Corkline-News for Southeast Gillnetters (6/27/12)

29 Jun

New Phone Number.  We have changed our number to (253) 237-3099.  This is a Google Voice number; if I do not answer you can leave a voice message which will be emailed to me.

Is your USCG Dockside Safety Exam up to date?  If not:  to scheduling a dockside exam in SEAK, contact either Mr. Scott Wilwert in Juneau at 907 463-2448 or, or Mr. Jim Paul in Ketchikan at 907 225-4496 or  Exams are free, and result in no penalties or fines if deficiencies are noted.

Fishermen Profile project to begin soon.  The ASMI Communications program will develop a series of fishermen profiles to recognize fishing families and individuals throughout the state. The information collected will be included on the ASMI website and in newly developed print material.  If you know of a family or individual interested in participating in the project, please contact

Opinion.  Commercial fishing industry deserves local support from the city, and residents (6/26).  Fishing is hard. I’m not talking catching the winning Salmon Derby fish on your first outing hard, or learning a new language hard. I’m talking about an occupation requiring total commitment as a calling or vocation. To be successful as a commercial fisherman, one has to be more than a little interested; one has to be 100 percent invested financially, mentally and with every waking moment. The curse of Alaskan reality TV has many down south thinking the Deadliest Catch is the norm in the industry. In the course of my job I often respond to emails of naïve and misguided potential “greenhorns”, looking for information where to sign on to fishing vessels; all without any experience, presumably looking for adventure and to satisfy a testosterone challenge.  More

Pacific Salmon Commission.  John Field to Assume Executive Secretary Position (6/15).  On behalf of the Pacific Salmon Commission, we are pleased to announce that Mr. John Field will assume the position of Executive Secretary to the Commission effective August 6, 2012. Mr. Field is currently a senior foreign affairs officer with the U.S. Department of State and has extensive experience with international fisheries organizations, including participating in the Pacific Salmon Commission since 2008. We look forward to working with Mr. Field and ask you to join us in welcoming him to this important position in the Commission.

We also take this opportunity to thank Mr. Don Kowal, outgoing Executive Secretary, for his thirteen years of service to the Pacific Salmon Commission and congratulate him on his retirement.   Link

Baranof Warm Springs Hatchery.  June 16.  SITKA – A second public meeting will be held from Noon to 4pm at the Harrigan Centennial Hall for the purpose of taking additional public comment on the ISSUANCE of a PRIVATE NONPROFIT HATCHERY PERMIT to the SUSTAINABLE SALMON INSTITUTE for the proposed BARANOF WARM SPRINGS HATCHERY. The first public hearing was held in Sitka on May 3, 2011, and comments received at that meeting and during the first public comment period remain valid. The hatchery will be located at Baranof Warm Springs on Baranof Island and will produce king and coho salmon. Copies of the Baranof Warm Springs Hatchery application and Basic Management Plan will be available for inspection at the meeting or may be obtained in advance by contacting Sam Rabung at (907) 465-4235 or email Written comments will be accepted through July 2.

Hatchery opposed by Warm Springs owners (6/18).  State officials got an earful from property owners in Baranof Warm Springs who are against a proposed hatchery near the town.

Baranof Warm Springs is technically part of the City of Sitka. It’s a collection of 50 or so lots on eastern Baranof Island. Juneau resident Dale Young, who also owns property in Baranof Warm Springs, wants to raise 3 million salmon there. His original plans had part of the hatchery built in town. But after residents objected, Young moved the project to the back of a lagoon across the bay.  More

Murkowski seeks road access to POW mines (6/20).  U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski has introduced legislation to allow road access to two proposed mines on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska.

Murkowski says the Niblack and Bokan Mountain mines could provide stable, well-paying jobs for hundreds of people. But with no roads to either site, workers would have to be boated or flown to and from the mines.

Murkowski’s bill would authorize a road across 18 miles of the Tongass National Forest currently designated as a “roadless area.” The U.S. Forest Service would choose one of two identified routes to connect the Prince of Wales Island road system to the claims, picking the one the minimizes costs and disturbances and complies with environmental laws and regulations.  Link

Bokan ‘breakthroughs’ raise rare earth estimates (6/22).  The preliminary economic assessment on the Bokan Mountain rare earth element mine project could be completed soon after being delayed from an expected May release to allow more analysis of “fairly significant breakthroughs,” including “order of magnitude” increases of reserves of the valuable deposits.

“We have identified a resource of 5.3 million tons of total rare earth elements,” said Mark MacDonald, vice president for business development of Ucore Rare Metals Inc., on June 1.

The PEA, a critical document in the financial side of mine development, is “imminent,” MacDonald added, but he declined to specify a release date.

“What the PEA tells you is either the mine is economic or not. It is very specific. It’s like a business plan on how you’re going to take the mine to market,” MacDonald said.  More

Coastal management initiative hearing process explained (6/25).  The Alaska Coastal Management road show is about to get underway.

