Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Alaska Marine Forecast format - options change

Marine weather forecasts are critical to the livelihoods of fishermen in the Aleutians East Borough. Lives of families in our communities can depend on knowing the forecast, particularly the marine forecast including the wind direction and speed. If you watch the 'Alaska Weather' TV show on channel 9 in one of our communities, you know that the last 5 minutes of the program, after the aviation weather and the 'segment', is the all important part of the broadcast - marine weather.
The internet is now the quickest way to get updated forecasts, but it came as a shock to some residents when previous links to find the NOAA Alaska Region marine weather forecasts on the web no longer worked. Alaska Region has made changes to the weather site.
The good news - there are now more choices than before to view the marine forecast:
All of these options can also be found on the AEB Natural Resources Department page - www.aebfish.org.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

NPFMC tackles important issues during the June 2016 meeting in Kodiak

Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management (GOA TBM) was the headline agenda item for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council June meeting in Kodiak, garnering a parade and harbor spit festival organized by the Kodiak trawl industry and processors on Saturday June 11. The Council reviewed the current discussion paper and made some clarifying adjustments to Alternatives 2, 3 & 4. One change would allow electronic monitoring, when it is available for trawl, instead of only 100% human observer coverage.  The Council also added the following language between the Purpose and Needs statement and the Goals and Objectives section:

The overarching goal of the Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management program is to provide the fleet tools for effective management and reduction of PSC and bycatch, and promote increased utilization of both target and secondary species while minimizing economic barriers for new participants by limiting the duration of harvest privileges that may be allocated (target species and/or prohibited species) in order to maintain opportunity for entry into the GOA trawl fisheries.”

The Council is moving the GOA TBM action to a ‘preliminary analysis’ phase tentatively set to come back in December.  In the coming weeks NOAA Fisheries will announce in the Federal Register a new public scoping process that will be an important step in an Environmental Impact Statement for the program.  The preliminary compiled June Council motion for GOA TBM can be found at this link.
In other Council agenda items: the NPFMC declared the 10 year Review of the BSAI Crab Rationalization program “complete and final”.  The Council also moved Bering Sea Tanner crab to the list of species exempt from custom processing limits, an action of immediate concern that would allow the full utilization of the upcoming BS tanner season total allowable catch with a now limited number of processors.  During the North Pacific Observer Program Annual Report the Council recommended adding a new strata in the program for vessels that deliver to tenders. The North Pacific Observer Program Annual Deployment Plan will be reviewed by the Council in October. Initial Review of ‘Electronic Monitoring Integration’ is also scheduled for October after a July review by the electronic monitoring workgroup in Anchorage.
The Council paid tribute to 3 non-returning members at an evening reception. Coast Guard Captain Phillip Thorne is moving up the ranks after serving the Council for 4 years, David Long was not reappointed for a second term, and Duncan Fields has completed the maximum 9 consecutive years on the Council. Theresa Peterson, an Advisory Panel member from Kodiak, was nominated by the Governor to replace Fields; Buck Laukitis was nominated to replace David Long. The Secretary of Commerce is expected to announce Council appointments next week.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

New brown bear regulations to impact resident hunters

The Board of Game has been meeting in Fairbanks March 18 - 28, 2016 to consider statewide proposals. The Board passed two proposals that are of particular interest to local resident brown bear hunters – one regulation to extend the brown bear tag fee exemption in certain areas, and one that allows the sale of brown bear hides.

  • PROPOSAL 57 - 5 AAC 92.200(b). Purchase and sale of game. Allow the sale of brown bear hides and/or skulls by resident hunters as follows:  Statewide; allow resident Alaskan hunters to sell the hides with claws attached and/or skulls of legally taken brown bears harvested in units where the bag limit is two or more bears per season.
  • PROPOSAL 129 - 5AAC 92.015. Brown bear tag fee exemption (a) A resident tag is not required for taking a brown bear in certain areas, including within five miles of the communities of Cold Bay, King Cove, Sand Point, and Nelson Lagoon, within five miles of Port Moller and  within three miles of the community of False Pass.  
Currently, brown bear tag fee exemptions must be reauthorized annually or the fee will be automatically reinstated.

