Alaska/Pacific Coast

2017 Copper River Season Starts Tomorrow: Expect Fresh Sockeye But Few Chinook
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – May 17, 2017
The Copper River salmon season starts tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. Alaska time, signaling the first large run of fresh sockeye in the world. The 2017 commercial harvest projections for sockeye salmon are 889,000 fish, low compared to

This is usually the best time to target chinook or king salmon, as their run peaks at the early part of the sockeye run.

But this year, biologists are forecasting a total run of only 29,000 chinook, the smallest on record since 1985. Out of that total run, 24,000 fish need to make it upriver to spawn. That leaves 5,000 fish left to be harvested, and the department has allocated 4,000 to the commercial fleet and 1,000 to subsistence.

The effort to achieve a 24,000 fish escapement has triggered restrictions for all user groups. Upriver users — sport, personal use, and subsistence — have been closed or restricted for the season. The Cordova-based gillnet fleet is banned from fishing inside waters and the usual two 12-hour openings during the first week was cut to one 12-hour opener.

The commercial allocation of 4,000 kings compares to a ten-year average for commercial harvest of 17,200 king salmon.

Meanwhile, later today in Anchorage, the Alaska Board of Fish will hear a petition from the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee to rewrite the management plan for Copper River chinook by sharing the conservation burden with the Cordova fleet.

“We consider this [ADF&G’s current management] plan ‘very high risk’ to fail to provide the minimum escapement,” reads the petition. “Absent a detailed plan, we request the Board consider:

* Requiring the department to utilize genetic source information as soon as it can be made available to assess the strength of the return of the chinook salmon from the Gulkana River from at least the first two commercial openings,
* Further restricting the area open for the commercial fisherey,
* Restricting the depth of the nets to 29 meshes,
* Closure until July 1 if the commercial harvet exceeds the ofrecast object, and assessment confirm a low return,
* Prohibit the retention of bycatch chinook salmon in ‘home packs’,
* Measures to lower the mortality from handlig and releasing chnook in all the non-retention fisheries
* Exempt the Chitna Dip Net Personnel Use fishery from the allocation reduction in AAC 77.591. (f)”

Sam Cotten, Commissioner of ADF&G, responded to Virgil Umphenour, chair of the Fairbanks F&GAC, to say that “based on the information available to me I cannot conclude that an emergency under 5 AAC 96.625 (f) exists and I deny the emergency petition.”

Prince William Sound and the Copper River will be the focus on regulatory changes under the Board of Fish three-year cycle later this year. Further requests for changes in management plans will undoubtedly be submitted for that meeting to be held in the fall.

“This is my final decision on your emergency petition,” Cotten wrote. “The board has been notified of my decision and two members of the board may call a special meeting to discuss the petition if they choose to do so.”

The issue is now on the agenda for a special meeting of the Board of Fish to address Bering Sea crab issues. The panel is expected to discuss it this afternoon shortly after the Board opens the meeting.

By then the first — and perhaps only — opening for king salmon will be underway.

This Saturday the local management biologists will look at information from the Copper River sonar monitors, and harvest reports from the Thursday opener, to decide further management changes for chinook.

It was unclear at press time whether the Miles Lake sonar has been put in operation for the year. The lower river sonar has been on since May 5 and has counted less than 100 salmon so far.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1061845/2017-Copper-River-Season-Starts-Tomorrow-Expect-Fresh-Sockeye-But-Few-Chinook

Fisheries board says no to emergency petition on Copper River fishery
Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman – May 17, 2017
An emergency petition that would have increased closures and restrictions on the Copper River commercial salmon fishery that gets underway this week was defeated May 17 during a special meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries in Anchorage.
http://www.thecordovatimes.com/2017/05/17/fisheries-board-says-no-emergency-petition-copper-river-fishery/

Prince William Sound Alaska salmon recovers MSC certification
Fis.com – May 17, 2017
The whole Alaska salmon fishery, including the Prince William Sound unit (PWS), has again been certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fisheries standard.
http://fis.com/fis/worldnews/worldnews.asp?l=e&country=0&special=&monthyear=&day=&id=91702&ndb=1&df=0

Gillnetters wrap up Friday, and Togiak herring closes for season
KDLG by Dave Bendinger – May 17, 2017
A total of 17,513 tons of herring reported harvested in Togiak between the two gear groups this season. (ADF&G added 500 tons of “deadloss” to the seiners total.)
http://kdlg.org/post/gillnetters-wrap-friday-and-togiak-herring-closes-season

Politics

Additional Requirements Sought for Bering Sea
Fishermen’s News – May 17, 2017
Increased vessel traffic in the Bering Sea has prompted the Alaska House of Representatives to call for additional spill prevention measures and vessel monitoring requirements.
http://fnonlinenews.blogspot.com/2017/05/additional-requirements-sought-for.html

New Alaska habitat protection initiative would turn tables on miners, development
Alaska Dipatch News by Nathaniel Herz – May 17, 2017
A new citizens initiative being prepared for the 2018 ballot would add protections for salmon habitat in the face of big projects like the proposed Pebble mine and provide more opportunities for public comment on new developments.
https://www.adn.com/politics/2017/05/17/new-alaska-habitat-protection-initiative-would-turn-tables-on-miners-development/

FYI’s

SeaShare Partners with Native Association to Donate Pollock to Communities in Bristol Bay
SEAFOODNEWS.COM – May 17, 2017
Seattle, Wash. — Seashare, a non-profit dedicated to bringing seafood to food banks, announced it has partnered with the Bristol Bay Native Association to deliver more than 7,000 pounds of pollock to Bristol Bay for hunger relief in Dillingham, Alaska, and surrounding communities.

The pollock will be stored in a freezer container that SeaShare installed in partnership with the Port of Dillingham in 2016. This is the third time the container has been filled, with more than 20,000 pounds of seafood donated by SeaShare in Bristol Bay over the past year.

“Seafood has dietary and cultural significance for rural Alaskans, but for a variety of reasons it is not readily available to many families in western Alaska,” Jim Harmon, Executive Director at SeaShare, said in a statement. “SeaShare is proud of the partners who helped us establish a new seafood donation program in Bristol Bay.”

The Bristol Bay Native Association will distribute the pollock to people struggling with hunger throughout the region, and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation is providing a grant to assist with the cost of labor.

BBNA Food Bank Manager Barbara Nunn said, “SeaShare’s seafood will feed many low income families. Currently we are feeding roughly 272 households in 15 communities in the Bristol Bay region. Many families depend on this seafood to help them get by.”

Trident Seafoods, a longtime partner of SeaShare, donated the pollock, while AML/Lynden donated the cost of freight to Dillingham.

SeaShare donated more than 185,000 pounds of high protein seafood throughout Alaska last year, and 30,000 pounds went to remote villages in Western Alaska.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1061827/SeaShare-Partners-with-Native-Association-to-Donate-Pollock-to-Communities-in-Bristol-Bay

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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May 18, 2017