Articles written by Laine Welch


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  • Japanese market has collapsed for Alaska herring catch

    Laine Welch|Mar 30, 2022

    The arrival of herring signals the start of Alaska’s spring fisheries and this year’s commercial catch limits from each of the three main areas are record breakers. But much of the catch will go unharvested — there is no market. Combined harvests from three prime producing areas total 118,346 tons, or nearly 237 million pounds. The limit for the Sitka Sound harvest in late March is set at over 45,164 tons, followed the first days of April at Kodiak where a harvest of 8,075 tons is allowed. Alaska’s largest roe herring fishery at Togiak in Brist...

  • Hatchery salmon provided a third of last year's statewide catch

    Laine Welch|Mar 23, 2022

    The 64 million salmon returning home to Alaska hatcheries accounted for nearly one-third of the 2021 statewide commercial harvest. It was the eighth-largest hatchery homecoming since 1977. At a payout of $142 million, the salmon produced 25% of the overall value at the dock. An additional 220,000 salmon that got their start in a hatchery were caught in Alaska sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries. Counting the fish taken at the hatcheries for brood stock, nearly 69 million adult hatchery salmon returned last year, according to the...

  • Halibut, black cod fisheries open with hopes of high prices

    Laine Welch|Mar 9, 2022

    March means more fishing boats are out on the water with the start of the Pacific halibut and sablefish (black cod) fisheries this past Sunday, followed by Alaska’s first big herring fishery at Sitka Sound. For halibut, the coastwide catch from waters ranging from the West Coast states to British Columbia to the far reaches of the Bering Sea was increased by 5.7% this year to 41.22 million pounds. Alaska always gets the lion’s share of the commercial halibut harvest, which for 2022 is 21.51 million pounds, a nearly 10% increase. Exp...

  • Wrangell's Waterbody bath soak wins grand prize in Juneau

    Laine Welch|Mar 2, 2022

    Waterbody, operated by Angie Flickinger, of Wrangell, won the grand prize for its Deep Blue Sea Bath Soak at the Alaska Symphony of Seafood awards ceremony on Feb. 24 in Juneau. Made with bull kelp and sea salts, the soak is described as “smelling like that first breath of fresh sea-salted air as you resurface from a skinny dipping swan dive.” Flickinger started her business in 2015 as Gathered and Grown Botanicals, when she wanted to give handcrafted soap as a gift. She later changed the name to Waterbody and expanded her offerings. The Ala...

  • Report looks at Alaska's potential to grow in seaweed business

    Laine Welch|Feb 16, 2022

    The U.S. grows less than one-100th of 1% of the world’s $6 billion seaweed market, but Alaska has the goods to grow into a major contributor. A new report assesses the pros and cons of six communities as locations for seaweed processing facilities to assist companies interested in operating in Alaska. It was compiled by McKinley Research Group for the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which has played a central role in keeping Alaska seaweed in the resource development spotlight. The six study communities were evaluated based on three c...

  • Tanner crab season opens to high expectations

    Laine Welch|Feb 9, 2022

    Frigid February fishing in Alaska features crabbing from the Panhandle to the Bering Sea, followed in March by halibut, black cod and herring. Southeast crabbers will drop pots for Tanners on Friday, and they’re expecting one of the best seasons ever. Fishery managers said they are seeing “historically high levels” of Tanners with good recruitment coming up from behind. The catch limit won’t be set until the fishery is underway but last year’s take was 1.27 million pounds (504,369 crabs), which weighed 2.5 pounds on average. Crabbers know they...

  • Legislators want federal help with seafood exports to China and Russia

    Laine Welch|Feb 2, 2022

    Seafood is Alaska’s biggest export by far, and state legislators want the federal government to get tougher on trade policies that they say unfairly hurt global sales. Two resolutions (Senate Joint Resolution 16 and SJR17) were advanced last week by the House Fisheries Committee that address Russia’s ban on buying any U.S. foods since 2014 and also punitive seafood tariffs by China since 2018. Meanwhile, the U.S. is importing an increasing amount of seafood from both countries. Both resolutions were introduced by Kodiak Sen. Gary Stevens and...

  • Seafood marketing agency counts fish and fishermen

    Laine Welch|Jan 27, 2022

    Where do most Alaska fishermen live? Which Alaska region is home to the most fishing boats? The answers are in an economic report by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute for 2019/2020 that includes all regions from Ketchikan to Kotzebue. Nearly 40% of Alaska’s more than 31,000 fishermen live in the Southcentral towns of Anchorage, Kenai, Cordova, Seward, Homer, Valdez and Whittier. They earn more than half of their paychecks from fisheries outside of the region, with the Bristol Bay driftnet fishery their main source of income. S...

