Laine Welch

FISH FACTOR: Salmon winds down, fall fisheries ramp up; cukes against cancer

As Alaska’s salmon season draws to a close, lots of fall fisheries are just getting underway from Ketchikan to the Bering Sea. Southeast is one of Alaska’s busiest regions for fall fishing, especially for various kinds of shellfish. Nearly 400,000 pounds of sidestripe and pink shrimp are being hauled in by a few beam trawlers, and the season for spot shrimp opens Oct. 1. Usually about a half-million pounds of the popular big spots are hauled up in local pots over several months. Dungeness crab fishing also will reopen in Southeast in October, and up to 200 Southeast divers will head down for more than 1.7 million pounds of sea cucumbers starting Oct. 1. A 140,000-pound sea cucumber fishery at Kodiak attracts around 20 divers, and smaller cuke catches in the 5,000- to 20,000-pound range also occur along the Alaska Peninsula, the Aleutians and Bering Sea. Divers, who received about $4 per pound for their sea cucumber catches last year, are likely to get even higher prices. The cukes are considered a delicacy in Asian countries where they are served in many fresh, frozen and powered forms. (See more about the amazing health properties of sea cucumbers below.) A decrease in supply due to a heat wave this summer in China killed most of that country’s production and market reports show that dried sea cucumbers from Japan were recently selling for $126.50 per pound. Alaska longliners have taken 78 percent of the nearly 20 million-pound halibut catch limit since the fishery began in mid-March, with less than 4 million pounds remaining. Seward, Homer and Kodiak were the top ports for halibut landings. For sablefish, fishermen have taken 61 percent of the nearly 26 million pound quota with Seward, Sitka and Kodiak receiving the most deliveries. Both fisheries end on Nov. 7. Fishing for cod, rockfish, flounders, pollock and other whitefish continues in the Bering Sea. Pollock reopens in the Gulf of Alaska Oct. 1. Bering Sea crabbers will find out any day the fate of a red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay as well as the catches for snow crab and Tanners. Those fisheries open Oct. 15. Fall also marks the time for some of Alaska’s most important fish meetings. The industry will get a first peek at possible fish catches for next year when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets Oct. 1- 9 in Anchorage. Comments on all agenda items are open through Sept. 28. Finally, the state Board of Fisheries will meet Oct. 15-19 at the Egan Center with an unusual lineup that includes a work session, Pacific cod issues and an open town hall meeting on Alaska hatcheries. In its regular meeting cycle that begins in November, the board will address regulatory issues focused on state managed fisheries at Bristol Bay, the Alaska Peninsula, Chignik, the Aleutians and Bering Sea. Sea cukes and cancer Sea cucumbers have been considered a delicacy in Asian cuisine for centuries and also have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to help aid in many different health problems. In his book “Cancer: Step Outside the Box,” author Ty M. Bollinger calls the spiky, slug-like creates a miracle cure for cancer. “You can cook them for various dishes, but the way it’s found in local health food stores is dried and powdered and in capsule form,” he said, adding that dried sea cucumber extract is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and also has anti-inflammatory properties. “Another of the fascinating things about sea cucumbers is that they are very high in chondroitin sulfate, which is commonly used to treat joint pain and arthritis. To my knowledge, they have the highest concentration of chondroitin of any animal,” Bollinger said in an interview. While customers likely won’t see it on the labels, he added that powdered sea cucumbers also have many cancer curing abilities based on studies over the past 15 years. “Number one, it’s cytotoxic, which means it kills cancer cells, and it also is immunomodulatory. So it has both sides of what I call the cancer killing coin,” he explained. “If you are going to defeat cancer, you need something that regulates your immune system to where it works properly but you also must have something that is going to kill those cancer cells. The sea cucumber does both.” Sea cucumber extract also is used as an adjunct treatment for those undergoing chemotherapy, Bollinger said, because it’s very effective at mitigating the side effects of that cancer treatment. Bigger home for baby oysters Alaska oyster growers at Kachemak Bay near Homer could more than triple their production if they had a new FLUPSY. That’s a “floating upweller system” used to grow millions of tiny oysters after they leave their nursery tanks. It takes up to five years for oysters to grow from microscopic to slurpable size, and the outdated system is taking a big bite out of the potential. Unlike other shellfish growing regions in Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound where farms are widely scattered, a dozen Kachemak Bay farmers used their closer proximity and formed a cooperative in 1988 to pool their resources and products. Since then the Kachemak Shellfish Growers Cooperative and its non-profit mariculture arm have grown to share a facility on the Homer Spit for processing, marketing, slurping, shipping and most recently, culturing local oyster seed. “We should be independent from seed to plate. We are doing that now,” said cooperative president Marie Bader. Roughly 3 million microscopic seed oysters are held in five 500-gallon nursery tanks where they feed constantly on algae for three months before transferring to the waters of Kachemak Bay. That’s where the FLUPSY comes in. The floating raft is run by a paddle wheel pump that provides a steady flow of water and algae to porous bins that hold the baby bivalves for a year. “We no longer feed them when they go into the ocean. They depend on the water for their nutrients,” Bader explained. The baby oysters are cleaned and graded throughout their year in the FLUPSY; when they reach fingernail size, they are sold to the farmers who grow them in floating lantern nets for at least two more years before they are marketable. The Kachemak growers sold 150,000 dozen oysters last year. Orders online are advertised at $21 per dozen but sell locally for $14 to $16 at retail and “a bit less for restaurants,” Bader said. “At Pike’s Place Market in Seattle oysters are selling for $19 to $20 a dozen, so it’s a pretty darn good value.” The group also sells oyster seed at $40 to $45 per thousand to oyster growers in Alaska and elsewhere, where demand exceeds supply. As the Pacific Ocean acidifies, oyster growers in Washington, California and British Columbia have struggled to get larvae to grow into seed, the stage when shells form, and are turning to Alaska. Upgrading their nearly 20 year old FLUPSY would help fill that need. “Instead of 3 million, we might up it to 10 million, and we could space out the baby oysters more so they weren’t so congested in the few bins we have,” Bader said, adding that the FLUPSY is “on its last legs.” “It’s been in salt water, it’s open to the elements, our workers have to boat over to Halibut Cove and are outside in rain and snow keeping that paddlewheel going in the middle of winter. We need a new facility that is enclosed so that our workers are out of the elements and our seed is protected,” she added. A new FLUPSY is on Homer’s 2019 capital improvement list for a total cost of $175,000. City Manager Katie Koester called the co-op’s oyster businesses a “sparkling year-round addition” to Homer and said that “every cooler of oysters delivered to the dock represents $150 to the grower.” Koester added that the local hatchery and new FLUPSY also can provide a great educational lab for high school and university students, who currently must travel to Seward for mariculture studies. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Kelp-based beer latest entry to Alaska’s ‘Blue Economy’

Gov. Bill Walker christened Alaska’s first kelp-based beer during a recent swing through Kodiak. The beer was created at the Kodiak Island Brewery using local kelp from Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed grown by Stephanie and Nick Mangini. “Steph mentioned seeing a kelp craft beer on the internet and I told her to bring me 100 pounds,” said brewery “flow master” Chrissy Johnsrud, who created the new blend. The beer, called Kelp Sea Level Gosé, is a sour, German wheat beer made with coriander and salt. Brewery owner Ben Millstein said the seaweed was an easy fit. “We used the amount of kelp that we thought would replace the amount of salt. It’s working really good,” he said. The new beer was nearing its final stage as Millstein filled glasses with a small amount for tasting. He explained that there are over 150 different styles of beer and it is important to “calibrate one’s palate” before forming an opinion. “Shift your mind into neutral and take a couple sips,” he instructed. “Then sit with it for 30 seconds or a minute and try not to judge. Let it in and let it go. Try to disengage and give it a calibration rest and then see what you think after that.” The kelp beer had a pleasing briny taste and it won the governor’s approval. “I like it. It’s very good,” Walker said, adding that he plans to add it to his kelp repertoire. “I’ve got a kelp salsa story about how I helped get that Juneau product into Safeway, and now we have kelp beer to go with the salsa,” Walker said. “We are making it happen in Alaska as far as the blue economy. It’s right here in front of us.” The Kelp Sea Level beer was set to be added to Kodiak Island Brewery’s 13-tap lineup any day. “I think it’s going to be a huge hit,” said Johnsrud. “You can just smell the salt air and the seagulls. It’s similar to holding your ear up to a shell.” More gov goings-on While he was in Kodiak, Walker also signed House Bill 56 sponsored by Ketchikan Rep. Dan Ortiz that expands the state Revolving Loan Fund to create new financing options for fishing and mariculture businesses. He also re-established the Alaska Mariculture Task Force as an advisory body with a goal of growing a $100-million mariculture industry in 20 years. “The fiscal crisis is on the wane. It should never have happened in the first place and we should never be in that position again. Now we can get back to building Alaska,” Walker said in an interview. In terms of Alaska’s seafood industry, he said the biggest challenges stem from “unpredictability.” “We have seasonal highs and lows, problems with returns. It is very difficult for businesses to plan. One of our jobs is to make sure we provide the best data going forward as quickly as possible, so people and communities whose livelihoods depend on fishing have the assurance of a more stable future,” Walker said. The governor said our seas are “under assault” from a warming climate and off kilter ocean chemistry. That was the impetus, he said, for forming a climate change action committee that is scheduled to introduce recommendations next month that will build upon past policy initiatives and encourage new ideas. During a town meeting, several Kodiakans commented that Alaska lawmakers by and large “skim over” the economic, social and cultural importance of the seafood industry. “It’s all about attitude,” Walker said. “Commercial fishing was Alaska’s first industry and it drove the push to statehood. We will make sure our fish benefit Alaska and coastal communities. We will show up and be engaged.” Halibut shifts Some big shifts were quietly made last week to the panel that oversees the Pacific halibut stocks, including the addition of a first-ever sportfish seat. Both the U.S. and Canada named “relative newcomers” as commissioners to seats on the International Pacific Halibut Commission “during extremely sensitive negotiations on policy issues,” said Peggy Parker, director of the Halibut Association of North America and editor at Seafoodnews.com. The changes to the panel of three Canadian and three U.S. seats came after a rare impasse in determining halibut catch limits for the 2018 season. In the end, all six agreed to lower limits for both countries, but not as a commission. It was the second time in the IPHC’s 94-year history that an impasse could not be overcome, Parker said. The commissioners also agreed to negotiate a resolution to their disagreements, which center on halibut distribution and bycatch accountability, before the annual meeting in January. For the U.S. seats, NOAA Fisheries announced the reappointment of Bob Alverson, director of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association. Also, sport charter operator Richard Yamada, president of the Alaska Charter Association, replaced Linda Behnken, director of Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and a halibut commissioner for two years. Yamada is owner of Shelter Lodge near Juneau and has been involved in the charter fishing industry for nearly 40 years. He currently serves on state and federal fisheries advisory committees. Both men were appointed for five months, from Sept. 1 to Jan. 31, 2019. Jim Balsiger, NOAA Fisheries Alaska manager who has represented the U.S. for nearly two decades, was reappointed through September, “but may be replaced after that, according to several people familiar with the process,” Parker said. Both Chris Oliver, current head of NOAA Fisheries, and Doug Mecum, deputy regional manager at the fisheries service Juneau office, have been mentioned as possible replacements. Eat more fish leaves babies behind Seafood nutrition experts are gathering in the nation’s capital next week for a State of the Science Symposium. The non-profit Seafood Nutrition Partnership hosts the annual event as part of a public health campaign begun in 2015 aimed at getting Americans to eat more seafood. The connection of omega rich seafood to brain health is a trending topic, according to the agenda . “The brain and the retina in the eye are omega-3 organs. As calcium is to the bones, omega 3 is to the brain,” said Dr. Tom Brenna, professor of pediatrics and nutrition at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas/Austin and chair of the SNP advisory council. Added to the symposium mix this year, Brenna said, are fisheries managers, aquaculture experts and environmental groups. “And we guys on the medical nutrition side are thrilled,” Brenna said in a phone interview. “There is so much misinformation out there about the state of fisheries and management. Having folks who can speak authoritatively about what folks are doing in U.S. fisheries and around the world is extraordinarily valuable and something we don’t get in any other forums.” The partnership works with local dieticians and uses educational programs and social media to get its health messages across. Brenna said it has yet to come up with a catchy national brand. “We don’t have a good a way of getting across the notion that seafood is such a delicious part of meals. Maybe we should have a contest to find a nice tag line that would identify seafood in the same way as ‘Got Milk?’ or ‘Beef, it’s what’s for dinner,’” he said. A focus of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership is moms, but Brenna admitted that fish is missing from America’s baby food offerings. “To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what the problem is,” he said. “It seems like it’s a consumer demand question; companies sell what the consumers demand and apparently, we have not done a good job in educating consumers about what they ought to be demanding for their kids. “In nutrition circles, for 30 years we have been discussing that when we transition a baby or toddler from breast milk or formula that contains omega-3s, they are transitioning to foods that have hardly any omega-3s at all. And no fish,” Brenna added. “We should be weaning kids to the foods that are going to be important throughout their lives. And this may be a reason why they are not consuming seafood when they get older. Maybe this is something that we can work on with baby food manufacturers.” The seafood nutrition science symposium is set for Sept. 14 in Washington, DC. Audio and video will be available after the event. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: West Coast fishermen go bounty hunting for lost gear

