Laine Welch

FISH FACTOR: Tech providing solution to ‘ghost fishing’ gear

Lost fishing gear — be it nets, lines or pots — continues “ghost fishing” forever, causing a slow death to countless marine creatures and financial losses to fishermen. Now new “smart buoys” can track and monitor all types of deployed gear and report its location directly to a cell phone or website. Blue Ocean Gear of California created and builds the buoys that also can track ocean temperatures, depth, movement, even how much has been caught. The small, three-pound buoys are just seven inches in diameter, don’t require any special training to use, and are tough enough to handle the harshest ocean conditions. “All the information is collected in a database,” said company founder and CEO Kortney Opshaug. “We have both a mobile app that you can access from your phone or a web interface that allows you to see more of the data, charts and things like that. Most of the buoys have satellite transmission, but some also have radio transmission and we’re working more and more with that. They’re slightly more cost effective, and we can create networks out on the water that are talking to one another.” Opshaug and her Silicon Valley team of engineers and product developers were motivated primarily by the impacts of lost gear on the marine environment and the costs to fishermen. “As we explored the space, it became very clear that lost fishing gear was one of the most devastating issues that has both environmental impacts as well as financial impacts on the industry,” she said. “There’s about 640,000 metric tons of gear lost every year and it continues to fish. It becomes devastating for the marine ecosystems, but it’s also unlimited competition for the fishermen from their own gear that they’ve lost. Plus, they have to pay to replace that gear. So we developed our smart buoys to be able to track gear out on the water. We thought if you could track it, you’re not as likely to lose it.” Chief Business Officer Peter Macy added, “There may be a crab pot at the bottom of the ocean and a buoy at the surface, but when the tides and currents are strong, the buoy can get pulled underwater. Fishermen can’t find it and they waste a lot of time and fuel. But our device tracks the gear from the surface.” The smart buoys, which first hit the water in 2015, were tested by two vessels during the 2020-21 golden king crab season in the Aleutian Islands to help refine the software and communications settings. The automated system identified several pieces of errant gear, including a line that had severed. It allowed the recovery in real time of nearly 100 pounds of floats and lines that would otherwise have been lost. “Real time alerts are the difference between an 8-day trip and a 14-day trip,” said one of the skippers in a case study testimonial on the Blue Ocean Gear website, adding that “the time saved per string of gear was about seven hours.” “The main goal is to help fishermen fish more, and fish more sustainably,” said Macy. The smart buoys also are being used in Alaska’s halibut fishery and a first order has come from a Southeast kelp farm, Macy said, crediting assists from the Alaska Ocean Cluster. The buoys also are in use on the east coast, Canada, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. Learn more at Bristol Bay sockeyes on ice Sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay is taking to the ice at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena in a partnership with the National Hockey League’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken. Bristol Bay Native Corp., which represents 31 tribes comprising 10,000 members, also will operate a Bristol Bay Wild Market in collaboration with the fishermen funded and operated Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and Bristol Wild Seafood Co. BBNC purchased Blue North Fisheries and Clipper Seafoods in 2019, making that new company the largest longline Pacific cod operation in the U.S. The three organizations have come together to bring “exceptional wild Alaskan seafood and the people and rich cultural heritage of Bristol Bay to millions of Arena visitors every year,” the groups said in a press release. During every game and event held at the arena, an Alaska seafood menu will feature wild Alaska panko cod and sockeye tacos, fish n’ chips, sockeye fillet and baguette and chowders. Bristol Bay also will be splashed across hundreds of TV screens inside the arena, the LED side rings, on the main scoreboards and more. The marketing move follows the lead of Oregon-based Pacific Seafood, the first seafood supplier to land a sports partnership last fall with a multi-year deal with the Pac-12 Men’s basketball and football teams which includes a dozen West Coast universities. It added Pac-12 Women’s basketball earlier this year. Back on the ice rink, the Kraken team and coaching staff also will hold annual hockey camps in Alaska for kids who wouldn’t normally have exposure to the game. Getting canned Sales of canned salmon continue to surge as COVID-19-conscious consumers continue to opt for healthier, easy to use, non-perishable foods. Seafood Source highlights a new report by market tracker Fact.MR that predicts the global canned salmon market will reach $4.5 billion this year and sales will continue to grow through 2031. More global consumers also care more about where their seafood comes from, the report said, and wild Pacific salmon is the top choice, accounting for the most market share of nearly 82 percent this year. The market experts predict that overall, wild canned salmon will generate 67 percent of the total global market share and nearly 62 percent of total North American sales over the next decade. It’s good news for Alaska, which provides more than 95 percent of the nation’s wild salmon. Not surprisingly, boneless/skinless fish is the preferred canned item and those sales are expected to rise at an annual rate of nearly 7 percent through 2031. Canned pinks are expected to have the most demand with a market share this year of 34.5 percent. The market watchers also predict an upsurge in pink sales to global markets at over 7 percent per year. Canned sockeye salmon is the second-highest seller, especially in exports to Europe. Canned chums also are becoming more popular “because of their lighter oil content,” and annual sales growth is projected at 6.2 percent over the forecast period, the report said. Coho salmon also is expected to “witness lucrative growth with a rising demand across the globe” estimated at 5.5 percent per year. Alaska processer reports show that more than 81 million pounds of Alaska salmon went into cans in 2020, valued at nearly $687 million on their sales sheets. Of that, nearly 60 million pounds were pinks valued at $205 million; canned sockeye salmon topped 21 million pounds, worth over $480 million at first-wholesale. Salmon canning started in Alaska in the 1870s and by the early 20th century, it was the state’s largest industry, generating 80 percent of the territorial tax revenues. Its position then in Alaska’s economy is one that oil enjoys today. OBI Seafoods has been Alaska’s largest canned salmon producer for more than 100 years. John Daly, manager of U.S. canned sales, believes the canned pack has the staying power to remain as one of the state’s most well-known products. “Ever since I’ve been in the industry, I’ve heard from everybody that canned salmon is dying,” Daly said. “And here we are with record numbers.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Huge Tanner crab cohort good news for Gulf of Alaska

Unlike in the Bering Sea, there’s good news for crab in the Gulf of Alaska. A huge cohort of Tanner crab that biologists have been tracking in the Westward region for three years showed up again in this summer’s survey. “We were optimistic and we did find them again. Pretty much all the way across the board from Kodiak all the way out to False Pass we found those crab and in good quantity,” said Nat Nichols, area manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at Kodiak. The bairdi Tanners are the larger cousins of snow crab (opilio Tanners) found in the Bering Sea. “The very, very rough preliminary numbers look like we’ve at least hit the minimum abundance thresholds in all three areas of Kodiak, Chignik and the South Peninsula,” Nichols said. “So we’re excited about that.” The last Tanner opener was in 2020 for 400,000 pounds, the minimum abundance number for a district to have a fishery. A fleet of 49 boats participated in that fishery and averaged more than $4 per pound for the harvestable male crabs that typically weigh between 2 to 4 pounds each. “A Tanner crab is getting to be legal-sized around age four or five, and then they start to die of natural causes or age out of the population by around seven or eight,” Nichols explained. “Once they start to become legal, we can expect them to hang around for potentially three years, and there’ll be more small crab behind them so you can kind of think of this as the front edge.” The new cohort, Nichols said, is one of the largest ever. It appears to be made up of two big year classes with a broad range of sizes that could support several years of fishing. “In 2019 the estimate was 223 million and then in 2020 it was down to 108 million. Every year, that number gets smaller, because there’s pretty high mortality on smaller crab. Anybody who’s cut open a halibut stomach knows that,” Nichols said. “And a lot of those are females so they won’t be in the fishery. But the male crab are getting bigger and approaching legal size. So even though you’re seeing estimates go down quite a bit, it’s still going to turn into a pretty good number of legal grab in the water.” Several more regulatory calculations must still be met as managers move their way through the survey data before a 2022 Tanner fishery gets a green light. “But based on meeting the minimal abundance thresholds it at least opens the door for a conversation about six different fisheries,” Nichols said. “And that doesn’t even include the Semedi Islands overlap section of the Kodiak District which would be open also. Under that scenario, that would be seven different sections open.” A Tanner announcement will be made in early November for the fisheries which open in mid-January. By the way, Tanner crab is always spelled with a capitol “T” because it is named after discoverer Zera Luther Tanner, commander of the research vessel Albatross which explored Alaska waters in the late 1800s. Fishing updates Alaska’s 2021 salmon catch has topped 219 million fish, which is 15 percent better than the preseason forecast of 190 million. The two biggest moneymakers exceeded expectations the most. The sockeye haul came in at 54 million compared to the predicted 46.5 million reds. Similarly, the pink salmon catch of nearly 151 million swamped the projection by 27 million. And although the run of chum salmon was disappointing, falling about 4 million short of the 15.3 million projection, nearly 5 million chums were caught since Aug. 1, “making it one of the three largest chum harvests in the last decade,” according to fishery economist Dan Lesh at the McKinley Research Group who compiles weekly tracking reports for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. The coho catch of nearly 2.3 million is 1.6 million shy of the forecast and a harvest of 244,000 chinook salmon is 25,000 less than expectations. But despite the overall bigger salmon catch, smaller fish sizes will lead to less impressive harvest totals and revenues to Alaska fishermen. Yet, with higher dock prices across the board, it will still produce a good payday. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will release the catch totals, fish prices and overall revenues by region in early October. As salmon season draws to a close, many other fall fisheries are underway or gearing up. At Southeast, beam trawlers are on the grounds for a third go at northern pink shrimp totaling 650,000 pounds in two districts. The spot shrimp fishery opens on October 1 for 457,300 pounds, and the Dungeness crab reopens that same day for a two month fishery. Southeast’s sea cucumber fishery opens to divers on October 4 with a catch of nearly 1.9 million pounds. Diving for red sea urchins also opens with a harvest set at nearly 3 million pounds. At Prince William Sound, cod opened on Sept. 1 for pot and longline gears on boats less than 50 feet, and a fishery is ongoing for 32,600 pounds of lingcod. Chignik opens to sea cucumber divers on Sept. 20 with a 15,000 pound harvest limit. Kodiak opens for cukes on Oct. 1 with a 120,000 pound catch quota, and for 20,000 pounds at the South Peninsula. Kodiak crabbers are still pulling up Dungeness crab through the end of October. That catch is at 1.3 million pounds so far. Alaska halibut fishermen have taken 70 percent of their nearly 19 million-pound catch limit with less than 6 million pounds left to go. Homer, Seward, Kodiak and Juneau are the top ports for landings and dock prices remain at over $6 per pound, topping $7 at Homer reflecting continuing high demand for fresh fish. Alaska and West Coast catches aren’t satisfying American’s appetites for halibut and trade data show that the U.S. has imported 10.3 million pounds of Atlantic halibut from Eastern Canada so far this year valued at nearly $77 million. For sablefish, just more than half of the more than 43 million-pound catch has been landed. Fishing for pollock, cod, flounders and other groundfish continues throughout the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The Gulf pollock fishery reopened on Sept. 1. Proposed catches for 2022 groundfish is on the agenda of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council when it meets via Zoom Oct. 6-15. Foregone fish bucks As Alaska struggles to find new sources of revenue, its leaders might look to reining in the losses from fish and crab taken in federal waters (three to 200 miles out) of the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea that goes elsewhere. Data compiled by NOAA research economists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center provide a breakdown of the shares of groundfish and ex-vessel (dock side) values by vessel owner state of residency. For all groundfish taken in Alaska in 2020, a 0.78 share went to non-Alaska vessels. Examples by species show that a 0.76 share of all flatfish was taken by non-Alaska vessels, a 0.69 share of Pacific cod, 0.88 for pollock, 0.69 for all rockfish, and 0.38 for sablefish (black cod). For the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, 0.83 of all groundfish was taken by non-Alaska vessels; including a 0.70 share of cod, 0.91 of pollock and 0.71 of sablefish. The 2020 ex-vessel value of the Bering Sea groundfish catches totaled $718.2 million. It’s less of a loss in the Gulf of Alaska where in 2020, a 0.4 share of all groundfish was taken by Outside vessels including 0.4 of all flatfish, 0.15 of cod, 0.47 of Gulf pollock, and 0.34 of sablefish. The out-of-state information plus an incredible array of user friendly data is amassed by the Alaska Fisheries Information Network APEX reporting system with annual inputs from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and NOAA Fisheries. It includes Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation reports for all groundfish and crab species, numbers and types of vessels, wholesale and dockside values and prices, landings and values by fisheries, distributions of quota share holdings, harvesting and processing employment data and much more. Find it at Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Unobserved crab mortality unaddressed as survey shows stock crash

