Fisheries

FISH FACTOR: Dept. of Energy looks to seaweed as energy source

Kodiak is at the center of a national push to produce biofuels from seaweeds.

Agents from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, ARPA-E, recently traveled to the island to meet with a team of academics, scientists, businesses and local growers to plan the first steps of a bicoastal pilot project to modernize methods to grow sugar kelp as a fuel source.

The project is bankrolled by a $500,000 grant to the University of Alaska Fairbanks through a new DOE program called Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources, or MARINER.

Electronic monitoring rolling out in 2018 after years of work

Alaska fishermen will see changes to the mandatory observer program next year.

After years of requests, testing and prepping, the National Marine Fisheries Service is rolling out a more-complete electronic monitoring program for small boat fishermen who are directed to have partial observer coverage as part of the 2018 observer program.

Electronic Monitoring uses cameras and sensors to record and monitor fishing activities, and help ensure the accuracy of catch records. Normally, that work is done by human observers who are placed on fishing vessels.

‘Bioblitz’ turns up no new non-native aquatics

WHITTIER — When on the hunt for invaders, no news is usually good news.

That’s exactly the kind of good news Smithsonian Environmental Research Center scientists were able to report to the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council after a summer-long search in 2016 for non-indigenous species in the waters around Valdez.

FISH FACTOR: Seafood Appreciation Month gets more love outside Alaska

October is National Seafood Month, a distinction bestowed by Congress 30 years ago to recognize one of America’s oldest industries.

Alaska merits special recognition because its fishing fleets provide 65 percent of the nation’s wild caught seafood, more than all of the other states combined.

Ironically, there is little to no fanfare in Alaska during seafood month. My hometown of Kodiak, for example, (the No. 2 U.S. fishing port) never gives a shout out to our fishermen and processors, nor do local restaurants celebrate seafood on their October menus in any way.

Building the Alaska ‘Blue Economy’

Alaska’s blue economy leadership potential is tremendous; we maintain over half the nation’s coastline and a third of the U.S. exclusive economic zone with access to vast natural resources.

The blue economy vision is that by 2040 Alaska would grow by 50,000 jobs and $3 billion in wages, approximately equal to the oil and gas industry today. Alaska’s blue economy includes existing traditional sectors such as fisheries, coastal tourism and oil and gas, as well as additional “new” blue economy sectors such as ocean technology, renewable energy and marine biotechnology.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon harvest tops forecast

Alaska’s salmon season is nearly a wrap but fall remains as one of the fishing industry’s busiest times of the year.

For salmon, the catch of 213 million has surpassed the forecast by 9 million fish. Highpoints for this season are a statewide sockeye catch topping 50 million for the 10th time in history (37 million from Bristol Bay), and one of the best chum harvests ever at more than 22 million fish.

The total 2017 salmon catches and values by Alaska region will be released by state fishery managers in November.

Ballot measure would give greater say to ADFG

Alaska fishing groups concerned about the impacts that large-scale development projects could have on salmon habitat are pushing to reform the state’s permitting requirements through a voter initiative on the 2018 ballot.

FISH FACTOR: Bumper salmon hauls around state as season winds down

Alaska’s salmon season is winding down and while catches have made the record books in some regions, the statewide take will fall a bit short of the 204 million fish forecast.

“We are within about 10 percent of the forecast, so that’s very positive and overall it’s been a pretty good season,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Commercial Fisheries Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The statewide salmon catch through Aug. 25 topped 191 million. The shortfall, Bowers said, again stems from the arrival of fewer pink salmon.

Judge orders council to get to work on Cook Inlet salmon plan

KENAI — The United Cook Inlet Drift Association’s lawsuit against the federal government has finally reached its conclusion, though its repercussions are far from over.

Stakeholders voice preferred changes to federal fisheries act

SOLDOTNA — Sportfishing groups and advocates want to see the federal government separate the management of sport and commercial fishing in the upcoming renewal of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The act, originally passed in 1976 and co-sponsored by the late Alaska U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, establishes the management system for federal and state fisheries in marine waters.

FISH FACTOR: Alaskan seafood has opening in home meal kits

Alaska aims to get in on the growing popularity of Home Meal kits that will deliver seafood directly to American kitchens.