Cell phones are being used by fishermen to bounty hunt for pay for lost fishing gear. California fishermen created the retrieval project last year along with the Nature Conservancy to get ropes, buoys, pots and anchors out of the water after the Dungeness fishery so they don’t entangle whales, and Washington and Oregon quickly followed suit. Nearly 50 whales were taken on the west coast last year after the annual crab opener, one of the region’s largest and most lucrative fisheries. “They are using their cell phones and its GPS to take a picture of what the gear looked like, tell when they found it, and any identifying markings on the buoy — the vessel, the ID number, and also the latitude and longitude of exactly where they found it,” explained Nat Nichols, area manager for groundfish and shellfish at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Kodiak. He added that it is not uncommon for gear loss rates in different fisheries to be “anywhere from 3 to 23 percent.” Under a special permit, the West Coast bounty hunters head out two weeks after the Dungeness crab fishery closes to search for derelict gear. “Dungies tend to be in shallower water and that means there is more wave energy and the gear can get lost or rolled up on the beach. A lot of it has a tendency to move around because it’s in the tidal surge,” Nichols said. The fishermen get paid $65 for every pot they pull up. The gear then goes back to the original owners who pay $100 per pot for its return. Whereas saving whales was the prime motivator for pot retrievals on the West Coast, in Alaska’s crab and pot cod fisheries, it’s ghost fishing and gear conflicts. “The animals go in the pots and starve and that rebaits the pot, so they will fish for years. That can kill a lot of animals because they’re doing it 24/7 and always rebaiting themselves,” Nichols explained. By Alaska law, all pots must use twine in escape panels that biodegrades in about 30 days. But sometimes the escape routes get blocked. “At Kodiak, we average around 7,000 pots in the water for our small Dungeness fishery,” he said. “If you lose 10 percent or even 5 percent, that’s a lot. It starts to build up over the years and get in everyone’s way. It’s a burden on everyone out on the water if they constantly have to avoid all this gear that is out there doing nothing.” Gear recovery permits are issued to help with retrievals shortly after a crab or pot cod fishery closes; a state enforcement vessel also does a roundup of all the gear it finds. Nichols said the main focus is preventing the loss of pot gear in the first place He believes a cell phone bounty program could work in Alaska and “it’s been talked about” at the Kodiak office, although it would be on a much smaller scale. “Even though we have quite a bit of gear in the water, I’m not sure it’s enough to really incentive people to go find it in compared to the West Coast,” Nichols said. “Instead of retrieving hundreds of pots and having 20 to 30 people participating in the recovery, we may just have three or so.” The cell phone idea hasn’t attracted any takers yet at Southeast Alaska, said Douglas-based shellfish biologist Adam Messmer in an email from a survey boat. Southeast is home to the state’s largest Dungeness fishery, where about 45,000 pots are dropped each year. Pink salmon disaster plan unveiled Two years ago, the state’s largest pink salmon regions at Prince William Sound, Kodiak and Southeast and lesser areas went bust from the worst pink returns in decades. At Gov. Bill Walker’s request the fishery was declared a disaster and Congress appropriated $56.3 million for Alaska fishermen, processors and communities. Alaska and NOAA have developed a draft distribution plan for the funds, according to Seafoodnews.com. Once approved, the money will be administered by the Pacific States Marine Commission. There are four categories outlined in the draft spending plan: research, municipalities, fishery participants and processors. The suggested distribution is $4.18 million for research; for municipalities, $2.43 million is set aside for the coastal communities that would have received 1.5 percent of the landed value of the foregone catch. Processors would get $17.7 million for lost wages as a result of the disaster. Alaska fishermen would get the biggest portion at $32 million. It would be distributed using a calculation that will restore lost ex-vessel (dockside) value equal to 82.5 percent of their five even-year averages. Talk fish Kodiak’s famous fisheries debate featuring Alaska candidates for governor is set for Oct. 22. Since 1991 all leading candidates have participated in the event, which focuses on the seafood industry and is broadcast statewide. Gov. Bill Walker and Democrat candidate Mark Begich have confirmed they will be in Kodiak to “talk fish”; no response yet from Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy, said Frank Shiro, director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the fish debate. Hatchery facts Hatcheries in the southern portion of Southeast Alaska provide stability for the region’s fishermen and processors, and a big chunk of fish for sports anglers. A new economic impact report by the McDowell Group profiled the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, a 42 year old nonprofit that operates seven hatcheries and seven release sites from Dixon Entrance to Frederick Sound. The combined operations produce and release around 170 million salmon smolts to the sea annually. Over the last 10 years, the hatchlings have contributed 19 percent of the volume and 28 percent of the value of the region’s total harvests. As a portion of the overall catches averaged over five years from 2008 through 2017, salmon that began their lives in local hatcheries accounted for 57 percent of chum catches, 39 percent for chinook and 31 percent of the coho harvests, valued at $175 million to the local fisheries. Fishermen averaged $84 million over the five years from hatchery catches, with most of the benefit going to salmon fishermen in the Petersburg-Wrangell area at 37 percent, followed by Ketchikan at 29 percent and Prince of Wales residents claiming 25 percent of the salmon’s dockside value. By gear type, 46 percent of the hatchery salmon harvest value is dominated by the seine fleet, 32 percent are gillnetters and 21 percent are trollers. The report said that a key benefit of salmon returning home to local hatcheries is that it provides stability with the chums balancing out the volatility of other species, notably, those tough to predict pinks. Other findings: local processors earned an estimated gross margin of $134 million on hatchery salmon over the five years; chum roe accounted for nearly half. The role of the fish in the sportfishing sector is especially prominent near Ketchikan. Creel surveys showed that roughly a third of the chinook salmon caught were from local hatcheries along with 13 percent of the sport cohos. The state closely monitors straying of hatchery fish into wild systems in all areas where the fish are released. An 11-year study at Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound is currently underway focused on interactions of hatchery and wild salmon to provide guidance for assessing Alaska’s hatchery program. Pollock possibilities Researchers at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science have discovered that gelatin from pollock skins makes a sealant that is 12 times stronger than conventional uses. A big plus is that the fish gelatin remains liquid at room temperature and can be sprayed directly onto an open wound on any body organ. Pollock skins also are an exciting new source for nanofibers that are similar to tissue in human organs and skin. “Hopefully, if you have a damaged organ you can grow these cells outside the body and then reintroduce it into the wound to help improve the ability of an organs to heal itself,” said Bor-Sen Chiou at the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in California. He added during a radio interview that studies show fish gelatins improve cell growth far better than traditional animal gels. Along with pharmaceuticals, gelatin from pollock skins also has huge potential in the food industry. “They have substances that can be used as a beverage thickener, a clarifier for juices, plus you can roll it out into great films,” said former USDA food technologist Cindy Bower. “When you test it against bovine and pig skin films there is decreased water vapor permeability, meaning the fish films are a better barrier to water. So there is application for using them to coat foods, to keep moisture in or out,” Bower added. “Plus, they’re fish so they satisfy kosher and Halal (Muslim) dietary restrictions. That opens markets for millions of people worldwide.” From skin to bones, ground up pollock bones are being roto tilled into the soil in California neighborhoods to neutralize toxic lead, a problem in nearly every U.S. urban area. Instead of digging up and disposing of contaminated soil, the calcium phosphate in tons of Alaska pollock bone meal is turning the lead into a harmless mineral. The alchemy has been known for nearly 20 years and used mostly at mining sites and military bases. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Tariffs set to take toll on Alaska seafood exports and imports

More seafood tariffs in Trump’s trade war with China are hitting Alaska coming and going. On July 6, the first 25 percent tax went into effect on more than 170 U.S. seafood products going to China. On Aug. 23 more items were added to the list, including fishmeal from Alaska. “As of right now, nearly every species and product from Alaska is on that list of tariffs,” said Garrett Evridge, a fisheries economist with the McDowell Group. Alaska produces more than 70,000 metric tons of fishmeal per year (about 155 million pounds), mostly from pollock trimmings, with salmon a distant second. The pollock meal is used primarily in Chinese aquaculture production, while salmon meal goes mostly to pet food makers in the U.S. In 2017 about $70 million worth of fishmeal from Alaska pollock was exported to China from processing plants all over the state. Anchovy-based fishmeal from Peru is the predominate source for world aquaculture, but whitefish meal made from Alaska pollock is regarded as the premium. According to Undercurrent News, pollock meal commands $600 to $700 more per ton than Peruvian meal and is currently trading at up to $2,300 per ton. The tariffs on U.S. seafood products exported to China is a done deal. In the long run, Evridge said Alaska might be able to shift exports to other countries, but the size of the Chinese market makes it tough to replace. “On the Chinese side, it looks like there is little recourse,” Evridge said. “At least in the short term there is little ability for the Alaska seafood industry to avert these tariffs.” And there’s also a flip side. Trump has proposed a 25 percent tariff on products coming into the U.S. from China. It would include seafood that is caught in Alaska, shipped to China for reprocessing into fillets, portions or fish sticks and then resent to the U.S. for distribution to buyers. “That will possibly be the case next month when those tariffs go into effect on the U.S. side,” Evridge said. On Aug. 20, the U.S. International Trade Commission began hearing from over 350 speakers representing a wide variety of industries harmed by Trump’s tariffs from flooring to fruit juices to fish. The commission also must review more than 2,300 letters received so far; the pile is expected to grow by the Sept. 6 public comment deadline. “We’re kind of a pawn in a broader game,” Evridge said, adding that the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Alaska’s congressional delegation and the governor’s office are “closely engaged.” The National Fisheries Institute voiced strong opposition to the proposed new tariffs in testimony last week saying that “it will punish American fishermen and the communities that rely on them by making their products more expensive for American families to eat.” “Of the $2.7 billion in annual seafood shipments subject to this proposal, an estimated $950 million comes from an American fisherman – primarily an Alaska fisherman – harvesting in U.S. waters in a U.S.-flag vessel using a U.S. crew,” said NFI’s Robert DeHaan. One of the Trump Administration’s stated goals — making China respect its obligations regarding intellectual property rights — don’t line up with tariffs on seafood, DeHaan added. “How punishing these harvesters — and these businesses for ‘Buying American’ — will convince China to respect its obligations regarding intellectual property rights and technology transfers is difficult to fathom,” he said. “Cutting fish is not an intellectual property secret.” Last year China purchased 54 percent of Alaska’s seafood, valued at nearly $800 million. Salmon wrap Alaska’s statewide salmon catch is 31 percent below expectations and is unlikely to reach the preseason forecast of 147 million fish. In what the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is calling an “unusual season” in a wrap up announcement, they said that the shortfall stems from poor pink salmon returns to Gulf of Alaska regions. ADFG also cited unexpected run timing for sockeyes at several major regions, causing uncertainty for managers and lost harvest opportunities for fishermen. Bristol Bay’s Kvichak River saw the latest peak since 1956; more than half of the Kenai River’s late-run sockeye returned during the month of August, which has only occurred once before; and Copper River sockeye salmon returned in three distinct pulses, the third happening in mid-July. But “it is important to maintain perspective on historical salmon harvests,” ADFG said, pointing out that the three largest Alaska salmon harvests on record occurred between 2013 and 2017. The 2018 season has not been without bright spots, notably at Bristol Bay, which experienced the second largest sockeye salmon harvest on record of nearly 42 million fish, and the fourth consecutive season with the harvest topping 35 million sockeyes. Norton Sound also is likely to exceed last year’s record coho salmon harvest and at Kotzebue, the chum salmon harvest will be among the top four on record. Preliminary statewide total harvests and exvessel (dockside)values by salmon species and area will be available by mid-October. Salmon cells Plans are underway to grow and sell salmon and other seafoods made directly from fish cells. San Diego-based BlueNalu says it will “disrupt current industry practices” and be a pioneer in “cellular aquaculture,” in which living cells are isolated from fish tissue, cultured in various lab media and then assembled into “great-tasting fresh and frozen seafood products.” BlueNalu is being seeded with $4.5 million in startup money from a private venture fund called New Crop Capital whose mission is ‘funding the future of food.’ Seafood perceptions Seafood lovers around the world believe that the biggest threat to the oceans is pollution, followed by overfishing. Those are some of the top takeaways from a survey earlier this year of more than 25,000 people in 22 countries. The survey was done by the public opinion research firm GlobeScan for the Marine Stewardship Council. The non-profit MSC led the movement starting 20 years ago towards certifying fisheries that are managed sustainably, which has become a requirement of doing business by most seafood buyers around the globe. The study found that 72 percent of seafood consumers want sustainability verifications at their supermarkets, but price is still the biggest motivator for buying decisions. A surprising gender divide showed that men are more motivated by price while women regarded seafood sustainability as more important. Seventy-two percent also agreed that buying seafood from sustainable sources will help save our oceans; 70 percent said people should switch their purchases to earth friendly fisheries. Eighty-three percent of global consumers agreed that seafood needs to be protected for future generations, and 70 percent said they would like to hear more from companies about their sustainability purchasing practices. In what the survey called “a climate of persistently low consumer trust in business globally,” trust in the blue MSC label remained high at 69 percent and understanding of the label has increased to 37 percent, up from 32 percent in 2016. Younger consumers are even more tuned in to choosing sustainable seafood, with 41 percent of 18-34 year olds understanding what the MSC label means. That group also showed a slightly different profile, eating less seafood on average and worrying more about the effects of climate change on the oceans than their older counterparts. Global consumers also rated certification organizations third for their contribution to protecting the oceans, after NGOs and scientists. Governments and large companies rated as contributing the least. Fish event Big names in fisheries are inviting the public to participate at a special town hall event on August 31 at the Centennial Hall Convention Center in Juneau. Keynote is retired Navy Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, an American oceanographer who currently serves as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Gallaudet will discuss the DOC’s Strategic Plan and NOAA’s Blue Economy priorities. Joining him in a roundtable discussion is David Wetherell, director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Nicole Kimball, vice president of operations for the Pacific Seafood Processors Association; Alexa Tonkovich, director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute; Frances Leach, director of United Fishermen of Alaska; Rich Yamada, president of the Alaska Charter Association; Stephanie Madsen, director of the At-sea Processors Association; Chad See, director of the Freezer Longline Coalition; Ben Stevens, tribal advocate for the Tanana Chiefs Conference; Mark Fina, policy analyst for U.S. Seafoods; Jamie Goen, director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers; Paddy O’Donnell, president of Alaska Whitefish Trawlers; Brett Veerhusen, alternate director of the North Pacific Fisheries Association, Chris Woodley, director of the Groundfish Forum and Linda Behnken, director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. The group will take questions from the public. Doors open at 3:30. Contact is Kevin Wheeler at [email protected] or 202-482-5096. Video deadline Aug. 31 also is the deadline to submit videos to the worldwide Women in Seafood competition. Videos must be no longer than four minutes and will be judged in two categories: Under 25 which highlights futures for young women in the seafood industry, and Women’s Contributions from a social and/or economic perspective. Winners will receive 1,000 Euros (US $1,162) and their films will be shown to global audiences. Send videos to [email protected] or [email protected] Winners will be announced in late September. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Mariculture industry has vast potential