Alaska’s Bering Sea crabbers are reeling from the devastating news that all major crab stocks are down substantially, based on summer survey results, and the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery will be closed for the first time in more than 25 years. That stock has been on a steady decline for several years and the 2020 harvest dwindled to just 2.6 million pounds. Most shocking was the drastic turn-around for snow crab stocks, which in 2018 showed a 60 percent boost in market-sized male crabs (the only ones retained for sale) and nearly the same for females. That year’s survey was documented as “one of the largest snow crab recruitment events biologists have ever seen,” said Dr. Bob Foy, director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Crab Plan Team. Again in 2019, the “very strong” snow crab biomass was projected at more than 610 million pounds, and the catch was set at a conservative 45 million pounds for the 2020 fishery. No Bering Sea crab surveys were done that year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the 2021 results indicated the numbers of mature male snow crab had plummeted by 55 percent. The stock “seems to have disappeared or moved elsewhere,” said Jamie Goen, executive director of the trade group, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers. The snow crab catch for the upcoming season could be down by 70 percent and the stock could be classified as “over-fished,” she said, adding that no decisions will be made until the data undergo more scrutiny by plan team and council scientists. ABSC estimates the closure of the red king crab fishery and a reduced snow crab catch could cost harvesters far more than $100 million. The hit will be felt by roughly 70 vessels, more than 400 fishermen, and the processors and fishing communities that rely on the Bering Sea crab revenues. The crabbers want “bold action” from federal fishery managers. They are calling on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries to conserve crab habitat and spawning grounds highlighted by scientists more than 10 years ago with little resulting action. The crabbers also want managers “to create meaningful incentives to reduce crab bycatch in other fishing sectors, to reduce fishing impacts on molting and mating crab, and to estimate unaccounted for bycatch from unobserved fishing mortality from bottom and pelagic (mid-water) trawl nets, as well as pot and longline gears.” Boats fishing the Bering Sea are required to have 100 percent observer coverage to track what is retained and what is tossed over the side, but it’s what is not observed that most concerns the crabbers. And what goes unseen is not factored into stock or bycatch assessments. The Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary law governing marine fisheries management in federal waters (from three to 200 miles out), defines unobserved mortality as “fishing mortality due to an encounter with fishing gear that does not result in capture of fish.” In a February letter to the NPFMC, ABSC highlighted studies showing “that 95-99 percent of crab in the path of trawl gear go under the footrope escaping capture and some portion of those likely die after contact with the fishing gear. Given this number compared to what is observed as bycatch, the potential for unobserved mortality of crab could be millions of additional pounds of dead crab bycatch.” A February report by North Pacific council scientists, which (unsuccessfully) proposed an amendment to the management plan for crab bycatch in the Bering Sea groundfish trawl fisheries, stated: “Crab may actively escape capture from trawl gear, as they can slip under the trawl itself, or over the sweeps, but the damage from the gear results in mortality or delayed mortality due to injuries. The potential for unobserved mortality of crabs that encounter bottom trawls but are not captured has long been a concern for the management of groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea.” (Witherell and Pautzke, 1997; Witherell and Woodby, 2005). The report said that “the majority of trawl caught crab PSC (prohibited species catch) occurs when vessels are targeting yellowfin sole. This is the case across all crab species.” Yellowfin sole is one of six groundfish species targeted by a cooperative of 18 to 20 bottom trawlers called the Amendment 80 fleet that includes seven vessels owned by Alaska Native Community Development Quota, or CDQ, groups. No CDQ trawl vessels have made shoreside deliveries in Alaska in the past ten years. The Amendment 80 boats, all of which are homeported in Seattle, range in length from 200 to more than 300 feet and contain processing facilities. They usually fish from late January through the fall and last year caught nearly 300 million pounds of yellowfin sole valued at 9 cents per pound. Each of the A80 boats employs six fishing crew, approximately 24 processing workers and seven other staff including officers, engineers and cooks. The council report said 69 percent of the crew (not including processing workers) reside in or near Seattle. Direct wages paid during 2018 were $46 million and $52 million to the state of Washington overall. In contrast, Alaska residents accounted for 3 percent to 8 percent of A80 crews and took home $2 million in direct wages. The Crab Plan Team met Sept. 13-16 to discuss the Bering Sea crab stock assessments and catches for the 2021-22 season will be announced prior to the Oct. 15 start of the fisheries. Reducing crab bycatch is not on the agenda. The NPFMC meets via web conference from Oct. 6-10 when it will set preliminary catch and bycatch levels for 2022. Dungeness update Southeast crabbers wrapped up an “average” Dungeness season for a two and a half month summer fishery that ended in mid-August. Preliminary numbers indicate the catch came in at half of last summer’s level, said Adam Messmer, Alaska Department of Fish and Game assistant manager for the region. “We ended up with just over 3 million pounds this season, which is right around our 10-year average. Last year was our second biggest year ever. We were kind of expecting a little bit more than what we caught this year. But we had a quite a bit of soft shell crab (newly molted) at the beginning of the summer. That accounts for the missed poundage,” he said. The 2020 Dungie catch of 6 million pounds was valued at nearly $10 million at the docks. Despite a smaller catch this summer, the harvest of the two-pounders was worth much more to the fleet of 205 permit holders. “Yep, it was our highest price ever averaging $4.27 per pound. That came out to almost a $13 million fishery. So that pencils out to about $63,000 per permit,” Messmer added. Southeast crabbers get another go when the Dungeness fishery reopens on Oct. 1. Dropping pots for Dungeness is ongoing around Kodiak and the Westward region until the end of October. Around 1.5 million pounds is likely to be the tally for 20 Kodiak boats, down about one million from last year. But the outlook is fairly optimistic said Nat Nichols, area manager for ADFG. “Here in Kodiak that makes three seasons in a row of over a million pounds. And I’ve heard some reports that there’s a lot of crab measuring going on and there’s a lot of crab that are just a little bit short of the stick. So that sort of gives optimism for next year,” he said, adding that fishermen also are encountering a lot of soft shell crab that are returned to the water. Over 415,000 pounds of Dungies have been hauled up at Chignik and Alaska Peninsula fishermen are having the region’s best catches, now at 1.3 million pounds. The Westward price is $4.35 per pound on average. Salmon watch Alaska’s salmon catch by Sept. 11 was on its way to 219 million fish, well greater than the forecast of 190 million. Pinks pushed up the number with a total harvest so far of nearly 151 million. Nearly 65 million were from Prince William Sound and over 45 million humpies were harvested at Southeast and over 26 million at Kodiak. The statewide sockeye salmon catch has topped 54 million; chums were nearing 11.5 million, cohos at 2.1 million; and 243,000 chinook salmon. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Pink surge, strong sockeye harvest beats 2021 forecast

Alaska’s 2021 salmon harvest has blown past the forecast and by Aug. 27 had topped 201 million fish, well above the 190 million projected at the start of the season. The catch was bolstered by a surge of pink salmon to the three top producing regions — Prince William Sound, Southeast and Kodiak — combined with strong landings of sockeyes. “Pink salmon runs are over 95 percent complete, based on average run timing. Effort drops off quickly this late in the season, so it is difficult to predict where that harvest will end up,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Commercial Fisheries Division at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “My guess is up to another half million late-run sockeye salmon and perhaps 10 million pink salmon will be harvested. If that occurs, we will end up with around 143 million pink salmon, 54 million sockeye, and 207 million total salmon harvested. 2021 could end up being the sixth-largest sockeye and sixth- or seventh-largest pink salmon harvest on record.” Pinks are the “bread and butter” catch for Alaska salmon fishermen and total landings were approaching 137 million, well above the 124 million projected for this season. At Prince William Sound, which had a catch forecast of about 25 million pinks, nearly 62 million had crossed the docks. “Wild stocks are returning stronger than anticipated (to PWS) given the uncertainty about spawning success from the 2019 parent year which was negatively impacted by drought conditions,” said the weekly ADFG inseason summary. Southeast Alaska humpy landings had topped 40 million on a forecast of 28 million fish. At Kodiak, the pink harvest was on target to reach 22 million. The Alaska Peninsula also has had a strong catch nearing 11 million humpies. The bigger catches combined with increased prices for all salmon will mean a nice payday for Alaska fishermen, well above the $295 million from the 2020 season. Base prices for pinks were averaging 35 cents per pound, up a nickel from last year when the catch totaled about $62 million. Sockeye base prices, which last year averaged just 76 cents per pound, were at $1.25 to fishermen at Bristol Bay, making that catch worth $231 million to fishermen. The value will increase substantially as bonuses and other prices adjustments are added in. Base prices for sockeyes at Kodiak were reported at $1.45 to $1.50 and $1.75 at Southeast. For the other salmon species, chum catches had picked up and were nearing nine million on a forecast calling for 15.3 million. At Kodiak the base price for chums had doubled to 50 cents per pound and nearly doubled to 85 cents at Southeast. Coho catches typically near their peak around this time and a statewide catch of 3.8 million is predicted. For chinook salmon, the catch had topped 204,000 out of a projected 296,000 kings. The Southeast fleet of 713 trollers was averaging $6.68 per pound for chinook ($74 per fish vs. $70.42 for a barrel of oil) compared to $5.07 last year. Troll-caught cohos were fetching a whopping $2.84 per pound and $1.03 for chums, according to ADFG. Cod catch shares Fishery managers are set to implement a catch share program for cod trawlers in the Bering Sea. Shares would be divided up based on harvest history over certain years. The goal is to make the fishery safer and more valuable, and to end the race for cod that results in high bycatch levels of unwanted species. The measure has the support of the Seattle-based trade group United Catcher Boats that represents more than 70 trawlers and the Pacific Seafood Processors Association that includes eight shoreside processing companies. A low of 29 trawl boats and a high of 69 fished for Bering Sea cod each year from 2004 to 2020, according to a report by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council which oversees Alaska fisheries from three to 200 miles offshore. Documents will be posted to the NPFMC website and public comments will be accepted from Sept. 17- 29. A final decision will be made at the NPFMC meeting Oct. 10-15 tentatively at the Egan Center. Fish farewells Jim Balsiger, director of NOAA Fisheries Alaska plans to retire on Nov. 30. Balsiger has headed the Alaska agency since 2000 and plans to remain in Juneau after retirement, according to the Deckboss blog. No word yet on his replacement. Frances Leach, the executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska since 2018, is leaving to launch Capitol Compass, a lobbying firm in Juneau. “I’m really excited to continue lobbying for an industry that I really have a lot of respect for. But then also be able to lobby for other things that I care about greatly like environmental issues and nonprofits,” she told KFSK in Petersburg. Prior to her role at UFA, which represents 36 member groups, Leach worked at ADFG as staff to the state Board of Fisheries. Applicants for the UFA position are being accepted through Sept. 24. Salary is dependent upon experience; lobbying records show Leach’s most recent UFA salary was $95,000. Send applications to UFA vice-president Rebecca Skinner at [email protected] Fukushima water release Tokyo Electric Power, or Tepco, plans to meet with fishing communities before finalizing its plans to release 250 million gallons of treated but still radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean within two years. The water has been stored in massive tanks at Tepco’s Fukushima nuclear plant that was badly damaged by an earthquake in 2011. Reuters reported that a senior official said: “We haven’t had direct consultations with fisheries regarding the discharge,” and added that the plans would be “open to public consultation.” The water, which was contaminated by melted uranium fuel from damaged reactors and is stored in huge holding tanks, is enough to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Tepco said it costs about 100 billion yen ($910 million) to treat and store the water and “space is running out so it needs to release it to the ocean.” The company plans to dilute the water more than 100 times with seawater to ensure it is within regulatory limits on radiation before pumping it through a tunnel under the seabed to a discharge point less than one mile offshore. The Japanese government in April called it “the most practical solution” and said “it will do its utmost to provide compensation to fishermen for any damages.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Bambino’s features Bristol Bay in latest offerings

Nutrition, Native ways and knowing where your fish comes from. That multi-message forms the nexus of a new partnership of the Bristol Bay Native Corp., salmon fishermen and Bambino’s Baby Food of Anchorage. Bambino’s launched the nation’s first subscription service with home delivery of frozen baby foods in 2015, and was the first to bring the frozen option to U.S. retail baby food aisles (devoid of seafood). Wild Alaska seafood has always been front and center on the Bambino menu since the launch of its baby-sized, star-shaped Hali-Halibut portions, sockeye salmon bisque and fillets in 2015. Sockeye salmon teething strips are the newest addition. Those items became an instant hit and are shipped to customers in U.S. and in Canada. Each outgoing box now contains recipes from the people of Bristol Bay, stories of how traditional foods are rooted in Alaskan culture and other information about the region provided by the new outreach network. “We’re looking forward to partnering with Bambino’s and (Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association) to share the stories of why salmon is so crucial to our region and our shareholders,” said Jason Metrokin, president and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corp. “Salmon is a fundamental part of our cultures and our values, from protecting the waters they spawn in to ensuring our shareholders are able to fill their freezers every year.” “We want to ensure that people everywhere and of all ages not only reap the nutritional benefits of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon but are also aware of the origin and sustainability of the region,” said Lilani Dunn, marketing director of BBRSDA, operated and funded by the fleet of nearly 1,800 driftnet fishermen by a 1 percent tax on their catches. “Bambino’s has really built up her business and her brand and it was no secret that her sockeye product was performing really well. And we saw a huge opportunity to tell our stories focusing on the Native families and culture of Bristol Bay and for ourselves in the marketing program,” Dunn said. “I feel very passionate, along with our partners, about the nutritional benefits of sockeye salmon, especially in young infants and toddlers.” “The beautiful nature of all of this is that we all care about our environment and the health and wellness of our families, and we all want to know where our food comes from,” said Bambino’s founder and CEO Zoi Maroudas. “It just brings a lot of depth to the Bristol Bay region to have the synergy between BBNC and ourselves and to work with an Alaska company,” added BBRSDA’s Dunn. “It’s definitely something special and I’m really excited for it.” Bambino’s was selected as Alaska Manufacturer of the Year in 2018. All of its products are produced in Anchorage and can be found at Carrs/Safeway and other grocers throughout Southcentral Alaska and on Amazon. Good news for Gulf sea creatures Results from the most detailed, long-term cruise by researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks showed the largest concentrations of phytoplankton ever seen in nearly 25 years of sampling in a vast portion of the Gulf of Alaska. Phytoplankton (microalgae) is the base of marine food webs and the massive bloom was spotted in May through September along the Seward Line, a transect of survey stations that begins at the mouth of Resurrection Bay and continues south to the outer edge of the continental shelf. A funding boost from the National Science Foundation added additional lines from the Copper River to beyond Middleton Island, and from Kodiak’s Albatross Bank to offshore waters. The researchers use chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants, as an indicator of phytoplankton abundance, explained Russ Hopcroft, professor and Chair of the Department of Oceanography at UAF’s College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. “It is the peak production in this system that the whole biology of the Gulf kind of cascades off of, that big infusion of energy and matter into it,” Hopcroft said. “Normally the shelf kind of lights up in terms of algal concentration briefly and sporadically. But this past year, the whole shelf was lit up with high chlorophyll for several weeks continuously, which means that there should have been lots of food available for the things that feed upon the plankton, the fish that feed upon that and then the bigger fish, marine mammals and seabirds that use them. We’ve never seen this kind of concentration of the phytoplankton in the system.” “In the Gulf, because it’s such a seasonal environment, several of the main species rely on this bloom to grow rapidly and store fat up in their bodies, just like bears do. And then they descend deep in the ocean to wait for the following spring to start their life cycle when they lay eggs. And those babies swim up toward the surface and start the whole process over again.” Alaska’s cooler weather this spring and summer can lead to a prolonged bloom, and extra rain provides fresh water at the ocean surface that helps phytoplankton remain closer to the light and build up higher concentrations. Hopcroft said this year “looks like it should translate to a lot of energy into the system” and hopefully allow a few things to bounce back that were impacted by the extreme marine heatwave several years ago that caused, for example, Gulf cod stocks to collapse. “I think our expectation would be that the success of animals released into the Gulf system this year will be higher than what we’ve seen during some of these warmer periods,” he said. “One would hope that we would see that translate into recruitment of various types of fisheries in the next couple of years.” Fake fish update Long John Silver’s is the first major national seafood chain to put plant-based seafood analogs on its menu, and calls it the “next big wave” after seeing the success of plant-based burgers and chicken. Analogs are manufactured substances that are used in place of the real thing. Last month the company, operator of over 700 restaurants in the U.S., announced a partnership with Good Catch to test its plant-based Breaded Fish-Free Fillet and Breaded Crab-Free Cake at restaurants in California and Georgia. “Our plant-based options are slightly more expensive than the crab cakes and sustainably sourced wild-caught cod, pollock, and salmon that make up our core menu options,” LJS Chief Marketer Stephanie Mattingly told SeafoodSource, adding that the plant-based seafood market is projected to grow $1.3 billion over the next decade. Whole Foods Market, owned by Amazon, said that nearly half of U.S. consumers are looking for plant-based products, and fish alternatives are on its first ever list of trend predictions. One is Upton’s Naturals Banana Blossom, large, purple-skinned flowers that grow at the end of a banana bunch. Their neutral flavor and flaky texture make it an ideal fish substitute. Another predicted favorite is Good Catch Fish-Free Tuna made of a blend of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans and navy beans. Samuels and Son Seafood of Philadelphia is the first company to publicly admit that it is selling a genetically tweaked Atlantic salmon made by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts. The wholesale restaurant supplier services several chains including McCormick and Schmicks, Morton’s Steakhouse and The Hard Rock Café. The fish, which grows roughly three times faster than normal salmon, is the first genetically modified animal to be approved by the federal government for human consumption. More than 80 food companies including Safeway,Kroger, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have said they will refuse to carry it. Federal labeling law “directs” companies to disclose genetically modified ingredients through use of a QR code, on-package wording, or a symbol. Mandatory compliance takes effect in January 2022, but the rules don’t apply to restaurants or providers of meals away from home. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: New tech shows promise against bycatch; more relief grants open

