is important is have a long-term vision and to develop stepping stones toward growth.” Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed, or KISS, is one of Alaska’s first stepping stones. This year the small growing operation by Stephanie and Nick Mangini produced the state’s first successful harvest of 15,000 pounds of sugar and ribbon kelp on a one-acre parcel. “It is so cool be a part of revolutionizing the way seaweed farming is done. These “out of the box” field tests will really make it happen,” said Stephanie Mangini. Part of the overall project will be to assess hazards to navigation and other potential obstacles in offshore and near shore operations. “As far as feelings of ‘not in my back yard,’ Stekoll said some places in Alaska are more receptive than others. “Kodiak is one of the places that sees the value in this sort of enterprise,” he added. Learn more about the potential for a seaweed industry in a new publication by Alaska Sea Grant titled “Seaweed Farming in Alaska.” Salmon protections proceed The proposed 2018 voter ballot initiative aimed at modernizing salmon habitat protections and permitting laws got a green light last week by an Anchorage Superior Court judge after it was rejected by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. The measure, pushed by the group Stand for Salmon, would update state laws for the first time since statehood in 1959. “I was delighted. I was jumping for joy!” said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, in response to the reversal. Stutes, who also chairs the House fisheries committee, introduced a similar measure last year as House Bill 199, the Wild Salmon Legacy Act. She said the pending voter initiative will “fire up” action by Alaska policy makers in next year’s legislative session, notably, those on the Senate Resources Committee who she claims are “adamantly opposed” to any move that might curtail or cut taxes on oil and gas development. “They would probably just shelve the bill,” Stutes retorted. “This gives us some leverage. The bill and the initiative are strongly supported by the public. If they don’t want to work with us, they are going to get the initiative. And the public is not as accommodating as we might be on the House Fisheries Committee. “My intent is not to put any resource out of business. My intent is if you are going to develop a resource, you have to maintain clean habitat for our salmon. It may require additional permitting, but we can work together.” The judge’s ruling could still be appealed by the state. Meanwhile, proponents must organize to gather nearly32,000 voter signatures to put the salmon protection measure before voters next November. It is possible that legislative action could preempt that need. “I believe that if we get something through the legislature the initiative won’t appear on the ballot,” Stutes said. She added that she is disappointed in a lack of follow through on “fish first” policies the Walker Administration laid claim to four years ago, pointing to the tanked salmon initiative and the threats posed to Southeast waters from upstream large mines in Canada. “I believe to the core of my soul,” she said, “that fishermen and others are seeing this as saying one thing and doing another.” Kodiak crab comeback? For the first time since 2013 Kodiak crabbers might be able to drop pots for Tanners in mid-January. “I’d say it’s the best chance we’ve had in the last five years,” said Nat Nichols, area shellfish/groundfish manager at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak. Crab stocks must reach strict number thresholds before a fishery is allowed to open. Preliminary data from the summer survey indicate two Kodiak districts might have enough legal sized males — the only crabs that can be retained — to allow for a fishery. “We will be looking very closely at the southwest and eastside to see if we can get to an exploitation rate that we are comfortable with and also gets us above that minimum 400,000 pound harvest guideline,” Nichols explained. The survey showed slight improvements at Chignik and the South Peninsula, but Nichols said again no Tanner fisheries will open there. It takes Tanner crabs six to seven years to reach a legal, two-pound size. Nichols said he believes Kodiak has a shot at a small fishery for the next two years. “After that, it looks like we might have a gap for a year or three before we get to the next recruitment pulse that would lead to a fishery,” he said, adding that there are encouraging signs for the future. “We are seeing a good bit of small crab in the water again this year,” he said, “but they are several years out from being legal.” ADFG will announce the fate of a 2018 fishery on Nov. 1. Fish correction The 2017 Gulf of Alaska catch quota for cod in federal waters is 64,442 metric tons (142 million pounds), down 10 percent from 2016; not 150,000 metric tons as was reported last week. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Electronic monitoring rolling out in 2018 after years of work

Alaska fishermen will see changes to the mandatory observer program next year. After years of requests, testing and prepping, the National Marine Fisheries Service is rolling out a more-complete electronic monitoring program for small boat fishermen who are directed to have partial observer coverage as part of the 2018 observer program. Electronic Monitoring uses cameras and sensors to record and monitor fishing activities, and help ensure the accuracy of catch records. Normally, that work is done by human observers who are placed on fishing vessels. But when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council moved to put observers on smaller fishing vessels (those 60 feet or shorter) several years ago, to get a better sense of what was happening on those boats, captains said it could be problematic to take an extra person on their boats. It was difficult to find them space to sleep, keep them safe and out of the way while actually catching fish and bringing them onboard, and hard (or burdensomely expensive) to ensure that there was enough life raft capacity and safety gear for an extra person. Instead, they asked for a camera system. Developing such a system has taken several years, from the 2013 decision to restructure the observer program to see what was happening on smaller boats, to 2016, when 51 vessels participated in a pre-implementation program. The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, or ALFA, has been on the forefront of the push for electronic monitoring throughout that time. They’ve worked on testing and groundtruthing various iterations of EM, with help from grants and other organizations, and now the technology is ready for use at sea. ALFA’s Dan Falvey said he’s looking forward to seeing the program launch, but also hopes that more refinement occurs in the future. “There’s more work to be done to fully optimize the EM option that we have now,” Falvey said. The EM program is open for longliners and pot fishermen to opt-in through Nov. 1. So far, Falvey said close to 100 boats have signed up, out of a fleet of about 630 including both the small fixed gear and pot vessels. The program agreed to by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council would allow up to 165 boats to take on an approved EM system: 120 longliners and 45 pot boats. So far, the boats signed on come from across the Gulf of Alaska, including Homer, Kodiak, Southeast ports, and even Dutch Harbor and Sand Point. In mid-October, there was funding available for about 110 boats total, and Falvey said ALFA and others are working to find funding to pay for the systems on all 165 boats. Falvey said that optimum number is one thing he would like to see more work on in the future. The EM program relies on cameras, instead of human observers, which means that no biological data is collected. As a result, the program is limited in number, because the National Marine Fisheries Service wants some biological data collected. Falvey said he’s interested in seeing more work done to balance the need for that biological data, and the need for the electronic option. ALFA, which is based in Sitka, and the North Pacific Fisheries Association, based in Homer, were both involved in testing EM systems. The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission led much of that work, and companies that provide human observers were also involved. Throughout the process, cost was a major challenge. So was finding a way to make sure the camera accurately identified what was coming onboard. Previous iterations of EM required a human to go through all the tape, something that turned out to be too time-consuming to be practical. Now, all approved EM systems (captains have a choice of what to install on their boat, as long as it meets the National Marine Fisheries Service’s regulations) hit a certain standard for what can be ID’d by the cameras, Falvey explained. “Everybody’s pretty satisfied with the data quality,” he said. “…There is a vetting process that all the systems have to go through before deployment.” Alaska’s transition to EM comes as part of a nationwide push. While the Alaska fleet has been requesting it for years, the agency has also been working to implement it elsewhere. In 2016, then-NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eileen Sobeck told fishermen that the agency had funded about 30 test programs in the past decade, and had successfully implemented some regional EM plans throughout the nation. When the North Pacific council approved the EM option for Alaska’s small-boat fishermen, the agency also set forth a plan for future work. An EM workgroup is expected to track the project through implementation, look at future cost efficiencies, review future research plans, and otherwise stay engaged in the growth and development of future EM options. The program is open to specific boats that are in the partial coverage category, and once they are in the pool of EM vessels, they will be randomly selected to have EM coverage on a particular fishing trip. Those trips will end with a tender delivery, unlike for those with human observers, who do not end their trips until they reach a port. The 2018 observer program also comes with some other changes. NMFS is expecting to have about 30 percent of the fleet that is in the partial coverage category observed next year, which is more than in the past.

