Friday marked the release of $7.5 million in federal disaster assistance for commercial fishermen affected by the 2012 failure of the Chinook salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers and Cook Inlet. Both US Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich welcomed the news and spoke in support of the decision.

The state of Alaska is spending millions of dollars working on what could be called a mystery — why king salmon runs continue to decline.
The Chinook Salmon Research Initiative has many parts with the same goal, to better understand what is happening to king salmon so the resource can be better managed through both good times and bad.

For some southeast Alaska salmon stocks, goals for escapements — the number of fish allowed to swim free during fishing season to spawn — have changed to maximize the fish populations in those runs.

Steve Heinl and Ed Jones of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game informed the ADF&G Board of Fisheries of the changes on Wednesday. The board is holding a work session meeting in Juneau through Thursday at Centennial Hall.

From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the 2015 Togiak herring forecast and harvest allocation are listed below for the Togiak District sac roe and spawn-on-kelp fishery, and the Dutch Harbor food and bait fishery, given a maximum 20% exploitation rate of the projected run biomass.

Wednesday marked the opening of the Bering Sea crab season. Quotas are up almost across the board. But one species that usually takes a backseat is outshining the rest -- and as KUCB’s Annie Ropeik reports, that’s got some fishermen changing their game plans.

Two years ago, there was no harvest for Bairdi tanner crab. Without enough legal females in the water, it wasn’t safe to fish.

When the season reopened last year, the quota was kept low. But now, Fish & Game biologist Heather Fitch says Bairdi seem to have bounced back:

If measured in sheer volume of fish, the Upper Cook Inlet commercial harvest of salmon was low: preliminary Fish and Game estimates show it at about 20 percent less than the 10-year average harvest. But, when price-per-pound is factored in, the exvessel value of the 2014 harvest was high at $35 million — making it the second year in a row that Cook Inlet commercial harvesters have seen lower-than-average harvests with higher-than-average values.

How do you solve a problem like bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries?

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council devoted hours of its fall meeting in Anchorage to that question, finally emerging with a motion calling for analysis of a number of alternatives and options.

The three alternatives to be considered include taking no action, a trawl bycatch management program for the Western Gulf, Central Gulf and West Yakutat area, and an alternative with a community fisheries association allocation or adaptive management program.

Bering Sea crab and pollock stocks all appear to be on the upswing — good news for Washington-based fishermen whose Alaska harvests are mainstays of the multibillion-dollar North Pacific seafood industry.

The improved outlook means some bigger harvests.

The Bristol Bay red king crab harvest that starts Wednesday has a catch limit that’s 16 percent higher than in 2013. Other Bering Sea harvests unfolding in the months ahead for snow crab, blue king crab and tanner crab will have limits set from 26 percent to 480 percent higher than the previous seasons.

NOAA and American Seafoods Company (ASC) this week agreed to settle three civil enforcement cases involving flow scales on board the ASC’s fishing vessels. The cases relate to events that occurred during 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2012 in the Alaska pollock fishery. Pursuant to the settlement, ASC agreed to pay a combined civil penalty of $1.75 million.

The cases charged that personnel aboard the ASC’s catcher-processor vessels American Dynasty, Ocean Rover and Northern Eagle violated the Magnuson Stevens Act and the American Fisheries Act by causing the flow scales to weigh inaccurately.

Authorities have raised the Bering Sea snow crab total allowable catch (TAC) by nearly 26% and boosted quotas for other crab fisheries for the 2014-2015 season, which begins Wednesday.

Crabbers in Bering Sea District waters this season will be allowed to catch 67.95 million pounds of snow crab, compared with 53.983m pounds last season, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) said last week.

Diving for sea cucumbers, geoduck clams, and sea urchins is a unique yet very lucrative fishery. Southeast holds the title for the biggest dive fisheries in Alaska. Around 70 divers have been searching the bottom of the ocean for sea cumbers since opening day on October 1st. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s dive fisheries Stock Assessment Leader Mike Donnellan in Juneau gives us the scoop.

“For cucumbers we’ve got a GHL of just over a million pounds, and that is up about 81/2 percent over the last time these areas where opened.”

A ballot measure to protect salmon in Southwest hasn’t grabbed as many headlines as pot and campaign politics. Ballot Measure 4, sponsored by the group Bristol Bay Forever, asks voters to give the Alaska legislature final say on any large oil, gas and mining projects in the 36,000 square miles of the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.

The initiative does three significant things to the existing reserve, said Dick Mylius, a former state director for the Division of Mining, Land, and Water.

Back in 1985, a lone lionfish was first spotted off the Florida coast, possibly dumped into the ocean by a dissatisfied aquarium owner. At the time, it seemed harmless enough: a colorful fish native to Indonesia that had somehow made its way over here.

No one could have imagined the disaster that would follow.

