A few summer issues … USAG is still following the Sealaska Lands Bill. We have been actively engaged with United Fishermen of Alaska to make sure our concerns are well represented. The bill is expected to be formally adopted in committee in the coming weeks. Sen. Murkowski has issued a press release highlighting some changes, but as of yet the bill needs substantial provisions to adequately address the fishing industry’s concerns especially regarding land selections outside the existing ANCSA approved lands on salmon producing systems. We will continue to be engaged with our fellow fishermen in the Troller’s Association and at the Southeast Seiner’s Association as we have been in active conversations the last few weeks.
There are other issues regarding observer coverage regarding porpoises and seabirds moving forward. We will try to find out more and be engaged as the federal agencies continue to move forward.Fishing appears to be proceeding relatively well for the gillnet fleet this summer. There seems to be ample opportunities this summer from District 1 through District 15. No one district has been out in front with regards to large harvest opportunities, but each district has had some relatively good weeks. It is still up to individual fishermen to grind out a season and come away with a profitable summer. I hope each of us is able to find sustainability in our operations at the bare minimum.
On the bright side, the Stikine seems to be bucking the recent trend of late regarding poor sockeye returns. We have had dismal and lower than escapement needs for many SE sockeye systems in recent years particularly on the Taku, Chilkoot, Stikine, SpeeL River, and McDonald Lake. It is possible we are coming out of a poor ocean survival ratio for all southeast sockeye systems. As you are aware, sockeye escapement drives our summer management, which limits or gives time on enhanced fish systems. We are following the weir and sonar information closely and some USAG board members already have recommendations for the Dept. of Fish & Game regarding management decisions.
Hatchery production is mixed across SE this summer so far. NSRAA appears to again be having poor returns. Hidden Falls has come in under forecast again. DIPAC’s production is spot on forecast but they were expecting roughly 1.5 million less fish than last year. SSRRA has had some decent production for Neets Bay chum opportunities with strong harvests recorded so far for the trollers.
Prices have rebounded somewhat with chums and sockeye up respectively. Cohos and Kings have remained relatively flat compared to last year with Pinks also up but with little opportunity due to poor returns.
Membership-USAG appreciates all of you that are already members. Your contribution to the fleet and to your fishery is unmatched by your monetary contribution. Your board members are very dedicated to protecting and enhancing your fishery. USAG as an organization will need your continued support moving forward. We need to increase our membership overall. No organization other than USAG advocates for your gillnet fishery. Please take the time to contribute and join USAG if you have not done so already.
Good luck fishing and best of luck for the rest of the summer.