Laine Welch: Legislature passes reduced Chinook research spending

FisheriesApril 20, 2013 

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 Department 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 on 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 explained. "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 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 Coast Guard cutters and home port one in Kodiak. An official request asks the North Pacific Council to further reduce the accidental taking of chinook salmon 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 invasive aquatic 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 under way 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, and that compares 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 with fish and game 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 a 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 marks Earth Day around the world. 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 9 million volunteers from 152 countries have cleaned 145 million pounds of trash from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers and oceans on just one day each year.

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, 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 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 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 United Nations 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 after 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 fish in infected cages within 30 days. Chile is the world's second-largest farmed salmon producer, after Norway.


Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Her Fish Radio programs can be heard on stations around the state. Contact her at msfish@alaska.com.

Anchorage Daily News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service