Bycatch gives Alaska’s otherwise stellar fisheries management its biggest black eye. The term refers to unwanted sea creatures taken in trawls, pots, lines and nets when boats are going after other targeted catches. Bycatch is the bane of existence for fishermen, seafood companies and policy makers alike, yet few significant advances have been found to mitigate the problem. A simple fix has recently shed light on a solution. “Ten underwater LED lights can be configured to light up different parts of the fishing gear with six different colors, intensity and flash rates to attract, repel or guide fish through the gear while retaining the target catches,” said Dan Watson, CEO and co-founder of SafetyNet Technologies based in the U.K which provides its Pisces light system to fisheries around the globe. “The different light characteristics affect different species in different ways,” he added. “For instance, green light is really effective for reducing turtle bycatch in gillnets. Blue lights flashing at a particular rate can deter haddock and drive them away. This programmability means that you can use it for a number of different species and in different circumstances as well.” The Pisces lights are powered by a wireless charger, require no plugs or batteries, automatically turn on underwater only when needed, and they do not weaken or weigh down nets. Watson began working on the lights in 2009 when he was a student at Glasgow University and doing research with the Aberdeen Marine Laboratory. “They had a paper that had been in their library for about 40 years from a researcher who had been shining flashlights into fish tanks and seeing that some species would react quite strongly, some would come towards them, some would move away, and others just weren’t bothered at all,” he said. After working in partnership with scientists and fishermen, the first batch of Pisces lights was tested in 2015 in fisheries in Europe and the and usage has since spread to the U.S. and other regions. A 2015-18 study on small-scale fishing vessels in Peru, for example, showed that LED lights on gillnets reduced bycatch of sea turtles in gillnet fisheries by more than 70 percent and over 66 percent for dolphins and porpoises, while not reducing the take of target species. The lights also reduced bycatch of seabirds in gillnets by about 85 percent. The study, by the University of Exeter and the conservation organization ProDelphinus, concluded that “Sensory cues — in this case LED lights — are one way we might alert such species to the presence of fishing gear in the water.” In the scallop fishery in the Irish Sea, use of Pisces lights reduced bycatch of haddock by 47 percent and flatfish by 25 percent with no effects on the take of scallops. A 2020 study by Mark Lomeli of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in collaboration with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center showed that lights directed chinook salmon to escape panels in trawl nets in the Pacific hake fishery, the largest groundfish fishery on the West Coast. Eighty-six percent of escaped chinook used the well-lit, LED-framed openings and the data suggest the lights can increase salmon escapes overall. And since 2018, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has required the use of lighting devices on the footropes of shrimp trawls. Sea trials showed that bycatch of eulachon was reduced by over 90 percent by weight, juvenile rockfish takes dropped by 78 percent, flatfish bycatch was reduced by nearly 70 percent and the loss of targeted shrimp was statistically non-significant at 0.7 percent. “You don’t need the lights to cover the entire panel on a massive net, it might be that you put them along the foot rope or the headline or even potentially in the wings,” Watson explained. “We generally supply fishing vessels with around 10 lights and a couple of charging cases to keep them going. Rather than hundreds of lines, we’re talking in the order of 10s, so that you can cover a sufficient area in the right place for it to be effective.” Watson believes the lights will eventually be mandated in other fisheries around the world. “In Europe we’re working with agencies to try and get the required scientific evidence for them to start to legislate the use of lights,” he said. “It’s still sort of in the early days in that respect despite really compelling results since 2015. It takes a while to get into that adoption phase and that’s where we’re working at the moment. “I think the fishing sector has a massive part to play and how it’s shaped and actually introduced. We’re increasingly seeing that as technology is being developed and becoming more accessible, fishing crews are coming up with really great ideas to change how their fisheries are operating, and working collaboratively with science as well.” Since May, the SafetyNet Tech team has been collaborating with the Alaska Ocean Cluster, or AOC, a project of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, to identify captains and vessel owners interested in bringing the light show to Alaska, particularly aboard Bering Sea trawlers. “They’re an amazing representative for us in Alaska, because not only can they help us learn more about the fishing industry there but introduce us to people and start those relationships going,” Watson said. “It’s kind of like having two extra people on our team, which is amazing when you’re a startup because we’re always looking for extra support and they’ve definitely offered it.” “SNTech is a great example of the opportunities we’re seeing across the seafood and marine technology landscape,” said Garrett Evridge, AOC managing director of research and administration. Taylor Holshouser, AOC managing director of business development, echoed that enthusiasm adding, “We’re excited to see what Dan and his team can do to help fishermen reduce fuel costs, save time, and reduce bycatch, particularly in the Bering Sea.” Questions? Contact [email protected] or [email protected] More COVID-19 funds Alaska fishermen and other businesses can soon apply for a new $90 million pool of COVID-19 pandemic money that will be distributed by the state. Grant money for the program comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development announced last week that applications will open sometime this fall and recipients will be chosen “based on demonstrated need.” Eligible fishing businesses include commercial fishermen who held a limited entry permit or interim entry permit in 2019 and 2020. Applicants must be based in Alaska, have revenue between $10,000 and $50 million in 2019, filed taxes in 2019 and 2020, and be able to show they lost at least 50 percent of their net income as a result of the pandemic. Nonprofits are not eligible to apply. Applications will be split into three groups, based on the size of their businesses. Each group will be eligible for up to 80 percent of their documented income loss, up to $250,000, $500,000 or a cap of $1 million. All applicants will be required to say how they intend to spend the money, which will be distributed as a grant that does not have to be repaid. The funds must be spent on past, current, or future business costs and may not be retained or invested. Grant recipients also will be required to spend the funds by a certain unspecified date, likely by next fall, or return any unused money. Initial proposals called for a larger grant program, reported the Anchorage Daily News, but the Alaska Legislature instead used money from the act to fund infrastructure projects and make more money available for the 2021 Permanent Fund dividend, the amount of which has yet to be determined. Find more information at the state Commerce Department website. Fish board line up The state Board of Fisheries is planning on in person meetings this fall after months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By this past March, the board was scheduled to have finished up 275 proposals for Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound and statewide shellfish fisheries. The meeting cycle addresses management issues for commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fisheries in state waters for specific regions every three years. A work session is set for Oct. 20-21 at the Anchorage Egan Center, followed by a week-long meeting focusing on Prince William Sound and Upper Copper and Susitna Rivers from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 at the Cordova Center. The Fish Board will move to Ketchikan from Jan. 4-15 to address Southeast and Yakutat fish and shellfish issues. It’s back to Anchorage for a March 10 hatchery committee meeting. The Board will conclude with a March 11-16 meeting on Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Westward and Arctic Shellfish, and Prince William Sound shrimp. The March meeting locations have yet to be announced. The deadline to make agenda change requests to the Board of Fisheries is Aug. 23. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Pinks peaking, but chum runs mostly dismal around state

Alaska’s salmon landings have passed the season’s midpoint and by Aug. 7 the statewide catch had topped 116 million fish. State managers are calling for a projected total 2021 harvest of 190 million salmon, a 61 percent increase versus 2020. Most of the salmon being caught now are pinks with Prince William Sound topping 35 million humpies, well better than the projection of 25 million. Pink salmon catches at Kodiak remained sluggish at just more than 3 million so far out of a forecast calling for more than 22 million. Southeast was seeing a slight uptick with pink catches nearing 14 million out of a projected 28 million. The pink salmon harvest usually peaks in mid-August and the statewide catch was more than 57 million out of a projected 124 million humpies for the season. For chum salmon the harvest remains bleak with Prince William Sound and the Alaska Peninsula the only regions tracking well for catches. The statewide catch had barely topped 6 million out of a projected 15.3 million fish. The coho peak is typically in early September and harvests are climbing steadily, but at a pace less than half the five-year average. Just less than 700,000 cohos had crossed the Alaska docks, or about 14 percent of the projected catch of 3.8 million silver salmon. Alaska sockeye salmon catches of nearly 52 million so far have blown past the forecasted 46.6 million. More than 40 million are from Bristol Bay and more than 6 million from the Alaska Peninsula. The statewide chinook harvest had reached 173,000, or 64 percent of an expected 269,000 kings. Salmon slump No Alaska region has been hit harder by dismal salmon returns this summer than communities on the Yukon River, where the summer chum run of just 153,000 is the lowest on record. “This is really quite scary for everyone. These runs are low enough that no one on the river is subsistence fishing, and so it’s very dismal. Everybody in the communities on the full river drainage, are feeling the hardship,” Serena Fitka, director of the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, told KYUK in Bethel. Nearly 10,000 pounds of chum and king salmon have been donated by Bristol Bay fishermen and processors with logistical assists by SeaShare and Kwik’pak Fisheries in Emmonak to send salmon to 11 villages. Kwik’pak, typically a top employer each summer, has been able to put only a handful of people to work for a few days helping with the distribution said General Manager Jack Schultheis. Gov. Mike Dunleavy also directed an additional $75,000 to purchase more salmon from Alaska processors for donations. The Tanana Chiefs Conference and the Association of Village Council Presidents are helping with distribution. More fish action As always, lots of other fisheries are going on across Alaska besides salmon. At Southeast, about 160 crabbers will wrap up a two-month Dungeness crab fishery on Aug. 15. State managers expect the catch to top 2.25 million pounds with another opener set for Oct. 1. A sablefish fishery opens in Northern districts on Aug. 15 for 73 shareholders with a catch of 1.13 million pounds. The Panhandle’s spot shrimp fishery remains open in some regions through Aug. 30 with a 400,000-pound harvest limit. At Prince William Sound, a sablefish fishery is ongoing through Aug. 30 with a 208,000-pound catch limit. Likewise, a lingcod fishery continues through year’s end with a 32,600-pound harvest. It’s been slow going for Prince William Sound’s shrimp fishery that opened in April and has been extended to Sept. 15. That catch limit is 70,000 pounds. Pot hauls for Kodiak’s Dungeness crab fishery were nearing 962,000 pounds by a fleet of 19 boats. Crabbers are dropping pots for nearly 6 million pounds of golden king crab along the Aleutian Islands. Alaska’s halibut landings are slightly ahead of last year at this time with nearly 9.9 million pounds crossing the docks by Aug. 7. That’s 53 percent of the roughly 19 million-pound catch limit. Halibut prices usually tank during the summer but that’s not the case this year and fishermen are fetching near or more than $6 per pound at most ports. Payouts at Homer were $7.25, $7.65 and $7.85 depending on halibut size, with Seward buyers paying a nickel less. Sablefish catches had topped 19 million pounds, or 44 percent, of the 43.4 million-pound quota. Homer also was paying the most for black cod with prices ranging from $1.10 for under two pounders to $6.25 for 7-ups with Sitka not far behind, according to the Fish Ticket by Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer. Fishing for scallops continued in regions from Yakutat to the Bering Sea where 345,000 pounds of shucked meats (the adductor muscle that keeps the shells closed) could be harvested this season. Fishing continued for cod, flatfish, pollock and more in the Bering Sea. Pollock fishing will reopen for Gulf of Alaska trawlers on Sept. 1. Mariculture means money Ninety new founding members responded to the call to help shape the new Alaska Mariculture Alliance, a private non-profit successor to a five-year task force formed in 2016 by former Gov. Bill Walker. Their goal is to create a sustainable industry for growing shellfish and seaweeds to benefit Alaska’s economy and communities. The group represents a diverse range of experienced growers to newcomers, said Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which administrated the task force and is doing the same for the AMA. It also includes reps from Alaska Native corporations, salmon hatcheries, the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association and the Aleutian Pribilofs Community Development Association. Along with boosting shellfish and seaweed farming, a priority will be getting the Alaska Legislature to pass a bill to allow for more large-scale shellfish enhancement that models the state’s successful salmon hatchery programs. “There’s been some efforts looking at restoring and enhancing king crab, geoduck clams, sea cucumbers and razor clams but they’re mostly at an experimental level. And they’re not allowed to do larger scale projects until a regulatory framework is put into place,” Decker explained. “We’re very close to getting the bill passed and we’re hoping that it will be one of the first bills taken back up and moved along over the finish line in the next session. Sen. (Gary) Stevens of Kodiak and Rep. (Dan) Ortiz of Ketchikan have been very helpful with that.” Policy makers are starting to talk more about the positive potential for Alaska mariculture, Decker said, and she believes “we have turned a corner” as proven by several new state and federal hires. NOAA Fisheries has hired Alicia Bishop as its first ever Aquaculture Coordinator for the Alaska Region along with Jordan Hollarsmith as research lead, both based in Juneau. And the University of Alaska/Fairbanks has hired seaweed research specialist Schery Amanzor as a professor at its College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences to provide even more expertise. The state also has added two positions to the Department of Natural Resources to review new mariculture lease applications to reduce the backlog. “They have now gone from an average review process of 572 days down to 274 days,” Decker said. There are 76 active aquatic farm and nursery permits in Alaska, plus 35 pending new applications that add up to over 1631.32 underwater acres. Only 28 growers are making sales so far. The ultimate goal of the AMA is to facilitate a $100 million mariculture industry by 2038 and many believe that’s very conservative due to increasing demand, especially for seaweeds. The North American market for commercial seaweed will exceed $9.5 billion by 2026 due to rising commercial seaweed consumption and demands in the pharmaceutical industry, while global revenue is projected to top $85 billion, predicts Global Market Insights Inc. Check out the new Alaska Mariculture Map launched in partnership with the Alaska Ocean Observing System, Axiom Data Science, APICDA Corp., The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Alaska Sea Grant and The Nature Conservancy/Alaska. Fish boosters The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is seeking members for its advisory committees to help develop global strategies for the Alaska seafood brand. Committees include Salmon, Halibut-Sablefish, Whitefish, and Shellfish, International Marketing, Domestic Marketing, Communications, Customer Advisory Panel and Seafood Technical. Deadline to apply is Sept. 24. Questions? Contact [email protected]/ Aug. 13 is the deadline to nominate small- and medium-sized seafood businesses to help shape a new National Seafood Council. Six to 8 seafood companies whose annual revenues are less than $20 million will be selected for cash scholarships based on their incomes. Apply at The call is still out for candidates for the state Board of Fisheries. The vacancy stems from the Alaska Legislature’s rejection on May 13 of Dunleavy’s appointment of Abe Williams, a regional affairs director for the Pebble Mine. According to Alaska statutes, Dunleavy was required to name a replacement within 30 days. Deputy Director of Communications Jeff Turner wrote in an email that, “The Governor is taking additional time to receive input from all stakeholders before making a selection” and that “he has committed to filling the seat before the next Board of Fish meeting in October.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Alaska crab shells displacing man-made chemicals

