Northern District salmon not faring better than Kenai

WASILLA — Southcentral residents gathered in Wasilla Nov. 15 to talk about Northern District salmon issues with fisheries managers and local politicians. Mat-Su fishermen mostly target the Northern District of the Cook Inlet, including the Susitna River drainage and various Parks Highway streams. Salmon in those waters haven’t fared any better than their Kenai Peninsula and Yukon-Kuskokwim delta counterparts, with several declared stocks of concern. Rep. Mark Neumann, R-Wasilla, introduced the other Mat-Su elected officials, and reminded the public that the meeting was as much for them to share their concerns as for Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers to explain the current status of area fish. “These fisheries belong to you,” Neumann said. Attendees raised a variety of concerns — including the roles of commercial and subsistence fisheries, to shortfalls in various species, to the possibility of a dam changing salmon runs. ADFG Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey said there’s been a decline in king salmon for the past several years in western Cook Inlet and Matanuska-Susitna area rivers. In 2011, 12 of the area’s 17 king escapement goals were not met. That goal is the number of fish managers wants to get upstream to reproduce. The Alaska Board of Fisheries sets those escapement goals for streams and rivers throughout Alaska based on recommendations from ADFG, which uses management tools to keep prosecution of state fisheries to a level that allows for the goal to be reached. In the Mat-Su, most escapement goals are gauged by aerial surveys looking at the number of fish returning. This year, Ivey said ADFG tried to reduce the number of king salmon taken with a number of strategies. Those included limiting the time when fishing was allowed, reducing the annual limit, and limiting gear types. On Parks Highway streams, fishing was catch and release only. At midseason, managers felt they still weren’t going to meet some goals, so they took further action, closing the Little Susitna, then the entire Susitna drainage. On the Deshka River, bait was prohibited. Commercial Fisheries Biologist Pat Shields explained that the commercial fleet’s effort was also cut significantly. The reductions came from shorter openings, closing some planned openings to try and allow more kings to go north, and spacing out the northern setnetters more than in the past. “We took some pretty significant restrictions in the fishery to reduce our harvest potential on king salmon,” Shields said. Shields said the division will likely implement similar restrictions next year. Despite the efforts, escapement goals were not met. The Deshka River, Little Susitna, Clear Creek and Little Willow Creek were the only places where escapement goals were met. By the end of the summer, 13 of the 17 escapement goals weren’t met, Ivey said. Ivey said the poor returns had a dual impact. Fishermen and businesses catering to them were hurt, and the department lost revenue from its king tags. Ivey also talked about coho management in the area. No action was taken before the start of the season, but during the season, the department issued four emergency orders limiting fishing. The final order closed the entire Knik Arm Management Area to coho fishing, other than the Eklutna Tailrace. Next year there will likely be see restrictive coho management, Ivey said. Shields said his division is also trying to figure out what to do about cohos. The strong sockeye run, combined with king and coho issues, made for particularly difficult management, Shields said. Commercial fishermen were restricted in the area they could fish, in an effort to conserve coho, and setnetters didn’t fish, in an effort to conserve kings, but ultimately it still didn’t work out the way everyone wanted, Shields said. “We’re left with this challenge,” Shields said. “You don’t ignore Northern District-bound stocks, and you don’t ignore Kenai-Kasilof sockeye stocks. It puts us in a difficult situation.” In response to a question from members of the public concerned about how the escapement goals are set, Bob Clark of ADFG explained that while some escapement goals have been reduced in the past decade, it’s not because of the low returns. Reductions are generally because the department has more information, and realizes that fewer salmon are required to maintain the same population. Despite those adjustments, of which there have been only a few, Clark said the department needs more information. “We need some better information to understand why production is down and try to do something about it,” Clark said. Better information could also help provide better management tools, he said. For now, the tools are too blunt to provide any fishing opportunity when abundance is low. Some action is planned to help give the department better information next year. Ivey said that next year, the Little Susitna will get a king weir, which should provide more timely in-season information. Most of the streams are assessed with aerial surveys, but a weir generally provides better data. The department is working on adding other additional weirs, including two in the Yetna River system, and two in the Susitna system. The department also operated a test fishery near Kalgin Island. That test fishery is expected to provide information on whether or not Susitna sockeyes can be separated from other sockeyes in the Cook Inlet either spatially or temporally. The first round of genetic data is expected to be processed in early 2013. There’s also a new two-year project beginning to collect, organize and analyze local and traditional knowledge about Susitna River drainage king salmon stocks. Each of those efforts would better inform managers about the fish they’re trying to apportion. But users want information now, they said. Bruce Morgan said he sees a lot of reaction after fisheries don’t produce as hoped or expected, and hears a lot of unknowns when the state talks about how to best manage the fisheries. But he wanted some concrete answers. “I realize there’s no silver bullet to cover everything, give me a little bit. Tell me, just tell me something,” Morgan said. Like other salmon discussions this year, subsistence was a question at the Wasilla meeting. Subsistence fishing is managed by the commercial fisheries division, and, for the Northern District, mostly occurs on the west side of Cook Inlet. Howard Delo, a retired ADFG fisheries biologist, acknowledged that subsistence fishing can be a touchy subject, and said he’s heard anecdotal information that there’s some “extracurricular activity” in the west side subsistence king fisheries. “How closely is this being enforced and has Commercial Fisheries considered making any restrictions to the subsistence fisheries on the west side, in this sharing of the conservation burden?” Delo asked. Shields said subsistence users are considered a higher priority than others, to some extent. Restrictions were considered, but ultimately the division felt it was making the necessary reductions in harvest to provide for escapements. But, Shields said he likes to hear those reports of extra activity, and can ask enforcement to check them out when he hears about them. Central Region Supervisor Tracy Lingnau said all possibilities for conservation will be back on table when the division looks at management for 2013. Jim Savage, from the Anchorage ADFG Advisory Committee, also asked managers to tighten restrictions on commercial fishing, believing that they’re contributing to the lack of fish making it to the northern district. “You can do all you want in the streams up here… but if they never get up here, what’s the point?” Savage asked. “(It seemed like) last year, the drift fleet just ran amuck.” Other users questioned if there should be commercial fishing at all, which Shields said was a Board of Fisheries issue, not something managers would change. He noted just 10 percent of the king harvest comes from commercial fishermen.

Salmon harvest, value drops in 2012; Kodiak top halibut port for 2nd year

Alaska’s salmon harvest and value for 2012 came in well below last year, dropping 21 percent and 30 percent, respectively. According to preliminary state tallies, the value of the salmon catch totaled nearly $506 million at the docks this summer on a statewide catch of 124 million fish. That compares to a 2011 take of 177 million salmon valued at just more than $641 million. A breakdown shows that the 2012 chinook harvest of 333,000 was worth $17.6 million; sockeyes came in at 35.2 million valued at nearly $246 million; the coho catch of 3 million rang in at about $22.5 million; pinks totaled 67 million fish valued at over $105 million; and the chum catch of 18.3 million was worth $114.5 million at the Alaska docks. In terms of average prices, there were ups and downs. Chinook salmon brought fishermen $3.99 per pound, compared to $3.53 last summer. Sockeyes dropped to $1.16, a drop of 15 cents per pound. Coho salmon also paid out at $1.16 on average, up a penny; pinks averaged 43 cents per pound compared to 46 cents last season, and chums at 66 cents decreased by 18 cents a pound. Some highlights: Prince William Sound had the highest prices for chinook salmon, averaging $5.33 per pound; sockeyes at $1.70 and pinks at 48 cents. Sockeye prices at Southeast averaged $1.55; at Cook Inlet reds were worth $1.51 and sockeyes averaged $1 per pound at Bristol Bay. Kodiak reds averaged $1.41; $1.05 at Chignik; it was 84 cents per pound at the Alaska Peninsula; 85 cents in the Kuskokwim region, $1.45 at Norton Sound and 75 cents per pound for sockeye at the Yukon.   The Yukon paid the highest price for chums at $1.18, and Norton Sound paid the most for coho salmon at $1.47 per pound.  Here are the 2012 dockside values by region with 2011 values in parentheses:  Southeast Alaska: $153.2 million ($206.6 million); Prince William Sound: $110.8 million ($103.3 million); Cook Inlet: $36 million ($52.4 million); Bristol Bay: $121 million ($160.4 million); Kodiak: $46.5 million ($50.2 million); Chignik: $13.7 million ($25.6 million); Alaska Peninsula/Aleutian Islands: $17.5 million ($33.8 million); Kuskokwim: $2 million ($3 million); Yukon: $3.1 million ($3.4 million); Norton Sound: $759,000 ($1.2 million); Kotzebue: $568,000 ($864,000). The prices do not reflect bonuses or other increases based on post season sales agreements. Find the complete breakdown at the ADF&G Commercial Fishing page. Halibut haul If Homer hasn’t done it already, it’s time for the town to take down its “America’s #1 Halibut Port” sign. For the second year running, Kodiak topped Homer for halibut landings, this time by nearly 40 percent. The eight-month long fishery closed on Nov. 7 and final catch data shows more than 5 million pounds of halibut crossed the Kodiak docks from 729 landings. Homer had 450 deliveries totaling just over 4.4 million pounds. Seward ranked third at 2.6 million pounds, followed by Dutch Harbor/Unalaska at about 2 million pounds; Sitka and Petersburg each had halibut landings of just more than 1 million pounds.  In all, Alaska longliners landed 97 percent of the 24 million pound halibut catch limit this year, leaving 700,000 pounds in the water.   Speaking of catch limits – fishermen will get a first glimpse of what they can expect in 2013 when the International Pacific Halibut Commission holds its interim meeting later this month.  The IPHC sets the catches for the West Coast, British Columbia and Alaska. Most fishermen are bracing for more bad news, as the harvest has been slashed by nearly 40 percent in the past two years.  Scientists say there are a lot of halibut out there, but the fish are smaller than they should be at age and slow to enter the fishery. Most troubling, scientists believe they have overestimated the Pacific halibut biomass for years. The IPHC also will consider four regulatory proposals for the halibut fishery. One asks for a modification on certain vessel categories; a second requests that harvest tickets be required for all sport caught halibut and sablefish, saying it would provide more complete data for managers. A third proposal recommends that circle hooks be designated as the only legal gear for halibut, saying that J-hooks and treble hooks tend to get swallowed by fish and are difficult to remove. A final proposal asks that sport charter operators be able to retain halibut on board their vessels.  The IPHC staff has made changes to make the meeting sessions more open and transparent. More time has been scheduled for the public to ask questions and except for the finance and administration segments at the end of the second day, all sessions will be webcast. (In past meetings, only the initial staff presentations were webcast.) The IPHC meets Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 28-29 at its offices in Seattle. Looking ahead:  the annual meeting where final decisions will be made is scheduled for Jan. 21 to Jan. 25 in Victoria, B.C. (See more at More fish meetings The catch quotas for pollock and cod, Alaska’s largest fisheries, will be finalized by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council at its meeting Dec. 5 to Dec. 11 in Anchorage. For Bering Sea pollock, the proposed catch is just slightly above the 2012 limit of 1.2 million metric tons, or roughly three billion pounds. Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pacific cod harvests could also see an upward tick to nearly 263,000 tons, an increase of 7 percent.  Catches in the Gulf of Alaska also are set to go a bit higher next year. Gulf pollock could increase by nearly 8 percent to more than 125,000 tons. For cod, the proposed catch tops 68,000 tons, up 4 percent. On the down side, Gulf sablefish could see a 166 ton reduction with a proposed catch of roughly 12,800 tons. Back in state waters (out to three miles), the Board of Fisheries begins its meeting cycle with a nine-day marathon from Dec. 4 to Dec. 12 in Naknek. The board will hear 87 proposals that suggest changes to regulations regarding commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries in the Bristol Bay region.  All meetings will be available via webcasts.  Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.  