Another proposal passed by the Board impacts resident & non-resident black & brown bear hunters.
  • PROPOSAL 56 - 5 AAC 92.220(e). Salvage of game meat, furs, and hides. Prohibits the transport of hide and skull of black or brown bear from the field until edible meat has been salvaged.
You can find more information from the Fairbanks meeting, including a summary of Board actions, here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

South Peninsula State pot cod season opens at Noon March 7

The South Alaska Peninsula state-waters Pacific cod season for pot gear opens today March 7th at noon.  Vessels 58ft and under may participate in the fishery with a limit of 60 pots. The total GHL for the South Peninsula state-waters pot cod is 22,769,927 lbs, up from 21,757,443 lbs last year.  There were 30 vessels registered so far on Friday, vs 42 vessels participating last year. Only tagged pots may be stored after the first week of the season and stored pots should be bait-free with doors secured open.  The P/V Stimson will be patrolling from Kodiak to King Cove beginning March 10, checking fishing and stored gear for tags and licenses aboard vessels.

ADFG groundfish manager Nat Nichols came to King Cove Friday March 4th for a pre-season meeting with fishermen. He emphasized that communication is key to a successful season, as more uncertainty leads to a more cautious approach to management, and he thanked the fishermen for their cooperation in the past.  ADFG will go through the dispatch list each morning, but fishermen should feel free to call in if they miss the initial call or if they have other concerns.  Cooperation with dockside samplers is much appreciated.

The Kodiak pot cod season for a GHL of 6.8 million lbs opened and finished in February and Chignik opened last week  for a 8.5 million GHL.  The Dutch Harbor Sub-district season on the north side is ongoing with virtually double the fishing area as last year and a GHL of 35,979,072, and has attracted boats from the South Pen fishery.  Each of these state pot cod fisheries is exclusive, meaning you may only register for one.  The 2016 Fishery Management Plan for South Alaska Peninsula Pacific cod can be found here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Community protection in the face of more rationalized fisheries.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets October 8 – 14 in Anchorage, in part to discuss the proposed Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management program that would establish catch shares for the trawl caught pollock and cod in federal waters 3 – 200 miles offshore Alaska. Any program to rationalize these fisheries must be inclusive, taking into account the dependency on the fishery and investments made by communities, fishermen, vessel owners and local seafood processors, while maintaining opportunity for future generations.

According to the NPFMC’s Ecosystem Based Fishery Management approach, coastal community protections will be included in any limited entry programs such as catch share programs. Fishing communities are specifically mentioned in the Council’s Ecosystem vision and value statements. National Standard (8) for Fishery Conservation and Management states that any fishery management measures must provide for fishing communities sustained participation in the fishery and to minimize adverse economic impacts on communities.

One complaint with this proposed bycatch management program is that it seems to be more about allocation of the fishing resource and much less about reducing bycatch of prohibited species halibut and Chinook salmon. The Aleutians East Borough is opposed to options in the proposal to allocate target species other than cod or pollock, allocations that would not result in bycatch reductions and would lock out future opportunities for local fishermen.

The Council is looking at several options to mitigate negative impacts from the proposed program including vessel use caps and processor caps to limit consolidation in the fishery. The plan also considers regionalized delivery, active participation requirements and other options to protect communities. Setting aside some amount of quota for adaptive management or for a Community Fishing Association is also still on the table.

Western Gulf pollock fishermen are working on solutions and have recently developed a voluntary catch plan, that equally divides the quota and available bycatch between the vessels signed up to fish. Some fishermen continue to ask for a later opening date for the Pacific cod trawl season that they say would result in better-sized fish and less bycatch. Experience is the best answer to the bycatch problem according to one WGOA fisherman, noting that outside vessels new to the area end up catching a large portion of the bycatch. There are mixed feelings among fishermen about a full-blown catch share plan for the trawl fisheries.

The Borough Assembly set forth nine goals in a January 2013 Resolution, and in a recent letter from Mayor Stanley Mack for the Assembly to the NPFMC, reaffirmed support of these goals for fisheries management programs in the Gulf of Alaska:

1. Provide effective controls of prohibited species catch and provide for balanced and sustainable fisheries and quality seafood products.

2. Maintain or increase target fishery landings and revenues to the Borough and AEB communities.

3. Maintain or increase employment opportunities for vessel crews, processing workers and support industries.

4. Provide increased opportunities for value-added processing.

5. Maintain entry level opportunities for fishermen.

6. Maintain opportunities for processors to enter the fishery.

7. Minimize adverse economic impacts of consolidation of the harvesting or processing sectors.

8. Encourage local participation on harvesting vessels and use of fishing privileges.

9. Maintain the economic strength and vitality of AEB communities.

The Aleutians East Borough stands for creating opportunity in our communities, one reason we continue to push for new state fisheries, like the Dutch Harbor Sub-district fishery. This new state-waters Pacific cod fishery in the Bering Sea from mid-Unalaska Island to mid-Unimak Island has provided increased opportunity for local fishermen, without harm to other fishers. Hopefully the Alaska Board of Fisheries will elect to expand the guideline harvest level and fishing area for the Dutch Harbor Sub-district fishery. The Board’s Walleye Pollock Workgroup meets October 6th in Anchorage to look at the merits of a proposal to establish a state-waters pollock fishery.

