Each season, with the same regularity as the swallows returning to Capistrano, the trampers arrive back in Western Alaska to haul away the sea’s mother lode. Kind of a sea gypsy, a tramper is a ship that wanders around the oceans of the world, without a schedule, searching for and collecting goods until her holds are full. Trampers are small compared to other deep-sea ships, averaging around 500 feet in length. While there is no argument that fish are valuable, they are not economic equals to oil or some of the other high-volume bulk commodities shipped over the globe.

It went down to the wire, but fishermen were relieved to learn they can continue to hose down their decks without fear of violating the Clean Water Act.

Congress voted unanimously Dec. 10 to extend a moratorium for three years that exempts commercial fishing vessels 79 feet and under from needing incidental discharge permits from the Environmental Protection Agency for deck wash. The current moratorium, which affects 8,500 Alaska vessels, was set to expire on Dec.18.

President Obama's decision to permanently protect Alaska's Bristol Bay and adjacent lands from oil and gas drilling is so clearly the correct decision that the only objections will come from those whose sole interest is the welfare of those two energy industries.

Editor's note: This story has been updated and corrected. Corrected text is indicated with strikethrough and new text is in bold.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council passed tighter restrictions for the 2015 charter halibut fisheries in Southeast and the central Gulf of Alaska.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted unanimously Dec. 13 to amend several alternatives to reduce the chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the eastern Bering Sea pollock fishery.

The council is looking for chum bycatch reductions both by new measures and using existing management aimed at minimizing chinook salmon bycatch.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted unanimously to approve the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska groundfish allocations for 2015.

Bering Sea quotas

The Eastern Bering Sea pollock total allowable catch, or TAC, for 2015 will be 1.325 million pounds, a 4.4 percent increase from 2014’s 1.267 million pound allocation.

Bering Sea Pacific cod will be allotted 246,822 metric tons, down only 75 metric tons from the 2014 TAC.

As an Alaska resident, commercial fisherman throughout the 1970s and early ’80s and a sports fisherman until present, I have observed a shift in the Alaska fishery which made a dramatic rebound in halibut and salmon fisheries post the implementation of the 200-mile limit under the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976.

With one council member absent, an emergency action proposal to reduce Bering Sea halibut bycatch limits for 2015 failed on a tie vote by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council Dec. 13.

The failed motion, introduced by council member Duncan Fields of Kodiak, would have lowered the 2015 Bering Sea halibut bycatch limit by 33 percent from the current limit of more than 10 million pounds allocated between the pollock and bottom trawl fleets.

Concerns over the fate of the directed halibut fishery in the Pribilof Islands prompted lengthy discussion during the December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage.

Council member Duncan Fields of Kodiak introduced a motion for emergency regulation to reduce the 2015 BSAI halibut bycatch allocation by 33 percent, out of concern for harvesters in areas C, D and E, saying that to avoid such emergency action would be shirking the council’s responsibility for fisheries management.

Although there's plenty of fish in the water, the Bering Sea's biggest fishery won't get too much bigger in 2015.

The federal board charged with setting catch limits agreed to put 3 percent more pollock -- or 1.31 million metric tons -- up for harvest next year.

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Bristol Bay, AK — Yesterday, President Obama took action authorized by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to protect Bristol Bay from all future oil and gas drilling.

Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) released the following statement regarding the measure:

Senator Lisa Murkowski today succeeded in brokering a bipartisan agreement to block a costly and redundant EPA regulation on Alaska’s commercial fishing fleet and commercial vessels under 79 feet that would have hurt fishermen and coastal communities. Today’s unanimous U.S. Senate vote comes just weeks after Murkowski introduced a bill with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to extend the current moratorium and co-sponsored efforts establish a permanent exemption. Since then, she has been engaged in continuous negotiations with Senators to reach a workable solution.

