Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Copper River Fishery Faces Escapement Challenges

With the opening of Alaska’s famed Copper River sockeye salmon fishery coming up in three weeks, commercial fishermen are trying to figure out ways to fish on the reds while assuring that escapement goals on the kings are met.

Harvesters with Cordova District Fishermen United met this week to discuss the issue with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and another session is slated for April 28.

“While the commercial harvests of sockeyes has been good over the past five years, the escapement goals upriver for kings were not met in 2015 or 2016,” says Jeremy Botz, area management biologist in Cordova for ADF&G. This year, with a forecast of a weak run of some 29,000 kings to the Copper River district, the allowable commercial harvest has been set at 4,000 Chinook, and the minimum threshold escapement goal for the kings is 24,000 fish. That is the preseason plan, based on the forecast. While the run could turn out to be stronger or weaker, state fisheries biologists won’t have enough information to assess the strength of the king run until the second week of the salmon fishery, which is expected to open May 15 or May 18.

Meanwhile ADF&G plans to substantially expand the inside closure area to the eastern end of the district to help assure that kings migrating through with the sockeyes are included in the escapement.

ADF&G is anticipating the possibility of the lowest Chinook harvest in that district since statehood. Management actions anticipated are above and beyond anything they’ve done before, to assure the required escapement of kings this year.

Jerry McCune, president of CDFU and a veteran commercial harvester from Cordova, said that the fleet will do its part to assure that the king salmon escapement is met, but he hopes that won’t mean losing the chance to harvest most of the sockeyes. McCune also expressed concern for the safety of smaller fishing vessels outside of the barrier islands in the gulf, where there is little protection from stormy weather.

AYFN Seeks to Connect the Next Generation of Fishermen

A spring shindig celebrating Alaska’s fishing traditions and the upcoming fishing season is on tap tonight (April 26, 2017) in Anchorage, the latest effort of the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network to help the next generation of fishermen network.

AYFN is finding that social gatherings, such as this one hosted at the 49th State Brewing Co. in downtown Anchorage, are drawing young harvesters and their mentors together to share stories of their adventures at sea, and to learn about everything from harvesting to fish policy management.

AYFN’s Fishmas party in Homer this past winter drew some 200 people.

“Building these connections with each other is very important,” says Hannah Heimbuch, coordinator for AYFN, and a community organizer in Homer for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. While young fishermen are technically defined as those under the age of 40, the group spread includes folks from their mid 20s to those with years in fisheries. “It takes all ages to make this industry set the next generation up for success, and mentorship should be part of the network as well,” she said.

Since AMCC initiated AYFN back in December of 2013 the network has introduced an array of projects and activities to support and educate young fishermen. In March of 2016, AYFN led a cross-country educational tour of 11 young fishermen to the Boston Seafood Show, to Washington DC to learn about the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management act, and then to New Orleans for the Slow Fish gathering. This past January a group of young halibut fishermen traveled to the first British Columbia Young Fishermen’s Gathering and to the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting in Victoria, BC.

“As much as we need young people building strong businesses on the water, we need them learning to navigate the policy arena, advocating for their fisheries and communities,” Heimbuch said.

AYFN wanted to serve as a connector between young people and their mentors, and to important resources and opportunities around the state. “We are building a source for connection, information and inspiration,” she said.

AYFN’s activities, including fishing fellowships by host organizations, are funded by a two-year grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

More information is online at https://www.akyoungfishermen.org/

Upper Cook Inlet Salmon Outlook

A run of some 4 million sockeye salmon is the forecast for Alaska’s Upper Cook Inlet this summer, with a harvest by all user groups of 2.6 million reds. That would include about 1.7 million sockeyes, which is 1.2 million fewer fish than the most recent 10-year average annual commercial sockeye harvest of 2.9 million fish.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has put the run forecast for the Kenai River at 2.2 million sockeyes, which is 1.4 million less than the 20-year average run of 3.6 million. For the Kasilof River, the sockeye run is predicted to be 825,000 fish, or 16 percent less than the 20-year average annual run of 987,000 fish. For the Susitna River, ADF&G is predicting a run of 366,000 reds, which would be 5 percent less than the 10-year average of 387,000 fish.

Several regulatory changes made by the Alaska Board of Fisheries at the board’s February-March meeting will be implemented during the upcoming season.

The regulatory booklets are to be published after the new regulations become law, which should occur in early June, ADF&G officials said.

Global Effort Launched on Seafood Traceability

The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability has launched a web-based platform inviting companies to join in a collaborative process to adopt voluntary standards and guidelines for interoperable seafood traceability systems.

