Commercial Fisheries

Aaron Bolton, KBBI News

Recently, an argument over whether hatcheries are causing more harm than good has been heating up. The debate is nothing new. But an Alaska Department of Fish and Game study is about to take a step toward answering a question central to the debate: do hatchery fish that spawn with wild populations pose a threat to those stocks?

“You want to make two cuts: one to get at the heart and one to get at the otoliths,” Pete Rand told a group of new filed staff.

Courtesy of Rudy Gustafson

In the first round of what seems to be an escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China, tariffs have been levied on billions of dollars worth of goods in both countries. The Alaska fishing industry, which harvests roughly 60 percent of all wild seafood in the U.S., has been caught in the crosshairs of that disagreement.

But it’s not the Chinese tariffs that are giving the industry heartburn. It’s a proposed tariff on seafood imported from China.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

The commercial pink salmon season in Kachemak Bay is on track to be a good year. As of Aug. 8, the seine fleet picked up roughly 180,000 pinks, well above the 88,000 fish harvested at this point in the season last year and about four times more pinks compared to 2016.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologist Glenn Hollowell said about 20 permit holders have participated in the southern district.

“Most of those fish we believe are going back to the Tutka Bay Hatchery, and the Tutka Hatchery special harvest area just opened today to common property harvest,” he added.

Alaska State Troopers

Alaska Wildlife State Troopers say four commercial fishermen illegally caught and transported thousands of pounds of salmon near Homer in late July.

Wildlife Troopers Detachment Commander Rex Leath said troopers observed operators of the commercial seine vessels Little Star, Relentless, Northstar and Windstar making a “dedicated effort” in Dog Fish Bay south of Homer to drive salmon out of waters closed to commercial seining.

Rudy Gustafson

Halibut ex-vessel prices are seeing a slight uptick around the state, which is good news for some fishermen after prices fell about $2 per pound at the beginning of the season.

Doug Bowen works for Alaska Boats and Permits, a vessel and fishing permit broker in Homer. Bowen tracks halibut prices around the Gulf of Alaska, which have a significant influence on the halibut quota he sells for fishermen.  

“We did see the ex-vessel price for halibut perk up a bit where we’re at $6.25, $6.50, $6.75 here in Homer today,” Bowen said.

North Pacific Fishery Management Council

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council appointed two Homer-based fishermen to its Cook Inlet Salmon Committee last month. The council asked the committee to evaluate management options for Cook Inlet commercial salmon fishing in federal waters when it created the group earlier this year.

Dan Anderson and Hannah Heimbuch were both appointed to the committee during the NPFMC’s June meeting in Kodiak. The council also pointed three other commercial fishermen to the group, two of which are from Kasilof. All six members are drift gillnet permit holders.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Commercial fishermen in lower Cook Inlet are having a mostly average season so far this summer. Seiners have hauled in roughly 34,000 sockeye, which sits between the 2016 and 2017 harvests.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Management Biologist, Glenn Hollowell said most of those fish are comprised of hatchery stocks.

KBBI News

There’s more bad news for dip-netters and sport anglers in Southcentral Alaska. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Wednesday that it will close the Chitina River to dip-netting due to this year’s abysmal sockeye return to the Copper River.

Fish and Game will also close sport fishing for reds in the Upper Copper River Drainage.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

As a number of commercial salmon fisheries around the state kick off this week, the outlook for ex-vessel prices is looking good. Fishing economists say between lower run forecasts and strong foreign and domestic demand, commercial fishermen will likely see higher prices this year. But that doesn’t necessarily mean commercial fishermen will earn more this season compared to last year.   

Andy Wink with Wink Research and Consulting said although prices vary by species and region, most fisheries should see stable or higher prices this year.

KBBI News

The Copper River commercial sockeye fishery is likely to fall below forecast for the second year in a row. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed one of the fishery’s 12-hour openings last week due to low escapement and abysmal harvest levels.

That trend continued this week with a slow fishing period on Monday, and the department announced Wednesday that it’s closing the fishery on Thursday for the second week in a row.

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