Most people are unaware that the yarns and fabrics that make up our carpets, clothing, car seats, mattresses, even mop heads, are coated with chemicals and metals such as copper, silver and aluminum that act as fire retardants, odor preventers, antifungals and anti-microbials. Now, crab shells from Alaska are providing the same safeguards in a bio-friendly way. The metals and chemicals are being replaced by all-natural Tidal-Tex liquid treatments derived from chitosan molecules found in the exoskeletons of crab shells. The bio-shift stems from a partnership between Leigh Fibers of South Carolina and Tidal Vision, the proprietary maker of the crab-based product that it began making in a 20-foot Conex van in Juneau six years ago. The company, which now operates near Seattle and has 22 full-time employees in three production facilities, expects to put up to 60 people to work within two years. In July, Tidal Vision opened its newest facility within Leigh Fibers’ headquarters, bringing its earth-friendly technology into the heart of the U.S. textile industry. Leigh Fibers is one of North America’s largest textile waste and byproduct reprocessing businesses that dates back to 1866 and now services 25 countries. “Partnering with Tidal Vision is a win-win for our company, our customers, and the environment,” said Eric Westgate, senior vice president. “Their Tidal-Tex product line delivers the key benefits that our customers look for in textiles at a lower price and is made from sustainable materials in the USA. At Leigh Fibers, we’re committed to advancing sustainable innovation and repurposing textiles for a cleaner, healthier planet.” “Having a partnership with Leigh Fibers was really strategically advantageous for us because they produce the fibers that then get turned into yarns that then get turned into all sorts of woven or non-woven textiles for everything from the automobile industry to the carpet industry to the acoustic sound insulation industry to the mop head industry to the furniture industry. They are at the top of the supply chain and treating those fibers was the easiest way to have the biggest impact in the textile industry,” said Tidal Vision CEO Craig Kasberg. Most of the raw product comes from snow crab and red king crab delivered to St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea where they are processed into frozen leg clusters. The shells are transported to the mainland where they are put through Tidal Vision’s zero waste, proprietary extraction process that produces chitosan in a flake form and is then made into the ready to use, liquid Tidal-Tex product. Kasberg said it provides the same fabric protections as the manmade agents at far less cost. “Our costs are minimal. They’re basically just tied to the logistics and some of the freezer storage costs but it’s nearly a free input material,” he said. All crustaceans have chitosan, a polysaccharide that is the second-most abundant organic compound in the world next to cellulose. Because of its unique molecular makeup, Kasberg calls it a “turnkey chemistry solution” to displace often toxic synthetic methods. “All these heavy metals need to be mined and refined, and then modified into these metal-based chemicals. Whereas we’re taking an abundant and even problematic byproduct from the seafood industry and with a really low cost extraction method, producing a biochemistry solution that can provide the same properties in these industries. Our inputs are tied to a byproduct,” Kasberg said. Tidal Vision has tested a lot of crustacean “inputs,” Kasberg said, but Alaska crab shells pack the best chitosan punch. “The starting molecular weight of the chitosan is higher,” he said. Tidal Vision hopes to build more partnerships and expand to other countries within the next few years. The company also features a line of other chitosan-based products including water clarifiers and a game animal spray that prevents spoilage and keeps insects away. “Our goal as a company is to create positive and systemic environmental impacts with our chitosan technologies,” Kasberg said. “We’re still on the ground floor of Tidal Vision’s potential today.” Seafood scholarships Scholarships are being offered to small- and medium-sized seafood businesses to help shape and launch a new National Seafood Council. Its mission is straightforward: to provide a unified voice for the industry to encourage Americans to eat more seafood. A task force was formed in April 2021 led by the Seafood Nutrition Partnership to get things underway. “Some of the tasks include designing the governance of the National Seafood Council and the makeup and responsibilities of the board members. We want to make sure that the task force is representative of size of companies, gender, geography around the U.S. and points all along the supply chain,” said Linda Cornish, SNP president. Nominations are wanted from 6 to 8 seafood-related companies whose annual revenue is less than $20 million. The scholarships, backed by the Walton Family Foundation, will be based on those revenues multiplied by 0.00025. A National Seafood Council was created in 1987 as part of a Fish and Seafood Promotion Act but fizzled after five years. In May 2021 a group of over 60 U.S. fishing companies, groups and medical professionals asked Congress to provide $25 million in seed money to revive the group to develop a national seafood marketing and education program. The seafood council would eventually become industry funded, similar to other food industries. “Seafood is probably one of the healthiest foods that people can eat and there’s just not enough funding to get that message out,” Cornish said. “The milk industry has about $300 million a year to market their product, pork about $70 million a year, avocados about $50 million. Seafood doesn’t have that. “So for us to tell our story to the consumers in a more cohesive and unified way, we need some help to get this council started, and provide that resource to have a marketing campaign to do the same as other food groups have.” Cornish said the idea has been well received in Congress. “Right now we’re looking for some champions in Congress to spearhead that request on this group’s behalf,” she added. “There’s a lot of priorities being discussed on Capitol Hill and we need to make sure that the needs of this National Seafood Council are heard by Congress.” Americans overwhelmingly turned to seafood during the COVID-19 pandemic and Cornish said the time is right to advance the health message. “We’re still fighting this COVID-19 pandemic and seafood supports immune health and also is great for brain development and heart health,” she said. “I think the industry is ready to work together in a more collaborative way to get this unified message out to the consumers. And I really think we have the right window of time to do so.” Eating seafood also tops the list in new U.S. dietary recommendations that Americans eat two servings per week, starting with kids at six months. Deadline to apply for a task force scholarship is Aug. 13. Find links at Bristol Bay breaks it! The reds are still rolling in at Bristol Bay where a run topping 64 million has officially broken the record for all time sockeye returns since 1893. The previous record was set in 2018 at 62.9 million fish. “Large numbers can be hard to comprehend, so consider this,” wrote Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which is funded and operated by driftnet fishermen. “If lined up nose-to-tail, this year’s Bristol Bay sockeye run would stretch on for roughly 20,000 miles, enough to encircle all the Lower 48 states… twice!” It’s natural abundance on a truly epic scale, Wink added: “It’s important to highlight just how special the Bristol Bay salmon resource is. These records aren’t being set while overfishing. All escapement goals were met to propagate strong future runs. Despite all the bad news about environmental degradation and destruction, Bristol Bay is a shining example that healthy eco-systems can and still do still exist. It’s really an ecological treasure. We ask that state and federal government protect Bristol Bay salmon and the natural habitats that allow it to thrive.” Processors have increased the base price at Bristol Bay to $1.25 per pound. At an average fish weight of 4.5 pounds and a catch so far at nearly 39.5 million fish, back of the envelope calculations put the value of the sockeye haul to fishermen so far at more than $222 million. Bristol Bay sockeye currently represents 82 percen tof the statewide sockeye landings of nearly 49 million and 56 percent of all salmon harvested so far across Alaska (80.4 million). “The boats aren’t even dry yet and interest in Bristol Bay drift permits is beginning to trickle in. Permits are popping up for sale, with preliminary asking prices between $200,000 and $240,000,” said the Fish Ticket report by Alaska Boats &Permits in Homer. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon prices up across state, but fish are smaller

Early prices to Alaska salmon fishermen are trickling in and as anticipated, they are up across the board. That will give a nice boost to the economic base of both fishing communities and the state from fish taxes, fees and other assessments. About one-third (62 million) of Alaska’s projected catch of 190 million salmon had crossed the docks by July 16 at the halfway point of the fishing season. Prices paid to fishermen vary based on buyers, gear types and regions, and bonuses and post season pay adjustments won’t be finalized until early next year. Here’s an early snapshot of average base prices from major processors at this point in the season: At Bristol Bay, the price to fishermen was boosted to $1.25 by OBI Seafoods, topping the $1.10 Peter Pan posted in June before the start of the fishery, and up from 70 cents last year. Kodiak fishermen were getting $1.45 to $1.50 for sockeyes and $1.75 at Southeast. That compares to a statewide average of just 76 cents per pound for sockeye salmon last year. A 2021 catch of 46.6 million sockeyes is expected for Alaska; the total so far has topped 44 million. Pink salmon were averaging $0.35 cents a pound for fishermen. An Alaska harvest of 124.2 million pinks is expected this summer, nearly 49 percent higher than last year. The statewide pink salmon price in 2020 averaged 30 cents per pound. Chums were averaging 50 cents per pound for Kodiak fishermen, twice last year’s price, and 85 cents at Southeast Alaska, compared to 45 cents last year. The average chum price in 2020 was 43 cents per pound. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, troll-caught kings at Southeast were averaging $6.73 per pound, compared to a statewide average of $5.07 last year. With average weights at 11 pounds, each chinook was again worth more than one barrel of Alaska crude oil. ($74.03 vs. $73.48 as of July 16). Coho salmon catches will begin adding up in August but troll caught silvers at Southeast were paying fishermen a whopping $2.50 per pound for all sizes. That compares to $1.74 at the Panhandle last year and a statewide average for silvers at $1.17. Smaller sockeyes The run of sockeye salmon returning home to Bristol Bay could set a record at 66 million fish. The Bay-wide catch has topped 36 million, but the reds are smaller than in past years. The average size this summer is 4.5 pounds compared to 5.1 pounds last year, said Dan Lesh with McKinley Research Group. Still, the sockeyes are heading into an eager market. “Supply is low and there is strong demand for premium seafoods across the board,” he said. “People have more money and spending at foodservice is at pre-pandemic levels.” It’s “so far, so good” as far as putting a smaller fish on the plate, Lesh said, adding that it could mean adjustments for various salmon products. Bristol Bay reds aren’t the only ones shrinking. Chinook size has declined the most at 8 percent; 3.3 percent in cohos, 2.4 percent in chum salmon; and a 2.1 percent shrinkage in sockeyes overall. That’s based on 60 years of measurements from 12.5 million Alaska salmon, excluding pinks, by Nature Communications that compared average body lengths before 1990 and after 2010. Sleeping at sea, or not Finding time to sleep is one of the biggest challenges during a fishing trip, especially during limited openers. The pressure to bait and pull pots or lines and handle nets can be unrelenting. “The less you sleep, the more money you make in some sense. That’s a really hard thing to overcome. Because everybody wants to make more money,” said Jerry Dzugan, director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association at Sitka. Sleep deprivation leads to more accidents and worsens physical performance, he told KDLL in Kenai “The military alone has done volumes on this because of performance of personnel in the military. But not much has been done in the commercial fishing industry. And I think that’s the big thing,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve had one person tell me it’s not a problem.” AMSEA has partnered with national organizations for a two year project with 200 randomly selected fishermen in Alaska, Oregon and the Northeast. The group will track and hear fishermen’s concerns about their sleep patterns and possible effects on their safety and health. Funding comes from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. NIOSH spokesperson Julie Sorensen told National Fisherman that fishermen have said they wonder how sleep deprivation will impact their cognitive ability as they get older. Many are curious about energy drinks, naps, diet, and other sleep disrupters. Find links to the project called “Assessments of Sleep Deprivation and Associated Health and Cognitive Impacts in Commercial Fishermen” at Expo is back! Pacific Marine Expo is back in person after Covid forced it to cancel last year. Now in its 55th year, the trade show is set for Nov. 18-20 at the Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle. Expo is on track to host about 500 vendors and the timing will attract even more visitors, said Bob Callahan, vice president of Diversified Communications Group and Expo director. “What’s in our favor this year is whenever the show dates are just prior to Thanksgiving, it’s usually one of our most productive shows and our exhibitors are very happy about it,” he said. “The dates are a jumping off point for our Alaskan attendees that are traveling for Thanksgiving,” he added. “They spend a few days at the show, and then they either stay in Seattle, or they travel throughout the country to visit family for the holiday weekend.” “Having a face to face event, I think, is coming out stronger after COVID, than people perceived before,” he added. This year’s Expo has another good lure. “This year is a bonus because the Seahawks play on Sunday, the day after the show closes,” Callahan said. “They play the Cardinals. So we’ll be giving out Seahawks tickets over the three days.” See more at Fish bit Halibut prices paid out at $7.25/$7.65/$7.85 to fishermen at Homer in mid-July and $7.05/$7.30/$7.55 at Seward, posted the Fish Ticket. At the grocery store U.S. fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable seafood sales reached $585 million in June 2021. That was a 5.3 percent drop from 2020, but sales surged nearly 44 percent this June compared to 2019, reported SeafoodSource. For the first six months of 2021, fresh and frozen seafood posted a mid-year increase versus 2020, “with increases in household penetration, trips and spend per trip,” 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink said. Ambient (shelf-stable) seafood sales, meanwhile, have declined over the past six months. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: ‘Unprecedented’ catches at Bay; Yukon chums a no-show

“Unprecedented” is how fishery managers are describing sockeye catches at Bristol Bay, which topped 1 million fish for seven days straight at the Nushagak District last week and neared the 2 million-mark on several days. By July 9, Alaska’s statewide sockeye salmon catch was approaching 32 million, of which more than 25 million came from Bristol Bay. The only other region getting good sockeye catches was the Alaska Peninsula where nearly 4.6 million reds were landed so far. The Alaska Peninsula also was far ahead of all other regions for pink salmon catches with over 3.3 million taken out of a total statewide tally of just over 5.4 million so far. Pink salmon run in distinct two-year cycles with odd years being stronger, and the preseason forecast calls for a total Alaska harvest of 124.2 million pinks this summer. The timing for peak pink harvests is still several weeks away; likewise for chums, and most cohos will arrive in mid-August. Alaska salmon managers are projecting the 2021 statewide salmon catch to top 190 million fish, a 61 percent increase versus last year’s take of about 118 million salmon. By July 9, the statewide catch for all species had topped 41 million fish. There’s still lots of fishing left to go and so far, the most sluggish catches were coming out of Southeast where only 258,000 salmon were landed by last week. On the Yukon River, summer chum salmon returns are the lowest on record and state managers will request a disaster declaration for the second year in a row. Norton Sound primes for pinks Chums also are a bust at Norton Sound where the runs have dropped to less than 5 percent of what is typical each summer. “Right now, we don’t see any chum salmon openings. Something happened in the ocean that really knocked them down for this stretch,” said Jim Menard, regional manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Nome. Menard told KNOM that low chum runs have been occurring throughout Western Alaska in general, and it could be a side effect of the high numbers of pink salmon that have been surging into the region. “Five years running we’ve had incredible pink salmon runs. And the even-numbered year pink runs in Norton Sound are a lot bigger than the odd-numbered years,” Menard said, adding that pink returns to the region’s rivers have skyrocketed to well more than 10 million fish. The shift in fish means a small fleet of Norton Sound purse seiners will test the waters for a new pink salmon fishery this summer. It will be a first experiment for seine gear fishing for humpies so far North, and Icicle Seafoods is lined up to buy all the pinks that the local boats pull in. “If it’s possible to target pinks without adversely affecting the important subsistence and gillnet fleets, this pink salmon fishery warrants pursuing,” Menard said. As far as the appearance of so many pinks, fish managers say it’s all about the food. “They’re definitely the colonizers, for sure,” said Sam Rabung, director of the Commercial Fisheries Division at ADFG. “I’ve had calls from people on the North Slope asking about fisheries because pink salmon are showing up there. I don’t know that they’re going to persist because it still freezes down up there, and so the eggs that are deposited in those rivers won’t generally survive. But they’re trying.” As ocean waters warm, Rabung said it changes the makeup of the plankton the pinks feed upon and the fish are following their healthier food sources northward. “As the warmer water moves north, the warm water copepods, which are one of the main foods for salmon, move north with it. The cold water copepods have a high lipid, high fat content, so they’re very energy dense and have a lot of bang for the buck for eating on them,” he explained. Warm water plankton don’t. And because salmon are a cold water species, he said warm waters also boost their metabolism, meaning they need more food to grow. Rabung pointed to the 2018 Gulf of Alaska cod collapse that science has linked with a preceding multi-year, warm water “blob.” The resulting food imbalance wiped out two cod year classes, and water temperatures that topped 60 degrees permeated to the ocean bottom and prevented cod eggs from hatching. A changing ocean brings big challenges, he said, and paying attention to the impacts on fish can help managers better react. “That’s a tough ship to turn around and it’s probably not going to reverse course in my career,” he said. “But what we can do is understand what the changes are and know what’s happening with the stocks and try to not exacerbate any negative effects by not being responsive in our management.” In other fisheries: Catches for Dungeness crab in Southeast Alaska were going slow so far for 163 boats, but prices of $4.20 per pound are more than double last year’s. The crab fishery will run through mid-August and reopen in October. Kodiak crabbers were getting $4.25 for their Dungeness, also more than double. Norton Sound opened for king crab on June 15 with a 290,000-pound catch limit. Concerns over the depleted stock resulted in no buyers and only one participant who is selling crab locally. Prince William Sound’s pot shrimp fishery remains open until mid-September with a catch limit of 70,000 pounds. A lingcod fishery opened in the Sound on July 1 for a catch of nearly 33,000 pounds. Lingcod also opened at Cook Inlet with a 52,500 pound catch limit. The Inlet also opened July 1 for rockfish with a 150,000-pound harvest. Cook Inlet also has a harvest for kelp washed up on beaches set at 86,000 pounds. A scallop fishery opened on July 1 from Yakutat to the Bering Sea with a harvest of 345,000 pounds of shucked meats. Alaska’s halibut catch was nearing 7.8 million pounds out of a nearly 19 million-pound catch limit. Continuing demand for fresh fish has kept prices well over $5.75 a pound at most ports, reaching $7.50 across the board at Homer. Prices for sablefish (black cod) also were on the rise in five weight categories. The weekly Fish Ticket by Alaska Boats &Permits showed prices ranging from $1.10 for two-pounders to $6.25 per pound for 7-ups. Sablefish catches were approaching 27 million pounds out of a 43.4 million pound quota. Fishing for pollock, cod, flounders and other groundfish also continues throughout the Gulf and Bering Sea. Harbor views Alaska has 90 ports along its rivers and marine waterways from tiny to huge, according to the World Port Source. Thousands of fishermen and other mariners rely on ports and harbors to help maintain their livelihoods; but how do they feel about their care and maintenance? A new project aims to find out. “It’s gauging how clean people think the harbors are, why they are that way and how we can make them cleaner,” said Tav Ammu, an Alaska Sea Grant Fellow who also skippers a boat at Bristol Bay. Ammu has created a project to survey fishermen’s perceptions on pollution and waste during his down time at the docks this summer in Dillingham. He will repeat the survey at Ninilchik on the Kenai Peninsula in the fall. Ammu told KDLG he became interested in water quality and conservation while serving in the Navy. “I did not feel there was enough attention towards cleanliness and sustainability and conservation. So, I got a master’s degree in marine systems and policies with the hope to bridge the gap between me who fishes and science or policy makers,” he said. Ammu’s goal is to get baseline data on how people in the fishing community perceive harbor cleanliness and water quality, turn the survey results into a report and share it at the Alaska Harbor Master Forum in Anchorage in October. Expo call After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pacific Marine Expo will be back in Seattle on Nov. 18-20 at the Lumen Field Event Center. The call is out for speakers on topics relevant to mariners. Deadline for submissions is July 16. Visit for more information. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: New app aims to track real time marine observations

