Rachel Waldholz, KCAW - Sitka
Southeast Alaska salmon trollers will open their season on schedule this Wednesday (7-1-15) — but under protest. The state says this year’s quota for Alaska fishermen under the Pacific Salmon treaty is too low.
Sitka-based fish processor Silver Bay Seafoods has agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty for environmental violations at its plant in Valdez.
There are less than two weeks to go before the traditional start of the summer king salmon trolling season, on July 1st — but fishermen in Southeast don’t know yet how many kings they’ll be allowed to catch. Representatives on the Pacific Salmon Commission are deadlocked — they can’t agree how many king salmon are out there. And that has put this year’s king salmon season in jeopardy.
A 52-year-old Sitka man was found dead in Thomsen Harbor Monday morning. The Anchorage Medical Examiner today identified him as Sitka resident Kevin Climer.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted Sunday evening to lower caps on halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea — by 21 percent overall. But Bering Sea halibut fishermen say the cut isn’t big enough to save their communities.
As the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets in Sitka this week, the most contentious issue on the agenda is a proposal to reduce halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea. Commercial halibut fishermen up and down the coast are pushing the council to reduce bycatch limits, while trawlers and others in the Bering Sea say they’ve already reduced bycatch voluntarily — and lower limits would be ruinous. Emotions are running high on all sides of the issue.
The advisory panel to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has come out in favor of reducing halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea.
Fishermen, scientists, and seafood industry representatives from around Alaska — and the country — are in Sitka this week for the meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. That’s the body that regulates all federal fisheries off Alaska, including pollock, cod and flatfish.
Of the 30 million pounds of halibut caught last year by commercial fishermen statewide, nearly a third was thrown back into the ocean, dead. It were netted accidentally by boats targeting other fish.
Now, that may change.
After a month of discussion, the Sitka Assembly on Monday night settled on a modest electric rate increase. Residential rates will go up by about 6 percent in the coming year, to pay for debt service on the Blue Lake dam.
The federal government is proposing to remove most humpback whales from the endangered species list. Forty-five years after the whales were first listed, federal scientists say that most humpback populations – including those common in Alaska – are stable and growing.
This spring, Sitka artist Peter Williams took a trip to New York City, to show his work during fashion week. A designer and marine mammal hunter, Williams makes everything from hats to earrings from sea otter and sealskin. He’s been trying to break into the lucrative fashion world for years, and he’s got a larger goal in mind – bringing Alaska Native designs to luxury buyers worldwide. Williams says that one way to save a traditional art form, is to create a market for it.
Most years, the sac roe herring fishery in Sitka means boats filling the harbor, crew members filling the bars, seiners jostling for position within sight of town, and spotter planes in close formation overhead. But this year fishermen voted to abandon the competitive fishery in favor of a co-op. That meant a much smaller footprint, with fewer boats, crewmen, tenders, and spotter pilots. The reason? Low prices for roe, for starters. And a strong US dollar that makes all American exports more expensive.
Two Village Public Safety Officers graduated from firearm training today (Friday, 4-3-15), becoming the first officers in the 40-year history of the program to be armed.
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is a quieter affair this year, as the fleet conducts its first fully cooperative fishery since the mid-90s.
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery will be on two-hour notice starting 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game announced this Tuesday afternoon. A test sample taken from a body of herring west of Black Rock showed about 7% mature roe, which is low for the commercial fishery. But the Department said that percentage could rise rapidly over the next few days as less mature herring separate out from those ready to spawn.
Police departments across the state have been taken aback by a state Department of Corrections proposal to end funding for local jails. Sitka is one of several local departments who say the cuts are so deep, it could force their jail to close.
The Eyak is back in Sitka. Ten days after the 80-foot tender and mail boat ran aground and sank just north of the Goddard hot springs, it’s back afloat — after a virtual alphabet soup of state and federal agencies and local companies worked together to salvage it.
The Tongass Advisory Committee is meeting for the fifth time in Juneau this week. The committee is tasked with hammering out how the Forest Service should handle the Obama Administration’s transition away from old-growth logging and to a new focus on younger trees. But, for some people the most important questions are the ones the committee isn’t supposed to address.
Four people were rescued from the F/V Eyak early Monday morning after the boat went aground near Calligan Island, just north of the Goddard hot springs.