Season far from over for Alaska’s fishing industry

It surprises many people across the state that fall is one of the busiest times for Alaska’s fishing industry from the Panhandle to the Bering Sea. As salmon season gets tucked away, hundreds of boats of all gear types are still out on the water, or gearing up for even more openers in just a few weeks.
Here’s a sampler:

Crab counts drop sharply for Bering Sea

Bering Sea crabbers were stunned last week when the outlooks for the upcoming fall and winter fisheries were revealed.
Results of the annual summer surveys by state and federal scientists showed that numbers of mature male and females dropped sharply across the board for the big three: opilio (snow crab), their larger cousins, bairdi Tanners, and red king crab.

Lawmakers seek relief for disastrous pink season

Wheels are already in motion to provide two measures of relief for Alaska’s pink salmon industry, which is reeling from the lowest harvest since the late 1970s.
Representative Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak) began the process last week to have the Walker Administration declare the pink salmon season a disaster, which would allow access to federal relief funds.
Pinks are Alaska’s highest volume salmon fishery and hundreds of fishermen depend on the fish to boost their overall catches and paychecks. So far the statewide harvest has reached just 36 million humpies out of a preseason forecast of 90 million. That compares to a catch of 190 million pinks last summer.

Pink salmon catch down dramatically from 2015

Alaska’s 2016 pink salmon fishery is set to rank as the worst in 20 years by a long shot, and the outlook is bleak for all other salmon catches except sockeyes.
“Boy, sockeye is really going to have to carry the load in terms of the fishery’s value because there’s a lot of misses elsewhere,” said Andy Wink, a fisheries economist with the Juneau-based McDowell Group.
The historical peaks of the various salmon runs have already passed and the pink salmon catch so far has yet to break 35 million on a forecast of 90 million. That compares to a harvest of 190 million pinks last year.

Website aims to share info about ocean acidification

Alaska is one of a handful of U.S. states to launch a go-to website aimed at keeping ocean acidification in the public eye.
The Alaska Ocean Acidification Network, a collaboration of state and federal scientists, agencies, tribes, conservation, fishing and aquaculture groups, went live last month. Its goal is to provide a forum for researchers to share their findings, and to connect with coastal residents concerned about future impacts on their communities.
Ocean acidification (OA) is caused by the ocean absorbing excess carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, generated primarily from the burning of fossil fuels for energy. The off-kilter chemistry causes the seawater to become corrosive, making it tough for marine creatures to grow scales and shells.

Who knows more about local salmon than fishermen?

Two big fish stories have been spawned so far by the 2016 Alaska salmon season: 1) sockeyes save the day; and 2) colossal pinks.
A larger than expected sockeye salmon catch that has topped 50 million will salvage a summer that has seen lackluster catches of other salmon species, notably, those hard to predict pinks.
“I think if you’re a Bristol Bay fisherman, you’re probably pretty happy, and if you fished anywhere else in the state, it probably hasn’t been a great season for you,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of commercial fisheries at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

‘Crab map’ shows big drop in abundance of legal-sized males

Alaska’s fishing industry was dismayed last week by the sudden news that Jeff Regnart, Director of the State’s Commercial Fisheries Division, will leave the job Oct. 2.
“I’m resigning due to family reasons, aging parents; I just can’t be in the state full-time like this job demands,” Regnart explained.
Regnart started as an Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game field tech in high school. Over the next 30 years, he worked his way to management positions at Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay.

State Commercial Fisheries Director Jeff Regnart resigns-Sept. 16

Alaska’s fishing industry was dismayed last week by the sudden news that Jeff Regnart, Director of the State’s Commercial Fisheries Division, will leave the job Oct. 2.
“I’m resigning due to family reasons, aging parents; I just can’t be in the state full-time like this job demands,” Regnart explained.
Regnart started as an Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game field tech in high school. Over the next 30 years, he worked his way to management positions at Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay.

Hulking humpie harvest stinks up pink market- Fish Factor- Sept. 9

Alaska’s pink salmon catch is pushing 180 million fish, making it the second-largest harvest ever recorded. (219 million was the previous record set in 2013). 
  The humpie haul has been pushed by record production in three regions. More than 15 million pinks were taken at the Alaska Peninsula, compared to less than 1 million last year.  Kodiak’s record pink catch was nearing 30 million, triple last year’s take; and Prince William Sound’s harvest so far had topped a whopping 97 million pink salmon.  
 All that fish goes into a competitive global market and — in a word — the pink market stinks.  There is still a glut of pink salmon products stemming from Alaska’s record 2013 catch, and devalued currencies are bedeviling sales with overseas customers.

Budget cuts put snag in Chinook Research Initiative

One of the casualties of this year’s budget cuts was funding for a program aimed at discovering why Alaska’s Chinook salmon stocks have been declining since 2007.
A five-year, $30 million Chinook Salmon Research Initiative launched in 2013 included more than 100 researchers focused on three dozen projects in 12 major river systems from Southeast to the Yukon. Now, the ambitious effort has been cut to just over one dozen projects.
“When we saw we weren’t going to get a third appropriation this fiscal year, we had to step back and narrow the focus, and make sure key projects still had money to continue for at least the next two years,” said Ed Jones, a coordinator with the state Sport Fish Division who oversees the initiative team.
The project has received two $7.5 million appropriations so far, and just over $6 million remains.

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