Fisheries

FISH FACTOR: Federal study seeking input on long-term fisheries changes

The way that fisheries are managed determines the daily tempo for fishing families’ lives. Managers set the dates and times…the whens and wheres and whos … and the amounts that fishermen can catch. What happens to fishing families when any of the rules change? A new federal study aims to find out. “Those things are important for fishery managers to consider and try and integrate into their decision making, because there really are universal themes as far as how management changes have affected families,” said Marysia Szymkowiak, a social scientist for NOAA Fisheries based in Juneau. Over the past year, Szymkowiak has held scoping meetings in communities across Alaska to learn the impacts of fishing changes. The results, she said, will represent a history of how generations of families have adapted with the implementation of limited entry and catch share programs, and now with the decreasing abundance in certain key fisheries. “We’re getting into the thousands of years in terms of cumulative experiences and knowledge of Alaska’s fisheries,” Szymkowiak said. “It’s a wealth of information that we haven’t tapped into, and I feel so privileged to be able to talk with people who share heartfelt stories about families and the things that are built from that experience.” The project emerged from a 20-year review Szymkowiak co-authored about impacts of the halibut and sablefish fisheries that in 1995 switched from being open-to-all to an Individual Fishing Quota, or IFQ, system that gave shares of the catch to fishermen based on their historical participation. “One of the things we heard was the different impacts on women who participated prior to IFQs,” Szymkowiak said. “One said the new program made the halibut season too long and she could no longer participate because it conflicted with her responsibilities as a mom.” Limited access to fisheries is a main theme voiced in scoping meetings, combined with environmental concerns affecting the stocks. “For some families there is less of a buffer when a stock declines in terms of their ability to diversify within fisheries,” Szymkowiak said. “This can really lead to stress within families, having to seek other employment, and can really change the social fabric of fishing communities.” Another theme, she said, is a strong sense of resilience and values that go beyond the economics of going fishing. “In terms of shaping young people and creating a work ethic and a sense of place and community, there is a cross generational participation in fisheries that is really unique,” she added. A final Fishing Families scoping meeting is set for Kodiak on June 4, after which Szymkowiak will begin compiling a report on the findings. Questions? Contact [email protected] Nearly $500 for a Copper River king Alaska’s salmon season got off to a slow and drizzly start on May 17 at the first opener at the Copper River. The low catches by more than 500 gillnetters pushed prices to unprecedented levels. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s “blue sheet” of daily catches showed totals of just 3,000 king salmon and 2,000 sockeyes taken during the 12-hour opener. Bill Webber, a 51-year veteran highliner of the famous fishery, ended up with 10 king salmon and six sockeyes by closing time. “It’s not a great start to the season,” Webber said aboard his F/V Paradigm Shift while waiting for a slack tide to turn. If the fish tickets match the reports from the grounds, Thursday’s opener could be one of the slowest starts to the Copper River season since record keeping began 40 years ago, said Jeremy Botz, regional manager for ADFG in Cordova. The slim early catches had customers scrambling to source enough Copper River salmon for their “first fish of the season” celebrations, many promised within 24 hours of the salmon being caught. That pressure pushed prices to record levels. “The price wars are definitely going on due to the low production,” Webber said, adding that early price reports were $8.50 per pound for sockeyes and $13 a pound for king salmon. That compares to $8 and $11, respectively, during the first opener last year. The salmon prices ticked upwards all day, skyrocketing to $10.65 per pound for sockeyes and $15.65 for kings shortly after the 7 p.m. closure, “with a 65-cent dock bonus everywhere,” said a spokesperson for Alaska Wild Seafoods. “This opener is taking the cake on fish prices so far,” Webber added. Alaska Airlines made its first delivery of 16,000 pounds salmon to Seattle by early Friday morning. The airline celebrated its 9th annual Copper Chef Cook Off on the SeaTac tarmac, where chefs compete to prepare the best salmon recipe — in this case a 31-pound king salmon donated by Trident Seafoods. With the high prices at the end of opening day, that single “first fish” had a value of more than $485 at the Cordova docks. The Copper River salmon prices will drop off sharply after the early season hoopla fades, but the region’s famous fish will maintain some of the highest prices into the fall. The forecast calls for a Copper River harvest of about 950,000 sockeyes and 19,000 kings for the 2018 season. Football sidelines fish The North Pacific’s oldest and most popular marine trade show has been sidelined by Thursday night football. “Folks that have been with us for a long time know that holding Pacific Marine Expo at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle means that we have to come second to the NFL,” said Denielle Christensen, event organizer for Diversified Communications. The trade show, now in its 52nd year, has traditionally been held in November at the CenturyLink center the week before Thanksgiving. Last month organizers learned that a Thursday night game of the Seattle Seahawks versus Green Bay would spike those dates. “CenturyLink has been an excellent partner to us,” Christensen graciously added. “When they called us, they knew we were not going to be happy with our options. But they have always been clear with us that NFL and sports in general is their primary business.” The Expo team canvassed customers about holding the event either during Thanksgiving week or right before Christmas. “Most folks wanted us to stay closer to the usual time in November. So we’ve ended up at the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, which is November 18, 19 and 20.” Christensen said she does not expect the date change to dampen Expo enthusiasm. “I don’t think it will have a particularly large impact on the exhibits or attendance just because of the loyalty this show has built up over the years. People really love it,” she said. Pacific Marine Expo is rated as one of the nation’s top trade shows and last year it attracted 500 exhibitors and over 6,000 visitors from 40 states and 24 countries. Visit www.pacificmarineexpo.com. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon season set for May 17 start at Copper River

Alaska’s 2018 salmon season officially gets underway this week with the first 12-hour opener on May 17 for sockeyes and kings returning to the Copper River. The catch there this year calls for 19,000 kings and 942,000 sockeye salmon targeted by a fleet of more than 500 drift gillnetters. Here’s a primer of how fishery managers project the rest of Alaska’s salmon season may play out: Statewide, the 2018 salmon harvest is projected at 149 million fish, down 34 percent from the 2017 take of 226 million salmon. The shortfall this season stems from lower projections for hard-to-predict pink salmon. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a total humpie harvest of just more than 70 million, down by half from last year. For sockeyes, a statewide catch of about 52 million is down by 1.8 million fish from 2017, which was the fifth-largest red salmon catch since 1970. By far, most of the sockeyes will come from Bristol Bay’s nine river systems where a harvest of 37.5 million is projected. For chum salmon, this year’s Alaska catch is pegged at 21 million, down by nearly 4 million from last year’s huge 25 million haul, the largest catch in 47 years. The 2018 coho catch should be nearly 6 million, an increase of 600,000 silvers from last season. For chinook salmon, a catch of 99,000 is projected in areas outside of Southeast Alaska, where the numbers are determined by treaty with Canada. The Southeast harvest will be just 130,000 fish for all users, down 80,000 from last year. For commercial trollers the take is 95,700 taken from a few select areas. The salmon market outlook is good heading into the 2018 season. “Demand for Alaska salmon is fairly strong and competing farmed salmon prices are high. And despite catching over a billion pounds of salmon last year, there are no big inventory concerns,” said longtime fisheries economist Andy Wink of Wink Research and Consulting. Alaska sockeye could face some competition in its expanding fresh market sales from fish at the Fraser River in British Columbia. “Their runs have popped every four years and this is an up year for that system. That would bring a significant volume of fish to market this year,” Wink said, adding, “I’m not too concerned because demand for Alaska sockeye is robust and farmed prices are providing a lot of support.” The average sockeye price paid to Alaska salmon fishermen in 2017 was $1.13 per pound. The price for chinook salmon was $5.86; coho salmon at $1.19, pinks at 32 cents; and chum salmon averaged 66 cents per pound at the docks. The total value of the 2017 salmon fishery was nearly $680 million for Alaska’s fishermen, nearly a 67 percent increase over 2016. Clam diggers get down Razor clams from Alaska are a rare delicacy and are snapped up by restaurants on the west coast and Canada. The giant clams, which can reach more than 10 inches, are harvested by hand from a single 10-mile stretch of beach on the west side of Cook Inlet at the southwest corner of Polly Creek. The fishery, which opens in May and can run into August, is the only commercial razor clam fishery in Alaska. The diggers are allowed to take 350,000 to 400,000 pounds of clams in the shell this year and are paid 65 cents to 75 cents per pound. “About half of that is clam meat. Any broken clams go to the pet food market,” said Pat Shields, regional manager at ADFG in Soldotna. Coolers filled with whole clams are flown four to six times per day from the beach to the Pacific Alaska Shellfish plant in Nikiski, where they are immediately processed and sent to awaiting markets. “The processors also get 60 cents to 70 cents a pound to shuck them. Then they are vacuum packed and sent fresh or frozen to a lot of markets. It’s a really good product,” Shields said. Nearly all of the clam diggers out on the Cook Inlet flats are from out of state. “Most of the diggers are Hispanic from California,” Shields said. “It’s such hard work that we have a hard time finding local folks to participate.” “You put this big bag on your belt and you’re stooped over for hours at a time,” Shields explained. “Most of them use their hands or a very small spade. They dump them into a bucket and the clams get sorted in coolers.” Other Cook Inlet beaches have been closed to clam digging since 2014 due to a drop off in the stocks. More recently state fishery biologists have found encouraging signs of lots of juvenile razors signaling a potential rebound of the delicious clams. Cash for tags Hook a sablefish (black cod) with a bright orange or green tag and you would win cash. State fish managers awarded $3,000 to seven lucky winners in cash prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000. Their names were drawn by lottery among all those who had returned tags over the past year. Fishery biologists at ADFG have been tagging sablefish in Southeast Alaska since 1979 to learn more about the fish’s movement, growth, and abundance. The farthest north returned sablefish tag was from St. Matthew Island in the Bering Sea; the farthest south came from Humboldt, Calif. But for the most part, most sablefish stay close to home. “You have your sablefish that are like I love my home, I’m just going to stay here,” said Naomi Bargmann at ADFG in Sitka. “That is about 85 to 90 percent of the fish that we get in Chatham (Strait), they stay,” she added. “The rest of them will pick up like Magellan and go explore other places.” One of the oldest tags was 34 years old, returned in 2013, and nearly 35,000 have been recovered in all. This month 7,000 more tagged sablefish were released, bringing the total to more than 140,000 tags since the project began. To qualify for the lottery, the returned tags must include the latitude and longitude where the sablefish was caught and the capture date and method. Anyone who returns a tag receives a T-shirt. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Still deadliest job, but fishing deaths down drastically

Commercial fishing remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation, with a fatality rate that is 23 times higher than for all other workers. Vessel sinkings account for half of all fishing fatalities; second is falling overboard in deaths that are largely preventable. From 2000 through 2016, 204 U.S. fishermen died after falling overboard, according to a just released study called Fatal Falls Overboard in Commercial Fishing by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH. Nearly 60 percent of the falls were not witnessed, and almost 90 percent of the victims were not found. In all instances, not a single fisherman was wearing a PFD (personal flotation device). “I think there is a social stigma against it. It’s a sort of macho thing. I also think there is a lack of awareness that there are really comfortable PFDs,” said Jerry Dzugan, director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association for more than three decades. Today’s life jackets are not the bulky, cumbersome clunkers that most people are familiar with from childhood or have stashed in the cubbies of recreational boats. Newer models are lightweight and built right into rain bibs, or fit comfortably over or into deck gear. “I’ve got a couple that are so comfortable that when I leave my boat, I forget I have them on,” Dzugan said. He estimated that less than 10 percent of Alaska fishermen wear PFDs while working, whereas “a few years ago it was less than 5 percent.” According to the NIOSH report, the number of falls overboard decreased on average by 3.9 percent annually during the study’s time frame. Most falls occurred on the east coast (62), followed by the Gulf of Mexico (60). Alaska ranked third with 51 deaths overall. Alaska’s deadliest catch might surprise you: it’s the salmon drift gillnet fishery with 16 fatalities. “When things go south on a small open boat it happens quickly,” Dzugan said. “Swamping, being hit by a wave and not being able to recover. Sometimes they are fishing alone or with just two people, often in open waters. All of those combine to have those being a particularly high risk.” Dzugan believes wearing a PFD on deck is the No. 1 way that fishermen can save themselves from becoming a statistic. Second is doing onboard safety drills. “Everyone needs to know what to do in the case of an emergency. And every crew member needs to be part of the risk assessment on the boat, not just the captain,” he said. “Also, make sure your boat is watertight, keep your survival gear maintained and practice with it, and get enough sleep.” The NIOSH report also recommends reducing fall hazards on deck and using man overboard alarms and recovery devices. “It costs less than $100 to rig up your own floating lines to trap someone inside and tie them off to a cleat on the rail until you can get them back on the boat,” Dzugan said. Although fishermen have been somewhat slow to adopt preventive measures, he said there has been tremendous improvement in Alaska. “It’s been a total cultural change. In the 1970s there was an average of about 38 to 40 fishing deaths a year in Alaska; it’s averaged 3.5 over the past five years,” he said. “The arc of improvement in fishing vessel safety has been a long one, but it’s been steadily upwards. I’m very optimistic.” (The fatality numbers already have skewed upwards since the data in the NIOSH report were compiled through 2016. Total U.S. fishing deaths have risen to 224, according to report author, Samantha Case of NIOSH in Anchorage. In Alaska, there were 10 fishing deaths in 2017; six were from the sinking of the crab boat Destination in the Bering Sea) Salmon starts! Alaska’s salmon season officially kicks off on May 17 with a 12-hour opener for sockeyes and kings at the famous Copper River. In other fishing updates: Southeast fishery managers announced that under provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, the chinook salmon harvest is limited to 130,000 fish for all users, down 80,000 fish from last year. For trollers, the take is 95,700 kings and the May-June season will open only in a few select areas. Fishing for lingcod in the Panhandle opens May 16 with a 310,700-fish limit. A fishery for coonstripe and spot shrimp opened in Southeast on May 1 with a 675,000-pound quota from four districts. Trawling for sidestripe shrimp also is underway at Prince William Sound with a nearly 113,000-pound catch quota. Norton Sound’s red king crab fishery closed on April 30 just shy of the 50,000-pound winter harvest. The shortage will be added to the summer crab fishery for a combined total of about 300,000 pounds. Alaska’s halibut catch was approaching 3 million pounds with Seward and Sitka leading all ports for deliveries. Sablefish catches topped 4 million pounds with Sitka in the lead for landings. Fishing continues for all kinds of whitefish in both the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Finally, Frankenfish is a step closer to U.S. supermarket sales. AquaBounty, the producer of the genetically engineered salmon won FDA approval last week to grow the fish in an Indiana plant it bought last year for $14 million with a goal to produce 3 million pounds annually. Currently, the salmon are being grown out in Panama. A final hold up is commerce laws that don’t allow the genetically tweaked salmon to be sold in the U.S. until labeling guidelines are in place to inform consumers. Import breaks “Made in America” grants are available to small- and medium-sized companies that have been clobbered by an influx of cheaper imports. “Basically, if it’s a product that competes with imports and the domestic firm is losing ground and the imports are rising, the assistance can be available,” said David Holbert, executive director of the Seattle-based Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, or NWTAAC. The NWTAAC is one of 11 regional non-profits funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and serves companies in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. The group has been around since the 1970s, but is not very well known, Holbert said. It began as a means to help U.S. manufacturers facing competitive disadvantages often caused by global trade deals. The program now includes businesses in other sectors, such as timber, agriculture and fishing. The program offers matching grants of up to $75,000 to mid-sized companies aimed at helping them hire outside expertise to boost their bottom lines. “So that’s $150,000 for projects such as website building and creating marketing tools like brochures, brands and logos, as well as quality certifications, product design, to name a few. No two are the same,” Holbert explained. Eligible smaller businesses with less than $1 million in sales can receive up to 75 percent in matching funds for up to $30,000, meaning their output would be $7,500. “When a company faces destructive price competition, it’s a situation where they can’t win by trying harder. They have to change. For small to medium sized enterprises, change is often instigated by outside expertise. Generally speaking, the companies have to find their way to a customer base that values quality customization and/or rapid fulfillments,” Holbert said. Eligible companies need to show a drop in employment and in sales or production and other trade criteria. The Center handles all the qualifying paper work and if approved, also helps craft a business plan focusing on what would be required for the company to succeed. A company has five years to use the funds. “The companies select their projects and vendors. We’re not telling anyone what to do or who to hire. We’ll advise and help, but it’s your solution to your situation,” Holbert said. For smaller Alaska fishing companies, more than one can apply under the umbrella of a trade association. Bering Sea crabbers, for example, long hammered by imports of Russian crab, used funds to redesign a website, create marketing materials and design a weekly newsletter. “The support and guidance provided by NWTAAC staff throughout the entire funding process was amazing,” wrote the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers trade group. Other Alaska fishing beneficiaries include Taku Fisheries in Juneau and Fields Wild Salmon of Kodiak. Holbert said that Alaska halibut fishermen, who are facing stiff import competition from eastern Canada, also may be eligible. “Don’t be shy about calling. You’re not dealing with a big bureaucracy; you’re going to talk to a person who can relate to you and your business,” Holbert stressed. “If you’ve got a decline in business in recent years and you believe it’s due to imports, we can find out fast if you qualify.” The NWTAAC board of directors is meeting in Anchorage in mid-May. Learn more at www.nwtaac.org or email [email protected] Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: ComFish funding adds study on king salmon decline