Feds: Lack of sea ice changes walrus behavior

The absence of vast swaths of summer sea ice is changing the behavior of Pacific walrus, federal scientists said Nov. 14, but added that more research will be needed to say what the final effects might be. “There is a definite concern for the population,” said Chad Jay, a U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist who studies patterns of walrus distribution. Since 2008, Jay, USGS researcher Anthony Fischbach and colleagues in Russia have used crossbows to attach temporary radio collars to walrus so their movements can be tracked. In a paper published last month, they concluded that walrus in late summer will increase their use of coastal resting areas, called haul-outs, and feed in nearshore foraging areas because sea ice will continue to diminish. The consequences for the population, they said, was not known. A decade ago, the future of walrus was hardly a consideration. Their habitat in in a hostile locale off a remote state provided natural protections. Warming has opened up the Arctic for ecotourism, petroleum development and possibly cargo transport and commercial fishing. Like polar bears, walrus have seen their primary habitat melting beneath their feet or flippers. Walruses cannot swim indefinitely. They use ice, rocks or beaches as resting platforms. Walrus females give birth in the Bering Sea, and as temperatures warm each summer, live on the sea ice edge as it moves north through the Bering Strait and into the Chukchi Sea. The ice provides a sanctuary for nursing walrus calves and an ever-changing diving platform for females that hunt along the ocean floor for clams, snails and marine worms. Biologists compare the ice edge to a conveyor belt that carries walrus north and south as ice melts and re-forms with the seasons. A wakeup call for U.S. scientists came in 2007, when several thousand walrus appeared on Alaska’s northwest coast in late summer. Ice had receded beyond the shallow continental shelf to the Arctic Basin, where the ocean floor is 10,000 feet down and too deep to reach by walrus. Thousands more hauled out on the Russian side. Remnant ice kept walrus offshore in 2008, but they returned to shore in late summer 2009, with tragic consequences: more than 130 mostly young walruses were crushed at Icy Cape in a stampede that could have been caused by a polar bear, human hunters or an airplane. In 2010, upward of 20,000 walrus were counted near Point Lay, an Eskimo village 300 miles southwest of Barrow. In 2011, 5,000 walruses were spotted north of Point Lay and 3,000 more a short distance away. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year added walrus to the “warranted but precluded” list, deciding that the animals need additional protections but could not be listed because other species were a higher priority. A legal settlement requires a decision by 2017. Researchers, meanwhile, will continue investigating whether walrus gathered on the coast will deplete nearshore food resources, which are typically less bountiful for walrus than offshore areas, or if a toll will be taken on the health of females and calves that have to forage farther for food. Despite record low ice this year, remnant ice floating off Alaska’s northwest allowed walrus to stay offshore. As the climate continues to warm, Jay said, walrus are likely to be back on shore in late summer. “We expect to see this behavior continue and that period of time when walrus are using coastal haul-outs and are forced to forage in these less-productive waters — we expect that period to continue into the future as we experience more climate warming,” he said.  

Alaska increases estimate of salmon disaster

Alaska commercial fishermen lost an estimated $16.8 million in direct revenue tied to fishing closures because of recent poor king salmon returns, according to new figures prepared by state officials. Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Commissioner Susan Bell enclosed the estimate of losses by commercial fishery permit holders in a letter to the Alaska congressional delegation. An estimate in September put the suspected loss at more than $10 million. The figures, Bell said, did not reflect the total financial loss for Alaskans. Crew members missed the opportunity to fish and earn wages. Support businesses could not supply commercial fishermen. “Processors and their workforces also suffered from lower throughput, and unexpected loss of market share,” Bell said. “Additionally, fishing communities suffered from a loss in fish and sales tax revenues.” Gov. Sean Parnell requested disaster declarations over the summer following weak king salmon returns that had state fisheries managers closing seasons to ensure that enough fish reached breeding streams. In some cases, managers halted fishing for other salmon species so enough kings could escape. The U.S. Department of Commerce in September declared king salmon fisheries a disaster in several watersheds. The declaration covered the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, which flow into the Bering Sea, and the Cook Inlet region south of Anchorage, which includes the Kenai River. The declaration made commercial fishermen eligible for federal disaster relief. King salmon, also called chinook salmon, are the largest of the five Pacific salmon in Alaska waters. They hatch in freshwater streams, live a year in rivers and spend three to four years in ocean water before returning to streams to breed and die. The reason for poor king salmon returns remains unknown but researchers suspect ocean factors. State officials last month organized a symposium to identify gaps in a king salmon research plan and called for more study of smolt in nearshore ocean waters. The figure for commercial fishermen provided by Bell included losses in 2010 and 2011 for Yukon River fishery king salmon losses and for 2011 Kuskokwim River fishery losses. Federal law calls for a comparison of commercial fishery revenues in the disaster years to revenues for the five previous years. The five-year revenue average on the Yukon was $2.4 million and on the Kuskokwim, $36,646, with zero revenue in 2012. For the Upper Cook Inlet set gillnet fishery for all salmon, the five-year average revenue was $10.9 million and $460,193 for northern district set gillnetters. Revenue this year for setnetters was $1.1 million in Upper Cook Inlet and $260,566 in the northern district. Bell said lost sport fishing and subsistence fishing opportunities also had an economic effect. In Cook Inlet, the state estimated a loss of 29,630 angler days for guided and unguided sport fishing in fresh and salt water, which would have resulted in direct spending of $10.4 million and indirect spending of $7.3 million. Harvest estimates from subsistence surveys for recent years were not available, Bell said. In some cases, subsistence users restricted from catching kings had the opportunity to catch more abundant chum, sockeye or coho salmon.

Rockfish lawsuit up for oral argument in Washington

An answer could be on the way soon for Kodiak processors who asked the courts to intervene and give them a guaranteed share of the Gulf of Alaska rockfish harvest. Oral argument in the rockfish lawsuit is scheduled for Nov. 19. Four companies with processing operations in Kodiak sued the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, in the U.S. Western District of Washington in January to overturn the catch share program, which took effect in May. The lawsuit revolves around whether processors should receive a guaranteed share of the rockfish harvest. The rockfish program also allocates set amounts of high-value secondary targets such as sablefish and Pacific cod to catcher vessels. Catch share programs allocate shares of the total harvest to individual owners, typically based on catch history. The hearing is regarding NMFS and the processors’ motions for summary judgment, as well as the NMFS memorandum in opposition to the processors’ motion. Judge Marsha Pechman announced the hearing Oct. 30, giving each side 20 minutes to argue their case, and 10 minutes each for rebuttal. The processors — Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty, Westward Seafoods, and North Pacific Seafoods — want to be guaranteed delivery of a portion of the harvest each year. The current rockfish program does not give them that guarantee, but the five-year pilot program, which ran from 2007 to 2011, did. Under the current program, vessels can deliver their take to any of the processors in Kodiak. The pilot program, however, had a contractual linkage between vessel owners and shore-based processors, obligating vessels to deliver to a specific shore-based processor based on past delivery history. After the initial motions for summary judgment were filed, Trident Seafoods’ Joe Plesha filed a declaration stating that processors had paid more for rockfish this year than in the past. That September declaration is based on the more up-to-date financial information than processors had provided previously, and was filed on the same day as the processor’s response to NMFS prior filing. In 2011, the pilot program’s final year, Trident paid 12 cents per pound for northern rockfish at the Kodiak plant and 10 cents per pound for pelagic shelf rockfish and Pacific Ocean perch. In 2012, the first year of the new program, Trident paid 27 cents for all species. “My understanding is that the other (rockfish pilot program) processors have had similar increases in the costs of rockfish,” Plesha said in his filing. According to the processors’ filing, the pilot program ensured a predictable amount of rockfish would be delivered, and allowed the processors to handle rockfish while other fisheries were closed. But under the program now in place, any processor could handle all of the fish, changing economics for all the processors. “Processors, therefore, will unavoidably bid up the price for deliveries of rockfish and its associated bycatch such that they will cover only their variable costs of production of rockfish,” Plesha wrote in his filing. NMFS response to the processors’ Sept. 14 filing did not include a response to the pricing issue, instead continuing to address the major crux of the case: whether or not processing is considered fishing, and the alleged National Environmental Policy Act issues, or lack thereof. Those are the issues that will likely dominate the Nov. 19 hearing. The fishing definition issue is a major matter of contention. A 2009 opinion from general counsel of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council stated that the Magnuson-Stevens Act did not give the council the authority to give on-shore processors a guaranteed share of the harvest. The North Pacific council was in the process of revising the rockfish program in advance of its 2011 sunset date, and the NOAA legal opinion stated processors were not “fishing” operations under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, or MSA, and therefore were not entitled to quota allocations. But the processors say that legal opinion was flawed, and that the role of processors in the pilot program should have been continued. They also argued that the pilot program’s inclusion of processors was entirely the result of the MSA, not the program’s congressional authorization, as the defendants have said. How processors are defined will matter greatly as the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is now looking at a rationalization program for the Gulf of Alaska trawl fleet. Earlier this fall, United Catcher Boats Association Executive Director Brent Paine said the lawsuit would have an effect on future rationalization. “This will set a precedent for what any council in the United States will have to do when they consider development of a catch share program,” Paine said. UCB vessels operate in the Gulf, as well as in Bering Sea fisheries and elsewhere on the west coast. UCB, along with Gulf harvester association Alaska Whitefish Trawlers, moved to intervene in the case to defend the rockfish program as crafted by the council without any fixed linkages between catcher vessels and shoreside processors.

Students attend fish school

When the Jack Cotant rumbled out of the harbor shortly after 7 a.m. on Oct. 23, it was the first time maritime students at Kayhi had fished commercially in 15 years — as long a time as some of the students were old. The 45-foot vessel was carrying students in the Ketchikan High School Maritime II class south of town to lay longline. The maritime course itself is older than the Cotant. The class was started by Carroll Fader, an administrator at Kayhi in 1967. Jack Cotant was its first instructor. The father of Rick Collins, the current maritime instructor, was a student in those first classes. Back in maritime's heyday, Collins said, the school budgets were fat with oil revenues and the class had two instructors who taught two-hour blocks in the morning and the afternoon. These days maritime I and II classes are shorter than an hour, with Collins as the sole teacher. That's in part why it took maritime II students — maritime I students aren't able to go on the trip — three weeks to prepare for the trip, according to Collins. Sean Mitchell, leaning over the rail, and maritime students wait to get in position to grab a buoy attached to the longline. Staff photo by Nick Bowman On the vessel were Keenan Sanderson; Caleb Kuikhoven; Phillip Mueller, an Austrian exchange student; Regan Cloudy; Zachary Stanley; Connor Hicks; Daniel Eichner, Mark Woodward and Joe Chadwell. The district had a permit for 173 pounds of halibut, but Collins didn't expect to catch near that much. Students untangled line, secured hooks two fathoms, or 24 feet, apart on the line and drew diagrams of how the line would be set and retrieved. In the days leading up to the trip, they cut and set chunks of salmon and herring for bait. On the cold, clear morning the Cotant set out, the nine students and Collins had prepared approximately 700 hooks and just short of two miles of longline. They were going to fish with gear that was either donated or bought during the course of five years with a budget of $1500 to $2000 a year, according to Collins. Fishing captain Dan Haynes donated five skates of line and a number of tubs, Collins said, and Russell Cockrum, also a captain, helped Collins through the newer process of laying longline. The vessel slowed after two hours of southerly travel from Ketchikan. Collins said he picked a sheltered spot so Ketchikan fishing captains Sean Mitchell and Ken Eichner could teach students in relative peace. Collins took the Cotant around the narrows looking for a favorable bottom. When it was found, Eichner and Mitchell gathered the boys near the stern to show them how to safely drop the first anchor and buoy and then let the line out. They needed to keep an eye on the ropes and their feet, they said, to keep from being caught in the line as it was let out and dragged overboard. Mitchell dropped the first anchor and buoy. Skates were arranged at the stern so that, as the line was going overboard, they could pull the empty tubs and push the next one forward. They listened to Mitchell while shoving skates forward and pulling empty tubs out of the way. Some boasted that the lines that went out without snags were theirs; others pinned any tangles on their friends. But they listened when Mitchell explained the process and how it's done by professional fisherman. They go farther out to sea and normally set five-mile lines instead of two, he said, and let the line soak at the bottom for eight or nine hours — Collins and the students could let them soak only two or three. The rest of the line was out without incident, and after two hours the first buoy was pulled back onto the Cotant. A yelloweye was the first fish to come up. Several of the student-fishermen pressed against the railing of the Cotant to see bright orange fish rise to the surface. Mitchell pulled the fish from the longline as it was lifted to the boat. "Watch out for those spines," he said, handing the fish off to a student. "You don't want to get stuck by one of those." A poke from a yelloweye or rockfish feels similar to a bee sting and lasts about as long, Mitchell said. Sanderson struggled with the circle hook in the fish's mouth before unceremoniously tossing it into a tub. He spent the rest of the trip pulling hooks from fish. Other students racked hooks, pulled fish from the longline or performed the least favorite job: sitting behind the boat's winch to coil line as it was brought up. The line hooked approximately a dozen yelloweye and rockfish, more than a dozen skates and just as many cod. They caught 10 halibut, but kept only two and didn't come close to maxing their permit. When all the line was in, they had two of the flat fish that pushed the 3-foot mark. "The halibut tend to move out this late this time of year," Collins said. "I didn't have high expectations." On the way back to Ketchikan, after the line, buoys and two anchors were hauled in, Mitchell showed the students how to clean their catch before they stored it in the ice below deck. Gutting the halibut, taking care to clean out the quick-rotting "sweet meat" as Mitchell called it, was quick. He emphasized the need to bleed the cod before they're stowed to slow the decomposition of the cod. Back on land, the fish were sold to the Kayhi culinary arts program for school lunch. (Baked yelloweye was served on brown rice with a lemon butter sauce on Nov. 6.) Collins said any money made would be used for the maritime program. He'll take all the funding he can get — especially after he's seen the maritime, and the vocational program at large, at Kayhi shrinks to its current state. "We've completely lost a big section of your vocational education courses," Collins said. "Kids will find that comfort zone and that niche and it's the big bright spot in their day. They'll endure a lot of other courses just to come in to the few that they like." Students might even put in their own money to participate in something they like — maritime students ended up paying for their own fishing licenses. "The kids all had to buy commercial deckhand licenses — $30 licenses — in order to legally fish," Collins said. "They didn't balk at it. "Not only did they have to work at school — they paid to do it."

