Alaska/Pacific Coast

Alaska sockeye salmon glut expected to lower prices
Alaska Dispatch News by Jeannette Lee Falsey – April 9, 2015
The price of Alaska sockeye salmon is expected to drop this year as a huge run and leftover cans and frozen fillets from last season cause a glut in supply.

Bering Sea Chinook Bycatch Mostly From Western Alaska Rivers
[Please note corrections in next article]
SEAFOODNEWS.COM  by Peggy Parker  –  April 9, 2015
As the North Pacific Fishery Management Council wrestles with salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska fisheries this week, they will be using a recent report from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game documenting the genetic origins of the Chinook bycatch.

For Chinook caught in the Bering Sea pollock trawl, based on samples taken in 2013, 71% were estimated to be from Alaskan river systems flowing into the Bering Sea. Of that Coastal Western Alaska stock contributed the most (50%), trailed by the North Alaska Peninsula (14%) and the Upper Yukon (5%). Other contributors were British Columbia (16%) and West Coast U.S. (7%).

Results suggest that slightly more Chinook destined for Western Alaska rivers are caught in the pollock “B” season than the “A” season, 52% and 50% respectively. However, 19% of the “A” season Chinook bycatch was tagged as North Alaska Peninsula stocks, compared to almost zero during the “B” season.

The incidental harvest of Chinook salmon in the Bering Sea pollock fishery averaged 37,357 salmon per year during 1992- 2013, but increased to a peak of 121,770 in 2007. The Bering Sea Chinook salmon bycatch has declined in recent years dropping to a total of 13,033 Chinook salmon in 2013, more than 24,000 fish below the 22-year average.

For the Gulf of Alaska pollock trawl Chinook bycatch, of 693 samples taken in 2013, most were from British Columbia (43%) and the U.S. West Coast (42%), followed by coastal Southeast Alaska (11%), Northwest GOA (3%), and others (< 1%).

For the GOA rockfish fleet, Chinook bycatch comes mostly from West Coast U.S. stocks (60%) with smaller contributions from British Columbia (31%), Coastal Southeast Alaska (6%), and Northwest GOA (2%) stocks.

For the GOA flatfish fleet, Chinook bycatch sampling was small (79 fish) and from one vessel. Results showed origins from West Coast U.S. (43%), British Columbia (39%), Coastal Southeast Alaska (14%), and Northwest GOA (3%) stocks comprised the largest stock groups.

Stock composition estimates of the Chinook salmon bycatch are needed for pollock and salmon fishery managers to understand the biological effects of the incidental take of salmon in the trawl fishery.

We Screwed Up In Our Report On The Pollock/Chinook Bycatch Issue Yesterday
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – April 10, 2015
At SeafoodNews we pride ourselves as being the news source closest to and most representative of the Alaskan Seafood Industry.  That is why we really screwed up publishing an incomplete story yesterday on the research showing a signfiicant part of the Bering Sea chinook bycatch by the pollock fleet originates in Western Alaska.

The problem is not that the research is wrong; its that the article was incomplete.  It was never intended to be a stand alone story, but instead part of a larger piece highlighting what we think is the most significant fact:  the amazing progress the pollock fleet has made in reducing chinook bycatch since a 47,600 fish cap, with some flexibility, was instituted in 2011.

Since this action, actual bycatch by the pollock fleet has been between 11,000 and 15,000 fish for the past three years.

The council is voting today on additional options to further reduce bycatch, even though all parties agree that the bycatch issue is far less important to the decline of chinook runs than a host of other issues, including unidentified problems. Yet it is an area where the council has authority, so the council is being pushed to act.

As we said yesterday in our comments on bycatch, we hope the council will recognize the need to maintain flexibility.   None of us know exactly why various changes in stocks like chinook are occuring, and it is quite possible that some of these changes are linked to global warming.  If these forces are acting on such a large scale, we need to retain all the flexibiity possible to address them.

In our view that means retaining flexibility for the pollock fleet on bycatch, and not pushing the fleet into a destructive race for fish or behavior that will actually make the situation worse.  Too small a cap, at this point, would likely lead to even more chinook being caught.

As publisher, I screwed up yesterday.  The article on bycatch got printed, even though I had thought we were holding it to use as part of a larger, more comprehensive look at the issue, following the council vote.

As someone involved with Alaska fisheries for more than 30 years, obviously we have seen a lot of allocation fights.  We are no stranger to management decisions that have significant economic impacts.  In these situations we have friends on both sides, and try and write from a perspective that takes seriously the concerns of all parties.

In this case, the article, by highlighting only a single small aspect of the problem, was unfair to the pollock fleet – for which I can only apologize, and hope we can avoid such mistakes in the future.

We have enough on our plate in the seafood industry, managing to the highest environmental standards in a fish bowl with full public accountablity.  We don’t need to make the management or advocacy job harder for anyone.

–John Sackton, Publisher

Scientists, Enviros Question DFO’s Higher 2015 Fraser River Sockeye Catch Plan
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Salmon Arm Observer] by Barb Brouwer – April 9, 2015
With lower than expected sockeye salmon returns in 2014, some scientists and environmentalists are criticizing the proposal of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to increase the catch of Fraser River sockeye in 2015.

