Story last updated at 4/24/2013 - 2:17 pm
Chinook salmon research money made it through the Alaska legislature this session but most other fish bills flopped.
"The department asked and the legislature funded," said Kevin Brooks, Deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game. "There is a little bit of repackaging, if you will, but there is a lot of money in this budget to do some good work on Chinook, and all species of salmon statewide."
Last November, in response to drastic reductions in king salmon returns and crippling fishing closures, Gov. Sean Parnell said his FY2014 budget would include $10 million as a first installment of a five-year, $30 million research initiative focusing on 12 'indicator' streams statewide. That request was reduced to $7.5 million in the capital budget, Brooks said.
"It is a very specific appropriation for Chinook salmon research, and we have a separate appropriation now for $2.5 million for salmon research, restoration and enhancement initiatives for Susitna River drainages, which is one of our indicator streams, so that one has been pulled out separately," Brooks said. "But those projects together still total $10 million. And then we have a third project for $2 million that was added by the Legislature for Chinook salmon enhancement in northern Cook Inlet. We have some projects identified to make an impact in the short term on salmon stocks in the Mat Su Valley."
Only a handful of the other 20 or so fish related measures were passed by the Alaska legislature by last Sunday's adjournment. They included a bill about general procurement rules, a resolution opposing federal approval of genetically modified salmon, or to require labeling if it does go to market; and another urging Congress to fund three national security cutters and home port one in Kodiak. An official request asks the North Pacific Council to further reduce the take of Chinook salmon as bycatch by trawlers.
Fish measures left in limbo include a bill to give a priority to personal use fishing when restrictions are in place, and an Act related to controlling aquatic invasive species and related funding.
In other legislative news: Parnell plans to appoint another Bristol Bay resident to the state Board of Fisheries to replace ousted Vince Webster from King Salmon. The new member will serve during the fall and winter and face legislative confirmation next year. Nominees are being accepted now.
Go for the roe! - Kodiak's roe herring season got underway April 15 and the bust at Sitka has re-energized the fishery again this year. Boats are expected to top the 35 from last year, compared to just 17 participants in previous seasons. The fleet will compete for 5,410 tons of herring, similar to last year.
Unlike other Alaska regions where roe herring fisheries can be over in a few short openers, Kodiak fishing can occur in 13 districts divided into 81 sections around the island, and the herring fishery lasts two months.
"Kodiak is a big complicated fishery and it is very different," said James Jackson, a fishery manager at ADF&G in Kodiak. "At places like Sitka and Togiak, they have large spawning aggregates and they tend to come in all at once, and you can catch the harvest limit really fast. At Kodiak there are so many separate spawning masses, and they spawn at different times, sometimes into late June."
Kodiak herring averaged $300 per ton last year and market reports say the price could be higher. Alaska's roe herring fisheries occur all along the westward coast to Nome.
Ocean indifference - Monday, April 22 marks Earth Day around the world - and since it began in 1970, trash pickup has been a tradition. Over the past 25 years, the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup has become the world's largest volunteer effort for ocean health. Nearly nine million volunteers from 152 countries have cleaned 145 million pounds of trash from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers, and the ocean on just one day each year. The results show that there is a general disregard for what is being tossed.
To document what is being dumped, the conservancy has cataloged the trash into more than 7 million items. The most trash - 57 percent - came from food wrappings and beverage containers, also cups, plates and plastic eating utensils. More than 9.5 million plastic bottles were collected, 8 million plastic bags, and 1.2 million balloons.
Thirty three percent of the ocean trash came from smokers - 53 million cigarette butts, filters and cigar tips were collected over the past 25 years. Only about 6 percent of the trash pulled from ocean waters was fishing gear.
There are some good signs that the tide is turning on trash. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed in a recent Gallup Poll said they have made lifestyle changes to protect the environment. And 16 years after it was first proposed, the UN two years ago officially designated June 8 as World Oceans Day.
Fish bug is back - Chilean salmon reps are urging fish farmers to "remain calm" over recent cases of fast spreading ISA virus reported in two farming centers. They said rules are in place to fight the outbreaks following the 2008 crisis that ravaged Chile's farmed salmon industry. Production got back almost to pre-virus levels just last year. There is no treatment for the ISA virus. Chile's new outbreak protocols require the farming companies to kill all the fish in infected cages within 30 days. Chile is the world's second largest farmed salmon producer, following Norway.
Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's fishing industry since 1988. She lives in Kodiak.