Trials of Alaska Native fishermen postponed

Trials set to begin Tuesday have been postponed for Alaska Native fishermen charged with illegal fishing during a poor summer salmon run, their attorney said Monday. Attorney James J. Davis Jr. said he sought the delay for 11 subsistence fishermen to be tried in Bethel. Ten others are scheduled for January trials in Bethel, as well. A status conference has been scheduled for Nov. 30 before Bethel Magistrate Bruce Ward to discuss how and when to proceed. Davis wants to consolidate the 21 cases to allow a specialist on Yup'ik Eskimo culture to act as a pro bono expert for all the fishermen. The expert, Chase Hensel, would be available until mid-December or in March, Davis said. Davis said he spoke with some of the fishermen Monday and they were glad to have Hensel's support. "I think they feel hopeful," Davis said. "They're feeling positive about it." Last month, three other fishermen tried separately in Bethel were found guilty of violating strict fishing restrictions last summer. Harry David and Adolph Lupie, both of Tuntutuliak, and Emil Williams, of Bethel, each were fined $250. In the trials, Davis argued no one notified the fishermen about restrictions and they didn't know what the rules were. But Ward said the fishermen were negligent for not finding out about the restrictions. Showing their support for the fishermen, several tribes have raised more than $10,000, according to Davis. "This money is to help the fishermen pay for any fines that the court imposes and any travel expenses they incur from flying in from their villages," he said. In all, 60 fishermen from western Alaska originally faced misdemeanor charges of using restricted gear or fishing in closed sections of the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska during the summer king run. Most charges were later reduced to minor violations, and a little more than half pleaded guilty to the reduced counts and were ordered to pay $250 fines. State and federal officials have said ensuring sustainability for future runs is always the overriding priority, and this year's king numbers were severely low. The poor runs led to federal disaster declarations for the Yukon-Kuskokwim area as well as Cook Inlet.  

Researchers suggest ways to improve salmon management

The Salmon Symposium held in Anchorage last month delved into research questions that managers, fishermen and others believe might help them understand what’s going on with the low returns of chinook salmon. Much of a salmon’s life cycle between the time they’re born and the time they return to their home streams to spawn is a mystery. For now, it is hard to even say if recent low chinook runs are part of a general trend, or if they’re just an oddity, a so-called black swan event. Assessing that would require longer-term data sets, said Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s John Linderman. For now, knowledge is limited by the available data. University of Alaska Fairbanks Researcher Phil Loring has offered some research ideas — and management solutions — that look at more than just the salmon. Ultimately, Loring said he thinks an ecosystem-based approach, and an effort that puts food security as the top priority for salmon utilization, would have better long-term success for the fishery. Loring’s suggestion is that the first concern in managing Alaska’s fisheries would be ensuring that every Alaskan has access to fish — whether by subsistence fishing, at an affordable fish market in their community, or other solutions, as appropriate. Loring said that maintaining the availability of subsistence food can help keep Alaskans healthy, while leaving a significant chunk of fish for the commercial industry. “We’re not talking about a lot of fish here,” Loring said. General mandates to protect fishing communities and resources already exist. But Loring said more state and federal policy protections are needed. “I think there’s an opportunity for the state to say we value food security first,” he said. Such a mandate would enable people to innovate and develop local markets, Loring said. If the state set a precedent to feed itself, it would be a benchmark for others, Loring said. “I think Alaska has a real opportunity,” he said. “The world thinks of us as a leader.” Loring’s suggestion comes after a summer in which subsistence, commercial and sport fishermen throughout Alaska faced closures due to low chinook runs. In September, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a resource disaster designation for the Yukon River, Kuskokwim River and Cook Inlet king salmon fisheries.   Research needs Those shutdowns and disaster declarations prompted the symposium hosted by Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where people talked about all the research that might help identify what is going on with the salmon. Fish and Game’s Bob Clark said scientists don’t know if the survival rate is due to saltwater or freshwater issues. Improved adult monitoring could also help researchers and managers better understand a salmon’s life, Clark said. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Doug McBride said that one of the recommendations for future research includes tagging juvenile salmon. That could help address a lot of the questions, he said. Another mystery researchers discussed is a reduction in length-at-age. Some salmon are shorter than they used to be at a given age. ADFG Biologist Tom Vania said the department is looking at everything from fresh water to marine conditions as possible contributors to that change. But it’s difficult to tease out what specific condition results in any given change in the salmon, as there are so many variables, and so many unknowns, at play. Another attendee suggested that some of it may relate to carrying capacity issues, and changes as the population Jim Fall, from the ADFG Subsistence Division, had a suggestion for how to address those, and other, research questions — using local knowledge. Fall said that one of the strengths of local knowledge is that it can help shape research questions and inform researchers of things that might be going on for them to further look into. Local observations might also have a longer history of seeing correlations between certain environmental factors and certain ocean conditions. Fall said there are a few instances of traditional knowledge and local knowledge being used in research already.   Management strategies Loring agreed that there is a need for more research on a host of marine issues. “The ocean is a blackbox for a lot of fisheries,” he said. But he also had another solution. Change the management regime. Loring said he thinks the Alaska Department of Fish and Game does a wonderful job of managing based on the state’s current strategy. Salmon management stems from escapement goals, which are set, by species, for various streams and rivers throughout Alaska. That number is the amount managers want to get upstream to reproduce. Fish and Game uses management tools to try and keep prosecution of state fisheries to a level that allow for escapement, and the National Marine Fisheries Service does the same in federally-managed waters through caps on allowable bycatch of king salmon in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska pollock fisheries. Loring pointed to the Cook Inlet as an example of numeric management. An escapement is set for the Kenai River, and then various users — including commercial and sport fishers — are able to each harvest a portion. Loring has two ideas for changing resource management : utilize a parametric approach rather than a numeric one, and look at the ecosystem as a whole, rather than in pieces. Putting food security at the forefront of management would constitute a parametric management approach. The current escapement goal strategy is a numeric approach. Current managers do a great job with the tools they have, Loring said, but a shift in approach could benefit the resource. Loring said that work in the social sciences has shown that in the long-term, fisheries managed on a numeric basis fail. The alternative he suggests is to look at where the resources are, who needs them, and how they get them, and go from there. “We do make some of those decisions in our fisheries, but we make them as secondary choices,” Loring said. Loring would also like to see more consideration of the ecosystem overall, and the human role in the web. For instance, management strategies should consider that when there is less of one species, people tend to compensate by relying more heavily on another, Loring said. If people can’t feed themselves with salmon, they tend to rely more heavily on a different food source. In 2009, Loring said that resulted in more reliance on moose when certain salmon runs were below par. Those changes, too, would require more research, as a more complete view of the connections is needed. Loring said that a retrospective look at harvests of various species could help tease out some of the information. The state already collects subsistence harvest data, as well as commercial and sport data. A sharing survey, that looks at how subsistence foods are shared within a network, also provides some insights into the connections between food sources and people. That surveys illustrates the importance of resources, and the ways in which some communities are not market-based, Loring said. Loring’s suggestions aren’t without precedent. The researcher noted that Maine’s lobster fishery has long been managed on a less-numeric system for 70 years. Fishermen can’t take egg-bearing females, and other management constraints are used in an effort to promote productivity. For the most part, the fishery has thrived, Loring said.

Western salmon study results to be released this month

The results of a six-year study on Western salmon will be unveiled this month and the conclusions are not what people of the region had hoped for. Some background: the Western Alaska Salmon Stock Identification Project (WASSIP) was created in 2006 by a group of 11 signers to a memorandum of understanding including Aleut Corporation, Aleutians East Borough, Association of Village Council Presidents, Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Bristol Bay Native Association, Concerned Area M Fishermen, Kawerak, Lake and Peninsula Borough, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association and Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game The mission: to sample commercial and subsistence chum and sockeye salmon fisheries from Chignik to Kotzebue. The goal: to gain a better understanding of the origins and composition of harvests in westward fisheries, and the effects that these fisheries have on salmon stocks across the vast region. The driving issue: identifying the origins of chum salmon migrating through Alaska Peninsula waters to Western regions. Over four years, nearly 320,000 samples were collected and 156,000 samples were analyzed by Fish and Game’s Gene Conservation Laboratory. It took a full year of dedicated laboratory time to do the genetic studies. “It is unprecedented. You are not going to find any salmon genetics project in the world that even comes close to this,” said Eric Volk, chief scientist for Fish and Game’s Commercial Fisheries Division. Genetics stock identification projects typically reveal the salmon stocks that are harvested in a particular run, and the proportions of those stocks that make up a catch, Volk explained. “We not only look at each fishery and which stocks are contributing to that fishery, but we also look at it from the other side - which is, for any given stock of interest, which fisheries are catching that stock.” he added. The study has yielded a wealth of information on chum and sockeye salmon migrations, estimating escapements, genetic markers and baselines and more is sure to come. But it came up short in terms of the big question surrounding chums. “We were hoping that we could recognize genetically the chum stocks that originate from Norton Sound or the Yukon or the Kuskokwim or Bristol Bay. That would be very informative for people to look at a fishery and be able to discern which of those stocks are caught in what proportion,” Volk said. “Unfortunately, we turned over every stone but we just can’t genetically separate out those groups over that broad stretch of coast. That was a major promise of the project and we were not able to do that.” Volk called the WASSIP “a model of stakeholder participation” that is “unprecedented in our fisheries arena.” “I felt honored to be sitting at the head of the table,” he said. “This was such a diverse stakeholder group that operated by consensus. Let’s face it; these results are potentially impacting these people’s lives. So the idea that we were able to get everyone to agree on how and where to sample a fishery, how we would do the analyses – that’s incredible and a fascinating example of how it can work.” Alaska pollock brand expands When you bite into a fish sandwich at your favorite fast food restaurant, more than likely it is pollock from Alaska. Now the popular whitefish is soon set to be menued as Fish McBites at McDonalds, and other quick-serve outlets are following suit. Burger King, Jack in the Box and Arby’s also are ramping up demand for frozen blocks of Alaska pollock fillets for their own fish items. “It’s only good news for us and the Alaska industry,” said Pat Shanahan, program director for the trade group Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers. The group promotes pollock that is caught and processed in Alaska to markets around the world. “What we are seeing now is with their commitments to sustainability programs and to offer more healthy fish items, they are including even more Alaska pollock on the menu.” Customers prefer Alaska pollock because, unlike product from Russian fisheries, the fish fillets are deep skinned and only frozen once. “What restaurants are looking for is a completely white piece of fish, and the deep skinning removes the fat line,” Shanahan explained. Being certified as a sustainably managed fishery also is a strong selling point. Fast food giant KFC in France, for example, has taken its support for good fishing practices to a whole new level by getting its own eco-label, and will only serve Alaska pollock at its 143 outlets. GAPP also has led the charge to get more fish onto lunch trays, by pushing for Alaska pollock to be added to the school commodity foods list. Last year more than three million pounds of Alaska pollock were purchased by schools through the USDA Food Program, and nearly 2.25 million pounds in the first three months of this school year. The pollock poundage is actually higher due to additional product sold to schools through regular channels, but Shanahan said those figures are not made public. Fishing photos wanted A call is out for photos that highlight the Alaska fishing life. Winning entries will receive an Apple iPad. “We want to show off more of the great folks and fisheries and scenery and everything going on up here, first hand from the people out there doing it,” said Tyson Fick, communication director with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, sponsor of the photo contest. Photos can be entered in several categories, and the winning images will be featured in ASMI’s global outreach programs. “We are active in 21 different countries as well as throughout the US, as well as online and on Facebook. So it’s a great way to show ourselves off,” Fick said. Creating more awareness of Alaska seafood responds to peoples’ desire to know more about where the food comes from and how it gets to their plates, and Fick believes “Alaska has the very best story in all of food.” A big part of the story is all of the people working together to get Alaska seafood to customers around the world. “It’s the people who catch and process the fish, the scientists and managers and the ones who ship it and distribute it to chefs or retail counters,” Fick said. “They all are a part of the Alaska fishery.”

