Alaska/Pacific Coast

Bristol Bay wrapping up unexpectedly good fall silver fishery
Most taking home .65/lb for their chilled coho catch, and with over 210,000 fish landed by probably less than 50 fishermen, the fall fishery proved a good one.
KDLG by Dave Bendinger – August 29, 2017
Bristol Bay’s coho fishery is often little more than icing on the cake for some sockeye fishermen who keep their nets wet through August. Due probably to the lack of participation, the catch is typically topped in the Southeast, Alaska Peninsula, Prince William Sound, Upper Cook Inlet, and Kodiak fisheries, at least.

Sustained by the sea: Understanding Alaska’s commercial fishing long game
SPONSORED: Persistence can pay off in an industry with well-documented highs and lows.
Alaska Dispatch News Presented by Copper River, Prince William Sound Marketing Association – August 30, 2017
It was the fall of 1985, the weather was fair in Prince William Sound and 25-year-old Cordova fisherman, Bill Lindow, was gearing up for a typical silver salmon season. He and the rest of the commercial fleet were business as usual—motoring out of the harbor the morning of the opener, expecting a standard day on the Sound. They didn’t yet know that the 1985 silver salmon season would be anything but standard—it was one for the history books.

Alaska Fishing Industry Voices Concerns at Magnuson-Stevens Act Hearing
Seafood News – August 29, 2017
Alaska hosts field hearing on the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

BSAI Pollock Fleet Sees Higher Chinook Bycatch, but Still Well Under Limit; Gulf Fleet May Hit Cap
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – August 29, 2017
As of August 19, the chinook bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fleet reached 27,498 salmon, about 46 percent of the annual 60,000 chinook salmon allowed.

With 89 percent of the annual pollock TAC already caught (1.2  of 1.32 million mt), it’s unlikely the fleet will come close to the prohibited species catch (PSC) limit, or even approach the lower standard of 47,591 chinook.

But the catch of 27,498 salmon by the third week of August, with two and ahalf months of the season yet to go, is the highest the fleet has taken since 2011, when Amendment 91 was adopted by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

It is more than double the last five year average of 12,616 chinook salmon.

Amendment 91 established the annual chinook PSC limit and created incentive plan agreements (IPAs) to be designed by industry to keep chinook bycatch below limits.

These IPAs were the agreements that formed co-ops. A fleet acting as a co-op had significant advantages over fleets that were each competing for more of the allocation.

Individual co-op members are assigned a share of the total pollock allocation and are responsible for catching it with minimum bycatch. Vessel skippers share real-time bycatch information with other vessel captains so everyone becomes as proficient as the best. Shared information covers “rolling hot spots,” places where bycatch schools are seen, ways to tow the net that help bycatch escape, and many other things skippers observe during the year. Co-ops eliminate the race for fish, so safety and product quality are improved.

In June of last year, NMFS implemented Amendment 110, creating an overarching salmon avoidance program. It included chum and other non-chinook salmon, it moved 5% of the pollock quota from the B Season, when chinook is abundant, to the A season, when chinook are scarce. It also provided for increased incentives for fishermen within the IPAs and made accommodations for the possibility of low-abundance years by automatically reducing the annual limit to 45,000 Chinook, when biomass levels were below a three-river index.

Genetic sampling along with other data from bycatch is shared among co-op members.

These two amendments, and the engagement of the industry with the support of the Council and NOAA-Fisheries helped to make the nation’s largest fishery also its most reliable to bring pollock to market year round.

Unfortunately, this is not being done for the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) pollock fleet, just SSE of the Bering Sea.  The Gulf fishery does not have the same tools used by the Bering Sea Pollock Fishery, because the trawlers do not have any system in place for sharing quota or by-catch allowances.  Proposals to accomplish this goal have failed to get majority support on the N. Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The GOA pollock trawl fleet is from Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Sand Point, and Seattle. It is not the industrialized fishing and high volume fishery that is found in the Bering Sea.

The total annual TAC for pollock in the Gulf is about 250,000 mt, modest compared to the Bering Sea, but 4-5 times above the original annual TAC set in 2011 when the fishery began. Those original annual catch limits of 40,000 – 80,000 mt, were the basis of the chinook bycatch limit.

“The 2011 cap was based on historical catches of chinook,” said Julie Bonnie of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank, based in Kodiak. “They didn’t think about pollock quota going up as dramatically as it has.”

A year ago last May, Bonnie’s pollock fleet blew past their sector’s allowance for chinook salmon and was closed down during a peak period for several months.

It took an emergency order from NOAA Fisheries-Alaska to transfer chinook bycatch from a different sector and get the fleet back out in mid-August. That October, the North Pacific Council adopted a permanent change that would allow chinook PSC allocations from other Gulf sectors to be transferred in case another overage occurred.

“But how do you know who to take it from,” noted Bonnie. “You can’t make a transfer without an interruption of fishing.  We just don’t know how it will go. Right now we’re having a big salmon year in Kodiak, so no one is doing any pollock.”

This year Gulf flatfish trawlers stood down for a month because they exceeded their PSC limits on halibut during the B season.

Bonnie hopes it won’t happen to pollock, but “they’ve used up a bunch of of the chinook so we’re running short of bycatch for the rest of the year,” she said.

Although she sees the benefits of a cooperative approach to the Gulf of Alaska fisheries, Bonnie has no illusions about anything changing soon.

The management of the Gulf of Alaska fisheries has been a contentious issue at the Council for several years. The last efforts to get some kind of cooperative catch share program in place ended with no action from the Council so, for now, the Kodiak pollock and groundfish fleet continue to race for fish and share less information about bycatch than they otherwise might.

“It’s so political,” Bonnie added. “I guess we’ll have to wait for a change of administration.”

Labeling and Marketing

Weekly Alaska Salmon Harvest Summary
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute – August 27, 2017
The 2017 Alaska salmon harvest stands at 197.6 million fish (as of 8/27/17). The Alaska salmon season is winding down and although the total harvest will end up close to the statewide forecast figure, there have been many highs and lows within Alaska’s salmon-producing regions. Fishing has been excellent in Western Alaska. The Alaska Peninsula (i.e. Area M) region keta and sockeye harvests are among the region’s best ever and the pink harvest is poised to be the best ever. Bristol Bay produced a harvest of over 37 million sockeye for just the fifth time since 1975.


State Department of Public Safety reaches out to fishermen in effort to combat opioid abuse
KHNS by Abbey Collins – August 28 2017
Earlier this year, Governor Bill Walker issued a disaster declaration to combat opioid abuse in Alaska. Since then, more time and resources have been dedicated to the issue. This summer, some of those efforts are aimed at getting the attention of the fishing community.

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Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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August 30, 2017