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Summary for September 15 - September 19, 2008:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Alaska troll coho catch OK

The latest summer troll fish ticket coho salmon catch is 1.03 million fish, with a likely total catch estimate of approximately 1.2 million fish through Sept. 6. The region wide troll coho salmon CPUE has increased this week and now is approximately 7 fish/boat/day greater than the 1988-07 average.

No decision has yet been made concerning any troll coho salmon extension past Sept. 20.

The total number of permits fishing so far during the summer season is 991, which is 19 fewer than fished in 2007. The wild coho salmon return is still projected to be 2.7-2.8 million fish and wild coho salmon presently make up approximately 85 percent of the troll fishery harvest.

The 2008 troll Chinook salmon allocation has been harvested and there will be no further Chinook salmon troll openings until the 2008-09 Winter troll season opens on October 11. -- ADFG


Report from the Klamath

The Klamath River caught a big one this year.

It has the largest catch allocation of Chinook salmon for in-river sportfishing in California, and anglers throughout the region have come to the area to take advantage.
But like many fish tales, some fishermen say this one's a little exaggerated, at least for now.

The sport fishermen are catching fish, but not as many adult Chinook as they might like. And many of those that have been hauled in were caught in the nets of tribal fishermen.
But now that the tribes have reached their quota for commercial fishing, that could change.

Still, many sports anglers have had to wait their turn to catch the big one. For weeks, tribal members have set up gill nets to catch the salmon as they head upstream toward their spawning ground. They blanketed the lower part of the Klamath with their nets during the commercial season in an attempt to catch as many fish as they could to sell for upwards of $4.25 a pound. – The Crescent City Triplicate


Search ends for Petersburg halibut fisherman

JUNEAU, Alaska - The Coast Guard has suspended the search for Thomas Lewis, 52-year-old Petersburg man, who was reported missing on September 12 after failing to return on September 11 from a three-day fishing trip in Frederick Sound.

A Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Sitka located the overdue vessel, Hurricane, aground on Cape Fanshaw with no one on board.  Hurricane's engines were running and the catch on board was not cleaned and spoiled.  Information retrieved from the vessel's navigation system and laptop indicated that no entries had been made after 5:45pm on September 9, 2008. 

Ground teams from the South East Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search (SEADOGS) searched the area of the grounded fishing vessel.  Coast Guard, Civil Air Patrol, and Army National Guard aircrews conducted extensive searches of the area, including the shorelines of all smaller neighboring islands.  Coast Guard Cutter Liberty , Coast Guard Auxiliary, and seven Good Samaritan fishing vessels searched the waters off of Cape Fanshaw.  A total of 1,472 nautical miles were searched.

The Coast Guard is still asking mariners and aircraft transiting this area to remain vigilant and report any sightings to the Coast Guard at (907) 463-2991. – Coast Guard


Feds work to help Columbia lamprey

A fish ladder deep within the concrete buildings of the Bonneville Dam complex isn't designed for salmon.

It's a mockup of a fish ladder entrance, part of a little-known but urgent drive by federal and tribal agencies to make Northwest dams friendlier to an odd and ancient fish that draws scarce attention and less love.

The lamprey.

Once, like salmon, a staple of Native American tribes, the eel-like lamprey are rapidly disappearing. Fewer adult lamprey have passed Bonneville Dam on their way upriver to spawn this year than any year since records have been kept. The number is so low it startles some biologists.

"The trend has been going down," said Christopher Peery, a University of Idaho fisheries biologist who studies lamprey with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding. "The troubling part is how fast it's going down."

In the upper reaches of the Columbia River and its major tributary, the Snake, lamprey populations are winking out, said Bob Heinith, a biologist at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. "We're running out of time. We don't have the animals anymore. There's a real sense of urgency."

Lamprey are notoriously poor swimmers and have a tough time climbing fish ladders designed for salmon -- which is just about every fish ladder in the Northwest. The mockup ladder entrance at Bonneville is a kind of lamprey proving ground. Biologists can experiment with configurations easier for lamprey to negotiate, then run lamprey through to see whether they make it. – The Oregonian


Alaska fishing groups endorse Stevens

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) received campaign endorsements from eight fishing organizations which represent hundreds of fishermen around Alaska. These groups include: the Alaska Seine Boat Owners, Alaska Crab Coalition, Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association, Alaska Independent Tenderman’s Association, Southeast Alaska Seiners Association, Western Gulf of Alaska Fishermen, Fishing Vessel Owners Association, and Alaska Scallop Association. – Stevens for Senate Committee


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kodiak wants more observer funds

The Gulf of Alaska fishing industry pays disproportionately higher costs for federally mandated coverage under the North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program than the rest of the nation, according to the National Observer Program’s 2005 annual report.