A shuffle in some funding leaves Alaska’s commercial fisheries division in good shape to manage the resources and target important projects across the state. At first glance, the $69 million operating budget for fiscal year 2019 appears to be down slightly from last year’s $72.3 million, but that’s not the case. “Most of that difference is a sort of ‘cleanup’ in authority we no longer had funding for, such as the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, test fishing and some interagency items. The rest is due to $1.1 million shortfall in Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission revenue which was made up from other Department funds,” said Scott Kelley, Commercial Fisheries Division director. Added to the budget was a nearly $1 million unrestricted increment offered by Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan, which got the nod from Alaska lawmakers. The extra money will be distributed among 11 projects in four regions: Southeast, Central, Westward and the AYK (Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim). The biggest project focuses on research to help determine the causes of declining chinook salmon. “It’s a $300,000 project for a juvenile chinook marine survey in the Bering Sea,” Kelley said. “Almost the first thing I get asked at meetings around the state is what’s going on with king salmon. That project looks at the early marine survival, which is where we think these mortality events are most affecting the species. It’s the only project in the state that really gives us a first look at what’s going on there.” Other projects back on the funding track include Southeast and Togiak herring research, westward salmon weirs, Southeast sablefish research and Prince William Sound Tanner crab. One thing cut from the commercial fisheries budget was nearly $400,000 for unpopular test fishing programs, where portions of fishermen’s catches are used to help cover management costs. “We don’t need to test fish because we got the general funds. I view that as a very positive development,” Kelley said. The entire state budget still awaits final approval but Kelley expressed confidence in a good outcome, thanks in part to Gov. Bill Walker. “I do believe that the governor is strongly supportive, not just of the Commercial Fisheries Division but for the Department of Fish and Game in general,” he said. Kelley also praised United Fishermen of Alaska and other fishing stakeholders for going to bat for their industry during the legislative session. “Their advocating has been extremely beneficial for the division and greatly appreciated,” Kelley said. Crab share shuffle It’s slow going for brokers who deal in quota shares for crab in Bering Sea fisheries. Most holders are taking a wait-and-see approach on the crab stocks, hoping for an uptick before they sell. Few sellers make it tough to place a value on the shares, said Jeff Osborn at Dock Street Brokers in Seattle, the “go-to guy” for crab quotas. “Red crab is down from around $70 to between $60 and $65 per pound,” Osborn said. “For opilio (snow crab) it’s hard to say because there are no sellers to speak of. For vessel shares, I’ll speculate somewhere in the $27 to $28 range. For bairdi Tanners, people see a lot of crab but nobody really knows what to expect for next season so everyone is gun shy on sales.” Crab shares are bought and sold in two categories: vessel shares and skipper shares. “Skipper shares are reserved for people who are actively fishing on crab boats,” he explained. “You have to have participated in the crab fishery in the past 365 days to purchase those shares. Vessel shares are much more lenient and can be held by a qualified entity, corporation or business regardless of recent participation.” On the skipper side, Osborn said crabbers face a looming “use it or lose it” deadline. “Basically, there needs to be participation in the crab fishery or another Alaska fishery within the past three years if you are an initial quota share recipient. Otherwise, effective June 30 for the upcoming season they will not receive any quota to harvest. And then if they still have not satisfied the recency requirement by June 30, 2019, they will lose their quota share, it will just go away,” Osborn said. Why? “It’s to ensure that those who own skipper shares are actually participating and not accumulating it and leasing it out and collecting a check and depriving the market of shares that could be used by guys that are actively participating,” he said. Osborn estimates between 100 to 120 crabbers have transfer eligibility for skipper quota but many could lose it under the new rules. Another right of first offer option, or ROFO, also makes crab shares available to crew to help them become invested in the fishery. “The intention of the ROFO is to set aside 10 percent of any transaction of vessel shares to be sold to qualified individuals,” he said. “They can then purchase some or all at the same price that is sold to whoever is buying the 90 percent of the quota. So it provides an avenue for people to pick up smaller chunks than they might be able to otherwise.” Candidates come to the Bay! Four candidates for Alaska governor will face off in a debate at the 2nd annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo at Naknek in early June. Naknek is the key logistics hub for 10 major seafood processors and a fleet of nearly 1,000 at the northeastern end of Bristol Bay. The debate is just one of the events in a lively line up that benefits childcare in the community. “We turned to our natural resource, salmon, to support Little Angels Childcare Academy and it has just been phenomenal,” said Sharon Thompson, Expo co-founder and organizer. “Salmon is supporting their early childhood education.” The first Expo last year raised $17,000, enough to open the doors of the childcare center. This year is likely to see even more donations. “We are getting boat builders and engine manufacturers and others from Texas and Washington and Oregon; it’s caught their eye. It just blows my mind,” said co-organizer Katie Copps-Wilson. The theme of the June 8-9 event is “Celebrating our Past, Sustaining our Future,” and a history of the region’s canneries will be highlighted. Historian Katie Ringsmuth will kick things off on June 8 with highlights of the Diamond NN Cannery History Project which aims to document, preserve and share the unique experiences of cannery life. The Diamond plant was the first industrial processing plant on the Naknek River in 1890. On that theme, Mug Up events will be ongoing during the two-day Expo. “Anyone who has ever worked in a cannery knows that mug up is a colloquial term for coffee break. Coffee and donuts will be available along with storytelling, because we all know that’s where the best stories are told,” Thompson said, adding that archivists from the National Park Service and project curators will be on hand to scan, photograph and identify old photos, labels, maps and other artifacts. The popular “speed hiring” will be back, which connects captains with potential crewmembers. “It’s like speed dating and many happy matches were made last year. That face-to-face contact is so important. We expect it will be bigger than ever,” Thompson said. One of the biggest hits of the Expo, Thompson said, is a fashion show and wearable art auction. “We always joke that Bristol Bay has a style of its own. Grundens has donated lots of gear from their new line for women, so we’re really stepping it up this year,” she said. “We are still accepting donations and it is a great way for businesses to get their names and services out there. All the products and services will be listed in an online catalog that will be on social media everywhere.” The Expo will end with a gubernatorial candidates debate on June 9 from 7-9pm that will include Gov. Walker, Scott Hawkins, Rep. Mike Chenault and Mike Dunleavy. The debate will be broadcast live on KAKN and KDLG. Looking ahead, the organizers plan to include more communities. “From Togiak to Ugashik and everwhere in between and beyond, we would love to expand our Expo to embrace crab, halibut, pollock, herring – all those other wild seafood products from Bristol Bay that are feeding the world,” Thompson said. “The bottom line is everything benefits Little Angels,” echoed Copps-Wilson. “Our mantra is kids, fish, future.” Learn more at www.bristolbayfishexpo.com Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Early Cook Inlet fisheries near; ballot initiative draws big bucks

Two commercial fisheries open each spring at Upper Cook Inlet that attract little notice and few participants, but each pays big bucks to fishermen. The first is a food and bait herring fishery that runs from April 20 through the end of May. The 150-ton catch quota is small compared to most of Alaska’s other herring fisheries, but the payout is far higher than all others. “They get $1.00 to $1.50 a pound, or $2,000 to $3,000 for a short ton, and the herring goes primarily into the halibut commercial bait fishery or the sport bait fishery,” said Pat Shields, regional manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna. In contrast, the statewide average price for roe herring at places like Sitka, Kodiak or Togiak is just 12 cents per pound, and fishermen make between $100 to $350 per ton. The Cook Inlet herring fishery serves a small, local market provided by 10 to 20 fishermen. The fish is captured in gillnets by 10 to 20 salmon setnet fishermen who are trying to get some money to start the season, Shields explained. The herring are frozen and sold throughout the year and the demand far exceeds the supply. Shields speculates the price is so high because there are so few bait herring fisheries in the state: two in Southeast, one at Kodiak and Dutch Harbor. Meanwhile, most Alaska fishermen buy pricy herring for bait from processors who usually purchase it from the east coast or Canada. Traditionally, herring management has been geared to sac roe fisheries, which years ago was in high demand by a single customer: Japan. But tastes there have changed. “Now the sac roe is far less valuable and there is a lot of demand for herring as bait,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the state Commercial Fisheries Division. “Management plans could be restructured so that more herring could be harvested as bait. Someone just needs to propose it to the Board of Fisheries. If there is a harvestable surplus that is not being taken, why not allow it in a different fishery?” The other fishery at Upper Cook Inlet from May 1 through June 30 is for smelt, also called hooligan/eulachon or candlefish. That also attracts up to 20 people who compete for a 200-ton quota using dip nets at the Susitna River. Shields said a 2016 study estimated that 53,000 tons of smelt went up the Susitna that one year. “It’s just a phenomenal biomass,” he said, adding that fishermen have had to make their dip nets smaller to accommodate the catches. “If you have a net that’s a couple feet deep you can’t even lift it out of the water,” Shields said, adding that it’s a tough fishery. “Logistically, it’s kind of a nightmare to get drift boats through the mudflats of the Susitna River,” he said. “They bring them back to the Kenai River where they are frozen, boxed up and shipped to the Lower 48. Most of it goes into one of three markets: the human food, sturgeon bait fishery on the Columbia River or the marine mammal food market.” Smelt fishermen also fetch a nice price, twice: 25 to 75 cents per pound for their harvest, and again after it goes to market. “The market can vary widely,” Shields said. “I’ve heard anywhere from 50 cents a pound to a couple dollars a pound.” Both fisheries are open to all comers who get a miscellaneous finfish permit from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. “While they require a permit, it is not a limited entry permit,” Shields explained. “Anyone can get a permit to participate in the herring or the smelt fishery in Cook Inlet.” Salmon money Resource developers are pulling out all stops to block the push to strengthen Alaska’s salmon habitat protection law for the first time since statehood in 1959. Since early January the group Stand for Alaska has raised more than $2 million to stop a ballot initiative that could go to voters this fall. That is about four times more than the $475,560 the grassroots group Yes for Salmon has raised in support of modernizing permitting and habitat protection measures. Filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission show that financial backing for both groups comes primarily from outside the state. Mining operations from Canada that put in $200,000 each include Kinross Fort Knox and Pebble Limited Partnership. Japanese-owned Pogo Mine, Illinois-based Coeur Alaska and Hecla Mining of Idaho also contributed $200,000 as well as Donlin Gold and Doyon Ltd. ConocoPhillips has donated $250,000 and BP has contributed $500,000 to Stand for Alaska. Those companies, along with Canada’s Teck Mining and Tower Hill Mines, the Resource Development Council, Alaska Miners Association and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association also have contributed in-kind donations to cover staff time, office expenses, travel, etc. To convince voters that the ballot measure is a bad idea, Stand for Alaska so far has paid $132,000 to Anchorage-based Bright Strategy and Communications; $36,000 to Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Virginia; $20,000 to Blueprint Alaska and $10,000 to Dittman Research, both of Anchorage. Total expenditures by Stand for Alaska also include nearly $612,000, of which more than 40 percent has gone to DCI Group of Washington, D.C., as a subcontractor. DCI Group is widely cited as a “top Republican and lobbying group” that creates campaigns by masking corporate sponsors to make it appear that it is a grassroots effort, a practice known as “astro-turfing.” Most notably, the DCI Group has done campaigns for the tobacco industry and for Exxon’s climate change denial efforts. The APOC filings show that most of the money donated to Yes for Salmon’s campaign also comes from outside Alaska. From Jan. 8 through April 7, the group collected about $205,000 in contributions. Of that, $100,000 comes from John Childs of Florida who also is a board member of the Wild Salmon Center based in Portland, Oregon. The New Venture Fund Salmon State, backed by the Hewlett Foundation of Washington, D.C., has contributed $37,246 of in-kind contributions. The Alaska Center has donated $14,000 for in-kind services, along with Trout Unlimited, the Sitka Conservation Society and Cook Inletkeeper. Other monetary contributions are in the $75 to $250 range by nine individual Alaskans. Total expenditures in the first quarter by Yes for Salmon were reported at $124,388, and overall expenditures total about $317,000, of which $25,000 has gone to the Patinkin Research Group of Portland, Ore., for polling and other work as well as about $16,000 to Element Agency of Anchorage for media support. The salmon protection push must still prove it is constitutional before it goes to the voters. The Alaska Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 26. Fish prices The Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides dock prices for nearly every fish species caught in the state with comparisons going back to 1984. It’s called the Commercial Operator’s Annual Report and is compiled from annual inputs by processors. Here’s a sampler from 2016 (prices for 2017 will be available this summer): The average price for cod was 28 cents per pound; lingcod averaged $1.51. Those billions of pounds of pollock fetched 13 cents per pound for fishermen. Herring averaged 12 cents. Octopus was 46 cents per pound and sea cucumbers were $4.07. Spot shrimp paid out at $8.96 per pound; coon striped shrimp at $5.73 was up more than $2. For 10 types of flounders, pesky arrowtooth was at 7 cents; rex sole was the priciest at 34 cents. For 22 types of rockfish, yellow eye, or red snapper, topped the list at $1.29 per pound; rose thorn rockfish was the lowest at 6 cents per pound. Wolf eels paid out at 84 cents per pound; Geoduck clams were at $6.59. Longnose skates brought fishermen 44 cents per pound. Halibut averaged $6.06 per pound; sablefish, $6.50. The priciest of all was red king crab at $10.18 per pound; the lowest was for sculpin at just 3 cents per pound. Another report shows how much poundage was produced by processors and first wholesale values, meaning how much the fish sold for in initial sales. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon permits stagnate on lower forecasts