United Fishermen of Alaska focused on sea otters and the Arctic

Sea otters and the Arctic are two focal points for Alaska’s top fishing group at state and federal policy levels. United Fishermen of Alaska, or UFA, is the nation’s largest industry trade group representing nearly 40 organizations. At its recent annual meeting, UFA outlined several policy watches prior to the legislative session; the group also gave out awards and made a job offer. UFA is working closely with state and federal overseers to craft a management plan for exploding populations of sea otters in Southeast Alaska. The mammals, which were reintroduced to the region in the 1950s, are feasting on fishermen’s shellfish catches and completely wiping out stocks in prime areas. Sea otters are protected under the Endangered Species Act and may only be hunted by Alaska Natives for traditional uses. “I think there are opportunities for Alaska Natives to more readily use sea otters in their art, and there also is the need for a management plan,” said UFA Executive Director Mark Vinsel. “One thing that is lacking in the U.S. policy is consideration for exploding species. That is a situation that all parties see happening here with sea otters in Southeast Alaska.” UFA also is closely tracking new rules and provisions being debated by Congress in the 2010 Coast Guard Reauthorization Act. UFA also backs development of a deepwater port in the Arctic and increased presence by the Coast Guard at ‘high latitude’ regions. “As more commerce is going on up north, the Arctic and North Pacific is the place to be. We need the Coast Guard there to help with enforcement and response capabilities,” Vinsel said. The fishing group also maintains an ongoing dialog with Alaska mining interests. “UFA has had a long standing position against Pebble Mine, and we also currently are in opposition to the Chuitna Mine’s plan to basically obliterate a salmon stream,” Vinsel said. He pointed to the Kensington Mine near Juneau as an example of good communication benefiting both industries. “There was opposition from local fishing groups, but they were able to work out their concerns in the planning stages of the Kensington Mine and ended up with changes that accommodated those concerns. That is the way both industries can move forward successfully,” Vinsel said. UFA also awarded Ray Riutta its Man of the Year award. Riutta is stepping down as director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute after 10 years. “If we had a title of UFA man of the decade that’s probably what it would’ve been,” Vinsel said. “During his time virtually all of the Alaska species that ASMI represents have really carved out their territory in the world markets and Ray is a big part of that.” UFA Hall of Fame honors went to John Winther and Eric McDowell. Both passed away this year. The Fishermen of the Year award went to Alaska scallop harvesters and industry advocates, Jim and Mona Stone. UFA also offered the job of executive director to Julianne Curry of Petersburg. Vinsel is leaving the position but will remain as UFA administrator. Curry has two weeks to decide if she will take the job. For more information on the meeting, go to Shellfish growers need seed Blue mussels, oysters and the need for seed top the agenda for Alaskan shellfish growers when they gather for workshops, training and annual meetings next week in Ketchikan. Alaska’s aquaculture industry continues to grow slowly but steadily in Southeast and Southcentral, primarily for farmed oysters. So far 67 farms are permitted but only 29 are producing. About 900,000 Alaska oysters were sold last year, valued at $500,000. A new focus for growers is blue mussels, which will be field tested in a state-backed pilot project at Kachemak Bay near Homer. “Mussels from Kachemak Bay are just incredible, so I’m really looking forward to this,” said Ray RaLonde, a Sea Grant aquaculture specialist and technical advisor for the project. “There is a huge demand for mussels in the US, and there is a shortage – we have to buy our mussels from Canada or elsewhere in the US.” One big challenge will be keeping the tasty mussel crop away from sea otters. RaLonde said the project will test wire meshed netting to foil the pests. “At a world aquaculture conference they showed netting used for marine pen reared fish and it is shark proof. So the hope is that our otters won’t be able to get through it,” RaLonde said. Oysters are by far Alaska’s biggest bivalve crop, and the small industry is poised for expansion. The biggest hurdle, RaLonde said, is getting enough seed to start them off. “We can’t get enough seed and neither can the entire west coast, because the hatcheries in Washington that produce most of the seed have been hammered with ocean acidification problems, and the oyster larvae aren’t surviving,” RaLonde said. Ketchikan’s new Oceans Alaska Center built an oyster starting facility, and is growing geoduck larvae seed as well. The Alutiiq Hatchery at Seward also plans to begin doing seed soon. The ultimate goal, RaLonde said, is to ‘close the loop’ in Alaska. “We’ve got to move our production away from reliance on Outside sources. But we are in a transitional phase right now and it is not an easy time for farmers to make adjustments,” he said. “Industry wide, we are trying to help each other out as much as we can. We’re at that stage now where we want to raise the whole ship.” Shellfish workshops and training sessions begin Nov. 7-8; the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association annual meeting is Nov 9. All events are at the Cape Fox Lodge in Ketchikan. More info is available at Congrats, Ray! RaLonde merited the 2012 National Sea Grant Superior Outreach Program Award “for his extensive work with Alaska Native tribes, shellfish farmers, coastal communities, and state agencies in (1) enhancing safe harvest of shellfish statewide and (2) diversifying the economies of isolated coastal communities through mariculture.” Eat it all! Some of the best and healthiest parts of a fish don’t make it into the American diet. An e-book called “The Whole Fish - How Adventurous Eating of Seafood Can Make You Healthier, Sexier, and Help Save the Ocean” shows simple ways to use fish heads, skins and bones in appealing new ways. “Omega 3s increase serotonin levels and they really do work as aphrodisiac,” said author Maria Finn. “Plus fish adds healthy vitamins and minerals, so it actually does help increase your sexual desire and sensitivity.” Finn is a former Homer fisherman who said her whole fish philosophy stemmed from years of fieldwork with Fish and Game. “When I was on the Yukon delta I worked with a lot of Yup’ik people at their fish camps. They showed me how to use the whole fish – the heads, the eggs and milt, the bones, and what they didn’t use was pickled or fed to the dogs,” she said. Now Finn lives near San Francisco where using the whole animal is the trend in high-end restaurants. “It’s considered very environmentally friendly and it shows respect for the animal -it’s not just taking a few prime cuts and tossing the rest away. So you might get pig face pasta here or trotters,” she said. Finn has seen salmon bellies featured as entrees, salmon roe as garnishes, tuna heart grated over pasta, and salmon bones ground with salt to provide calcium and omega 3s. The e-book has recipes and also draws attention to sustainability issues and food webs.

Trials set to begin for Alaska Native fishermen

Some call it a protest by Alaska Native subsistence fishermen, but that's not the way it looks to Harry David and a couple dozen others charged with illegally fishing for king salmon in waters severely restricted by the state because of dismal runs of the prized fish. "We've been taught since we were growing up to gather food from the land for winter," said David, a Yup'ik Eskimo from the western Alaska village of Tuntutuliak. David, 48, is heading for trial in Bethel northeast of his village and is contesting non-criminal charge of using the wrong-size net in June at the Kuskokwim River. The trials starting Monday reflect a clash between ancient traditional practices and modern government restrictions. Supporters say Alaska Natives should have a more of say in managing their fishing grounds and that it's their inherent right to fish. State and federal officials say Native input is important, but ultimately, ensuring sustainability for future runs is always the overriding priority. The poor king runs this year led to federal disaster declarations for the Yukon-Kuskokwim area as well as Cook Inlet. Enough fish need to escape to spawn, and lower runs in recent years have forced smaller allowances that subsistence fishermen aren't used to, said John Linderman, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. In the Kuskokwim this year, restrictions were the tightest ever implemented, shutting down most of the entire run, which occurs in June through early July. Later runs of other salmon species were plentiful. "It all boils down to — or comes back to — escapement and what's available for harvest," he said. "The actions taken with respect to the subsistence fishery on the Kuskokwim this year — there wasn't an adequate number of surplus fish." Altogether, 60 fishermen from several villages defied the restrictions and originally faced misdemeanor charges of fishing in closed waters and/or using restricted gear. The charges for all but a few were reduced to minor violations, according to prosecutors. A little more than half of the fishermen pleaded guilty to the reduced non-criminal charges and were ordered to pay $250 fines. Sammy Jackson, a 49-year-old Yup'ik fisherman from the village of Akiak originally was charged with both misdemeanors and is fighting the remaining gear violation. People have to catch kings to dry in June before rains and flies arrive. The largest salmon species, kings also are highly valued for their high fat content, which rural Alaska Natives say helps get them through extreme winters. Fishing in the closed waters was a necessity, not a protest, Jackson said. "We were exercising our God-given rights as a first people of this land," he said, adding Alaska Natives want more input in the face of increasingly shorter opportunities for fishing. "We pleaded for years for biologists to work with us. You had to be fishing around here all your life to understand and know the fish of this river." For decades, Alaska Natives have sought a Native subsistence priority on lands where they historically fished and hunted. Jim Davis, an Anchorage attorney representing the fishermen pro-bono, said this summer's conflict followed years of ever tightening restrictions. Government managers do consult with Alaska Natives through a salmon planning group. But managers always have the last say. "I think what's happening here," he said, "is there's this tipping point where you have just these law-abiding, devout, religious elders saying, 'We're not going to take it anymore.'" For every subsistence fisherman who contested the restrictions, scores more honored them, according to 21-year-old Megan Leary, who is part Yup'ik and has been subsistence fishing most of her life. Leary lives in Bethel and practices subsistence fishing near Napaimute, where she serves on the village's traditional council. She said the region is far more competitive today because of a larger population that didn't exist when Native elders were growing up. Chum and red salmon runs were enough to ensure that no one would go hungry this year, she said. For Leary and other young Natives, the restrictions were for the better for future runs. But many of her peers don't talk about it, fearing they'll be scolded by elders. Still, Alaska Natives survived for generations because they adapted to the changes, she noted. She believes that needs to happen today as well. "Subsistence is taking anything the land offers," she said. "And being thankful for it."