Fishermen are the ears and eyes of the marine ecosystem as a changing climate throws our oceans off kilter. Now a new phone app is making sure their real life, real time observations are included in scientific data. The new Skipper Science smartphone app, released on June 18, comes from the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea as a way “to elevate the thousands of informal-yet-meaningful environmental observations by fishermen and others into hard numbers for Alaska’s science-based management,” said Lauren Divine, Director of Ecosystem Conservation for St. Paul’s Tribal government, whose team created and owns the dataset for the app. “How do we take what has historically been called anecdotal and create some structure around it that is rigorous and has scientific repeatability?” Divine said to KCAW in Sitka. “There is a vast body of deep knowledge that fishermen hold from their experience on the water, indigenous and non-indigenous alike, that they use for decision making and risk evaluation and to execute a likelihood on the water. And we have very much underutilized that knowledge for years, especially here in the North Pacific,” she added in a phone interview. The free app, which works on or off the internet, is an offshoot of an Indigenous Sentinels Network started 16 years ago at St. Paul Island to monitor wildlife and the environment in the Bering Sea. To broaden its reach, St. Paul partnered with advocacy group SalmonState’s Salmon Habitat Information Program, or SHIP. Through its surveys and other outreach SHIP quantifies what’s regarded by scientists as fishermen’s “informal observations” and shares the information with managers and decision makers. Troller Eric Jordan of Sitka, who has been out on the Southeast waters for 71 years, agrees the grounds truth should be in the database. “We have perspectives that go back decades as persons that are dependent on reading correctly what’s going on. We are tuned in to the utmost degree. We know which bird is feeding on what fish, the water temperature, the depth, the bottom structure, all those things,” he said about the SkipperScience community. “And we’re trying to project into the future quicker than almost anybody else. We know stuff that is helpful to everybody as they’re trying to understand the changes, because we’re not just there to understand, we’re there to adapt.” Call for fish board seat The call is out for nominees to fill one seat on the state Board of Fisheries. The opening stems from the Alaska Legislature on May 13 giving a thumbs down to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointment of Abe Williams, a regional affairs director for the Pebble Limited Partnership. Nearly 1,000 Alaskans spoke out against Williams’ appointment. According to Alaska statutes, Dunleavy was required to name a replacement within 30 days. “The governor is taking additional time to receive input from all stakeholders before making a selection,” Deputy Director of Communications Jeff Turner wrote in an email, adding that “he has committed to filling the seat before the next Board of Fish meeting in October.” United Fishermen of Alaska said that Dunleavy “is open to considering applicants from all across Alaska.” By March 2021, the board was scheduled to have finished up 275 proposals for Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound and statewide shellfish fisheries. But the normal meeting cycle was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting in October of 2021 it will hold a two-day work session followed by meetings for those other regional fisheries in November through March of next year. Then in October 2022, the board will turn its attention to Bristol Bay and Chignik, the Bering Sea, Arctic-Yukon- Kuskokwim and Alaska Peninsula regions. “The governor’s nominee will serve on the board in the interim until the legislature, in joint session, makes a decision,” said board director Glenn Haight. The board regulates commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fisheries in Alaska state waters, meaning out to three miles. Currently, only one of the seven board seats is held by a person from a coastal region: John Jensen of Petersburg. Alaska seafood love A new national survey revealed that 26 percent of U.S. consumers said they purchased seafood for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly half plan to increase their intake and nearly 74 percent plan to continue cooking seafood at home. That’s according to a 2021 Power of Seafood report by Dataessential which tracks national market trends. The report was compiled for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Seafood saw unprecedented growth in grocery sales at nearly 30 percent at the height of the pandemic, far exceeding all other food categories. The top reasons? It’s healthier than red meat and people said they prefer the taste. Topping the seafood list of favorites was salmon and by a 5-to-1 margin, responders said they prefer wild over farmed. Having less harmful additives was a top reason they prefer wild-caught seafood. More than 60 percent said they want to know where their seafood comes from and that it is sustainably sourced. More than 70 percent of 1,000 responders said they are more likely to buy seafood when they see the Alaska logo, and they are willing to pay more for it. That holds true in Japan where another ASMI survey of 1,000 seafood eaters showed that nearly 80 percent said they were more inclined to buy products bearing the Alaska brand. The responders said their favorite things about Alaska seafood were (translated from Japanese) wild deliciousness (63 percent), great nature (49 percent), clean ocean (45 percent) and freshly frozen (44 percent). “We had to adjust our strategy and tactics in all of our markets which were hit hard by the pandemic and required new data to guide our efforts,” said ASMI Senior Director of Global Marketing and Strategy Hannah Lindoff. Fish gets gutted Meanwhile, in the ongoing state budget battle, Dunleavy vetoed $3 million in federal CARES funding for ASMI that he gushed over on June 25. “Alaska’s seafood industry is a strong pillar of our economy and my administration is committed to supporting ASMI’s urgent and substantial need following unplanned industry-wide COVID-19 costs,” Dunleavy said on his website. “No one does seafood like the Last Frontier with its world-class stocks of fresh, nutritious, and wild protein. Our fleets have weathered the storm of COVID, now it’s time to keep delivering a piece of Alaska on a dish around the globe,” the governor added. ASMI is a partnership between the state and the Alaskan seafood industry and is funded by a tax on processors and some federal dollars. It receives no state funding. The $3 million was part of a $50 million Alaska portion for seafood-related relief in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March 2020 by Congress. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Crab prices explode along with rising demand

Crab has been one of the hottest commodities since the COVID-19 pandemic forced people in 2020 to buy and cook seafood at home, and demand is even higher this year. Crab is now perceived as being more affordable when compared to the cost to enjoy it at restaurants, said global seafood supplier Tradex, and prices continue to soar. That’s how it’s playing out for Dungeness crab at Kodiak and hopefully, at Southeast Alaska where the summer fishery got underway on June 15. Kodiak’s fishery opened on May 1 and 76,499 pounds have been landed so far by just eight boats, compared to 29 last year. The Kodiak price this season was reported as high as $4.25 per pound for the crab that weigh just more than two pounds on average. That compares to a 2020 price of $1.85 for a catch of nearly 3 million pounds, the highest in 30 years, with a fishery value of nearly $5.3 million. The pulls are skimpy though, averaging just two crab per pot. Kodiak’s Dungeness stocks are very cyclical and the fishery could be tapping out the tail end of a peak. Managers say this summer should tell the tale. Southeast’s summer Dungeness could see 190 or more permit holders on the grounds. Crabbers won’t know until June 29 how much they can pull up for the two-month fishery after managers assess catch and effort information. The fishery, which occurs primarily around Petersburg and Wrangell, will reopen again in October. Last season’s combined summer and fall fisheries produced nearly 6.7 million pounds at the Panhandle, just shy of the Dungeness record of 7.3 million pounds set in 2002 and more than double the 10-year average. Southeast crabbers averaged just $1.72 per pound last season, down by more than a dollar for a 2020 fishery value of $11.5 million. Elsewhere, California crabbers fetched record prices for their Dungeness crab in a fishery that saw low landings and a shortened season that ran from January 11 through early May. The fleet of 359 crabbers fetched a record $6.02 per pound for a catch of just 3.6 million pounds, down 10 million pounds from the previous year. The value of this year’s California fishery was $18.7 million, down from nearly $46 million in 2020. At Las Vegas, a major crab market for the hotel and casino industries, television station KTNV said that Dungeness and snow crab legs have gone up between 17 percent and 33 percent in the past three months, reported Undercurrent News. Alaska king crab legs have climbed 90 percent, said John Smolen, owner of the Crab Corner Maryland Seafood House in Las Vegas “We used to sell our Alaskan king crab legs for $34.99 a pound and we’re currently selling them for $59.99 a pound, which is still a very tight margin,” Smolen said, adding that he believes the rise is the result of the pandemic depleting wholesale inventories. “Until we can get our production way back up ahead of our usage and build up a reserve supply, I don’t see the prices changing anytime soon,” Smolen said. Crab market expert Les Hodges added that “in order to maintain their gains, retailers must compete with the rapid opening of the food service sector in addition to a strong international demand for a resource that is limited in supply. Prices have been driven to all-time highs with more increases coming in the future for crab.” Scallops are coming One of Alaska’s smallest and priciest fisheries gets underway on July 1: weathervane scallops. The fleet size is limited by federal licensing to 9 permits, but just two boats take part in the fishery that spans from Yakutat to the Bering Sea and can run through February. “It’s pretty specialized and it’s not something you can get into easily,” said Nat Nichols, area shellfish manager at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak. “It takes a fair bit of institutional knowledge and also specialized gear. Lots of people have some Tanner crab pots lying around in their back yards, but not many have a 15-foot New Bedford scallop dredge.” The scallop fishery also is very labor intensive as it includes catching and processing. “It takes a lot of manpower, with crews of 12 people that are shucking by hand. Every Alaska scallop you’ve ever seen was shucked by hand,” Nichols said. This year the two boats will compete for a slightly increased catch of 345,000 pounds of shucked meats, which are the adductor muscle that keeps the shells closed. Scallops are a wildly popular delicacy and can pay fishermen more than $10 per pound, depending on size and grade. Weathervane scallops are the largest in the world and it takes them about five years to reach a marketable shell size of about five inches. Some can measure 10 inches across! The boats drop big dredges comprising four-inch rings to keep out smaller sizes. They make tows along mostly sandy bottoms of strictly defined fishing regions. The fishery is co-managed with the federal government and has 100 percent observer coverage. The total first wholesale revenue for Alaska scallops last season was estimated at nearly $2.36 million meaning an average crew share of $41,274. That pales in comparison to the Atlantic sea scallop fishery, the world’s largest and most valuable. In 2019, landings at ports in primarily Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey totaled over 60.6 million pounds of shucked meats valued at nearly $570 million. This year’s Atlantic harvest is projected to decrease to around 40 million pounds. Prices for the largest sizes (U10s and U12s, meaning the number of meats that make up one pound) topped $30 per pound at recent New Bedford auctions, according to National Fisherman. Salmon helps healthy hearts A global study concludes that there are some big differences between eating farmed salmon and wild, and the way it’s prepared really matters. The Journal of the American Medical Association pooled data from four international studies of nearly 200,000 people to make the connection between eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and the risk of getting and dying from heart disease. For those with a bad heart, JAMA concluded that eating two to four, 4-ounce servings of salmon per week reduces the risk of dying by a whopping 36 percent. The researchers touted salmon as delivering some of the highest doses of omega-3’s along with protein, selenium, B12 and vitamin D. And they noted some big differences between farmed and wild salmon. A wild salmon fillet has 131 fewer calories and half the fat as the same amount of farmed fish. While farmed salmon can have slightly more omega-3s, they also have 20 percent more saturated fat. The JAMA study also referred to the wide use of antibiotics in most farmed fish growing operations, citing higher levels of “persistent organic pollutants” that are resistant to biodegrading. Levels of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, for example, are five to 10 times higher in farmed salmon than in wild fish. The adverse effects of PCBs were so widespread the chemical was banned in the U.S. in 1979, but most farmed fish comes into the U.S. from other countries that don’t have the same restrictions. How the fish is cooked also really matters. The JAMA study said a weekly diet of fried fish increases heart attack risk by 17 percent as it cancels out the healthy fat benefits of the fish. It’s more proof that you are what you eat. Seafood votes Weathervane scallops, king salmon, pollock and king crab are the four seafood favorites selected in a mock election that the state Division of Elections is using to give Alaskans a chance to practice the new ranked-choice voting method next year. Voters next November will get one ballot and rank several candidates for a given office by their preference; the top four will advance and the one getting the majority of votes will win. To test the new system from June 1 to 15, nearly 4,000 Alaskans voted from a selection of 18 seafood choices to determine the top four favorites. The winner will be chosen in the final seafood election on June 30. And just as in the national elections, the seafood election faced allegations of vote tampering. Read a great write up of the attempted seafood skewering by Liz Ruskin of Alaska Public media called “Nice try, pollock: How Alaska’s most prolific fish almost won the state’s ranked choice mock election.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: New non-profit takes over for mariculture task force