  • Kodiak Tanner crabbers getting $8.10 per pound to start

    Laine Welch|Jan 20, 2022

    Kodiak fishermen are getting an advance price of $8.10 per pound for Tanner crab in the fishery that opened Jan. 15. High crab prices have led all other seafoods during the COVID-19 pandemic as buyers grab all they can to fill demand at buffet tables, restaurants and retail counters around the world. “Our strategy was to get a price before the season even started. It’s simply bad business to go fishing without a price,” said Peter Longrich, secretary of the 74-member Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative which negotiated the deal with local processo...

  • Pacific Halibut Commission will set catch later this month

    Laine Welch|Jan 13, 2022

    Pacific halibut catches for 2022 will be announced at the annual International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting held online Jan. 24-28, and fishermen are hoping for another year of increased catches when the fishery opens in early March. Last year’s coastwide catch limit was 39 million pounds for commercial, sport, subsistence and personal-use fisheries, and bycatch, spanning from California and British Columbia to the far reaches of the Bering Sea. Alaska always gets the lion’s share of the quota, and in 2021 fishermen holding shares of the...

  • Alaska senators introduce salmon research legislation

    Laine Welch|Jan 6, 2022

    Legislation titled the Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act was introduced in Congress last month by Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan that, if passed, could help scientists and fisheries managers gain a better understanding about the causes of salmon declines. Under the bill, a task force of up to 19 people would conduct a comprehensive review of salmon science and management in Alaska. The bill also would establish a working group specifically focused on salmon returns in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region of Western and...

  • Processors boost prices paid for sockeye salmon

    Laine Welch|Dec 23, 2021

    Strong global and U.S. demand for sockeye salmon has 2021 pushed prices to near record highs and boosted fishermen’s paychecks. Both Silver Bay and Peter Pan Seafoods a few weeks ago increased their base prices to fishermen to $1.45 per pound, a 20-cent increase from the summer. Other Alaska companies are likely to follow suit. That compares to a final price in 2020 of just $1.06 “Obviously, the base price is announced earlier in the season. Now that we can see where sales are going and really have a confident look, we’re excited to celeb...

  • LED lights help guide salmon to openings in trawl nets

    Laine Welch|Dec 16, 2021

    Low-cost LED lights can help Chinook salmon escape trawl nets. A 2020 study by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center showed that LEDs are very effective in directing Chinook salmon to escape openings in trawl nets targeting Pacific hake, the largest groundfish fishery on the West Coast that typically takes more than 500 million pounds a year. The study showed that Chinook are much more likely to exit the nets where lights are placed — 86% of escaped salmon used the LED-framed openings — w...

  • Summer survey shows strength in Pacific halibut resource

    Laine Welch|Dec 9, 2021

    Pacific halibut stock appears to be on an upswing and could result in increased catches for most regions in 2022. At the interim meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission last week, scientists gave an overview of the summer setline survey that targets nearly 2,000 stations over three months. The Pacific resource is modeled as a single stock extending from northern California to the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea, including all inside waters through British Columbia and Alaska. The survey showed that coastwide combined numbers...

  • Fishing gear recycling company nets 1 million pounds

    Laine Welch|Dec 2, 2021

    More than one million pounds of old fishing nets and lines from Alaska have made it to recycling markets, where they are remade into plastic pellets and fibers. The milestone was reached with a recent haul of nets from Unalaska, and more are already adding to the total. Shipping vans filled with old gear collected at Haines were offloaded in Seattle last week and another container from Cordova is on its way. Unalaska was the first to sign on four years ago with Net Your Problem (NYP), a small Seattle-based company that jump-started fishing...

  • Legislative hearing questions state position on bycatch

    Laine Welch|Nov 24, 2021

    A hearing on seafood bycatch didn’t satisfy a bipartisan group of Alaska legislators at a meeting of the House Fisheries Committee on Nov. 15. The bycatch issue came up again this summer when all Yukon River salmon fisheries were canceled due to so few returning Chinook and chums. Along with ocean and climate impacts, villagers questioned the takes by huge trawlers that catch and process fish at sea. A presentation of the committee hearing by Glenn Merrill, regional administrator at NOAA Fisheries/Alaska, showed that in the 2019 Bering Sea p...

  • Salmon catch third largest, third most valuable since 1975

    Laine Welch|Nov 10, 2021

    It’s a fish trifecta for Alaska’s 2021 salmon season. The fishery produced the third-highest catch, fish poundage and value on record dating back to 1975. According to preliminary harvests and values by region from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the catch of nearly 234 million salmon had a dockside value of almost $644 million, and weighed in at 858.5 million pounds. That compares to 117 million salmon harvested in 2020, valued at just over $295 million and a combined weight of 517.5 million pounds. All regions saw salmon earnings dou...