As Gov. Bill Walker prepares to sign a bill this week enacting the Alaska Mariculture Development Plan, 16 new applicants hope to soon begin growing shellfish and seaweed businesses in just more than 417 acres of tideland areas in Alaska. The new growers will add to the 35 farms and six hatchery/nurseries that already are producing a mix of oysters, clams, mussels and various seaweeds. Eventually, sea cucumbers, scallops, giant geoduck clams and algae for biofuels will be added into the mix. Most of the mariculture requests in Alaska are located in Southeast and Southcentral regions and range in size from 0.02 acres at Halibut Cove to 292 acres for two sites at Craig. Data from the state Department of Natural Resources show that two farms have applied at Kodiak totaling nearly 37 acres, and one Sitka applicant has plans for a 15-acre plot. Other communities getting into the mariculture act include Seldovia, Port Chatham, Juneau, Naukati, Cordova, Ketchikan and Gustavus. In 2017, Alaskan farms produced 11,456 pounds of clams, 1,678 pounds of mussels, 16,570 pounds of seaweeds and 1.8 million oysters. Oysters always have been the dominant mariculture crop, and several farmers have added kelp to their acreage. The seaweed takes just three months to grow to harvestable size and can provide a ready cash flow to farmers while they wait for up to three years for their bivalves to ripen. Kelp is poised to be one of Alaska’s biggest crops with one of the biggest payouts. The first Alaska crop of 15,000 pounds was harvested last year at Kodiak, which yielded a payday of about $10,000 for grower Nick Mangini. This year he tripled his take with 42,000 pounds of two products: brown kelp (alaria) and sugar kelp. Mangini said 75 percent of the crop was alaria, for which he received 90 cents per pound, and 45 cents per pound for the sugar kelp, adding up to more than $33,000. The kelp is marketed under the name Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed, or KISS, and sold to a California company called Blue Evolution. “We are making it into products that are familiar to North American consumers, so our first items were pastas and macaroni and cheese,” said founder Beau Perry. “It actually deepens the flavor profile. Everyone from moms and dads who are feeding it to their kids to gourmet chefs are responding very positively.” It’s all a drop in the bucket compared to the real potential for the new industry in Alaska. “If only three-tenths of a percent of Alaska’s 35,000 miles of coastline was developed for oysters, for example, it could produce 1.3 billion oysters at 50 cents (each) adding up to $650 million a year,” said Julie Decker, director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and head of an 11-member mariculture task force established in 2016 by Walker through administrative order. The task force concluded that mariculture crops could yield $1 billion for the state within 30 years. The governor plans to sign the bill at grower Trevor Sande’s farm near Ketchikan. Treadwell talks fish Politics aside, one thing that can be said about Republican candidate for governor Mead Treadwell is that he knows fish. “One thing I know is that fishing is Alaska’s largest employer and you can’t have good fishing unless you have good science and transparent management,” he said in a phone interview. Treadwell touts research as the cornerstone for fisheries sustainability. “I believe we could double or triple the endowed science available for North Pacific, Bering Sea and Arctic marine research and I think it’s very important to do,” he said. Treadwell was a past chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, involved with the North Pacific Research Board and one of the earliest advocates for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and Alaska’s Community Development Quota program. As a student of international fisheries policy law, Treadwell said his first job was as a “foot soldier” working with then Department of Interior Secretary Wally Hickel in the fight for the 200-mile limit that removed foreign fishing fleets from U.S. waters. Treadwell pointed to other protein industries and said he believes Alaska’s seafood industry could add jobs and revenues by using more of every fish. “Other industries sell everything but the squeal,” he said. “I think we have to do much more with all of the fish and add the value here so we are not exporting jobs. Let’s look at our incentives for keeping more processing plants open year round — it might be a fix in power costs or something to do with tax policy.” Treadwell said he is a big supporter of growing the state’s mariculture industry, including biofuels. “As governor you control the tidelands. We can back that up with a process that helps financing and helps grow a new industry. I’m excited about that,” he said. “And this opportunity with energy is also significant. I’ve visited some of the labs that are working on algal energy and we have to look at these kinds of opportunities to diversify our economy.” As governor, Treadwell said he also would fight to get more chinook salmon for Southeast Alaskans who have lost over 60 percent of their catch quotas in the treaty with Canada. “We have lost too much of that allocation and it’s just not fair,” he said. Numerous attempts to interview Mead Treadwell’s Republican opponent, Mike Dunleavy, were unsuccessful. Fish smell Fish scientists proved years ago that the tiniest traces of copper in water can affect a salmon’s sense of smell. Now, new research shows that increasing levels of acidity in the oceans does the same thing. The damage is caused by the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide, which is generated primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, like oil and coal. The CO2 combines with seawater to produce carbonic acid, which makes the water more acidic. Fish use their sense of smell to find food, elude predators, locate spawning areas, even to recognize one another. Losing it could mean big trouble for the fishing industry, tourism and global nutrition. “In the marine environment it has some serious implications. If there are predators around and the fish are not able to respond to these danger signals in the water, they would be the next snack for these larger predators,” said Jason Sandahl at Oregon State University, who was one of the first to show how contaminants can disrupt the chemical balance of sea creatures. His studies showed that copper levels at just two parts per billion impaired small salmon’s sense of smell. Last month, scientists at England’s University of Exeter compared the behavior of juvenile sea bass at carbon dioxide levels typical of today’s ocean conditions with those predicted for the end of the century. The results showed that the sense of smell in the fish was reduced by half. They also found that sea bass exposed to the more acidic conditions swam less and were less likely to react when encountering the smell of a predator. The longer the fish were in high CO2 levels, the worse they fared. The scientists concluded that future levels of carbon dioxide can affect fish population numbers and entire ecosystems. While their study was on sea bass, the researchers said they believe all species important to commercial and sport fisheries are likely to be affected in a similar way, and possibly crabs and lobsters as well. Pollock is tops Alaska pollock is the largest fish catch in the world for four years running, toppling anchovies from Chile and Peru. More than 40 million commercial fishermen were out at work on global waters on nearly five million boats, of which 90 percent are less than 40 feet long. Those numbers have held steady over several years, said the latest State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report compiled every other year by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. It is the only publication of its kind that oversees fisheries track records and trends around the globe. Highlights from 2016 show that the world’s total marine catch was nearly 80 million tons, a slight decrease due to that drop in anchovies. Aquaculture represented 53 percent of all seafood eaten and it is the fastest growing food production sector on the planet. Nearly 600 different species items are farmed around the world; No. 1 is carp. Growing aquatic plants, especially seaweeds, has more than doubled in 20 years to top 30 million tons. In per capita terms, global fish consumption has grown about 1.5 percent per year from less than 20 pounds in 1961 to 45 pounds. Americans eat far less fish, averaging about 15 pounds a year. So how are the world’s fish stocks doing? Sixty percent were called “maximally sustained” and 33 percent were classified as being fished at unsustainable levels. Problem regions were the Mediterranean, Southeast Pacific and the Southwest Atlantic, with 60 percent of their stocks called overfished. By contrast, the Northeast, Northwest Pacific and Central and Southwest Pacific had the lowest levels of overfishing ranging from 13 percent to 17 percent. The World Fisheries Report said that impacts from climate change are likely to push down global ocean production by six percent by the year 2100, and 11 percent in tropical zones. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Researchers seek signs of recovery for Pacific cod

Tiny cod fish are reappearing around Kodiak. Researchers aim to find out if it is a blip, or a sign that the stock is recovering after warming waters caused the stocks to crash. Alaska’s seafood industry was shocked last fall when the annual surveys showed cod stocks in the Gulf of Alaska had plummeted by 80 percent to the lowest levels ever seen. Prior surveys indicated large year classes of cod starting in 2012 were expected to produce good fishing for six or more years. But a so-called “blob” of warm water depleted food supplies and wiped out that recruitment. “That warm water was sitting in the Gulf for three years starting in 2014 and it was different than other years in that it went really deep and it also lasted throughout the winter. You can deplete the food source pretty rapidly when the entire ecosystem is ramped up in those warm temperatures,” explained Steven Barbeaux with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, or AFSC, in Seattle. This summer, researchers at Kodiak saw the first signs of potential recovery with beach seine catches of tiny first year cod that are born offshore and drift as larvae into coastal grassy areas in July and August. “A lot can happen in that first year of life that we would like to learn more about to predict whether or not these year classes are actually going to survive,” said Ben Laurel, a fisheries research biologist with the AFSC based in Newport, Ore., whose specialty is early survival of cold water commercial fish species. Laurel’s team, which includes scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been studying the early life history of Pacific cod in waters around Kodiak every year since 2005. They documented changes in what he calls “young of the year” fish throughout the warm water event through 2016. Right afterwards, they saw no first-year cod but Laurel said things might be taking a turn for the better. “In 2017 the ocean temperatures started to get back to normal and we did see signs of some fish, which is good because we hadn’t seen fish earlier,” he said. “In 2018 we also are seeing some young fish. But again, we’re just looking at one year in one area and it might not be reflective throughout the Gulf, so we are not sure what it means.” Laurel is taking the tiny cod back to the Oregon wet lab where they will run tests on survival conditions. “Do they have the likelihood of making it to adulthood just like those fish before the warm water blob? We just don’t know,” he explained. “We don’t have much data on cod during the winter and we can fill that gap in the lab. We can run them through a simulated over winter experience at different temperatures and see what the consequences are of them being a certain size or having certain food available, or what sort of conditions do they need to survive a whole overwintering experience.” The cod study this summer also is expanding to more nearshore areas of Kodiak, along the Alaska Peninsula and the eastern Gulf. Laurel credited the AFSC with “really responsive reactions to this drastic reduction in the population,” and adding “more eyes and effort” to understand what happened to the cod stocks. The research, he said, will provide a window into what might be expected with a changing climate. “It is kind of a dress rehearsal for what is to come,” he said. “We can’t expect things to stay as they are, and we need to understand these processes and be proactive. I’m encouraged but also nervous about what’s in line for the future. Everybody should be braced for uncertainty.” Net hack challenge An Alaska Net Hack Challenge is being planned for Sept. 8 and 9 in Kodiak and Anchorage. The goal is to identify potential opportunities for using the tons of old plastic fishing nets piled up in landfills and storage lots across the state, and develop new items from the materials. The nets can weigh from 5,000 to 20,000 pounds each. The challenge is based on the Circular Ocean program in the U.K. and Iceland that “aims to inspire enterprises and entrepreneurs to realize the hidden opportunities in discarded fishing nets.” The Alaska hack is sponsored by Grundens, Alpar and Saltwater Inc. “The goal is to change how people look at nets and ropes, not as a waste material but as a raw material that can be used in many ways,” said Nicole Baker, founder of www.netyourproblem.com and organizer of the event along with the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative. “Socks, water bottles, cell phone cases, carpets, bathing suits, sneakers, sunglasses, skateboards, rugs, bowls, frisbees, even 3-D printing and injection molds. People are becoming so creative about finding ways to reuse these plastic products,” Baker said. The Alaska challenge is aimed at artists, students, designers, business owners, engineers, recyclers and anyone interested in designing new products out of the materials. “On the first day of the challenge we will show presentations about the context and scale of the issue, the type of materials available, and some businesses that have been implemented already,” she explained. “On the second day, teams will get together and use the material and design a prototype, either physically or on a computer, that will be presented to judges to get their feedback.” A video link will connect the two locations and judges will score the projects on creativity, usefulness and scalability and follow the development over six months. “That will be supported by the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative which has several programs to assist with making small businesses and startups commercially viable,” Baker said. “If Alaska gets on board, it could be another revenue stream,” added Brian Himelbloom, a retired University of Alaska seafood specialist who is organizing the Kodiak net hack challenge with an assist by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. “There are a lot of creative people in Kodiak,” he added, pointing to the Alaska Rug Company that uses fishing nets and ropes to make handwoven doormats, pot holders, baskets, bowls, signs, and more at their remote home at the decommissioned Port Bailey Cannery. The company was recently featured in HGTV magazine. Himelbloom said the groups also will reach out to local schools to attract “youngsters who are thinking about going into business.” They also are creating a net hack tool kit for remote communities interested in having their own challenges. The events will take place at the Makerspace Building in Anchorage and at the Kodiak Marine Science Center. Visit www.alaskaoceancluster.com to register to attend. Meanwhile, Nicole Baker also will be in Kodiak in late August to coordinate a fishing net recycling program. It will mirror a first effort last year in Dutch Harbor that sent 40 nets weighing 240,000 pounds to a company called Plastix in Denmark where they were melted down, pelletized and resold to manufacturers of plastic products. A second shipment also is being planned at Dutch Harbor and Baker said she also has been contacted by people in Juneau, Homer, Seward and other Alaska communities who want to develop net recycling programs. The Alaska Net Hack Challenge and the recycling program have attracted the attention of Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “It was my first letter from a senator’s office,” Baker said. “I was very excited.” Fish watch Alaska’s total salmon catch has topped 88 million fish: more than 48 million are sockeyes and nearly 42 million of the reds are from Bristol Bay. Fishing is winding down there but lots of salmon is still being hauled in elsewhere, albeit slowly in most regions. The Dungeness fishery in Southeast is ongoing with a summer harvest pegged at 2.25 million pounds. Golden king crab opened along the Aleutians on Aug. 1 with a 6.3 million-pound harvest, an increase of nearly 1 million pounds for the first time in 20 years. Halibut fishermen have taken 56 percent of their nearly 20 million-pound catch limit. For sablefish, 47 percent of the nearly 26 million-pound quota has been taken. Both fisheries close Nov. 7. Fishing for cod, rockfish, flounders, pollock and other whitefish continues in the Bering Sea; likewise, in the Gulf where pollock fishing will reopen on Aug. 25. The Alaska Board of Fisheries has set an Aug. 15 deadline to receive agenda change requests for its upcoming meeting cycle. The board will take up fisheries at Bristol Bay, the Alaska Peninsula, the Arctic Yukon Kuskokwim, Aleutian Islands and Chignik from November through March. A special two-day meeting on Pacific cod takes place in early October. Finally, more genetically modified Atlantic salmon grown in Panama has made its way to undisclosed markets. Last summer, Massachusetts-based biotech firm AquaBounty sold its first five tons of “Frankenfish” to undisclosed Canadian customers. The manmade fish grows three times faster than normal salmon. AquaBounty received FDA approval this year to raise its AquAdvantage salmon at its new land-based Indiana facility, but is currently prevented from importing its genetically tweaked salmon eggs from Canada due to an “Import Alert” pending the issuance of final labeling guidelines. “We anticipate the import alert to be lifted in the second half of this year,” CEO Ronald Stotish said in a press release. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Year of the Salmon features major Gulf study

Alaskans celebrated Alaska Wild Salmon Day on Aug. 10, but plans also are underway for a much bigger celebration: the International Year of the Salmon set to officially begin in 2019. The theme is “Salmon and people in a changing world” and a key focus will be a winter salmon study in the deepest regions of the Gulf of Alaska. Both are sponsored in part by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, which for 25 years has promoted research collaboration among scientists in its five member countries of Canada, Russia, Japan, Korea and the U.S. “The main inspiration for development of this project is our awareness of the challenges salmon meet in the open ocean related to the climate and in the coastal areas,” said Dr. Vladimir Radchenko, commission director and one of the world’s leading salmon scientists. A primary goal of Year of the Salmon is to get more people involved in protecting salmon and “coastal societies.” The aim of the Gulf project, Radchenko said, is to better understand the ocean phase of the salmon life cycle. Doing so would improve knowledge to help forecast salmon abundance and carrying capacity of the North Pacific. Researchers have some fragmented understanding of salmon distribution in the deep Gulf area from several surveys starting in the late 1980s. But the surveys were small and the results contradictory, Radchenko said. The project set for next winter will be done with trawl gear and cover a vast area in international waters 200 miles from shore. “During the winter, all salmon species migrate off shore and we have compared patterns of distribution seen in previous surveys and found that the main spots of salmon aggregation should be located beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone in February and March,” Radchenko explained. He added: “It will be a deep survey at about 72 trawl stations and include oceanographic testing of temperature and concentrations of all physical and chemical elements as well as plankton cages so we will have information on the whole ecosystem. We also will take scale samples to determine the salmon origins.” Based on the survey results Radchenko said researchers “may conclude the current state of the salmon stocks which spend the winter in the Gulf of Alaska.” He said scientists in all countries believe that major salmon stocks are facing challenges from the impacts of climate change, especially in southern areas of the North Pacific where warming water circulation patterns are wreaking havoc with salmon food sources. “The warming could make some ocean waters unsuitable for salmon. It is one of the biggest climate changes problems evident now, maybe more important than ocean acidification,” he added. The 2019 winter survey will include scientists from all member countries and is set to be the first of many, depending on funds. Blue updates Alaska lays claim to over half of the nation’s coastline, nearly two-thirds of its seafood catches and more ocean than any other region. But Alaska’s economic output accounts for only about four percent of the U.S. ocean economy. The Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, or OCI, aims to create a more diversified and resilient “blue economy” by getting more value from our oceans. “Globally the oceans are being viewed as the last economic frontier and there is a big push to develop them. Our hope is that Alaska becomes a leader in this blue economy and sustainable development of our ocean resources,” said Joel Cladouhos, director of the OCI, which began a year ago in partnership with the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association. The concept is modeled after a program used in Iceland since the 1970s that seeds an “economic ecosystem” of industry, academics, business and government to create a blue growth strategy. Cladouhos believes it is a good fit for Alaska’s well-developed marine infrastructure and can build upon many programs and projects that already exist, such as the Alaska Maritime Workforce Initiative and statewide expansion of mariculture. Blue startups can run the maritime gamut for businesses in or around the ocean, including coastal tourism, marine transportation and emerging sectors such as marine biotechnology and ocean technology. A blue economy also could help provide year-round employment in Alaska’s 200 coastal communities. The OCI believes going blue can provide 50,000 jobs and a $3 billion dollar payroll by the year 2040, making it as significant as the oil industry is today. “Oil has provided incredible economic impact in Alaska and we would not be where we are today without it,” Cladouhos said. “But we want the conversation to be around pipelines of innovation and entrepreneurship in the future. And that would drive economic benefit and job growth that is larger than the oil industry today.” The biggest roadblock, the OCI believes, stems from Alaska’s business model. Since the U.S. purchased Alaska in 1867, the approach has been to extract natural resources and export the raw materials out of the state. That commodity-driven extraction model produces boom and bust cycles. The solution is to build a new, forward looking economy that creates value from our natural resources in a way that is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. The Ocean Cluster has launched several programs over the past year to enhance the Blue Economy mindset among Alaskans. Ocean Tuesdays are one-hour weekly webinars on a wide range of topics. Two-day Blue Storm workshops are customized to local areas. A virtual Blue Pipeline Incubator advises ocean based startups and so far has attracted several companies ranging from smokehouses to net hangers to fish fertilizers to vessel inspections using drones. A six-week Google Ocean Technology team event attracted nearly Alaska 30 sponsors. The OCI will use a $391,000 federal grant from the economic development administration to do outreach to more entrepreneurs. “We want to expand in Alaska,” Cladouhos said. “Anyone can reach out to us and we can start to move forward with developing their ideas.” Questions? Contact [email protected]/ More tariffs and eyes on endangered species President Donald Trump announced on Aug. 1 that he is escalating his trade war with plans to increase the tariff on Chinese exports to the U.S. from 10 percent to 25 percent. (That is in addition to the 25 percent tariff on U.S. goods being sent to China that went into effect on July 6.) The list of goods affected includes nearly every U.S. seafood product. In terms of a bailout similar to that being proposed for farmers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates an aid package for the commercial fishing and processing industry would cost more than $1 billion to offset the impact of trade taxes to their businesses. Public comments can be made the U.S. Trade Office through Sept. 5. Also on the federal docket: Trump and his team have turned their eyes to scaling back protections in the Endangered Species Act. Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed changes to the way species are listed or removed from protections, and how critical habitat designations are made. New language also would allow officials for the first time to consider the economic consequences of listing a species. The New York Times called it “the most sweeping set of changes in decades” to the regulations used to enforce the act. Comments on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act can be made through Sept. 24 at www.regulations.gov. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Women in the seafood work place report discrimination