Alaskans who are engaged in or interested in mariculture are invited to become founding members in a new group that will advance the growing industry across the state. The newly formed Alaska Mariculture Alliance is a private non-profit successor to a five-year task force formed in 2016 by former Gov. Bill Walker and re-authorized in 2018 by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The task force will sunset on June 30. “One of the priority recommendations was to create a long term entity that would coordinate and support development of a robust and sustainable mariculture industry to produce shellfish and aquatic plants for the long-term benefit of Alaska’s economy, environment and communities,” said Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which administrated the task force and will do so for the AMA. Decker clarified that Alaska mariculture encompasses farming of shellfish and aquatic plants and also includes enhancement and restoration projects. There are 76 active aquatic farm and nursery permits in Alaska that when combined with 35 pending new applications, comprise 1631.3 acres, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Some growers also are interested in sea cucumbers, geoduck clams and abalone. Twenty-eight growers are making sales so far, which in 2020 dropped to $1.08 million, down from $1.5 million, with Pacific oysters making up about 80 percent of the value. Sales of ribbon and sugar kelp doubled, topping 230,000 pounds valued at nearly $200,000, a nice jump from $60,000 in 2019. “Seaweed is a newer industry even for the U.S. so there’s still a lot to learn,” Decker said. “One of the big challenges is we really need people and companies to jump into seaweed processing. That’s the real bottleneck right now; for the number of people who are interested in farming we need more companies doing the processing.” Besides its wide usage in foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fertilizers and industrial products, seaweeds also benefit the planet, said Sam Rabung, director of ADFG’s Commercial Fisheries Division, who has more than 35 years of experience in mariculture. “We’re dealing with ocean acidification and one of the main things that drives seaweed or kelp growth is extracting carbon from the water. It can have what they call a halo effect with lower acidic levels in areas that have high levels of seaweed growth. That benefits everything,” he said. The newly forming Alliance has a good foundation, Decker added, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. “It’s exciting to be in on the ground floor of something new. It can also be frustrating because there’s no written book and in some cases, we’re learning as we go. But we have our eyes wide open and it’s an exciting time for Alaska mariculture. So, if you care about this and want to have an impact, it’s important to get a seat at the table” she said. Ultimately, the goal is to grow a $100 million industry by 2038. Decker said some believe that value is conservative due to increasing demand for shellfish and sea plants. “It’s a matter of putting the pieces in place and everybody rowing in the same direction. That means the state administration, the legislature, the industry and even the public. You must have public support for being able to use public lands on public waters. And so far, we have that for the most part,” Decker said. Alaska shellfish/seaweed harvesters, processors, nursery or hatchery operators, tribes, community development groups, researchers and cities/boroughs are invited to become full founding AMA members at $75. The dues for associate members, including businesses or non-profits, is $50. Applications are due by June 23. Send to [email protected] or Alaska Mariculture Task Force, P.O. Box 2223, Wrangell, AK 99929. Ranking seafood instructs voting Alaskans opted in 2020 for ranked-choice voting as the way to elect candidates starting next year. Voters will get one ballot and rank several candidates for a given office by their preference; the one getting the majority of votes wins. State election officials are using Alaska seafood to test out the new voting method in a mock online primary. Voters can select from 18 choices; so far, Alaska pollock, scallops, king crab and halibut are leading the pack. “At the close of polls at 5 p.m. on June 15, we will tally the top four, and then we will create a general ranked-choice voting election,” Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai told Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin. As in a real election, if no seafood wins a majority of votes in round one, the last place finisher is eliminated and those votes are given to the remaining three until one seafood favorite gets a majority. “People will be able to see how that works, what the ballot is going to look like, and familiarize themselves with what to expect when they go to the polls And they’ll be able to see how the various rounds of tabulation work,” Fenumiai said. Although the seafood mock election is online, voters in next August’s primary will cast ballots in normal ways: in person, or absentee by mail or fax. “In the primary, you’re still going to get one ballot, there will no longer be multiple ballots to pick from, and you will still be selecting one choice for each race that appears on your ballot,” she explained. Salmon slump Salmon catches throughout the North Pacific dropped last year to the lowest levels in nearly four decades. That’s according to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, which each year tracks salmon abundances and catches as reported by its five member countries: Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the U.S. The Commission also coordinates research and enforcement. Based on 2020 commercial catches, Pacific salmon abundance at 322.5 million fish was the lowest since 1982 and compares to a total take that topped 563 million fish in 2019, and 651 million salmon in 2018. Russia took 48 percent of the salmon catch last year, followed by the U.S. at 41 percent with all but about 5,000 tons of that coming from Alaska. Just 10 percent of the 2020 salmon catch was taken by Japan followed by Canada at 1 percent and less by Korea. Pink salmon comprised 46 percent of the five nations’ catches by weight, followed by chums at 27 percent and sockeye salmon at 23 percent. Cohos comprised 3 percent of the harvest, with Chinook salmon at less than 1 percent. The total 2020 North American salmon catch of nearly 556 million pounds was the lowest since 1977. The sockeye catch of just over 236 million pounds compares to a five-year average of 294 million pounds. For chums, a catch of 67.3 million pounds was a drop from nearly 223 million pounds taken in 2017. The total combined salmon catch for Washington, Oregon, and California of 9.9 million pounds in 2020 was the lowest in the Commission’s data base. For salmon that got their start in hatcheries, total releases by the five nations at about 5 billion fish have been stable since 1993. The U.S. led with 39 percent of total releases; 31 percent were from Japan, followed by Russia at 25 percent, 4 percent from Canada and less than 1 percent were released from Korea. Of the combined hatchery releases 65 percent were chum salmon and 25 percent were pinks, followed by Chinook and sockeye releases at 4 percent. Eat more fish! Americans are eating more seafood and it’s a trend that shows no sign of slowing. The latest data compiled by the National Fisheries Institute from the “Fisheries of the United States” report shows that Americans ate 19.2 pounds of seafood on average in 2019, an increase of two-tenths of a pound over 2018. Shrimp remained as the top favorite with Americans eating 4.7 pounds per capita. Salmon held on to the second spot at 3.1 pounds, up more than a half-pound. Canned tuna ranked number 3, with Alaska pollock and tilapia in the top five. Rounding out the top 10 were cod, catfish, crab, Pangasius and clams. The numbers will certainly be much higher when seafood consumption in 2020 is measured, as Americans opted for fish and shellfish in droves during the Covid pandemic due to its proven health benefits. And where in the world do they eat the most seafood? At the Maldives in the Indian Ocean where people consumed nearly 366 pounds per capita. The landlocked countries of Afghanistan and Tajikistan each showed the least seafood consumption at well below a quarter of a pound. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon buyers eager to replenish depleted inventories

Eager buyers are awaiting Alaska salmon from fisheries that are opening almost daily across the state and it’s easy to track catches and market trends for every region. Fishery managers forecast a statewide catch topping 190 million salmon this year, or 61 percent higher than the 2020 take of just over 118 million. But globally, the supply of wild salmon is expected to be down amid increased demand. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Run Forecasts and Harvest Projections for 2021 Alaska Salmon Fisheries and Review of the 2020 Season, provides breakdowns for all species by region. And salmon catches are updated daily at ADFG’s Blue Sheet, found at its commercial fisheries web page. They also post weekly summaries of harvests broken out by every region along with comparisons to past years. Predictions for the 2021 mix of fish call for a catch of 269,000 chinook salmon, up slightly from 2020, but 25 percent below the 10-year average. The projected sockeye harvest of 46.6 million will help replenish low inventories that saw strong export prices in early 2021 and “a continued promising market,” said Dan Lesh, a fisheries economist with the McKinley Research Group who compiles weekly updates during the season for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. The 2021 coho forecast of 3.8 million is 56 percent higher than 2020, and similar to the 10-year average. Coho represent only around 5 percent of Alaska’s salmon harvest value. A catch this year of 15.3 million chum salmon represents a 23 percent drop from the 10-year average, but a nearly 80 percent increase from the dismal 2020 harvest of 8.5 million. Japan is the main destination for chum roe, which saw increased prices to $17.83 per pound in the third trimester of 2020, up 42 percent from the previous year. This year’s pink salmon harvest is pegged at 124.2 million, mostly from catches at Prince William Sound, Southeast and Kodiak. This summer, the Nome Nugget reports that Icicle ​Seafoods plans to bring a processing vessel as well as four or five fishing tenders to buy pinks from local fishermen. Icicle’s headquarters are in Seattle, but the company has roots in Alaska​ processing groundfish, primarily in the Dutch Harbor area and herring in Kodiak and Togiak. Last year’s statewide pink salmon catch of 60.7 million fetched an average dock price of 33 cents per pound, the lowest in five years and a drop from 40 cents in 2019. Other per pound salmon prices to fishermen in 2020 (with 2019 prices per pound in parentheses) averaged $4.74 for chinook ($4.36); $1.06 for sockeye ($1.61); $1.24 for coho ($1.13); and 46 cents for chums (54 cents). Those prices come from the newly released Commercial Operator’s Annual Reports from Alaska processors who are required to provide purchasing and sales reports for all species by April 1 of the following year. The COAR data can be found at ADF&G’s commercial fisheries web page under Statistics and Data. Salmon saint Salmon has its own heavenly patron: Saint Kentigern of Scotland. Born in 518, Kentigern was the illegitimate son of a king’s daughter. He trained as a priest at a monastery, where his saint-hood evolved around a dangerous love-triangle. Legend has it that the king suspected his wife of having an affair because she had given one of her rings to a court favorite. The king took the ring when the man was sleeping and threw it far out into the River Clyde. When he returned home, the king angrily demanded that his wife show him the missing ring and threatened her with death if she could not produce it. The queen beseeched Kentigern to help her. He took a fishing rod to the spot where the ring had been flung into the river and quickly caught a salmon and cut it open. Amazingly, the ring was found in the salmon’s belly. The queen was able to deliver the ring to her doubting husband and peace was restored. From the time of his death in 603, Kentigern was regarded as Scotland’s patron saint and the cathedral at Glasgow was built in his honor. To this day his figure and symbols, including salmon, make up that city’s coat of arms. So who knows; perhaps a quick prayer to the patron saint of salmon will lead more fish to your nets. Fishing updates Along with salmon, lots of other fishing activity is ongoing or gearing up across Alaska. Southeast’s Dungeness fishery opens June 15 and crabbers are hoping for another good season. Combined catches for last year’s summer and fall fisheries totaled nearly 6.7 million pounds, more than double the 10-year average, and just shy of the record 7.3 million pounds taken in 2002. Kodiak crabbers also are dropping pots for Dungeness crab in a fishery that last year neared 3 million pounds. A red king crab fishery opens at Norton Sound on June 15 with a 290,000-pound catch quota. Southeast Alaska’s summer pot fishery for spot shrimp is pulling up the last of its 546,000-pound catch. Beam trawlers also are on the grounds targeting a 1.8 million-pound harvest of pink and sidestripe shrimp. Southeast divers are still going down in some areas for the remainder of a half-million pounds of Geoduck clams. Prince William Sound extended its spot shrimp season to September with up to 60 boats vying for a 70,000-pound pot catch. Alaska’s scallop fishery opens in regions from Southeast to the Bering Sea on July 1. The total catch has not been announced yet but last year the small fleet of 3 to 4 boats dredged up a reduced quota of 277,500 pounds of shucked meats, nearly half from the Yakutat region. Alaska’s halibut catch has topped 5 million pounds with Homer, Seward, and Juneau the leading ports for landings. Prices are still running more than $2/pound higher than last year, ranging from $5.50 to $6.75 or more in most major ports, and reaching $7 per pound at Homer. Alaska halibut fishermen have a nearly 20 million-pound catch limit this year. Black cod (sablefish) catches have topped 13 million pounds with most deliveries going to Sitka, Seward and Kodiak. Those prices also are up considerably, ranging from $1 per pound for two pounders to $5.80 per pound for 7-ups. That fishing quota this year is 40.5 million pounds. And as always, fishing continues throughout the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea for a huge mix of Alaska pollock, cod, flounders, rockfish and more. Mask reminder The federal mask mandate remains in effect for fishing crews on all U.S. vessels. And while the Center for Disease Control has relaxed the rules for fully vaccinated people, fishermen are not included. Many have pointed out that it’s critical on noisy boats to be able to read lips or facial expressions and Sen. Lisa Murkowski pressed that point at a May Senate hearing. “This is more a safety hazard than anything else — you’re out on a boat, the winds are howling, your mask is soggy wet. Tell me how anyone thinks this is a sane and sound policy,” she said. Murkowski recently co-wrote a letter to the CDC and Coast Guard asking them to exempt fishermen from the mask requirement, and the pushback has been joined by lawmakers from other coastal states. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard has stated it will be checking for compliance and not wearing masks could mean restricted access to ports and operations, along with civil or criminal penalties. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Kelp farm permits still more popular than shellfish

Alaskan interest in growing kelp continues to outpace that of shellfish, based on applications filed during the annual window that runs from January through April. The number of 2021 applicants dropped to just seven, reversing a steady upward trend that reached 16 last year, likely due to a “wait and see” approach stemming from the pandemic. “We had people whose personal situations changed because of COVID. They became homeschooling parents, things like that, where they can no longer dedicate the time they thought they were going to have out on a farm site,” said Michell Morris, permit coordinator at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The agency partners with the Department of Natural Resources, which leases the lands where aquatic farming takes place. Of the new applicants, six plan to grow kelp in waters of Kodiak, Yakutat and Cordova and one intends to farm oysters at Sitka. So far 76 active aquatic farm and nursery permits in Alaska comprise nearly 900 acres and 35 pending new applications total 1631.32 acres, Morris said. Most of the active farms (42) are located throughout Southeast, with 26 in the Southcentral regions of Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, and eight at Kodiak. The number of operations reporting sales through 2020 stayed steady at 28, said Flip Pryor, ADFG statewide aquaculture section chief. Overall, sales last year dropped to approximately $1.08 million, down from $1.5 million, with Pacific oysters making up about 80 percent of the value. “Production in 2020 dropped below 1 million oysters for the first time since 2016,” Pryor said. At the same time, sales of primarily ribbon and sugar kelp doubled, topping 230,000 pounds. “The statewide value of aquatic plants was just under $200,000, which is a nice jump from $60,000 in 2019,” Pryor added. Nearly all of the kelp sales came from three Kodiak growers who expect to produce up to 300,000 pounds this year, according to the Kodiak Daily Mirror. All sell their harvests to Blue Evolution, a California-based buyer that produces kelp popcorn, pastas and powders. Alaska kelp pioneer, Nick Mangini of Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed, also is working with the Department of Energy on a biofuel project that would eventually need hundreds of millions of pounds of product. Small growers fill a niche, Pryor said, but it will take bigger operators to scale up the industry’s economic potential. “Small growers can do things like supply local restaurants because of very low transport costs compared to shipping stuff down to the Lower 48. But it’s going to take those big farms and the big processors that have money to invest to bring that volume up and make those economies of scale happen and provide a constant product,” he said. “People who are buying kelp for biofuels, for example, don’t want a boom and bust sort of thing. They want to know they can count on X number of pounds every single year. And that’s definitely going to take some big operations in the water.” Shellfish safety zone Kachemak Bay appears to be a refuge from ocean acidity levels that prevent shellfish and marine creatures from growing skeletons and shells. That’s based on first results of a study begun in 2017 that placed an array of sensors near shore to test for carbon dioxide levels that indicate ocean acidity. The tested regions never indicated long term periods of corrosivity, and that’s good news for aqua-farmers doing business in the Bay. Researchers found that Kachemak Bay also is one of the most variable places on earth in terms of hourly acidic changes, likely due to its vast tidal range. “I think it’s the second largest in the world being about eight meters or 24 feet in total, in June and December,” said Cale Miller, at the University of California who led the study for his doctoral thesis at the University of California. “The other thing that’s important is the oceanography of the Bay itself. You get a lot of influx from the Gulf of Alaska and Cook Inlet, and the Homer Spit bisects the Bay into two distinct regions that have different oceanographic patterns. “There’s evidence that organisms, especially the photosynthesizing organisms, are different between the inner and outer portions of the Bay. And those are what you would call the lower trophic level or food chain items for a lot of other organisms that they live on.” Miller worked under the guidance of Amanda Kelly, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who said the multi-year study will give a better gauge of corrosive water conditions, and when they are occurring. “One of the benefits of studies like these is that we’re able to identify areas that are potentially good for shellfish or maybe not so good, or maybe better for seaweed aquaculture,” she said. “It allows for mitigation planning and community adaptation planning. Let’s say you shift focus from one species to another as an example of mitigation, or maybe a change in the time of year that fisheries are open to better fit with these changing conditions. They need to be able to better strategize for their long term future.” Research shows that Southwest and Southeast Alaska are at higher risk for ocean acidity and Juneau is already identified as a hot spot. Kelly said that area is on their research radar, as are other Alaska regions. “I got an Alaska Sea Grant Award to do a comparison of Kachemak Bay versus Juneau. I have pH sensors down in Juneau and that’s part of our next step in terms of looking at other areas regionally. So that’s exciting,” she said. (The term “pH” stands for “potential of hydrogen,” a measure of how acidic water is. The range goes from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Levels of less than 7 indicate acidity.) In other good news: This fall the state ferry Columbia will resume testing a stretch of nearly 1,000 water miles for acidity, a project that began in 2017 but was derailed last year due to the pandemic. The ferry runs from Southeast Alaska across British Columbia to Bellingham, Washington. It is part of an Alaska/Canada project to understand how ocean acidity levels change seasonally. The Columbia data will be uploaded daily to the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network website. ‘Frankenfish’ for sale The first sales of more than five tons of genetically engineered Atlantic salmon are on their way to U.S. restaurants and food service outlets where customers will not be told what they’re eating. Federal labeling law “directs” companies to disclose genetically modified ingredients through use of a QR code, on-package wording or a symbol. Mandatory compliance takes effect in January 2022, but the rules don’t apply to restaurants or providers of meals away from home. The Associated Press reports thus far, the only customer to announce it is selling the salmon is Samuels and Son Seafood, a Philadelphia-based distributor. Bio-tech producer AquaBounty raises the manmade fish that are genetically tweaked to grow twice as fast as wild salmon, reaching an 8- to 12-pound market size in 18 months rather than the normal three years. The fish are reared at an indoor growing facility in Indiana with other locations planned. “Most of the salmon in this country is imported so having a domestic source of supply that isn’t seasonal like wild salmon and that is produced in a highly-controlled, bio-secure environment is increasingly important to consumers,” CEO Sylvia Wulf told the AP. AquaBounty markets the salmon as disease- and antibiotic-free, saying it comes with a reduced carbon footprint and none of the risk of polluting marine ecosystems as in traditional sea-cage farming. The FDA approved the AquAdvantage Salmon as “safe and effective” in 2015. It was the only genetically modified animal approved for human consumption until they OK’d a pig for food and medical products last December. Water watch Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jason Brune has rejected a state judge’s recommendation that it was wrong for DEC to issue a Clean Water Act certificate to Donlin Gold, the world’s largest gold mine planned upstream from villages along the Kuskokwim River. The state issued a “certificate of reasonable assurance” to Donlin in August 2018 saying it believed its operations would comply with state water standards. But state judge Kent Sullivan last month ruled in favor of Orutsararmiut Native Council, finding the certificate was improperly issued because the mine would not meet Alaska water quality standards, especially regarding high levels of mercury. Brune, who was appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, worked for several years as the U.S. public affairs manager for London-based Anglo American, a 50 percent partner in the Pebble Mine until it walked away from the project in 2013. Resolutions opposing the Donlin project have been adopted by the Association of Village Council Presidents which represents 56 tribes, 13 Tribal Governments, the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation, and the National Congress of American Indians. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Grundens launches outerwear collection made from old gear