A series of ten public hearings on Ballot Measure 2 will be held around the state in July, starting next Monday in Soldotna and ending July 26th in Juneau. The citizen’s initiative would restore the Alaska Coastal Management Program, which state lawmakers failed to reauthorize during the 2011 regular and special sessions.

It’s the first measure to fall under a new state law requiring at least eight public hearings on an initiative up to 30 days before Election Day. Anchorage Republican Representative Charisse Millett sponsored House Bill 36, which Governor Parnell signed in 2010. Millett says the law is meant to provide a more open and transparent initiative process.

“Initiatives are very powerful. They’re more powerful than a law that any legislature can create,” says Millett. “They last for two years, they can’t be vetoed by the governor, and they can be amended but in a very small amount.”  More  Hearing Schedule

National – NOAA Releases National Observer Program Annual Report.  In 2011, NOAA Fisheries had more than 1,000 observers and 79,570 sea days observed in 47 fisheries across the nation. Those were record numbers for the program. This type of data and more is included in the new National Observer Program Annual Report released by NOAA Fisheries. The report highlights program activities, funding, future goals, and the number of sea days observed and program accomplishments throughout the regions. Observers are NOAA-trained biologists onboard commercial fishing vessels. Their job is to tally the number of fish kept or discarded, document sightings of protected species, and collect data on fishing gear and effort. Established in 1972, the observer program continues to evolve today. In 2011, observer coverage in the Northeast and Northwest regions increased. Find the full report online at

House passes bill granting thousands of acres of National Forest to Sealaska (6/19).  The U.S. House passed a bill on June 19, ceding tens of thousands of acres of the Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska Native Corporation. However, the vote is just one step the bill needs to clear Congress.

This is the furthest along the legislative process the Sealaska bill has made it. It passed the Republican controlled House with 232 votes including 16 Democrats.

The bill would transfer control of tens of thousands of acres of the Tongass from the U.S. Forest Service to the Sealaska Corporation, the final Regional Native Corporation to settle its land claims. The land is outside the plots originally agreed to in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act 40 years ago.  More

Rep. Young’s Sealaska land bill passes House  (6/24).  A bill to finalize Sealaska Corporation’s Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act land claims passed the U.S. House of Representatives, Tuesday.

Rep. Young’s H.R. 1408, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act, passed as part of an omnibus bill sponsored by California Rep. Jeff Dunham – R. The Conservation and Economic Growth, H.R. 2578, passed the House with a vote of 232 to 188.

The legislation would allow Sealaska to select from federal lands that are not available under the original agreement

Sealaska Native Corporation would be entitled to the revenue derived from the sale of harvested timber.  More

Forest Service, conservation groups bet on river restoration (6/21).  Over thirty years ago, the Sitkoh River watershed on Chichagof Island was logged, damaging the local salmon habitat. Now, the US Forest Service is partnering with environmental groups to restore the river — and they say the project is a perfect example of broader changes taking place on the Tongass.   More/KCAW Audio/Photo Gallery  Capital City Weekly

Decline in king salmon is rooted in the sea, state biologists say (6/24).  Something in the ocean has been death to Alaska’s king salmon.

The state’s iconic fish, treasured for food, sport and cash, should now be swimming in droves up rivers from the Southeast rain forests to the populated Railbelt and the Western Alaska tundra.

But they’re not.

To preserve future runs, state officials are clamping down throughout Alaska, banning even catch-and-release fishing of returning kings in Southcentral and halting subsistence king fishing on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. They’re still reviewing whether to restrict the commercial setnetters in Cook Inlet who target sockeyes but can’t help taking kings as well.

“We’re in a period of low abundance and low returns, statewide, and whether it’s from Southeast, Copper River, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Nushagak, Yukon, we’re just in this period of low productivity in the ocean,” said Ricky Gease, a biologist and director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.

After leaving their home rivers as half-ounce smolt, most kings spend three to four years in the ocean, though the range is wide: as little as one year for kings that return as shrimpy jacks, or seven years for monsters. That’s a lot of time for something to go wrong.  More

Southeast king salmon returns OK, so far (6/25).  While other parts of Alaska are seeing disappointing returns of king salmon, Southeast’s Chinook runs have been coming in close to expectations, for the most part.

For iFriendly audio, click here:
It’s a mix of king salmon swimming through the Panhandle at this time of year. Some are making their way back to rivers in Oregon and Washington, others are returning to the Stikine River near Wrangell or the Taku River near Juneau. Another 100-thousand kings are expected to return to the region’s hatchery facilities.

Bill Davidson, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s regional salmon management coordinator, said in general Southeast king returns have been good. “I’m not seeing an overall trend of poor returns or anything like that,” Davidson said. “I think the Taku is one run that did not come in as expected but the Stikine is slightly down and it’s really too early to tell on the hatchery returns and of course as far as coastwide abundance the July 1 opening is going to tell us a lot about how the king runs are doing.”  More/KFSK Audio

Officials raise red flag over red-tide danger (6/25).  State health officials have issued a warning against harvesting shellfish in southeast Alaska, citing the presence of a toxic algae bloom called a “red tide.”