Fresh salmon fillet, roe prices up; Bristol Bay red king crab down

Alaska salmon sales had lots of ups and downs this summer, but held their own overall in a tough market awash with farmed fish. The wild salmon catch goes to market in many forms such as canned, fresh or frozen, fillets and roe. The state Revenue Department Tax Division provides quartile reports on first wholesale prices for all of Alaska’s salmon forms by species and region. Its report covering May-August shows lots of wild salmon fillets were tossed on the grill this summer, and people were willing to pay more for them. Alaska processors produced more than 13 million pounds of salmon fillets during the summer season. Prices for king fillets averaged $11.45 per pound, a 70 cent increase over last year. Fresh sockeye salmon fillets averaged $7.60 per pound, and $7.24 per pound for coho fillets – an increase of 66 cents for both. Only chum fillets fell at wholesale to $3.25 per pound, down 52 cents from last summer. Salmon roe prices, especially for pinks and chums, showed big jumps this summer. Pink salmon roe at $9.28 per pound was a 53 percent increase over last season; chum roe increased from $12.17 to $15 per pound. Nearly 2 million pounds of sockeye roe ($6.31 per pound compared to $5.31 per pound) came from Bristol Bay, valued at over $12 million. Prince William Sound led the pack for pink salmon roe at one million pounds worth more than $11 million. Southeast Alaska scooped the most chum roe: 1.2 million pounds valued at nearly $21 million. On the down side: most of Alaska’s salmon catch is sold in headed/gutted form, either fresh or frozen. Those wholesale prices were down nearly across the board. Here’s a sampler with 2011 prices in parentheses: Fresh H&G sockeye: $3.67 ($3.77); pink salmon: $1.31 ($1.43); chum: $1.67 ($2.10). The fresh king salmon wholesale price averaged $7.49 per pound, an increase of 82 cents per pound; cohos increased two cents to $3.42 per pound. Frozen H&G sockeye: $2.81 ($3.17); king salmon: $3.16 ($4.10); pinks: $1.23 ($1.45); coho: $2.58 ($2.66); chum: $1.40 ($1.87). Alaska’s preliminary salmon catch for 2012 totaled just less than 124 million fish.   King crab market clipped Crabbers agreed to an advance price of $7.25 per pound for red king crab shortly after they dropped pots last week in Bristol Bay waters. “This represents approximately 90 percent of the expected final price given current market conditions. Of course, market conditions are subject to change,” said Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, which represents a majority of the Bering Sea crab fleet. Nearly 8 million pounds of red king crab will come from Bristol Bay waters this season, about the same as last year. Prices topped $10 a pound to fishermen after sales in 2011; the market has shifted quite a bit this year. “After the record run up in prices last year when they were over $20 a pound (shipped to Japan or Seattle for brine/bulk crab) a lot of buyers backed away,” said John Sackton, a crab market expert and editor of “There also were reports prior to the season that U.S. companies still had some crab from last season that was unsold.” Japan is the price setter this year, and demand for king crab there is down. Buyers have floated first wholesale prices in the $14 to $18 per pound range, Sackton said, down about 25 percent from last season. Another downward press on prices is coming again from king crab poachers in the Russian fishery. Sackton said the numbers between catch quotas and crab deliveries to Japan and elsewhere simply don’t add up. “Trade figures show that in 2005-2006 the global trade in king crab was literally four to five times as much as the legal landings,” Sackton said. “They have gone down but are still about twice as high. There is no question that this fishery still has a large component in the Far East that is being taken illegally.”   Big fish on the Rock More than 200 fishery scientists and professionals gathered in Kodiak last week to both teach and learn about current research and other goings on in Alaska. The state chapter of the American Fisheries Society welcomed the Kodiak community to share in the educational extravaganza. The American Fisheries Society, founded in 1870, is the world’s oldest and largest fisheries science society, with more than 9,000 members worldwide. The theme of the Kodiak event covered ecosystems, fisheries and food sustainability in a changing world. Other topics included seafood processing, marketing, invasive species and subsistence. The Coast Guard also provided courses on aircraft stranding and crashing, and land and raft survival.   Fish watch The Bering Sea pollock fishery is wrapping up for the year with a catch approaching 2 billion pounds. Fishing was good by most accounts, but the fleet had to travel far to get it — 500 miles out near the Russian fishing border. The state’s biggest herring fishery at Togiak has gotten even bigger. Fishery managers forecast a haul of 30,056 tons of herring in the spring sac roe fishery. That compares to a quota this year of 21,622 tons.

Council takes first steps toward Gulf catch share plan

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is moving ahead on a rationalization program for the central Gulf of Alaska trawl fleet, but where it takes that program still has many questions. The council approved a purpose and needs statement, and goals and objectives for a rationalization program, and asked staff for a discussion paper outlining catch share options that could meet the program’s objectives. The steps taken at the October council meeting in Anchorage are the first toward creating the program. The council also set a control date of Dec. 31, 2012, which could be used in the future to gauge historic participation in the fleet. The control date is intended to limit speculative entrants in the fishery now that the council has started moving toward allocating fishing privileges, also known as catch shares. A rationalized fishery offers the fishermen more tools to prevent bycatch by allocating a portion of the allowable harvest to certain vessels, cooperatives or other entities. Julie Bonney from the Alaska Groundfish Databank, said the fleet is happy overall with the council’s motion. “We want to see the race for fish end,” Bonney said. That race is inherent in the current system, where all participants in the fishery are going after the same pool of fish. The result is fish of a lower quality and less strategic fishing than otherwise might be possible, Bonney said. Kodiak City Council member Terry Haines said the council’s motion incorporated much of the language that the city of Kodiak and the Kodiak Island Borough brought to the table. “We were very heartened by their response to what we brought them,” Haines said. But how, exactly, it will be fleshed out remains to be seen. “We’re going to have to see what some of that language really means,” Haines said. The purpose and needs statement lays out wide-ranging goals for the new management program. The statement says, in part: “It is expected to improve stock conservation by creating vessel-level and/or cooperative-level incentives to eliminate wasteful fishing practices, provide mechanisms to control and reduce bycatch, and create accountability measures when utilizing (prohibited species catch), target, and secondary specie.” Getting from the purpose and needs statement to a viable system is the next challenge. Creating the program will likely require compromise, said council member Sam Cotten. “It is pretty scary to put your entire livelihood on the council table with all the knives coming out, starting (to dice you) up,” Bonney said. “You want to be whole at the end of the day.”   Bycatch cuts The council has already taken steps requiring trawlers to reduce their bycatch. In August, a rule went into effect maximizing bycatch at 25,000 chinooks per year for pollock trawlers, which was prorated at 14,527 for the last half of 2012. And in June, the council voted to reduce allowable halibut bycatch by trawlers and longliners by 15 percent. The 15 percent cut, or about 660,000 pounds of halibut, is being phased in over three years, with implementation targeted to start in 2014. But those requirements came without enough tools, according to industry representatives, making it difficult to comply. Most of the focus is on reducing prohibited species catch, or PSC. The PSC cap dictates the amount of species like halibut and king salmon that can be pulled out of the ocean while fishing for target species like pollock or Pacific cod. Bycatch must be discarded or, in the case of salmon, donated to food banks. Vessels have tried to form voluntary cooperatives, ensuring that PSC limits aren’t met before the full harvest is complete, but fishery participation by other boats not in the program makes that difficult. Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association President Bob Krueger told the council that some of the trawl issues came to a head in the C season that began Aug. 15 for pollock in Area 620, which is the Central Gulf of Alaska. “We had 40 vessels in our program, but had additional vessels come into the Gulf and fish outside the program,” Krueger said at the October council meeting. “Our harvest was exceeded by 2,000 metric tons, and now our entire D pollock season in area 620 is at risk.” Just avoiding the chinook is expensive, Bonney said. With the right management system, incentives and tools, Bonney said the fleet can try to minimize the catch of those species. But it’ll come with difficulties. Some fishing — like for arrowtooth flounder, rex sole, flat head sole, and shallow flat — is already limited because catching those would result in catching too much halibut. “That’s all money that’s staying in the water because there’s not enough halibut available to the fleet today,” Bonney said. “Do you reduce that halibut cap even more, even though we’re already losing millions of dollars every year because we can’t prosecute a fishery today in status quo?” The trawl fleet also doesn’t want the cap just ratcheted down because if abundance of those prohibited species increased, it could become even more difficult to avoid catching them. And there’s more to bycatch than just the PSC. “Bycatch is actually anything that you throw away and don’t keep,” Bonney said. Other fish are caught on bycatch only status, meaning that trawl vessels can just keep a certain percentage of them and throw the rest back to sea. Those are regulatory discards. “So that could be fishing flatfish, and you catch too much cod so you have to throw your cod away, or a portion of your cod away,” Bonney said. And there are economic discards, which are fish that are not kept because they’re too small. Ultimately, Bonney said the analysis will need to look at the various trade-offs involved in each decision point. Moving forward, Bonney said she’d like to see a system that cobbles together target catch and bycatch in an effective management structure. A cooperative is a likely way to accomplish that, she said, because fisherman have to work together to reach the targets.Avoiding fleet consolidation Bycatch isn’t the only concern about the new program. Haines and Bonney both said they want to see a solution that doesn’t push Alaskans out of the industry due to consolidation. Haines said the city and borough likely wouldn’t provide specific ideas about how to develop the rationalization program right away, nor would it get involved in the details of allocations. But the community does have some specific concerns. Those include the possibility of capital flight, and of consolidation. An active participation requirement might help, he said. The lack of good data on how fishermen play into the economy makes it difficult to capture the potential effects of the program, too, Haines said. While the processing sector is a known quantity, there are more unknowns for the trawl fleet. No one knows exactly how each boat impacts the local economy, since crew and other spending components vary greatly. There’s also a difference between resident fishermen, and visitors who spend money locally but don’t reside there, that hasn’t been quantified. Haines said fewer hands associated with each dollar, and losing the multiplier effect, if the program leads to consolidation, would be a concern. The city and borough of Kodiak came up with a good process for getting public feedback and coming to a consensus on what could be contentious fishing issues, and Haines said that same process could continue to help inform the council once the discussion paper is out and there’s some ideas for the community to consider. “A community like ours is a good place to vet these new management systems,” Haines said. Kodiak is an active fishing community with one of the most diverse fleets in the country, Haines said. Past programs — including the Bering Sea crab rationalization, the halibut catch share program, and the rockfish rationalization program in the gulf — can help inform this effort as well, Haines said. A prior effort at rationalizing the Gulf of Alaska was stopped after the first year of the crab rationalization in 2005 when two-thirds of the fleet was tied up and 1,000 crew positions, many in Kodiak, were lost. Fishermen from other areas and sectors had their own set of worries. Peninsula Fisherman’s Coalition Executive Director Beth Stewart spoke to the council on behalf of western Gulf fishermen. The council action only considers the central Gulf. “We certainly share Kodiak’s concerns and fear of what’s going to be going on with chinook bycatch and halibut bycatch,” Stewart said. But the association believes that the council can’t mess with one player in the Gulf without adverse affects for the others, she said. United Fishermen’s Marketing Association Manager Jeff Stephan echoed some of the western Gulf concerns. He said the council’s action could trigger a rush for fishing in other sectors. For instance, there are a lot of unused pot cod permits that could see more use in an effort to establish history. “It has tremendous impacts for us,” he said. “We don’t want to be the only open fishery.” The council Advisory Panel, made up of 21 fisheries stakeholders, had also recommended that the council consider a separate but parallel action for western Gulf of Alaska trawl fleet, but the council’s eventual motion said that the program would not modify the overall management of other sectors in the GOA or the central Gulf rockfish program. Others also asked the council to come up with new ways of considering bycatch. Pacific Seafood Processors Association President Glenn Reed asked the council to consider some totally new ideas regarding bycatch and the future of the groundfish trawl fleet. “How would the world look if we looked at that as a mixed stock fishery, and stopped having PSC, stopped having waste in the fishery?” Reed said. “I think it’s worthy of consideration at this time. I mean, why not? Why not look at it that way? We don’t have to just throw a bunch of dead fish away just ‘cause a regulation says we have to. Somebody wrote that, somebody could rewrite that. Somebody could rethink that.” Bonney said this is an opportunity to find creative solutions to the management challenges. “Hopefully as we move forward people can think more innovatively,” she said.