‘Bioblitz’ turns up no new non-native aquatics

WHITTIER — When on the hunt for invaders, no news is usually good news. That’s exactly the kind of good news Smithsonian Environmental Research Center scientists were able to report to the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council after a summer-long search in 2016 for non-indigenous species in the waters around Valdez. Smithsonian Center Research Technician Linda McCann told the council’s board of directors during its September meeting in Whittier that the “bioblitz” the organization led in the Valdez harbor and other species surveys done in Prince William Sound over the summer turned up no new reports of ocean creatures not native to the sound. The Annapolis, Md.-area Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is an arm of the larger Smithsonian Institution focused on studying coastal ecosystems worldwide. McCann said the quick but intense bioblitz built on similar non-native species surveys the council had led. It was also a way to train “citizen scientists” on what to look for when out and about in the Sound. “We wanted to expand our methodology to include the general public,” McCann said. “That gives us an opportunity to not only get to some additional places to survey, but we’ve got some additional eyes out there to look for us.” The daylong bioblitz surveyed every slip in the Valdez harbor via plankton tows, fouling plates and crab traps. It followed two days of training to bring volunteers up to speed on what to look for. “We did a rapid assessment of all the structures (in the harbor) and we pulled up the traps and it also provided an opportunity for us to refresh some of our plate watch monitoring techniques,” McCann described. Plankton tows are done with ultra-fine mesh nets capable of capturing the often-microscopic organisms. The fouling plates used in the surveys were small PVC squares left in the water to be covered by all types of marine invertebrates. “(The plates) are colonized by all kinds of organisms in the water column, so this is a way for us to be able to monitor these organisms under the microscope,” McCann said. Prince William Sound RCAC staff were also trained to identify non-native zooplankton the researchers think could be on their way to Southcentral Alaska waters. Crab traps targeting European green crab were dropped around Valdez as well. European green crab were found in San Francisco Bay in the late 1990s and their movement northward has been tracked since. They were last identified about 60 miles south of Alaska waters and heavy trapping is being done in British Columbia to at least slow their spread, according to McCann. The only species caught in the traps were native crabs and fish, she added. In addition to the bioblitz in the Valdez harbor, Smithsonian researchers also led plankton tows at the city’s ferry terminal and the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. oil tanker terminal. Fouling plates were also set at the tanker terminal and in the Cordova marina to expand the study beyond Valdez. Finally, dive surveys were conducted in Valdez and the nearby village of Tatitlek. The dives were in search of a non-native species of tunicates, McCann said. “The only thing we found in the dive surveys was a nonnative bryozoan, an encrusting moss-like animal that we know is all over Alaska and we had seen previously, so all good. The results of all of the surveys was great news,” she said. McCann recommended the Prince William Sound Council continue the “citizen scientist” monitoring and training and conducting comprehensive surveys similar to the bioblitz every two to five years. She also said Smithsonian staff learned that the training to identify particularly small non-natives is a must and that the training is most effective when focusing on fewer species. But it’s certainly something that could be expanded statewide by other organizations as well, she suggested. Council spokeswoman Brooke Taylor said the citizens’ organization is looking at conducting the larger surveys but hasn’t made any decisions yet. Taylor also noted the council does its own invasive species monitoring and sets traps for green crab. “What we do is kind of spot checking in a few communities and this bioblitz — it was basically a full-on check for invasive species in the port of Valdez versus the sampling that we do, which is kind of a snapshot of a couple specific locations throughout the year,” Taylor said. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: Seafood Appreciation Month gets more love outside Alaska

October is National Seafood Month, a distinction bestowed by Congress 30 years ago to recognize one of America’s oldest industries. Alaska merits special recognition because its fishing fleets provide 65 percent of the nation’s wild caught seafood, more than all of the other states combined. Ironically, there is little to no fanfare in Alaska during seafood month. My hometown of Kodiak, for example, (the No. 2 U.S. fishing port) never gives a shout out to our fishermen and processors, nor do local restaurants celebrate seafood on their October menus in any way. That’s not the case elsewhere in the USA. To launch Seafood Month, 250 fans across the nation will be holding house parties on Sept. 30 to sing seafood’s praises, swap and compete with recipes and, ultimately, get more Americans to pledge to eat more fish. (Join the conversation at #seafoodparty) The house parties are sponsored by the non-profit Seafood Nutrition Partnership, or SNP, which has a single goal: to inspire Americans to include more seafood into their diets for improved health. The SNP operates grassroots programs in large cities in Alabama, West Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Ohio and Georgia. The group also will hold a series of Heart Healthy Summits during October in five states, sponsored in part by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “We are celebrating the third year of our public health campaign by coming together with the communities for a half-day session to learn about the progress that’s been made in each city, and how we can continue the movement of helping everyone understand the need to eat sustainable seafood,” said SNP President Linda Cornish. The message is getting across, based on annual tracking in the target cities. “We’re happy to share that one in three Americans over the past year has intentionally added seafood to their diets. That’s not to say they are eating it twice a week, but they’ve added more seafood to make sure they are eating healthier,” Cornish said. U.S. dietary guidelines recommend eating seafood two times a week, a suggestion followed by only one in 10 Americans. The Partnership’s Healthy Heart Pledge program has made a dent in that dismal statistic. Cornish said 60 percent of the survey respondents signed a pledge to eat seafood twice a week, bringing the total to over 38,000 so far. “We work in mostly landlocked states and there has been the perception that they don’t have access to good seafood,” Cornish said. “We’ve helped to dispel that notion with the facts that there are all kinds of seafood available from Alaska and around the country where it’s fresh frozen, easy to prepare and affordable.” The SNP also is taking its ‘eat more fish’ messages directly to America’s kids during seafood month. For the first time, districts in West Virginia and Oklahoma will feature seafood on their school lunch menus in October. “They are very excited to introduce seafood to their students,” Cornish said. “It takes time to build this awareness and also for them to figure out how they can incorporate seafood into their menus more. But it’s working.” The SNP launched a program and curriculum at the start of this school year that provides classroom-sized aquaponics systems for elementary and middle school grades. “It helps them understand how fish is grown and can co-exist with growing vegetables, so they can see it all living and breathing right in their classrooms,” Cornish said. Learn more at www.seafoodnutrition.org/ Fish bill lives A proposed ballot initiative that aimed to modernize Alaska’s 60-year-old salmon habitat protection and permitting laws was denied (and quickly appealed) last week, but the move remains very much alive in the Alaska legislature. Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, will be holding meeting around the state to build support for the Wild Salmon Legacy Act (House Bill 199) that she introduced last session. The draft bill says that it “protects the interest of subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fishermen while creating efficiency and predictability in permitting and enforcement.” “My intent is not to put any resource out of business. We all are trying to make a living here,” Stutes said in a phone interview. “My intent is to ensure that our fisheries continue in a sustainable manner with their waterways maintained in a clean, safe way.” The Legacy Act presumes that all state waterways are anadromous, meaning paths for salmon returning from the ocean to spawn in their home streams. It also specifies that the burden of proving a stream is not anadromous would fall to a developer. Stutes believes that will save the state millions of dollars. “Let’s face it. I think we have all come to the conclusion that we cannot continue to depend on oil as our mainstream income. We have to diversify. And in the meantime, we all have to tighten our belts. The state cannot continue to pay these huge costs,” she said. Under current law, each water body must be sampled and added to the Anadromous Waters Catalog. The catalog serves as the trigger for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s authority to manage fisheries habitat and issue permits. Currently, less than 50 percent of Alaska’s anadromous waters are now listed in the AWC. “Right there it’s going to save millions in labor just by saying that we will consider all waterways and streams are anadromous unless proven otherwise,” she said. Stutes, who also chairs the legislative Fisheries Committee, will be traveling to Fairbanks, the MatSu and Bethel in advance of next year’s session when many hearings will be held on the salmon bill. Crab knuckle biter Bering Sea crabbers have gotten a first glimpse at how their upcoming fisheries may play out. Crab managers and stakeholders met in Seattle last week to review results of the summer trawl surveys for snow crab, bairdi Tanners and red king crab at Bristol Bay. Overall, the slow-growing stocks appear to be declining, but there were several encouraging signs. For snow crab, Alaska’s largest crab fishery, the abundance of mature males, the only crabs allowed to be retained for sale, was at its lowest on record. The number of young male snow crab recruits, however, was the highest since 1995. The numbers of mature and young female snow crabs also showed big increases. Industry watchers say chances look hopeful that there will be a snow crab fishery, similar to or smaller than last season’s 21.5 million pound-catch. For bairdi Tanners, snow crab’s bigger cousin, the number of mature males dropped in both eastern and western fishing districts. The number of female crabs increased significantly, and young male Tanners also appear to be on an upswing. The Tanner crab fishery was called off last year, following a 20 million pound-catch the previous season. An opener this fall is still anyone’s guess. Likewise, a red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay is also an unknown. The fishery produced 7.6 million pounds last year. The summer survey showed the number of adult males at the lowest point in five years. Young male crabs, however, showed a 10 percent hike and the number of young females doubled, boding well for the future. Crabbers have their fingers crossed they will get to drop pots in all three fisheries, said Tyson Fick, executive director of the trade group Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers. “You have to look at these across multiple years,” Fick said. “Hopefully, the trends we’ve seen in this year’s survey will continue and that will allow for a little bump up in harvests.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Building the Alaska ‘Blue Economy’