Kuskokwim area commercial salmon fishermen earned 2.2 million dollars in 2014. A preliminary report from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game released Friday shows the total income slightly below last year’s total, but still 27-percent above the 10-year average.

Fishermen in District 1, the Lower Kuskokwim, tallied 818-thousand dollars, while Quinhagak fishermen earned 844-thouand dollars, and Goodnews Bay fishermen were paid 576-thousand dollars.

Fishing vessels between 40 and 57.5 feet in length will carry marine observers on a trip-by-trip basis next year under a change recommended today by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The council took action on the 2015 annual deployment plan, or ADP, for the marine observer program, which places someone onboard commercial fishing vessels to count and sample the catch.

After a year's absence, Unalaska now has somebody working at the Marine Advisory Program and at the Interior-Aleutians Campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. And they're the same person. Melissa "Missy" Good started work last week in the hybrid position
"Right now my plate's pretty open. I want to see what the community wants," said Good, who worked locally as the assistant area shellfish management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for the past 3-and-a-half years.

The Bristol Bay red king crab season scheduled to get under way Oct. 15 is set for another increase, rising 14 percent, from 8.6 million pounds last season to 10 million pounds this year, including 10 percent for community development quotas.

The quota was up 9 percent last year, from 7.8 million pounds.

The St. Matthews blue king crab season will re-open this year with a cautious quota of 655,000 pounds, after being closed last year.

Summer 2014 represented a different kind of summer for Alaska fishermen. While commercial halibut fishermen have had their catch limits reduced for a number of years, this year the reductions hit charter fishermen in Southcentral Alaska as well. Anyone who went out on a charter boat out of Homer, Whittier, Seward or Kodiak knows that this year, fishermen could only keep one halibut of any size, and the second halibut had to be smaller than 29 inches.

Unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska mean a warm, wet fall and winter for Southeast Alaska, but what they mean for this year’s juvenile salmon is yet to be seen.

A U.S. Airways flight from New York to Charlotte, North Carolina, was delayed after a shipment of crabs escaped in the plane’s cargo area, an airline spokesman told ABC News.

Flight 890 was scheduled to leave LaGuardia Airport at 6:59 p.m. Thursday, but instead left at 7:25 p.m. because of “some seafood cargo problems,” the spokesman said.

Passengers tweeted about the situation, writing that crew members were forced to round up the crabs.

Changes to the observer program and discussion of a possible Gulf of Alaska rationalization program are back on the menu at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s October meeting.

The council, which will meet Oct. 8-14 in Anchorage, will also approve crab fishery catches, take final action on Pacific cod fishery for the Community Development Quota, or CDQ, fleet and take action on Bering Sea crab fishery provisions.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has launched its updated standard for sustainable fishing, which is claimed to reflect the most up-to-date understanding of fishery science and management.

The updated standard, Version 2.0 of the MSC’s Fisheries Certification Requirements, was developed over the past two years and involved a year-long consultation with fishing industry experts, scientists, NGOs and MSC’s wide network of partners.

A sharp, wide-ranging debate on Alaska fisheries Wednesday evening saw organizers and Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich put Republican challenger Dan Sullivan on the defensive over his pro-development record, with Sullivan delivering some targeted shots of his own to keep Begich from getting too comfortable.

Alaska's conservative management combined with the grace of Mother Nature are swelling the abundance of two of the state's largest and most important fisheries.
Bering Sea crab scientists and stakeholder met last week to discuss the outlook for Alaska's biggest crab fisheries, which open Oct. 15. The takeaway was that the stocks of red king crab, bairdi Tanners and snow crab all showed big increases in mature size classes, based on data from the annual summer surveys. (Only mature male crabs can be retained in Alaska's crab fisheries.)

The opening of the 2014-2015 Alaska crab season coming on Oct. 15 is drawing a lot of interest in the upcoming announcement of crab quotas.

The seventh edition of “Beating the Odds: A Guide to Commercial Fishing Safety,” by Susan Clark Jensen and Jerry Dzugan of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, is hot off the presses, with updated information on survival at sea.

The 250-page book tackles a wide range of issues, from reading the weather and handling fishing gear safely to fatigue, hydration and nutrition, putting out fires onboard and the importance of safe seamanship.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is on a salmon-buying binge. It usually spends $6 million a year buying pink salmon. This summer, it is spending a total $39 million.

That's a relief for fishermen who caught pink salmon in record quantities back in 2013. A year-and-a-half's worth of pink salmon was caught in that year, and now millions of cans from that year are still sitting in warehouses.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a North Coast lawmaker’s bill banning the commercial production of genetically altered salmon.

AB 504, authored by Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, extends the prohibition of spawning or cultivating so-called “transgenic salmonids” in the Pacific Ocean to all waters of the state. The hatchery production and stocking of such fish also is prohibited.