State fisheries board turns down request to curtail hatcheries

The state Board of Fisheries denied a request Oct. 16 by sport fishing groups to rollback hatchery releases of salmon fry statewide and approved an expansion for Valdez Fisheries Development Corp., operator of the Solomon Gulch hatchery in Prince William Sound. Sports groups argued that increasing numbers of hatchery-released fish are competing with wild salmon for food in the ocean. Commercial fish groups argued the science is uncertain, and hatcheries are vital in smoothing out wild salmon runs, which can be very volatile.

Winter crab fisheries kick off

Alaskans are gearing up for winter crab fisheries. The big Bering Sea snow crab season will have a 27.5 million pound catch quota, up 47 percent from last year. The Tanner crab take will be down 2 percent, to 2.4 million pounds, while the red king crab harvest in Bristol Bay will be down 36 percent, to 4.3 million pounds. Red king crab stocks have been down and harvesters were worried there might not be a fishery this year.

Tanner crab in Sound again

In Prince William Sound it looks like there will be another Tanner crab fishery in March following last year’s experimental opening, in which 15 harvesters netted 32,000 pounds of crab. Before 2017 there had not been a winter Tanner harvest since 1988. Harvesters and processors welcomed the development, which helped diversify harvesters in the Sound away from total dependence on summer salmon catches.

Pollock, cod quotas for 2019

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council will consider proposals to increase the Bering Sea pollock harvest limit to about 1.4 million metric tons, or about 3 billion pounds. Bering Sea Pacific cod catches could be reduced by 64 million pounds, however, to a harvest limit of 350 million pounds.

Bering Sea cod may be moving north into cooler waters. Survey results in 2017 and 2018 show the cod biomass dropping 21 percent in the southern Bering Sea but increasing by 95 percent in northern areas. The northern and southern cod are genetically similar, so it’s unlikely cod are migrating into the northern areas from elsewhere.

A little tariff relief for fish products

Two categories of salmon fillets imported from China were dropped from the list of Chinese imports subject to U.S. tariffs. The products are valued at $230 million but not all of that is for fillets made from salmon caught in Alaska and exported to China for processing and reexport to the U.S. Some types of cod and pollock products, also from fish caught in Alaska, were are removed from the list but some products, including salmon, remain subject to tariffs.

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