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Alaska Fish Factor: Total Alaska Salmon Catch Pegged at 221 million

08 June 2015
 Alaska Fish Factor: Laine Welch Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska’s seafood industry for print and broadcast since 1988. She also has worked ‘behind the counter’ in wholesale and retail seafood businesses in Alaska and Cape Cod, MA. Laine lives in Kodiak, Alaska.

US - Salmon fisheries are opening up this month from one end of Alaska to the other. Total catches so far of mostly sockeye, were under one 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 at Southeast regions, 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.

Speaking of high prices – Alaska halibut fishermen are fetching well over $6 a pound for their catches at major ports. The longline fleet is nearing the half way mark, with 10 million pounds left remaining in this year’s 17.4 million pound catch limit. Kodiak is in the lead for halibut landings, followed closely by Seward and Homer, which has yet to top the one million pound mark.

Likewise, sablefish, or black cod, is nearing the half way point of that fishery’ 23.5 million pound quota. Fishermen are getting more than $7 a pound for larger sizes (over seven pounds) and over $6 for medium weights.

Southeast’s summer Dungeness crab fishery opens on June 15th at 8am, a new starting time.

Crabbers are hoping the price will match last year’s $2.95 a pound for the two pound dungies, bringing the dockside value to $15 million for 192 fishermen.

Just 16 vessels showed up for Alaska’s largest herring fishery at Togiak, taking an estimated 20,374 tons by June 2. At $50 per ton, the fishery will be valued at over $1 million to the region.

Herring fishing is still going on around Kodiak and the runs will continue all the way up the coast to Port Clarence. Nearly 27,000 tons or roe herring can be taken in fisheries in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, with half of that coming from Norton Sound.

Fishing continues for cod, flounders and other groundfish in the Gulf and Bering Sea, where the pollock fishery will reopen in late August.

Bering Sea crabbers wrapped up their 61 million pound snow crab fishery, and are still tapping away at the 15 million pound Tanner crab quota with one million pounds left to go.

A red king crab fishery will open at Norton Sound on June 15th with a catch of 394,000 pounds.

Shut down impacts - It’s going on seven weeks since Alaska legislators walked off the job leaving the state budget behind. Layoff notices went out last week to thousands of state employees who could be off the job at the start of the July 1 fiscal year. Here’s an overview of potential fishery related impacts from various divisions:

Hit hardest of all is the Commercial Fisheries Division, which receives nearly all of its management money from the state general fund. A core staff will remain to manage salmon fisheries, but field staff at remote weirs and other counting projects would be laid off in a phased approach during July and August. The division’s five research vessels will be tied up and office staff, labs, data support, subsistence surveys and other services will be cut back or halted. CommFish Director Jeff Regnart said other fisheries besides salmon are likely to be put on hold.

“I think there will be an impact across the board,” Regnart said. “Other fisheries that aren’t salmon that could be put off if it’s possible from a biological perspective and may be taken at another time, we’ll look at that.”

Also significantly curtailed or halted effective July 2 would be Title 16 permits issued by the Division of Habitat, subsistence harvest surveys done by the Division of Subsistence, and support to the Board of Fisheries and Board of Game as well as advisory committees.

Functions of the Division of Sport Fish, the Division of Wildlife Conservation, and the Commercial Fisheries Limited Entry Commission will remain operational without the use of general funds:

The budget impasse would delay or prevent fish shipments from getting to customers. The Dept. of Transportation will tie up all 11 state ferries meaning no passenger service, and no fish transports to awaiting mainland customers. Likewise, many state airports will operate with reduced hours. Public Facilities would provide emergency monitoring and response only, and Transportation staff would be reduced to paying bills and doing payroll.

Core services by the Dept. of Environmental Conservation will be suspended. That includes shellfish PSP testing, air and water monitoring and permitting and inspections.

The Dept. of Administration will delay or cancel vendor purchases and payment on supplies statewide, meaning a loss of nearly $2 million in state contracts paid out each day to Alaska small businesses.

Finally, the Dept. of Natural resources will delay issuance of various permits and authorizations. Find a list of all threatened services by state agencies and departments at

More online features - More options have been added to the popular on line store operated by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, where license sales are up more than 30 percent since a new “print and go” feature was launched in mid-March. Nearly every license and permit is included – for commercial fishing, sport fishing, bear viewing, hunting and more.

“Fishermen, families, fishing and hunting lodges that purchase licenses for their customers, as well as commercial processors who purchase all the licenses for their crew members. They can get all those licenses and then print them in one fell swoop,” said Michelle Kaelke, the Department’s Financing and Licensing Supervisor.

A new option added this week is personal use licenses. And an E-vendor project also will be tested out this summer in Anchorage, Fairbanks in Juneau.

“We’re going to prototype it there and work all the bugs out. Then when things slow down after the busy summer season, we will be working with our license vendors to see who wants to go to E-licenses,” Kaelke said, adding that there are 1,000 license vendors in the state.

Customers will continue to go into stores to purchase their licenses and it will all be done electronically, but the vendors will not have to do paper accounting of the information.

“All the reporting, all the calculations, will automatically be done for them, so it will be a really nice benefit,” she added.

Seventy percent of the department’s licenses are paper, and data entry of the all the information can take months.

“Now, it can be instant,” Kaelke said, adding that the state Troopers also will benefit from the speedy information.

Also just added to the online store – permits to visit the Round Island walrus sanctuary. Coming soon: commercial crew buoy tags, shooting range permits and signups for hunting classes. Find the online store at the ADF&G home page.

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