ADF&G to consider ways to speed humpy disaster relief
Stutes: some constituents simply cannot afford to wait any longer
Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman - December 9, 2019
A long delay commercial fishermen, processors and communities have experienced in getting disaster relief checks for the Gulf of Alaska pink salmon disaster of 2016 is getting longer, but there may be an end in sight.
Alaska Fisheries Report
KMXT by Maggie Wall - December 6, 2019
Good news for Kodiak Tanner crab fishermen. There will be a January fishery. It’ll be small but the pots can go in the water. Fisheries at Chignik and South Peninsula will remain closed, though the outlook for those areas appears promising.
Another Strong Year Forecasted for Togiak Herring in 2020
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - December 9, 2019
With a slightly smaller biomass estimate of 215,826 (short) tons compared to last year’s pre-season estimate of 217,548 tons, the 2020 Togiak herring season harvest could be slightly larger than the 2019 season.
That’s because this year’s season (last spring) used a precautionary harvest rate of 14% due to three consecutive years of poor aerial surveys and the uncertainty that created. Next year, scientists will use a 20% exploitation rate because they have greater confidence in the 2019 aerial survey biomass estimate than those of the last three years. The Togiak mature herring population biomass has been estimated with aerial surveys since the late 1970s.
For 2020, ADF&G forecasts a harvest of 43,165 tons total herring in Togiak. From that, 1,500 tons is allocated to the Togiak spawn on kept fishery. The remaining 41,665 tons is allocated to the Dutch Haqrbor food/bait fishery of 2,917tons (7% of the remaining allocation), then the seine/gillnet allocation is split 80/20 as follows:
Purse seine allocation - 30,999 tons
Gillnet allocation - 7,750 tons
In 2019, 21,544 tons were allocated to the purse seine fleet and 5,386 tons to the gillnet fleet.
“A harvest of this size would be ~188% of the recent 10-year average sac roe harvest,” noted the ADF&G announcement.
“The 2020 forecasted biomass should be dominated by partially mature age classes (age-6 and age-7 fish). These cohorts of young fish are projected to comprise an even larger portion of the population in 2020 due to increasing maturity," ADF&G biologists said.
The mature portion of the population is expected to be comprised of mostly age-6 and age-7 fish by both number and weight. The projected average weight of a fish in the 2020 harvest is 329g.
Large recruitments in the Togiak herring population usually occur every eight to ten years and typically last one or two years. Recent biological sampling suggests the 2013 and 2014 year-classes (age-5 and age-6 fish in 2019) may be a new large recruitment event, but ADF&G scientists noted the difficulty in measuring contributions of younger age classes because they often arrive on the spawning grounds near the end of, or after, the fishery.
Drop in Cod Stocks Closes Gulf of Alaska Cod Fishery for 2020
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - December 9, 2019
For the first time ever, the Pacific cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska will be closed next year while fisheries managers continue monitoring a stock crash that is directly tied to warmer ocean temperatures.
Fishermen in Kodiak, who relied on cod as the most stable fishery in the winter, processors who kept plants open for deliveries that would have started in January, and managers around the state have known since 2017 that the stock was in trouble when cod stocks dropped by 70% in the Gulf of Alaska. Kodiak is home port for the Gulf’s largest cod fleet.
At last week’s North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC) meeting, Steve Barbeaux, a research biologist with NOAA Fisheries, reported that there were “next to no” new eggs according to this year’s stock assessment.
The numbers of fish were so low that it didn’t reach the federal threshold that protects cod as a food source for endangered Steller sea lions. That means fishing is shut down.
Before the 2014 appearance of what is now called “the Blob” -- a very large area of super heated ocean off the coast of Alaska -- cod stocks in the Gulf were doing well.
In 2014, the stocks were at 114,000 mt. Over the next three years, stocks crashed to just over 46,000 mt in 2017. The most intense heat had cooled down by 2017, but scientists have been monitoring other hot spots, and watching another larger area of high heat off the West Coast this year.
“A lot of the impact on the population was due to that first heat wave that we haven't recovered from," Barbeaux told Kavitha George of KMXT Alaska Public Media, in an interview last month.
"Retrospectively, we probably should have shut the fishery down last year [too]," Barbeaux said.
"We're on the knife's edge of this over-fished status," NPFMC member Nicole Kimball said last week.
Although that’s the management term that shuts down fishing, “over-fishing” was not the cause for this rapid downturn in cod numbers. Through research at Alaska's Fisheries Science Center, the disappearance of expected cod in the area is a direct result of climate change and the global warming it has brought to the world’s oceans.
When ocean temperatures rise 4-5 degrees, young cod started dying off, scientists said.
Fisheries managers don’t see the full impacts of this until a few years later, as three-year-old cod are large enough to enter the directed fishery.
With a second warming possible next year, Barbeaux says it's hard to predict what the future of the fishery will look like.
"We're just well beyond what we've ever seen before. It's this very unusual, warm event," said Mike Litzow, a NOAA fisheries ecologist based in Kodiak. "What the climate scientists are showing us, our best understanding is that this is going to be the new average within a short time frame.”
With that in mind, the Council’s Advisory Panel, made up of industry members, passed a motion recommending that National Marine Fisheries Service “prioritize an additioanl GOA trawl survey with a particular focus on the Pacific cod and blackcod (sablefish) for 2020." The Council has not yet acted on that request.
Even with the earlier warnings and cutbacks, this closure will have long-lasting effects on Kodiak for the boats in the harbor and the plants onshore. Cod was a major part of the island’s winter economy.
"It's kind of devastating," Kodiak-based pot cod fisherman Frank Miles told KMXT last month, hoping at the time that the situation would turn around for next year's season.
"I'm more worried about my son and his generation, the younger guys coming up," he said. "I'm 60, I'm probably just about done. I'd like to think that I could fish cod one more time before I retire, but I don't know. I simply don't know where we're going here."
‘Sneaky’ underwater robot spent 18 days recording sea creatures — and noisy humans, too
Seattle Times by Evan Bush - December 6, 2019
For 18 days, an underwater robot dived and surfaced and dived and surfaced — some 402 times in all — listening to the ocean’s depths as it traveled hundreds of miles along the continental shelf off the Washington and Oregon coastline.
World’s Oceans Are Losing Oxygen Rapidly, Study Finds
New York Times by Kendra Pierre-Louis - December 7, 2019
The world’s oceans are gasping for breath, a report issued Saturday at the annual global climate talks in Madrid has concluded.
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