Alaska’s blue economy leadership potential is tremendous; we maintain over half the nation’s coastline and a third of the U.S. exclusive economic zone with access to vast natural resources. The blue economy vision is that by 2040 Alaska would grow by 50,000 jobs and $3 billion in wages, approximately equal to the oil and gas industry today. Alaska’s blue economy includes existing traditional sectors such as fisheries, coastal tourism and oil and gas, as well as additional “new” blue economy sectors such as ocean technology, renewable energy and marine biotechnology. The application and commercialization of new technologies and innovation to fisheries and marine science and engineering – referred to as the new blue economy – is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global blue economy. This maritime economic sector is currently valued globally at $1.5 trillion (measured as marine based industrial contribution to economic output and employment) and predicted to expand to $3 trillion by 2030. Now is the time for Alaska to take a forward-look beyond its traditional maritime economic sectors. Advancing the new blue economy is an opportunity for Alaska to diversify its economy, strengthen partnerships, create jobs, and stimulate investment. A goal for Alaska in expanding beyond a primarily resource extraction based maritime economy is to include more sustainable, value-added, approaches that bring additional revenue and jobs to the state. This is a path being developed nationally in California, Maine, Rhode Island and Washington, and internationally, in Canada, Iceland and several European countries. Key to advancing Alaska’s blue economy is strengthening collaboration, including with our public, Native Alaskan and private entities. The goal should be to foster the development of new opportunities, investment and job creation. As a step in this direction, the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, or CFOS, has partnered with the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, or AOCI, to help advance discussion and coordination to develop and expand Alaska’s blue economy. Through the College’s Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, CFOS is actively working on commercializing new pet treats made from pollock skins as well working with Blue Evolution to help grow Alaska’s commercial seaweed farming industry. Over the past several years CFOS has worked with Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery to monitor ocean acidification risks to Alaskan shellfish harvests. CFOS is in the early stages of discussion with a variety of stakeholders to build on existing strengths in ocean observing by potentially establishing a second National Data Buoy Center. Together with the Alaska Ocean Observing System and AOCI, we are advancing the discussion to address the growing need for increased infrastructure to strengthen Alaska’s ports and national/Arctic maritime security needs. The Ocean Technology Innovation Sprint, or OTIS, is just one of the innovative strategies to help advance Alaska’s blue economy being led by AOCI and the University of Alaska Anchorage Global Entrepreneur in Residence. This involves a five-day “sprint” process that engages designers, developers, engineers, marketers, and startup enthusiasts. The goal with the sprint is to provide a forum to share ideas and advance innovation with the sustainable blue economy. These are just a few examples of collaboration between CFOS and AOCI that align with Alaska’s blue economy. Alaska’s economic crisis requires us to think broadly and it is time to leverage our vast ocean resources to become a leader in the new blue economy where highly trained knowledge workers drive innovation, world‐class researchers are captivated, and an ecosystem of entrepreneurship forms around the foundation of a blue economy creating a sustainable future for generations of Alaskans. Later this month Alaska will host OCEANS ’17 at the Dena’ina Convention Center. OCEANS ’17 is an international conference sponsored by cutting edge ocean technology based organizations and businesses. On Sept. 21, AOCI and CFOS will convene a special panel “Building Alaska’s Blue Economy” at this conference. Discussion will focus on opportunities and challenges in the ocean technology sector, include strategies to improve coordination and partnering, ocean observations and big data, maritime and port security, and stimulate new entrepreneurial investment. The panel is free and open to the public. We invite you to join this discussion and bring your ideas to help advance the next steps with this initiative and broaden the scope of Alaska’s maritime economy. S. Bradley Moran is Dean of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Joel Cladouhos is Program Director of the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative based in Anchorage.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon harvest tops forecast

Alaska’s salmon season is nearly a wrap but fall remains as one of the fishing industry’s busiest times of the year. For salmon, the catch of 213 million has surpassed the forecast by 9 million fish. Highpoints for this season are a statewide sockeye catch topping 50 million for the 10th time in history (37 million from Bristol Bay), and one of the best chum harvests ever at more than 22 million fish. The total 2017 salmon catches and values by Alaska region will be released by state fishery managers in November. Hundreds of boats are now fishing for cod with Sept. 1 openers at Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, Kodiak and throughout the Bering Sea. Pollock fishing reopened to trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska on Aug. 25. More than 3 billion pounds of pollock will be landed this year in Alaska’s Gulf and Bering Sea fisheries. Fishing also is ongoing for Atka mackerel, perch, various flounders, rockfish and more. Halibut are still crossing docks across the state, and Alaska longliners have taken 75 percent of the 18 million-pound catch limit. Most of the halibut catch (more than 2.5 million pounds so far) is crossing the docks at Kodiak, followed by Seward. Homer, which bills itself as “the nation’s top halibut port,” is a distant third for landings. The sablefish (black cod) catch is at nearly 70 percent of its 22.5 million pound quota. Both the halibut and sablefish fisheries continue this year through Nov. 7. Crabbers are gearing up for the Oct. 1 start of the fall Dungeness fishery in Southeast Alaska, and mid-October crab openers in the Bering Sea. The dungy fishery should produce more than 1 million pounds; the catch quotas for red king crab, snow crab and (hopefully) Tanners will be released in a few weeks. Shrimpers also will drop pots on Oct. 1 for nearly a half million pounds of big spot prawns from Southeast waters. Dive fisheries also open that same day for sea cucumbers, where a harvest of usually around one million pounds (“poke weight,” meaning drained) will be delivered over a few months. Smaller sea cucumber fisheries also occur at Kodiak, Chignik, the South Peninsula, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea with a combined take of 185,000 pounds. Seafood sways Getting people to eat your products is the goal of any food provider and industry watchers closely track what people are buying, and why. Latest reports indicate that more Americans are aware of the health benefits of seafood, and they will pay more for fish from well managed sources. That’s according to a new survey by Cargill, one of the nation’s largest producers and distributors of agricultural products. Seventy-two percent of more than 1,000 shoppers said they know fish is good for you; 88 percent said they are willing to reward good stewardship with their wallets. That figure rose to a whopping 93 percent of millennials. In all, 70 percent said where and how their seafood is sourced affects their buying decisions; 84 percent said they trust their seafood purchases are sourced in a safe and responsible way. Despite its popular pull, touting seafood sustainability has not transferred into U.S. restaurants. Market researcher Datassential reports that just 1.1 percent mention the word or a derivative on their menus, three times higher than in 2013. Other terms are more popular among diners: “wild” appears on 9.3 percent of seafood menus and “local” is mentioned on 4.6 percent, also up a third over four years. The sustainability concept is getting a wider push from chefs who launched Smart Catch under the James Beard banner in Seattle two years ago and now includes nearly 300 restaurants. The program lets chefs key in information about seafood purchases and quickly receive a good or bad rating based on data from the nonprofit FishChoice and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. The Smart Catch program “is well-timed, with growing consumer interest in both eating seafood at restaurants and learning more about the provenance of their food,” said Bloomberg News. Sustainability is a winning marketing component for Alaska seafood, which is regarded as a model for responsible management around the globe. “An increasing number of retailers and food service companies either have or are updating policies that include purchasing and selling sustainable seafood because consumers are increasing their demand for it,” said Jeremy Woodrow, communications director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Fish bits Global fish trade is projected to hit an all-time high this year, boosted by an economic recovery of key European importers and high prices of popular fish such as salmon. The Financial Times reports that the value of the world’s fish trade is expected to rise more than $150 billion this year as demand for salmon and shrimp increases, an increase of about 7 percent compared with 2016 and on course to eclipse the previous record of $149 billion in 2014. The global aquaculture market is expected to continue growing at four to five percent a year over the next decade and should exceed the 100 million ton mark for the first time in 2025. Salmon was second to shrimp as the most sought-after seafood product last week at Seafood Expo Asia, one of the continent’s largest trade shows. A survey of over 3,300 attendees at the Hong Kong event revealed that 41 percent wanted to purchase shrimp, followed by salmon at 40 percent. Scallops were third in demand (36 percent), fourth was abalone (34.6 percent), lobster ranked fifth (34.5 percent), crab came in sixth at nearly 34 percent, oysters finished in seventh place (30 percent), tuna was eighth (25.5 percent) cod was ninth with 25.3 percent. Squid rounded out the top 10 with over 24 percent of participants expressing purchasing interest. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that Asia will lead world seafood consumption by 2025. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Ballot measure would give greater say to ADFG

