Summer Salmon 2013 | The Summer Of Nevers


There are rare moments in a person’s life when they realize that they are actually living part of history. This summer in Alaska broke every preconceived notion about commercial salmon fishing. Was it the weather? Was the sheer volume of fish? Actually, it was a combination of a few inconsequential factors that made the summer what it was. The Summer Of Nevers!

Over 267 million salmon were rallied into fishermen’s hands this season, making it the single largest run in history. Southeast Alaska broke numerous two day harvest records, topping out at over 9 million pounds. Prince William Sound also pounded away at the pink salmon. The sheer volume of fish prompted many canneries and processors to institute limits of the amount of salmon each boat can catch. Rumors hint at limits of only 30,000 pounds for some of the Prince William Sound seiners. In southeast Alaska the limits affected nearly every cannery, with the exception of Ocean Beauty. Even the highly touted Silver Bay Seafoods, which is a recent fish buyer founded by fishermen, wasn’t able to keep up with the volume. Canneries were plugged for days and were challenged to find the workers to keep up with the pace. Icicle Seafoods in Petersburg had a mass walkout of nearly 60 cannery workers who felt the long hours were just too much to handle. Also, Alaska General Seafoods, which is based out of Ketchikan with some Canadian roots in Prince Rupert, couldn’t keep all of their canning lines running due to lack of canadian labor force. The overwhelming volume of pink salmon surprised everyone this season, including the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The run was upgraded twice over the season, once ADFG realized the full potential of the “humpynami.”

The sun just never stopped shining! Southeast Alaska experienced the single best summer for weather in ages. Temperatures soared throughout the region for a record-breaking numbers of days. The lack of rain caused a few problems with fish dying in dried up streams before spawning. In fact, Petersburg’s Blind Slough Hatchery experienced a huge die off of Chinnook salmon, as the heat and low oxygen content of the water was just too much for the fish to survive. The state’s all time record high was set in Talkeetna this summer at a whopping 96 degrees. Cordova also broke their all time heat record in July at 90 degrees. The swooping jet stream is to blame for the abnormal summer and the pattern leaves many meteorologists scratching their heads in amazement. This trend doesn’t bode well for southeast alaskan salmon, which thrive off of the moisture that the temperature rainforest provides. Only time will tell the full impact of this summer’s crazy weather.

On a more personal note, I would like to extend my gratitude to the captain and crew of the mighty F/V Quandary. After sixteen consecutive years of seining, I thought I had seen it all. This summer astonished me in so many ways that I can barely describe my joy. Thank you, Captain Tom, Taylor, Steve, and Kris! It will never be the same. I think this song will sum it up best! Enjoy. Also, stay tuned for daily updates and videos from the past season. I have an incredible tribute video coming up for my late friend Jay Fisher. Also, I have huge plans for the ComFishFilmFest this year.

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The Salmon Are Here | Fishing On The Copper River Starts Today


 

 

That’s Right!  It’s salmon time in Alaska!  Local fishermen will head out in early this morning for a 7 A.M. opener, which marks the start of the 2013 salmon season.  The webcam is a view is from the top of My Eyak, overlooking Cordova’s beautiful harbor.  Unfortunately, the weather forecast is a bit nasty.   Alaska doesn’t want to break free of winter’s icy grip this spring.  The local airport reported record lows this morning, too.  Regardless of the conditions wild caught salmon will be hitting dinner tables soon.   Copper River Reds will be wisked from the tiny port of Cordova and travel across the world within just a few days.  Fresh Alaskan salmon will hit stores by Friday.  Ever wonder how “Copper River Reds” got so popular?  Check out this recent article:

 

It’s been 30 years since Jon Rowley first persuaded a few salmon fishermen on Alaska’s Copper River that they might be able to do something with their superb fish other than sell it to the cannery. But even he never guessed things would get this crazy.

Today, Copper River salmon is a smash hit. And at the root of this success are a couple of big ideas, one that seems obvious today — getting the best fish and handling them carefully — and one that is still a bit wacky — a race to see which restaurant could serve the first Copper River king salmon of the season

As the Copper River season begins Wednesday, these fish will be one of the few name-dropped on menus. And the first fresh Copper River salmon of the season could fetch as much as $50 a pound.

But 30 years ago, almost none of the fish was even sold fresh.  When food marketing guru Jon Rowley offered the fishermen $3.50 a pound, they were overjoyed.

via The Copper River salmon craze: How the race began – latimes.com.