The Kodiak City Council and the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly passed nearly identical resolutions several months ago requesting increased federal funding for the coverage, City Manager Linda Freed said.

“In the North Pacific, the fishing industry’s paying the bulk of the cost of the observer program,” Freed said. “Everywhere else in the country the federal government is, and that’s a big hit to our fishing industry.” – Kodiak Daily Mirror


Letter: No ice in Eureka, blame bureaucrats

Surprise, surprise. Yet another Eureka business is being forced out of business by the bureaucrats and regulators. But, what do they care? Their salaries and benefit packages are guaranteed whether Eureka Ice is in business or not.

Since it is a well known fact that any viable commercial fishing industry has to have ice and/or cold storage available at the docks, I suggest that the city should stop construction immediately on the work they are doing at the proposed “Fisherman's Dock.” This certainly shouldn't take endless studies by high priced consultants to figure out that there won't be any fishermen left to use the facility.

Maybe they can sell those yellow hoists that have been down there on the waterfront for the last four to five years on eBay. By the way, does anyone know how much they originally cost the taxpayer? -- Kenneth Daer of Kneeland, writing to the Eureka Times-Standard


Alaska Airlines to cut capacity

Alaska Airlines announced it is reducing capacity 8 percent compared to a year ago, effective with its winter schedule starting Nov. 9 and continuing into 2009. The reduction in capacity (available seat miles) represents 15 percent fewer departures. As a result, Alaska Airlines is reducing its work force by 9 percent to 10 percent.

"The one-two punch of record oil prices and a softening economy, on top of increased competition, has burdened Alaska Air Group with a $50 million loss on an adjusted basis for the first half of this year. That demands decisive action to ensure the viability of our company," said Bill Ayer, chairman and CEO of Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. "We are changing our schedule to make sure we're flying the right routes with the right frequency and right aircraft. Regrettably, a reduced schedule means we need fewer employees." – Alaska Airlines Press release


Sardine seiner crew rescued off Westport

Five people were transported from the 58-foot fishing vessel Miss Michelle to Westport, Wash., by a 41-foot motor lifeboat crew from Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor Monday.

One person was transported to Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen, Wash.
A Coast Guard incident management team from Portland, Ore., was on-scene in Grays Harbor, along with a Washington Department of Ecology representative. 

The team was standing by to respond should the Miss Michelle sink or otherwise pose a hazard. The vessel remained afloat and adrift just west of the entrance to Grays Harbor, with the bow awash.

The master, who is also the owner of the vessel, homeported in Westport, said that they were outbound for a sardine run when they experienced a loud thump and a jarring on the port side forward. – Coast Guard press release


Study: Consumers favor cost over sustainability

A new survey has found cost, quality and healthiness influence consumers’ purchasing choices to a much greater degree than environmental factors.

The research, undertaken by the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), focused on whether consumers were willing to pay more for products produced in a sustainable way with the findings showing that only ten per cent of shoppers were motivated to buy products based on how ‘green’ they were.

“The majority of those likely to spend more [on products produced in a sustainable way] would only spend ‘a little more’ rather than ‘a lot more’. This group tended to be younger (25-54 years), female, with higher grocery spends, those from social grade ABC1, those living in rural areas and those who shop at Marks and Spencers or Waitrose,” claims the study. – Food Production Daily


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Who’s minding the store for Sarah?

She's hitting campaign stops across the nation. She's being quizzed on national television. She's raising money and brushing up on foreign policy.

So who's running the state while Gov. Sarah Palin runs for vice president?

Palin's cabinet members insisted this week that the buck still stops with the governor. Several of them said they communicate with Palin through e-mail or through her chief of staff, who talks with the governor daily, adding that it helps this is a relatively slow time of year for state government.

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell said he's filling in for Palin at some speaking engagements, and taking a bigger role in budget-making and setting the governor's legislative agenda. – Anchorage Daily News


Power back on in Adak

The power is back on in the city of Adak. The city council approved a new agreement with the Aleut Enterprise Corporation which says the corporation will sell the city 5,000 more gallons of fuel on credit while helping them find low interest loans to buy more fuel for the future.

Adak has been on a partial power schedule since early September. When the power crisis began, government contractors left the island a month before schedule, depriving local businesses of thousands of dollars worth of sales. – Pacific Fishing columnist Anne Hillman writing for KIAL


In Oregon, good crab catch needed

They live on the bottom of the ocean, eat almost anything they can get their claws on, and they're helping keep Oregon's commercial fishing industry afloat.

"This year, with salmon closures, crab has really filled in quite a bit," said Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission in Coos Bay. "It is the anchor fishery now and the one that provides the most product and income to the state's processors."