The kits typically offer a subscription service where customers order weekly meals based on how many people they plan to feed and their food preferences. The kits include portioned, high quality ingredients with foolproof cooking instructions and can be delivered within hours or overnight to nearly all locations. Many grocery stores also are providing in-store options that don’t involve delivery.

FISH FACTOR: Fishing deaths renew reminders for safety measures

“It’s time for a checkup from the neck up” — meaning an industry time out to evaluate fishing operations and behaviors, advises Jerry Dzugan, the director of the Sitka-based Alaska Marine Safety Education Association for more than 30 years.

Dzugan was speaking in response to the 11 fishing deaths that have occurred in Alaska so far this year. It’s the most in 13 years and follows a 76 percent decrease in commercial fishing fatalities since the 1980s.

FISH FACTOR: ASMI keeps up export push on shoestring budget

Seafood is Alaska’s top export by far, usually topping $3 billion in sales each year to 120 countries around the world, and comprising 55 percent of our nation’s total seafood exports.

Credit for the state’s export sales goes mostly to the international program run by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or ASMI, which runs eight regional offices in Japan, China, Brazil, London, Spain, France, Germany and Eastern Europe.

The overseas marketing reps, or OMRs, work under contract with ASMI to coordinate hundreds of seafood promotions each year to build the Alaska brand.

Ocean Tuesday starts conversation on innovation

Picture crustacean DNA that allows crabs the ability to grow a new leg. That chemical makeup, in an innovator’s hands, becomes a product to seal up a human puncture wound.

Imagine a band-aid made of it.

Alaska has lots of crab, but getting from raw seafood byproducts to a marketable commodity will take a new infrastructure. A blue economy movement now in its Alaska infancy is involved in engaging all the human resources necessary to help such innovations evolve.

FISH FACTOR: UFA getting message out through tech; ‘Frankenfish’ sales loom

As state lawmakers mull ways to update permitting laws to protect salmon habitat, a dual sweepstakes is using text messaging and social media as the means to keep more fishermen informed.

“One of the things we’ve learned over the past two years is that most fishermen are getting almost all of their information on their phones,” said Lindsey Bloom, program manager for United Fishermen of Alaska’s Salmon Habitat Information Program, or SHIP.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon surge to Bay as prices rebound

As predicted, Alaska fishermen are getting higher prices for their salmon this year.

It’s good news following a 2016 season that saw lackluster catches in all regions but Bristol Bay, a failure of pink salmon runs, and paltry paychecks nearly across the board.

Prices paid to Alaska salmon fishermen depend on the region, the species, the type of fishing gear and, most importantly, global market conditions. Salmon prices also reflect bonuses for iced fish, dock deliveries and other agreements between a buyer and seller.

FISH FACTOR: Robotic technology emerging as tool for fish processing

Robots are cutting up snow crabs in Canada in a sign of things to come in the seafood processing industry.

Overall, seafood processing has a relatively small robotic involvement compared to other sectors. Robots have yet to make it into any of Alaska’s 176 fish processing shops, but the lure of reduced production costs, increased fish quality and crews of worker-bots is turning the tide.

Pollock skins to dog treats coming soon

Americans love their pets and are willing to shell out $23 billion per year on their food, which would be good news for Alaska seafood marketing if more products were developed to serve all those well-cared-for dogs and cats.

Now a treat for dogs made of pollock skins has been developed to the marketing stage, perhaps even allowing for a secondary market in millions of tossed-out pollock skin tonnage to come into its own market at 30 to 50 cents per pound.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon spawn unusual research

Salmon skin, heads, bones and other body parts have long been popular in cultural usages around the world. Now add salmon sperm to the list of desirable byproducts being hailed by specialists in two diverse realms of research.

A team of Japanese researchers is calling dried salmon sperm a miracle product for its ability to extract rare earth elements, or REEs, from ore.

FISH FACTOR: China poised to snap up even more Alaska seafood

China holds big promise to become a top customer for Alaska salmon, and not just for the bright red fillets.

Since 2011 China has been the No. 1 customer for Alaska seafood with purchases nearing $800 million and comprising 54 percent of all Alaska exports to China.

In Chinese food culture, fish symbolizes abundance and prosperity, which plays into a growing middle class that now earns the equivalent of about $25,000 in U.S. dollars a year.

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