Jim Cooperman, Shuswap Environmental Action Society president, says final 2014 estimate totals of 748,888 late sockeye spawners to the Adams River is less than 22 percent of the 2010 dominant run.

Overall, he says, the South Thompson run was 94.5 per cent of the average, but was just 30 per cent of the 2010 record run.

“It appears that the problems encountered in 2009, which led to the Cohen Inquiry, may be reappearing,’ he explained, noting the multi-million-dollar, taxpayer- funded report has basically been shelved.

Stu Cartwright, acting area director of Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the B.C. Interior, agrees there are many variables to consider but defends DFO’s plans which, he says, are carefully designed to manage stocks in a way that supports conservation and sustainability while maximizing fishing opportunities for First Nations, commercial and recreational fisheries.

He says DFO uses techniques and historical data to collect information based on many variables.

“We create models to make the best educated predictions and sometimes we’re going to be right and sometimes wrong,’ he says, noting the science is not precise and major collapses such as experienced in 2009 do happen. “I don’t want to debate who’s right and who’s wrong; all I know is our science people are doing everything they can.’

But Aaron Hill, executive director of B.C.’s Watershed Watch, disagrees.

He says while the 2014 Fraser River run was still good, DFO allowed very aggressive fishing based on what they thought they were seeing in the mouth of the river.

“They saw what looked like big numbers, but they were driven by a few populations,’ he says, pointing out 60 per cent of the endangered Cultus Lake run was captured in fisheries and the run failed to reach recovery goals. “They have a draft fishing plan that would see harvest rates up again, but this year we’re expecting a much smaller return.’

Hill suspects a 1.4 billion pink salmon hatchery that augments pink salmon populations in the Pacific Ocean is also a concern because they compete with the sockeye for a limited food supply.

As well, he says a large body of warm water off the coast of B.C., combined with a mild El Nino is killing off marine animals and sea birds.

“Those warm ocean conditions make it really tou gh for Pacific salmon, and we also have low snowpacks on the South Coast making lower water levels in the Fraser River,’ he said, warning of further problems if the area experiences another hot summer.

“With all these risk factors that are lining up, it’s not a good time to increase fishing rates. We already have plenty of fishing opportunities. It’s way too risky.’

Hill is frustrated by fisheries plans he says have far too much input from those who benefit.

He explains that scientists with the Pacific Salmon Commission, a Canada-US organization created to manage the run, recommend run sizes.

“But the run size that is actually used for managing the fishery is decided by the Fraser River Panel, which is mostly comprised of fishermen, and they, over and over again throughout the season, adopted a run size that was larger than what the Pacific Salmon Commission was recommending,’ Hill says. “That allowed more fishing and, at the end of season, we find out they overestimated substantially.’

Cartwright, however, says the Fraser River Panel is comprised of Canadian and U.S. government reps and technical committees within the panel that have fishermen or ex-fishermen who help make recommendations and identify fishing opportunities.

“DFO works with the same criteria, principles and guidelines agreed to in the pacific Salmon Treaty and, ultimately, at end of day, DFO makes final decisions on openings and where and when they will occur.’


Personal use priority bill stirs reaction among public
Alaska Journal of Commerce By DJ Summers – April 8, 2015
A pair of bills in the Alaska Legislature would create a hierarchy of importance for Alaska state fisheries, with subsistence at the top and commercial and sport fishing at the bottom.


Domestic Russian Fish Prices Soar 30% After Putin’s Food Bans
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Moscow Times] – April 10, 2015
Domestic fish prices have risen 31 percent since Russia embargoed a range of Western food imports in August, the head of the Federal Fisheries Agency said Thursday.

The prices of salmon, herring and pollock rose most noticeably, the agency’s head Ilya Shestakov told a meeting of fishing officials, the Interfax news agency reported.

Food price inflation, particularly for meat, fish, and fruit and vegetables, has led a wave of consumer price rises triggered by a huge devaluation of the ruble currency in 2014 and the Kremlin’s food import bans, a retaliation against Western sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.

The European Union, Russia’s leading trade partner, was hit hardest by the embargo. Norway was a key supplier of salmon to Russia prior to the ban, and Scottish fishing companies delivered large amounts of herring to northern Russian ports.

Fish imports to Russia dropped 12.8 percent last year, Shestakov said. Domestic fish production supplied nearly 80 percent of the Russian market, up slightly from 78.2 percent in 2013, he added.

Russia will invest 400 million rubles ($7.7 million) in subsidizing interest rates for the industry this year, Interfax quoted Shestakov as saying.


Celebrating clean water
Capital City Weekly by Mary Catharine Martin – April 8, 2015
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Southeast Alaskan that doesn’t love salmon, or a salmon that doesn’t need clean water.

Chuitna River Listed as One of Nation’s Most Endangered Waterways
Fishermen’s News – April 8, 2015
A salmon-rich river in Alaska’s Upper Cook Inlet that would be impacted by development of a proposed coal mine is now listed among the nation’s most endangered waterways.

Federal Register

North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting
A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 04/10/2015
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) Fixed Gear Electronic Monitoring (EM) workgroup will meet by teleconference.

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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April 10, 2015