Officials say water samples from around Etolin Island show increasing levels of Alexandrium algae. The algae cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in shellfish.

According to officials, tests also show extremely high levels of the algae around Juneau and a slight increase in levels on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island.  More

Trident finishing up new ice house in Petersburg (6/25).  The seafood processing company Trident is putting the finishing touches on new building on the waterfront in downtown Petersburg. The 30 by 70-foot, two-story structure houses a new ice machine for chilling salmon and other fish landed by Trident’s fleet. Joe Viechnicki spoke with the company’s plant manager in Petersburg Dave Ohmer about the construction project. Link/KFSK Audio

Darden’s Menu revamp could have wide impact on seafood industry (6/25).  Darden executives have revealed plans for a major menu revamp at Red Lobster, to be unveiled this fall. This comes after both lobsterfest and shrimpfest turned disappointing results – and prices may be partly to blame. The menu revamp will likely focus on value-priced items. Because of their size, when Darden shifts course, it can have market impacts. In this case, the trend may be to weaken the pool of buyers for the more expensive seafood items like lobster and crab.  John Sackton Youtube

Marubeni buys European distributor of Alaskan Seafood (6/26). Marubeni has bought Welmar, a Netherlands based distributor of Alaska seafood, with a sourcing office in Seattle. Marubeni also bought N. Pacific’s salmon plant last December. Marubeni says that the turn to Europe and China is vital for its future sales, and with acquisitions, hopes to double its sales by 2015. This follows a trend of Japanese companies vertically integrating from source to distribution in seafood markets outside of Japan.   John Sackton Video

USCG Safety AlertOverloaded Lifting Gear on Fishing Vessels (6/20).  Recently, several catastrophic failures of masts, booms, and lift cables have occurred on purse seine fishing vessels that have resulted in loss of life and severe injuries.  Over the years many casualties have occurred onboard all types of fishing vessels attempting to haul in catches that exceeded the capacity of their winches, hoists, and associated equipment.  These types of casualties are not unusual.   This alert serves to remind all purse seine fishing vessel owners/operators and other fishing segments to ensure safe use of the haul equipment particularly matching the size and the capacity of the nets to the rated size and capacity of the winch/haul/hoist equipment, taking into account safety factors for various species, and other concerns such as the variable platform that a rolling fishing vessel and variable catch presents.  More

UFA Changes Up Leadership (6/21).  United Fishermen of Alaska, an organization representing 37 commercial fishing groups, is hiring a new executive director.

Mark Vinsel, who has held the position for eight years, is transitioning to the newly-created administrator position. He says it’s recently become clear that the organization needs more than one employee.

“You know, during this eight years we’ve seen a proliferation of the number of different agencies, especially on the federal level, with which we need to be keep up to date with what’s going on that might affect fishermen.”  More

Southeast history: Salmon cans for early canneries (6/20).  When salmon were first put in cans in Alaska’s canneries, there were no machines to make cans. All the labor was done by hand by Chinese laborers. It is hard to image the amount of work it took to cut sheet tin, shape the can, close the side seam and put the bottom on with lead solder. Imagine the work to make 13 million cans in 1896 and in 1901, 34 million cans! In the latter years, canners shipped more than a million dollars worth of tin plate to all Alaskan canneries for can making.

Why were cans made in Alaska when all the supplies and laborers were “down south?” It would have been impossible to find storage on the cannery ships for such bulk if the cans had been shipped ready-made. Furthermore, all the cannery crew came north at the same time, and the making of cans provided work for a large part of the crew, otherwise unemployed for six or eight weeks prior to the run. The remainder of the crew prepared and repaired machinery, nets and boats.   More

Have salmon farmers won the public opinion war? (6/19).  Salmon farming has been under sustained attack by environmental groups for years as being unsustainable, even as the industry has grown to become the single largest finfish aquaculture product produced outside of Asia.

Three announcements last week have led me to think that finally, salmon farming is winning the public relations war.  More/John Sackton Video

OREGON.  Editorial: Gillnet ban is one more resource grab (6/18).  Urban/sport-fishing efforts to kill gillnetting are coming to resemble a traveling medicine show, with claims by proponents that are as unreliable as those made by old-fashioned tent-dwelling hucksters.

Most recently, PolitiFact Oregon caught the Stop Gillnetting Now campaign in a big fib – that Oregon is supposedly one of only three states to allow commercial gillnetting. The truth is that Oregon is one of at least 12 states that permit the practice.

Knowledgeable commercial fishing experts can poke holes in a number of other assertions by gillnetting foes. For example, it appears they significantly exaggerate the mortality rates of fish released from gillnets and underestimate the impacts of alternatives.

But as is so often the case with citizen initiatives, the latest anti-gillnet measure making its way toward the Oregon ballot is as much about emotion as facts. Rather than a grab for a bigger share of a scarce resource, anti-gillnetting forces try to dress it up as conservation or modernization or anything else they can think of.

But it’s really a resource grab  More