Alaska appears to be an exception in terms of gender parity at all levels of its seafood industry. Women comprise roughly half of the world’s seafood industry workforce, yet a report released last week revealed that 61 percent of women around the globe feel they face unfair gender biases from slime lines to businesses to company boardrooms. The women’s overall responses cited biases in recruitment and hiring, in working conditions and inflexible scheduling. The findings were based on 700 responses gathered in an online survey from September through December of last year. Thirty percent of the respondents were men; 27 percent of the total responses came from North America. In my view, Alaska doesn’t fit the picture. Based on “empirical evidence” spanning 30 years as a fisheries writer, I always have encountered women at all levels of seafood harvesting and processing, business, management, education and research, as agency heads and commissioners and in top directorships in industry trade groups and organizations. While women may be outnumbered by men in the state’s seafood industry overall, they are highly visible and valued throughout the workforce hierarchy. Maybe Alaska’s small population levels the playing field and smart, talented women are not so easily overlooked. But that’s clearly not the case elsewhere. In the survey, 33 percent of women said they have faced discrimination at work; 49 percent said there are unequal opportunities for men and women; 12 percent of women cited sexual harassment. One striking finding of the gender equality in the seafood industry report was that women and men have very different perceptions of the problem. Fewer than half of the men surveyed said that they believe women face biases throughout the industry. “Less than one men in 10 consider women are facing discrimination. It is important to see that men and women do not share the same diagnosis. If it is not shared, things cannot change,” said Marie Catherine Montfort, report co-author and CEO of the international group Women in the Seafood Industry. Many women said they are not given incentives to join the seafood industry, especially at school levels. An interesting view shared by 80 percent of both genders was that the industry holds little appeal for women. “This is probably the only shared response — that both believe the industry is not attractive to women. I think this question should be asked by seafood companies and all stakeholders in this industry,” Montfort said, adding “that likely explains the 83 percent (71 percent men) who said the seafood industry has a lack of female candidates for jobs.” The WSI survey also revealed that the seafood industry puts more focus on racial diversity than gender equality. Scandinavian countries got the highest marks for perceptions of gender equality at 58 percent; North America totaled 33 percent. Recognizing and raising the awareness of biases against women is the first step towards making positive changes, Montfort said, and the report findings can “open routes to progress.” “It can identify barriers to gender equality and identify good practices,” she said. To help draw attention to the issue, WSI has launched a short video contest to showcase women working in all areas of the seafood industry. The winner will receive 1,000 Euros ($1,165 US) and get wide play at fishery events around the world. Deadline is Aug. 31. Contact [email protected] Prices high/catches low Salmon prices are starting to trickle in as more sales are firmed up by local buyers, and early signs point to good paydays across the board. At Bristol Bay last week, Trident, Ocean Beauty and Togiak Seafoods posted a base price of $1.25 per pound for sockeye, according to KDLG in Dillingham. Trident also was paying a 15-cent bonus for reds that are chilled and bled, and the others may follow suit. Copper River Seafoods raised its sockeye price from $1.30 to $1.70 for fish that is chilled/bled and sorted. That company also reportedly is paying 80 cents per pound for coho salmon and 45 cents per pound for chums and pinks. The average base price last year for Bristol Bay sockeye was $1.02 per pound, 65 cents for cohos, 30 cents for chums and 18 cents for pinks. Kodiak advances were reported at $1.60 for sockeye, 55 cents for chums and 40 cents for pinks. That compares to average prices of $1.38 for sockeyes, 40 cents for chums and 31 cents for Kodiak pinks in 2017. At Prince William Sound a sockeye base price was reported at $1.95 and chums at 95 cents. At Norton Sound the single buyer was advancing 80 cents per pound for chums and $1.40 for cohos, same as last year, and 25 cents for pinks, an increase of 22 cents. Salmon fishermen at Kotzebue were getting 40 cents for chums, down from 48 cents, but that price is expected to increase when a third buyer comes on line. The weekly summary from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said that Southeast trollers were averaging $8.48 per pound for chinook salmon, an increase of $1.15 over last year. Troll-caught cohos were at $1.64, a 16-cent increase and chums were paying out at 90 cents, up 13 cents from 2017. All prices are likely to change when more sales are made in coming months. Alaska’s total salmon catches are still down by one-third compared with the statewide harvest topping 70 million fish by July 27. Nearly 42 million of the salmon were sockeye from Bristol Bay. Seafood slight As President Donald Trump prepares to offer U.S. farmers $12 billion in aid to help compensate for losses caused by trade scuffles with China, Democrats in Congress have put forth a plan to help fishermen. House Resolution 6528 was introduced July 25 by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton. It aims to add language to the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Act that disaster relief funds can also be used in the case of “unilateral tariffs imposed by other countries on any United States seafood.” Co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Chellie Pingree of Maine, Stephen Lynch and William Keating of Massachusetts, Jared Huffman of California and Raul Grijalva of Arizona. Fishermen “don’t deserve to be victims of this self-imposed trade war,” Pingree said at a hearing last week. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also are being outspoken in their support of fishermen. But the snub to U.S. farmers of the sea isn’t likely to change. When U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was asked if Trump is considering providing other sectors assistance similar to the $12 billion taxpayer funded hand out to the agriculture sector, he replied, “Not at this time. No.” There have been two major trade actions with China that affect Alaska seafood. On July 6, China implemented a retaliatory tariff of 25 percent on U.S. seafood sent to the Chinese domestic market. China purchases 54 percent of Alaska’s seafood exports, valued at $1.3 billion in 2017. Then on July 10 Trump escalated his trade war by proposing an additional 10 percent tariff on seafood exported from China to the U.S. It includes $2.7 billion in American-caught seafood, mostly from Alaska, that is reprocessed in China into fillets and breaded portions and sent back to the U.S. for distribution. That tax is scheduled to go into effect in early September. In the short term, the Alaska seafood industry may see greater impact from that tariff, according to Alexa Tonkovich, executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. ASMI plans to comment on the proposed tariff to trade representatives before the Aug. 17 deadline. “We encourage other industry members that will be affected by these tariffs to also comment and voice concern,” Tonkvich said in a statement. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Bristol Bay harvest hits 39 million, but statewide take down by a third

Alaska’s salmon fisheries continue to lag alarmingly in several regions, with overall catches down by a third from the same time last year. The single exception is at the unconquerable Bristol Bay, where a catch of 39 million sockeye so far has single-handedly pushed Alaska’s total salmon harvest towards a lackluster 60 million fish. It’s too soon to press the panic button and there is lots of fishing left to go, but fears are growing that Alaska’s 2018 salmon season will be a bust for most fishermen. Worse, it comes on the heels of a cod crash and tanking halibut markets (and catches). State salmon managers predicted that Alaska’s salmon harvest this year would be down by 34 percent to 149 million fish; due to an expected decline of pinks. But with the exception of Bristol Bay, nobody expected fishing to be this bad. Catches of sockeye, the big money fish, are off by millions at places like Copper River, Chignik and Kodiak, which has had the weakest sockeye harvest in nearly 40 years. The weekly update by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute said that coho and chinook catches remain slow, and while it is still way early in the season, the “bread and butter” pink harvests are off by 65 percent from the strong run of two years ago. Chums are proving to be some fishermen’s best friends again, following last year’s record 25 million haul. While fishing is 40 percent behind last year’s pace, catches are strong at Prince William Sound and in the Arctic regions. Kotzebue is readying for a top 10 chum catch and some of the best salmon news comes from Norton Sound, where chums and pinks have buyers scrambling to keep up with the fish. “Pink salmon have overrun the Sound again this year,” wrote veteran Jim Menard for the state’s weekly salmon updates at his Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Nome. He added that several part-timers were hired this summer to help keep counts at the weirs passing pinks. “While it’s not quite combat fishing there are big crowds, especially kids at Nome River beach mouth, pulling in pinks nearly every cast,” Menard said. He added that sockeyes also are showing up strong enough to “create another caravan of vehicles heading out of Nome to seine and gillnet sockeyes in the river.” Into the void Salmon customers at home and abroad were poised to take all the wild Alaska salmon they could get going into the season. Demand was strong, and despite Alaska fishermen catching over a billion pounds of salmon last year, there were no big carryovers in freezers. A lower U.S. dollar value also had increased interest by European buyers. Competing farmed fish prices also have remained high all year and that sector has wasted no time filling any Alaska salmon void. Imports of fresh whole and filleted farmed salmon to the U.S., especially from Chile, are at all-time highs with fillets topping 140 million pounds through May, an increase of nearly 14 percent. Market analyst Janice Schreiber of Urner Barry said farmed salmon pricing also is “exceeding three-year averages.” Market reports also said that Norway is sending record amounts of its farmed salmon to China. Chinese buyers are turning their backs on Alaska salmon made more expensive by Trump’s 25 percent import tariff that went into effect July 6. Salmon grows greens Salmon is now being grown in the nation’s first landlocked fish farm on 720 acres in rural Northfield, Wis. Over the July Fourth holiday a company called Superior Fresh sent its first batch of 20,000 pounds of fresh, 10-pound Atlantic salmon to Festival Food stores across the state. Plans call for an annual output of about 72 tons of salmon and steelhead trout from the “fish house” which adjoins a huge greenhouse, making it the largest aquaponics facility in the world. In the growing system, which uses no pesticides or antibiotics, water is drawn from two deep wells and feeds into a hydroponic set-up that produces 20,000 heads of lettuce every day. The water recirculates back to the fish tanks; the less than 1 percent of wastewater is used to irrigate alfalfa for hay production. Wisconsinites hail the dual output as the future of environmental-controlled agriculture. Superior Fresh said it is “priming the pump” for fresh greens and fish to be sold year round in places where it wouldn’t otherwise be possible. The East Coast has even bigger plans for the world’s largest land-based salmon growing business, minus the greenhouse. Nordic Aquafarms of Norway hopes to soon break ground on 40 acres in Belfast, Maine, and eventually produce nearly 70 million pounds of Atlantic salmon annually. The salmon will be grown in tanks holding up to 2 million gallons of recycling water that is sourced from a reservoir no longer used for the city’s water supply. Nordic Aquafarm president Erik Heim said in media reports that the U.S. currently imports more than 80 percent of its seafood, and that raising salmon in Maine cuts shipping time and costs and delivers a fresher product to American customers. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Trade war escalates with seafood import tariffs

President Donald Trump’s trade war now includes tariffs on seafood going to and from China. China is Alaska’s biggest seafood buyer purchasing 54 percent of Alaska seafood exports last year valued at $1.3 billion. On July 6 a 25 percent tariff went into effect on U.S. imports to China, including all Alaska salmon, pollock, cod, herring, flatfish, Dungeness crab, sablefish, geoduck clams and more. Then on July 11 Trump added a 10 percent tariff on all seafood sent from China to the US. According to market expert John Sackton of Seafoodnews.com, it includes products that are reprocessed in China and sent back for distribution in this country. The total value of the 291 seafood products China sends to the U.S. each year is $2.75 billion. Sackton called the 10 percent tariff “a $275 million dollar direct tax on Americans.” It will hit 70 percent of imports of frozen cod fillets. Likewise, 23 percent of all frozen salmon fillets come into the U.S. from China, including pink salmon that is reprocessed into salmon burgers and fillets. Trade data show that China represents 47 percent of U.S. breaded shrimp imports and 37 percent of frozen squid imports. China also supplies 20 percent of the U.S. frozen scallop market. Sackton said the economic hit will go far beyond the $275 million consumer tax. “As sellers are forced to raise prices, competitive products from other countries will follow suit resulting in across the board seafood price increases. That will discourage seafood buying so sellers will lose business as customers back away,” he added. China has been the fastest growing global market for high-end seafood. In late May, Gov. Bill Walker led a trade mission to China with several Alaska seafood companies which have spent millions to expand their brand even more. “All this money will go up in smoke,” Sackton said. In recent years, Alaska seafood sales to China have increased by millions of dollars through e-commerce activity, said Hannah Lindoff, international program director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Lindhoff said ASMI will try to expand sales to other markets, such as Brazil, Spain and Ukraine. But, as Sackton points out, it is more expensive to mount campaigns in multiple countries than in a single large market like China. ASMI operates on a shoestring international budget of less than $7 million per year, mostly from grants and federal dollars. Its overall budget is about $22 million, nearly all from processor taxes. Trump’s seafood tariffs come at a time when the Alaska legislature has zeroed out the state’s $1 million dollar contribution to ASMI. Compare that to Norway’s more than $50 million marketing budget from a small tax on its seafood exports. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported on Thursday that “scant” American fish or shellfish was for sale at Jingshen, Beijing’s largest wholesale seafood market which supplies restaurants and grocers across China. Several distributors said that the recent 25 percent tariff has made American seafood unaffordable. Unless Congress intervenes, the additional 10 percent will take effect in September. Alaska’s delegation has yet to comment. Gearing up for crab Boats already are signing up to participate in fall Bering Sea crab fisheries that begin Oct. 15. Meanwhile, many crabbers are still awaiting word on what their payouts are for last season. Prior to the crab fisheries changing from “come one, come all” to a catch share form of management in 2005, prices were set before boats headed out, said Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange which negotiates prices for most of the fleet. “Since then the price is based on the historical division of revenues and there is a formula that is applied to sales. It takes a long time for sales to be completed to the point where we know or can predict what the final wholesale prices will be, and then we can apply the formula to it,” he explained. Prices to fishermen were down a bit from last year but historically very high, Jacobsen said. For snow crab and bairdi Tanners, which typically are hauled up after the start of each year, prices were just settled and won’t be made public for another week. “Most of the snow crab and bairdi prices were over $4 a pound, so that’s very good,” he hinted. According to processor data, last season’s average snow crab price was $4.07 a pound; Tanner crab averaged $3.33. For golden king crab, fishermen averaged $5.51 per pound. For Bristol Bay red king crab, the price averaged $9.20 a pound last year, down from the record $10.18 in 2016. Heading into the fall, Jacobsen said the price outlook is good. “We expect king crab to be very high this year. There is quite a bit of demand throughout the world and it’s in short supply,” he said, adding that a huge reduction in illegally caught crab imports from Russia has helped boost the market for Alaska crab. Right now stakeholders are “on pins and needles” that crab stock surveys underway now will yield good news for the 2018-19 crab catches, which have been on a downward trend for several years. “Based on last year’s surveys it looks like we might have another decline in snow crab and we’re not sure about red king crab as it was kind of on the margin last year,” Jacobsen said. “With Tanners, we never know. If we can get some good quotas it should be a good year,” Last season’s catch limit for Bristol Bay red king crab was 6.6 million pounds, down 20 percent. For golden king crab the quota has remained stable at 6.3 million pounds. The snow crab catch quota at 19 million pounds was a 12 percent decline. For bairdi Tanners, a catch of just 2.5 million pounds was down from over 20 million pounds two years prior. The combined value of the 2017/2018 Bering Sea crab fisheries was nearly $190 million at the Alaska docks. Fish prices The first thing any fisherman wants to know is what he’s getting paid for his catch. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides dock prices for nearly every fish species with comparisons going back to 1984 in its Commercial Operator’s Annual Report, or COAR, compiled from inputs by Alaska processors. Here’s a sampler of some of the average prices from 2017: The price for cod was 32 cents per pound, an increase of 4 cents from 2016. The lingcod price averaged $1.88, up 33 cents. Those 3 billion pounds of Alaska pollock fetched 12 cents per pound for fishermen, down a penny. Herring also dropped a penny to 11 cents. Octopus averaged 60 cents per pound, a 14-cent increase; sea cucumbers fetched $5.02, up nearly a dollar. For 11 types of flounders, pesky arrowtooth increased 3 cents to 10 cents per pound; rex sole held as the priciest flatfish at 34 cents. Alaska plaice was the cheapest at 3 cents per pound. For 20 types of rockfish, yellow eye (red snapper) topped the list at $1.49, up 20 cents. Geoduck clams paid out at $6.27, down 32 cents. Longnose skates fetched 49 cents, up a nickel. Halibut averaged $6.25, an increase of 19 cents per pound. Sablefish averaged $7.36 compared to $6.50 the year before. Sockeye salmon averaged $1.26, up 20 cents. At $5.73, chinook salmon increased from $4.88; cohos at $1.23 were up a nickel, chums at 70 cents increased by 8 cents, and pinks at 36 cents per pound dropped a penny. The priciest Alaska catch was spot shrimp paying out at $9.32, up 36 cents. Sculpins were the cheapest at one penny a pound. Another report shows how much each fishery produced and what processors sold it for. Alaska pollock topped them all with 1.3 billion pounds processed for a first wholesale value of $1.5 billion. Sockeye salmon was second at nearly $790 million for 208 million pounds. Why should all Alaskans care about fish prices? With annual catches coming in at 5 billion to 6 billion pounds per year, adding just one penny per pound to the total catch makes a difference of nearly $1 million dollars in landing taxes for the state and local governments each. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Bristol Bay lone bright spot for salmon so far