Spring is usually the busiest time of year for brokers in the buy/sell/trade business for Alaska salmon permits. But that’s not the case this year. Values for several salmon permits had ticked upwards after a blockbuster salmon fishery in 2017, but they have remained stagnant since last fall. “That sort of summarizes the salmon permit market. There is not a lot of excitement about any of them,” said Doug Bowen of Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer. A lackluster catch forecast for the upcoming salmon season — down 34 percent — has helped dampen enthusiasm. Even at the one big bright spot at Bristol Bay, where another big sockeye catch of more than 37 million fish is expected, the value of drift net permits has stalled in the $150,000 range. “Sometimes before the season we see the price go up and up until the fishing begins. This year it just seems like it’s a calmer market and the price actually slipped.” Bowen said. Also at play in the Bay: major buyers will no longer purchase salmon from “dry” boats starting this year. “They put the fleet on notice a few years ago that they will not take any unchilled fish,” Bowen said. “So there has been a scramble for folks to get RSW (refrigerated sea water) systems installed or get a boat with RSW. There’s no doubt people are getting out of the Bay rather than invest another $150,000 to $200,000. I think that issue has calmed the market down for drift permits.” Dock Street Brokers, Permit Master and Bowen’s company all list 10 or more Bay drift permits for sale or lease. There’s not a lot of action for Southeast drift permits, which have slipped to $85,000 to $90,000. Likewise, there is little interest for Cook Inlet drift permits, which after several dreary salmon seasons have stalled at around $45,000 for the past year. A few Prince William Sound seine permits have moved at around $170,000 this year and at Kodiak in the $30,000 range, but there’s been minimal interest in seine cards across the state. “The forecast isn’t great for seine fisheries anywhere this year and you can see that in the permit markets. There’s just not a lot of interest this year,” Bowen said. One permit bucking the trend is salmon at False Pass (Area M) on the Alaska Peninsula. Several good salmon years have piqued interest in that fishery and boosted drift net values to more than $160,000 with listings few and far between. Overall, Bowen said Alaska brokerage and boat sales businesses are chugging along despite the humdrum mood. “Boats are still selling well and permits are selling and quota is selling too. It’s just that there’s definitely some dark clouds out there. I think in general it is going to be a skinnier year for the industry,” he said. Fishing watch April has brought a mixed bag so far for several Alaska fisheries, starting with a huge slump in the herring haul at Sitka Sound. The fishery closed on April 3 after two late March openers when the bulk of the herring size and roe quality was just not up to snuff. The total harvest of 2,800 tons was down by nearly 75 percent from the projected 11,128-ton catch. Meanwhile, 68 herring boats were operating near Craig in a herring roe-on-kelp fishery. Kodiak’s herring fishery opens on April 15 with a harvest set at just under 1,200 tons. Southeast’s May/June Chinook season for a fleet of over 700 trollers will open only in a few select areas and be limited to just 95,000 fish this season. The winter Tanner crab fishery at Southeast produced a catch of 1.2 million pounds, topping the 10-year average. Fishermen got a nice payday at $3.07 per pound, making the fishery worth $3.7 million at the docks. A 70,000-pound golden king crab fishery, which ran concurrently, paid out at $10.10 per pound to fishermen. A quick shrimp fishery opens at Prince William Sound from April to April 30. A fleet of 72 vessels has signed up to compete for the 67,000-pound quota. At Norton Sound, a red king crab harvest is ongoing with a catch of about 15,000 pounds so far out of a 50,000-pound winter catch quota. Halibut catches are still coming in slowly with about 750,000 pounds delivered by 150 landings; for sablefish the catch was at 900,000 pounds by 82 landings. Cod, pollock, flounders and other whitefish are still crossing the docks across Alaska and most of those fisheries will continue throughout the year. And before you know it, salmon season will officially be underway with the first returns of sockeyes and kings to Copper River in mid-May. A catch of 1.7 million reds and 19,000 kings is expected at the Copper River this year. Genders differ Feedback on gender equality in the seafood industry yielded insights on how women’s roles are perceived by women and men around the world. More than 700 survey responses were gathered starting last fall by the international non-profit Women in the Seafood Industry, of which 30 percent were from men and over 200 came from North America. “The questions centered around what is the position of women in your company, for example, and what is your opinion of the situation of women in this industry. Are there areas where things could be improved, or where there is no need for improvement,” said Marie Catherine Monfort, WSI president and co-founder based in Paris. The survey results showed differing perceptions depending on gender. “The majority of men didn’t feel that there is gender inequality in this industry, while the majority of women said there is gender inequality,” Montfort said. A main problem expressed by women in most regions was a range of discriminations; but that view also was not shared by men. “A good number of men think the problem is the lack of women in the industry,” Montfort said with a laugh. “Which is good, because we want to promote more women to enter into the industry. We need them on board as well.” The differing perceptions on what women experience, Montfort added, is one of the study’s most important findings. The top industry need expressed by women as well as some men was improving the work/life balance. “We know that in some countries this is better organized than in others, but the work/family balance is a really important point.” Results of the gender survey are being compiled into a report that will be widely distributed. Meanwhile, WSI has launched a worldwide short video contest (open to both genders) to highlight the lives of women in any segment of the seafood industry. “It may be aboard fishing vessels or at aquaculture sites, in offices or teaching or studying at school. This is a way to show that women are major stakeholders in this industry.” Montfort said. Winners will receive cash prizes and their videos will be showcased at industry events around the world. Deadline to enter is Aug. 31. Questions? Contact [email protected] Fish buzz Gov. Bill Walker and candidates Mike Chenault and Mike Dunleavy will participate in a gubernatorial debate on Saturday, June 9 at the Bristol Bay Borough School at Naknek. Other candidates have been invited. The two-hour event, which will be broadcast statewide, is part of the 2nd annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo and has a theme of “Sustainability in Rural Alaska.” All proceeds from the Expo will again benefit the Little Angels Childcare Academy in Naknek. Visit www.bristolbayfishexpo.com Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Latest fish habitat bill goes too far, or not far enough

A new version of legislation to revamp Alaska’s salmon habitat permitting system is aimed at increasing public involvement and the ability of regulators to impose penalties for noncompliance. The bill’s author, Kodiak Republican Rep. Louise Stutes, said the second iteration of House Bill 199 is the result of months of talks with stakeholders and what she believes to be an effective balance of fish protections while still allowing responsible development projects to go forward. “I believe this draft is more in line with the request by the Board of Fish. It is a much-needed improvement to Title 16 that focuses on public notice, public comment and the ability for the public to affect the process, criteria for the proper protection of fish and providing the Department of Fish and Game with more enforcement tools,” Stutes said during a hearing of the House Fisheries Committee, which she chairs. She added that she’s confident the provisions in the new HB 199 will be workable for development industries and good news for fish advocates. The Alaska Board of Fisheries, which regulates the gamut of fishing activities in the state, wrote a letter to legislative leaders in January 2017 urging them to update the state’s anadromous fish habitat permitting law, known as Title 16, to include more opportunities for public involvement and enforceable standards to the current law that many feel is outdated and too vague. Current law directs the Fish and Game commissioner to issue a development permit as long as a project provides “proper protection of fish and game,” leaving the definition of what is acceptable up to interpretation. The original version of the bill released about a year ago would have set stringent requirements in law on construction in and around salmon habitat. Specifically, it required habitat degradation mitigation measures to be applied to the water impacted, eliminating the possibility of using habitat improvements to nearby waters as a reasonable offset to expected damages. According to Fish and Game Habitat Division officials, such off-site mitigation is one of the last options for a project proponent when damage to habitat cannot be avoided, but it is a fairly common practice for very large projects, such as mines, that cannot be moved or effectively scaled to avoid impacting salmon habitat. The old bill also would have presumed that all waters connected to the ocean are anadromous fish habitat and put the onus to prove otherwise on project proponents. The original HB 199 largely mirrored the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative, which has drawn the opposition of oil and gas, mining, logging and construction trade groups as well as most Alaska Native corporations for being a de-facto prohibition on new development in Alaska, they contend. Gov. Bill Walker also opposes the Stand for Salmon initiative, saying it is too restrictive and major policy changes should be thoroughly vetted through the legislative process rather than being subject to a simple up or down referendum vote with no opportunity for adjustments. The Stand for Salmon initiative was certified with 41,999 supporting signatures by the Division of Elections to appear on the 2018 ballot March 15, but it still faces a Supreme Court decision on its constitutionality. The state Supreme Court will hear the Stand for Salmon case April 26. The state is appealing a Superior Court ruling from last fall that overturned the decision of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott that the initiative is unconstitutional. The initiative sponsors have said they too would prefer to make changes to Title 16 via the Legislature, but they continue to push the ballot measure to assure action is taken if the Legislature fails to pass the bill. Passing some version of HB 199 would likely render Stand for Salmon moot, as legislative law changes deemed similar to the intent of a voter initiative would preempt the initiative. However, given the late timing of the new bill in a Legislature wholly preoccupied with resolving the state’s ongoing multibillion-dollar budget deficits, it appears HB 199 will be challenged to move through several more House and Senate committees to be passed in the waning days of the current session. House Majority coalition leaders have said they expect the salmon habitat discussion to be a long process. The bill would have to start from scratch in the new Legislature next year, but that would not be a major change from its current status given HB 199 is still in House Fisheries, its first committee of referral. Stutes pulled those major mitigation and anadromous fish habitat presumption policy changes from HB 199, but the bill would still establish minor and major tiers for habitat permits, a primary provision of the first version. The Fish and Game commissioner would have the ability to issue blanket minor permits for common activities such as crossing streams with an ATV. General permits for such activities would be renewed every five years. Major permits would require publication of both a draft and final version of salmon habitat impact assessments. Public notice and comment periods would be required for the issuance of a minor permit and when draft and final assessments are published. There are currently no public notice requirements for anadromous fish habitat permits, which proponents contend is insufficient given salmon are a valuable and public resource. HB 199 would also require project proponents post bonds sufficient to restore habitat if permit conditions are not adhered to. The other major change from current law in HB 199 is a provision giving designated Fish and Game officials authority to issue on-the-spot citations or tickets for disturbing salmon habitat without a permit or not complying with an issued habitat permit. Currently, all salmon habitat violations are Class A misdemeanor offenses that require a court appearance and Alaska State Troopers act as Fish and Game’s enforcement arm. Habitat Division Coordinator and fisheries biologist Ron Benkert, who has testified extensively to House Fisheries on the issue, said in March interview with the Journal that the current enforcement system is good in theory, but it requires substantial time from often overworked prosecutors and busy judges must be willing to hear the cases. The process lends itself to very few salmon habitat violations being prosecuted, according to Benkert. Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, suggested giving Department of Natural Resource officials similar enforcement authority for the many land use and resource activity-related permits DNR issues. Rounds of public testimony April 7 and April 9 on HB 199 elicited far more support than opposition, though numerous testifiers’ comments seemed to relate to the original version of the bill. Alaska Support Industry Alliance CEO Rebecca Logan said HB 199 does not achieve the stated goals of protecting salmon habitat while correspondingly allowing for development. “At a time when we have the highest unemployment in the nation and have lost thousands of the best jobs we have in the state — to insert uncertainty into the permitting process leads to delay and delay leads to no jobs and for those reasons and many more the Alliance is opposed to HB 199,” Logan said. Americans for Prosperity Alaska Director Jeremy Price called it “a regulatory nightmare,” in his testimony. “It only adds to the cost of a project.” Stand for Salmon Director Ryan Schryver thanked Stutes for her work on Title 16, but said the new HB 199 doesn’t go far enough to guard anadromous habitat, as did several other testifiers. “While we don’t support the bill in its current version, we will continue to work with legislative leaders to update the law and fix the fundamental problems with salmon habitat protections in our state,” Schryver said in a formal statement April 7. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: Salmon harvests, halibut prices take sharp turn down