No easy answers on low king counts at salmon symposium

Salmon researchers, managers, and users gathered in Anchorage Oct. 22 and 23 to talk about what happened to chinook salmon around Alaska this summer. The simplest answer is that chinooks didn’t show up. And no one knows exactly why. “We’re not sure what is causing the downturn, and in many cases, we do not have the basic information needed to understand the causes,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Bob Clark said, summarizing some of the two-day symposium’s findings. Attendees at the Salmon Symposium identified much of the information that would be helpful for future research and management efforts. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is working on a draft analysis for research needs in the future. Salmon management stems from escapement goals, which are set, by species, for various streams and rivers throughout Alaska. That number is the amount managers want to get upstream to reproduce. Fish and Game uses management tools to try and keep prosecution of state fisheries to a level that allow for escapement, and the National Marine Fisheries Service does the same in federally-managed waters through caps on allowable bycatch of king salmon in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska pollock fisheries. Developing the goals, let alone finding ways to meet them, can be difficult. The process is undertaken by ADFG, although the actual goals are set – and changed – by the Alaska Board of Fisheries. ADFG Biologist Tom Vania said that how often the goals are updated depends, in part, on how much information is involved in setting them. Escapement goals with more years of data are slower to change, because they generally reflect more knowledge of the river system in question. But sometimes, updates are necessary. One such instance is on the Kenai, where the transition to a new sonar system to count fish in 2012 has managers looking to update the numbers to better reflect how many fish are actually out there. Similar changes had to be made when counting on the Anchor River was changed from aerial surveys to a weir system. Escapement goals have a relationship with chinook survival that isn’t entirely clear. Generally, they’re the department’s best idea of the ideal number of salmon needed for reproduction. Too high or too a low a goal has potential for less than ideal spawning, which could result in less than ideal runs in the future. Managing exploitation to meet escapement goals is another challenge. Vania said different strategies are used on different rivers. Among those are openings on certain days of the week, regulations regarding gear, bag limits, and catch and release status. On the federal side, managing bycatch is the biggest part of helping ensure chinooks make it to their home streams each year. Several members of the public asked about the chinook bycatch. Jim Ianelli, from the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, talked about what’s been done in terms of bycatch. The Bering Sea pollock fishery, the largest source of bycatch, has reduced its take of chinooks in recent years, after the North Pacific council approved a hard cap of 60,000 chinooks in 2009 that took effect in 2011. The 60,000 fish cap is partitioned between vessels who sign Incentive Plan Agreements, so it’s unlikely that the total cap would be met as bycatch of chinooks in the Bering Sea has only exceeded 60,000 in a few seasons over the last 20 years. The regulation states that the 60,000 cap cannot be reached more than twice in any seven-year period or the cap will revert to a limit of 47,591 chinooks. So far, the industry has stayed well below both numbers, although concerns were raised in 2011 after half the chinook bycatch of about 25,000 fish for the year was taken in the last month of the season as vessels tried to mop up the pollock quota. The impact of bycatch is hard to precisely gauge, because a salmon might be caught for subsistence needs, or it might make it upstream to spawn, creating fish for future years. And the unknowns about a chinook’s life are difficult to account for. But Ianelli said that based on the strength of the recent runs, there might have been about 4 percent more fish had there not been any pollock bycatch. Under the NMFS program in the Bering Sea, all vessels must be observed, and bycatch kept, which provides opportunities for inquiries into the bycatch, where it comes from and how it’s caught. After it’s offloaded at the docks, the bycatch goes to food banks where possible, Ianelli said. The program has also enabled more research to be done on what affects the amount of chinook caught while prosecuting other fisheries. Tow duration, time of day for fishing, and gear types all impact the final numbers. Generally, longer tows netted more chinooks, and early morning and pre-dawn tows had fewer salmon than other hours, Ianelli said. The Gulf of Alaska is joining the Bering Sea in terms of observer coverage and bycatch management, Ianelli said. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council approved an annual cap for the Gulf pollock fishery of 25,000, which took effect during the summer and fall seasons this year, and is also deploying a new observer plan in 2013. “(The plan) will improve the estimate of bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska,” Ianelli said. Full retention of chinook bycatch will allow more definitive genetic identification work to identify the river of origin compared to past “opportunistic” sampling by observers that does not allow for extrapolating findings to the entire catch. Another challenge for managing chinooks is that part of the Yukon run is required to make it across the border and into Canada under a treaty with the U.S. John Linderman, from ADFG, said that, generally, the first half of the chinook run is Canadian, while the second half is American. Alaska managers must not just try to meet Alaskan needs, but also comply with the international treaty regarding Canadian escapement despite declining Canadian stocks. A Galena fisherman, Greg Huntington, suggested potential causes of the Canadian chinook downturn. He said that freshwater habitat issues, like the river freezing down to gravel and spring flooding disrupting spawning grounds, could be partially to blame. Linderman and others agreed that more info is needed on survival in general.   Subsistence difficulties The symposium also included a discussion of subsistence fishing for chinooks. Those fisheries have faced closures in an effort to meet escapement goals. Department of Fish and Game Subsistence Program Manager Jim Fall presented some of the department’s information on subsistence harvests. More than half of the state’s subsistence chinook harvest comes from the Kuskokwim area, while another third is from the Yukon region. Bristol Bay rounds out the top three regions for subsistence chinook harvest. This summer wasn’t a new event for subsistence fishermen. Fall said the state’s predicted subsistence needs were not met on the Yukon from 2008 to 2011, on the Susitna River in 2009 and 2011, and on the Kuskokwim in 2011. Jackson Williams was one of many subsistence users who weighed in on the chinook dilemma. He asked about bycatch, but his comments offered a face to the people affected by the summer’s closures. “Us people depend on Chinook,” Williams said. “…I don’t work. I only depend on the fish my creator gave to me.” Fall talked about the importance of incorporating local knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge into the state’s base of information, something that several members of the public also suggested. Suggestions of what factors have, in the past, correlated with changes in the runs could be a helpful place for researchers to look. In his summation of the symposium, Clark agreed that utilizing other knowledge sources is important to the fishery. “More local and traditional knowledge is needed to understand the context of the downturns we’re seeing recently,” he said. The department is taking comments on its gap analysis of what research is needed until Nov. 9, and expects to publish the report in December.

Board of Fisheries creates task force for Cook Inlet salmon

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will likely talk about salmon out of cycle this spring. The board created a new task force to take up Cook Inlet king salmon issues at its Oct. 10 work session in Anchorage. Any solutions the group develops will likely be considered at the statewide finfish meeting in March. Various user groups and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game submitted eight Cook Inlet-related Agenda Change Requests, or ACRS, for the board’s consideration, regarding gear changes, escapement goals, personal use permits and other issues. The board took no action on four of those: the Kenai River late-run king salmon management plan, the Kenai and Kasilof rivers early-run king salmon plans, and the use of new gear for set gillnet permit holders. The ADFG request to adopt new escapement goals for Kenai and Kasilof kings will be rolled into the task force process for the March meeting. ADFG Sportfishing Director Charlie Swanton said the department is working on the new escapement goals for the Kenai River late run, and Kenai and Kasilof River early runs, to reflect the transition to the new DIDSON fish counters. Those should be ready for public review in February, which offers the potential for public education on how the goals are developed and should fit into the task force’s workflow, Swanton said. The nine-member task force is asked to develop recommended adjustments to the Kenai late-run king salmon management plan to result in the best mix of in-river and upper subdistrict set gill net fishing, while still providing a way to meet the escapement goals for the Kenai. The new task force will be chaired by board members Tom Kluberton, of Talkeetna, and Vince Webster, of King Salmon. They are tasked with choosing the nine members, including three east side Cook Inlet setnet representatives, one drift net fisherman, two sport fishermen, a guide, a marine recreation member and a personal use fisherman. The task force is supposed to be selected by Nov. 1, and start meeting in mid-November. The meetings will likely be held in Kenai. Kluberton said the idea is to find a way to avoid a situation like the past summer, where in-river and commercial fishermen alike felt the impact of low king returns, amid a very strong return of sockeye. Webster said he thought bringing together stakeholders might create a more comprehensive plan than adjusting various aspects of the management plan piece by piece. “I know it’s a vast undertaking, and I want to make sure that the public knows we’re giving them the opportunity to work this out if they can come up with an agreement,” Webster said. Meetings will be open to the public. A similar task force was used successfully to help develop Prince William Sound pink salmon allocations, said board chairman Karl Johnstone. Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Ricky Gease said the task force is a good way to try and solve some of the current issues on the Kenai River. “I think it’s always good when you try to get the major stakeholders together,” Gease said. The board also rejected some of the Cook Inlet ACRs outright. Those asked the board to consider modifying the Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery Fleet Management Plan to create certain restrictions for the fleet and conditions on fishing, altering the process for enforcing personal use permits, setting additional date-specific king salmon conservation measures, and changing the area for Kenai River personal use dip netting. The board considered 21 ACRs total, on a variety of issues. Of those, it agreed to add four to the 2012-13 work list. For an ACR to net a space on a meeting agenda, the issue had to be out-of-cycle and a regulatory change. If those criteria were met, the board looked at whether it was for a fishery conservation purpose or reason, if it would correct an error in regulation, and if it would correct an effect on a fishery that was unforeseen when a regulation was adopted. For ACRs the board took no action on or failed at the work session, it will consider generating its own proposals for the appropriate meetings. Those include changes to the gear that can be used in the lower Yukon area for commercial chum salmon harvesting, the anadromous waters language regarding salmon stream terminus, andan effort to designate herring as a forage species. Yukon salmon will be discussed at the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim finfish meeting in January, while the language change will likely get added to the March statewide meeting. The board also added a Pacific cod meeting next October, attached to the already-scheduled work session. The state is talking about salmon at the Chinook Salmon Symposium scheduled for Oct. 22 and 23 in Anchorage. State, federal, private and academic scientists will participate in a variety of presentations and panels on what is known, and what remains to be learned, about king salmon. The symposium is also meant to assist the state in drafting an analysis of what information is needed about salmon stocks.

Abundance of old shell snow crab leads to quota cut

Crabbers took to the Bering Sea Oct. 15 for the opening of Bristol Bay red king crab season with a harvest quota equal to last year, but when boats hit the water in January to take snow crab they will have a catch of some 22 million pounds less than 2012. At 2012 dockside prices of about $1.89 per pound, the 22-million pound cut for opilio, or snow crab, in 2013 is worth more than $40 million to harvesters and roughly twice that in first wholesale value for processors. Overall, though, the net value of Bering Sea crab fisheries should be similar to last season, according to Alaska Being Sea Crabbers President Jim Stone. Stone said he expects the decrease in quota to increase the price. He said a 25 percent increase in prices wouldn’t be surprising. Wholesale prices are already rising, he said, an early indicator of that change. And Canada is also looking at a decreased harvest, Stone said, which helps the value of Bering Sea snow crab. Although the snow crab fishery technically opens Oct. 15, harvesters don’t fish the stock until January. The 2013 total allowable catch, or TAC, for Bering Sea snow crab was set at 66.35 million pounds, a 25 percent cut compared to nearly 89 million pounds in 2012. The snow crab harvest cut comes from a decrease in the mature male biomass (females may not be retained), and a change in the stock’s age composition. The crab is much older than in the past — about 60 percent of the mature male biomass is old shell crab — compared to about 37 percent last year. The State of Alaska sets the TAC after the federal Crab Plan Team determines the over fishing limit, or OFL, and the acceptable biological catch, or ABC. The state, which sets the harvest strategy, may not set a quota that is larger than the ABC. Federal managers cut the snow crab OFL for 2012-13, but only by about 10 percent. The rest of the harvest cut comes from the state harvest strategy. When the proportion of old crab is higher, the state harvest strategy calls for a smaller harvest because those old shell crabs are less likely to be targeted or retained, said Fishery Biologist Doug Pengilly, from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak. The industry prefers to catch and process young crab, Pengilly said. Young crab typically has a cleaner shell, without barnacles or other impurities just a year or two out from molt, Pengilly said. If boats are pulling up older crab, they can move fishing locations to avoid catching too much of it, he said. According to a report from National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, the amount of new shell crab in the catch was between 85 percent and 95 percent in the 2005-06 and 2007-08 fisheries. The state harvest strategy accounts for this by assuming that a smaller proportion of the old shell crab will be caught. But when old shell crab is the majority of the stock, as it is now, that leaves less crab available for the quota. Pengilly said it’s hard to say what the current age dynamics mean for the future of the stock. The changed proportion results from less recruitment — juvenile males reaching legal size — into the stock. “There’s good years and bad years,” he said. In a 2010 review of the crab rationalization program, federal scientists noted that large, clean crab are the most successful at mating. That same report — in the context of a section on “high-grading,” or discarding of old shell crab — cited 40 percent old shell crab for Bristol Bay red king crab in the 2005 survey as a larger proportion than in the past. Pengilly said that how the stock fares in the future will depend on recruitment in coming years. If a lot of crab the forage size or larger enter the stock during the spring 2013 molt, then the age proportion might return to more typical level. Pengilly said. On the other hand, if that doesn’t happen, the proportion of old shell crab could go up even more due to harvest of the preferred-age crabs and natural mortality. Pengilly said the variation in recruitment is normal for snow crab. “You don’t see just constant recruitment coming through from year to year,” he said. Trends in recruitment observed in 2010 and 2011 were not seen in the 2012 survey, according to the Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation, or SAFE, prepared annually by NMFS, ADFG scientists and others The SAFE document notes both that prosecution of young shell crab often takes them out of the fishery before they have a chance to reproduce, and that also that the older shell crab play less of a role in reproduction for the fishery. Also at play in the snow crab fishery is the possibility of localized depletion, according to the SAFE. That report noted that the exploitation rates for males in the southern part of the fishery near the Pribilof Islands may exceed the target harvest rate, although it also notes that there is some migratory movement in crab. That is listed as a possible conservation concern in the report. Pengilly said it was hard to say whether or not localized depletion at play. The areas where 4-inch crab come out of the fishery are just a slice of the crab’s summer distribution. Last year, he said, ice coverage also limited fishing, which could be showing up. Both Pengilly and the report noted that no tagging studies have been done to determine the exact patterns of crab movement. The snow crab fishery is closed in certain areas to protect Pribilof blue king crab stock, which has been closed to fishing for all but three of the last 20 years.   Bristol Bay king crab steady Bristol Bay red king crab is the most valuable Bering Sea crab fishery. The 2012 TAC for that fishery is nearly identical to 2011 at 7.85 million pounds, despite some indications that the fishery may be on the decline. Stone said that while king crab prices, particularly for the smaller specimens, have been decreasing, Bristol Bay red king crab prices will likely hold steady around $10 dollar per pound at the docks in Dutch Harbor. In 2011, the fishery had an ex-vessel value of about $70 million with an average price of $9 per pound. According to the SAFE, recruitment has been low over the past few years, and is expected to remain that way in the near term, meaning that mature and legal crabs will continue to decline. Stock biomass has also declined since 2009. Stone said an early boatload or two of Bristol Bay red king crab was delivered to the docks Oct. 15 for the ADFG observer cost recovery program. “The scuttlebutt I’m hearing is that the crab is very nice,” Stone said. St. Matthew’s blue king crab has a TAC of 2.03 million pounds, down slightly from 2.36 million pounds in 2011-12. Last year, only 80 percent of the St. Matthew’s blue king crab quota was actually harvested. The Bering Sea tanner crab fishery will again be closed because the estimate of mature female tanner crab biomass is below the state’s harvest strategy threshold. It’s the third straight year the tanner crab fishery has been closed. Federal scientists qualified the fishery as rebuilt when they released the 2012-13 stock assessments, but the state opted not to open it.