Sockeye salmon catches often add up to half of the value of Alaska’s total salmon fishery, and the so-called reds dominate the season’s early fisheries starting in mid-May. But sockeye catches so far range from record-setting highs at Bristol Bay to record lows nearly everywhere else. For example, the Copper River sockeye harvest of just 26,000 is the lowest in 50 years. At Kodiak just 212,000 sockeyes were taken through July 6, making it the weakest harvest in 38 years. Sockeye fishing at Yakutat has been closed due to the lowest returns in 50 years; likewise, fishermen at Chignik also have yet to see an opener. Sockeye harvest levels at Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula also are running well below average. Fishery scientists suspect the downturns are due to the warmest sea-surface temperatures ever recorded running from 2014-16, which likely depleted food sources before the sockeyes returned from the ocean this year as adults. At the other extreme, the early sockeye run at Bristol Bay set records for some of the best catches ever. By July 6 fishermen at the Nushagak district had four harvests that topped 1 million reds per day, including a record 1.77 million fish taken on July 1. Salmon trackers Anyone can easily track Alaska’s daily and weekly salmon catches with two free sources. The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game’s “Blue Sheet” updates salmon catches daily for every Alaska region from May through September. Through June 6 it showed that just over 22.2 million salmon had been taken so far: 16.5 million sockeyes, nearly 5 million chums, 91,000 chinook, 8,000 coho and 636,000 pink salmon. ADFG also provides a weekly in-season summary and catch tally by region. The harvests are graphed to show the progression of catches for the fishing season, with comparisons to the previous year and 5-year averages. The timing charts can be customized by region, area, district or fishery and all five salmon species. Another Alaska salmon source is the harvest summary done weekly by the McDowell Group for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. It also shows catches by species and region with comparisons to the previous year’s catch. As of July 5 the summary showed that the pace of Alaska’s salmon harvest was about 25 percent below the same time last year, an improvement from the previous week. Sign up for the summary by contacting Garret Evridge at [email protected] Fish watch Lots of fishing is going on besides salmon all summer across Alaska. Cod, pollock, flounders and other whitefish are being hauled in from the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. The Dungeness crab fishery in Southeast is ongoing with a summer harvest pegged at 2.25 million pounds. A red king crab fishery is underway at Norton Sound with a limit of 290,282 pounds. Golden king crab along the Aleutians opens Aug. 1 with a 6.3 million pound harvest. Lingcod fisheries continue in portions of Prince William Sound and the Panhandle. Shrimp fisheries also are ongoing in both regions. Scallop fisheries opened across Alaska on July 1 with a total take of 265,000 pounds of shucked meats. The Dutch Harbor food and bait herring fishery opened July 1 with a catch quota set at 1,810 tons. For halibut, 47 percent of Alaska’s 17 million-pound catch has been taken so far with less than 9 million pounds remaining. For sablefish, about 15 million pounds are left in the nearly 26 million-pound quota. Both fisheries run through Nov. 7. In other fish news: the Alaska Board of Fisheries will hold a special meeting on July 17 in Anchorage to address several emergency management petitions, including hatchery production in Prince William Sound, sockeye failures at Chignik, Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula, and gillnet chum fishing on the Yukon. Finally, Trump’s trade war with Alaska’s top seafood buyer, China, went into effect on July 6. A 25 percent tariff will be imposed on Chinese imports of Alaska salmon, pollock, cod, herring, flatfish, Dungeness crab, sablefish, geoduck clams, mackerel and more. That’s on top of existing tariffs ranging from 5 to 15 percent. China purchased 54 percent of Alaska’s seafood exports last year valued at $1.3 billion. Ferry science The state ferry Columbia now has more than six months of data since it began testing the waters for acidity last fall from Southeast Alaska across British Columbia to Bellingham, Wash. The weekly testing is part of an unprecedented Alaska-Canada collaboration to learn how increasing ocean acidity affects regional fisheries. “Nowhere in the world is there a ferry system that’s outfitted with CO2 sensors running that scale of a transit. It is really exciting,” said Wiley Evans, the technical lead for Canada’s Hakai Institute who rigged the 418-foot ferry to suck up water samples while it is underway. The samples are measured automatically for oxygen, temperature, salinity and carbon dioxide, which indicates the acidity of the water. “We’re trying to understand the time and space patterns in surface ocean CO2 chemistry near shore. In this area, it’s extremely data-poor, Evans said.” The project aims to discover how ocean acidity levels change seasonally, and where there are hot spots or refuges from corrosive waters. Off kilter oean chemistry makes it hard for marine creatures — and the micro-organisms they feed on — to form shells, among other things. The ferry information can help scientists estimate the rate at which acidification is occurring in near-shore waters. Preliminary ferry data point to an extremely variable seascape in which the surface water is primarily corrosive in fall and winter, representing the most vulnerable time of year for species sensitive to ocean acidity. When spring arrives, two primary factors create a change: the phytoplankton bloom removes CO2 from the water through photosynthesis, and the water gets warmer making conditions more favorable for shell production. The Columbia data is uploaded daily to the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network website. Major studies show the southeast and southwest regions of the Gulf of Alaska will take the hardest economic hits from increasingly acidic waters. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Alaska seafood exports hit with tariffs by China

Shockwaves rocked the Alaska seafood industry when China announced on June 15 that it will add an additional 25 percent tariff on seafood imports starting July 6 in retaliation to tariffs set by President Donald Trump. “The 25 percent will be added to the current base tariffs which typically range from 5 to 15 percent,” said Garrett Evridge, a fishery analyst with the McDowell Group. The list of seafood products includes all Alaska salmon, pollock, cod, herring, flatfish, Dungeness crab, snow crab, Atka mackerel, sablefish, geoduck clams and more. “This is devastating news,” said Frances Leach, executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska, which represents 34 groups. “The tariff will not just impact commercial fishermen but will also affect the more than 60,000 individuals who are employed by the state’s fishing industry.” China has been Alaska’s top seafood customer since 2011, purchasing 54 percent of all seafood exports valued at $1.3 billion in 2017. The bulk of Alaska’s fish harvests go to China for reprocessing before they are sent to customers around the world. Those also will be subject to the 25 percent tariff, said market expert John Sackton of SeafoodNew.com. “China has become the de facto export destination for virtually all seafood reprocessing done overseas. The cost of these tariffs will slam the seafood industry, because ultimately there is little choice but to continue to send these products to China,” he said. “So through no fault of our own, most companies will see a big hit to their bottom line because they will have to agree to lower prices in order to maintain marketability in the face of this 25 percent increase in costs.” “This represents the worst outcome feared by the industry,” Sackton added. “The Chinese are deliberately targeting smaller industries that have little ability to fight back.” Candidates mostly pan Pebble Five candidates for Alaska governor met up at the Bristol Bay Fish Expo in Naknek last week. The debate focused on a wide range of topics affecting rural Alaska, including two hot fish issues. Naknek is the hub of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run at Bristol Bay, which also is at the heart of the proposed plans for the Pebble Mine. Gov. Bill Walker said emphatically that he is not in favor of the Pebble mine. “I had an interesting discussion with a group that said it can be done safely. My response was ‘what if it doesn’t?’ Look at all that is at risk. I am very pro-development and pro-mining but not in that location,” Walker said. Mead Treadwell, a Republican candidate from Anchorage, said he will not trade one resource for another. As a former deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Treadwell said he helped write state water quality standards. “If this mine cannot meet the kind of water quality and habitat protection standards that we have created to protect our fisheries, then it won’t happen,” he stated. “From what I’ve seen it is going to be very hard for Pebble to make it through the process…But it makes sense to have a strong public process where we get to analyze what is happening,” Treadwell added. Republican candidate Scott Hawkins of Anchorage said the mine has the legal right to go through the permitting process, but that it “very well may be the wrong mine in the wrong place because if anything goes wrong, there is just so much at stake.” “I think the mine is losing momentum,” Hawkins added. “All the big investors have decided that it just doesn’t work on several levels. A lot of it is just how controversial it is to the people in this region and that is hurting the mining industry.” Mark Begich, a Democrat from Anchorage, has long touted the “wrong mine/wrong place” meme, which was first stated years ago by former Sen. Ted Stevens. “When people say they are against it, they should be against it all the way,” Begich said. “The first thing I would do as governor would be to immediately make sure the Corps of Engineers knows that state land or state right of way or state access would not be part of their plans or participate in any way. I believe that would finally put an end to this project and end the divisiveness it has caused throughout all of Alaska. This issue is like Groundhog Day, it never goes away and just keeps coming back.” Mike Dunleavy, a Republican candidate from Wasilla, was more equivocal saying it was difficult for him to answer until Pebble goes through the study process. “Once we can examine that data, then I think a final decision can be made,” Dunleavy said, adding that if the mine is going to endanger fisheries or other resources in the area, “I think we all should be against it.” “I do think there is a danger in politicizing this study process that we have. In the end, if it is not a good project we shouldn’t have it permitted.” No backers for salmon initiative The Stand for Salmon initiative that aims to update habitat protections for the first time since statehood could go before voters in November. But the measure has little support from the gubernatorial candidates. “While I don’t support it, I certainly understand that local input is critical in the process,” said Walker. “I believe the reason we have Stand for Salmon is because the Coastal Zone Management Program died in the 2011 legislative session and that took away local input into the development process,” Walker added. “I think this is what happens when you take away input by the people: you meet them at a ballot initiative or you meet them in the court room and I think that is unfortunate.” Treadwell also said he does not support the salmon initiative. “This bill essentially assumes that every stream is anadromous when it’s not. This would take away your property rights without protecting the fish,” Treadwell said. “Do I stand for salmon and believe we need to protect salmon? Absolutely. I don’t think this is the right law to do it.” Hawkins said the “devil is in the details” and he believes the ballot initiative would have a lot of unintended consequences and “shut down a lot of things in this state.” “It’s not that our permitting process couldn’t do with some tightening up,” Hawkins added. “We need to have a process that knows how to say no. Just because you apply for a permit should not mean that at the end of the day you are going to get it. We need a very stringent permitting system that holds projects to very high standards, but I don’t think the initiative is the way we get there.” Dunleavy echoed those sentiments. “I believe there are a number of projects throughout the state that could be at risk. This is a resource state and we need to develop our resources,” Dunleavy said. “We need to do it responsibly and I think the projects should be reviewed separately and held to a permitting and processing standard. I just don’t think an initiative such as Stand for Salmon is good for Alaska.” Begich said he will take a position when a state court rules on the constitutionality of the salmon ballot initiative. “At that point I will make a decision. But I will say that the laws should be revamped and reviewed and that has not been done,” Begich said. “This is a clear symbol of what’s broken in Juneau,” he added. “When you have almost 50,000 Alaskans bring forward an initiative, you have to respect their views and figure out how to fix this problem and make sure our salmon preserved for generations to come.” The entire debate is posted at KTVA’s website. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Net challenge builds on success; BSAI tops industry impact