Alaska fishing groups concerned about the impacts that large-scale development projects could have on salmon habitat are pushing to reform the state’s permitting requirements through a voter initiative on the 2018 ballot. The initiative would primarily establish a two-tiered permitting structure for projects with the potential to impact salmon-bearing waters. It would give the Department of Fish and Game commissioner the authority to issue broad approval for projects deemed “minor,” but also require proponents of larger projects to prove they would not have a significant adverse impact on salmon habitat. Additionally, it would require project advocates to prove to Fish and Game that the area of the water body the development could damage is not used by salmon sometime in their life cycle if the water is connected to one known to have salmon. The initiative was sponsored by Cook Inlet commercial fisherman Mike Wood, Bristol Bay lodge owner Brian Kraft and Gayla Hoseth of Bristol Bay Native Association. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott will decide whether to certify the initiative by Sept. 12. In an interview, Wood said it is not intended to stop development projects, but rather to simply update the state’s protections for salmon as the Board of Fisheries requested. Current law directs the Fish and Game commissioner to approve fish habitat permits if a project is deemed to provide “the proper protection for fish and game.” Board of Fisheries Chair John Jensen wrote in a Jan. 19 letter to House and Senate leaders that there is nothing in current state laws or regulations defining what is a proper protection. “Additional guidance is warranted for the protection of fish, to set clear expectations for permit applicants and to reduce uncertainty in predevelopment planning costs,” Jensen wrote. “To strengthen ADF&G’s implementation enforcement of the permitting program, the Legislature may want to consider creating enforceable standards in statute to protect fish habitat, and to guide and create a more certain permitting system.” The Board of Fisheries letter was spurred by public pressure to amend Title 16, the state’s general laws relating to Fish and Game, according to Jensen. To that end, the initiative, which would rewrite state law, is mirrored after House Bill 199 sponsored by Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak. “We don’t want to stop (development); we want to make sure that the permitting process is rigorous so that we don’t destroy the fish habitat that we need to get the returns that are so important to the Alaska economy,” Wood said. The Alaska Constitution was written with a huge amount of thought toward salmon resources and the effort is to get back to that mindset in the state, he added. “It’s gotten a little blown out of proportion because this won’t stop things; it’s just trying to elevate the level of accountability back to where we believe it began at statehood. Over the years the regulations have been whittled away from administration to administration,” Wood said. Initiative opponents have cited federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act that guides the environmental impact statement process as additional adequate salmon habitat protections; meaning an update to Title 16 is unnecessary. “I think there was a time when we thought we could have faith in the feds, the EPA, to have those standards and I think now we’re seeing that we can’t and it’s just part of the state having a greater say in its own outcome to have those high (permitting) standards,” Wood said. Wood characterized Alaska as simply “lucky” it hasn’t seen a large-scale manmade disaster of late similar to the 2014 Mount Polley mine tailings dam failure in British Columbia. He noted many of the state’s largest mines and other developments are in the Interior region or otherwise away from major salmon-bearing watersheds. The Department of Law deemed an earlier iteration of the initiative as a means to allocate resources and prohibit projects such as the Pebble and Chuitna mines and Susitna-Watana dam, which the initiative sponsors have opposed. A June 30 Department of Law letter to the sponsors outlined the provisions in the first draft of the initiative that would not pass legal muster. Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar emphasized in an interview that the letter was in large part a response to industry concerns about the initiative that the department heard and is the same type of opinion state attorneys issue on any ballot measure — just earlier. She commented that the department isn’t likely to issue “courtesy” opinions in the future because this one has been incorrectly perceived as the state helping the petitioners. However, it could just as easily be seen as a way to calm development industry concerns by clarifying ahead of time that the initiative would not be ratified. “It’s just a heads up; do with it what you will,” Bakalar said. Wood said small changes were made to the latest version to hopefully meet the Department of Law standards. He acknowledged that the preferable vehicle to address salmon habitat protections would be through HB 199, which could be amended to include input from development proponents, but characterized the ballot proposal as a “belt and suspenders” approach to the issue. The Resource Development Council and other pro-development groups stressed in testimony on HB 199 that reforming the state’s habitat permit requirements is a solution searching for a problem. “The intent to safeguard Alaska’s salmon fisheries is an objective we share and it is why we support Alaska’s existing rigorous and science-based regulatory system,” wrote a coalition including the Alaska Chamber, Southeast Conference and the Anchorage and Fairbanks economic development corporations in an April letter to legislators. “As a coalition that includes urban and rural Alaskans and businesses and associations representing tens of thousands of jobs for our state’s citizens, we cannot overstate how important it is to have consistent regulator and permitting processes.” They continued to contend that HB 199 or the initiative would likely cause delays to smaller community projects like wastewater facility upgrades or airport expansions while worsening the state’s fiscal crisis by slowing or stopping economic development without any true benefits to fish habitat. Alaska Native corporations such as Cook Inlet Region Inc., Calista Corp. and Doyon Ltd. have opposed the measures, while Native tribal organizations such as the Tanana Chiefs Conference and the Native Village of Eklutna support it. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly unanimously approved a resolution in September 2016 supporting an update to Title 16 to further protect fish habitat. A 2014 state ballot measure requiring legislative approval for a large mine in Bristol Bay — which Pebble argues is a blatant violation of the Alaska Constitution — was billed as a way to protect the region’s salmon and passed with 66 percent support among Alaska voters. It was supported by 72 percent of voters in Bristol Bay and greater southwest Alaska, according to Division of Election results. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

