Salmon catch passes 100 million

Alaska’s Dept. of Fish and Game is now forecasting a harvest of 147 million salmon for 2018, which is within the range of 100 million to 150 million fish caught that is considered the long-term norm. The catch passed 100 million a week ago. The pain this year is caused by a dismal pink salmon catch and a poor sockeye harvest outside of Bristol Bay, which boomed this year. About 42 million sockeyes will be caught in the bay of a total expected harvest of 49.2 million. An uncertainty this year was the uneven timing of sockeye runs in Southcentral Alaska, which were weak anyway. The timing made it difficult for fish and game biologists to manage fishery openings, adversely affecting fishing. Sockeyes returning to ocean areas north of the Aleutians were strong and those in the Gulf of Alaska, where the unusual warm water “blob” was located, suffered. Water temperature affects food availability for juvenile salmon, scientists say.

Pink harvest in Sound, Kodiak

Pink salmon catches in Prince William Sound and Kodiak are now a little better than 2016, the last “low” year in the two-year cycle for this species but 38 percent down year-to-date from last year, a “high” year in the cycle. The sockeye outlook in Chignik is still dismal. There may be no commercial fishery at all this year in this Alaska Peninsula community, which is on the Gulf of Alaska.

Walker signs mariculture bill

Gov. Bill Walker signed House Bill 38, sponsored by Rep. Dan Ortiz, D-Ketchikan, expanding the state’s Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund. The governor also issued a new administrative order extending the Alaska Mariculture Task Force, an official advisory body. The task force would have terminated without the extension. Moves to reinforce the infant industry come as 16 new applicants for mariculture permits hope to enter the industry. There are now 35 shellfish farms and six hatchery/nurseries operating. In 2017 mariculture operators in the state produced 11,456 pounds of clams; 1.8 million oysters; 16,570 pounds of seaweed and 1,678 pounds of mussels.

Warm water in north Bering Sea

Federal scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who do ocean surveys in the Bering Sea were startled to find warm water this summer even in northern parts of the Bering where water temperatures are usually cold. A thermal “curtain” normally separating the south Bering from the north is absent this year for the first time in 37 years of ocean surveys by NOAA. The finding has important implications for fisheries.

Norton Sound small catch is good

Norton Sound has a small pink salmon fishery but it was a great year, with 230,000 fish harvested. It was a good year for crab fishing, too. Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., the regional Community Development Quota nonprofit, operated its processing plant in Unalakleet for 59 days, typically with 12-hour shifts. The corporation is seeking to build more worker housing there.

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