Furman, a former salmon, crab and shrimp fisherman, said that in the last six or so years Dungeness crab have risen to capture up to 50 percent of the landed value of all commercial catches in Oregon. – Capital Press, Oregon


Oil to support Alaska fishing industry?

Now what do we do with the notion of sustainable economic development? With crude oil prices at about $100 per barrel and no analyst looking for a return to much below $70 to $80 per barrel, the once much-touted notion that Alaska should put the highest priority on "sustainable" economic development is taking it in the chops, or, should I say, in the gills.

With fuel prices near all-time highs, many of Alaska's seafood harvesters and processors are hurting. The United Fishermen of Alaska are already seeking tax credits and waivers in an effort to alleviate the problem. I suspect that some might soon find it very difficult to stay in business.

Unless fuel prices drop dramatically, the state might soon find itself under even more pressure to "sustain" Alaska's archetypal sustainable industry, seafood, with money from its archetypal unsustainable industry, oil and gas. Were it not so tragic for harvesters and processors, sustaining the supposedly sustainable with money taken from the supposedly unsustainable would be worth a monologue on "The Tonight Show"!  -- David M. Reaume, a Washington state-based economist who was based for many years in Juneau, writing in the Anchorage Daily News


More talk of deep water fish farms

NEWPORT — In 1973, French scientist Jacques Cousteau said: “With the earth’s burgeoning human population to feed, we must turn to the sea with new understanding and new technology. We need to farm the ocean as we farm the land.”

At the time, his advice was largely dismissed.

But with global seafood demand on the rise, natural resources stretched thin and technology rapidly advancing, farming fish in deep, offshore water seems more and more practical.

At a conference in Newport, experts on offshore aquaculture discussed the controversial industry, which has drawn opposition from environmentalists and commercial fishing groups. – Eugene Register-Guard


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bush holds back troller aid money

Fishermen and fishing businesses in the rut of a disastrous salmon season will see much-needed aid soon, after the federal government released relief funds Wednesday.

The National Marine Fisheries Service announced the release of $100 million of the $170 million Congress approved in July following a U.S. Commerce Department disaster declaration in May. The crisis stemmed from severely low runs of salmon to the Sacramento River, the cornerstone of the West Coast fishery.

Some $70 million will be diverted to help pay for higher than expected costs for the 2010 census, but Bush administration officials insisted it will only be delayed until a new budget year begins in October.

California will see most of the money -- $62 million -- distributed to hundreds of commercial and charter fishermen, processors and Sacramento River guides. The first checks are expected to go out on Oct. 1, said Randy Fisher, executive director of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, which is disbursing the money to California, Oregon and Washington.

We've been getting a lot of calls saying, 'When's it going to happen?'” Fisher said.
Applications for funds were sent out Tuesday, he said. The commission expects to send out checks to 1,301 salmon trollers, 135 charter fishermen, 186 processors and 575 to Sacramento River guides in California, Fisher said.

North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson accused the Bush administration of putting politics before people.

“Congress appropriated $170 million in federal disaster relief,” the St. Helena Democrat said, “but this latest proposal by the Bush Administration to withhold a large portion of these funds shows no regard for hardworking fishing families nor their livelihood.” – Eureka Times-Standard

For NOAA’s version of the story:

For The Oregonian’s article:


U.S. House approves off-shore drilling measure

WASHINGTON -- The US House approved an energy bill that would allow offshore drilling as close as 50 miles from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but a last-minute provision added at the insistence of Massachusetts members would prohibit oil and gas drilling around Georges Bank, saving New England's premier commercial fishing grounds from potential harm.

The legislation also promotes investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, paid for by eliminating tax exemptions for oil companies and increasing their royalty payments, and it authorizes more funding for heating assistance for low-income people.
The House voted 236 to 189 for the package.

The Democratic majority's support for expanded ocean drilling reflects mounting political pressure from an electorate deeply concerned about the distressed economy and high gasoline prices. Democratic leaders had previously criticized Republican proposals to end a longtime ban on offshore drilling, saying new wells would take years to produce oil and gas and thus have no immediate impact on prices. But with the ban set to expire at the end of this month and the November elections approaching, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shifted her stance, proposing legislation that would allow drilling as close as 100 miles from shore, and with a state's permission, as close as 50 miles from shore. – Boston Globe


Alaska’s Don Young squeaks by in primary

JUNEAU -- U.S. Rep. Don Young has won the Republican primary battle over the state's only seat in the House, Alaska election officials said.

In a close race only decided Wednesday with the final counting of about 350 outstanding absentee and questioned ballots, Young beat Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell by 304 votes.