The announcement during Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium, came from the World Wildlife Fund. “Companies around the world have been looking for ways to lower costs and improve access to reliable seafood traceability without getting trapped into inflexible proprietary systems,” said David Schorr, senior manager of WWF’s Transparent Seas Project. The organization plans to utilize its online platform (http://www.traceability-dialogue.org) to facilitate virtual and face-to-face meetings of working groups tasked with designing a new voluntary seafood traceability framework.

Traceability of seafood is recognized as a way to help meet sustainability commitments, fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and reduce other supply chain risks, including the elimination of slavery at sea. Consumers as well as government entities in the European Union, United States and elsewhere have been increasingly demanding to know the origin of seafood for sale and whether those seafood products for sale in their markets were legally produced.

Organizers are planning a technical workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, in early May, and an informational meeting during the SeaWeb Seafood Summit (www.seafoodsummit.org) in Seattle in June.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Alaska Seafood Ranked Most Popular Protein on US Menus

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s 2016 annual report, celebrates an exciting first, says ASMI Executive Director Alexa Tonkovich.

After years of holding steady in second place among protein brands, Alaska seafood is now the number one ranked most popular protein on US menus among the top 500 restaurant chains, besting Angus beef, Kobe beef, Louisiana seafood and more.

Global currency challenges and a rocky fiscal climate in Alaska notwithstanding, the seafood industry remains an asset in the state’s portfolio, Tonkovich said.

According to the report, some 60,000 resident and non-resident workers in Alaska’s seafood industry earn $1.6 billion in annual wages based on 2013 and 2014 averages. A total of 31,580 harvesters – the majority of whom are Alaskans – earned income as skippers and crew, operating some 8,600 vessels.

Alaska fisheries provided work statewide, -creating in excess of 10,000 full-time-equivalent jobs in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, nearly 10,000 in Southeast Alaska, more than 8,000 in Kodiak, 7,000 in Southcentral Alaska, more than 4,500 in Bristol Bay and nearly 1,000 jobs in the Arctic and Yukon Kuskokwim regions.

America’s increased seafood consumption is partly attributed to federal food assistance programs that distribute surplus canned salmon to food banks nationwide. AMSI was instrumental in coordinating the sale of $77 million in canned salmon to those programs between 2014 and 2015, helping the industry manage inventories after record pink and sockeye salmon harvests.

ASMI expanded domestic market channels for Alaska sockeye, with partnerships with Sam’s Club, Walmart and Red Lobster, thus avoiding significant carryover inventory of frozen sockeye heading into 2016, which could have lowered prices for the 2016 harvest, the report noted.

Meanwhile, Alaska seafood exports to ASMI program destinations maintained value at about the same level as the prior year, despite a strong US dollar and the Russian embargo.

The complete report is available online at https://indd.adobe.com/view/46b34fd5-da1f-4257-ae90-ada17dd5943c

Bill Would Boost Training of Young Fishermen

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the US House in April would establish the first national program to support young men and women entering the commercial fishing industry with educational opportunities through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program.

HR 2079, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act of 2017, would provide grants of up to $200,000 and a total of $2 million annually. The bill is a big step forward in the Fishing Communities Coalition’s effort to establish a coordinated, nationwide effort to train and assist the next generation of commercial harvesters.

“This legislation is about supporting the livelihoods that support entire fishing communities in Alaska and around the country,” said Rep. Don Young, R-AK, who introduced the bill with Rep. Seth Moulton, D-MA. “I am extremely proud to stand up with them.”

“This legislation will help to sustain the fishing industry by ensuring that our young people not only have a future in fishing, but are also empowered with the training and resources necessary to thrive in the 21st-century economy,” Moulton said.

The legislation is backed by the Fishing Communities Coalition, which represents commercial fishermen from New England, Alaska, California and the Gulf Coast.

Sea Lion Predation of Salmon Prompts Legislation

The latest effort to remove sea lions from areas of the Columbia River where they pose the greatest threat of survival of endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species was introduced in the US House in April.

The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act “is critical because sea lion predation is posing a serious threat to our salmon populations, impacting our efforts to ensure their survival,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-WA, who introduced the bill with Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-OR.

In the last few years there have been a record number of California and Steller sea lions in the Columbia River from Astoria to Bonneville Dam, numbers totally inconsistent with their historic range, Schrader said.

According to a statement released by Schrader, historic recovery efforts of endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River have been compromised by exponentially increasing sea lion predation in recent years.

The issue is a complex one, according to reports issued by NOAA Fisheries, saying that birds, fish and marine mammal predation are a major cause of mortality for Endangered Species Act listed juvenile and adult fish in the Columbia River Basin. California sea lions and Steller sea lions consume substantial numbers of adult spring Chinook salmon, sturgeon and winter steelhead below Bonneville Dam, the agency reported earlier.

Similar legislation was introduced in the last session of Congress.

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