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

Alaska’s salmon season is winding down and while catches have made the record books in some regions, the statewide take will fall a bit short of the 204 million fish forecast. “We are within about 10 percent of the forecast, so that’s very positive and overall it’s been a pretty good season,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Commercial Fisheries Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The statewide salmon catch through Aug. 25 topped 191 million. The shortfall, Bowers said, again stems from the arrival of fewer pink salmon. “We were expecting a harvest of about 142 million, right now it’s at 114 million. We’re probably not going to catch another 30 million pinks between now and the end of the season,” he said. Still, the “bread and butter” catches are far better than last year when pink returns were so dismal, it prompted a disaster declaration by Gov. Bill Walker. This summer’s humpy haul at the three prime producing regions all are within the lower ends of the forecast ranges with Southeast’s take so far on its way to 28 million, Kodiak at 19 million and Prince William Sound nearing 42 million pink salmon (humpback whale predation is being blamed on lower pink salmon catches there). One big pink winner this year, Bowers said, is the Alaska Peninsula which had a “spectacular season.” “Their pink harvest (nearly 19 million) and chum catch (nearly 2 million) will end up in the top five on record,” Bowers said. “And the Peninsula sockeye harvest (7 million) is going to the second or third largest ever.” It will be sockeyes that help offset any number shortfalls this season with a statewide take of about 52 million, of which nearly 37 million came from Bristol Bay. “It is the 10th time in history that we’ve harvested over 50 million sockeye salmon,” Bowers said. “Catches for the previous two years also topped 50 million, but prior to that, you had to go back to the mid- to late 1990s to see such a large sockeye harvest.” Perhaps the biggest salmon surprise this year was the huge returns of chum salmon across the state. The catch to date of 21.2 million chums is just shy of the all-time record of 24 million fish set in 2000. “It’s one of the six times we’ve ever harvested over 20 million chums. That was a surprise. We didn’t expect that at all,” Bowers said, adding that coho catches are also stronger than usual. Salmon fishermen way out west also are enjoying some of the best returns ever. At Norton Sound, catches of chums and cohos (more than 300,000 combined) are among the top 10 of all times. At Kotzebue, the chum fishery has topped 400,000 for the second year in a row and could rank as the sixth best in the 56 year history of the fishery. On the Yukon River, a catch of more than 1 million chum salmon have been taken so far, with the best fall catches in history. The Yukon also has seen the biggest king salmon returns since 2005. Salmon even appeared at Barrow where locals were able to pack their freezers with a mix of chums, pinks and kings. “That’s a relatively new phenomenon,” Bowers said. “We don’t have any assessment projects to monitor up there, but it’s pretty exciting. That would be a range extension potentially for some species and it will be interesting to hear if those have established themselves as spawning populations or if it’s just a few strays that wandered up there.” The only westward region that was a total bust was at the Kuskokwim River where enough sockeyes and coho salmon returned to allow for harvest opportunities, but no buyers meant no fishing. Another big salmon downer this year was the unprecedented and complete closure for king salmon in Southeast Alaska, the largest producing area. Catches there totaled just 165,000 fish; the statewide king salmon take stands at 244,000. Bowers said it’s too soon to predict a total dockside value for the 2017 salmon catch, but with higher prices across the board, it will certainly eclipse the 2016 value of $406 million. Preliminary totals for the 2017 salmon season will be released in November. Escaped salmon watch Alaskans should be on the lookout for some of the 100,000-plus Atlantic salmon that escaped a week ago from a failed net pen near Bellingham Bay, Wash. The 10 pounders are reportedly “heading for every river in Puget Sound,” according to the Seattle Times. The salmon were undergoing a yearlong treatment for a bacteria called yellowmouth. They are the property of Cooke Aquaculture, the largest farmed salmon producer in North America, and the new owners of Icicle Seafoods in Alaska. Several hundred Atlantic salmon have been taken in Alaska waters in past years, and Forrest Bowers said some of the latest escapees will probably make their way here. He said it is not likely that the Atlantics would breed with Pacific salmon, or even with each other. “They may be triploids that are sterile but I’m not sure about that,” he said. “But certainly large numbers of these fish competing for food and other habitat resources with native Pacific salmon, Dolly Varden or steelhead trout is a concern for sure.” Anyone catching an Atlantic salmon is urged to report it, and if possible, bring the fish to a local ADFG office. The department’s home page has an “Invasive Species” link with reporting instructions, and a hot line number (1-877-INVASIVE). As a side note: every fish species caught in Alaska has a unique fish ticket number. For Atlantic salmon, the number is “666,” the Biblical number for Satan. Discards drop Fewer fish are being discarded by the world’s fishing fleets, but they still are tossing back 10 million tons of fish every year, or 10 percent of global catches. Nearly half of all discards occur in the Pacific Ocean. The discards are fish that may be too small, damaged, inedible, out of season or of little market value. Prior to the year 2000, discards comprised up to 20 percent of the world catches, reaching a peak of 19 million tons in 1989. The discard levels have been dropping steadily ever since. Those are some of the conclusions in a new University of British Columbia catch reconstruction project that derived discard estimates for all major fisheries in the world going back to the 1950s. High discards result from poor fishing practices and inadequate management, the report says. The biggest reason discards are declining likely reflects lower global fish catches. Fishing operations are catching less fish, so there’s less for them to throw away. From 1950 through 1996, world catches rose from 28 million to 130 million tons per year; since then fish catches have declined by 1.2 million tons a year. Better fisheries management in some areas also has played a role in reducing discards, including strict rules on reducing waste and forbidding discards in Norway and parts of Europe. The location of fish discards also has shifted over the decades. From the 1950s to the 1980s, discarding mostly occurred in northern Atlantic waters off the coasts of the U.S., Canada and Europe. In the Pacific Ocean, discards hit a high of more than nine million tons in 1990 and have declined since to under five million tons per year. Pacific fish discards are happening mostly off the coasts of Russia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. Russian fishing fleets have accounted for more than half of the discards in recent decades. In Alaska waters, much of the fish taken as bycatch is not discarded but instead is donated to food banks. Halibut updates Meeting dates and the call for regulation proposals to be considered for 2018 were just announced by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Any proposed changes to halibut management, including catch limits, must be submitted by Oct. 29 to be on the agenda for the interim meeting, set for Nov. 28 and 29 in Seattle. The proposals considered at that meeting will automatically be included at the IPHC annual meeting Jan. 22-26 in Portland, Ore. Informal statements also may be submitted by email and will go directly to the commissioners at each session. ([email protected]) New this year: people planning to attend the IPHC meetings will be required to pre-register. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

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

KENAI — The United Cook Inlet Drift Association’s lawsuit against the federal government has finally reached its conclusion, though its repercussions are far from over. Alaska U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess signed an order Aug. 3 stipulating the next steps for UCIDA and the National Marine Fisheries Service. A panel of three federal judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of UCIDA in September 2016, saying the North Pacific Fishery Management Council had been wrong to remove Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound and Alaska Peninsula salmon fisheries from federal oversight. The order requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to file a report with the district court three times per year, keep the public involved in the council process of determining a proper rule and ensure that the National Marine Fisheries Service finalize a rule within a year of the council passing one. It also provides measures if the council doesn’t produce an amendment and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the National Marine Fisheries Service, has to produce a secretarial amendment. It also gives UCIDA a right to ask the court to set a deadline for a new fishery management plan for Cook Inlet salmon if the council doesn’t form a stakeholder group that includes UCIDA. Both sides would still have the right to brief the court on their beliefs about a reasonable deadline date, according to the judgment. When the fishery management plan was discussed at the council’s meeting in April, the testifiers asked for some type of stakeholder group to be formed so the users could have a voice in the amendment process. The council passed a resolution solidifying the preliminary purpose and need for the FMP amendment, a number of alternatives and forming a stakeholder workgroup, which would decide its scope and agenda at future meetings. UCIDA isn’t the only stakeholder group involved, either. When Cook Inlet was removed from the federal FMP in 2011 upon the council’s passage of Amendment 12 to the FMP, an area of Prince William Sound near Cordova and an area near the Alaska Peninsula were as well. Both those groups testified at the meeting in April that they wanted to be left under state management as much as possible. Under an FMP, the management of the fishery would have to comply with federal sustainable fisheries criteria under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Other fisheries that do use tools like annual catch limits and acceptable biological catches as compared to the state’s escapement goal-based management system for salmon. The Aug. 3 judgment only requires an FMP to address Cook Inlet. However, it doesn’t mean that the Alaska Peninsula and Prince William Sound fishermen will be left out of the discussion in the future. UCIDA Vice President Erik Huebsch said the court settlement was specifically applied to UCIDA and so didn’t address the other two groups. However, at the meeting in April, the council members asked if they could separate the three areas and address the FMPs individually. “At some point, they’ll probably have to deal with (the other areas),” Huebsch said. “But … this whole FMP for Cook Inlet isn’t necessarily going to be what they end up with. One size doesn’t fit all in these things.” There’s also still the matter of the state of Alaska asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case, leaving the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision up in the air. The state, which filed to become an intervener in the case in 2013, asked the Supreme Court in February to overturn the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision on the grounds that the lower court didn’t understand the issue and that reverting to federal fisheries management could risk overfishing. The Supreme Court, which is currently on break for the summer, is scheduled to consider the case during a conference Sept. 25. UCIDA filed its opposition in June. ^ Reach Elizabeth Earl at [email protected]

