Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Salmon Harvests in Alaska Top 4 Million Fish

Wild salmon harvests jumped to 4.1 million fish through June 20, with fishermen delivering 2.7 million sockeyes, more than a million chum, 247,000 humpies and 75,000 kings to processors.

In the western region, the catch at Kodiak rose to almost 2.8 million fish, including nearly two million reds, 419,000 chum, 346,000 pink and 4,000 Chinook salmon.

In the South Alaska Peninsula the catch rose to roughly two million fish, including 1.3 million sockeyes, 361,000 chum, 332,000 pink and 3,000 kings.

Prince William Sound’s catch of 1.3 million salmons includes 701,000 sockeye, 549,000 chum, 15,000 kings and about 1,000 pink. For the Copper River drift district only 378,000 sockeyes have been harvested, along with 13,000 kings and 9,000 chum. State gillnet area management biologist Jeremy Botz, in Cordova, said the sockeyes are continuing to trend consistently below the forecasted run and the commercial harvest is not as good as expected. The king salmon meanwhile has been running above anticipated levels, and both sockeyes and kings appear to be in great condition and larger than average, he said.

Copper River sockeyes are averaging 5.6-5.7 pounds each, while the Chinooks are averaging about 21 pounds, compared to recent year weights of 18 pounds, he said.

The weather in Prince William Sound, where about 225 boats are harvesting, has been pretty decent, Botz said.

Bristol Bay districts opened on June 1 and so far have delivered 193,000 sockeyes, including 182,000 from the Egegik district, 7,000 from the Ugashik, 3,000 from the Naknek-Kvichak and 1,000 from Togiak District. The Bay typically has its peak runs around the Fourth of July holiday period.

Cook Inlet fishermen have brought in 52,000 salmon, including 50,000 red and 2,000 Chinook. Of that total 29,000 reds came from Lower Cook Inlet and 21,000 from Upper Cook Inlet, and the kings from the northern district of Cook Inlet, which opened on May 29.

Also open now is the chum salmon run on the Lower Yukon River, an area where the chum are known for their particularly high oil content. That harvest has already reached 51,000 fish.

In the Southeast region, the total shows 82,000 fish, mostly king salmon.Most of the kings, 44,000 out of a total of 56,000 kings, are however from the winter troll fishery that opened in October.

The preliminary harvest figures are produced on a daily basis by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and appear on the online Blue Sheet report available at

New Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries

Chris Oliver, who served for 16 years as executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage, Alaska, takes office this week as assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Oliver’s background and expertise would be an asset to NOAA Fisheries in working to reduce the nation’s $11 billion seafood trade deficit.

Oliver, a native of Texas, is himself a fisherman who has gained extensive knowledge of national and international fisheries issues. He worked on Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery management issues prior to his move to Alaska in 1990.

Oliver said he intends to focus many of NOAA’s resources on the agency’s core science and management mission, and to seek opportunities for efficiencies in fisheries regulatory processes. Oliver said NOAA would continue to make long term sustainability the top priority, while looking for ways to maximize fishing opportunities for the benefit of recreational and commercial fishermen, processors, coastal communities and economies which depend on them.

NOAA Fisheries has offices in 15 states and US territories, including five regional offices, six science centers and 24 labs and fish stations. In addition to managing productive and sustainable domestic fisheries, including some aspects of marine aquaculture, the agency is tasked to work in conservation of protected resources including whales, sea turtles and corals.

NPFMC Takes Final Action on IFQ Leasing

Federal fisheries managers have taken final action on a regulatory amendment to allow community development quota groups to lease halibut quota shares in lease area 4B, 4C and 4D in years when catch limits are below certain thresholds.

The action came during the June meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Juneau, Alaska.

In Area 4B, this option would be available to groups if the catch limit was one million pounds or less. For Area 4C and 4D, it would be permitted when the catch limit in Area 4CDE was at or below 1.5 million pounds. The council said leased IFQ would be available to vessels less than or equal to 51 feet length overall, subject to the groups’ internal management. This action would not, however, convert IFQ to CDQ quota.

The council ruled that vessels harvesting leased halibut IFQ must follow all halibut IFQ regulations, with one exception—in Area 4D IFQ leased by a CDQ group would be permitted to be fished in Area 4E.

In addition, council members added some restrictive provisions to mitigate adverse impacts on other IFQ stakeholders and the quota share market and also acted to prevent individuals form buying quota shares with the specific intent of leasing it. This provision will not allow any individual to lease IFQ within the first three years after they have acquired it.

Finally, to discourage reliance on leasing of Area 4 quota share, quota share holders may not lease halibut IFQ on a consecutive basis for more than two years. The action intends that IFQ be leased by non-residents of CDQ communities for use by residents.

Werner to Head NOAA Scientific Programs

Cisco Werner, whose work has focused on the oceanic environment in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, has been appointed as director of scientific programs and chief science advisor for NOAA Fisheries effective June 12.

In his new post Werner will continue working on planning, developing and managing a multidisciplinary scientific enterprise of basic and applied research on living marine resources, NOAA officials said.