Alaska is expecting a reduced salmon harvest this year, setting up a trifecta of falling fish revenues for Alaska fishermen, coastal communities and state coffers. Coming on the heels of an 80 percent crash of cod stocks in the Gulf of Alaska and a 10 percent decline in halibut catches, state fishery managers are projecting a 2018 salmon harvest at 149 million fish, down 34 percent from last season. The shortfall stems from lower forecasts for returning pink salmon. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a humpie harvest of just 70 million fish, down by more than half from last summer. For sockeye salmon, a statewide catch of about 52 million is down 1.8 million fish from 2017, which was the fifth-largest red salmon harvest since 1970. By far, most of the sockeyes will come from Bristol Bay’s nine river systems where a projected harvest of 37.5 million would be down by more than a million, but still well above the 10- and 20-year averages for the Bay. Alaska’s chum salmon catch last year of 25 million also was the largest haul since 1970. This year’s statewide catch is expected to produce 21 million chums, down by nearly four million. The 2018 coho catch is pegged at 5.8 million, nearly 600,000 more silvers than last season. For chinook salmon, the forecast calls for a catch of 99,000 kings in areas outside of Southeast Alaska, where the numbers are determined by treaty with Canada. Declining stocks have forced fishery managers to impose tough restrictions on chinook catches for all users. Alaska’s salmon season officially gets underway in mid-May when sockeye and king salmon return to the Copper River near Cordova. That’s followed by commercial openers across the state from Ketchikan to as far north as Kotzebue. Alaska’s 2017 harvest of 224 million salmon was valued at nearly $680 million at the docks. Find a summary of the 2017 season and outlooks for 2018 at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game website. Halibut tanks As feared, prices for halibut sank like a stone as the season’s first fresh fish crossed the Alaska docks last week. The fishery opened on March 24 and traditionally, the first landings fetch high prices and then drop as the market settles out. That’s not the case this year. Prices started at $4.50 to $5 per pound at major ports, or roughly $2 lower than fishermen have received in recent years. At Kodiak, for example, one major buyer paid $4.50 per pound for first deliveries and the price dropped to $4.25 the next day. Seward starting prices were reported at $4.50, $4.75 or $5 based on fish weights. Yakutat was paying the highest price at $5.25 across the board. “The market is really lackluster and buying is on spot,” said one Kodiak processor, meaning purchases and payments are made immediately rather than on longer-term contracts. The push back to escalating Pacific halibut prices began last October when payouts to fishermen tumbled for the first time in four years. Buyer resistance was bad enough to force some Alaska processors to turn away deliveries, or buy only from their long-term boats. One wholesale buyer commented: “Who in their right mind is going to pay $30 or more for a pound of fish?” Adding to the market snub momentum: reports of up to 10 million of pounds of fresh, less pricey Atlantic halibut coming into the U.S. from eastern Canada. The close proximity of that fresh fish to the eastern seaboard has cut into Alaska’s share of those customers, and the Canadian fish already is making inroads heading west. In 2005 Atlantic halibut accounted for just 4 percent of the total North American halibut harvest, said economist Andy Wink of Wink Research. Since then, Pacific halibut harvests have declined by 63 percent while Atlantic harvests have increased 195 percent and imports to the U.S. have nearly tripled. Another headwind for Alaska fishermen as the halibut season gets underway: hefty holdovers of halibut reportedly remain in freezers from last season. A fleet of about 2,000 Alaskans fish commercially for halibut each year from Southeast to the Bering Sea. The average price paid to fishermen in 2017 was $6.32 per pound with a fishery value of $112 million at the docks. The Alaska halibut catch limit for 2018 is 17.5 million pounds; the fishery runs through Nov. 7. Fish bucks for all The lower fish catches and/or prices should concern all Alaskans, even if they live far from the coast. Fishery landing taxes, which are based on dock prices, are split evenly between the port where the fish is delivered and the state’s general fund, to be distributed at the whim of the Legislature. With Alaska’s commercial catches on the order of 5 to 6 billion pounds per year, adding just one penny per pound makes a difference of nearly one million dollars in landing taxes for the state and local governments each. “While the tax implications are important,” Wink said, “the greater issue is that lower prices and lower quotas mean less income coming into coastal economies this year.” Fish map Are you considering your options for diversifying more fisheries? A new interactive map from Alaska Sea Grant lets you search 183 commercial fisheries across the state. “You can sort it by region, by species, and by gear type,” said Sunny Rice, a Sea Grant agent at Petersburg. “As you put in these limiting factors and hit Go, the icons will pop up representing those fisheries.” Fisheries also can be sorted by limited entry, quota shares, open access and other categories. The fishing map came about, Rice said, from frequent comments at the Young Fishermen’s Summits. “People would say ‘I didn’t realize there was this kind of fishery in that part of the state,’ or ‘I didn’t even know that there were other people fishing Dungeness crab in other regions.’ Or, ‘what are my options for moving into additional fisheries when I don’t even know what fisheries are out there,’” Rice explained. The map is an ongoing collaboration with Sea Grant agents across the state and United Fishermen of Alaska, and is aimed primarily at new fishing entrants or those who want to grow their operations. “Maybe you already are fishing a certain species and you didn’t realize there was a possibility of fishing that at another place. Or you already have the gear to do one fishery and maybe you could use that gear somewhere else. You can sort it in those ways,” she added. The map, which is part of Sea Grant’s popular Fish Biz tool kit, also provides links to money matters, such as permit costs and fishery earnings from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. “If you’re really considering getting into a fishery, you can look back into the quartile tables and find out what people in that fishery have earned in the past,” Rice said. The map is a good start, she added, but the best go-to place for answers is local fishery managers. “If fishermen are serious about considering a new fishery, call the manager for that area,” Rice advises. “Those guys are very available and can answer all your questions.” Feedback on the fishing map is encouraged. Contact Rice at [email protected] Fish call The Alaska Board of Fisheries is calling for proposals for suggested changes in the subsistence, personal use, sport, guided sport, and commercial fishing regulations for Bristol Bay, Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim, Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Islands, Chignik, and statewide finfish general provisions. Deadline to submit proposals is April 10. Proposal forms are available at the Boards Support website and may be mailed to Juneau or submitted online or via email at [email protected] Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Halibut faces headwinds as catches drop 10%

Pacific halibut catches for 2018 won’t decline as severely as initially feared, but the fishery faces headwinds from several directions. Federal fishery managers announced just a few days before the March 24 start of the halibut opener that commercial catches for Alaska will be down 10 percent for a total of 17.5 million pounds. The industry was on tenterhooks awaiting the catch information, which typically is announced by the International Pacific Halibut Commission in late January. However, representatives from the U.S. and Canada could not agree on how to apportion the halibut catches in fishing regions that stretch from the west coast and British Columbia to the Bering Sea. “The Canadians felt there was justification in the survey and commercial fishery data that, in concert with a long-held position that the IPHC’s apportionment scheme was not accurate, supported a higher catch limit. They were also opposed to the slow pace the U.S. has taken in reducing its bycatch of halibut in the Bering Sea,” said Peggy Parker of Seafoodnews.com. The impasse put the decision in the laps of federal managers at NOAA Fisheries in Washington, D.C., who were pushed to the wire to get the halibut catch limits and regulations on the rule books in time for the fishery start. Adding to the halibut drama are reports of hefty holdovers of fish in freezers, and competition again from Atlantic halibut from eastern Canada. Prices for Alaska halibut are typically very high for the season’s first deliveries and then decrease after a few weeks. Last year they started out topping $7 per pound to fishermen at major ports. Prices remained in the $5 to $6 range for the duration of the eight-month fishery, prompting a push back from buyers who complained of “price fatigue” and switched their sourcing to less expensive Atlantic fish. When the first fish crossed after March 24, prices at $4.50 to $5 per pound at major ports are $2 or so lower than fishermen have been accustomed to receiving over the past few years. Kodiak, for example, was paying $4.50 on March 27, and likely to drop a bit. Seward prices were reported at $4.50 to $5. Yakutat was paying the highest at $5.25 across the board.Here is a breakdown of Alaska commercial halibut catches in pounds by region: Area 2C/Southeast: 3.57 million, down 15.2 percent Area 3A/Central Gulf: 7.35 million, down 5 percent Area 3B/Western Gulf: 2.62 million, down 16.6 percent Area 4B/Aleutian Islands: 1.05 million, down 7.9 percent Area 4CDE/Bering Sea: 1.58 million, down 7.1 percent Trump tariffs Seafood is Alaska’s largest export by far, usually totaling over $3 billion annually and China has is the top destination of those exports at nearly 30 percent. It’s too soon to tell how Trump’s nearly $60 billion in tariffs with China will affect Alaska’s seafood sales, but it will likely result in some backlash. Tariffs are taxes on imports that make them more expensive to consumers. “In general, access to international markets is a huge deal for Alaska and anything that restricts trade is generally a negative for the seafood industry,” said Garrett Evridge, a seafood analyst for the McDowell Group. “Often when the U.S goes down this road, other countries will reciprocate with the same industry. If China reciprocates with tariffs, that will raise the cost of all seafood products in those markets.” Evridge pointed to Trump’s refusal to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have been the world’s largest trade agreement with 11 countries covering 40 percent of the global economy. Alaska seafood was set to net a big benefit from the TPP with lowered or zeroed out tariffs on seafood. Currently, the tariffs across the partnership countries range from 3.5 to 11 percent. For Alaska pollock roe and surimi, for example, 4.2 percent tariffs going into Japan would have immediately gone to zero, said Ron Rogness of American Seafoods Company. Tariffs on Alaska sockeye salmon – now at 3.5% - also would have been zeroed out. For other salmon species, the import tax would have been gradually reduced and eventually eliminated. The tariffs on king and snow crab, herring roe and frozen cod also would have ended immediately upon TPP passage. In another trade imbalance, the U.S. continues to import millions of dollars in seafood from Russia, even though that country placed a continuing embargo on purchasing seafood and other goods from the U.S. in 2013. Russian purchases of Alaska seafood totaled at least 20 million pounds of mostly pink salmon roe and pollock surimi annually, valued at $60 million, according to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Through June of 2017, the U.S imported 36 million pounds of seafood from Russia valued at nearly $267 million. According to NOAA Fisheries trade data, so far this year imports to the U.S. from Russia total nearly 4.2 million pounds valued at more than $23.5 million. That includes 185,000 pounds of frozen sockeye salmon valued at nearly $700,000; over 375,000 pounds of red king crab valued at more than $6.6 million and nearly 1.3 million pounds of snow crab worth $4.3 million. Interestingly, the data show the U.S. imported 142,000 pounds of “Alaska” pollock fillets, valued at over $87,000. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: ASMI launches new marketing for old crabs

“It’s what’s on the inside that counts” is the message Alaska crab marketers are pushing to their customers, encouraging them to put appearances aside. “We’re telling them to ‘Get Ugly,’” said Tyson Fick, executive director of the trade group, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, speaking of the new campaign launched last week in partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute at the big Seafood Expo in Boston. The promotion showcases Alaska crabs with darker, discolored or scarred shells or adorned with barnacles, that may be less appealing to shoppers. “It’s the initial step in the campaign to raise awareness among retailers, restaurants and consumers,” said ASMI communications director Jeremy Woodrow. We’re saying ‘go ahead, tell your customers to get ugly.’ After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” “Ugly crab is safe and delicious to eat, it just isn’t as pretty,” a flyer distributed at Boston says, explaining that shell appearance varies based on crab maturity and timing of the molt. It says that shell variations demonstrate “the authentic nature of seafood caught in the wild,” and that “purchasing ugly crab is a way to support our planet’s wild resources.” The Get Ugly team is modeling Alaska crab after similar image enhancement efforts underway by farmers. “We’re taking a page out of the book of what some fruits and vegetable have done; that a blemish doesn’t affect the taste of the thing, and with crab, the meat fill might even be better,” Fick said, adding that avoiding food waste and improving sustainability are also part of the message. Creating more customers for less visually appealing crab also would improve fishermen’s bottom line, as the product drags down prices. “It is graded at the processor and may be graded further at the repacker. There may be several grades for off-color shells depending on the species, quantity and other factors. It varies from year to year,” said Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange that negotiates prices for most Bering Sea crabbers. The ugly crab can comprise up to 30 percent of a catch at certain times of year, which has been the case during this year’s snow crab fishery, said Fick. “We are in a cycle, especially with snow crab, where there is a higher percentage of old shell crab. We are trying to create consumer demand to help with that situation,” he said. By all accounts, the Get Ugly campaign got lots of good feedback in Boston. Fick believes it offers potential for other Alaska seafood. “Fish with net marks or a little bit of blush to the skin color on a salmon; seafood products that have visual imperfections but are still fantastic quality otherwise,” he said. “It truly is what’s on the inside that counts.” Hatchery hauls The number of salmon returning to Alaska hatcheries last year nearly doubled over the 2016 return, but the proportion of the catch that hatchery fish contributed to the state’s total salmon catch declined. Hatchery fish made up 21 percent of Alaska’s commercial salmon catch in 2017, the lowest level since 1995. The hatchery take usually adds up to one-third of Alaska’s salmon catch or more. “The average return of hatchery fish was simply dwarfed by a near record high wild stock harvest,” said Mark Stopha, author of the annual salmon enhancement report for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game in Juneau. Fishermen last year caught just less than 50 million salmon that began their lives in one of Alaska’s 25 privately operated hatcheries. The fish were valued at more than $160 million at the docks, 24 percent of Alaska’s total salmon fishery value. Currently, 29 salmon hatcheries are operating in Alaska — 25 are operated by private nonprofit corporations, which are funded primarily from the sale of a portion of salmon returns. Two sport fish hatcheries are operated by the state, one research hatchery by NOAA Fisheries, and one production hatchery by the Metlakatla Indian Community. Pink and chum salmon by far make up most of Alaska’s hatchery production. The fish are released as fingerlings to the sea and are offspring of brood stocks originally derived from wild salmon stocks near each hatchery. Most hatchery production occurs at Prince William Sound, where the 28 million hatchery-produced fish caught last year were valued at $70 million, nearly 60 percent of the region’s total salmon fishery. Southeast is next with hatchery catches of about 8 million, mostly chums. The fish accounted for nearly 40 percent of Southeast’s total salmon fishery value of $53 million. Kodiak’s two hatcheries contributed $3 million, or 6 percent, to the island’s salmon catch last year, mostly from sockeyes. About 150,000 hatchery salmon, mostly sockeyes, were caught last year at Cook Inlet, valued at over a half million dollars. The Department of Fish and Game also coordinates educational programs with state and private hatcheries at 150 Alaska schools where kids hatch and grow salmon in their classrooms. Hatchery operators forecast a return of about 54 million fish to Alaska this year. Fishing tracker I know that my son has been fishing on the west side of Kodiak Island. How? A new, free interactive map lets anyone zero in on near real-time views of fishing patterns of individual boats and fishing fleets anywhere in the world. Researchers at the University of California’s Bren School of Environmental Science &Management created a Global Fishing Watch map using satellite images and common ship-tracking technology, marking the first time that fishing’s global footprint has been quantified. After observing more than 40 million hours of fishing activity in 2016, they discovered that five countries account for more than 85 percent of high seas fishing: China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Fishing activity now covers at least 55 percent of the world’s oceans, or four times the land area covered by agriculture. The trackers found that 70,000 vessels of the global fishing fleet traveled nearly 286 million miles in 2016, or equivalent to traveling to the moon and back 600 times. The team used machine learning technology to analyze 22 billion messages publicly broadcasted from vessels’ Automatic Identification Systems over four years. Based solely on movement patterns, the Global Fishing Watch algorithm was able to identify each commercial fishing vessel, their sizes and engine powers, what type of fishing they were doing, and when and where they fished down to the hour and mile. By making the Global Fishing Watch public, governments, managers and researchers now have information to make better decisions in regulating fishing activities and reaching conservation and sustainability goals. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Halibut fishery poised to open as NMFS works on 2018 catch limits

