commercial fishing

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Cook Inlet salmon fishery was once an economic engine for Kenai.

But the fishing there is no longer lucrative. Many fishermen with deep ties to the inlet are retiring — or moving elsewhere. 


Redoubt Reporter

The Board of Fisheries has denied two emergency petitions from Kenai Peninsula setnetters asking to reopen a limited fishery for what is left of the sockeye run.

 

The east side setnet commercial fishery has been closed since July 20 after the Alaska Department of Fish and game closed the Kenai River king salmon sportfishery. The setnets are tied to the restrictions in the sportfishery, and came out of the water entirely when the sportfishery closed. The late run of king salmon has been depressed this year—only 6,420 large kings have passed the sonar on the Kenai, and Fish and Game is projecting that the run won’t make the lower end of the escapement goal, even without harvest.

Redoubt Reporter

Commercial setnet fishermen in Cook Inlet had their season cut short last week. When the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed the Kenai River to sportfishing for king salmon, it closed the east setnet fishery completely. Some of them had only had a handful of openers.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

The Kenai River will close entirely to king salmon fishing starting Wednesday.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the closure Monday afternoon after nearly three weeks of watching the late-run king salmon fail to return to the Kenai River in large enough numbers. The lower river started July with a king fishery open to retention, but no bait allowed; the department moved to catch-and-release only, with a note that further action might be necessary. Even with the closure, biologists don’t think the run will make the minimum escapement goal.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Commercial fishing is underway across Upper Cook Inlet. Some fishermen to the north of Kenai have had their nets in the water since May, but permit holders in the setnet and drift gillnet fisheries are just getting into the heat of the season as the Kenai and Kasilof sockeye runs pick up. That’s where the majority of the harvest is.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

For commercial fishermen, the difference between getting a few more hours of sleep or not can sometimes be a question of livelihood.

That’s what Jerry Dzugan explains in his classes. He’s the executive director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, or AMSEA, based in Sitka.

Redoubt Reporter

Fishermen will still drift net Upper Cook Inlet’s federal waters this summer. But it may be their last season there, after the body that manages the fishery moved to close it to commercial fishing late last year.

First, the amended plan has to be approved by the feds. NOAA Fisheries is now asking for public comment on the proposal through July.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Both the commercial hooligan and herring fisheries in Upper Cook Inlet are closing this week after reaching quota.

The commercial fishery for hooligan — a kind of smelt — opened May 1. But Fish and Game management biologist Brain Marston said people didn’t start catching until May 10.

April is National Poetry Month. Today on the show, peninsula fisher poets.

Our guests are Brent Johnson of Clam Gulch, Georgie Heaverley from Nikiski, Clark Whitney of Soldotna and Steve Schoonmaker of Kasilof.

Alaska fisheries more than three miles offshore fall under the purview of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, a group of 11 voting members that makes policy decisions about the federal fisheries off the Alaska coast.

One of those council members is Seward’s Andy Mezirow. He was just appointed to his third three-year term by Gov. Mike Dunelavy. It’ll be his last, due to term limits. 


Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has been diving into the effects of COVID-19 on the seafood industry for a while now.

Mainly, it’s been using interviews, anecdotal evidence and market research to compile briefings about how fishermen and other industry stakeholders have fared.

Now, the association is looking for more quantitative data about the effects of the pandemic. It’s sending out two surveys — one for fishermen and one for processors.

Redoubt Reporter

Upper Cook Inlet fishermen should expect another below-average sockeye salmon run this year.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecasts a return of 4,370,000 sockeye to Upper Cook Inlet in 2021, according to a report released Friday

Redoubt Reporter

A new federal act will set aside funds annually to support fledgling fishermen, pending approval from President Donald Trump.

The Young Fishermen’s Development Act passed through both houses of Congress this month with strong support from all three Alaska legislators. If enacted, the act would fund training and mentorship opportunities for commercial fishermen who are just entering the industry.

Redoubt Reporter

Federal managers voted Monday to close a huge swath of Upper Cook Inlet to commercial salmon fishing, capping a two-year fight over the fate of the fishery and its 500 permit-holders.

Those fishermen and representatives from the Kenai Peninsula turned out in droves to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council meeting to oppose the closure and advocate for lighter conservation measures.

But when representatives from Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration said the state was unwilling to manage the area alongside the federal government, the council voted unanimously for the closure.

Courtesy of Sara Erickson

Fish skin is hardly a hot commodity. Processors like Kenai’s Pacific Star Seafoods usually grind up and discard the stuff once they’ve separated it from the meaty goodness that goes to market.

But these days, Pacfic Star is selling more than 3,600 pounds of cod and halibut skin to Sara Erickson, owner of the dog treat business AlaSkins. Erickson orders another 2,550 pounds of skin from Icicle Seafoods in Seward and 300 pounds each from 10th and M and Cooper River Seafoods in Anchorage.


NOAA

The southern half of Cook Inlet will have a new fishery management plan in under a month. Commercial fishermen are organizing with the help of their city councils to make sure that plan is not the proposed “Alternative 4,” which would close off federal waters south of Kalgin Island to commercial salmon fishing.

Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel is bringing forth a resolution to oppose such a closure at a special Kenai City Council meeting tonight.

“I hate to be overdramatic in a lot of cases, but you could almost call it a deathknell for drift fishing in Cook Inlet,” he said.

This year’s commercial salmon harvest was bad. Really bad.

