Shock and dismay were heard from Bristol Bay fishermen when they finally got word last week that major buyers would pay 50 cents a pound for their sockeye salmon. That’s a throwback to dock prices paid from 2002 through 2004, and compares to $1.20 advanced last year ($1.33 on average after price adjustments).
A late surge of reds produced catches of nearly 13 million in its final week, bringing the total by July 23 to 34.5 million fish. The fish were still trickling in, and state managers, who called the season an “anomaly,” said the final tally will likely reach the projected harvest of 37.6 million sockeye salmon.
Kodiak volunteers were scrambling with front end loaders and dump trucks to ready 200,000 pounds of super sacks for the first pick-up of a massive marine debris removal project that begins in Alaska this week.
The month-long clean-up — backed by a who’s who of state and federal agencies, nonprofits and private businesses — will deploy a 300-foot barge and helicopters to remove thousands of tons of marine debris from some of the world’s harshest and most remote coastlines.
“Upcycling” seafood byproducts is the business model for “Tidal Vision,” a Juneau-based company of five entrepreneurs who are making waves with their line of aquatic leather and performance textiles.
The start-up is making wallets, belts and other products from sheets of salmon skins using an all-natural, proprietary tanning formula from vegetable oils and other eco-friendly ingredients.
As Alaska’s salmon season heads into high gear, a few bright spots are surfacing in an otherwise bleak global sales market.
Sales and prices for all salmon (especially sockeye) have been in a slump all year. And amidst an overall glut of wild and farmed fish, Alaska is poised for another huge salmon haul, with the largest run of sockeye salmon in 20 years predicted along with a mega-pack of pinks.
Salmon fisheries are opening this month from one end of Alaska to the other. Total catches so far of mostly sockeye were under 1 million fish, but will add up fast from here on. A total haul for all Alaska salmon this season is pegged at 221 million fish.
A highlight so far is a 40 percent increase in troll action in Southeast, where nearly 300 fishermen are targeting king salmon. That’s likely due to a boosted price averaging $7.54 a pound, up $1.88 from last year.
Alaskans will have to wait until fall to learn if salmon habitat prevails over a coal mine proposed at Upper Cook Inlet.
A decision due earlier this month by the State Department of Natural Resources has been delayed until after a public hearing later this summer, said Ed Fogels, DNR Deputy Commissioner.
Nowhere in the world do people have as much opportunity to speak their minds to fish policy makers as they do in Alaska. As decision day approaches, a groundswell of Alaska voices is demanding that fishery overseers say bye-bye to halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea.
They are speaking out against the more than 6 million pounds of halibut that are dumped overboard each year as bycatch in trawl fisheries that target flounder, rockfish, perch, mackerel and other groundfish (not pollock).
How much are fishermen affected by long-term health problems like hearing loss, lack of sleep and high blood pressure? A pilot study aims to find out, and researchers are using the 500-plus members of the Copper River salmon driftnet fleet as test subjects.
“The Copper River fishing season lasts five months, and most of the fleet is very digitally connected, so it seemed a great fit,” said Torie Baker, a Sea Grant Marine Advisory Agent in Cordova.
Each year, more than one third of all the salmon caught in Alaska begin their lives in a hatchery.
There are 31 hatchery facilities in Alaska: 15 privately owned, 11 state-owned, two federal research facilities, one tribal hatchery at Metlakatla and two state-owned sport fish hatcheries.
Alaska’s hatchery program is very different from fish farming, where salmon are crammed tightly into net pens until they’re ready for market. All salmon born in Alaska’s hatcheries come from wild brood stock, and are released as fingerlings to the sea. When those fish return home, they make a huge contribution to the catch.
A mile-long string of 29 sablefish pots was lost last month in Prince William Sound after being run over by tugs towing barges at Knight Island Passage.
“It appears that some tug boats passed back and forth across where the gear was set, and now we have no idea where it is,” said Maria Wessel, a groundfish biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office at Cordova.
The pots are part of an ongoing tagging study started in 2011 to track the movement of the Sound’s sablefish stock. It was intended to be the third test run for the project.