  • Judging next month in annual seafood competition

    Laine Welch|Oct 28, 2021

    Pollock protein noodles, southern-style Alaska wild wings, candied salmon ice cream, fish oils for pets, fish and chips meal kits and finfish earrings are just a small sample of past winners of Alaska’s biggest seafood competition — the Alaska Symphony of Seafood — which has showcased and promoted new, market-ready products since 1993. The annual event draws from Alaska’s largest and smallest seafood companies, whose products are all judged blind by an expert panel. Eighteen entries are in the running for the 2021 contest, the first leg of...

  • Salmon permit prices on the rebound, including Southeast power troll

    Laine Welch|Oct 21, 2021

    Optimism is the word that best sums up the attitude among most Alaska salmon fishermen after a good season, according to people in the business of buying and selling permits and boats. Most fishermen in major regions ended up with good catches and dock prices were up from recent years. That’s pushed up permit prices, including at the bellwether fishery at Bristol Bay where drift net permits have topped $200,000. “The highest has been $210,000. But it's a pretty tight market,” said Maddie Lightsey, a broker at Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer...

  • Much of Bristol Bay's salmon wealth goes to non-resident permit holders

    Laine Welch|Oct 7, 2021

    The preliminary value to fishermen of the nearly 41 million salmon caught this summer at Alaska’s largest fishery at Bristol Bay is nearly $248 million, 64% above the 20-year average. That figure will be much higher when bonuses and other price adjustments are paid out. But as with the fish dollars tallied from Alaska’s cod, pollock, flounders and other groundfish, the bulk of the Bristol Bay’s salmon money won’t be circulating through Alaska’s economy because most of the fishing participants live out of the state. In 2017, for example,...

  • 'Smart buoys' help track fishing gear so it doesn't get lost

    Laine Welch|Sep 30, 2021

    Lost fishing gear — be it nets, lines or pots — continues “ghost fishing” forever, causing a slow death to countless marine creatures and financial losses to fishermen. Now, new “smart buoys” can track and monitor all types of deployed gear and report its location directly to a cell phone or website. Blue Ocean Gear, of California, created and builds the buoys that also can track ocean temperatures, depth, movement, even how much has been caught. The small, three-pound buoys are just seven inches in diameter, don’t require any special train...

  • Salmon catch tops 219 million fish; 15% above forecast

    Laine Welch|Sep 23, 2021

    Alaska’s 2021 salmon catch has topped 219 million fish, which is 15% higher than the preseason forecast of 190 million. The two biggest money makers exceeded expectations the most. The sockeye haul came in at 54 million compared to the predicted 46.5 million reds. Similarly, the pink salmon catch of nearly 151 million swamped the projection by 27 million humpies. And although the run of chum salmon was disappointing, falling about 4 million short of the 15.3 million projection, nearly 5 million chums were caught since Aug. 1, “making it one...

  • Bering Sea crabbers get bad news about red king, snow crab stocks

    Laine Welch|Sep 16, 2021

    Alaska’s Bering Sea crabbers are reeling from the devastating news that all major crab stocks are down substantially, based on summer survey results, and the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery will be closed for the first time in more than 25 years. The state announced the closure Sept. 3. That stock has been on a steady decline for several years, and the 2020 harvest had dwindled to just 2.6 million pounds. Most shocking was the drastic turnaround for snow crab stocks, which in 2018 showed a 60% boost in market-sized male crabs (the only o...

  • Fish Factor: Entries due Oct. 4 in statewide seafood competition

    Laine Welch|Sep 9, 2021

    The Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition is back and the call is out for entries. The contest has showcased new products since 1994 but was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It encourages value-added seafood production and promotes high-quality Alaska products that are coming into the marketplace. And we help promote those across the country and the world. There isn’t anything else like this for Alaska seafood,” said Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation which hosts the event. A panel...

  • Alaska Fish Factor

    Laine Welch|Sep 2, 2021

    Alaska’s 2021 salmon harvest has blown past the forecast and by last Friday had topped 201 million fish, well above the 190 million projected at the start of the season. The catch was bolstered by a surge of pink salmon to the three top-producing regions: Prince William Sound, Southeast and Kodiak, combined with strong landings of sockeyes. “Pink salmon runs are over 95% complete, based on average run timing. Effort drops off quickly this late in the season, so it is difficult to predict where that harvest will end up,” said Forrest Bower...

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