Parnell has said he may ask for a recount. Election officials have said a recount of the Aug. 26 vote could take up to 10 days. — Anchorage Daily News


Bering Sea crab plan being completed

The Crab Plan team is meeting in Seattle this week to discuss recommended over fishing levels, or OFLs, for crab stocks. The team decided not to recommend opening the St. Matthew's blue king crab fishery this year because the recommended OFL is less than the required TAC of 2.8 million pounds.

The recommended OFL for Bristol Bay red king crab, including the bycatch in the non-target fisheries, is 24.2 million pounds a similar number to last season.

The recommendation for opilio crab is similar to last season as well 77.3 million pounds – KIAL


Southeast fishermen face tough decision

At a critical juncture in their fishing industry, Southeast Alaskan fishers are going to soon have to come to a decision -- stay in or get out of the fishing industry.

Delegates at the Southeast Alaska Conference hosted in Prince Rupert this week heard that this year's harvested salmon stock is likely to be only 137 million fish, down 75 million from 2007.

Oceans Alaska's John Sund said the major problem facing the fishing industry is not a declining population in fish but in people.

"Most of the decline is due to migration based on a lack of viable jobs. (But) it can be turned around," said Sund.

"The challenge is, is the job long-term economically and environmentally sustainable?"
The expected resident population decline by 2030 is 17 per cent -- with the Haines and Angoon area expected to lose 62 per cent of its population. – Prince Rupert Daily News


Friday, September 19, 2008

Study: To save fish, follow Alaska’s lead

Giving people ownership rights in marine fisheries can halt or even reverse catastrophic declines in commercial stocks, researchers in California and Hawaii are reporting.

The idea goes against the grain among people who believe that anyone with grit and skill should be able to get in a boat, put to sea and make a living fishing. But that approach, even with licensing requirements and other restrictions, has produced fishing efforts so intense that by some estimates, the world’s commercial stocks will collapse in a few decades.

By contrast, the researchers write in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, allocating ownership shares of a particular fishery to individuals, cooperatives, communities or other entities gives them a reason to nurture the stock. In this arrangement, scientists set acceptable catch levels, and other authorities allocate shares, species by species, region by region. …

Benefits of the approach have been seen before. In Alaska, a catch-share system adopted in 1995 has transformed an intense race to catch the last allowable fish into a sustainable and profitable fishery. – New York Times


Oregon fishermen recruited for emergency plan

Jim Hawley, Lincoln County emergency services manager, would like to train a few good fishermen.

It's been almost a year since the Lincoln County Commissioners approved the first emergency plan in the United States for utilizing fishing boats in the event of natural disaster, and county officials still are moving forward with the plan.

“I put some money in my budget this year for training a couple fishermen to be leaders,” Hawley said. “That will be there, if we can go ahead and use that. We also are considering asking for a grant.”

 In the event of a disaster, lead fishermen would be responsible for contacting the fleet and calling up its mobilization, using two-way radio communication and satellite phones. – Newport News-Times


Kodiak rescue swimmer honored

Petty Officer 1st Class Wil Milam was awarded the 2007 Gold Medal last month by the Association for Rescue at Sea. Milam is an aviation survival technician – better known as a rescue swimmer – at Air Station Kodiak.

Milam received the award for his part in the perilous rescue of four men from the fishing vessel Illusion. Shortly after midnight on Feb. 10, 2007, Milam and three others took off in a rescue helicopter from Dutch Harbor in search of the distressed vessel stranded in Makushin Bay, near Unalaska Island.

“I wasn’t too keen on flying,” Milam said months after the incident, according to a Coast Guard press release. The crew was heading into 50 mph winds, horizontal rain, low clouds and pitch-black darkness, and distress signals received by the Coast Guard are often a false alarm. – Kodiak Daily Mirror


Fine time at Cordova’s annual Fish Prom

Hysterical entertainment, excellent food, silent auctions, door prizes, a “fish wheel of fortune,” desserts and silent auctions highlighted Fish Prom, the fall fishing wrap-up celebration at the Powder House.

Fishermen return to the event year after year to raise money for the educational scholarships given to qualified graduating Cordova High School seniors. Cordova District Fishermen United executive director Rochelle van den Broek knows the importance of education. …

After deducting expenses, and with Trident Seafoods matching funds of $10,000, more than $20,000 was raised for student scholarships. – Cordova Times


New airport under construction in Atka

Construction is underway on Atka's new runway. The runway is being lengthened by 1,300 feet and widened by 14 feet to allow for larger aircraft to land.

When the $17 million, FAA-funded project is completed in August 2009, the runway will be able to accommodate the Metro 23 and the SAAB 340, commuter planes usually used by PenAir. It will also support partially loaded larger aircraft such as the DC-3 and DC-6, which are frequently used to transport fish.  – KIAL