Plastics in recycled fishing nets are being used to make an amazing array of products around the globe and Alaska plans to get in on the action. An Alaska Net Hack Challenge is being planned for Sept. 8 and 9 that aims to identify potential opportunities for using the tons of old nets piled up in landfills and storage lots across the state and develop new items from the materials. Fishing nets can weigh from 5,000 to 20,000 pounds each. “The purpose of the program is to change how people look at fishing nets and ropes. Instead of looking at them as waste materials, hopefully, they will start seeing them as a valuable resource and materials they can use in a different way,” said Nicole Baker, a former fisheries observer and founder of www.netyourproblem.com.  Baker spearheaded a project last summer in Dutch Harbor that collaborated with the local fishing industry and Global Ghost Gear Initiative to ship nearly 240,000 pounds, or about 40 nets, to a company called Plastix in Denmark where they were melted down, pelletized and resold to manufacturers of plastic products. “Socks are being made from recycled fishing nets, water bottles, cell phone cases, carpets, bathing suits, sneakers, sunglasses, skateboards, rugs, bowls, even 3-D printing and injection molds. People are becoming so creative about finding ways to reuse these plastic products,” Baker said. The Alaska Net Hack Challenge is based on the Circular Ocean program in the U.K. and Iceland that “aims to inspire enterprises and entrepreneurs to realize the hidden opportunities in discarded fishing nets.” Along with Baker, the two-day events are being organized in Anchorage by the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, or AOCI, and by Brian Himelbloom, a retired University of Alaska seafood specialist in Kodiak. “We will dump a bunch of waste nets and rope in the middle of a room and encourage artists, students, designers, business owners, engineers, recyclers and others to take the materials and design products out of it,” Baker explained, adding that Arctic Wire and Rope of Anchorage and gear manufacturers in Seattle are providing supplies for the Anchorage challenge, whereas Kodiak has plenty of “end of life” nets to offer. “On the first day we will show presentations about the context and scale of the issue, the type of materials available, and some products and business models that have been implemented already to get people’s gray matter warmed up,” she added. “On the second day, teams will get together and use the material and design a prototype that will be presented to the judges to get their feedback.” Judges will score the projects on creativity, usefulness and scalability and follow the development over six months. Video conferencing also will be available so that other interested communities can have a guideline on organizing Net Hack Challenges in their fishing towns. The ultimate hope is that some of the prototype projects will become commercially viable through the AOCI’s Blue Economy push that helps develop products to their final stages. The Alaska Net Hack Challenge is in its early organizational stage and a website and social media where people can register will be up and running in a few weeks, said AOIC director Joel Cladouhos. In the interim, emails to [email protected] will serve as the contact point. Meanwhile, later this month Nicole Baker will be back in Dutch Harbor and also at St. Paul to collect more nets and give them new life in different useful forms. “My goal is to fill more than seven container loads and top least year’s take,” she said. BS/AI booming In Alaska’s fisheries, the regions of Southeast, Cook Inlet, Bristol Bay and Kodiak attract the most attention. But it turns out that the more far-flung and remote areas provide some of the state’s biggest fish bucks — notably, the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands regions, called BS/AI. A new McDowell Group report measured the statewide economic impacts of shoreside processing operations in Dutch Harbor, Saint Paul, King Cove, Sand Point, False Pass, and other small communities based on an average of 2015 and 2016 harvests and production. It turns out that approximately 30 percent of the seafood industry’s total economic impact in Alaska can be attributed to BS/AI inshore processing and related fishing activity, adding up to nearly $1.6 billion in 2016. Forty-four percent of all seafood processing wages paid in Alaska stemmed from that region, totaling almost $440 million. And a whopping 56 percent of all fish taxes paid in Alaska, including Fisheries Business Tax and taxes levied by local governments, totaled nearly $60 million. Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, with a population of about 4,300, is the largest community in the region and has been the top seafood port in the U.S. by volume for more than 20 years. Forty-seven percent of the town’s workers were employed in seafood processing. All other BS/AI communities have fewer than 1,000 residents. The seasonality and huge volumes of seafood require bringing in workers from elsewhere, but the proportion of Alaska residents on the job in the BS/AI has increased from 17 to 24 percent since 2006. The Economic impact of inshore seafood processing in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Region was produced for Icicle Seafoods Peter Pan Seafoods Trident Seafoods UniSea, Westward and Alyeska Seafoods. Crab shell creations The young Tidal Vision entrepreneurs of Juneau continue to expand their line of “upcycled” products made from a crab shell extract called chitosan. An all-natural solution called High Tide enhances plant growth by triggering the natural immune response that results in larger and hardier crops. “In different plants that means increased yield or sap production, and increased likelihood of plants surviving fungal infections,” said Craig Kasburg, Tidal Vision president, adding that High Tide has been tested on a variety of plants from turf to trees. “It helps to revive stressed trees that are grown in nurseries, such as those that are transported or subjected to a sudden drop in temperature. It has increased their survival rate,” he said. “It also increases the size of berries and tomato plants and decreases the number that die of disease.” High Tide also has produced similar results in the growing of marijuana. “We did trials with over 500 cannabis growers and found the same results,” Kasburg said. “By increasing the sap production, it increased the essential oils and the THC and CBD, everything that makes cannabis valuable.” A crab shell infused spray called Game Meat Protector also is being sold to hunters that protects meat from spoiling and being infested by insects. “It’s simply water, chitosan, and citric acid,” Kasberg said. “When it’s applied it leaves a thin film on the game meat. Because of chitosan’s natural anti-microbial properties and the low pH citric acid, it acts as a preservative and protects the quality of the game meat. It also prevents bugs and insects from landing and burrowing into it.” “It is sort of an insurance policy for hunters,” he added. “When hunting deep in the backcountry there is always a risk of bad weather or other things that can cause a delay. Having a natural way to preserve the quality of the meat as it is being harvested is an important step for hunters.” One eight-ounce bottle is enough to cover an entire large game animal and it can also be sprayed on game bags for extra protection. Purchase Game Meat Protector at Amazon and other outdoor outlets, as well as at the Tidal Vision website. You’ll also find sponges, beverage fining agents, pool clarifiers and more — all originating from Alaska crab shells. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.  

FISH FACTOR: Hagfish studied for fishery potential; questions sought for Bay debate

Hagfish is the real name for what are commonly called slime eels and could become a viable fishery with ready markets standing by. Little is known about hagfish in Alaska, although they are commonly caught elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad. In Oregon, for example, a fleet of 15 to 20 boats catches up to 2 million pounds each year in customized five-gallon buckets or large barrels and pay fishermen up to $1.25 per pound. Now, two Alaska biologists who were given a special permit to catch 60,000 pounds of hagfish for their studies are testing the waters for a fishery with a longliner in Southeast. “It’s commonly seen as a pest,” said Andrew Olson, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Douglas. “In longline fisheries for sablefish, they often leave slime blobs on the hooks and strip bait, and they get into shrimp pots as well.” Olson is in the second year of a hagfish study with fellow researcher Aaron Baldwin. Their goal is to “keep the science ahead of any fishery to make sure it is sustainable” by learning more about the unique species. “We are looking at basic biology such as length, weight and egg counts in females. We can’t yet age the fish and they don’t thrive well in captivity. We are really starting from scratch,” Olson said. Reproduction and spawning have never been witnessed or documented, and biologists don’t know where or when hagfish do so. “We’ve seen eggs, and juveniles, but nothing in between,” said Baldwin. “No one has ever seen a baby hagfish.” A single foot-and-a-half, nine-ounce hagfish can fill a bucket with slime in seconds from 100 glands alongside its body. “It’s extruded and looks like a white latex liquid that comes out when it’s dry and it expands when it hits seawater. The slime molecules will entrap water molecules and it is an amazing substance,” he said. The slime has several functions: it suffocates predators, helps hunt prey by forcing them out of burrows and it lubricates entry into fish through the anus. “It has digestive enzymes so when you open up a sablefish, for example, it is literally bones, hagfish slime and a few hagfish inside the fish. They start with the internal organs and eat every bit of flesh that’s in there,” Baldwin explained. Most slime, as with slugs, is just mucus, he said and doesn’t have the capability of absorbing water molecules and expanding. “Hagfish produce a very unique substance. It is definitely one of a kind,” Baldwin added. Studies by the U.S. Navy and other researchers has shown that the chemical makeup of hagfish slime is stronger than spider silk. “Because of its qualities there are lots of efforts to make synthetic duplicates or bioengineer bacteria to produce the slime for industrial purposes,” Baldwin said. “The U.S. Navy is using synthetic hagfish slime to produce a substance that is lighter and stronger than Kevlar. The slime also shows potential as an anti-foulant for ship hulls. And medical research has shown that hagfish slime heals burns quickly and may be used as microfibers for cell repair.” A well-established market for hagfish is Korea where the meat is a barbecue and stir fry favorite and the skin is sold as “eel skin leather” products. “It’s been a fun project to work on,” Baldwin said. “We get to work with fishermen on developing a fishery and it’s a species we haven’t paid much attention to so everything we are learning is really new to us.” If Alaska fishermen encounter hagfish in waters outside of Southeast, Olson and Baldwin would like to know about it. Learn more about hagfish at Alaska Fish and Wildlife News where you also can see videos of commercial hagfish fishing aboard the Viking Sunrise and a biologist handling hagfish slime. Alaska tops for salmon catches Salmon catches throughout the North Pacific remain near all-time highs, and Alaska’s take tops them all. For 25 years the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission has summarized abundances and catches of salmon as reported by its member countries Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia and the U.S. The Commission tracks chums, cohos, pinks, sockeyes, chinook and steelhead trout in the North Pacific, Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, and also provides the venue for coordinating research and enforcement activities. For 2017, just more than 460 million salmon weighing more than 2 billion pounds were caught in those waters, less than recent odd-year averages. Salmon catches tend to increase in odd-numbered years when the most abundant species — pink salmon — tend to run higher. Last year the U.S. fleets topped Russia by catching more than any other nation with 53 percent of the total salmon catch, topping 1 billion pounds, with Alaska taking all but 22 million pounds of that. Russia took 38 percent of the N. Pacific salmon last year (nearly 77 million pounds), with all other countries in single digit percentages. As usual, pink salmon made up the bulk of the commercial catch at 49 percent by weight, followed by chums at 29 percent and sockeyes at 19 percent. Cohos made up three percent of the total N. Pacific catch, with Chinook salmon at one percent. The NPAFC report said catch trends for pinks and especially chums in Asia have been declining for 10 years with 2017 the lowest harvest since 2002. In North America, the abundance of salmon species varies from north to south. In Alaska, pink and sockeye salmon are the primary species, followed by chums. In Canada, sockeye, pink, and chums have historically comprised the largest catch, while in Washington, Oregon, and California chums, chinook and coho salmon are the most abundant species. The Commission also tracks releases of hatchery salmon. Member countries released just over five billion fish in 2017, similar to numbers over the past three decades. U.S. hatcheries released the most at 37 percent of the total (nearly 1.9 billion fish), followed by Japan at 35 percent and Russia at 21 percent. Canada released 7 percent of the hatchery fish in the North Pacific and Korea less than 1 percent. Chum salmon made up 64 percent of all hatchery releases, followed by pinks at 25 percent, sockeyes at 5 percent, Chinook salmon at four percent and cohos at less than one percent. Got questions? Organizers of the upcoming Bristol Bay Fish Expo are asking Alaskans to submit questions for the governor candidates’ debate on June 9 in Naknek. “This debate is so important for us in rural Alaska to educate our next governor about what issues we face every day,” said Katie Copps-Wilson. Gov. Bill Walker, Mike Dunleavy, Scott Hawkins and Mike Chenault quickly agreed to participate in the two-hour event. Chenault has since dropped out of the race and Mark Begich is in, causing some last-minute shuffling. “Anyone who has filed will get an invitation,” Copps-Wilson said. “We want to make sure that we address what’s on the minds of people in the community and the state of Alaska.” The question topics will include outmigration, substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues, energy needs and economics, “The candidates will be debating in Bristol Bay, the heart of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run, and at the forefront of that is the Pebble mine. There will definitely be a conversation about where the candidates stand on the mine,” Copps-Wilson said. The two-hour debate will be moderated by Rhonda McBride of KTVA and broadcast live on radio stations KDLG and KAKN. Alaskans are invited to submit written questions on line at [email protected] or at the Expo prior to the debate. The 2nd annual Expo is a fundraiser for Little Angels Childcare Academy and has attracted over 50 exhibitors so far to Naknek, home to 10 fish processing companies and over 1,000 fishing boats. The two-day event has a packed line up of presentations and events, including the biggest money-maker on Friday night – live and silent auctions with professional auctioneer Dan Newman of Alaska Premier Auctions and Appraisals in Anchorage. “We have some really cool items donated, such as breakfast with Governor Walker and a flight around the Pebble Mine site,” Copps-Wilson said. Other items include eight hours of welding, five hours of professional logo or website design and “a boatload of gear from Grundens.” Auction donations are still being accepted and can be made at www.bristolbayfishexpo.com The Expo takes place June 8 and 9 at the Naknek school. All events are free but visitor registration is encouraged. Last year’s Expo raised nearly $15,000 for Little Angels Childcare Academy and with more participants coming from far and wide, the organizers believe that this year’s tally will likely be even higher. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon fishermen should see strong prices

Forces are aligned for a nice payday for Alaska’s salmon fishermen. There is no backlog from last season in cold storages, a lower harvest forecast is boosting demand, prices for competing farmed salmon have remained high all year, and a devalued U.S. dollar makes Alaska salmon more appealing to foreign customers. “Over the past year the dollar has weakened 11 percent against the euro, 9 percent against the British pound, 5 percent against the Japanese yen, and 7 percent against the Chinese yuan. That makes Alaska salmon and other seafood more affordable to those top overseas customers,” said Garrett Evridge, a fisheries analyst at the McDowell Group. Last year Alaska seafood exports set records in terms of volume and value: 1.1 billion metric tons valued at $3.45 billion. Alaska salmon accounted for 22 percent of the volume and 36 percent of the value. On the home front, the weaker dollar will make imports from Chile, the largest farmed salmon importer to the U.S. followed by Norway, more expensive. That also will apply to imports of competing wild salmon from Canada where — if it materializes — a big sockeye run is predicted at nearby British Columbia. “About every four years we expect a relatively large harvest from the Fraser River run in B.C. In 2014 they produced about 83 million pounds of salmon and sockeye was the largest component,” Evridge said. “Likewise, a weaker dollar will make wild salmon imports from Russia and Japan more expensive for U.S. buyers.” Russia, which had grown from a $10 million customer of primarily pink salmon roe to $60 million in 2013, has banned all imports of U.S. seafood since 2014. Meanwhile, that country continues to send millions of tons of salmon and other seafood into the U.S. For example, 2017 trade data from the National Marine Fisheries Service show that Russia sent nearly 4 million pounds of frozen sockeye salmon to the U.S. valued at just more than $13 million, a $2 million increase over the previous year. Alaska’s salmon forecast for 2018 calls for a harvest of 149 million fish, down 34 percent from last year. Salmon starters Copper River salmon fishermen were beached for a third scheduled opener on May 24 due to concerns over low numbers of sockeyes. The first fishery on May 17 produced a catch of just 1,900 reds out of an expected 38,600. For the second opener on May 21 the sockeye catch was 3,900 fish – predicted landings were 80,000. The king salmon take from the two 12-hour fisheries totaled 4,000 fish. Fishery managers said it’s too soon to say if the low numbers indicate a delay or a much smaller run than expected. The breakup of the Copper River is behind schedule and water levels are low. They also blame cold ocean temperatures for the delay in sockeye returns. “We will know soon where we are in the early run, which usually peaks on June 1,” said longtime fisherman Jerry McCune. Latest prices at Copper River were reported at $14 per pound for king salmon and $10.50 for sockeyes after the second opener. That’s down from $15.65 for kings and $10.65 for reds (or higher), plus delivery bonuses on opening day. More salmon fisheries around the state will start kicking off within days, with other areas in Prince William Sound opening on May 31. Districts at Lower Cook Inlet open June 1 with Upper Cook Inlet fisheries starting on June 18. Togiak at Bristol Bay also opens on June 1 with other Bay districts opening on June 4; the Nushagak district opens on June 11. Chignik also is set to open for sockeyes on June 1. Yakutat gillnetters will get to fish starting June 7, as will salmon fishermen at the South Alaska Peninsula. Kodiak’s first opener for sockeyes is tentatively scheduled for June 9 but could open as early as June 1 depending on runs to the west side. Southeast Alaska drift gillnet openings start on June 17. Once again there is unlikely to be any commercial salmon fishing at the Kuskokwim due to a lack of buyers since the new plant at Platinum stopped operating a few years ago. Norton Sound opens to salmon fishing on June 25 and Kotzebue on July 10. At the Yukon River, commercial fishing for chums will be based on in-season run estimates. As many as 1.4 million chums could be available to Yukon fishermen this summer, and 1.2 million in the fall. Find links to regional salmon summaries at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Commercial Fisheries page. Big chill in the Bay Salmon fishermen at Bristol Bay set a record last summer for chilling their fish. Despite an unexpected hit of one of the biggest sockeye runs in 20 years, 73 percent of the salmon deliveries by the region’s 1,447 driftnet boats were chilled, adding up to a record 130 million pounds of salmon. That’s a 5 percent increase over the previous year and compares to a 24 percent chilling rate from 2008. In addition, chilled raw product purchase amounts from the set net fleet increased by more than 33 percent. That good news came from the annual 2017 Processor Survey done by Anchorage-based Northern Economics for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. The RSDA is operated and funded by the drift fleet with a one percent tax on their catches. The better fish quality meant most of the salmon shifted away from the low value canning line into pricier products. Last year a record 83 percent of the sockeyes were put up whole/headed and gutted, or as fillets; only 14 percent of the Bay’s sockeye salmon last summer went into cans. That compares to upwards of 75 percent being canned 20 years ago. When asked if there are any notable quality improvements gained from chilled, floated fish in RSW systems (refrigerated sea water) compared to chilled, non-floated fish in slush ice, all respondents said the quality of RSW salmon is typically better. Consistent chilling combined with lower brailer weights (500 to 600 pounds or less per bag) were reported as the best practices having the largest impact on the quality of delivered fish. So what’s the big deal about Bristol Bay salmon if you fish or live elsewhere? “The sockeye resource at Bristol bay is very unique because of its size. Typically, it’s 35 to 40 percent of the global sockeye supply, and it is a huge chunk of Alaska’s salmon value overall,” said fisheries economist Andy Wink. Last year, Bristol Bay’s catch of nearly 37 million sockeye accounted for fully half of the value of Alaska’s entire salmon fishery, and a similar harvest is expected this summer. The size of that harvest, Wink said, has a big impact on salmon prices elsewhere. “Certainly in 2015 when the base price was just 50 cents at Bristol Bay and they had a large harvest, we saw coho prices come way down and sockeye prices in other areas were down quite a bit too,” he explained. “It’s a market moving fishery and that is why it affects so many other Alaska fishermen even if they don’t fish in the Bay.” The 2017 sockeye salmon price at Bristol Bay averaged $1.02 a pound, a six-cent increase over the year before, and the price is expected to be higher this summer. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Federal study seeking input on long-term fisheries changes

