Alaska News

Laine Welch: Seafood is for lovers

Lovers choose lobster as the top Valentine's Day dish to share with that special someone. Crab legs and shrimp also get the nod as "romantic meals" on Feb. 14 -- one of the busiest dining-out days for U.S. restaurants.

In a national survey by Harris Interactive, chefs called lobster an "exotic delicacy that results in an intimate moment because it is hand-held and shareable." In fact, respondents called all shellfish "a catalyst for connection like no other food."

The links between seafood and love have a long history, including the belief that oysters enhance male desire and performance. Many "experts" have touted omega-3 fish oils as serious libido lifters because they help raise the amount of compounds that control "feel good" levels in the brain, and stimulate the release of sex hormones.

Seafoods from colder waters contain the most omega-3's. Pacific oysters pack a special punch at 1,700 micrograms, the same as Alaska king salmon.

The Alaska seafood with the most omegas of all? Sablefish.

Fish watch

The Alaska pollock fishery opened on Jan. 20 to trawlers in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska; those fleets also will target cod, perch, flounders and other groundfish. Bering Sea crabbers were nearing 40 percent of their 61 million-pound snow crab quota. About 6 million pounds remain in the 15 million-pound Tanner crab catch.

A Tanner crab and a golden king crab fishery opened concurrently at Southeast Alaska on Friday. The Tanner fishery will be assessed after five days to see how many pots are on the grounds. The stocks are looking good, and last year's take of more than 1.25 million pounds was the best in 13 years. The limit for golden king crab is 336,000 pounds.

Also at Southeast: The demersal shelf rockfish season opened on Feb. 6. It includes seven different rockfish species with a combined catch of 72,000 pounds

Black rockfish is another catch around Kodiak, while jig and pot boats await a state water cod opener in a few weeks. A pot cod fishery opened Feb. 9 at Dutch Harbor to boats under 58 feet. Up next: The halibut fishery opens on March 14; the herring fishery at Sitka Sound should follow soon after.

Mmmm, maggot meal

Mix up a batch of manure, flies and fish guts and you end up with a maggot-based meal that's irresistible to fish. Idaho University scientists (and others around the world) have developed a maggot-based fish feed that also devours manure and fish wastes. Idaho is America's largest producer of farmed rainbow trout, and with a half million cows, it also is the nation's fourth-biggest dairy state.

But along with all those cows come billions of pounds of poop. With fish meal prices skyrocketing and mountains of manure piling up, Idaho researchers created something cheaper that also eats up tons of dung and fish guts in the process.

To the rescue -- black soldier flies, used widely in Asia to eat restaurant wastes. In tests by animal waste management engineers, the flies quickly reduced 700 buckets of cow manure by half, and seeded it with their eggs. Two months later, fish guts from local farms were added to the brew to enrich the maggots with omega fatty acids. Then they were cleaned, frozen, ground up and fed to rainbow trout in test stations along the Snake River. The fish snapped up the feed, which made sense to the scientists since flies are a far more natural fish food than corn- and soybean-based feeds.

Waste engineers believe it could become an important niche industry for Idaho's dairy farmers, who can count on their cows to produce 30 billion pounds of manure each year.

Giving back

American Seafoods Co. is accepting applications for its Alaska community grant program. A total of $38,000 will be donated to projects that address hunger, housing, safety, education, research, natural resources and cultural activities. The majority of grant awards range from $500 to $3,000 per organization. Deadline to apply is Tuesday. Contact Kim Lynch or 206-256-2659.

Laine Welch

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