Stakeholders voice preferred changes to federal fisheries act

SOLDOTNA — Sportfishing groups and advocates want to see the federal government separate the management of sport and commercial fishing in the upcoming renewal of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The act, originally passed in 1976 and co-sponsored by the late Alaska U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, establishes the management system for federal and state fisheries in marine waters. Under the law, the state has authority over waters from the mean high tide line out to three nautical miles offshore, and federal government has authority over waters from 3–200 nautical miles offshore, known as the Exclusive Economic Zone. The National Marine Fisheries Service, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, oversees the fisheries in federal waters. Last reauthorized in 2006, the act is up for renewal and potential amendment. Sen. Dan Sullivan, who chairs the Senate Oceans, Atmospher, Fisheries and Coast Guard subcommittee, chaired a field hearing for the act at Kenai Peninsula College on Wednesday, hearing from more than a dozen witnesses on three panels and discussing potential changes to the act. The hearing on the Kenai Peninsula was the first of the field hearings on the reauthorization. Panelists with interests in the sportfishing industry repeatedly emphasized that commercial fishing and recreational fishing are two distinct activities and asked for recreational fishing to be considered in management decisions. “The recreational and commercial fishing are simply two fundamentally different activities needing distinctively different management tools,” said Ben Speciale, the president of Yamaha Marine Group, in testimony at the hearing. Liz Ogilvie, the director of the Keep America Fishing initiative for the American Sportfishing Association, echoed Speciale’s point and noted that a group of senators had introduced a bill addressing some of the sportfishing industry’s concerns. The bill, formally entitled The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017, was introduced this summer. “Fairly or unfairly, the general perception among anglers is that NOAA Fisheries only understands and cares about commercial fishing,” she said. Some of the provisions included in the act include mandatory periodic review of allocations among various fisheries, setting up alternative management approaches for recreational fishing, amending limited access privilege programs for mixed-use fisheries, amending the timelines for rebuilding fishery stocks considered depleted and setting up data collection systems that include recreational fishery considerations, among other provisions. Some of those with commercial fisheries interests on the panel disagreed that commercial and recreational fisheries diverge enough to merit separate management methods. Shannon Carroll, the deputy director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, said the two were not so different. “We may agree that they have different objectives, but the end result of both sectors is really the same — it’s the harvesting of a public resource,” he said. “I would urge this committee to ensure that sound science and individual accountability are the foundation of any new proposal.” Some of the speakers with commercial fisheries interests said they thought the act was largely working and should stay the course, though others raised their own issues. Duncan Fields of the Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition, who completed nine years on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in 2016, urged Sullivan to amend the act to mitigate the impacts of limited access programs on coastal communities. Limited access programs, which issue quota shares to fishermen, have raised the cost of participation so young people in small coastal communities have not been able to enter the fisheries, contributing to what has become known as “the graying of the fleet.” “I have a real sense of urgency relative to the rural communities in the Gulf of Alaska,” Fields said. “This isn’t abstract to me. Changing the community provisions in Magnuson will affect real people that I know, families and communities that I’m engaged with.” However, both sides had some common ground. Both identified the need for greater flexibility for the eight regional councils created under the act, which locally set harvest limits and other regulations on their fisheries. Dan Hull, the current chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, testified at the hearing that the council largely supports the current act’s structure for fishery management, though some flexibility could help. “We also recognize the potential benefits of increased flexibility in some circumstances to allow regional councils the opportunity to optimize their management programs with the appropriate precautionary notes,” he said. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten, who also sits on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, said at the hearing that the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act should address the issue of recusals during council votes. Because of the entangled interests on the council by the stakeholders, some have had to recuse themselves from votes when it may not be totally necessary, so the rules could use some revision, he said. He also mentioned the state’s concern over the recent court decision that Cook Inlet’s salmon fisheries must be managed under a federal Fishery Management Plan, which is under the purview of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The council only jumped into the process this April and it will likely take years to develop a plan, and the state has also appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Cotten said the decision could have heavy implications in jointly managed state and federal fisheries around the country. “Cook Inlet salmon management is fairly complicated, always controversial, difficult to satisfy all 10 or 12 different interest groups in those fish,” he said. “To have the United States government as a player on that scene I do not think would be helpful or a positive addition.” One common note among many of the panelists was additional funding for scientific research. Accurate stock assessment data is a major component in modern fisheries management, and without data, the only option is for management to be more conservative and reduce harvest opportunities. Though scientific funding for NOAA is separate from the Magnuson-Stevens Act, many of the testifiers took the opportunity to ask Sullivan to pressure for it. Sullivan said he has long been committed to securing full funding for NOAA and fisheries management research and would push for it in Washington, D.C. Sullivan said he hoped to use the hearing to gain a variety of perspectives. The Magnuson-Stevens Act places conservation first, and after that comes the charge to maximize opportunity for both recreational and commercial fisheries, he said. “That is the greatest responsibility that Congress has assigned to our fishery managers through the MSA,” he said. “This requirement is often a strained balancing act and it forces tough choices between competing interests, but again, what I think we’re trying to do here is look at ways to achieve consensus.” Reach Elizabeth Earl at [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: Alaskan seafood has opening in home meal kits

Alaska aims to get in on the growing popularity of Home Meal kits that will deliver seafood directly to American kitchens. The kits typically offer a subscription service where customers order weekly meals based on how many people they plan to feed and their food preferences. The kits include portioned, high quality ingredients with foolproof cooking instructions and can be delivered within hours or overnight to nearly all locations. Many grocery stores also are providing in-store options that don’t involve delivery. The kits typically cost $60 to $70 per week for three two-person meals. Since the launch in 2012, it has grown into a $2.2 billion business, according to the Chicago-based consulting firm Pentallect, which predicts annual growth at 25 percent to 30 percent over the next five years. The numbers could go higher with Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods and its July 6 announcement that it will enter the meal kit arena using a trademarked logo of “We do the prep. You be the chef.” Ocean Beauty Seafoods, which operates six processing plants in Alaska, is already in the game, said Tom Sunderland, vice president of marketing. “We’ve been involved in home meal replacements (HMRs) since they started in the 1990s and this is a natural extension for us,” he said, adding that meal kits provide “a different experience.” Whereas HMRs offered selections of ready to eat items like pot pies, salads or pasta dishes, meal kits provide a different experience. Companies such as Blue Apron, Home Fresh or Plated have gone beyond convenience and hooked into people’s desire to cook with high-quality ingredients, Sunderland said. “The convenience comes in the sourcing of the raw ingredients, but it brings the creativity and the home cooking into the mix. You are actually getting a particular experience which is very fulfilling to a lot of people. I think the insight into that is quite great,” he said. Advances in packaging technology and logistics also play a big part in the meal kit popularity by taking the difficulty out of delivery. “We refer to it as the last mile,” Sunderland explained. “The minute you put a frozen product on a delivery truck the cold chain is no longer maintained. That’s always been a deal killer for a lot of this. “But with the advent of oxygen permeable packaging films you can allow a frozen product to thaw out and still have it be food safe. That’s been an enormous change in the market because it allows you to do something you couldn’t do before.” The meal kit concept also reduces waste. “The fish or the meat is portioned just right, the vegetables are portioned to a particular dinner and recipe and the waste stream is greatly diminished. I think that’s appealing to people as well,” he added. But it is the customer focus on high quality ingredients that plays into Alaska’s hands, Sunderland believes. “Over the years Alaska has been constantly improving the quality of the raw materials and the finished goods all the way through the system. That puts us in a great position to take advantage of this,” he said. Also, the ability for home kit providers to rotate products allows Alaska to capitalize on the timing of various fisheries throughout the year. “That can match up really well with how Alaska product is managed in inventory,” Sunderland said. Another plus: for decades research has shown that 65 percent of Americans eat seafood only at restaurants because they claim they don’t know how to cook it properly. Home meal kits will bring fish right into their kitchens. “That’s the key,” Sunderland said. “When they get top quality fish with very specific cooking directions, it maximizes the likelihood that they are going to be successful and they will order it again. It is about as perfect as it can be.” Fish funds Alaska’s fisheries and related programs got a mix of budget guts and gains for 2018 before Congress left for its five-week recess. On the hit list: total funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration budget was set at $5.6 billion — an $85 million cut — but far less than the $900 million cut proposed by President Donald Trump. Senate appropriators also rejected Trump’s call for a 32 percent cut for climate, weather and oceans research, and instead provided a budget of nearly $480 million for those programs. Also rejected were plans to gut the national Sea Grant program that supports more than 20,000 jobs and nearly 3,000 businesses. Sea Grant was funded at $65 million, a $2 million increase. Coastal Zone Management grants also were fully funded, and fisheries data collection, surveys and stock assessments were boosted to nearly $165 million. Regional fisheries councils and commissions also received robust funding of $36 million. Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Funds were maintained at $65 million, and Pacific Salmon Treaty activities received a $2 million increase to $14 million. Weather satellite programs funded at nearly $420 million reflect a $90 million increase, $239 million above the Trump administration’s request. The Senate appropriations bill also provides $75 million to begin building a new NOAA survey vessel, $11 million for addressing ocean acidification, and an extra $3 million to expedite electronic monitoring programs. King closure Fishing for king salmon was shut down on Aug. 10 in Southeast Alaska for all commercial and sport users. The unprecedented move stems from record low returns, resulting in the worst commercial harvest since 1975. “We felt compelled to do as much as we could to look toward the future,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Deputy Commissioner Charlie Swanton. “Ocean conditions don’t look all that promising in 2018, and we want to do whatever we can to turn that around into 2018 and beyond.” The king salmon closure will be reviewed in September. No product pride? The first batch of genetically modified salmon is now being sold in undisclosed supermarkets in Canada. Massachusetts-based AquaBounty reported that five tons of Frankenfish were shipped from its farm site in Panama, generating $53,000 or roughly $4.82 per pound. No one besides the company knows where the GM fish are being sold, and no labels are required to alert customers what they are buying. AquaBounty plans to produce 1,300 tons of GM salmon annually, (nearly 3 million pounds) starting next year. The manmade fish reaches adult size in 16 to 18 months, compared to 2½ years for normal Atlantic salmon. The U.S. gave a nod to the salmon in 2015 making it the first GM animal approved for human consumption, but it has yet to make it to market. Lawmakers are demanding that Frankenfish must be labeled if and when it is sold in the U.S. More than 80 U.S. grocery chains and restaurants, including Costco, have stated they will not sell the GM salmon. Winning! Elizabeth Lind is the winner of the Predict the Bay contest sponsored by United Fishermen of Alaska’s Salmon Habitat Information Project. Her correct guess was a catch of 37.7 million sockeye salmon at Bristol Bay; the total on Friday was posted at 37.6 million. Lind wins an Alaska Airlines gift card for her winning guess. There’s still time to enter for more prizes. Send a text to 313131 and put “UFASHIP” in the message to get four chances to win up to $200 in gifts from Alaska Air and LFS Gear Supply, plus salmon news you can use. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Fishing deaths renew reminders for safety measures