Mariculture industry small but growing in Alaska

A small mariculture industry for Alaska – oyster farming for the most part – has been developing in fits and starts for years, and a small group of dedicated seafood entrepreneurs are working away at it, convinced the business can succeed. Consumer demand in Alaska and the Lower 48 is steadily increasing among people who see oysters as healthy food, and who are becoming more sophisticated in their tastes. Yes – Alaska oysters do taste better. They’re sweeter, for one thing, due to a higher sugar content and a greater exposure to salt water in Alaska gives them a slight tangy taste, says Ray RaLonde, an aquaculture scientist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Sea Grant advisory program . Weatherly Bates, a Kachemak Bay shellfish farmer, says Alaska oysters are more uniform in size, typically have more meat for their size than many Lower 48 oysters and are free of grit because they are grown in the water column with no contact with the ocean bottom. Alaska itself is a big seller for oysters grown here, said Rodger Painter, a Southeast Alaska shellfish farmer and long-time industry advocate. The superior taste and Alaska’s image of having clean, pure waters have put oysters from the state at the top of the menu at trendy East Coast oyster bars like Grand Central, in New York. Alaska oysters are at the top of the menu in price, too. Painter said Alaska oysters now have enough of a reputation to command a price advantage over Lower 48 oysters, which helps offset higher costs in growing them here. Bates and her husband, Greg, operate their farm in Halibut Cove, in Kachemak Bay near Homer. They see shellfish farming as helping reinforce the economies of small coastal communities, like hers, that are subject to volatile seasonal fisheries. Greg Bates fishes commercially for cod part of the year, but the couple, who have two young children, hope to combine that with shellfish farming to make a good living in Halibut Cove. They are also working to develop a new farmed shellfish product, mussels. Earlier this year the state awarded a $300,000 grant to the Halibut Cove Community Organization, a nonprofit, for the Bates to develop mussel-producing rafts as a demonstration. The rafts are being built this year. Married to mariculture Weatherly and Greg Bates have a lot of experience in shellfish farming. They’re both New England-raised, and on farms; Weatherly has a degree in aquaculture and fisheries technology from the University of Rhode Island. The two raised oysters in Maine for four years including a stint managing an oyster farm at a nonprofit affiliated with Jamie Wyeth in Maine. This involved a 16-acre oyster farm and hatchery, where the couple increased production from 10,000 to 200,000 oysters a year. Intrigued by Alaska, they pulled up stakes, headed north, and became interested in Kachemak Bay when the state began leasing tracts for oyster farms in the area. In 2010 the two secured their own 9-acre farm site in Halibut Cove, across the bay from Homer. Oysters from Alaska Shellfish Farms, owned and operated by the Bates, are sold in the Homer area and in Anchorage. The two also operate an oyster nursery, a facility that matures young oyster seeds from spat, or oyster eggs, brought in from specialized oyster hatcheries. Weatherly sees oyster farming at this point as “kind of a hobby” for many growers, but she sees possibilities particularly when other shellfish like mussels are brought into the mix. “We see huge possibilities,” for mussels, she said. Penn Cove Shellfish, in Washington State, is the biggest mussel farmer in the U.S., producing more than 2 million pounds per year. There are also farms in New England and the eastern maritime provinces of Canada, regions the Bates are familiar with, that produce tens of millions of pounds a year. There’s no reason why Alaska can do this in mussels and other shellfish, particularly since good sites for new shellfish farms are becoming scarce in establishing producing regions, like the Pacific Northwest, Bates said. In contrast, there are many good potential sites in Alaska coastal communities from Southeast to Southcentral. Salmon farms are now a fixture in many parts of the world (they are illegal in Alaska) but Bates feels oysters and other shellfish have strategic advantages over salmon farms anywhere. Free feed, spendy seeds The main advantage is that farmed salmon have to be fed in their pens, a cost shellfish farms don’t bear because oysters and mussels don’t have to be fed. They consume algae and other natural nutrients in the water. They don’t pollute, either, a second key advantage as far as Bates is concerned. “Shellfish farming is so much better for the environment. They filter the water and make it cleaner,” she said, in contrast to salmon farms, which can cause pollution.  Long hours of summer daylight in the north is also an advantage in that the light creates more phytoplankton nutrients in the water, which helps shellfish grow faster. There are challenges, however. For oysters, the main one is that oysters are not native to Alaska. They grow well, but Alaska waters are too cold for them to propagate and make spat, or seed. To deal with this oyster farmers have to buy seed from hatcheries. Unfortunately, the one spat hatchery in Alaska, in Seward, is engaged in a retooling and is not currently operating. Spat can meanwhile be purchased from hatcheries on the west coast, but production at these are being curtailed because of an upwelling of acidic ocean water off the coast. Hatchery operators are working on ways to deal with this and the Seward hatchery will be back in production at some point (Alaska waters are so far not affected by acidity), but the shortage of spat is now a major problem for the industry all over the west coast. Mussels, in contrast to oysters, are native to Alaska and prolific. The big challenge for mussel farmers is that sea otters love to eat mussels. The solution is enclosures around the mussel rafts to keep the sea otters out, Bates said. One of the goals at the first commercial mussel rafts Bates is developing at Halibut Cove is to see what kind of otter-protection enclosures work best. There are other unknowns, too, Bates admits. “We could find unexpected fouling organisms, or problems with starfish and barnacles. It will take some time to figure it out, through trial and error, just like any farming,” she said. Rodger Painter said there is still a lot of tinkering with the technology used in producing oysters. Most oyster farms involve rafts anchored in a cove with wire-mesh trays stacked down into the water column. Water circulates through the tray stacks, bringing nutrients. Variations on this are in use, such as a Japanese device that looks like a shrimp pot. A third approach being experimented with, Painter said, involves a type of plastic bag mesh that can be placed at or near surface in the inter-tidal zone. The advantage of this is that there are more nutrients at the surface, and tidal action keeps water circulating. Front-end capital costs are lower, and there is typically less labor. The disadvantage is that water movement can damage the bags, Painter said. Most oyster farmers may wind up using some combination of technologies, he said. The economics of oyster farming are meanwhile linked to how long it takes to produce a marketable batch. In the Pacific Northwest, where waters are warmer, it takes one to two years, Painter said. In Southeast Alaska’s cool waters it usually takes three years. Water temperatures in Kachemak Bay are cooler yet, and it can take four to five years. Bates said this is a key problem with oysters that faces her. Smaller-size oysters be produced in three years in Kachemak Bay but consumers and restaurant owners in the Anchorage area have to be educated that these are just as tasty as older, larger oysters. Painter said consumers in the Pacific Northwest, who are more sophisticated about shellfish, prefer the smaller oysters. The human side is important, too, because shellfish farming isn’t for everyone. Shellfish farms are typically small “Mom and Pop” operations. Painter believes it has a lot of potential, “but you have to be smart in what you are doing, do your homework and make the right decisions to avoid investing in the wrong technology at the start.” A typical small oyster farmer will need about $200,000 to get into operation but a lot depends on who the farmer is, whether he or she has assets at hand like boats or a place to live or stay near the site. Supporting the operation is relatively low-tech, “but it’s 24-7 for seven months of the year,” Painter said. Commercial fishermen are ideally suited for oyster farming because they have experience on the water and with boats, and have marine equipment at hand. Painter said he knows oyster farmers who successfully run farms as a sideline to commercial fishing, the challenge being that the sites have to be tended while the owner is away fishing. Some communities are embracing shellfish farming to create a local economy. In Naukagi, a small community on Price of Wales Island in Southeast, community leaders organized a facility to people develop small rafts and learn about oyster farming before moving with the own facilities, Painter said. He worked to help train people there. There is more support for the infant industry these days, too. Haa Aani, a Sealaska Corp. subsidiary in Juneau that works on regional development projects, is actively working with small oyster farms in several Southeast communities, providing business expertise and other assistance. The state Legislature also approved a special mariculture loan program last spring that is just now being put into effect.

State seeks answers to salmon shortage; cod stocks rebound

State fishery managers are asking for input from Alaskans to help solve the case of disappearing king salmon. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell has invited stakeholders to a two-day symposium in Anchorage this month titled Understanding Abundance and Productivity Trends of Chinook salmon in Alaska. The goal is “to increase understanding and develop the most complete research plan possible.” A draft analysis by a newly-appointed fisheries research team represents initial efforts by the state to better understanding the causes for Chinook declines. The report, titled “Alaska Chinook Salmon Knowledge Gaps and Needs,” says that from 1994 through 2011, chinook catches have decreased 7 percent for subsistence users, 40 percent for commercial fishermen and 12 percent for sport users. Chinook salmon make up only about one percent of Alaska’s annual commercial catch. The analysis states that the Alaska-wide downturn in chinook abundance “has created social and economic hardships” in many regions and that “there is a significant need for Fish and Game to better characterize and understand changing productivity and abundance across the state to identify actions that could be taken to lessen the hardships.” While there are hundreds of individual chinook salmon stocks throughout Alaska, the research team recommends that the department establish a suite of “indicator stocks” that will “provide an ongoing index of statewide chinook salmon productivity and abundances trends across a diversity of drainage types and size representing a wide range of ecological and genetic attributes from Southeast to Arctic waters.” The team has selected stocks from 12 rivers: Unuk, Stikine, Taku, Chilkat, Copper, Susitna, Kenai, Karluk, Chignik, Nushagak, Kuskokwim and Yukon. The report also accounts for bycatch in groundfish fisheries and says the average number of chinooks taken in the Bering Sea from 2008-2011 has been about 19,000. In the Gulf of Alaska, bycatch takes peaked in 2010 at nearly 55,000 king salmon – the North Pacific Council adopted a hard cap of 25,000 kings in 2011. The registration form for the chinook symposium asks for input in planning the event, and what questions should be considered in three sessions that cover chinook stock assessments in Alaska, ecology and stock assessments in the marine environment, and the role of hatchery production and research in addressing observed trends. Cod rockets Call it gray cod, true cod or P-cod – it’s arguably the most popular fish in the world. And catches are set to increase as stocks rebound around the world. Alaska boasts one of the biggest and most robust cod fisheries – combined harvests from the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska next year could see slight increases to 331,000 metric tons, or nearly 730 million pounds. But that pales in comparison to the amount of cod coming out of the Barents Sea, which straddles Norway and Russia. Cod stocks there are considered the largest in the world and next year’s quota is set at a record one million metric tons, or 2.2 billion pounds. Adding to that will be another 56 million pounds from the North Sea, where cod stocks have been on an upward swing for six years. The increasing numbers of cod from those waters have already pulled Europe from Alaska’s fish market and put a downward press on dock prices to between 30-35 cents a pound, down about a dime. Alaska fishermen get a double whammy because most of the cod they’re pulling aboard are smaller sized; European fishermen have the same complaint, according to the Joint Norwegian/Russian Fisheries Commission. Researchers believe cod could get even smaller because of rising sea temperatures. University of British Columbia fish scientists studied 600 species of fish across the world’s oceans. “This is the first study that looks at the changes in the maximum body size of fish on a global scale,” said William Cheung, co-author of the study. Using computer modeling, the scientists concluded that fish sizes could shrink by 14 to 24 percent over the next 40 years. Cheung explained that as water warms, cold-blooded fish will see an increase in their body temperature, which speeds up their metabolism. While the demand for oxygen increases as fish grow, their ability to obtain it slows down and triggers a stop to their growth. Lost pots sought Skipper Oystein Lone of the Catcher/Processor Pacific Sounder has decided to do something about the high number crab pots lost under the record ice pack during last winter’s snow crab fishery. It’s estimated that 800 pots were lost, valued at over $1 million. Lone has set up an email address where any vessels fishing in the Bering Sea can report the ADFG tag number and position of lost crab pots they come across. Lists of pot sightings and locations will be posted at the fish and game office in Dutch Harbor. That way other crab boats can pick up the pots as they pass through an area, or boat owners can find out where they are and retrieve them. It also provides an opportunity for catcher processors and longliners to help recover the gear, Lone said.

