Laine Welch: Board of Fisheries decision nears

Laine Welch

Nine individuals are vying for three seats on the state Board of Fisheries, including six newcomers.

It took a Freedom of Information request and a 10-day wait to get the names of the board hopefuls, said veteran legislative watchdog Bob Tkacz in his weekly Laws for the Sea.

They include the three incumbents: John Jensen of Petersburg, Sue Jeffrey of Kodiak and Reed Morisky of Fairbanks, all of whom have re-applied for three-year terms that begin July 1.

Newcomers on are the list are Alan Gross of Petersburg, an orthopedic surgeon and new commercial fishing skipper; Dean Scott Risley, a 26-year gillnetter from Haines; Harvey Kitka, a hand troller and Sitka Tribal council member; William Kuhlmann, a retired Bristol Bay setnetter now living in Eagle River; Thane Humphrey, a business/training entrepreneur and outdoor survival expert from Anchorage; and Cary Jones, a Juneau chiropractor.

By state statute, the governor must make his selections by April 1. The Legislature has scheduled a joint session for April 11 to vote on the appointees.

Tops to the Rock

Kodiak will be the first Alaska town to meet Eileen Sobeck, the new administrator of NOAA Fisheries, often called the National Marine Fisheries Service. Her visit comes in response to a ComFish invitation from the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce. Sen. Mark Begich will accompany her.

Sobeck will oversee the management and conservation of all marine life in U.S. waters.

Golden crab science

Alaska's golden king crab fleet plans to survey the entire range of the Aleutian Islands golden king stock, an 800-mile span from Dutch Harbor to Atka.

". . . For the first time we will have a good index of the size of the golden population, the age and sex structure, the distribution and how deep they go, and what proportion of the population occurs at different depths," said John Hilsinger, science advisor for the Aleutian King Crab Research Foundation.

Through 2006, state managers surveyed a small area of the Aleutians, but there's been no budget since to assess the far-flung crab stocks. The Foundation formed two years ago.

"We plan to design the survey for the entire area, and then start off the first year by doing a portion of it to prove the concept and make sure it works and integrates well with the fishermen. Then we'll spread it out," Hilsinger said.

The expanded surveys should start yielding meaningful results in three to five years. It could be 10 years before the population can be accurately modeled over time.

The Aleutians golden king fishery has operated under a 6 million-pound fixed harvest cap for decades. Crabbers believe the catch could be higher. Eventually, the goldens could overtake Bristol Bay and become Alaska's largest king crab fishery. If the survey gets the nod by stakeholders in May, it will begin when the fishery opens in mid-August.

Fish watch

Herring seiners at Sitka Sound last week landed close to their 16,000-ton quota, and roe counts were high. The only thing missing is a price. Lots of herring roe remains in Japanese freezers. Last year Sitka fishermen averaged about $500 a ton; talk on the dock last week put it closer to $150.

Conversely, freezers of sablefish (black cod) are emptied, which has pushed up prices for the fish. reports fishermen's prices in Southeast at $5.25 for 5- to 7-pounders, $4.50 for 4- to 5-pounders, and $3.75 for three-quarter-pound fish.

Laine Welch is a Kodiak-based fisheries journalist. Contact her at

Laine Welch