The way that fisheries are managed determines the daily tempo for fishing families’ lives. Managers set the dates and times…the whens and wheres and whos … and the amounts that fishermen can catch. What happens to fishing families when any of the rules change? A new federal study aims to find out. “Those things are important for fishery managers to consider and try and integrate into their decision making, because there really are universal themes as far as how management changes have affected families,” said Marysia Szymkowiak, a social scientist for NOAA Fisheries based in Juneau. Over the past year, Szymkowiak has held scoping meetings in communities across Alaska to learn the impacts of fishing changes. The results, she said, will represent a history of how generations of families have adapted with the implementation of limited entry and catch share programs, and now with the decreasing abundance in certain key fisheries. “We’re getting into the thousands of years in terms of cumulative experiences and knowledge of Alaska’s fisheries,” Szymkowiak said. “It’s a wealth of information that we haven’t tapped into, and I feel so privileged to be able to talk with people who share heartfelt stories about families and the things that are built from that experience.” The project emerged from a 20-year review Szymkowiak co-authored about impacts of the halibut and sablefish fisheries that in 1995 switched from being open-to-all to an Individual Fishing Quota, or IFQ, system that gave shares of the catch to fishermen based on their historical participation. “One of the things we heard was the different impacts on women who participated prior to IFQs,” Szymkowiak said. “One said the new program made the halibut season too long and she could no longer participate because it conflicted with her responsibilities as a mom.” Limited access to fisheries is a main theme voiced in scoping meetings, combined with environmental concerns affecting the stocks. “For some families there is less of a buffer when a stock declines in terms of their ability to diversify within fisheries,” Szymkowiak said. “This can really lead to stress within families, having to seek other employment, and can really change the social fabric of fishing communities.” Another theme, she said, is a strong sense of resilience and values that go beyond the economics of going fishing. “In terms of shaping young people and creating a work ethic and a sense of place and community, there is a cross generational participation in fisheries that is really unique,” she added. A final Fishing Families scoping meeting is set for Kodiak on June 4, after which Szymkowiak will begin compiling a report on the findings. Questions? Contact [email protected] Nearly $500 for a Copper River king Alaska’s salmon season got off to a slow and drizzly start on May 17 at the first opener at the Copper River. The low catches by more than 500 gillnetters pushed prices to unprecedented levels. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s “blue sheet” of daily catches showed totals of just 3,000 king salmon and 2,000 sockeyes taken during the 12-hour opener. Bill Webber, a 51-year veteran highliner of the famous fishery, ended up with 10 king salmon and six sockeyes by closing time. “It’s not a great start to the season,” Webber said aboard his F/V Paradigm Shift while waiting for a slack tide to turn. If the fish tickets match the reports from the grounds, Thursday’s opener could be one of the slowest starts to the Copper River season since record keeping began 40 years ago, said Jeremy Botz, regional manager for ADFG in Cordova. The slim early catches had customers scrambling to source enough Copper River salmon for their “first fish of the season” celebrations, many promised within 24 hours of the salmon being caught. That pressure pushed prices to record levels. “The price wars are definitely going on due to the low production,” Webber said, adding that early price reports were $8.50 per pound for sockeyes and $13 a pound for king salmon. That compares to $8 and $11, respectively, during the first opener last year. The salmon prices ticked upwards all day, skyrocketing to $10.65 per pound for sockeyes and $15.65 for kings shortly after the 7 p.m. closure, “with a 65-cent dock bonus everywhere,” said a spokesperson for Alaska Wild Seafoods. “This opener is taking the cake on fish prices so far,” Webber added. Alaska Airlines made its first delivery of 16,000 pounds salmon to Seattle by early Friday morning. The airline celebrated its 9th annual Copper Chef Cook Off on the SeaTac tarmac, where chefs compete to prepare the best salmon recipe — in this case a 31-pound king salmon donated by Trident Seafoods. With the high prices at the end of opening day, that single “first fish” had a value of more than $485 at the Cordova docks. The Copper River salmon prices will drop off sharply after the early season hoopla fades, but the region’s famous fish will maintain some of the highest prices into the fall. The forecast calls for a Copper River harvest of about 950,000 sockeyes and 19,000 kings for the 2018 season. Football sidelines fish The North Pacific’s oldest and most popular marine trade show has been sidelined by Thursday night football. “Folks that have been with us for a long time know that holding Pacific Marine Expo at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle means that we have to come second to the NFL,” said Denielle Christensen, event organizer for Diversified Communications. The trade show, now in its 52nd year, has traditionally been held in November at the CenturyLink center the week before Thanksgiving. Last month organizers learned that a Thursday night game of the Seattle Seahawks versus Green Bay would spike those dates. “CenturyLink has been an excellent partner to us,” Christensen graciously added. “When they called us, they knew we were not going to be happy with our options. But they have always been clear with us that NFL and sports in general is their primary business.” The Expo team canvassed customers about holding the event either during Thanksgiving week or right before Christmas. “Most folks wanted us to stay closer to the usual time in November. So we’ve ended up at the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, which is November 18, 19 and 20.” Christensen said she does not expect the date change to dampen Expo enthusiasm. “I don’t think it will have a particularly large impact on the exhibits or attendance just because of the loyalty this show has built up over the years. People really love it,” she said. Pacific Marine Expo is rated as one of the nation’s top trade shows and last year it attracted 500 exhibitors and over 6,000 visitors from 40 states and 24 countries. Visit www.pacificmarineexpo.com. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon season set for May 17 start at Copper River

Alaska’s 2018 salmon season officially gets underway this week with the first 12-hour opener on May 17 for sockeyes and kings returning to the Copper River. The catch there this year calls for 19,000 kings and 942,000 sockeye salmon targeted by a fleet of more than 500 drift gillnetters. Here’s a primer of how fishery managers project the rest of Alaska’s salmon season may play out: Statewide, the 2018 salmon harvest is projected at 149 million fish, down 34 percent from the 2017 take of 226 million salmon. The shortfall this season stems from lower projections for hard-to-predict pink salmon. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a total humpie harvest of just more than 70 million, down by half from last year. For sockeyes, a statewide catch of about 52 million is down by 1.8 million fish from 2017, which was the fifth-largest red salmon catch since 1970. By far, most of the sockeyes will come from Bristol Bay’s nine river systems where a harvest of 37.5 million is projected. For chum salmon, this year’s Alaska catch is pegged at 21 million, down by nearly 4 million from last year’s huge 25 million haul, the largest catch in 47 years. The 2018 coho catch should be nearly 6 million, an increase of 600,000 silvers from last season. For chinook salmon, a catch of 99,000 is projected in areas outside of Southeast Alaska, where the numbers are determined by treaty with Canada. The Southeast harvest will be just 130,000 fish for all users, down 80,000 from last year. For commercial trollers the take is 95,700 taken from a few select areas. The salmon market outlook is good heading into the 2018 season. “Demand for Alaska salmon is fairly strong and competing farmed salmon prices are high. And despite catching over a billion pounds of salmon last year, there are no big inventory concerns,” said longtime fisheries economist Andy Wink of Wink Research and Consulting. Alaska sockeye could face some competition in its expanding fresh market sales from fish at the Fraser River in British Columbia. “Their runs have popped every four years and this is an up year for that system. That would bring a significant volume of fish to market this year,” Wink said, adding, “I’m not too concerned because demand for Alaska sockeye is robust and farmed prices are providing a lot of support.” The average sockeye price paid to Alaska salmon fishermen in 2017 was $1.13 per pound. The price for chinook salmon was $5.86; coho salmon at $1.19, pinks at 32 cents; and chum salmon averaged 66 cents per pound at the docks. The total value of the 2017 salmon fishery was nearly $680 million for Alaska’s fishermen, nearly a 67 percent increase over 2016. Clam diggers get down Razor clams from Alaska are a rare delicacy and are snapped up by restaurants on the west coast and Canada. The giant clams, which can reach more than 10 inches, are harvested by hand from a single 10-mile stretch of beach on the west side of Cook Inlet at the southwest corner of Polly Creek. The fishery, which opens in May and can run into August, is the only commercial razor clam fishery in Alaska. The diggers are allowed to take 350,000 to 400,000 pounds of clams in the shell this year and are paid 65 cents to 75 cents per pound. “About half of that is clam meat. Any broken clams go to the pet food market,” said Pat Shields, regional manager at ADFG in Soldotna. Coolers filled with whole clams are flown four to six times per day from the beach to the Pacific Alaska Shellfish plant in Nikiski, where they are immediately processed and sent to awaiting markets. “The processors also get 60 cents to 70 cents a pound to shuck them. Then they are vacuum packed and sent fresh or frozen to a lot of markets. It’s a really good product,” Shields said. Nearly all of the clam diggers out on the Cook Inlet flats are from out of state. “Most of the diggers are Hispanic from California,” Shields said. “It’s such hard work that we have a hard time finding local folks to participate.” “You put this big bag on your belt and you’re stooped over for hours at a time,” Shields explained. “Most of them use their hands or a very small spade. They dump them into a bucket and the clams get sorted in coolers.” Other Cook Inlet beaches have been closed to clam digging since 2014 due to a drop off in the stocks. More recently state fishery biologists have found encouraging signs of lots of juvenile razors signaling a potential rebound of the delicious clams. Cash for tags Hook a sablefish (black cod) with a bright orange or green tag and you would win cash. State fish managers awarded $3,000 to seven lucky winners in cash prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000. Their names were drawn by lottery among all those who had returned tags over the past year. Fishery biologists at ADFG have been tagging sablefish in Southeast Alaska since 1979 to learn more about the fish’s movement, growth, and abundance. The farthest north returned sablefish tag was from St. Matthew Island in the Bering Sea; the farthest south came from Humboldt, Calif. But for the most part, most sablefish stay close to home. “You have your sablefish that are like I love my home, I’m just going to stay here,” said Naomi Bargmann at ADFG in Sitka. “That is about 85 to 90 percent of the fish that we get in Chatham (Strait), they stay,” she added. “The rest of them will pick up like Magellan and go explore other places.” One of the oldest tags was 34 years old, returned in 2013, and nearly 35,000 have been recovered in all. This month 7,000 more tagged sablefish were released, bringing the total to more than 140,000 tags since the project began. To qualify for the lottery, the returned tags must include the latitude and longitude where the sablefish was caught and the capture date and method. Anyone who returns a tag receives a T-shirt. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Still deadliest job, but fishing deaths down drastically

Commercial fishing remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation, with a fatality rate that is 23 times higher than for all other workers. Vessel sinkings account for half of all fishing fatalities; second is falling overboard in deaths that are largely preventable. From 2000 through 2016, 204 U.S. fishermen died after falling overboard, according to a just released study called Fatal Falls Overboard in Commercial Fishing by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH. Nearly 60 percent of the falls were not witnessed, and almost 90 percent of the victims were not found. In all instances, not a single fisherman was wearing a PFD (personal flotation device). “I think there is a social stigma against it. It’s a sort of macho thing. I also think there is a lack of awareness that there are really comfortable PFDs,” said Jerry Dzugan, director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association for more than three decades. Today’s life jackets are not the bulky, cumbersome clunkers that most people are familiar with from childhood or have stashed in the cubbies of recreational boats. Newer models are lightweight and built right into rain bibs, or fit comfortably over or into deck gear. “I’ve got a couple that are so comfortable that when I leave my boat, I forget I have them on,” Dzugan said. He estimated that less than 10 percent of Alaska fishermen wear PFDs while working, whereas “a few years ago it was less than 5 percent.” According to the NIOSH report, the number of falls overboard decreased on average by 3.9 percent annually during the study’s time frame. Most falls occurred on the east coast (62), followed by the Gulf of Mexico (60). Alaska ranked third with 51 deaths overall. Alaska’s deadliest catch might surprise you: it’s the salmon drift gillnet fishery with 16 fatalities. “When things go south on a small open boat it happens quickly,” Dzugan said. “Swamping, being hit by a wave and not being able to recover. Sometimes they are fishing alone or with just two people, often in open waters. All of those combine to have those being a particularly high risk.” Dzugan believes wearing a PFD on deck is the No. 1 way that fishermen can save themselves from becoming a statistic. Second is doing onboard safety drills. “Everyone needs to know what to do in the case of an emergency. And every crew member needs to be part of the risk assessment on the boat, not just the captain,” he said. “Also, make sure your boat is watertight, keep your survival gear maintained and practice with it, and get enough sleep.” The NIOSH report also recommends reducing fall hazards on deck and using man overboard alarms and recovery devices. “It costs less than $100 to rig up your own floating lines to trap someone inside and tie them off to a cleat on the rail until you can get them back on the boat,” Dzugan said. Although fishermen have been somewhat slow to adopt preventive measures, he said there has been tremendous improvement in Alaska. “It’s been a total cultural change. In the 1970s there was an average of about 38 to 40 fishing deaths a year in Alaska; it’s averaged 3.5 over the past five years,” he said. “The arc of improvement in fishing vessel safety has been a long one, but it’s been steadily upwards. I’m very optimistic.” (The fatality numbers already have skewed upwards since the data in the NIOSH report were compiled through 2016. Total U.S. fishing deaths have risen to 224, according to report author, Samantha Case of NIOSH in Anchorage. In Alaska, there were 10 fishing deaths in 2017; six were from the sinking of the crab boat Destination in the Bering Sea) Salmon starts! Alaska’s salmon season officially kicks off on May 17 with a 12-hour opener for sockeyes and kings at the famous Copper River. In other fishing updates: Southeast fishery managers announced that under provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, the chinook salmon harvest is limited to 130,000 fish for all users, down 80,000 fish from last year. For trollers, the take is 95,700 kings and the May-June season will open only in a few select areas. Fishing for lingcod in the Panhandle opens May 16 with a 310,700-fish limit. A fishery for coonstripe and spot shrimp opened in Southeast on May 1 with a 675,000-pound quota from four districts. Trawling for sidestripe shrimp also is underway at Prince William Sound with a nearly 113,000-pound catch quota. Norton Sound’s red king crab fishery closed on April 30 just shy of the 50,000-pound winter harvest. The shortage will be added to the summer crab fishery for a combined total of about 300,000 pounds. Alaska’s halibut catch was approaching 3 million pounds with Seward and Sitka leading all ports for deliveries. Sablefish catches topped 4 million pounds with Sitka in the lead for landings. Fishing continues for all kinds of whitefish in both the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Finally, Frankenfish is a step closer to U.S. supermarket sales. AquaBounty, the producer of the genetically engineered salmon won FDA approval last week to grow the fish in an Indiana plant it bought last year for $14 million with a goal to produce 3 million pounds annually. Currently, the salmon are being grown out in Panama. A final hold up is commerce laws that don’t allow the genetically tweaked salmon to be sold in the U.S. until labeling guidelines are in place to inform consumers. Import breaks “Made in America” grants are available to small- and medium-sized companies that have been clobbered by an influx of cheaper imports. “Basically, if it’s a product that competes with imports and the domestic firm is losing ground and the imports are rising, the assistance can be available,” said David Holbert, executive director of the Seattle-based Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, or NWTAAC. The NWTAAC is one of 11 regional non-profits funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and serves companies in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. The group has been around since the 1970s, but is not very well known, Holbert said. It began as a means to help U.S. manufacturers facing competitive disadvantages often caused by global trade deals. The program now includes businesses in other sectors, such as timber, agriculture and fishing. The program offers matching grants of up to $75,000 to mid-sized companies aimed at helping them hire outside expertise to boost their bottom lines. “So that’s $150,000 for projects such as website building and creating marketing tools like brochures, brands and logos, as well as quality certifications, product design, to name a few. No two are the same,” Holbert explained. Eligible smaller businesses with less than $1 million in sales can receive up to 75 percent in matching funds for up to $30,000, meaning their output would be $7,500. “When a company faces destructive price competition, it’s a situation where they can’t win by trying harder. They have to change. For small to medium sized enterprises, change is often instigated by outside expertise. Generally speaking, the companies have to find their way to a customer base that values quality customization and/or rapid fulfillments,” Holbert said. Eligible companies need to show a drop in employment and in sales or production and other trade criteria. The Center handles all the qualifying paper work and if approved, also helps craft a business plan focusing on what would be required for the company to succeed. A company has five years to use the funds. “The companies select their projects and vendors. We’re not telling anyone what to do or who to hire. We’ll advise and help, but it’s your solution to your situation,” Holbert said. For smaller Alaska fishing companies, more than one can apply under the umbrella of a trade association. Bering Sea crabbers, for example, long hammered by imports of Russian crab, used funds to redesign a website, create marketing materials and design a weekly newsletter. “The support and guidance provided by NWTAAC staff throughout the entire funding process was amazing,” wrote the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers trade group. Other Alaska fishing beneficiaries include Taku Fisheries in Juneau and Fields Wild Salmon of Kodiak. Holbert said that Alaska halibut fishermen, who are facing stiff import competition from eastern Canada, also may be eligible. “Don’t be shy about calling. You’re not dealing with a big bureaucracy; you’re going to talk to a person who can relate to you and your business,” Holbert stressed. “If you’ve got a decline in business in recent years and you believe it’s due to imports, we can find out fast if you qualify.” The NWTAAC board of directors is meeting in Anchorage in mid-May. Learn more at www.nwtaac.org or email [email protected] Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: ComFish funding adds study on king salmon decline

