2016 pink salmon fishermen expected to be contacted by end of month about distribution of disaster funds
KMXT by Maggie Wall - July 15, 2019
Fishermen who are hoping to receive checks as part of the 2016 pink salmon disaster fund should see some correspondence about the distribution of money later this month.
Unusual Die-Offs of Pink Salmon, Marine Mammals, Seabirds, and Krill in Alaska’s Northwest Frontier
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - July 15, 2019
North of Bristol Bay, where sockeye salmon are plugging nets and processing plants, residents in Alaska’s northwest frontier are witnessing unusual die-offs of pink salmon, whales, seals, walruses, sea birds, and even krill this summer.
The area is vast even by Alaska standards, stretching north and west of Bristol Bay. Mariners traveling north from the Bay will first cross Kuskokwim Bay into which flows the Kuskokwim River, then the frayed channels of the Yukon River, before entering Norton Sound, fed by the Unalakleet River among many others. Nome is at the northwest extent of Norton Sound and has been a center for first responders to some of the most unusual die offs the state has seen this year.
Last week the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC) issued a notice about unusually large numbers of dead pre-spawned pink salmon in multiple river systems in the Norton Sound.
Over the weekend of July 6-7, NSEDC and ADF&G fisheries biologists received reports of above normal pink salmon die offs in many Norton Sound river systems, with larger die offs in eastern Norton Sound streams.
“Based on current water temperature, salmon escapement numbers and water levels it appears that much higher than normal water temperatures are the main contributing factor to the pink salmon die offs,” NSEDC’s Fisheries, Research and Development Director Wes Jones said.
“We’re working with multiple organizations to collect water temperature data and dissolved oxygen measurements. This additional information will help confirm this conclusion and rule out other possibilities.”
The event appears to be connected to a larger ecosystem-level shift brought on by warming waters. Significant northward migration of stocks such as pollock and Pacific cod as well as marine mammal and seabird die off events are likely other notable impacts being brought on by warming waters in the Bering Sea.
Outside of the Norton Sound, have also recorded above normal salmon die off events that are attributed to high water temperatures.
For Kuskokwim salmon, never-before-seen temperatures likely gave migrating salmon heart attacks.
Early last week, water temperatures near Bethel broke into the lower 70s, marking the highest river temperature that’s ever been recorded in early July. Residents along the lower Kuskokwim River reported dead salmon floating downstream. Salmon can’t survive extended exposure to river water that is warmer than 70 degrees.
“Essentially, what could happen is salmon metabolism speeds up to the point that they’re having heart attacks and going belly up and floating downriver,” Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Ben Gray told Davis Hovey of KNOM.org.
On his way to that part of the river, Gray and his crew saw more dead salmon.
Warm water may also be increasing the parasites found on salmon harvested along the river.
That warm water is coming from the ocean. Kuskokwim Bay has clocked about 10 to 12 degrees above average throughout the summer, and each tide pulls that warm water into the lower river.
“And that water is pushing upriver,” Gray said, “and it’s mixing, and we’re having a profile in the water right now where it’s a solid 68 to 70 degrees all the way through.”
Last Friday, the Nome Nugget reported that Alaska Sea Grant agent Gay Sheffield responded to report of a dead bowhead and a dead grey whale northeast of Shishmaref near Cape Espenburg. As Nugget reporter Diana Haecker reported “Shishmaref locals loaded up in a boat with Sheffield and set out to find the dead whales.
“The weather was rough and on June 23 they boated about 40 miles in the inner lagoon between the barrier islands and the mainland. They found the dead bowhead whale, a young 24-ft female, too decomposed to be able to determine cause of death, but Sheffield took samples that will be tested for algal toxins. Having heard local reports of the unusual number of marine mammal carcasses on the beach, Sheffield kept her eyes peeled for dead animals as the boat moved. She saw 17 dead seals and walruses from the boat.
“The next day, they went out by boat again to look for the dead grey whale, only to be turned around by rough seas. Not giving up, they loaded a four-wheeler on a boat, crossed the west channel and went by ATV on a stretch of eight miles, finding a total of 23 dead marine mammals including one dead minke whale, five walruses, five spotted seals, one ringed seal, ten bearded seals and one unidentified seal. The seals were mostly pups. Based on the lack of its jaw and tongue, Sheffield deducted that the minke whale was likely an orca kill.
“When Sheffield took samples she noticed a peculiar lack of the typical thick blubber. ‘On the two freshest carcasses, one of a young spotted seal and one of bearded seal pup, both had no blubber,’ Sheffield said. “This indicates a lack of food, they were not eating right.’ “
The next day Sheffield and local subsistence experts traveled to Sarichef Island – home of the community of Shishmaref — and found another 21 dead marine mammals and “one live but very skinny and lethargic spotted seal pup,” Haecker reported.
“They counted six walruses, six bearded seals (three adults, two pups, one hard to determine), six ringed seals (including four pups); one live seal that was approachable and did not leave the beach.
The tally of all three days: 63 dead marine mammals, including one bowhead, one minke and the elusive grey whale.
Sea surface and below-surface temperatures are about 5 degrees Celsius above normal, according to the Nugget’s reporting.
Shishmaref science teacher Ken Stenek reported increased numbers of washed up bird carcasses. “The biggest surprise is the number of auklets (parakeet and crested),” he wrote in an email to the Nugget. “There were almost 10 auklets found washed up on the beaches early June when I might find 1 or 2.” One intact crested auklet was sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as a horned puffin and a murre that had washed ashore.
“The majority of the birds that I had seen were alcids (murres, auklets, and puffins),” Stenek wrote.
In addition to the birds, Stenek reported another unusual find: krill that had washed up one night. “Thousands if not millions along our beaches alone as well as the other islands that make up our barrier island group,” Stenek wrote to the Nugget. He also saw dead fish such as tom cod, capelin and sandlance.
U.S. government says it's taking steps to make seafood safer
News 10 - July 15, 2019
LANSING, MI (WILX) -- Less than one percent of seafood that comes into the U.S. gets tested for unsafe drugs such as dangerous antibiotics. Now the government said it's taking new steps to make fish a little safer.
New tech could unveil the secret life of Bristol Bay red king crab
KTUU by Derek Minemyer - July 14, 2019
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Fishery researchers in Alaska are using cutting-edge technology to track migratory patterns of one of Alaska's tastiest catches -- the red king crab.
Net recycling gets a boost in Dillingham
KDLG by Isabelle Ross - July 15, 2019
The Curyung Tribe has been recycling nets in Dillingham for years. This season, the program is getting a boost.
The tribe is partnering with Net Your Problem, a business that began recycling fishing nets two years ago. Founder Nicole Baker got the idea for the business from a nonprofit – Parlay for the Oceans – which partnered with Adidas.
SeaLife Center studies Pacific sleeper shark
Cordova Times - July 14, 2019
Researchers at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward are collaborating with a shark expert at California State University in studying a small male Pacific sleeper shark captured recently to learn more about this species.
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