Prior to this appointment, Werner was the director of NOAA Fisheries’ southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC). From 2011 through 2017, he led SWFSC in research including the California Current, the US West Coast watershed and parts of the North Pacific, the Eastern Tropical Pacific and the Antarctic.

As director of the SWFSC, Werner headed the NOAA Fisheries’ US science delegation in bilateral meetings with Mexico and Argentina, and was US/NOAA fisheries lead for meetings of the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like species in the North Pacific Ocean, from 2013-2015.

His research has focused on the oceanic environment through numerical models of ocean circulation and marine ecosystems in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He has studied effects of physical forcing on lower trophic levels and the subsequent effect on the structure, function and abundance of commercially and ecologically important species. He is the author and co-author of over 100 papers in scientific journals and book chapters.

Prior to joining NOAA he held several academic posts, as director and professor of Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences and as chairman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of Marine Sciences.

Cisco holds a doctorate in oceanography, a master of science in oceanography, and a bachelor of science in mathematics, all from the University of Washington.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Potential Alaska Government Shutdown Threatens Fisheries

As Alaska legislators struggle to pass a budget, state agencies, including the Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), are analyzing the impact of a potential discontinuation of services on the state’s multi-billion dollar salmon industry. Should a government shutdown occur, it would come at the peak of the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon season, in early July.

ADF&G officials say that not only would fisheries in progress be potentially impacted, but also the agency’s ability to forecast future escapement goal analyses and data collection could be significantly compromised. Lack of sufficient sampling would hurt assessment of the state’s performance for Pacific Salmon Treaty obligations, the department’s ability to manage allocations set by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and have an impact on the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s stock assessment program.

The two state-owned hatcheries annually produce over 4.5 million salmon, rainbow trout and Arctic Char. While ADF&G would take all actions within its power to avoid adverse consequences for the hatcheries, a shutdown could threaten the 2.5 million fish now housed at the hatcheries and prevent collection of Chinook and coho broodstock. Such potential losses could be long-term, surpassing the three to four years required to rebuild the basic broodstock.

With the state’s executive branch hopeful that a budget will pass before July 1, programs and services at ADF&G are continuing as usual. Should a shutdown occur on July 1, ADF&G will start pulling staff back from the field and begin closures as necessary. Meanwhile the state’s Law Department is looking into what money could be spent to continue vital services if a budget is not passed on time.

House Oceans Caucus Moves to Address Marine Debris

House Oceans Caucus co-chairs Don Young, R-Alaska, and Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, have introduced legislation to address the global marine debris crisis affecting oceans and coastal communities.

H.R. 2748, the Save Our Seas Act of 2017, would reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program through fiscal year 2022. Reauthorization would allow NOAA, in coordination with state governors, to declare severe marine debris events and to approve funds to assist with cleanup and response, and encourage international engagement to address the growing adverse impact of marine waste. Companion legislation has been filed in the Senate.

Marine debris is considered to be a growing global crisis requiring collaborative work with partners across the world. H.R. 2748 would assist local communities, states and the federal government in responding to influxes of debris in the ocean and along the nation’s coastlines.

The Japanese tsunami in March 2011 brought a huge amount of debris to the Pacific Coast. Young noted that it is estimated that up to 12.7 million metric tons of waste entered the ocean in 2012 and that number is expected to increase if waste management infrastructure improvements are not implemented by 2025. Current authorizations for marine debris removal programs have expired, and without this legislation, there will continue to be a lack of resources to address the problem, Young said.

Commercial Salmon Harvests in Alaska
Now at 1.5 Million Fish

It’s salmon season in Alaska, with the preliminary harvest count now at 1.5 million fish, including upwards of 1.1 million sockeyes, 227,000 chum, 66,000 kings and 52,000 humpies.

The fanfare over those famed Copper River sockeyes and Chinooks has quieted down as other salmon fisheries open up. In Prince William Sound alone, upwards of 477,000 salmon have been delivered to processors, including 343,000 reds, 122,000 chums and some 12,000 kings.

Bristol Bay opened for harvest on June 1, with only 14,000 sockeyes delivered to date, predominantly from the Egegik district. Kodiak processors have received 237,000 salmon, including 226,000 reds, 10,000 chum and 1,000 kings, and Chignik harvesters have caught 132,000 fish, including 122,000 sockeye and 9,000 chum. For the Alaska Peninsula, the catch totals more than half a million fish with 363,000 reds, 86,000 chum, 51,000 humpies and 1,000 kings.

In Cook Inlet’s southern district, fishermen have delivered more than 3,000 sockeyes.

Retail prices are dropping as more fisheries open. At 10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage, Alaska, sockeye salmon fillets are now $17.95 a pound and king fillets are $29.95 a pound. With fish coming from Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula, whole red salmon are $12.95 a pound.

Costco wholesale stores in Anchorage have been selling their whole red salmon at $9.99 a pound. Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash., is still offering whole Copper River kings and sockeyes, plus fillets of both, although prices went down considerably from the first run fish.Online prices for Pike’s Copper River king fillets are now $42.99 a pound, and whole kings are $37.99 a pound. Copper River reds are 29.99 and whole reds are $79.86 per fish.

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