 

ComFish Kodiak 2013


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Its time for Alaska’s largest commercial fishing trade show!  Its the 34th year for Kodiak‘s homegrown show, which focuses on the business of commercial fishing and features vendors from all areas of the industry.  The event is held the 11-13th of April and you can follow the action at http://www.comfish.com.  Here are a few tweets of the event as it happens.  Also tune into the LIVE Ustream of the forum events.  I hope to be there next season representing the Commercial Fishing Film Festival http://www.comfishfilmfest.com

Market News | MSC, Sustainability, Salmon and Me…


NPR’s recent inquiry into the Marine Stewardship Council certification process highlights some growing concerns with the non-profit’s sustainability guidelines.  The MSC only certifies renewable, ecological fisheries that have very little impact on other  fish species.  At least that’s the claim.  A few of the MSC certified fisheries, such as the recently approved Pacific pollock trawl fishery, are being heavily scrutinized for their bycatch practices.  Pacific trawl fisheries are notorious for massive amount of  by catch, and some speculate that the recent lack of halibut and king salmon are direct results of these trawl fishing practices.  Alaska processors have lost faith with the certification process, as well.  While all of the the 2012 catch will ramin certified by MSC, the coming 2013 season is devoid of the label.  The final decision on the MSC certification of alaska salmon, is still being quietly decided among different fishery groups.  At one point, the PSVOA claimed that it would uphold MSC practices, but public comments are quickly disappearing on this touchy subject.  The lack of MSC certification could keep alaskan salmon out of some of the largest respectable food chains in the states.  Whole Foods maintains a strict policy of only selling sustainable seafood.  With MSC  quickly becoming an industry standard, one must wonder if this is a wise marketing decision for alaskan salmon.  Other “sustainable” certification processes do exist.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a color coded system that highlights the viability and ecological footprint of a given fishery.  Also, the United Nation’s FAO based Responsible Fisheries Management appears to be the new standard for alaska salmon.  The question remains:  In an eco conscious consumer driven market, is it wise to have one of Alaska’s premiere fisheries floating in sustainability limbo?

Photo Feb 20, 11 36 35 PM

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Industry demand for the “sustainable seafood” label, issued by the Marine Stewardship Council, is increasing. But some environmentalists fear fisheries are being certified despite evidence showing that the fish population is in trouble — or when there’s not enough information to know the impact on the oceans.

via Under The Label: Sustainable Seafood : NPR.

 

 

2012 West Coast Commercial Fishing Year In Review Part 1


Salmon

In May, Copper River Reds started the salmon season off with a bang. A huge unexpected run pounded the Copper River flats as the season began with triple the amount of forecasted reds.  In 2012, 374,000 sockeyes were harvested in just the first two openers. Sadly, the price plummeted to as low as 1.25 a pound in the first few weeks of the record run. The rest of the salmon season of 2012 was fairly lackluster. Bristol Bay had a mediocre run of 20 million fish, which is down from the average of 25 million fish. Prince William Sound was expected to have a huge run and even convinced some southeast salmon seiners to abandon their disappointing southeast pink forecast in hopes of hitting it big up north. This clustering of boats sparked rumors of 90 boat lineups at some of the most famous hook offs in PWS. Southeast fishermen managed to find salvation in hatchery fish, primarily chum salmon, which provided great value to a fishery devoid of their traditional pink salmon. Check here for Laine Welch’s salmon summation for all the stats and facts of salmon in the various districts. Read on for a few more highlights in salmon news from 2012.

Early in the year it was evident that King Salmon runs were in big trouble. Southeast trollers suffered a dismal spring run, and northern regions, such as the Yukon and the Kuskokwim were declared a disaster by fisheries managers. By the year’s end, King salmon was a major disapointment for most of Alaska‘s different fishing regions. The king salmon run on the Kenai was the lowest on record, which goes back to the 1980s.

In October, the Alaska Chinook Salmon Symposium was held to Anchorage to deal with the dramatic declines in Alaska’s most precious species. King salmon declines for commercial fishermen were nearly 40% in recent years. The symposium graced participants with scientific data related to decreased runs throughout Alaska. Fisheries biologist used the term, “Black Swan,” to describe the event, which highlighted the lack of knowledge on the health of chinook run. Basically, there is no hard facts to explain the severe decreases in King salmon. This issue could seriously affect the future of salmon harvests in Alaska, as protection measures for chinook could limit salmon harvests in other species.

Perhaps, the biggest story in 2012 revolves around the concept of GMOs. Genectically Modified Organisms dominate our grocery stores and there is no clear way to differentiate between which foods that contain them and which do not. Many other countries have measures in place to make sure the proper labeling of these genetically altered ingredients. California fought the hardest with the “Right To Know” initiative, which would have distinguished all GMOs from natural products. Sadly, all legislation regarding labeling GMOs was shot down. Then, we have “Frankenfish.”  AquaBounty wants to be the first of its kind to create a genetically modified salmon that can grow twice as fast is it farmed counterpart. While the genectically altered salmon concept met strong opposition in the beginning of the year, it was a great surprise when the FDA announced their endorsement of “FrankenFish” over the holiday season. The nation struggled with various GMO legislative efforts throughout the year, but all were ultimately defeated by corporate juggernauts with huge financial lobbying pressures. Sadly, it’s likely that we will see Aquabounty’s salmon in stores by the end of 2013.