A shuffle in some funding leaves Alaska’s commercial fisheries division in good shape to manage the resources and target important projects across the state. At first glance, the $69 million operating budget for fiscal year 2019 appears to be down slightly from last year’s $72.3 million, but that’s not the case. “Most of that difference is a sort of ‘cleanup’ in authority we no longer had funding for, such as the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, test fishing and some interagency items. The rest is due to $1.1 million shortfall in Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission revenue which was made up from other Department funds,” said Scott Kelley, Commercial Fisheries Division director. Added to the budget was a nearly $1 million unrestricted increment offered by Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan, which got the nod from Alaska lawmakers. The extra money will be distributed among 11 projects in four regions: Southeast, Central, Westward and the AYK (Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim). The biggest project focuses on research to help determine the causes of declining chinook salmon. “It’s a $300,000 project for a juvenile chinook marine survey in the Bering Sea,” Kelley said. “Almost the first thing I get asked at meetings around the state is what’s going on with king salmon. That project looks at the early marine survival, which is where we think these mortality events are most affecting the species. It’s the only project in the state that really gives us a first look at what’s going on there.” Other projects back on the funding track include Southeast and Togiak herring research, westward salmon weirs, Southeast sablefish research and Prince William Sound Tanner crab. One thing cut from the commercial fisheries budget was nearly $400,000 for unpopular test fishing programs, where portions of fishermen’s catches are used to help cover management costs. “We don’t need to test fish because we got the general funds. I view that as a very positive development,” Kelley said. The entire state budget still awaits final approval but Kelley expressed confidence in a good outcome, thanks in part to Gov. Bill Walker. “I do believe that the governor is strongly supportive, not just of the Commercial Fisheries Division but for the Department of Fish and Game in general,” he said. Kelley also praised United Fishermen of Alaska and other fishing stakeholders for going to bat for their industry during the legislative session. “Their advocating has been extremely beneficial for the division and greatly appreciated,” Kelley said. Crab share shuffle It’s slow going for brokers who deal in quota shares for crab in Bering Sea fisheries. Most holders are taking a wait-and-see approach on the crab stocks, hoping for an uptick before they sell. Few sellers make it tough to place a value on the shares, said Jeff Osborn at Dock Street Brokers in Seattle, the “go-to guy” for crab quotas. “Red crab is down from around $70 to between $60 and $65 per pound,” Osborn said. “For opilio (snow crab) it’s hard to say because there are no sellers to speak of. For vessel shares, I’ll speculate somewhere in the $27 to $28 range. For bairdi Tanners, people see a lot of crab but nobody really knows what to expect for next season so everyone is gun shy on sales.” Crab shares are bought and sold in two categories: vessel shares and skipper shares. “Skipper shares are reserved for people who are actively fishing on crab boats,” he explained. “You have to have participated in the crab fishery in the past 365 days to purchase those shares. Vessel shares are much more lenient and can be held by a qualified entity, corporation or business regardless of recent participation.” On the skipper side, Osborn said crabbers face a looming “use it or lose it” deadline. “Basically, there needs to be participation in the crab fishery or another Alaska fishery within the past three years if you are an initial quota share recipient. Otherwise, effective June 30 for the upcoming season they will not receive any quota to harvest. And then if they still have not satisfied the recency requirement by June 30, 2019, they will lose their quota share, it will just go away,” Osborn said. Why? “It’s to ensure that those who own skipper shares are actually participating and not accumulating it and leasing it out and collecting a check and depriving the market of shares that could be used by guys that are actively participating,” he said. Osborn estimates between 100 to 120 crabbers have transfer eligibility for skipper quota but many could lose it under the new rules. Another right of first offer option, or ROFO, also makes crab shares available to crew to help them become invested in the fishery. “The intention of the ROFO is to set aside 10 percent of any transaction of vessel shares to be sold to qualified individuals,” he said. “They can then purchase some or all at the same price that is sold to whoever is buying the 90 percent of the quota. So it provides an avenue for people to pick up smaller chunks than they might be able to otherwise.” Candidates come to the Bay! Four candidates for Alaska governor will face off in a debate at the 2nd annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo at Naknek in early June. Naknek is the key logistics hub for 10 major seafood processors and a fleet of nearly 1,000 at the northeastern end of Bristol Bay. The debate is just one of the events in a lively line up that benefits childcare in the community. “We turned to our natural resource, salmon, to support Little Angels Childcare Academy and it has just been phenomenal,” said Sharon Thompson, Expo co-founder and organizer. “Salmon is supporting their early childhood education.” The first Expo last year raised $17,000, enough to open the doors of the childcare center. This year is likely to see even more donations. “We are getting boat builders and engine manufacturers and others from Texas and Washington and Oregon; it’s caught their eye. It just blows my mind,” said co-organizer Katie Copps-Wilson. The theme of the June 8-9 event is “Celebrating our Past, Sustaining our Future,” and a history of the region’s canneries will be highlighted. Historian Katie Ringsmuth will kick things off on June 8 with highlights of the Diamond NN Cannery History Project which aims to document, preserve and share the unique experiences of cannery life. The Diamond plant was the first industrial processing plant on the Naknek River in 1890. On that theme, Mug Up events will be ongoing during the two-day Expo. “Anyone who has ever worked in a cannery knows that mug up is a colloquial term for coffee break. Coffee and donuts will be available along with storytelling, because we all know that’s where the best stories are told,” Thompson said, adding that archivists from the National Park Service and project curators will be on hand to scan, photograph and identify old photos, labels, maps and other artifacts. The popular “speed hiring” will be back, which connects captains with potential crewmembers. “It’s like speed dating and many happy matches were made last year. That face-to-face contact is so important. We expect it will be bigger than ever,” Thompson said. One of the biggest hits of the Expo, Thompson said, is a fashion show and wearable art auction. “We always joke that Bristol Bay has a style of its own. Grundens has donated lots of gear from their new line for women, so we’re really stepping it up this year,” she said. “We are still accepting donations and it is a great way for businesses to get their names and services out there. All the products and services will be listed in an online catalog that will be on social media everywhere.” The Expo will end with a gubernatorial candidates debate on June 9 from 7-9pm that will include Gov. Walker, Scott Hawkins, Rep. Mike Chenault and Mike Dunleavy. The debate will be broadcast live on KAKN and KDLG. Looking ahead, the organizers plan to include more communities. “From Togiak to Ugashik and everwhere in between and beyond, we would love to expand our Expo to embrace crab, halibut, pollock, herring – all those other wild seafood products from Bristol Bay that are feeding the world,” Thompson said. “The bottom line is everything benefits Little Angels,” echoed Copps-Wilson. “Our mantra is kids, fish, future.” Learn more at www.bristolbayfishexpo.com Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Early Cook Inlet fisheries near; ballot initiative draws big bucks

Two commercial fisheries open each spring at Upper Cook Inlet that attract little notice and few participants, but each pays big bucks to fishermen. The first is a food and bait herring fishery that runs from April 20 through the end of May. The 150-ton catch quota is small compared to most of Alaska’s other herring fisheries, but the payout is far higher than all others. “They get $1.00 to $1.50 a pound, or $2,000 to $3,000 for a short ton, and the herring goes primarily into the halibut commercial bait fishery or the sport bait fishery,” said Pat Shields, regional manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna. In contrast, the statewide average price for roe herring at places like Sitka, Kodiak or Togiak is just 12 cents per pound, and fishermen make between $100 to $350 per ton. The Cook Inlet herring fishery serves a small, local market provided by 10 to 20 fishermen. The fish is captured in gillnets by 10 to 20 salmon setnet fishermen who are trying to get some money to start the season, Shields explained. The herring are frozen and sold throughout the year and the demand far exceeds the supply. Shields speculates the price is so high because there are so few bait herring fisheries in the state: two in Southeast, one at Kodiak and Dutch Harbor. Meanwhile, most Alaska fishermen buy pricy herring for bait from processors who usually purchase it from the east coast or Canada. Traditionally, herring management has been geared to sac roe fisheries, which years ago was in high demand by a single customer: Japan. But tastes there have changed. “Now the sac roe is far less valuable and there is a lot of demand for herring as bait,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the state Commercial Fisheries Division. “Management plans could be restructured so that more herring could be harvested as bait. Someone just needs to propose it to the Board of Fisheries. If there is a harvestable surplus that is not being taken, why not allow it in a different fishery?” The other fishery at Upper Cook Inlet from May 1 through June 30 is for smelt, also called hooligan/eulachon or candlefish. That also attracts up to 20 people who compete for a 200-ton quota using dip nets at the Susitna River. Shields said a 2016 study estimated that 53,000 tons of smelt went up the Susitna that one year. “It’s just a phenomenal biomass,” he said, adding that fishermen have had to make their dip nets smaller to accommodate the catches. “If you have a net that’s a couple feet deep you can’t even lift it out of the water,” Shields said, adding that it’s a tough fishery. “Logistically, it’s kind of a nightmare to get drift boats through the mudflats of the Susitna River,” he said. “They bring them back to the Kenai River where they are frozen, boxed up and shipped to the Lower 48. Most of it goes into one of three markets: the human food, sturgeon bait fishery on the Columbia River or the marine mammal food market.” Smelt fishermen also fetch a nice price, twice: 25 to 75 cents per pound for their harvest, and again after it goes to market. “The market can vary widely,” Shields said. “I’ve heard anywhere from 50 cents a pound to a couple dollars a pound.” Both fisheries are open to all comers who get a miscellaneous finfish permit from the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. “While they require a permit, it is not a limited entry permit,” Shields explained. “Anyone can get a permit to participate in the herring or the smelt fishery in Cook Inlet.” Salmon money Resource developers are pulling out all stops to block the push to strengthen Alaska’s salmon habitat protection law for the first time since statehood in 1959. Since early January the group Stand for Alaska has raised more than $2 million to stop a ballot initiative that could go to voters this fall. That is about four times more than the $475,560 the grassroots group Yes for Salmon has raised in support of modernizing permitting and habitat protection measures. Filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission show that financial backing for both groups comes primarily from outside the state. Mining operations from Canada that put in $200,000 each include Kinross Fort Knox and Pebble Limited Partnership. Japanese-owned Pogo Mine, Illinois-based Coeur Alaska and Hecla Mining of Idaho also contributed $200,000 as well as Donlin Gold and Doyon Ltd. ConocoPhillips has donated $250,000 and BP has contributed $500,000 to Stand for Alaska. Those companies, along with Canada’s Teck Mining and Tower Hill Mines, the Resource Development Council, Alaska Miners Association and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association also have contributed in-kind donations to cover staff time, office expenses, travel, etc. To convince voters that the ballot measure is a bad idea, Stand for Alaska so far has paid $132,000 to Anchorage-based Bright Strategy and Communications; $36,000 to Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Virginia; $20,000 to Blueprint Alaska and $10,000 to Dittman Research, both of Anchorage. Total expenditures by Stand for Alaska also include nearly $612,000, of which more than 40 percent has gone to DCI Group of Washington, D.C., as a subcontractor. DCI Group is widely cited as a “top Republican and lobbying group” that creates campaigns by masking corporate sponsors to make it appear that it is a grassroots effort, a practice known as “astro-turfing.” Most notably, the DCI Group has done campaigns for the tobacco industry and for Exxon’s climate change denial efforts. The APOC filings show that most of the money donated to Yes for Salmon’s campaign also comes from outside Alaska. From Jan. 8 through April 7, the group collected about $205,000 in contributions. Of that, $100,000 comes from John Childs of Florida who also is a board member of the Wild Salmon Center based in Portland, Oregon. The New Venture Fund Salmon State, backed by the Hewlett Foundation of Washington, D.C., has contributed $37,246 of in-kind contributions. The Alaska Center has donated $14,000 for in-kind services, along with Trout Unlimited, the Sitka Conservation Society and Cook Inletkeeper. Other monetary contributions are in the $75 to $250 range by nine individual Alaskans. Total expenditures in the first quarter by Yes for Salmon were reported at $124,388, and overall expenditures total about $317,000, of which $25,000 has gone to the Patinkin Research Group of Portland, Ore., for polling and other work as well as about $16,000 to Element Agency of Anchorage for media support. The salmon protection push must still prove it is constitutional before it goes to the voters. The Alaska Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 26. Fish prices The Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides dock prices for nearly every fish species caught in the state with comparisons going back to 1984. It’s called the Commercial Operator’s Annual Report and is compiled from annual inputs by processors. Here’s a sampler from 2016 (prices for 2017 will be available this summer): The average price for cod was 28 cents per pound; lingcod averaged $1.51. Those billions of pounds of pollock fetched 13 cents per pound for fishermen. Herring averaged 12 cents. Octopus was 46 cents per pound and sea cucumbers were $4.07. Spot shrimp paid out at $8.96 per pound; coon striped shrimp at $5.73 was up more than $2. For 10 types of flounders, pesky arrowtooth was at 7 cents; rex sole was the priciest at 34 cents. For 22 types of rockfish, yellow eye, or red snapper, topped the list at $1.29 per pound; rose thorn rockfish was the lowest at 6 cents per pound. Wolf eels paid out at 84 cents per pound; Geoduck clams were at $6.59. Longnose skates brought fishermen 44 cents per pound. Halibut averaged $6.06 per pound; sablefish, $6.50. The priciest of all was red king crab at $10.18 per pound; the lowest was for sculpin at just 3 cents per pound. Another report shows how much poundage was produced by processors and first wholesale values, meaning how much the fish sold for in initial sales. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

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