Alaska/Pacific Coast

The Alaska Fisheries Report
KMXT- March 3, 2016
Coming up this week, lots of fishy things are happening in Juneau as the state legislature nears the half-way point of its 90-day session. A surprising number of chum salmon from Southeast are turning up as trawl bycatch in the Gulf and Bering Sea – but not nearly as many as from the other side of the International Date Line. All that and more, coming up, on the Alaska Fisheries Report. Thanks to KMXT’s Kayla Desroches for sitting in while I was off work. We had contributions this week from KDLG’s Molly Dischner in Dillingham, KFSK’s Joe Viechnicki in Petersburg, and KRBD’s Leila Keihry in Ketchikan.

Fish board responds to changes in Chigniks
KDLG by Molly Dischner  – March 4, 2016
The once-thriving Chignik fishery has seen better days, and fishermen from the region asked the state Board of Fish for a little help.

Potential ADF&G Budgets Cuts Could Mean Smaller Alaskan Salmon Harvests This Year
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – March 7, 2016
With the Alaska legislature looking at drastic budget cuts, some of those cuts may turn out to be penny-wise and pound foolish.

Take Salmon for example.  The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game has developed a highly sophisticated in season run monitoring program, with the aim of allowing the maximum sustainable commercial harvest, once conservation escapement goals have been met.

When salmon pour into a bay or river system, they are not all going to the same place to spawn.  The ADF&G tracks salmon stocks to specific spawning sites.. i.e. lakes or river systems, and often the salmon entering the mouth of a river are made up of several different distinct spawning stocks.

In Bristol Bay, for example, there are around five different river systems where escapement is monitored by ADF&G.

The infrastructure for salmon monitoring that has been built up has allowed the ADF&G to manage commercial harvests to closely follow the escapements needed for the different river systems.  In this fashion the agency can determine when stocks of a particular system need to be protected until the escapement range is reached, but at the same time they can avoid unnecessarily shutting down fishing on other stocks, where escapement is already at or above target levels.

In Bristol Bay, for example, the monitoring station at Port Moeller measures the run and the composition of the run five or six days before the fish show up in the Bay.  This information can help quickly validate ADF&G’s escapement goals, allowing for longer and earlier openings.

With the budget cuts on the table it is possible that the Port Moeller monitoring program will not survive.

The result will be fewer commercial fish in Bristol Bay.  As the run develops, the agency will not have an early window, but will instead depend on real time measurements to determine how many fish are coming in to the rivers.  A precautionary approach will require the agency manage to the escape ranges most at risk, meaning the overall fishery may not open until later than it would otherwise, or that harvest days will be more delayed or spread out.

This strategy is necessary to ensure enough escapement, but it relies on after the fact counts of when the fish are actually in the river.  It could potentially eliminate a few days of fishing..resulting in the loss of hundrds of thousands of harvestable fish, and the revenue, income, and tax base that these fish provide.

Too much movemnt in this direction means a tipping point, where the cuts themselves hurt the state’s economy and revenue more than they save.

If this pattern is repeated throughout the state, the shortfall in salmon harvests due to more conservative and precautionary management strategies, driven by lack of data, will lead to losses of millions of commercially saleable fish.  Not a wise course for the legislature to pursue, despite the real problem of huge budget shortfalls.

Tanner crab wrapping up
Bristol Bay Times by Jim Paulin – March 4, 2016
The Tanner crab fisheries in the Bering Sea are nearing completion, and snow crab is well past the halfway mark, according to shellfish biologist Miranda Westphal, of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in Unalaska.


New Studies Raise Questions About Crabs Adaptability
SitNews – March 4, 2016
Ketchikan, Alaska – Sixty percent of U.S. seafood comes from Alaska. A profitable portion of this comes from the famed crab fisheries. New studies on the effects of ocean acidification due to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels support a growing body of evidence that the future for Tanner and blue king crab stocks in Alaska waters is, at best, uncertain.

Labeling and Marketing

Legislature considers cuts for ASMI, future savings for Fish and Game
Bristol Bay Times by Molly Dischner – March 4, 2016
As the state Legislature looks to create a budget for the coming year, changes are on the table for nearly every department.


The Case of The Vanishing Seals: An Alaskan Island Mystery
KUCB by John Ryan – Feb 29, 2016
From a viewing blind in the middle of a seal rookery on Alaska’s remote Pribilof Islands, it can be hard to fathom this place once holding vastly more life than it does now.

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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March 7, 2016