Grundens is using recycled plastics from old fishing gear for a new line of rugged casual wear, and the first batch contains contributions from Cordova. Grundens, whose motto is “We are fishing,” is the go-to brand for outerwear and foul-weather gear for mariners around the world. The company, which originated in Sweden in 1911, debuted its NetSource Collection this spring. The men’s shorts and women’s leggings use ECONYL, a regenerated nylon fabric that uses recycled fishing nets as the raw material. The company connected with the Copper River Watershed Project which collects the fishing nets and gets prepares them for shipping to Europe, where they are recycled into plastic pellets or, in this case, fibers. “We believe it’s really important to use our brand voice to help protect and maintain healthy marine environments and to lend a hand where we can,” said Mat Jackson, Grundens chief marketing officer. “At some point, you’ve got to just start doing it. And Cordova seemed like a tangible opportunity.” “Cordova is moving full steam ahead,” said Nicole Baker of Net Your Problem who helped make the Grundens connection. Baker, a former Bering Sea fisheries observer, has helped jumpstart fishing gear recycling programs in Alaska since 2017. “The gill net fleet is pretty dialed in and seines are made out of the same type of plastic, so those two gear types can be recycled together,” she added. “Right now, it’s just a small part of our overall collection, but we seek to expand it to other items, including foul-weather gear. It’s something we really believe in,” said Grundens spokesman Corey Lowe. “We’re aware of the amount of ghost nets and plastics in the ocean so whether we’re doing it or our competitors, we want more of it to end up in the recycling supply chain. We see it as a rising tide lifts all boats kind of thing and positive for the industry overall.” He added, “Hopefully, when fishermen buy something from us later on, it’s kind of cool to think ‘hey, my net is now hanging off my shoulders as a jacket or something.’” Grundens also is now using 100 percent biodegradable packaging called PLA whose raw material is glucose from corn starch. It fully decomposes in under one year. By June 2021 all products will be shipped in compostable Eco-packaging. “Grundens encourages other brands to follow suit and increase the rate at which plastic poly bags are eliminated from the apparel supply chain,” a press report said. Recycling road trip Grundens also has its eye on old fishing gear from Bristol Bay, where the borough will discuss a funding request from Net Your Problem at its June 7 meeting. Founder Nicole Baker said she had “tentative commitments” from the Regional Seafood Development Association, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. and Grundens to help pay for the first year of recycling there. “If that gets approved, cross our fingers, we will be able to start in 2022,” Baker said. She and team members also will be in Cordova on June 8 to and in Homer in mid-June to talk with people about getting a program going there. They will head to Dutch Harbor on June 18. “We’re going to be working with the City to sort through the landfill and recycle what we can, and also to push for the boats to do recycling,” Baker said. In Southeast Alaska, Friends of Recycling in Haines is collecting fishing nets and RecycleWorks in Juneau is doing the same at Aurora Harbor. Kodiak is still accepting trawl nets and “things are in the works” for other gears, Baker said. The Dillingham program is defunct, Baker said, and the landfill there doesn’t accept fishing nets. “I’m hoping that those two forces will encourage fishermen and other businesses to work with us to get something going again,” she said. Baker is doing a survey to estimate the amount of fishing gear available for recycling in Alaska and said “every single fisherman with the exception of one has said they think recycling is a better option for their gear than the landfill.” The problem, she added, is “how do we pay for it? Do our values and morals align with what budgets we have and other alternatives costs?” Much of it falls to human behavior. Net Your Problem is one of 10 finalists in a global “Solution Search” competition for solutions related to plastic pollution that rely on behavior changes. It is sponsored by the Center for Behaviour and the Environment and the winning entrant receives a $25,000 grant. Project supporters can vote once per day through June 11. Dutch does it again Dutch Harbor easily held on to the title of the nation’s top fishing port, Naknek laid claim to No. 2 in terms of dollars crossing the docks and salmon toppled lobster as America’s most valuable fish. Those are a few takeaways from the Fisheries of the U.S. report by NOAA Fisheries for 2019. It also covers trade, mariculture and more for nearly every fish in the sea and is loaded with colorful graphics. A snapshot: Dutch Harbor was the leading port for fish landings for the 23rd year running with 763 million pounds worth $190 million. The Aleutian Islands, home to North America’s largest processing plant at Akutan, ranked second (589 million pounds/$142 million) and Kodiak placed third for landings (397 million pounds/$120 million). For value, New Bedford, Mass., held on to the top spot for 20 years at $451 million, due to landings of pricey scallops. Naknek ranked second for catch value at $289 million for 206 million pounds, followed by the Aleutians ($149 million), Bristol Bay ($129 million) and Kodiak ($120 million). Eight Alaska ports (40 percent) were in the top 20 for both seafood landings and values and accounted for 24 percent of the top 50. Of all the seafood species caught by U.S. fishermen, Pacific salmon had the highest value at $707 million for 840 million pounds. Alaska accounted for 99 percent of the total U.S. salmon catch. The average salmon price to Alaska fishermen was 81-cents a pound, down from 99-cents in 2018. Alaska pollock was tops for fish that is processed into fillets and other forms (1.6 billion pounds/$2.2 billion). Second was sockeye salmon (211 million pounds/$1 billion). In all, U.S. fisheries produced 9.3 billion pounds in 2019 worth $5.5 billion, on par with the previous year. Sixty percent of the U.S. catch and 33 percent of the value were generated by Alaska fisheries. The U.S. imported 6 billion pounds of seafood ($22.2 billion) and exported 2.8 billion pounds ($5.2 billion) for a trade deficit of $17 billion. For recreational fisheries, spotted trout was the #1 catch by U.S. anglers, followed by black sea bass and bluefish. And Americans ate a bit more seafood - 19.2 pounds per person, up two-tenths from 2018. Salmon watch At Copper River’s second opener on May 20, New Peter Pan Seafood paid $12.60 per pound for sockeyes and $19.60 for kings, an all-time high. Peter Pan Vice President of Operations Jon Hickman said, “leaders at Peter Pan are looking forward to being a foundation for all fishermen, communities and the market.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: State seafood marketers hoping for pandemic relief

Alaska’s lone seafood marketing arm gets zero budget from the state and to date, has received no pandemic funds. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is hoping to get a breather from the more than $1 billion coming to Alaska in the latest round of federal relief dollars under the American Rescue Plan, or ARP. The influx also provides $518 million of non-discretionary funds to Alaska and $220 million for public health and safety, workforce development, education, transportation, and emergency management. ASMI put in a $20 million request two months ago, but Gov. Mike Dunleavy made no mention of it in mid-April when he released his proposals for the ARP money nor anything since. Dunleavy did include $150 million for Alaska Tourism Revitalization citing the need for “industry relief to promote tourism and adapt services for potential loss of cruise ship season.” “Recovering market losses from the pandemic will require additional investment,” said Jack Schultheis, ASMI board chair and manager of Kwik’Pac Fisheries in Emmonak. He cited widespread closures, shipping disruptions to markets and added costs for harvesters and processors in the communities where they operate. ASMI revenues dropped 25 percent in the last year, due to an estimated $500 million in lost income to the statewide fleet. The group is solely funded by a 0.5 percent voluntary industry tax based on dock prices and competitive grant funding. “ASMI’s revenue is expected to decline by $5 million over two years,” said executive director Jeremy Woodrow at a House Fisheries Committee presentation last week. Along with COVID-19 impacts, Alaska’s seafood industry faces a double-whammy from hurtful trade barriers. Seafood is Alaska’s largest export by far with nearly 75 percent exported each year to nearly 100 countries. The newest trade snafu is a 25 percent to 35 percent tariff imposed last November on U.S. salmon going to the 27 countries that comprise the European Union. The dispute stems from U.S. subsidies being paid to Boeing and competing European aircraft. China, Alaska’s largest trading partner, has levied 37 percent to 42 percent tariffs on Alaska seafood since 2018. Russia, Alaska’s largest competitor, slammed its doors on U.S. seafood purchases in 2014, but Russian exports to the U.S. are up 173 percent. ASMI’s profile and the off-kilter seafood trade deals could get a nudge from two resolutions filed last week by Alaska senators. Senate Joint Resolution 16 calls on President Biden to immediately seek and secure an end to the Russian embargo on U.S. seafood imports. Senate Joint Resolution 17 asks the U.S. Trade Representative to bring a renewed focus on the plight of producers of seafood in Alaska and the U.S., and to compel China to comply with its commitment to increase its imports of U.S. seafood products. Dollars for direct sellers The Local Catch Network, a nationwide group of small-scale harvesters, will act as guides through another round of relief funds. The Farmers Market Promotion and Local Food Promotion programs include $77 million in competitive grants for seafood businesses, Tribes and groups involved in local, regional and direct seafood marketing. National Fisherman reports it stems from $92.2 million in funding through the 2018 Farm Bill Local Agriculture Market Program as part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers Initiative. Local and direct seafood sales have been a bright spot during the pandemic and direct to consumer, e-commerce sales increased by 122 percent over the past year, according to ASMI data. For the next six weeks, the Local Catch Network will host outreach events and provide technical help to fishermen and community organizations interested in applying for funding. Copper River fish frenzy Phones were “ringing off the hook” at Pike’s Place Fish Market in Seattle where pre-orders of fresh sockeye salmon fillets were retailing at $49.99 per pound, and $79.99 per pound for Copper River kings. The fish was expected on May 18, one day after the salmon season’s first opener. The Cordova Times reported that Sena Sea Seafoods in Washington, the sales arm of Cordova-based 60º North Seafoods, had pre-orders for fresh king fillets at $139 per pound and $122 for sockeyes. Four eight-ounce portions of frozen kings were going for $189 and frozen sockeye pre-orders were $95 for four, six-ounce portions. Copper Rivers Seafoods was taking orders for sockeye fillets at $49.95 per pound and king salmon at $69.95. Anchorage-based seafood marketer FishEx was promoting sockeye orders at $44.95 per pound and $78.95 for kings. State managers forecast low total Copper River catches this year at 652,000 sockeyes, 13,000 king salmon and 218,000 coho. Overall, Alaska’s 2021 statewide salmon harvest is projected to top 190 million fish, a 61 percent increase over the 2020 catch. Fish builders Turning plastics from old fishing gear and marine debris into durable lumber is building momentum from coast to coast and one Alaska entrepreneur plans to take it on the road. Patrick Simpson of Cordova received a $100,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a mobile plastic waste recycler. He told Alaska Public Media that the recycler would fit into one or two 40-foot container vans for easy transport to local communities. “The technology is not terribly difficult,” he said. “The innovation is in the use of the net combined with the melted plastic to create an extruded recycled plastic lumber, and the packaging into this mobile platform.” Along with old fishing gear, Simpson plans to pick up plastic materials that wash up on local coastlines. He hopes to gather the goods collected in community beach cleanups before it goes to landfills. Plastics come in many forms, he said, and the kinds used in milk jugs or bottles are different from those used in nets or ropes. “I’m able to take the polyethylene and polypropylene and I’m melting those, and then I’m shredding net nylon and using it as a reinforcement, the fibers, to create a recycled plastic lumber. Then I’m going to sell that locally,” he said. Simpson said the lumber could be best used for decks, fences or roofing tiles. He is hoping to get a more sizeable grant that would enable him to use drones to locate plastic debris on coastlines. Elsewhere, Radio Canada reports that Goodwood Plastic Products in Nova Scotia has commercialized synthetic lumber made out of derelict fishing gear and other plastics, using a nearly half-million dollar grant from the government. It’s part of a more than $8 million Innovative Solutions fund that includes fishermen and divers eager to help. The recyclables are shredded, melted, and pushed through molds to create planks and posts for decks, park benches and picnic tables. Goodwood now employs 10 people and hopes to recycle more than 22 million pounds of plastics annually. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Copper River season set as restaurant demand returns