Alaska’s halibut fishery is set to open this month, but the final quota was still not completely set as of March 14, even as fishermen began to receive permits in the mail. Indications, however, are that the quota will decrease this year compared to last. Under regulations published by the National Marine Fisheries Service this month, the fishery will open March 24 and run through Nov. 7. But the total catch limits remain unknown. That’s because this year, for just the second time in the commission’s history that dates to its creation by a 1923 treaty, the International Pacific Halibut Commission could not come to an agreement about the 2018 catch limits at its annual meeting. That leaves it up to regulatory bodies in each country to determine the limits instead. Halibut Coalition Executive Director Tom Gemmell said he expects the quota to decrease by about 15 percent overall compared to 2017, when Alaskan fishermen had their total statewide quota set at about 22.62 million pounds. In 2017, and for a few years prior, the quota had increased slightly after nearly a decade of annual cuts totaling more than 70 percent from mid-2000 highs. The halibut commission is the six-member body (three each from the U.S. and Canada) charged with regulating the halibut fishery from Northern California to the Bering Sea under the international Pacific halibut treaty, including setting the catch limit each year. The IPHC meets each January and decides on the coastwide halibut catch limits, based on input from staff scientists. But this past January, at its annual meeting in Portland, the commission was not able to come to an agreement on the 2018 limits. Gemmell said the lack of agreement was not entirely surprising. “Last year, the commission was not unanimous about the quota,” he explained, which sort of foreshadowed future disagreements. Until new catch limits are published, the 2017 limits remain in effect. But the IPHC did agree unanimously that those limits were too liberal, and that the resource needs more protection, said Kurt Iverson of the NMFS Alaska Region Sustainable Fisheries Division. “The U.S. and Canada unanimously agreed that catch limits should be lower in 2018,” Iverson said. The two countries couldn’t, however, agree on how much lower to set the coastwide limit, or how to split it up between regions. Gemmell said there have been a few sticking points in the two countries negotiations over the past few years. One is that the Canadians have advocated for more quota for British Columbia fishermen than the stock assessment model appears to support. The other is the level of cuts for Area 3A, which encompasses much of the Central Gulf of Alaska. Canadians have favored larger cuts there than Americans, Gemmell said. Without new IPHC limits for 2018, the 2017 limits remain in place. But under the terms of the halibut treaty, NMFS has the authority to set its own regulations as long as they are not in conflict with those set by the commission, an option NMFS is exercising this year to meet the commission’s recommendation of a reduction. “Carrying the 2017 catch limits forward would not serve conservation purposes,” Iverson said, although those limits will remain in place until 2018 limits are published. This month, the federal agency published season dates and some other regulatory changes for the coming fishing season. The interim final rule with new 2018 catch limits was expected to be published soon, Gemmell said in mid-March. “The season opens March 24. There’s a really high probability that the rule is going to be out before then,” he said. Iverson agreed. “It is right now in the process. It is under review,” he said. “… We’re targeting before that first opening.” Typically, once the IPHC makes its recommendations on the annual catch limits, NMFS is able to publish those through a “pretty fast track” process, Gemmell said. Without that fast-track, the regulatory process is much more difficult. But NMFS appeared to be working to quickly get the fishery going despite the challenging winter, Gemmell said. “People are getting their permits in the mail starting today,” Gemmell said on March 13. “…It’s all kind of falling into place now.” In setting the 2018 limits, NMFS had some help from the commission staff, which provided an update on the halibut stock status as part of its meeting this fall, and also from the American commissioners specifically, who made a recommendation for some specific 2018 catch limits that were lower than the 2017 limits. The American commissioners suggested a catch limit of about 4.5 million pounds in Area 2C, which encompasses Southeast Alaska, and a limit of 9.5 million pounds in Area 3A. Those are both reductions from 2017, and include the combined charter-commercial catch. This likely won’t be the only year of cuts. In addition to its commissioners, which are appointed by each nation, the IPHC has staff scientists responsible for assessing the status of the halibut stock and determining what it will likely be in the future. This past year, the assessments showed a weaker stock. Both the halibut survey out in the ocean, and the review of fishermen’s catch per unit effort, appeared to show that decline. “There’s a couple year classes that aren’t showing up as strong as we’d like ‘em to be. So its probable that the quota is going to go down again (in 2019),” Gemmell said. The commission also regulates other components of the halibut fishery, including the season dates. Those were set as usual, and the commission also approved some other minor regulatory changes. They did not approve the catch share allocations or charter halibut management measures as usual, Iverson noted. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council recommends the charter management measures to keep the charter fleet within its allocation, and the IPHC typically adopts those as recommended. That did not happen this year. The IPHC is expected to meet in April to discuss its differences and how it might go forward in the future. Just who will represent the United States going forward is still unknown, however. Currently, the U.S. commissioners are NMFS Regional Administrator Jim Balsiger of Juneau, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association Executive Director Linda Behnken of Sitka and Washington’s Bob Alverson, from the Fishing Vessel Owners Association. Behnken’s and Alverson’s terms expire this month. But have said they would like to continue serving on the commission, but NMFS also solicited other possible appointees in February. According to the call for nominees, would-be commissioners are vetted by the Department of Commerce and Department of State and forwarded to the Office of the President for consideration for presidential appointments. Molly Dischner can be reached at [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: Discarded nets find new use; still waiting on halibut quotas

More big bundles of old fishing nets will soon be on their way from Dutch Harbor to Denmark to be remade into high-end plastics. It will be the second batch of nets to leave Dutch for a higher cause and more Alaska fishing towns can get on board. Last summer a community collaborative put nearly 240,000 pounds, or about 40 nets, into shipping vans that were bound for a Danish “clean tech” company called Plastix. The company refines and pelletizes all types of plastics and resells them to makers of water bottles, cell phone cases and other items. “It seems so unreasonable and not logical to just throw it away when we know that if handling plastics right — if sorting and homogenizing it — you can actually reuse it over and over again,” said Plastix CEO Axel Kristensen. The collaboration with Dutch Harbor is the company’s first venture into the U.S., he told radio station KUCB. It was a news story about fishing nets being turned into footwear by Adidas that spawned the Dutch Harbor/Denmark connection, said Nicole Baker, founder of netyourproblem.com and leader of the net removal project in Dutch last summer. As a former fishery observer for five years, Baker had seen massive piles of derelict nets at far flung Alaska ports and the story inspired her to find a solution. “A light bulb went off in my head. I thought if this group is looking for more fishing nets to turn into shoes, I certainly know where they can get some,” Baker said. It turned out that Adidas can only use nylon nets it its footwear and fishing gear that targets cod, pollock and flounders is made of different plastics. With guidance and financial help from the Global Ghost Gear Initiative Baker connected with a taker and charted a course for Dutch Harbor. “I went to different boats and knocked on the door and said ‘hey, we’re doing net recycling, do you have any nets to get rid of, and if you do, would you go with me to the net yard and show me which ones they are,’” Baker said. From there, others in the fishing industry kicked in. “Swan Nets bundled them and delivered them to OSI (Offshore Systems, Inc.) where they were stored. They were loaded into containers and Trident and Plastix arranged the shipping,” Baker said. “They did not even require sorting. We basically bundled up the nets and put them in shipping containers and off they went.” Baker believes that fishermen have so few options for net disposal, they are becoming more receptive to recycling. “The reason that the nets are sitting around is because it costs too much money and preparation to take them to the landfill, or they literally do not have another option,” Baker said, adding that nets can weigh from 5,000 to 20,000 pounds each. At Dutch Harbor net storage costs were listed at over $1,000 per cubic yard. There have been many ambitious and successful marine debris and removal projects in Alaska over the past decade or more, but they come and go. Meanwhile, the old fishing nets continue to pile up. Baker hopes to expand the Plastix project to St. Paul Island this summer, and hopefully, to Kodiak and other fishing towns. “Each fishing port will have its own logistics plan but the general role will be the same,” Baker said. “You need somebody to truck the nets around, load them, ship them. Basically, I see my role as connecting fishermen with the recyclers. “This is a long-term vision,” she added, “but I would like to set up a program that when you buy a new net you know exactly what to do with the old one.” The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is now offering grants on fishing gear removal programs. Deadline to apply is April 19. Contact Nicole Baker at [email protected] Fish watch Hundreds more boats will be out on the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska fishing grounds this month when halibut and herring fisheries get added to the mix. They will join a segmented patchwork of fishing fleets that have been targeting pollock, cod and other whitefish since the start of the year. The Bering Sea snow crab fishery that got underway in mid-January is winding down, while at the same time, the first Tanner crab fishery in decades is just starting at Prince William Sound. The year’s first red king crab fishery kicked off at Norton Sound on March 3. The winter king salmon season in Southeast closes to trollers earlier this year on March 15 to help conserve the dwindling stock. That fishery usually stays open through April. Alaska’s first herring fishery will begin in mid- to late March at Sitka Sound. The projected catch is 11,128 tons, down from 14,649 tons last year. The Pacific halibut fishery is scheduled to open on March 24 but there’s no word yet on how much fish might be caught. Because U.S. and Canadian halibut commissioners could not agree in January on how to divide the stocks between the two countries, the catch limits and fishing regulations are being set instead at each nation’s capital. “The Canadians refused to agree to the U.S. recommendations because they don’t agree with the way the coastline stock is apportioned among the management areas. They haven’t agreed with the process for a number of years,” explained fishery adviser Heather McCarty. “The U.S. commissioners refused to vote for the one management area off Canada because they believed it was too high from a conservation standpoint.” The interim rule from NOAA Fisheries will hopefully be out this week with the new quotas and halibut charter management measures. “It will be close to sending out permits for the March 24 opening,” said Tom Gemmell, director of the Juneau-based Halibut Coalition. The 2018 Pacific halibut catches are expected to decline in all regions. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

As habitat initiative debate swirls, ADFG outlines current best practices

The Alaska Supreme Court will still have its say, but there’s a good chance voters will be asked whether or not the state should overhaul its permitting regime for construction projects impacting salmon habitat. It’s the latest battle in the ongoing debate over how far the state should go to protect its prized fish resources while at the same time promoting development of the state’s renowned petroleum and mineral resources. The sponsors of the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative — Alaskans with commercial, sport and subsistence fishing interests — contend Title 16, the state statute for permitting projects in fish and wildlife habitat that has not been updated since statehood, needs serious strengthening to continue protecting anadromous fish as the state continues to grow. They argue the ambiguous wording of the law, which directs the commissioner of Fish and Game to approve projects that provide for the “proper protection of fish and game,” is too open for interpretation by political appointees who could be swayed to overlook stringent construction requirements for potentially profitable developments. Opponents of the initiative — led by trade groups for the state’s oil and gas and mining industries and Alaska Native corporations with huge land holdings that are also heavily involved in those industries — point to Alaska’s generally prosperous salmon runs as proof the significant changes to Title 16 the initiative would institute are unnecessary and would debilitate an economy dependent on resource development. They have formed their own campaign group, Stand for Alaska. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in April over whether the initiative is unconstitutional after conflicting opinions have been handed down from the Alaska Department of Law and Superior Court. The sponsors, who collected enough signatures to place it on this November’s general election ballot, retort that to date Alaska has for the most part been “lucky” that large developments have occurred outside of major salmon fisheries so the inadequacies in Title 16 haven’t been exposed. Gov. Bill Walker is among the opponents of the Stand for Salmon initiative. He insists such fundamental law changes should be left to the legislative process so the statute can be crafted with input from all impacted parties. The initiative would apply to all waters that support anadromous fish — those species that migrate freely between fresh and salt water — that, in addition to salmon, include everything from steelhead to smelt and lampreys. However, salmon are king in Alaska and therefore dominate the discussion. It should be noted that the Stand for Salmon sponsors did not stir this political hornets’ nest on their own. In January 2017 the Board of Fisheries wrote a letter to legislative leaders requesting revisions to Title 16. The seven-member board is comprised of individuals first appointed by pro-development Govs. Frank Murkowski, Sean Parnell and Walker. “Additional guidance is warranted for the protection of fish, to set clear expectations for permit applicants and to reduce uncertainty in predevelopment planning costs,” the letter states. “To strengthen ADF&G’s implementation and enforcement of the permitting program, the legislature may want to consider creating enforceable standards in statute to protect fish habitat, and to guide and create a more certain permitting system.” Kodiak Rep. Louise Stutes, who chairs the House Fisheries Committee, is currently working on a new draft to House Bill 199, which she submitted last year and originally mirrored the initiative. She decided to rework HB 199 after hearing testimony from supporters, detractors and regulatory agencies involved in development projects. What’s in it? Specifically, the eight-page initiative would start by setting up a two-tiered permitting regime for projects in salmon habitat. “Minor” habitat permit applications could be issued quickly and generally for projects deemed to have an insignificant impact on salmon waters. “Major” permits for larger projects such as mines, dams and anything determined to potentially have a significant impact on salmon-bearing waters would require the project sponsor to prove the project would not damage salmon habitat. Supporters assert upwards of three-quarters of the habitat development permit applications Fish and Game currently adjudicates would fall in the minor category and what exactly constitutes unacceptable or “significant adverse affects” on anadromous fish habitat would still be up to the Legislature and Fish and Game commissioners to determine. Additionally, the project sponsor would have to prove that impacted waters are not salmon habitat during any stage of the fish life cycle if the waters are connected to proven salmon habitat in any way but not yet listed in the state’s Anadromous Waters Catalog. Among other changes, it would also limit mitigation of habitat impacts by major projects to the impacted watershed, thereby eliminating offsite compensatory mitigation to other anadromous waters, and require sufficient fish passage be maintained throughout the life of the project. Finally, it would provide for public comment periods on major project permits, a provision the Board of Fisheries advocated for in its letter that is not part of the current permitting process. What’s the standard now? So, other than lacking public participation, which initiative opponents note is usually available through other permits developments need, what does the current anadromous waters permitting process consist of? That’s the question Ron Benkert with the Department of Fish and Game attempted to answer for the Journal during an hour-long interview. A fisheries biologist by trade, Benkert has been with the Habitat Division for 10 years after many years of salmonid experience through various research positions in the Pacific Northwest and California. In discussing what it takes to design, dig and develop in salmon habitat in Alaska, Benkert likes to start with what goes into the seemingly simple task of installing culverts in small salmon streams, which he refers to as one of the “bread and butter” projects the department oversees. “It’s one of the things we do an awful lot of because we have assessed a lot of the culverts in the state and obviously DOT and the boroughs and other entities have all got a lot of bad culverts out there,” he said. “We all recognize the problem out there and I think DOT and the boroughs are really stringently trying to correct those as funding becomes available.” The problem often lies in what work originally went into culverts set in road and rail beds decades ago — but under the same Title 16 — before rigorous design standards were applied that allow for fish passage. If not in the original installation, the issue is likely because of erosion or a changing stream channel that has made a once-suitable culvert impassable. ADFG has a catalog of “bad pipes,” as Benkert calls them, which officials reference each time there is roadwork scheduled, he said. “Every time DOT conducts some kind of maintenance or road construction DOT has been very responsive, as well as the boroughs, at recognizing that (a culvert) needs to be fixed as part of the project,” Benkert said. Installing a fish-friendly pipe is more than burying a culvert big enough for a few chinook salmon to squeeze through. In 2001, the departments of Transportation and Fish and Game signed a memorandum of agreement, or MOA, detailing how the former will ensure the culverts it puts in its roads are compatible with the species in a given stream. The 33-page document delves into the particulars of how to design a culvert to simulate stream water flow conditions as well as the sustained and burst swimming performance at varying water temperatures of 15 fish species common to Alaska. ADFG has enforcement authority over DOT projects despite the two being equal state agencies. Benkert said he considers the agreement to be a prime example of how Fish and Game works with project proponents to achieve specific but important characteristics of a project under the broad “proper protection” mandate. And while a culvert replacement isn’t the kind of project that garners headlines, the cumulative effects of restoring the ability of fish to move through small, seemingly insignificant braids of water can’t be overstated, according to Benkert. “Connectivity is huge,” he stressed. “You reconnect fish to habitats they haven’t been able to access; especially up in the headwater areas that are big rearing areas (for juvenile salmon). You’re just really expanding fish habitat or at least reestablishing fish habitat that was available to them before urbanization occurred.” At the same time, habitat regulators must be pragmatic and evaluate the practicability of improving fish passage. Benkert said in some instances — for example when the upstream portion viable fish habitat is particularly small, as can be the case where roads parallel mountainsides — the department won’t apply the MOA standards if the added costs are into the millions of dollars to restore access to a couple hundred feet or less of stream. “We like to put our money where it’s going to get the best bang for the buck,” he added. Large projects On larger projects things can get increasingly more complex. That’s where the department’s habitat impact mitigation sequence of avoid, minimize, rectify and reduce or, as a last line of defense, compensatory mitigation comes into play. It’s also why project plans rarely look the same after applying for an anadromous fish habitat permit. “That’s our first line of defense, if you will, as far as negotiating with an applicant. How can we change the project footprint or how you’re operating so that you’re not even having an issue with an anadromous water body,” Benkert said. In Feb. 15 testimony before the House Fisheries Committee, he said the department rarely denies a habitat application because proponents usually withdraw them first if it becomes clear that the project won’t be able to meet the department’s thresholds. “We have mid-sized placer miners that want to relocate anadromous streams all the time and I’ve still to this day not had one come in with a plan that’s good enough for us to permit,” Benkert said. “They usually withdraw their application because of that high bar.” Such small business miners simply don’t have the financial wherewithal or the “quiver of biologists and bioengineers” needed to succeed in that type of work, he added. However, on the largest projects such as major mines, dams or oil developments, significant restoration or mitigation can become viable. Real world examples Habitat Division Operations Manager Alvin Ott wrote in a Sept. 27 Superior Court affidavit for Stand for Salmon’s appeal of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s rejection of the initiative that Donlin Gold — in the upper Kuskokwim River drainage — is proposing to destroy two anadromous streams, American and Anaconda creeks, to build the tailings dam and impoundment for its proposed gold mine. In exchange, the company would offset the loss of that habitat by restoring coho salmon rearing habitat damaged by historic placer mining activity in the nearby Crooked Creek watershed, according to Ott. He wrote further that he believes such offsite compensatory mitigation would not be permitted under the initiative language. Benkert acknowledged that constructing or restoring anadromous fish habitat is a tremendous undertaking that’s as much an “art form” as it is science. “It doesn’t matter how good the design looks, if you’ve got an operator that’s saying ‘that’s good enough;’ it’s a very precise thing. You’re talking (bank) elevations within tenths of an inch; making sure everything’s just right so when a big storm hits it doesn’t just unravel,” Benkert said. “It’s a very rigorous process if we’re going to try to replace some kind of anadromous habitat with something that’s artificially created that’s supposed to be able to maintain itself into perpetuity.” As a result, Fish and Game rarely agrees to a 1-1 tradeoff during mitigation negotiations; project proponents are expected to replace more than is damaged, according to Benkert. However, he was enthusiastic to discuss the artificial wetlands complex built similarly from what was placer mine waste below the tailings dam to the Fort Knox gold mine near Fairbanks. It’s not an anadromous system, Benkert conceded, but the department has been monitoring it for nearly 15 years and has many positives to report. “It went from a place that was fairly low density population of fish and wildlife because it was just trashed landscape,” he said. “Now we have huge numbers of grayling and burbot in that system; all kinds of wildlife that’s associated with that habitat.” He noted there are ospreys nesting in the area because there are enough fish — ospreys’ almost exclusive prey — in the system to support them. Whether a simple culvert replacement or a total rebuild to a former salmon stream, Fish and Game relies on best practices learned in Alaska or elsewhere and a lot of professional judgment to determine what activities will be permitted and what mitigation will be deemed sufficient, he said. It’s for that reason that the department has no regulations to accompany the Title 16 statute; the best way to do things is in constant evolution. Benkert said Fish and Game codifies in its own way what is “proper protection” through the information department officials rely on to make decisions. “There’s not a list of things in regulation that says you have to do this, this, this and this but we’ve got all kinds of guidance documents, technical reports, working guidelines and then we go to the literature, too,” he explained. “We always look to see what’s happening in the Pacific Northwest because there’s a lot of new technology out there and it keeps changing.” The 2001 agreement with DOT, for example, specifies culverts should be 0.9 bank full widths of the stream channel in diameter. Benkert described the rule as “old school now,” noting the latest recommendations out of Washington and Oregon call for culverts equal to 1.2 bank widths plus two feet, which DOT has agreed to abide by. Beyond advancing technical standards for development projects, the Habitat Division has expanded the areas it classifies as anadromous waters in the state’s catalog to wetlands in recent years as well. Wetlands, now understood to often be critical juvenile salmon habitat, can be afforded the same protections as well-known rivers under the Anadromous Fish Act if Fish and Game confirms a wetlands area to be anadromous fish habitat. The entire Colville River delta on the North Slope, which includes ConocoPhillips’ Alpine oil field and the large Nanushuk oil project that is in permitting, is officially anadromous territory, according to the state. Though the Department of Fish and Game has considerable leeway in how far it can go to demand fish protections, Benkert noted the state is obligated to accept all factors and utilize, develop and conserve “all natural resources belonging to the state, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people.” “The wrinkle we always have to remember here is our constitutional mandate. It doesn’t say you’re just going to protect fish; you need to protect fish but consider the economic welfare and development of the state, too. Our mandate here is specific. We are supposed to figure out how to allow development in the stat with minimal or avoiding impacts to the fish. That’s something we need to consider all the time,” he continued. “We can’t just say no because the fish may have the potential of being impacted by it; that’s why we have this whole process. That’s the tricky part. The fish come first at the end of the day but we try really hard to get the project to the point where it can be environmentally acceptable.” It all comes back to differing views as to what’s acceptable. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Cook Inlet salmon plan back in front of federal council in April

