FISH FACTOR: Pinks end season on a low note as other fisheries heat up
It surprises many people across the state that fall is one of the busiest times for Alaska’s fishing industry from the Panhandle to the Bering Sea. As salmon season gets tucked away, hundreds of boats of all gear types are still out on the water, or gearing up for even more openers in just a few weeks.
Here’s a sampler:
Longliners have taken 82 percent of their 17 million-pound halibut catch quota with 3 million pounds left to go by the Nov. 7 close of that eight-month fishery. Homer, which bills itself as the nation’s top halibut port, is being out-landed by Kodiak by just a few thousand pounds.
Longline fleets also are targeting a 20.3 million-pound sablefish (black cod) catch.
Scallopers are still dropping dredges around Yakutat and in other parts of the Gulf and Bering Sea.
Lingcod fisheries are ongoing in parts of the Gulf, primarily by small boats using jig and hand troll gear.
Trawlers are targeting pollock and other groundfish in both the Bering Sea and the Gulf. And tons of cod are crossing the docks with Sept. 1 openers for longline gear and pot boats.
Southeast’s summer chinook fishery closed to trollers on Sept. 3; the winter troll fishery will reopen in early October.
Crabbers will be back out on the water for the Oct. 1 start of the fall Dungeness fishery. The summer dungie season that ended in mid-August produced a two million pound catch valued at $6 million at the Southeast docks.
October also marks the start of Alaska’s premiere shrimp fishery — big spots from the Panhandle. Pots will haul in more than a half million pounds of spot shrimp during that opener. Beam trawling for pink and coon stripe shrimp also is ongoing in several Southeast regions.
Hundreds of divers will head down for sea cucumbers and urchins in October. More than one million pounds of sea cukes are usually taken in Southeast waters, with smaller takes around Kodiak Island, and the price often tops $3 a pound.
Hundreds of big “seven by” crab pots are stacked to the sky at Dutch Harbor and Kodiak in readiness for the start of the Bering Sea crab fisheries that get underway on Oct. 15.
Pink relief updates
Fishermen hurt by the pink salmon no-show can apply now for a breather in their state loan payments.
“This would not be a forgiveness, but would add this year’s loan payment onto the end of the loan period and forgive the payment just for this year,” said Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak, who sponsored the relief measure.
Stutes said it is “absolutely imperative” for anyone wanting a waiver of their loan payments to contact the Division of Economic Development prior to the due date of the loan.
She urged that fishermen not be put off by the 16-page application packet they will receive.
“Not all of the pages need to be filled out. This is a loan application and these individuals already have a loan. They are only asking for a waiver in the provision of the existing loan,” Stutes explained, adding that division staff is on point to help.
“They are anticipating fishermen calling and they will walk them through to help them put in only the pertinent, required information,” she said. “That streamlines it somewhat until we can fine tune it a bit further. Call the Division at 1-800-478-5626.
The state also continues to build a case for declaring the pink salmon fishery failure a disaster.
“There are certain steps to go through before the governor feels comfortable making that determination. And that’s the process we’re in currently,” Stutes said.
Affected communities can contact her office at (907) 486-8872 to get the appropriate wording to use in a resolution, Stutes said, “indicating how devastating this lack of pink salmon has been to their communities and requesting that they do declare it a disaster.”
Forget Pokémon Go, take part in a bigger effort to help clean up the Blue Planet! The Marine Debris Tracker App helps you locate where and what types of trash are littering our waterways and coastlines.
The app, created through the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative, has cataloged over one million items reported by trackers.
“For any form of litter or marine debris, you can pull up a list and it’s one click to enter in what the user sees,” said Jenna Jambeck, co-creator of the Tracker App. “You can also add a quantity, a description and a photo.”
The app works with GPS, so it knows the location where the user is collecting debris.
“So you can be out fishing or in some remote area and log all your data along with the GPS. I think that it is a really powerful component of the app,” she said.
The tracker app also gives people feedback and makes them feel good about what they are doing.
“It is really fun for people to feel like they are a bigger part of a larger effort,” Jambeck said. “We have a top tracker list, so those who do it most frequently are definitely acknowledged on the website and they can share their efforts through social media. It is a win-win for the collector, the marine initiative and the planet.”