North Pacific Fishery talks Stellar sea lions

Steller sea lions, vessel replacement, crab management and central Gulf of Alaska rationalization were all on the table at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Anchorage Oct. 3 to 9. The agenda included more than the council could accomplish, and some crab management issues and a vessel monitoring system discussion paper were postponed. The council moved on Steller sea lion issues Oct. 7, based on the advice of the Steller sea lion mitigation committee. The council’s motion, which was passed with the objection of National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska Region Administrator Jim Balsiger, noted Center of Independent Experts peer review findings that faulted the science behind fishing restrictions in the western Aleutian Islands to protect food sources for endangered Steller sea lions. The council motion made several recommendations to the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, asking the agency to update its management and science based on new information. NMFS is currently engaged in an appeal of a lawsuit brought by the State of Alaska and the fishing industry over the 2010 Steller sea lion biological opinion, and in the midst preparing a court-ordered environmental impact statement, or EIS, regarding the sea lion issues. On Oct. 8, the plantiffs in that lawsuit - the state of Alaska and fishing industry representatives - filed the CIE opinions with the Alaska U.S. District Court and stated the peer review would be part of the EIS decision process. The biological opinion and fishing closures were upheld by Judge Timothy Burgess, but he found that NMFS violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not preparing a full EIS to support the action and ordered one to be prepared. The council’s recommendations asked NMFS to change its management measures to reflect the CIE opinions before the 2013 fishery starts, expedite completion of the environmental impact statement currently in the works, and prepare a supplemental biological opinion that incorporates the new science. The motion was largely based on the work of the mitigation committee, which made similar recommendations from a nearly-consensus status. The council also weighed in on the EIS scoping process, suggesting certain alternatives for that process, including looking farther out geographically than just the central and western Aleutians. The council’s motion said the CIE reviewers thought the 2010 biological opinion was not based on scientific evidence, and that many of the conclusions and actions taken from the opinion were not support by science. That biological opinion was the basis for management that shut down Pacific cod and Atka mackerel fisheries to protect the Steller sea lion population. During a presentation to the council before a decision was made, NMFS said it was proceeding with the court-ordered timeline for the EIS and did not intend to make other changes before that process was finished. The current timeline calls for the EIS to be completed by March 2014. A decision would likely be finished by February of that year. There might be enough work done to discuss an emergency rule by October 2013.   Gulf of Alaska rationalization The council also discussed creating tools to better manage prohibited species catch in the central Gulf of Alaska trawl fleet. Representatives of that fleet, including Brent Paine, came to the council asking for a rationalization, or catch share, program that would allocate the harvest and the prohibited species catch among vessels, cooperatives or other entities. “You guys have the power to do this, and we ask you to do it,” Paine said. The council also heard from those in other fisheries who wanted the council to consider the protections they would need to avoid hurting their fleets in an effort to rationalize the central gulf trawlers. Terry Haines said he wanted to see the process enhance the Kodiak economy, not hurt it. “I think that we have a culture and a community that’s worth preserving and saving,” Haines said. The council asked for the public to come forward with ways to institute a catch share program, and creative management tools, when the issue is back before the council.   Vessel replacement programs The council also moved forward with three vessel replacement programs Oct. 7. The council took final action on a licensing change for Bering Sea freezer longline vessels, unanimously recommending that those vessels be allowed to build longer replacements. Under the recommended program, the vessels can be replaced or rebuilt with larger freezer longlines that have different processing capacities. The new vessels can be as long as 220 feet. They’ll likely be more efficient in addition to safer, and could have a better ability to reduce bycatch, as well. The council heard from the Freezer Longline Coalition Executive Director Kenny Down on the need for replacements, as well as from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health. All stated a need for safer vessels. Many of the Bering Sea vessels also operate in the Gulf of Alaska, where other freezer longliners are licensed to operate only in that region, and will not be eligible for the replacement program. To protect the Gulf-only vessels not upgrading their boats, the Bering Sea vessels, which are part of a voluntary cooperative, are working towards an agreement with those vessels, Down said. The fleet also includes some pot cod licenses. Those will have to choose to upgrade the boat and give up the pot cod license, or retain the license without upgrading past their current length limit. The council also directed staff to bring forward an analysis on a replacement program for the Amendment 80 fleet in the Bering Sea. The Amendment 80 fleet are groundfish trawl catcher-processors. The analysis will consider a status quo option, as well as an annual or one-time election to allow American Fisheries Act (pollock fleet) catcher-processors to replace Amendment 80 vessels, with the condition that the replacement vessels are subject to most AFA sideboards and other Amendment 80 regulations.   Crab stock assessments Council Plan Coordinator Diana Stram also updated the council on crab stock status. Stram said that Bering Sea tanner crab, which is closed for the third straight year, is no longer considered to be in a rebuilding status. Changes to the tanner crab model, approved by the council Statistical and Scientific Committee, alter the recruitment aspect of the model to consider a different base time frame. As a result, the stock is concerned to be at an acceptable biomass, and not working towards rebuilding to a higher level. The state of Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game recently announced the total allowable catch, or TAC, for several crab fisheries. The TAC is set by the state of Alaska, after it is provided with an overfishing limit and acceptable biological catch from federal scientists and regulators. For Bristol Bay red king crab, the TAC is holding steady at 7.853 million pounds, the same as last year’s quota. Just more than 7 million is for the individual fishing quota, or IFQ, program, while the Community Development Quota, or CDQ, portion of the TAC is 785,300 pounds. St. Matthew’s blue king crab has a TAC of 2.028 million pounds, down slightly from 2.36 million pounds in 2011-12. IFQ holders can take 1.47 million pounds of that, with the remaining 163,000 pounds going to CDQ groups. The snow crab TAC was set at 66.3 million pounds, down 25 percent from last year. The department announced the quota Oct. 5. IFQ holders will be able to harvest 59.7 million pounds, while CDQ programs will take the remaining 6.63 million pounds. Portions of the snow crab fishery will be closed to protect the Pribilof blue king crab stock. The department announced Oct. 2 that the Bering Sea tanner crab fishery will again be closed because the estimate of mature female tanner crab biomass is below the harvest strategy threshold. That fishery was declared overfished in 2010, and closed in 2011.

Council directs NMFS to modify new observer program

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council took up a new deployment plan for marine observers at its October meeting, asking the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, to conduct further outreach, clarify a few components and plan to review certain items after one year. The 2013 annual deployment plan uses random sampling of two different pools — a trip-based pool and a vessel pool — to assign observers to fishing vessels. Those selected in the vessel pool are responsible for carrying an observer for 90 days, while those selected from the trip pool would carry the observer for one trip. The observers provide NMFS with data about the fish being caught, and take samples of the catch. Testimony and action Oct. 6 was in regards to the partial coverage vessels in the two pools with random sampling. NMFS Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis Division Director Martin Loefflad said that program is meant to provide good data about the fishery. “We live to try and give you folks, and all of the folks that work with us, unbiased numbers,” Loefflad said. Council members questioned the high cost of the program per observer day, as well as the need to use such random methods that don’t account for pre-exisiting knowledge about observers or the fisheries. Council member Cora Campbell, Commissioner of Alaska Department of Fish and Game, noted that the observer data has a variety of uses, including in-season management and stock assessments in future years. “I’d like you to explain why you chose to develop a deployment plan that ignores all of that and deploys observers across sectors at the same rate,” Campbell asked. The answer was that everyone was considered equally, particularly as the new observer program seeks to secure baseline data about the fisheries. Ultimately, the council passed a motion that recommended that NMFS attach a priority to monitoring some vessels over others, change the three-month observation to two months for the vessel selection pool, work with the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pacific cod catcher vessel trawl fleet to institute 100 percent observer coverage, and conduct outreach so that the industry has a better idea of the program and possible options to make it less difficult. That trawl fleet relies on near 100 percent coverage for in-season management, and was willing to pay for the coverage. The council also asked that a provision for this be looked into for future deployment plans, so that it’s not a surprise change late in the process. Trawl vessels in the Gulf of Alaska less than 125 feet in length are required to carry observers 30 percent of the time under the current management. The changes came after recommendations from the council Advisory Panel, and significant public testimony from conservation groups and industry. The Alaska Marine Conservation Council made a statement saying it thought the bycatch priority was a positive change. The program has the potential to monitor more vessels than in the prior deployment plan, but the AMCC and others noted that the amount of coverage for trawl vessels with a high incidence of prohibited species catch, or PSC, would likely be lower than in the old program, which was contrary to conservation goals. Brent Paine, from United Catcher Boats, testified about the need for coverage in the Bering Sea, where the co-op management relies on observer data to keep bycatch down and the fishery open. Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association Executive Director Linda Behnken said the council’s action seemed to try to address those concerns, but she didn’t know if it would actually improve the program when it is implemented in 2013. The longline association represents smaller vessels, and has said that having an observer could prove difficult on the boats due to space constraints and other logistical issues. Smaller boats between 40 feet and 57.5 feet in length overall, will be part of the vessel selection pool. The program is funded by NMFS in 2013, and in subsequent years by a 1.25 percent fee on landings, but the cost came in high on the bids to provide observers, so the total observer days is less than hoped for. The primary funder of the new program will be the halibut and sablefish fleet because its landings are more valuable than the trawl fleet. Trawlers longer than 125 feet are required to carry observers 100 percent of the time and pay for that cost on a per-day basis. Council member Duncan Fields said developing a suitable program was much like searching for a car, in weighing the trade-offs of various aspects, and in the cost. “This program’s got sticker shock,” he said. The high cost means that the number of observer days is lower than many would like. There will likely be about between 4,000 and 4,500 observer days under the program, based on the contract awarded to the observer provider, but the exact number depends which vessels and trips are randomly selected for coverage. The council also recommended that NMFS review a number of things after one year of the program, including gathering information on catcher vessels that act as catcher processors for part of the year, considering changes to how vessels are part of the trip or vessel pools, and reviewing the costs and possible efficiencies. The council also asked NMFS for a plan to pursue an electronic monitoring, or EM, option. The council heard a report on electronic monitoring, which is still in a pilot program phase with voluntary participation. For now, the goal is to see if electronic monitoring data matches observer data before EM can be used in place of a human observer. Commercial fisherman Darius Kasprzak, from Kodiak, said he though EM would offer a good option for providing more observation of the industry, particularly for the trawl fishery that has much of the bycatch of chinook salmon, halibut and tanner crab. The observer program will be conducted by AIS Inc. That company has worked on smaller vessels out of New England in the past, but has not provided observers for Alaska fisheries.


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