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will continue its discussion of who should manage Cook Inlet salmon fisheries, and how, at its April meeting in Anchorage. The council is continuing court-ordered work to develop a federal fishery management plan, or FMP, for the salmon fisheries currently managed by the state in Cook Inlet, including creation of a new salmon management committee. From October 2017 to this February, the council solicited proposals regarding the membership of the new committee and the work it might do. Those are expected to be made public around March 16, and the council will discuss them at its April meeting in Anchorage. According to information provided by the council, the comment period generated 33 responses, 25 nominations or applications for participation on the new salmon committee. Those nominations won’t be considered right away, however. The council is also expected to issue the formal call for salmon committee members at the April meeting, and a decision on membership won’t come until after that comment period. The committee and other work to re-tool Cook Inlet salmon management all stems from a lawsuit brought by the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, or UCIDA, that challenged the council decision in 2011 to formally remove the Cook Inlet, Alaska Peninsula and Prince William Sound salmon fisheries from the federal management plan. The council is now working to write a Cook Inlet management plan at the directive of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed a U.S. District Court of Alaska judge’s decision to dismiss UCIDA’s lawsuit in 2016. UCIDA’s suit asserted that federal managers should retain oversight of certain salmon fisheries currently managed by the State of Alaska to ensure it complies with the Magnuson-Stevens Act national standards. Those fisheries occur partially in federal waters but have historically managed by the state. The other areas of the state were not included in the federal order, and stakeholder groups from those regions have said they would prefer to largely remain under state management. Eventually, the council is expected to develop a management plan that addresses what Cook Inlet management work is delegated to the state, and how that delegation will work. Right now, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages Cook Inlet salmon fisheries, largely based on escapement goals that requires day-to-day decision-making that proponents of the status quo have argued makes it an ill fit for federal management. ADFG monitors salmon harvests in the marine and freshwaters, operates weirs and sonars to count they fish as the swim upstream, and makes in-season management decisions to open or close fisheries based on that data. Plans devised by the state Board of Fisheries outline many of the tools and decisions ADFG managers can use, including setting some openings and closures, and limiting commercial nets and sportfishing gear. Federal managers have said the state’s ability to use in-season information to run the fishery is a primary reason why the authority has been delegated. Cook Inlet commercial fishermen, including those who brought the lawsuit forward, have protested some of the restrictions they faced under the state management system and decisions by the board. They’ve argued that some of the actions by the state managers and the board conflict with the Magnuson-Stevens Act standards such as attaining optimum yield and that plans lack accountability measures when standards aren’t met. The new salmon committee will have to consider how that management structure could change, and look at various options for management systems, including continuing to delegate management to ADFG or having federal fisheries managers handle it directly. The council will eventually also have to consider how other marine mammals are affected by any changes, and a staff report is expected to analyze how the West Coast arm of the National Marine Fisheries Service handles managing salmon fisheries there. According to a written update from NMFS Alaska Region Administrator Jim Balsiger, the council will hear from NMFS regarding the scope of the new salmon committee, and receive a report from state and federal managers analyzing the proposals submitted for the new committee’s formation. The court is requiring updates every four months from NMFS on progress toward crafting the FMP. The council is also expected to hear from staff about how the Magnuson-Stevens Act applies the new management plan, and whether the management plan will apply to the sport and state-waters components of the fishery. In his most recent update to the court and stakeholders, Balsiger said state and federal scientists and other agency staff are working on putting together the information the council will need to develop status determination for Cook Inlet salmon stocks. Several Cook Inlet Northern District king salmon stocks as well as Susitna sockeye are currently listed as stocks of concern by the Board of Fisheries. Discussion of salmon management is supposed to begin on the first day of the upcoming council meeting, April 4, and there will be opportunity for public comment at the meeting. The council is also taking written public comments via its online portal through March 30. Attorneys’ fees dispute Although the council is working to develop the new management plan, the lawsuit is not completely resolved. Now, the parties involved are disputing who should pay attorneys’ fees. Plaintiffs UCIDA and the Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund filed for reimbursement in October 2017, asking for the federal government to pay nearly $500,000 in attorneys’ fees, as well as the cost of an independent report reviewing the state’s use of escapement goals in commercial fisheries. The federal agency engaged in the lawsuit has disputed that they should pay them, and the issue has not yet been resolved. An updated March 2018 filing added more than $30,000 to the request for work in 2018, bringing the total to more than $540,000. ^ Molly Dischner can be reached at [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: State’s seiner fleet still slow to adopt winch safety gear

The most common piece of gear on a seine vessel is also one of the deadliest: the rotating capstan winch used for winding ropes. Anyone who has ever worked aboard a seiner has horror stories of close calls, or worse. “The deck winch is the most powerful thing on the boat. It’s the scariest piece of machinery that we work with. My feeling when I was caught in it was that I was completely helpless. There was nothing I could do,” said fisherman Noah Doncette, who participated in a video for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, called “The Most Powerful Thing.” “The corner of my raincoat caught under the capstan and started wrapping around. It snapped my head back and broke my neck,” said Randy Dobrylnia. “I was lifting the ring and I reached over with a pair of nylon gloves. My arm went down and started going around again and again. Then it jammed me against the deck and started to pull my arm off. It all happened in seconds,” said Gunnar Neilson. A simple device called an E-Stop has been available for more than 10 years to prevent deck winch injuries. “It’s a button that can be put on the horn of a capstan winch on a seiner. When the button is hit, it triggers a solenoid valve that stops the flow of hydraulic fluid to the winch and locks the capstan in place to prevent further entanglements,” said Ted Teske, a NIOSH Health Communications Specialist who invented the device. “It was in response to guys being wrapped in the winch and being pulled away from the controls back at the wheelhouse. This gives them an option right on the winch itself to lock the device and keep them from getting further injured,” he said. Between the years 2000 and 2014 there were 16 fatalities from winch entanglements in the U.S. In 41 percent of the cases, loose clothing or gloves were cited as the first thing getting entangled in the gear. But fishermen have been slow to adopt the devices aboard their seiners. In the Northwest and Alaska, only 50 to 60 E-Stops are being used out of a fleet of about 1,500 boats. Teske and his team are determined to find out why. “We are interested in talking to any seiners who have either installed one and what was the tipping point, and their experience using it, as well as guys who have considered it and did not install an E-Stop. Both perspectives are extremely valuable for us,” Teske said. “If we can identify the barriers, we can address them through other types of interventions – whether it’s risk awareness or developing rebate programs, or talking with insurance companies to see if they might offer a lower rate for installing safety equipment on their boats.” In a major success story for NIOSH’s Research to Practice initiative, all three major manufacturers in the Northwest now provide E-Stops as standard features on their new seine winches. Retrofits for older boasts cost around $3,800. The E-Stop outreach is part of a new multi-year NIOSH project to increase adoption of deck safety interventions in fisheries. Contact Ted Teske at [email protected]/ Ocean awareness challenge “Our oceans in a changing climate” is the theme for the seventh annual Bow Sea Ocean Awareness program, an online contest for kids aged 11 to 18 around the globe. The goal of the program is to create a generation of ocean advocates, said founder and president Linda Cabot, who created the program based on three guiding principles. “One was my love for the ocean and coastal communities. The second was a belief that youth have the power to change society. The third was to understand that art and creative literacy is a very powerful and necessary skill,” Cabot explained. She believes there is a general lack of education about the world’s changing oceans and was inspired to get young people involved by having them express environmental impacts through creative arts. Students are encouraged to submit entries individually or in groups in writing, art, poetry, film and music. “It can be self-driven, or teachers can use it as projects in their classrooms,” said program director Alyssa Irizarry, adding that submissions in multiple categories are welcomed. Last year’s contest attracted entries from 63 countries and 48 U.S. states, including several from Alaska. Irizarry said the ways in which the kids connected with ocean issues through their research and arts was “astounding.” “They are connecting emotionally and then becoming leaders in advocating for raising awareness and finding solutions,” she said. The program provides online resources and tools for students and teachers, along with a gallery featuring past winners. Cash prizes ranging from $100 to $1,500 are awarded in two divisions, along with $750 sponsor recognition awards. Deadline to enter the Ocean Awareness Student Contest is June 18. Get more information at www.fromthebowseat.com. Expo ideas The call is out for compelling ideas and speakers for Pacific Marine Expo, the largest commercial marine trade show on the West Coast which marks its 52nd year this November in Seattle. Topics can include but are not limited to safety, technology, marketing, boat building, climate change and more. “We strive to provide the most critical information and education every year and an important piece is hearing directly from mariners and service providers in the industry. The feedback provided in the Call for Proposals lets us know exactly what’s important to our customers. We encourage you to be creative and think outside the box!” said Denielle Christensen, Expo Director. Deadline for submissions is March 16. Visit www.pacificmarineexpo.com. Grants give back The Alaskan Leader Foundation is accepting applications from non-profits and projects for its annual grant giveaways in Kodiak and Bristol Bay. Funding typically goes to programs such as food banks, shelters, educational and youth programs, museums and recycling efforts. Alaskan Leader Foundation was founded in 2000 by six Kodiak fishing families and was joined in 2007 by the Bristol Bay Economic Development Foundation. Since 2009, the group has donated nearly $600,000 to local projects. Deadline to apply is March 30. For an application, contact Linda Kozak at 907-539-5585 or [email protected] Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: ASMI gives world buyers a taste of life in Dutch Harbor