The federal government’s Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) budget for fiscal year 2015 includes several provisions written and advanced by Senator Lisa Murkowski. Among them are items to support Alaska’s world class fisheries, improve Arctic navigation, and protect the state’s coastline from the continued debris related to the 2011 Japanese tsunami. The CJS budget is a smaller portion of the omnibus agreement to fund the federal government next year.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich’s Coast Guard Authorization Act (CGAA) passed the Senate by unanimous consent today. The bill will strengthen and modernize the multi-mission service so essential to the nation’s maritime commerce, border security, and the safety of lives at sea. It also includes key provisions to address Alaska’s needs -- including an extended waiver from EPA regulations for small boat operators.

As the 113th Congress nears its close, U.S. Senator Mark Begich has introduced legislation to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the primary federal law that governs marine fisheries management in U.S. waters. The bill is essentially the same as the second MSA discussion draft released by released Begich’s Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard on July 21, and is intended to put the text on the record for future consideration.

President Obama just took action to protect one of Alaska's most powerful economic engines and one of America’s greatest national treasures: Bristol Bay.

Today the President took action to protect one of America's greatest natural treasures by signing a Presidential Memorandum to protect Bristol Bay. One of Alaska's most powerful economic engines, and home to one of the world's largest wild salmon runs, Bristol Bay has helped sustain Alaska Native communities for centuries. And every year, the region provides 40 percent of America’s wild-caught seafood, supporting $2 billion in commercial fishing.

Aspelund says BBRSDA will probably take another survey of its members before commissioning a second study.

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association may commission a second, more in depth study on the idea of reducing the size of the drift fleet in the Bay through a buy back, but will hear first from the fleet before moving forward.

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council passed measures on Thursday for the 2015 charter halibut fisheries in Gulf of Alaska sections 2C and 3A.

The changes reflect the decline in halibut stock over the last decade and attempt to take pressure off the species. In 2013 and 2014, both area 2C and area 3A exceeded their allocations for halibut.

Americans eat more seafood than just about anyone else. Most of it is imported from abroad. And a lot of it — perhaps 25 percent of wild-caught seafood imports, according to fisheries experts — is illegally caught.

The White House is now drafting recommendations on what to do about that. Fisheries experts say they hope the administration will devote more resources to fight seafood piracy.

Just before dawn on Feb. 22, 1901, Capt. Frederick Jordan was fighting heavy fog as he steered the SS City of Rio de Janeiro steamship toward Golden Gate Strait in the San Francisco Bay. Experience prompted him to drop anchor the night before and wait out the weather. But that morning, he resumed course to San Francisco’s port — and the 345-foot steamer struck sharp rocks near Fort Point, at the strait’s southern end.

A struggle in Alaska over shrinking supplies of halibut is threatening the iconic centerpiece fish in favor of cheaper exports, fast-food fillets and fish sticks.

If expected cuts are made in January, halibut fishing could be over in the Bering Sea west of Alaska, the source of one-sixth of halibut caught in the United States. That catch includes most of the frozen supply that sustains restaurants, food-service companies and retail stores nationwide, such as Costco and Whole Foods.

Seattle seafood company Trident Seafood Corporation has signed a letter of intent to buy the assets of Kodiak's Western Alaska Fisheries. The transaction will be finalized Dec. 31, 2014.

Trident controls harvesting, processing, and marketing. Western Alaska Fisheries assets include a Kodiak processing plant for cod, salmon, and pollock among other species.

Pacific halibut fishermen could have a reduced catch next year if the International Pacific Halibut Commission opts to go with the “blue-line” projection released Dec. 2, but Alaskan fishermen in some areas may see a slightly higher quota than in 2014.

The Bering Sea red king crab fleet finished catching 10 million pounds of quota last week — and they’re facing some lackluster prices as the crab goes to market. It could be due to higher catch limits in Alaska and Russia.

Alaskans know that Bristol Bay is all about wild salmon. For thousands of years the people of Bristol Bay have thrived on this bounty and for more than 130 years, it has supported a major sustainable commercial fishery that supplies the world. Bristol Bay produces 50 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon, making the region of true global importance.

The Southeast Alaska Drift Gillnet and Purse Seine task forces met in Petersburg on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, to review the 2014 season and discuss the 2015 season.