Halibut

The battle between sport and commercial fishermen reached a fever pitch in 2012, as the IPHC released their catch limits at the beginning of the year. Overall, the commercial fishing cuts totaled a 20% decrease, or 7 million pounds less than the previous year. Sport fishermen in B.C. suffered the earliest closure of recreational fishing in history, spawning numerous debates about allocation of halibut rights between sport and commercial fishermen. Halibut continues to be a harsh subject for all fishermen and more cuts are likely in 2013. Scientists now realize that the stocks were being over estimated and the true estimate of the stocks are in a flat phase. Hopefully, with proper management, we will see an upturn in the projected biomass in the near future. Check out more facts here.

Herring

The Sitka Sac Roe Harvest prediction was cut short early this spring due to an early spawn and lack of the predicted biomass of 28,829 tons. In just three openers, fishermen harvested 13,534 tons, which is more of an average harvest for the fishery. Recent price fluctuations and the lack of Japanese demand in the wake of the 2011 Tsunami, has created a delicate market. Togiak also had an early spawn event in 2012, leading many to wonder about the predictive models used in the fisheries harvest forecast. On a lighter note, San Francisco herring harvests seem to have a glimmer of hope after years of disappointment. All eyes will be on the Sitka harvest this spring, which has a forecast of 11,055 tons. Togiak will come next will a large predicted forecast of 30,056 tons.

Crab

Dungeness Crab

California’s dungeness harvest for the 2011/2012 season was 31,680,250 lbs., with an average price of 2.99 per lb. Oregon crab fishermen harvested 14.2 million pounds at an average price of 2.95 per lb. in the 2011-2012 season. Washington’s Non-Treat Coastal Commercial Landings totaled 8,617,136 lbs. for the 20011/2012 season. This year, both northern fisheries were delayed into the new year due to a “meat fill” issue. Typically, the season begins on Dec. 1. In recent years, the dungeness price has reached record highs and demand remains strong for these west coast delicacies.

Part II will include Bering Sea Crab Landings, Shrimp, Squid, Groundfish, and Dive Fisheries

 

2012 Alaska Chinook Salmon Symposium


The severe declines in Chinook salmon over the years have prompted Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game to bring together numerous industry leaders to assess the status and livelihood of King Salmon in our local Alaskan waters. The northern regions of Alaska are suffering by the lack of kings, which are a valuable resource for subsistence fishermen in remote villages. Tune in live on the ADFG website to listen and interact with the event. Click here for live streaming.  A recent episode of Yukon Men highlights the struggle for salmon on the Yukon River.  Its embedded below.  A report from Dutch Harbor News highlights the subject, as well.

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State fishery managers are asking for input from Alaskans to help solve the case of disappearing king salmon.

A letter went out last week from Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell inviting stakeholders to a two-day symposium in Anchorage later this month titled ‘Understanding Abundance and Productivity Trends of Chinook salmon in Alaska.’ The stated goal is ‘to increase understanding and develop the most complete research plan possible.’

A draft analysis by a newly appointed fisheries research team represents initial efforts by the state to better understanding the causes for Chinook declines. The report, titled “Alaska Chinook Salmon Knowledge Gaps and Needs,” says that from 1994 through 2011, Chinook catches have decreased 7 percent for subsistence users, 40 percent for commercial fishermen and 12 percent for sport users.

via Fish Factor: Stakeholders invited to symposium on king salmon – The Dutch Harbor Fisherman.

Southeast Salmon | Seining For Tsunami Debris


This preseason, a NOAA rep stopped by the boat to address the possiblilty of Japanese tsunami debris in commercial fishing waters this season. Well, we found this rather strange buoy on a recent fishing trip near southeast end tip of Prince of Wales island. The real shock was the mussels growing on it. I’m unfamiliar with this species in this region. So, here is my shout out! Does anyone know what these mussels are? Or, does the buoy look familiar?  Numerous boats have reported a number of starnge objects around southeast alaska.  I have also noticed more particulate matter on the waters recently.  Could these be particles of Styrofoam?  This could possibly be a huge issue in Alaska.  Make sure to listen to the Audio report for FishRadio.

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Alaska Summer Salmon | First Opener In Kendrick Bay


This year, the trip north was smooth and calm. Even the open crossings at Dixon Entrance were mellow. It took four days to bring the boat north this summer. We arrived just in enough time to head to Kendrick Bay for our first four day opener in southeast Alaska. The weather turned for the worst as soon as we arrived in Alaska. So, the last four days were spent rolling and bucking around in sloppy seas.