The harvest in Upper Cook Inlet was reportedly the lowest since 1971, with drift gillnet and east side setnet harvests 86 percent lower than their respective recent 10-year averages. On top of that, the price for sockeye salmon paled in comparison with recent years.

That burden hits close to home for a lot of Kenai Peninsula fishermen. At the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting Tuesday, representatives from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association called on the assembly to request that the state of Alaska declare an economic disaster for Upper Cook Inlet commercial salmon fisheries. 

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Commercial fishermen had a rough season this summer, for myriad reasons. As such, CARES funding from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and city of Kenai could be welcome relief.

However, while borough and city programs both target commercial fishermen, their terms of eligibility are very different. To receive funding from Kenai, you have to be a resident of the city but you can fish anywhere in Alaska. For borough funding, you don’t have to be a resident of the borough, you just have to do your fishing here.

Redoubt Reporter file photo

July and August are the height of the Kenai River sportfishing season, but fishermen are going to have to work a little harder for their catches for the first couple weeks of August.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that bait and multiple hooks will be prohibited on the Kenai River from the mouth to the outlet of Skilak Lake starting Saturday at midnight. The change lasts through August 15.

Redoubt Reporter

Commercial fishermen in Upper Cook Inlet are having a somewhat slow fishing season so far.

So far, only 361,000 salmon have been landed, which is only a little bit ahead of last year, when they ended the season with about a third less than the recent averages. Fish tickets are coming in on Wednesday, but they’re not event quite halfway to the average harvest by this time, said commercial fisheries management biologist Brian Marston. Average right now would be about 800,000.

Like nearly every corner of the economy, commercial fishermen have had to adapt to the pandemic as Alaska heads into its busy salmon season. However, unlike other parts of the economy, commercial fishermen haven’t been eligible for all the federal aid available.

Until this week, a big chunk of fishermen’s payroll wasn’t eligible for help under the Payroll Protection Program, or PPP. That’s because many of them pay their crewmen with 1099s, as independent contractors. Until yesterday, they couldn’t use that to apply for the PPP. United Fishermen of Alaska executive director Frances Leach said that presented significant challenges for the fleet.

Redoubt Reporter

With more sockeye salmon showing up in Cook Inlet, the commercial fishing season is due to get underway in the next few weeks. But this season is different for everyone, from processors to set-netters.

The coronavirus pandemic has put extra hurdles in the way for commercial fishing. Many of the processing employees come from out of state each year, as do many deckhands and fishermen. On top of that, most fisheries in the state operate in small communities with limited health care resources. The Kenai Peninsula is no exception.

Redoubt Reporter

The Alaska Board of Fisheries heard two days of public comments over the weekend, weighing in on the 171 Upper Cook Inlet fisheries proposals it is considering this week and next in Anchorage.

As usual, it’s a tug-of-war over fish allocation, not only between commercial, sport and personal-use fisheries, but between regions, as well. The Matanuska-Susitna area is making a concerted effort to convince the board to regulate for more fish to get past mid-inlet commercial fisheries to upper-inlet streams.

Peter Matisse, of the Susitna Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee, advocated for a conservation corridor, which would keep commercial drift-net fishing closer to shore, the thought being that this would allow passage of salmon heading to northern streams.

“Biologists are just beginning to understand that many of these fish travel through these corridors to great harvesting press and struggle to make it to the last destination, of the Su,” Matisse sai

Board of Fisheries rejects hatchery proposals

Dec 17, 2019
Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association

 

The state Board of Fisheries wrapped up three days of meetings focused on Lower Cook Inlet issues on Friday. Hatchery operations were one of the more debated topics, with a number of proposals before the board aimed at limiting hatchery operations.

 

 

Redoubt Reporter

It’s no secret that a good amount of commercial fishing revenue generated in Alaska doesn’t stay here. A new study from UAA took a look at how much commercial fishing does contribute to local economies, and where that income goes when it doesn’t create jobs at home.


Commercial catches lagging behind in late sockeye run

Jul 29, 2019
United Cook Inlet Drift Association

 

Commercial fisheries in Upper Cook Inlet are also getting more time to harvest the late run of sockeye to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.

Commercial salmon harvest lagging behind in Cook Inlet

Jul 17, 2019
Redoubt Reporter

 

The Upper Cook Inlet salmon return is beginning to take shape and escapement goals look well within reach for both Kenai and Kasilof river sockeye. But that hasn’t translated to big harvests for commercial fishermen.

Emily Kwong/KCAW

 

A surprise vote by the Alaska Board of Fisheries Friday caught the fishing community on the Kenai Peninsula off guard. Triennial meetings regarding Upper Cook Inlet fishing issues haven’t been held on the Peninsula in nearly two decades. The board recently voted to begin moving those meetings around on a rotating basis, including holding the 2020 session on the Peninsula. But after Friday’s vote, that two-week meeting will be held once again in Anchorage.

 

 


ECON 919 - Declaring the 2018 fishing season a disaster

Nov 30, 2018

 

The 2018 fishing season didn’t leave many positives to look back on, and in fact, presented some new challenges. The borough assembly joined the city of Kenai and the city of Homer in requesting a formal disaster declaration for the 2018 salmon season, including commercial and sport fisheries and related businesses.

 

 


On the Kenai Conversation this week, host Jay Barrett welcomes Cook Inlet commercial salmon fishermen Paul Shadura, Jesse Bjorkman and Andy Hall to discuss the downward trajectory of salmon returns, management goals and the need for all gear groups to finally come together and work for the benefit of the fish.

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