The nation’s top fishing port welcomed seven European seafood buyers in late January — all women — and showed off its massive seafood industry during peak operations at Dutch Harbor. The women, whose companies import more than $60 million in U.S. seafood, hailed from France, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, and the U.K., said Hannah Lindoff, international program coordinator for the trip host Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “They are interested in Alaska pollock, cod, surimi, octopus, salmon, roe, black cod and king crab,” she explained. “The whole point was to show off Alaska and build relationships between these buyers and the seafood industry,” echoed Alice Ottoson-McKeen, the assistant program coordinator who made the trek to Dutch Harbor with the group. “ASMI often does trade missions, but this trip was really special because it was all women buyers and they could talk to one another about their shared experiences,” she said, adding that the trip was inspired by an inaugural women in seafood leadership summit last summer by Intrafish Media. The women spent four days in Dutch (including getting weathered in) at the busiest time of year when Alaska pollock, cod, crab and flatfish seasons are in full swing. “They didn’t realize how far away and remote it is. They were in awe of the landscape with no trees and all of the mountains and islands surrounding you,” Ottoson-McKeen said. “It’s obviously unlike anywhere else in the world.” The group experienced fish processing action on a massive scale at the Unisea and Westward processing plants, which handle much of the nearly 800 million pounds of seafood that crosses the docks each year. “They were really impressed with the size and scope of the operations and the degree of automation,” said Mayor Frank Kelty who also showed off Dutch Harbor’s cold storages, warehouses, container ships from around the world and the small town itself. “It was a real eye opener for them to see our world class facilities and the 24/7 activity in a bustling town of 4,500 people. They were a little amazed and frustrated with our spotty internet and cell phone connectivity. Welcome to our world!” Kelty added with a laugh. A highlight was time spent aboard fishing boats, including one bigger than 300 feet that catches and processes the fish at sea. “There was so much pride from the captains and crews in their jobs and their boats, and that was something the women were really impressed with. They could see that the people working in this industry really love it,” said Ottoson-McKeen. “Even getting stuck for an extra day was nice because we were able to meet up and have dinner with some of the crew we’d met, and talk in a more informal setting. That really added to the depth of understanding of our seafood industry.” Ultimately, the goal of the trip was to enlighten the buyers about Alaska seafood, and to entice them to buy more or try new products. “A lot of them already are buying Alaska seafood, but they saw firsthand how our industry cares about quality and sustainability and the environment,” she added. “They all are knowledgeable buyers, but seeing it at the source means so much more,” said Pat Shanahan, program director for the trade group Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers, who acted as a tour guide. “They got to see what they’ve been hearing about for years. Now they will be able to connect the story to the Alaska brand.” “We definitely felt like we created some wonderful Alaska seafood ambassadors,” added ASMI’s Ottoson-McKeen. Processors pay for doctors at the Bay During the salmon season at Bristol Bay, the number of people in the borough, which includes Naknek, South Naknek and King Salmon, surges from around 900 to 10,000 or more. That brings with it the need for more medical care. Many processors traditionally brought in their own doctors or relied on telemedicine programs. But that changed two years ago. “We approached the idea of bringing in an emergency room trained doctor and having him here locally and it’s gone very well,” said Mary Swain, executive director at Camai Community Health Center in Naknek, which staffs physician assistants and nurse practitioners. It was a spike in pricey medevacs, she said, that prompted the idea of having a doctor available from mid-June through the end of July. Medivacs can cost a company up to $40,000 to bring badly hurt or sick patients from the remote region to Anchorage. Now seven of Bristol Bay’s dozen processors each chip in $10,000 to bring in a doctor, including Ocean Beauty, Trident, Alaska General Seafoods, Leader Creek Fisheries, Alaska Marine Lines, Icicle and Peter Pan. The fishermen-funded/operated Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and the health center also contribute the same amount. “It pays for the housing, trip up here and the doctor’s time,” Swain said. A new satellite clinic also is located at Leader Creek “right in the processors’ backyard” for non-emergency cases, Swain said. The Camai Center and the clinic treated a combined 1,600 patients last year. Swain said getting the processing companies on board was an easy sell. “In fact, one of the processors gave extra money so we could get x-ray equipment at the clinic, and we are looking to potentially use that to bring in ultrasound technology next year,” she said. “Having a doctor in Naknek saves on medevac incidents and it also gets people back to work more quickly,” said Ron Nebert, plant manager for Ocean Beauty Seafoods. “There are also occasional life-threatening scenarios that a doctor is more qualified to handle.” For some, the clinic is the only place where they have ever had any kind of health care. “The people deserve it,” Swain said. “We saw a bunch of people last year who had never seen a doctor of any kind even for basic medical care. But we see that more and more as we bring other cultures and nationalities into Naknek to process salmon.” The clinic has ‘round the clock translation services available for more than 200 languages through Language Select to accommodate the mix of people who work in the Bay’s processing plants each year. Swain said they use professional recruiters to make sure the doctors are aware of the region’s remoteness, but it is still a surprise. “They think they have seen rural when they’ve been 200 miles from a hospital,” Swain said. “When they come out here and realize that we are so remote and isolated that you must depend on yourself, your skills, your knowledge, and that’s about all. The first doctor was very shocked. It’s a learning curve for all of them. But I think we’ve done a better job at vetting so people really understand what they are getting into.” This year’s doctor hails from Montana, Swain said. “He has worked with Indian health and on reservations,” she added. “He’s written a paramedic program for the community where he lives, and is very skilled in both what we see out here and emergencies in rural areas where he is the only person available. We are very lucky.” Fish watch Crab and groundfish dominate winter fisheries and hundreds of boats are out on the waters of both the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. In Southeast, fishing for rockfish could remain open through late March in some regions, and diving for sea cucumbers and geoduck clams continues throughout the Panhandle. Openers for golden king crab and Tanners will opened concurrently on Feb. 10. The harvest limit for golden kings is 70,000 pounds; a guideline for Tanners will be determined after a few days of fishing. Last year the catch came in at about 975,000 pounds, or 400,000 crabs. Southeast’s winter troll fishery for Chinook salmon will close on March 15 to help conserve dwindling stocks. That fishery usually stays open through April. Fishing for black rockfish is ongoing around Kodiak, Chignik and the Southern district of the Alaska Peninsula. There’s lots of action in the Gulf and Bering Sea for cod, flounders, pollock and other whitefish. Trawl fisheries opened on Jan. 20, but Gulf boats tied up for eight days before settling on an 11-cent pollock price, just a penny or so below the price in the Bering Sea. The season is winding down for crabbers targeting snow crab and Tanners in the Bering Sea. The year’s first opener for red king crab will kick off at Norton Sound in early March with a small 50,000-pound harvest. A bigger opener will occur in the summer and the combined catch will total 319,000 pounds, down slightly from last year. For fish meetings, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is convening through February 12 in Seattle. The state Board of Fisheries will wrap up its meeting cycle March 6-9 in Anchorage with a focus on statewide Dungeness crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish. The board also has a call out for proposals for its next cycle that targets fisheries at Bristol Bay, the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim, Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands. The proposal deadline is April 10. The Pacific halibut fishery will open on March 24 and run through Nov. 7. The year’s first herring fishery also will get underway when the fish arrive at Sitka Sound next month. The harvest is set at 11,128 tons, down from 14,649 tons in 2017. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Millennialls a major potential market for Alaska seafood

Millennials are now the nation’s “peak spenders” and they are gravitating towards healthier eating which favors more seafood. “We see year over year that there is this cohort aged 35 to 54 that is going to be spending far more across categories, including food expenditures, than any others,” said Will Notini, consumer insights manager at Chicago-based Technomic, a leading market tracker for over 50 years. The company has contracted with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to identify trends in seafood consumption and how best to position Alaska seafood in a changing marketplace. The bottom line is that America’s households are becoming much more diverse and changes in taste and technology will shape the future of seafood eaters. A presentation called the Seafood Consumer of the Future showed that there has been a 30 percent increase in seafood consumption by millennials in the past year, and 70 percent have changed their diets to eat healthier foods. The trend is especially noticeable with millennial preferences for proteins. Nearly 60 percent of those consumers said that seafood is healthier than beef or pork; 43 percent said the same for chicken or turkey. “We’re seeing that people are moving towards seafood and plant-based proteins. There are significant increases among those particular categories, so seafood should expect to see large growth,” Notini said. Technomic surveys also showed that 71 percent of millennials said they are more interested in where their foods come from and how they are grown or produced. “That’s why they buy things labeled as organic or specific sourcing,” he explained. “People are looking for those origins that are known to have high quality products, whether that’s California wine or Georgia peaches, and Alaska is strongly associated with seafood. There is an expectation that those sources will be displayed, whether it’s online, at grocery stores or at restaurants.” Another trend gaining traction among millennials is knowing what’s in their food. “They are looking at labels and ingredient lists, can they pronounce it, have they seen it before — these are tools that consumers are using to identify what in their mind is healthy, familiar and not processed,” Notini said. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed preferred wild seafood over farmed, and said it is important that their choices “don’t hurt the environment.” “In general, wild is the greater draw for consumers,” Notini said. “And I think that Alaska seafood is one of the labels that really speaks to that premium. But there is more education that needs to happen in order to assess the true value in wild caught versus farm raised.” Alaska seafood is very “on trend” in hitting the points consumers are tuned into, Notini added. A second phase of the ASMI study is digging further into the existing trends, he said, and asking consumers specifically about Alaska seafood and “how it fits into this landscape.” There may be some challenges with the growth of e-commerce shopping, but he believes Alaska seafood is better positioned than most others. Digital grocery usage last year increased to 23 percent, according to Technomic, and 43 percent of Americans said they do their online shopping in bed. Tanner trials Crabbers will help test the waters for Tanners next month at Prince William Sound. The fishery will open under a Commissioner’s Permit that is issued in special circumstances. It will be the first time since 1988 that commercial crab pots are dropped in western and eastern portions of outside waters. “Basically, it’s a fact-finding mission,” said Jan Rumble, area management biologist for Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet shellfish and groundfish at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Homer. “We don’t know what is out there and we want to find out. What we do know is there was a small amount of crab in the western district, but we are encouraging people to go and explore.” The trial opener was prompted by increasing numbers of Tanner crabs being pulled up in subsistence pots, and the fact that the department’s trawl survey does not focus on those two districts. “The survey last summer produced poor legal male results but some good numbers of pre-recruits. Much of the western area can’t be accessed with trawl gear and crabbers can help us investigate further,” Rumble added. The fishery, which will open March 1 and could run through the month, will be small scale and it is anyone’s guess how much crab it will produce. “There is no guideline harvest level. This is a fact-finding mission,” she emphasized. Crabbers must get a permit from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and will be required to call in catches daily. The fishery also is super-exclusive, meaning it is off limits to those who have dropped pots for Tanners elsewhere, such as at Kodiak’s recent fishery. “People in Kodiak who are vessel operators and their vessels cannot jump over and participate in Prince William Sound,” Rumble said. Crabbers also must show that they have a market for their catch and Trident is planning to process the crab out of Cordova. Decades ago the Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Yakutat regions kept local processors busy all year with big catches of Tanners, king and Dungeness crab. But stocks plummeted with the arrivals of huge schools of cod and pollock and have been slow to recover, if at all. The Tanner trial gives a glimmer of hope, but Rumble said people should not have unrealistic expectations. “This is exploratory and we are optimistic that we can get some information, but we also are encouraging people to understand why we are doing this and what we are after,” she said, adding that the results of the Tanner test fishery will determine what happens next. Contact Fish and Game in Homer to sign on or learn more at (907) 235-8191. Pebble Mine permit comments The public has until Feb. 20 to comment to the Department of Natural Resources on an application to continue exploratory mining activities near Iliamna. The activities include “the drilling of geotechnical and exploratory boreholes, re-activation of an acid rock drainage test site, and continued reclamation and maintenance activities,” according to a DNR release. Other authorizations requested include Water Use, Miscellaneous Land Use Permits, or MLUP, and Reclamation Plan Approval for exploration and/or care and maintenance operations. The DNR Division of Mining, Land and Water proposes to issue a MLUP for “exploration activity on state mining claims, as well as reclamation approval on state lands. Winter cross country travel on state lands not within state mining claims may also be authorized.” Comments can be mailed to the DNR Division of Mining, Land and Water, attention Hollie Chalup, at 550 W. 7th Ave., Suite 900B, Anchorage, AK 99501 or via email to [email protected] ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Mallott, Sullivan meet with top Canadians on transboundary issues

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Sen. Dan Sullivan watched Super Bowl LII together in Ottawa and spent time strategizing on their approach to the next day’s meetings. They were there to discuss issues as far-reaching as ocean debris, missile defense and the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canadian federal officials as well as provincial and First Nations leaders, according to Sullivan, but the priority topic brought up in every discussion was that of Canadian mines at the headwaters of rivers that terminate in Alaska. The state officials reviewed the meetings in a Feb. 5 call with Alaska press. From the outset, Sullivan said the fact that Mallott, a longtime Democrat leader in the state, and himself, a staunch conservative, were in lockstep on the transboundary rivers issue sent a “powerful message of unity and that this is a very important issue of concern for the people we represent.” At the heart of the matter are 10 mines in British Columbia that are either in operation or stages of exploration and development. Those mines or mineral prospects are mostly open pit projects focused on copper and gold recovery. The mine locations within the watersheds of the large Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers that support large salmon fisheries are the primary cause for concern among Southeast Alaska commercial fishing and conservation groups that fear problems at the mines could damage or destroy the rivers’ fisheries. Mallott and Sullivan said they pushed four priorities they are seeking action on from Canadian officials — either at the federal or provincial levels. The Alaskans requested increased transparency in the permitting process for the mines and opportunities for Alaskan stakeholders to provide input when mine plans are being reviewed. They also asked for additional financial assurances or bonding requirements for the mine operating companies to protect Alaska fishing and tourism businesses that rely on robust fisheries in the rivers “if, God forbid, we had a Mt. Polley-type disaster that went into our waters,” Sullivan described. The 2014 Mt. Polley mine tailings dam breach spilled more than 6 billion gallons of wastewater into the upper Fraser River system in British Columbia. Mt. Polley mine operator Vancouver-based Imperial Metals Corp. opened the Red Chris copper-gold mine in the upper Stikine River watershed in 2015. Sullivan added that they also asked the Canadian government to join in funding baseline water quality studies and ongoing monitoring to track if the mines are impacting the rivers, a program which Congress started funding last year. Lastly, they insisted on immediate reclamation of the Tulsequah Chief mine that has been leaching acid rock drainage into the Taku River near Juneau since the mine was abandoned in 1957. A temporary water treatment plant was built in 2011 to deal with the leaching but it was quickly shut down in 2012, according to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Chieftain Metals Corp. is now proposing an underground mine at the Tulsequah site that is about 10 miles upriver from the Alaska border. The project received regulatory approval from British Columbia in 2012 but is awaiting financing. Sullivan said he thought the meetings were constructive but the transboundary issue is far from solved. “We put forward some specific requests and we’re going to press on those,” he said Feb. 5. “I think they’re legitimate requests; I think they’re reasonable requests but they’re requests for specific actions and we certainly hope our Canadian friends will work with us to follow up on it.” Mallott said the talks furthered the progress made by the Walker administration on the issue. In 2015, Gov. Bill Walker and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark signed a memorandum of understanding to promote economic development in concert with environmental protection. That led to a statement of cooperation signed by Mallott and British Columbia Environment and Mines ministers in Oct. 2016, which established a working group of state and provincial officials to discuss transboundary issues. Mallott said the meetings were important because the sides were able to discuss important policies that are outside of the nonbinding statement of cooperation. A possible referral of the issue to the International Joint Commission — strongly advocated for by Alaska Native and conservation groups — was not discussed in detail during the meetings but will be part of talks between the governments in the spring, according to Mallott. “The process involved for an IJC referral will continue to be discussed by the (federal) governments and we have asked them to do so,” he said. The International Joint Commission consists of five commissioners, two from Canada and three from the U.S., who review transboundary watershed issues. It was established after the 1909 Boundary Water Treaty, which at the time settled a battle between Montana and Alberta farmers who had dug competing canals to divert water from area rivers to their farms. According to its website, the commission has since settled more than 100 matters raised by the governments. An arbiter body, IJC can only get involved when called upon by both governments. In the U.S., the State Department makes that call. In November, Walker, Mallott and three members of the Alaska congressional delegation sent a joint letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, urging him to help protect Alaska’s economic interests of fishing and tourism in Southeast by raising the transboundary mine issue in talks with his Canadian counterparts. Charles Faulkner, of the State Department’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs, responded with a letter Dec. 14, writing that the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have established a workgroup to coordinate actions and communicate concerns to Canadian officials. State Department officials in October also got a commitment from Global Affairs Canada to take up a bilateral review of potential gaps or shortcomings in cooperative agreements between the countries that deal with transboundary issues. “The Department of State will lead this review process with interagency and stakeholder input, with the goal of sharing its findings with Global Affairs Canada at the April 2018 IJC meetings,” Faulkner wrote. “We value your assistance and input in this effort. As Canadian support would be required for a joint IJC reference, we will continue to raise this issue in upcoming bilateral meetings.” The issue of mines in British Columbia potentially impacting fisheries in Alaska waters has been one Alaska officials have tried to tread lightly on despite calls for a much tougher stance by some Southeast groups. That’s because, for one, they do not want to strain what has historically been a strong relationship with British Columbia and Canada in general, as well as the facts that the state has little actual leverage in addition to a long history if mining and support for the industry. To the latter point, Sullivan said he emphasized that Alaska supports resource development in the meetings, but he believes the state has valid concerns given what could happen downriver from the mines. He and Mallott also said the issue of oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain — one Canadian Embassy officials actively lobbied against in Congress during the tax reform debate — came up in the transboundary river meetings. Sullivan described it as “probably one of the more contentious issues of our meetings.” “There was a bit of an analogy between the Porcupine caribou herd and transboundary mining and I, at least in my response, said I rejected that completely,” Sullivan recalled. Canadian officials have opposed oil development in ANWR for the fear that it would impact the calving grounds of the caribou herd that migrates into the Yukon Territory and is relied on by there by First Nations people as it is by some Alaska Natives. In a December interview with the Journal, Sullivan contended that the only reason Canada opposes development in ANWR is because the country didn’t find any oil on its side of the border when exploratory drilling was done in the Yukon Arctic decades ago. In that interview, Sullivan said he told the Canadian ambassador to the U.S. to “stand down” or he was going to “do everything I can to screw your country.” The delegation in an October letter to the Canadian ambassador to the U.S. said British Columbia to that point had done “remarkably little” to consider their transboundary concerns and pointed to the Mt. Polley and the Tulsequah Chief mine as demonstrable indicators that “Canadian mining is not always carried out to the same safety standards as in the U.S.” Mallott said the state will follow through with consultation that is required under a 1987 treaty with Canada meant to ensure a healthy Porcupine caribou herd. The state is also working to develop an accord with the Yukon Territory to address climate change and economic development matters, according to Mallott. “We were very clear to say we’re supportive of the exploration that is now authorized in the 1002 area of ANWR but that we also wanted to work closely with particularly the indigenous people on both sides of the border as we proceed ahead,” Mallott said. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: US-Canadian impasse a first for halibut allocations