The AEB believes fishery management at all levels should be about providing more opportunity, for processors, fishermen and support industries. Gains in efficiency must be balanced with continued growth and prosperity. Sustainable fisheries and sustainable local fishing communities go hand in hand and as the current bycatch management proposal takes shape, it must include protections for communities, fishermen, processors and future generations.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Observer Program Changes for 2015

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Annual Deployment Plan (ADP) for the Observer program, reviewed each October by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC), calls for significant changes for small vessel participants in the Observer program.

NMFS proposes to use the trip-selection pool only to assign observers to vessels and will no longer use  the vessel-selection method for smaller vessels in 2015.  Since only single trips will be selected, the proposed method is expected to reduce the impact on smaller vessels.

The proposal calls for two categories within the trip-selection pool.  The small vessel trip-selection pool is comprised of catcher vessels (CV) that are fishing hook-and-line or pot gear and are greater than or equal to 40 ft, but less than 57.5 ft in length.  These vessels were in the “vessel-selection” pool for 2013 & 2014.  The other category, the large vessel trip-selection pool is made up of three classes of vessels: 1) all CVs fishing trawl gear, 2) CVs fishing hook-and-line or pot gear that are also greater than or equal to 57.5 ft, and 3) catcher-processor vessels exempted from full coverage requirements.  These vessels were in the “trip-selection” pool for 2013 and 2014.

The small vessel trip-selection pool vessels are likely to be selected for an observer 12% of trips compared to a 24% probability for the large vessel trip-selection participants. The selection rate for the former vessel-selection pool is the same as 2014, but large vessel trip-selection vessels will see a 50% increase in coverage rates compared to 2014.

Conditional releases will not be granted to the large vessel trip-selection pool vessels in 2015, and only granted to vessels in the small vessel trip-selection pool that do not have sufficient life-raft capacity to accommodate an observer.

Vessels selected to participate in Electronic Monitoring (EM) Cooperative Research will be in the no selection pool, not subject to observer coverage, while participating in such research.

The Observer Advisory Committee to the NPFMC will review the ADP at a meeting this week in Seattle.  The draft ADP is available through a link under item C1 of the NPFMC agenda, found here:  http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2014/10/894_A_North_Pacific_Council_14-10-06_Meeting_Agenda.pdf

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Salmon forecasts for Alaska 2013

ADF&G Salmon Forecasts for 2013

The 2013 estimated forecast for the South Alaska Peninsula pink salmon total run is 7.3 million fish, and the harvest is expected to be 5.7 million, which is considered an average harvest by ADF&G.  A harvest of less than 5 million pink salmon for the region is considered weak or poor and 5 to 7. 2 million harvest is considered average.  More than 7.2 million is a strong harvest and a harvest of greater than 9.3 million pinks is described as excellent.

The 2013 Nelson River estimated total run of sockeye is forecast at 327,000. That’s below the 10-year average of 462,000, but above the 2012 total run result of approximately 220,000 sockeye.  The Bear Lake late run sockeye is estimated at a total run of 328,000 for 2013. Again, that is below the 10-year average of 451,000, but well above the 2012 run of 116,000.

The total estimated run for Bristol Bay Sockeye is 26,030,000 fish, which would result in a total commercial harvest of 17.53 million sockeye; 16.59 million in Bristol Bay and 940,000 in the South Peninsula area.

Chignik has a total estimated run 3,814,000 sockeye, 2.767 million in the early Black Lake run and 1.047 in the late Chignik Lake run.  A total commercial harvest for Chignik sockeye expected to be 3.214 million; 2.581 million for Chignik, 452,000 for the Cape Ignik Section and 181,000 in the Southeastern District Mainland area.

Other forecasts for salmon around the state are relatively stable, the A-Y-K fall chum salmon forecast estimated total run is 1,043,000 and the Copper River Sockeye total run is expected to be 1.84 million.  Upper Cook Inlet sockeye total run is forecast to be 6.7 million.  Pink runs look healthy statewide: Prince William Sound total pink run looks to be 6.2 million, the total Kodiak Management Area pink harvest is expected at 17 million, and the Southeast Alaska pink salmon harvest is expected to be excellent in 2013 at 54 million fish.

Information compiled from: 
ADFG Special Publication 13-03, February 2013, Run Forecasts and Harvest Projections for 2013 Alaska Salmon Fisheries and Review of the 2012 Season;