“It’s time for a checkup from the neck up” — meaning an industry time out to evaluate fishing operations and behaviors, advises Jerry Dzugan, the director of the Sitka-based Alaska Marine Safety Education Association for more than 30 years. Dzugan was speaking in response to the 11 fishing deaths that have occurred in Alaska so far this year. It’s the most in 13 years and follows a 76 percent decrease in commercial fishing fatalities since the 1980s. “The causes are still capsizing, sinkings, swampings and man overboards (MOBs). They haven’t changed much,” Dzugan said. “People need to step back and focus on the basics, such as making sure your vessel is stable and watertight, and that your crew is protected from man overboards.” Flooding and loss of boat stability are the cause of 50 percent of all fishing fatalities. Between 25 percent to 35 percent are from falling overboard, which is easily preventable. Dzugan said a long-term federal study of more than 500 Alaska fishing fatalities showed that not one MOB was wearing a life jacket. “You don’t fall in the water and die right away. You’ve got a half-hour to an hour before you succumb to hypothermia. The biggest risk is drowning and we’ve had a solution to that for hundreds of years, and that’s a life preserver,” he explained. There are a lot of “cultural barriers” to wearing PFDs (personal flotation devices), Dzugan said, combined with a lack of awareness of what is available today. The arguments heard in AMSEA training workshops are that PFDs are uncomfortable, they get snagged on things and they are difficult to work in. Minds are slowly changing, he said, and more fishing operations are now requiring that PFDs be worn on deck. “When you show them products that are built in to your coveralls or comfortable vests that help keep you warm and help absorb shocks from banging around on deck, they go out and buy them,” he said. Test trials by fishermen bear that out. In a 2012 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 400 Alaska fishermen wore six different PFDs for one month aboard crab boats, trawlers, longline and gillnet vessels. They then rated the gear for performance and comfort with a Mustang auto-inflatable PFD vest coming out on top. Most of the fisherman-approved models have PFDs built into suspenders, including Guy Cotton or Stearns rain gear. Stormy Seas, Regatta and Stearns models also feature yokes and bibs that clip into Grundens deck gear. Prices for the PFDs range from $125 to $200 and most are available at local gear shops. Along with wearing life preservers, Dzugan said all vessels should have a mechanical way to get people back on board, at least with blocks and tackle, and a boarding ladder. “Make sure the crew knows what to do in that situation. If you fish alone, be sure you get yourself back on the boat,” he stressed. Many man overboard alarms have an engine shut off capacity (most are in the $400 range), and Dzugan advises not going out on deck alone without telling someone, especially at night. More than half of all MOBs are not witnessed. He added that a lot of fishermen don’t have good technical knowledge of vessel stability. “A swamping takes just one wave,” he cautioned. Have respect for anything that changes a boat’s center of gravity, and make sure your vessel is watertight. “Even if the vessel originally had a watertight bulkhead, people drill holes through them for piping or electrical passages and don’t fill them up again,” he explained. “People get other priorities and they defer maintenance and often forget about the watertight integrity of their vessel.” Vessels also should have high water alarms in every space and good pumps. Check your immersion suits and other survival gear, Dzugan stressed, and do onboard safety drills. The U.S Coast Guard Fishing Vessel Safety Act states “the master, or other person in charge of each commercial fishing vessel, must ensure that basic safety drills and instructions are given to each crewman at least once each month.” “It’s tough for the Coast Guard to enforce,” Dzugan said. “A lot of people think doing a drill is talking about it around the galley table once a year.” Another cause of fishing accidents is simply fatigue and not getting enough sleep. “All the studies show that your decision making decreases the longer you go without sleep, and you start making stupid mistakes,” he said. Another lifesaving safety tip: pay attention to weather forecasts. Dzugan said. “Mother Nature doesn’t care a whit about you,” Dzugan said. “If there’s a storm forecast, don’t go out. It’s not worth it.” Fish watch Salmon takes center stage all summer but lots of other Alaska fisheries are going on as well. For salmon, the catch by Aug. 4 was nearing 121 million fish. Sockeyes totaled about 50 million, of which nearly 38 million were from Bristol Bay. Statewide pink salmon catches were on their way to 52 million with half coming from Prince William Sound. The total Alaska salmon catch for this year is pegged at 204 million fish. A lingcod fishery continues in Prince William Sound through year’s end with a 32,600-pound harvest. In Southeast Alaska, beam trawl shrimping continues through the end of August with a 175,000-pound catch quota. Starting Aug. 15, 78 permit holders in Southeast will set out for 720,250 pounds of pricey sablefish. A small 54,000-pound sablefish fishery also is underway in Cook Inlet. Cook Inlet also opens to scallop fishing on Aug. 15. Dredges are still dropping in other parts of the state with a total catch quota of 306,000 pounds of shucked scallop meats. Nearly 60 percent of the 18 million-pound halibut catch has been taken with Kodiak leading all ports for landings, followed by Seward and Homer. Statewide sablefish catches also are nearing 60 percent of the 22.5 million-pound quota. Both sablefish and halibut fisheries end in early November. Fishing for pollock, cod and other whitefish continues in the Bering Sea. Pollock reopens in the Gulf on Aug. 25 with a 4.2 million-pound harvest. Golden king crab kicked off along the Aleutians on Aug. 1 with a 5.5 million-pound catch quota. Fish agenda The state Board of Fisheries is lining up its agenda items for its annual meeting cycle that will focus on regulation changes for subsistence, commercial, personal use and sport fish fisheries at Prince William Sound, the upper Copper and Susitna regions and Yakutat, along with Dungeness crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish issues. The Board has 227 proposals on its docket so far and the call is out for proposals from other regions to be considered at an Oct. 17-19 work session in Anchorage. “The board will review agenda change requests (ACRs) and decide if they meet the defined criteria to accept them,” said Executive Director Glenn Haight, adding that up to 25 requests are usually submitted. Last year, when the focus was on Kodiak and Cook Inlet fisheries, 12 ACRs came in from other regions and only two were accepted, he said. For an ACR to be accepted it must not be an item that is included in the regions already being considered; it must address a fishery conservation purpose, or correct an error in a regulation; or an impact on a fishery that was unforeseen, Haight explained. Agenda change requests must be submitted by Aug. 17 to be considered at the October work session in Anchorage. No regulations are passed nor are public comments taken at that time, although written comments may be submitted. A special consideration added to the October agenda is a Kodiak/Cook Inlet salmon genetic study. Comments may be faxed or mailed to ADF&G Boards Support Section in Juneau or via email to [email protected] Salmon day! Aug. 10 was Alaska Wild Salmon Day, an annual recognition signed into law in 2016 by Gov. Bill Walker. It also kicks off the upscale, nine day Sitka Seafood Festival hosted by the Alaska Sustainable Trust and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. All proceeds go to the Young Fishermen’s Initiative. www.sitkaseafoodfestival.com. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: ASMI keeps up export push on shoestring budget