As expected, catches of Pacific halibut will decrease for this year, and likely into the foreseeable future. Following an increase in catches last year for the first time in several decades, the International Pacific Halibut Commission on Jan. 26 set a “suggested” coastwide catch for 2018 at 28.03 million pounds, a 10.7 percent reduction. Alaska’s share could be 20.52 million pounds, a drop of 2.1 million pounds from 2017. The numbers could decline further, as the six commissioners (three each from the U.S. and Canada) were not able to agree on catch allocations for the eight halibut fishing regions for the first time in memory since the IPHC began its oversight of the stocks in 1923. Halibut catch limits are based on summer surveys at more than 1,200 stations from Oregon to the Aleutians. “There was agreement that the general halibut stock is in decline, but no consensus on what the catches should be. Due to this impasse, the commissioners made suggestions for 2018 for their own countries,” said Tom Gemmell, executive director of the Juneau-based Halibut Coalition. “The Canadian’s main issue on harvest reduction is that they do not agree with the U.S. on the distribution of the stocks. However, all agreed that stocks are down and that reductions are needed.” Gemmell added in email posts from the Oregon meeting. “The bottom line is both parties agreed on what we needed to do in terms of reductions, but couldn’t agree on how to get it done,” said IPHC chairman Jim Balsiger. “That’s an awkward place to be, but I don’t believe for a second that any of the commissioners did anything other than what they thought was best and what they were required to do by their own ideals as we try to get to a solution.” The impasse means that each country will set its own catch guidelines within recommended limits. “The need to adopt quotas outside the IPHC process may result in a delay to the March 24 opening date,” cautioned Gemmell. The U.S. halibut fishery will close on Nov. 7. By all accounts, the five-day meeting was “spirited but agreeable.” “The U.S. and Canada are good friends and neighbors and we do not consider the result a failure,” said attendee Bruce Gabrys in closing remarks that met with sustained applause. “Principled people sometimes disagree. I do not see our relations changing irrespective of what path the IPCH takes as we move forward. We thank the commissioners for their efforts.” Here are the 2018 suggested catches in millions of pounds compared to last year by area with pounds in millions (2017 harvest, suggested 2018 harvest and percent change): 2A (Wash. to Calif.): 1.33, 1.19, -10.5 percent 2B (Canada): 7.45, 6.32, -15.2 percent 2C (Southeast Alaska): 5.25, 4.45, -15.2 percent 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska): 10, 9.45, -5.5 percent 3B (Western Gulf): 3.14, 2.62, -16.6 percent 4A (Aleutians/Bering Sea): 1.39, 1.37, -1.4 percent 4B (Aleutians/Bering Sea): 1.14, 1.05, -7.9 percent 4CDE (Bering Sea): 1.7, 1.58, -7.1 percent Total: 31.4, 28.03, -10.7 percent Total halibut removals in 2017 were 42.8 million pounds, up slightly from 2016. Of that, an estimated 26.6 million pounds were landed from commercial fisheries, 7.9 million pounds from recreational fisheries, 6 million pounds from bycatch, and 1.2 million pounds from subsistence. Gold mine comments due Few Alaskans even know of it, but the world’s biggest “pure” gold mine is being planned by two Canadian companies near Crooked Creek, a tributary 10 miles from the Kuskokwim River. The state plans to issue two draft permits for waste water discharges and waste management for the project and is taking comments now. According to KYUK in Bethel, one permit would allow 4,500 gallons per minute of treated wastewater to be dumped into Crooked Creek for the life of the mine. It also lays out the levels of contamination that would be allowed in the water. The other permit would regulate where other wastes from the mine would be stored. The draft permits also specify how that waste would be monitored. An environmental impact statement says that Crooked Creek and connecting tributaries are classified as essential fish habitat for five species of salmon and 12 other fish species. The Donlin mine, expected to operate for 27 years and yield nearly 40 million ounces of pure gold, would have a footprint of about 25 square miles. The open pit would be over two miles long, one mile wide and nearly 2,000 feet deep. A 30-mile road would be built to the site and include housing and offices, an airstrip, a barge terminal at Bethel, a water treatment plant and a port on the Kuskokwim for offloading. To power the mine, a 40-million gallon tank farm would be built on site for diesel fuel to be delivered via a 315-mile pipeline from Cook Inlet, including along the Iditarod trail from Skwentna to Finger Lake. The pipeline would cross streams for anadromous and resident fish species at 77 locations. Waste materials from the mine, called tailings, would be stored in a manmade pond held back by a 475-foot main dam and a 345 foot high upper dam. The pond will cover 1,356 acres and hold 110 million tons of waste materials forever. Donlin expects to receive a final impact statement from the Army Corps of Engineers in March. State and federal agencies will then decide on more permitting. Comments on the water discharges can be made to the Department of Environmental Conservation through Feb. 13. Crab shells protect meat An all-natural, crab shell-based spray keeps game meat free from bugs, bacteria and contaminants. Game Meat Protector is the latest product from Tidal Vision LLC of Juneau that uses chitosan, a wonder ingredient extracted from the exoskeleton of crab shells. “It protects game meat out in the field from spoiling, and it also prevents bugs and insects from landing and burrowing into it,” said Craig Kasberg, Tidal Vision president. “It’s a way for hunters to preserve the quality of the meat as it is being harvested.” The spray contains only water, chitosan and citric acid. “It leaves a thin film on the game meat, and because of chitosan’s natural, anti-microbial properties and low pH citric acid, it preserves the quality,” Kasberg added. One eight-ounce bottle is enough to cover an entire large game animal, Kasberg said, and it also can be sprayed on game bags for extra protection. The game meat protector is sold on Amazon and will be carried later this year by major outdoor outlets. Learn more about chitosan and Tidal Vision’s other products at tidalvisionusa.com. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Divers keep pushing for changes to Southeast sea otter plans

Sea otters and their devastating impacts on Southeast Alaska shellfish were among the many emotionally-charged topics at the state Board of Fisheries marathon meeting running from Jan. 11-23 in Sitka. The board was set to address 153 proposals for state subsistence, commercial, sport, guided sport, and personal use fisheries for the Southeast and Yakutat regions. Crabbers and fishermen who dive for lucrative sea cucumbers, geoduck clams and urchins again pleaded for changes to regulations to help protect their livelihoods from the voracious appetites of growing numbers of otters throughout the region. Olivia Olsen, who operates Alaskan Quota and Permits in Petersburg, summed up the problem in a previous conversation, saying, “Sea otters are really causing havoc. They are moving in and moving north and just wiping out the grounds behind them. It is a definite problem, a major problem.” About 400 sea otters were reintroduced to Southeast in the early 1960s after being nearly wiped out by fur traders. A 2012 estimate put their numbers at 25,000 and at a reproductive rate of 12 percent per year, the population likely tops 40,000 animals today. A 2011 report by the McDowell Group (the most recent analysis) said otter predation has cost the Southeast economy more than $28 million in losses to the Dungeness crab and dive fisheries since 1995. The report concluded that those fisheries and large populations of sea otters cannot coexist in the same waters, adding: “Once commercially viable numbers of geoducks, urchins, sea cucumbers and crab are gone, they are not likely to return while sea otters remain.” In testimony to the board, Kyle Hebert, dive fisheries research supervisor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, called sea otters “the greatest threat to the future of the dive fisheries,” and said that fewer areas are now open with declines continuing in southern regions. “Although geoduck clam and sea cucumber areas are still open in this area, the populations are steadily declining and with each survey that we conduct, we expect commercial harvest opportunities to drop,” Hebert added. Sea otters are listed as a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Nearly 20 Southeast organizations, municipalities and Native groups are on record asking for management changes to the federal sea otter plan so that it interprets the act for an ecological balance of all species, including humans. Many urge that the state take over otter management from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which they criticize “for doing nothing to rectify or implement a sustainable management policy since the mid-1990s.” The Ketchikan Borough has suggested that more Alaska Natives be allowed to hunt otters, the only ones allowed by law to do so. Only about 1,200 are taken annually, which does not keep up with the otter birth rates. In a 2017 issue paper borough manager Ruben Duran suggested that the blood quantum (percentage) for Alaska Natives be reduced from one-quarter percent to one-16th, or 6.25 percent, to allow for more hunting. The continued loss of revenue through lack of sustainable otter population management, Duran said, is likely to remove over 650 fishermen and other full-time related jobs in the region. “I know the department has to have a sustainable management plan in place, and we don’t argue with that, but our question is that you don’t have a sustainable management plan in place when you have sea otters,” said Phil Doherty, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association. Most decisions on sea otter management are beyond the purview of the state Board of Fisheries. Member Orville Huntington suggested that the otter population would eventually limit itself. “I think nature will take care of itself at some point,” he said. The 2016-17 Southeast Alaska sea cucumber fishery was valued at $5.3 million to fishermen, geoduck clams at nearly $3 million, more than $7 million for Dungeness crab and $677,000 for red urchins. Fish seats Seven people have applied for a seat on the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. Five of the applicants are from Juneau, including previous CFEC employee Yvonne Fink. Carol Petrabourg and Jeff Kasper are Department of Fish and Game Juneau employees. Dale Kelley is longtime director of the Alaska Trollers Association and Jim Sepal is a marine surveyor. Two applicants from Anchorage are Eric Olson, a former chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Werner Jon Dunham who operates Terratechnika, an earth science service company. The CFEC, which oversees a staff of about 20, was created by the Alaska Legislature in 1972, mostly as a means to control entry into salmon fisheries. It now regulates 68 fisheries including herring, crab, state water sablefish, shrimp and dive fisheries. The commission also issues and transfers annual fishing permits and licenses, rules on any appeals and collects commercial fishing data. The new commissioner will join one other: Fate Putman, a Juneau attorney and lobbyist. Stepping down in March is current CFEC chairman Bruce Twomley who has served for 35 years. He called the work of the CFEC “vital.” “Without Commissioners being able to pay attention and respond to emergency situations, fishing time is going to be lost for sure. This remains a demanding job. And it’s all about getting fishermen in the water,” Twomley told radio station KHNS in Haines. Gov. Bill Walker will make a selection in coming weeks. His choice must then be approved by the Alaska legislature. Seafood trends The whole point of catching fish is to get people to buy and eat it, both at home and at restaurants. Here are some of the latest trends for 2018, according to a Seafood Keynote report by Datassentials, a national market tracker. It combines the opinions and behaviors of over 1,000 consumers and hundreds of restaurant, retail, and onsite operators. Salmon remains Americans’ most seafood popular choice, but diners are interested in branching out to other fish and shellfish. Seafood also is becoming increasingly popular for breakfast and brunch, thanks to popular dishes like shrimp and grits, crab Benedict and salmon frittatas. Seafood is becoming more trendy in the growing snack market. Nearly 90 percent of consumers said they have snacked on seafood, such as popcorn shrimp, sushi or calamari. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said they eat seafood because it tastes good; 88 percent said because it is healthy. One-third of the operators said seafood sales increased over the past year. Two out of five said positioning seafood as a healthy, better-for-you choice is the most effective way to market it. The trend for seafood at more upscale restaurants is growing, but declining at fast food. Frozen seafood is perceived to be a great value, more convenient and to have a longer shelf life. “However, many consumers and restaurant operators still prefer fresh seafood, which means that there are opportunities for frozen seafood suppliers to educate restaurant buyers on specifics such as how quickly the fish was frozen and the story of where it was sourced,” the Keynote Report said. More consumers want to know where their foods come from. In a big plus for wild seafood, they also are seeking non-genetically modified foods “in droves.” People are demanding natural foods with fewer additives of anything, and are reading labels like never before. Healthy and light entrees are expected to grow at a faster rate through 2018, another opportunity for seafood. Touting seafood sustainability is still a rarity on U.S. menus, said Datassentials. Just over one percent use the word on menus, nearly three times higher than 5 years ago. The word “wild” is featured on more than 9 percent of U.S. restaurant menus and “local” at nearly 5 percent. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

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