Archives for June 2016

Alaska scallop catches drop again

Fish Radio

Scallop catches down again in Alaska

July 1, 2016

AK weathervane scallops Credit: csmphotos.com

AK weathervane scallops
Credit: csmphotos.com

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch — Alaska scallop catches take a big dip. I’ll tell you more after this …

Alaskan Quota & Permits in Petersburg works hard for fishermen so they can do what they do best  – fish!  Visit www.alaskabroker.com

Federal grants are available to help “Made in America” companies compete with imports and save US jobs. Learn more at www.nwtaac.org.

Alaska’s scallop fishery gets underway on July 1. A fleet of just three to four boats fish for weathervane scallops from Yakutat to the Bering Sea, with most of the catch coming from waters around Kodiak.  Weathervanes are the largest scallops in the world with a shell diameter averaging ten inches.  It can take up to five years for scallops to reach market size, and they can live up to 20 years.

Scallop boats drop big dredges that make tows along mostly sandy bottoms of strictly defined fishing regions. The fishery is closely monitored by onboard observers –

All boats must carry observers – it’s a heavy cost and hard for us to do at around $350-$400 a day. But it is mandatory and we accept that in order to go into the areas and make sure our bycatch and impact are minimal. 

Jim Stone is owner of two scallop boats, which catch, package and freeze the shucked meats and can remain at sea until Thanksgiving.  Scallop meats are the adductor muscle that keeps the shells closed. They are a wildly popular delicacy and can pay fishermen up to $10 per pound.

This year’s Alaska catch has dipped a bit from the usual nearly 500,000 pounds of shucked meats to just over 286-thousand pounds, the lowest harvest in nearly a decade.   The breakdown is 125,000 pounds for the Yakutat region, 6,300 for Prince William Sound, 105,000 for the Kodiak district, 22,500 for the Alaska Peninsula, 10,000 pounds at Dutch Harbor and 7,500 pounds of shucked meats from the Bering Sea.

It’s pricy scallops that each year nudges Dutch Harbor out of the top spot for the nation’s most valuable seafood port.    New Bedford, Massachusetts has held the lead for value for 15 years running –  due to East coast scallop catches that can top 50 million pounds of shucked meats.

Find links to scallop catches and more at www.alaskafishradio.com

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods.  Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. www.oceanbeauty.com   In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.

Excluders reduce Chinook, chum salmon bycatch in trawl nets

Fish Radio

Excluders reduce trawler salmon bycatch
June 30, 2016                                 bycatch facts

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – New excluders reduce salmon bycatch in trawl nets. More after this –

Alaskan Quota & Permits in Petersburg works hard for fishermen so they can do what they do best  – fish!  Visit www.alaskabroker.com

Federal grants are available to help “Made in America” companies compete with imports and save US jobs. Learn more at www.nwtaac.org.

When trawlers take too many salmon as bycatch when fishing for pollock, cod and other groundfish, those fisheries can shut down fast.  An example:  last year for the first time Chinook salmon caps were imposed on Gulf of Alaska trawlers in various fisheries. Boats targeting cod and flatfish tripped their cap 27-hundred Chinook cap in May, those fisheries were quickly closed by federal managers.  Kodiak and its resident processing workforce took a big hit from the early closure.

That represents, depending on how you want to calculate it, about $5 million in exvessel value and about $12 million in first wholesale value. Those numbers also don’t necessarily accommodate  the fact that there are downstream affects –  anytime you shut a fishery, in particular the trawl fisheries kind of serve as a supplement between the various salmon fisheries, state water fisheries that are also occurring, so there are other economic impacts  on processor workers, purchases in the community, utilities, other things like that were impacted by the closure. And that is definitely something the council considered when making the recommendation.  

Glenn Merrill is NOAA Fisheries Assistant Regional Administrator for the Alaska region in Juneau.

Now, a new excluder device in development for more than a decade allows Chinook and chum salmon to escape from trawl nets while keeping target species in.

 We do now have an excluder that is shown to reduce Chinook bycatch by 25-35 percent and  another design is coming on line where the Chinook bycatch is reduced by 40 percent. It reduces takes of chums as well.

John Gauvin of the Alaska Groundfish Forum presented the encouraging findings from the Bering Sea pollock fishery at the Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage.  The excluder  device is placed  near the end of the net and creates an eddy that salmon are strong enough to swim out through, but pollock are not.   For chum escapes, the key is  openings both  under and at the top of the  trawl net.

Over/under excluders allow escapement both out the top  and on the bottom. This is done by a weighted panel on the top and a floated panel on the bottom effectively allowing a double pathway. We’re thinking that Chinooks will go out thetop and chums will go out the bottom. We’ve got this thing. Our performance results so far have been 40 percent Chinook escapement and 20 percent chum escapement. For the Bering Sea the pollock loss rate has been a fraction on one percent.   

The Bering Sea pollock fleet has a bycatch cap of  60,000 Chinook salmon; for the Gulf the cap is 32,5000 Chinook for all groundfish fisheries. There are no hard caps for bycatch of chum salmon.

Thanks to the assist from APRN.  Find links to groundfish catches and more at our website – www.alaskafishradio.com

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, an Alaska corporation proudly supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and the Alaskans who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and culture.  www.oceanbeauty.com    In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.