In Togiak District, warm weather means uncertain timing for herring run
KDLG by Isabelle Ross - March 25, 2019
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is predicting an early start for the sac roe herring fishery. But warm temperatures have made it difficult for biologists to accurately estimate when the fishery will open.
Low Return of Pink Salmon to SE Alaska This Year Raises More Questions than Answers
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - March 25, 2019
The forecast for the 2019 pink salmon harvest in Southeast Alaska is 18 million fish, about half the ten-year average for odd-years.
When the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced their 2019 forecast for Southeast pinks last November, the department noted an increased collaboration with NOAA Fisheries to produce a joint forecast for 2019 (in years past, each agency produced their own forecast.)
“In the future, we plan to work towards increased coordination between the two agencies and will continue to look for ways to focus and expand the Southeast Coastal Monitoring (SECM) survey to provide a wide variety of information of value to the fishing industry,” biologist Andy Piston, Ketchikan-based Pink and Chum Salmon Project Leader wrote.
The joint forecast is based for the most part on juvenile pink salmon abundance indices collected by the SECM project in northern Southeast’s inside waters during June and July. Those numbers are highly correlated with the harvest of adult pink salmon in the following year. The juvenile pink salmon abundance index of 1.23 in 2018 was the third lowest in the 22 years of SECM surveys. It followed on the heels of the 2017 abundance index for pinks, which was the lowest in the 21 years of the survey.
The 2019 harvest forecast of 18 million pink salmon would be the lowest odd-year harvest since 1987.
“The extremely low juvenile abundance index in 2018 was unexpected given that pink salmon escapements in 2017 were generally good and escapement goals were met in all three subregions of SEAK,” the biologists wrote in their forecast last fall.
“This indicates that brood year 2017 pink salmon likely experienced poor freshwater and/or early marine survival.”
A counting station at Auke Creek near Juneau verified that. “The escapement of 10,711 pink salmon at Auke Creek in 2017 produced only 31,540 outmigrating fry in spring 2018. The fry-per-spawner ratio of 2.94 was the second lowest on record and well below the long-term average for the odd-year brood at 13.42 fry per spawner,” they noted.
The outmigration of pink fry there, which takes place in April, was four days later than the historical average and nine days later than the average migration midpoint date of the last five odd-year brood fry. Those delays reflect colder temperatures in the Juneau area from February through March.
A year later, those juvenile pink salmon caught in the 2018 SECM survey trawls were also the smallest (in length) in the 22-year survey.
Another source of uncertainty regarding the 2019 pink salmon return is the anomalously warm sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska.
“The warm temperatures that persisted throughout the Gulf of Alaska from fall 2013 through much of 2016, returned in 2018.
“Pink salmon that went to sea from 2014 to 2016 returned in numbers below expectation and below recent odd- and even-year averages,” Piston explained.
Temperatures moderated in the Gulf of Alaska in 2017, but effects on the ecosystem may have persisted so that when pink salmon went to sea in 2017 and returned in 2018, both their survival rate and individual size were lower.
On April 10, the Southern, Northern, and Joint Southeast Regional Plan Team meetings will be held in Juneau to discuss development and amendment of comprehensive salmon plans; make recommendations concerning private non-profit hatchery permits and permit alteration requests (PARs); and make recommendations concerning the allocation of enhanced salmon throughout Southeast Alaska.
The Southern RPT will review five hatchery permit alteration requests to increase egg take at Burnett Inlet Hatchery, Whitman Lake Hatchery, Klawok River Hatchery, and Deer Mountain Hatchery. The Northern RPT will review three PARs, two to change release locations, and one to increase egg take at Sawmill Creek Hatchery. Copies of these requests can be found here.
The Regional Planning Teams (RPT) consist of representatives of salmon fishing gear groups and ADF&G personnel. The meetings are open to the public.
China Boosts the Development of Canada’s Seafood Industry
SeafoodNews.com by Amy Zhong - March 26, 2019
China has become a huge and lucrative market for many worldwide seafood suppliers, including Canada. As statistics show, this Asian country has become the second largest importer of live lobsters from New Brunswick, Canada. Thanks to foodies from China, the county’s seafood trade is said to have jumped from $20 million in 2015 to $100 million in 2017.
Apart from greater seafood sales, lobster lovers from China have also helped raise salaries of locals and expand processing capacity. Some Chinese businessmen have built lobster processing plants in Canada and paid wages higher than the average to hire local managerial professionals. And they have found different routes to deliver as many lobsters as possible back to China while ensuring high survival rates. Now it is said to take less than 14 hours to send live lobsters to Beijing.
Despite more competitors from China, seafood companies in Canada have witnessed an increase in their seafood sales to the market. For example, according to Clearwater, the company has enjoyed a double-digit growth rate in the sales of such commodities as live lobsters and scallops. The company’s sales value has reached $236.7 million in the Asian market during 2018, while the sales to China was $130 million. And the company's profit margin has increased from 17% in 2017 to 20.3%.
According to Clearwater's president, the company plans to sell more to China’s second-tier and third-tier cities this year. At the same time, it also intends to relocate scallop lines from Europe to China and other Asian countries. Although about 98% of the company's buyers are restaurants, their retail business is expanding, and they expect online sales to grow at the rate of 30%. Direct sales to importers and distributors can not only help raise efficiency but also reduce costs in storage.
Although Europe is still Canada's main market, rapid growth in Chinese consumption and the trade conflict with America have encouraged more and more seafood companies in Canada, like Clearwater, to shift attention to China this year. And they are optimistic about the prospect of this rising new market where residents give priority to eating and are also increasingly willing to splurge on delicious and healthy food.
Salmon expedition reports unexpected findings
Kitsap Sun by Christopher Dunagan, Puget Sound Institute - March 22, 2019
After five weeks at sea, a team of 21 scientists from five countries returned Monday with some surprising findings about the mysterious lives of salmon in the Pacific Ocean, according to Laurie Weitkamp, a salmon biologist with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Oregon.
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