Alaska’s 2021 salmon officially starts on May 17 with a 12-hour opener for reds and kings at the Copper River. All eyes will be on early Cordova dock prices for Alaska’s famous “first fresh salmon of the season” as an indicator of wild salmon markets. COVID-19 closures of high end restaurants and seafood outlets in 2020 tanked starting prices to $3 per pound for sockeyes and $6.50 for king salmon, down from $10 and $14, respectively the previous year. But early signs are looking good. Heading into Mother’s Day on May 9, demand for seafood was “fanatic” said Mitch Miller, Vice President of national upscale seafood restaurants Ocean Prime in Nation’s Restaurant News. National Retail Federation President Matthew Shay said there is a lot more consumer optimism this year as more people are getting vaccinated and stimulus checks are being distributed, and friends and family are moving about more freely. Alaska’s 2021 salmon harvest is projected to top 190 million fish, a 61 percent increase versus 2020. The breakdown includes 46.6 million sockeye salmon, 3.8 million cohos, 15.3 million chum salmon, 296,000 chinook and 124.2 million pinks. Elsewhere on the fishing grounds, Alaska’s biggest herring fishery at Togiak kicked off on May 3 with two buyers and about a dozen boats on the grounds. They have a roughly 85 million-pound quota, the largest since 1993. Herring fishing continued around Kodiak for a nearly 16 million pound catch, the largest ever. Sitka’s roe herring fishery this spring produced less than half of its 67 million pound quota, taken by 18 of 47 permit holders. Southeast Alaska’s summer pot shrimp fishery opens on May 15 with a 40,000-pound catch limit. Southeast divers are still going down for a half-million pound Geoduck clam quota. A lingcod fishery opens on May 16. A 10-day pot shrimp reopens at Prince William Sound on May 10 with nearly 60 boats vying for a 70,000-pound catch. Kodiak’s Dungeness fishery opened on May 1 and so far, a fleet of about 15 boats is dropping pots around Kodiak, Chignik and the Alaska Peninsula. Last year’s Dungie catch of nearly 3 million pounds was the region’s best in three decades. Bering Sea crabbers are pulling up the last of their 40.5 million-pound snow crab quota. Crabbers also are wrapping up the season’s Tanner crab and golden king crab fisheries. Alaska’s halibut catch is nearing 3 million pounds with Seward, Juneau and Homer the leading ports for landings. Alaska halibut fishermen have a nearly 20 million-pound catch limit this year. Black cod (sablefish) catches have topped 7 million pounds with most going to Sitka, Seward and Kodiak. That fishing limit this year is 40.5 million pounds. And as always, fishing continues throughout the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea for a huge mix of Alaska pollock, cod, flounders and more. COVID-19 comfish impacts A drop in dock prices stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic was the biggest hit to Alaska fishermen over the past year, followed by planning and logistics disruptions. Those are just a few takeaways from a presentation compiled by McKinley Research Group economist Dan Lesh for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute at its May Board of Directors meeting. Other lowlights: Dockside values were down across the board due to a mix of biological factors and COVID-19 disruptions. That decreased the value of Alaska’s 2020 seafood catch by roughly 20 percent to 25 percent to an estimated $1.5 billion, and down 16 percent in export value and volume from 2019. Disaster declarations were posted for eight Alaska salmon fisheries in 2020, one of the worst years since 1970s. Alaska’s seafood industry reflected a 21 percent decline for crew licenses from 2019, and a 31 percent decline in peak employment for processing workers. For Alaska processors, costs above and beyond those normally incurred added up to $70 million, and they expect to pay more than $100 million this year due mostly to travel and quarantine expenses. Processors also saw a 50 percent decrease in workforce changes along with “reduced employee morale.” Of roughly 100 fishermen surveyed, nearly half said they received COVID-19 relief payments, not including the Paycheck Protection Program; half said they did not. Of those, 21 percent said it was due to a lack of awareness about relief payments. COVID-19 impacts are expected to be even more challenging this year, due to trade disputes, climate change impacts and increased competition, including from plant-based foods. The Alaska Department of Revenue spring forecast estimates that fisheries business and landing taxes for fiscal year 2021 will total $47.8 million, a 19 percent decrease from last year’s $58.8 million. Meanwhile, increased seafood demand and a 36 percent growth in direct-to-consumer sales to $90 billion is called “exciting” and the Alaska brand remains strong and “increasingly relevant.” Seafood surge A who’s-who of over 60 U.S. fishing companies, organizations, medical professionals and more sent a letter to Congress last week asking for support for a country-wide seafood marketing and public education campaign. The goal is to highlight the immense health benefits of eating fish and shellfish, a message backed by Americans who have sent seafood sales soaring during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group plans to resurrect a National Seafood Council, a move recommended by NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Council last July. A Seafood Council was created in 1987 as part of a Fish and Seafood Promotion Act but fizzled after five years. The mission is simple: get Americans to eat more seafood. The push gets some extra clout from new U.S. dietary guidelines that advise Americans to eat two seafood servings per week, starting with kids at six months. “Maybe we should have a contest to find a nice tag line that would identify seafood in the same way as ‘Got Milk?’ or ‘Beef, It’s what for dinner’, or the ‘Incredible Edible egg,’” said Dr. Tom Brenna, professor of pediatrics and nutrition at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas, pointing to other major U.S. food producers who back their industries to promote their products. This week’s industry letter to Congress requests $25 million in seed money to revive a more modernized Council that would eventually become industry funded. A task force led by the Seafood Nutrition Partnership has formed to lay a foundation for the Council. It will be “the most all-encompassing, consumer-facing seafood marketing campaign in our nation’s history,” SNP said in a press release. Brenna is encouraged by the seafood push. “Apparently, we have not done the kind of job that we should have in educating consumers in what they ought to be demanding for themselves and their kids,” he said in a phone interview. “We have a major effect here with seafood that we should be heralding from the rooftops.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Director ‘encouraged’ by proposed ComFish division budget

The budget for Alaska’s Commercial Fisheries Division is facing no cuts for the upcoming fiscal year, assuming the current numbers make it through the Legislature. “The governor’s proposed budget is at about $72.8 million, which is a slight increase from the FY21 approved budget. And most of that increase is due to our personnel services, cost of living increases and things like that that are funded by the administration generally. And also from some additional federal funds for training and things like that. So we’re looking pretty good compared to past years,” said Sam Rabung, director of the Commercial Fisheries Division, the largest within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which employs just more than 640 full, part-time and seasonal workers. “We’re really relieved because we’ve been cut pretty close to the bone and any additional significant cuts would impact fisheries directly. We wouldn’t be able to do some of the assessment projects required for management and we would have to either close or severely restrict fisheries. And I think everybody understands that,” he said, adding that another bonus will be the reopening of the ADFG office at Wrangell. Rabung credited the Dunleavy Administration for taking the time to dig into the details that clearly show Alaska’s fisheries “pay their own way.” “We’re absolutely encouraged by that,” he said. “There’s been a lot of administrations that come in without knowing that the commercial fishing industry pays more into the general fund than we get out as a division to manage it. And because we don’t advertise that, it doesn’t get talked about much. “But commercial fisheries as an industry pays more into the general fund and includes other things like licenses, fees, taxes, assessments, all those things add up to significantly more than we are allocated out of the general fund.” Rabung added that most Alaskans don’t know that the Commercial Fisheries Division also manages subsistence and personal use fisheries, along with several fisheries in federal waters, such as crab. And because fish are migratory and cross jurisdictional boundaries, staff also are involved in research and policy making activities of the Pacific Salmon Commission, the Joint Canadian-U.S. Yukon River Panel and several other interstate and international fisheries bodies. Southwest AK COVID-19 survey How helpful have COVID-19 relief programs been so far to people in Alaska’s vast Southwest region? A short survey aims to find out. “We really wanted to focus on individual’s experiences, we’re not sending out to local governments, tribal governments, large organizations, things like that. We want to hear what the impacts or results of the Coronavirus was to you personally and to your family,” said Shirley Marquardt, executive director of the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference that since 1988 has represented more than 45 communities from Kodiak to the Bristol Bay region, the Alaska Peninsula out to Adak, the Pribilof Islands and everywhere in between. “We want to learn how helpful or accessible were federal, state, local, Tribal grants or loan programs, because each community in our region has a different experience, and it’s really vitally important that we get a handle on what those were,” she said. One goal is to create a sort of roadmap to better understand the unique characteristics of an economic disaster in each community and region. “The second would be how SWAMC can better understand the grants or loan programs, or utility payments for municipalities that were most helpful,” Marquardt explained. “A lot of money went out that wasn’t accessible to a lot of folks in our region because we have such limited broadband. And you could only apply online. We want to get a better handle and understanding of how that impacted folks and how to better understand the eligibility requirements and the application process.” Marquardt said spotty or no broadband service throughout the region kept many people from accessing any benefits. “We had people who were out fishing and they couldn’t apply and they were clearly eligible and truly needed the money. And they were so frustrated because they had to wait. And some of the folks waited and then they were told it was too late,” she said. The survey, done in partnership with McKinley Research Group, will examine lessons learned and identify strategies to help Southwest communities better withstand and recover from future economic shocks. “Anyone who lives and works in those communities, has kids in school, has health care concerns, etc., we need to hear from you,” Marquardt said. Find the survey at Respondents can enter to win a $50 Visa gift card. Alaska pollock push Got an idea for making or marketing new pollock products? The Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers aims to create more awareness and demand among consumers in North America and Europe through its Partnership Program by funding new items or helping to get the fish introduced to food influencers and decision-makers at places where it hasn’t previously had visibility. “It’s our fifth round in North America and our second round in Europe,” said CEO Craig Morris. The group has so far obligated more than $5 million to “brand partners” who have created three dozen new pollock products, with $1.5 million available in the current round. “This year we want to think even bigger, bringing new partners into the program and working to identify new opportunities for more unique products, including those made with surimi and roe,” he said, adding that pollock oil and fishmeal also are in the mix. “Pollock oils for health supplements or pet food items, we want to hear all the good ideas,” he added. Morris said that “snacks” best defines the success of the new pollock products that have been funded so far, including such items as Highliner Alaska Wild Wings (a takeoff on Buffalo wings), surimi pastas and Neptune jerky (available at Amazon). And last year, 7-Eleven worked with GAPP to introduce a crispy fish sandwich during Lent in its 8,000 U.S. outlets that proved to be one of its most popular hot foods. Building on that success, 7-Eleven followed this year with grab and go fish bites: five bite-sized pieces that are panko-crusted and served on a skewer with a side of tartar sauce. GAPP is featuring a webinar on May 25 for any prospective applicants to help them through the process. Proposals are due by July 20; funding announcements will be made in early September. Find more information and application forms for its Partnership Program at Price watch Contrary to usual trends, halibut and sablefish (black cod) prices have increased since the March 6 start of the fisheries. Industry watchers will be interested in knowing that dock prices are regularly posted by Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer. Halibut prices often are broken out according to weights of 10 to 20 pounds, 20 to 40 pounds and 40-up. Here’s a sampler: March 10 at Whittier, $5.50 to $5.75; March 16 at Petersburg, $5.75 straight; April 6 at Yakutat, $5.75 to $6; Seward, $5.75 to $6.15; April 17 at Homer, $6.30/$6.55/$6.85; April 22 at Sitka, $5.65 to $5.85. Black cod prices are broken into five weight categories by poundage. Prices on April 17 at Kodiak were less than 2 pounds, $1.05; 2 to 3, $2.15; 3 to 4, $2.60; 4 to 5, $3; 5 to 6, $3.65; 7-ups. $5.50. By April 19 at Homer they were less than 2 pounds, 40 cents; 2 to 3, $1.50; 3 to 4, $2; 4 to 5, $2.50; 5 to 6, $4; 7-ups, $5. On April 22 at Sitka: less than 2 pounds, $1; 2 to 3, $2.10; 3 to 4, $2.40; 4 to 5, $2.85; 5 to 7, $3.65; 7-ups, $5.50. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Effort launched to study stormwater runoff

Are toxins from road runoff a threat to salmon in Anchorage’s most popular fishing streams? A Go Fund Me campaign has been launched so Alaskans can chip in to find out. The push stems from an organic compound in tires called quinone that was newly identified by researchers at the University of Washington, said Birgit Hagedorn, a geochemist and longtime board member of the Anchorage Waterways Council. “The little flakes that rub off of tires, especially larger truck tires, can be transported into the streams via stormwater. And they leach out the compound that they discovered was highly toxic to salmon. They were specifically looking at coho salmon,” she explained. Hagedorn hopes to raise $5,500 to test the urban waters that run off the Seward and Glenn highways into Ship Creek and Campbell Creek. The Ship Creek salmon sport fishery is the region’s most popular and successful where anglers target stocked chinook and coho salmon. Other stocked coho salmon fisheries have been established in Campbell and Bird creeks, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Hagedorn already has samples of snow melt in her freezer to send to testing labs and more will be taken this summer. “During the first really big rain event, we want to go out and sample again. We provide the sampling and the labor and we don’t take some money for that,” she said. “The fundraiser is to pay for the analysis, because it’s relatively complicated. It takes up to $500 for just one sample.” Little is known about the compound that is used by tire manufacturers to make the rubber more durable. “How long does it actually last in water? What is the degradation rate? Can it be absorbed? Those are really variable research studies that could be put in place to understand this compound better,” she said. The hope is to eventually partner with the Anchorage municipality and the state university to advance further studies and encourage tire makers to stop using the toxic compound. That’s been the case in Washington state where a Better Brakes law passed in 2010 phases out copper from brakes completely by 2025 to protect salmon. California has followed suit and the program is advancing nationwide. Studies have shown that copper levels as low as two parts per billion from vehicle brake pads and exhaust impair the sense of smell in juvenile salmon, which helps them avoid predators. “If there are larger predators around and the fish are not able to respond to these danger signals in the water, they would be the next snack,” said Jason Sandahl at Oregon State University, who is one of the first to show how contaminants can disrupt the chemical balance of sea creatures. Meanwhile, studies like Hagedorn’s highlight just how little is known about impacts of compounds in a watery mix of automotive byproducts that runoff from roads into adjacent waters. “Urban runoff mortality syndrome occurs annually among adult coho salmon returning to spawn in freshwaters where concurrent stormwater exposure causes rapid mortality. It is unlikely that coho salmon are uniquely sensitive, and the toxicology of 6PPD quinone transformation products in other aquatic species should be assessed,” wrote the UW scientists in the January 2021 abstract in Science Magazine. “To know what’s out there, I think that’s an important first step.” Hagedorn said. Gulf crabbers go big Crabbers throughout the Gulf of Alaska are enjoying some great hauls, especially for Tanners and Dungeness. An 11-day winter fishery throughout Southeast Alaska produced 1.26 million pounds of Tanner crab, the fourth-largest catch in the past 15 seasons for nearly 70 permit holders. At an average price of $3.72 per pound, the fishery was valued at $4.2 million at the docks, the best since 1999. For golden king crab, four out of seven Southeast fishing districts remain open with a combined harvest limit of 76,500 pounds. Crabbers were fetching $11.33 per pound and many were selling the crab off the docks. Southeast crabbers also had their second best fishery for Dungeness. Catches for the combined 2020 summer and fall crab fisheries totaled nearly 6.7 million pounds, more than double the 10 year average, and just shy of the record 7.3 million pounds taken in 2002. The price to fishermen was disappointing, averaging $1.72 per pound, down by more than a dollar making the dockside value more than $11.5 million. Kodiak is gearing up for a Dungeness crab fishery that begins on May 1 and will last into the fall. Last season produced the biggest catch in 30 years at just less than 3 million pounds for a fleet of 29 boats. Prices for the two-pounders dropped to $1.85, down from more than $3 in previous seasons. The higher catches were due in part to “more horsepower on the grounds” as opposed to a higher abundance of crab, said Nat Nichols, area manager for the ADFG at Kodiak. The stocks are very cyclical and could be the tail end of a peak. “We’ve got 50 to 60 years of history to look at and in the past these peaks have lasted three years of so and then we kind of go down until we get another big group of crab coming through. So this could be that we’re coming to the end of this peak. This summer will tell the tale,” he said. After sitting out a Tanner fishery this year, crabbers at Kodiak, Chignik and the Alaska Peninsula have fingers crossed for an opener in 2022. Surveys over several years showed the largest cohort of Tanner crabs ever seen is poised to grow into the fishery throughout the westward region. “There’s been a good recruitment signal all the way out. And they seem to be growing well,” Nichols said, adding that Tanners at the South Peninsula near Sand Point and King Cove usually lag about one year behind. He agreed that fewer cod fish throughout the Gulf could account for the steady uptick in Tanners. “There’s just a lot fewer mouths out there trying to eat Tanner crab right now,” he said. Seaweed stops gas For several years, studies in Australia and Canada have proven that small amounts of red seaweed added to livestock feed greatly reduces methane from the gas they pass in burps and farts. Cow burps alone account for 26 percent of the nation’s total methane emissions according to the EPA, and the U.S. is only the world’s fourth-largest producer of cattle, behind China, Brazil, and India. Now researchers at University of California Davis have revealed that cattle eating just three ounces of red seaweed daily over five months gained as much weight as their herd mates while burping out 82 percent less methane into the atmosphere. The seaweed additive also did not hurt the cattle’s growth or change the taste of beef. The UC Davis studies followed earlier research on dairy cows where daily seaweed dosages were used from the time they were calves until full grown. Methane emissions dropped by 50 percent and the longer term use did not change the taste of the cows’ milk. All researchers used a red seaweed found in warmer waters throughout the Pacific called Asparagopsis toxiformis. It’s one of the most popular seaweed ingredients in Hawaiian cuisine and used traditionally in poke. But the supply from wild harvests is not enough to go around. To the rescue: startups already are underway to produce it. SeafoodSource reports that Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology has partnered with Yale University to cultivate the seaweed in land-based tanks with intentions of providing it to livestock farmers around the world. An Australian project called Greener Grazing is the first to develop methods to produce Asparagosis spores for ocean cultivation. And last year a dried product called FutureFeed created at James Cook University in partnership with Meat and Livestock Australia won a Food Planet Prize of $1 million. Doses of just 1 to 2 percent of their dried seaweed reduced methane emissions in cud-chewing livestock by 99 percent. The makers claim that if just 10 percent of global livestock producers added 1 percent of Asparagopsis seaweed meal to the daily feeds of cud-chewing livestock, it would be similar to taking 100 million cars off the road. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.


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