Seafood is Alaska’s top export by far, usually topping $3 billion in sales each year to 120 countries around the world, and comprising 55 percent of our nation’s total seafood exports. Credit for the state’s export sales goes mostly to the international program run by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or ASMI, which runs eight regional offices in Japan, China, Brazil, London, Spain, France, Germany and Eastern Europe. The overseas marketing reps, or OMRs, work under contract with ASMI to coordinate hundreds of seafood promotions each year to build the Alaska brand. “We work closely with overseas trade groups, food service and HRIs (hotels, restaurants, institutions),” said Hannah Lindoff, ASMI international director. “We also do promotions with chefs, schools, and caterers, and some programs have advertising elements as well.” China is Alaska’s largest seafood export market in terms of volume and value accounting for 35 percent and 27 percent, respectively in 2015. The fish isn’t ending up on Chinese dinner plates, however, as up to 90 percent of the seafood is sold to secondary processors which send finished products to other markets around the world. Japan is Alaska’s largest and most established market, Lindoff said, and the bulk of ASMI’s shoestring budget goes to maintaining customers there. “Alaska is facing lots of competition and a declining consumer base in Japan,” she added. Europeans rank second as customers for Alaska seafood, especially in the U.K. “Alaska salmon has been going to the U.K. for over 100 years and canned salmon is a traditional product for them. It’s part of their culture, but it is a declining market,” Lindoff said. Alaska’s newest marketing program is in Brazil where ASMI has been able to capitalize on its Japan connection. “Brazil has the largest population of expat Japanese in the world so we already have a population there that is familiar with Alaska seafood. We do several trade shows in Brazil, including a Japan Trade Show every year,” Lindoff said. Spain is another new and growing buyer for Alaska seafood. “This is a country where Alaska salmon is competing to be seen as better quality over farmed fish,” Lindoff said, adding that ASMI has taken advantage of a big downturn in farmed production from Chile due to a deadly fish virus. “The growing trend for sushi and Asian cuisine also has really helped Alaska salmon gain a foothold in Spain,” she said, “and it is a traditional market for Alaska cod.” ASMI also is trying to expand the brand in Eastern Europe to make up for losses from an ongoing Russian embargo on U.S. seafood, by building a presence in Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Ukraine. It’s a tough go, Lindoff admits, because many nations simply are not familiar with Alaska or its seafood. “We think of ourselves as having the greatest seafood in the world, but we are only 2 percent of the world supply and we are up against a lot of competition,” she explained. “Especially in Europe where Norway can provide a lot of farmed fish and they have a very aggressive marketing agency. It’s not a fair fight.” Norway’s annual marketing budget tops $50 million derived from a small tax on its seafood exports. That compares to an ASMI export budget of less than $7 million from a mix of grants and federal dollars. The State of Alaska contributes $1 million to ASMI’s overall budget of roughly $22 million, of which $16.5 million is paid by the seafood industry. The state plans to zero out its funds to ASMI in the coming fiscal year. Another marketing challenge is that many nations are only newly aware that Alaska is part of the United States. “It wasn’t until Sarah Palin was running for vice president in 2008 that some people learned that Alaska was part of the U.S,” Lindoff said with a laugh. She added that the popularity of the “Deadliest Catch” television show also “did tremendous things for creating awareness of Alaska seafood.” More recently, that recognition has helped increase buyer interest because Alaska (and the U.S. in general) is regarded as a source of clean and wholesome “free from” foods. “Especially in countries like China where they have a lot of food contamination problems, Alaska seafood is seen as a trusted source,” Lindoff said. She added that ASMI is partnering with several other regional groups as part of a USA global seafood initiative with a focus on Southeast Asia. “It’s definitely an advantage having a clean and pure environment in Alaska,” she said. Other sales benefits are coming from the use of eCommerce, especially in China, where the appetite for Alaska seafood is growing. “Our marketing dollars can go much farther online. It allows us to widely advertise Alaska’s core messages and we’ve seen millions of dollars in sales through eCommerce in China,” Lindoff said, adding that the same strategy is paying off with canned salmon in the U.K. To boost more brand awareness, ASMI also brings chefs and seafood savvy press people from Asia and Europe to Alaska to generate free publicity when they go home. Overseas marketing reps from eight countries are scheduled to arrive in Kodiak on Aug. 7 to tour processing plants, visit a remote salmon fishing site and hold brainstorming sessions. “Visiting Alaska is always one of our most powerful tools,” Lindoff said. “It’s great when you have limited time and budget to go to a place like Kodiak where you get so much of the seafood industry in one place.” Bringing in the chill Bristol Bay fishermen are chilling their fish like never before, and they are setting up to do even more. Two former longtime Bay fishermen are converting a 150-foot helicopter logging barge into a floating fish processor with plans to operate it next summer on the Ugashik River, about 85 miles from the nearest processing plants at Naknek. Co-owner Ben Blakey said the barge will freeze up to 300,000 pounds of whole sockeye salmon per day and employ about 20 people, compared to the 200 or more needed to run a shore-based processor. “There are a lot of communities in Alaska that can’t support a full-time processor with that many people because they don’t have enough volume,” Blakey told KCAW in Sitka. “If an outfit like this can get by with less overhead and lower labor costs, they might be able to park it in front of an isolated area and process the fish at a more effective cost.” The refurbished four decker will provide ice and help reduce the time the salmon spend in the fish hold before being delivered, especially for the many boats that don’t have onboard chilling systems, said co-owner Pat Glaab, who built the fish processing plant at Leader Creek and Silver Bay Seafoods at Naknek. The revamped barge is his 11th fish processor. “There’s nobody in the world who wouldn’t say that there isn’t a portion of that Bay fleet that doesn’t have the ability to take care of this fish properly. We feel this thing will fill that need,” he said. Glaab and Blakey operate as Northline Seafoods out of Sitka’s industrial park, where they are testing out the revamped plant on pinks this summer. If it’s successful, the duo plans to build at least three more brand new barges at a cost of about $5 million each. Red flag from afar U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross this month dismissed a report from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that concluded New Jersey was violating a conservation plan for summer flounder, also called fluke. The decision, which allows New Jersey to harvest nearly 100,000 more summer flounder, marked the first time the federal government has disregarded such a recommendation by the commission, according to the Boston Globe. Congress established the multi-state commission 75 years ago to ensure the region’s fisheries are managed sustainably. The commission lowered fluke catch limits after it found that their population was down almost 25 percent since 2010. Ross, who oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, overruled the commission and allowed New Jersey to go ahead with its plan. Outraged members of the commission, fishery managers, and NOAA officials said it was unprecedented for a Commerce secretary to make a decision without seeking their input. The broader impact of the decision remains unknown, the Globe said. Fishery managers worry that Ross’ decision sets a precedent for states to reject the commission’s findings and appeal to the federal government whenever they don’t like what they’re hearing. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

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