May 31 "Bristol Bay Fisheries Report"

May 31, 2013

A driftnet vessel at work in Bristol Bay.
Credit Carl Johnson

Alaska’s largest herring fishery came to a close on Tuesday. Fish and Game confirms that all of the seafood processors involved with the Togiak Sac Roe herring fishery quit buying on Monday.

Tim Sands is the ADF&G Area Management Biologist and he says all signs point to a healthy and sustainable herring biomass.

“We offered plenty of opportunity to fish and fishermen harvested most of both quotas. Biologically we saw lots of fish and we believe the preseason forecast was pretty close. We saw lots of spawn and I’m optimistic that this year will be a good recruitment class for year for herring.”

The total harvest this season came in at just over 28.8-thousand tons of herring. The quota available this year was just over 30-thousand tons. The 24-vessels that made up the purse seine fleet had a quota of just over 21-thousand tons of herring and they ended up very close to the quota with a harvest of 20.2-thousand tons. The 37-vessels that made up the gillnet fleet had a quota of just over 9-thousand tons and they hauled in 8.5-thousand tons. Now that the fishery is closed---- Fish and Game is trying to assess the size of the total herring biomass that showed up this season in the Togiak District. That work is ongoing. The herring harvested this season had an average weight of 385-grams. The average weight of the purse seine caught fish was 380-grams and it was 397-grams for gillnet caught fish. Preseason, Fish and Game forecasted the average weight would be around 317-grams, which Sands notes was well below the recorded average weight of 385-grams. The Togiak sac roe herring fishery has changed in recent years from a massive endeavor involving hundreds of vessels to a much smaller fishery that is primarily governed by the processing capacity of the local processors that buy the herring. This year 6 processors bought herring, which was up from the 4 processors that bought herring last year. Sands admitted that he has heard the rumors that Silver Bay Seafood’s and Togiak Seafood’s might join the fishery next year.

“What does that mean? Does it mean fish grew a lot more over the winter? Does it mean that there were more older fish present than we thought? Does it mean that the biomass was bigger? It’s something we are going to work on over the winter and try and figure out.”

Sands and his staff are in the process of looking at all of the available data that will be used to write the 2013 Togiak Sac Roe Herring Fishery season summary that Sands hopes to have out somewhere around June 7th. Seafood News is reporting that around 56-thousand tons of herring have been harvested from the San Francisco coast to Togiak. That’s up 20-percent compared to last year. Prices have not yet been settled but there has been speculation that the price will be up and KDLG news has heard that at least one company has put forward an initial price for Togiak herring of just 100-dollars a tons. If you have price information to share with KDLG please send us an email to news@kdlg.org or you can call 842-5281.

A new, large seafood processing plant is being constructed this summer in Naknek and it’s expected to be processing herring and salmon next year. Late last year Silver Bay Seafood’s announced plans to enter Bristol Bay and the company is hard at work building their processing facility along the Alaska Peninsula Highway in Naknek. The facility is expected to be about 54-thousand square feet in size and it’s believed it will cost upwards of $25-million dollars. The Silver Bay plant will be located just up from the Leader Creek plant and Silver Bay Seafood’s apparently put up $2-million dollars for the land. While some of the processors in the Naknek area have expanded their facilities in recent years the Silver Bay plant will be the first brand-new plant in many, many years.

Bristol Bay's massive commercial salmon fishery is right around the corner. As like previous years the U.S. Coast Guard will send safety inspectors to the region later this month. Inspectors will be in the Dillingham area from June 13th through the 22nd and they will be in Egegik from June 10th through the 15th. Inspectors will be in the Naknek-King Salmon area from June 10th through the 22nd. Last year the Coast Guard was preparing for the pre-season safety inspections to become mandatory but the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012 modified the law to require that dockside safety exams become mandatory in 2015. That means that the safety exams being offered this season in Bristol Bay will be voluntary. Once the Coast Guard safety inspectors are in your area you can contact them via cell phone. The number to reach the inspectors in the Dillingham area will be 439-5777 and in the King Salmon-Naknek area the contact numbers will be 439-5778 or 439-5779. Once again the Coast Guard inspectors will be in the Egegik area from June 10th through the 15th and in the King Salmon-Naknek area from June 10th through the 22nd. Inspectors will be in Dillingham from June 13th through the 22nd. If your vessel is stored in one of the regions boat yards and it's ready to be inspected you can put a life ring high up in the mast as a signal for inspectors that you would like the vessel inspected.

The Bristol Bay region is world famous for its one of a kind sockeye salmon run. However, the region is also known for something entirely different… mining. Or rather the potential of large scale mining in the form of the proposed Pebble Mine. On Thursday the Pebble Limited Partnership unveiled a new report that seeks to put some numbers on the potential economic impact of the mine if it’s ever developed. The new report is titled “The Economic and Employment Contributions of a Conceptual Pebble Mine to the Alaska and United States Economies”. It was prepared by the economic analysis and forecasting firm IHS. At its heart the report seeks to gauge the positive economic impact a mine could have on the local economy as well as the state and national economies. The new report claims that during construction the Pebble Mine could contribute $400-million dollars a year to Alaska’s gross state product and $1.6-billion dollars a year to U.S. gross domestic product. The report claims that during the first 25-years of production the mine could increase Alaska’s gross domestic product by $1.1-billion dollars a year and the U.S. GDP by $2.4-billion dollars a year. The new report anticipates that the Pebble Limited Partnership will spend about $1.2-billion dollars a year during construction and over $1-billion dollars a year during the first 25-years of the mine life. If the production values are correct the mine could expand total U.S. production by 20-percent above the 2011 production level of 1.1-million metric tons. While the mine might have a positive economic benefit to the Bristol Bay region, Alaska and the nation as a whole it also has the potential to damage the Bristol Bay region’s massive commercial fishery for sockeye salmon and other fishing related industries. A recent study by the University of Alaska’s “Institute of Social and Economic Research” shows that the Bristol Bay sockeye fishery generates about $1.5-billion dollar’s worth of value a year and supports about 12-thousand jobs a year in both the fishing and processing industries. The report was prepared for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents all of Bristol Bay’s driftnet fishermen. The recent study about the economic importance of the Bristol Bay salmon industry can be found on the BB-RSDA website and the new report focused on the economic benefits of the proposed Pebble Mine can be found on the website of the Pebble Limited Partnership. Earlier this year Partnership noted that they plan to enter into permitting by the end of the year and will make their mine plan public prior to starting the NEPA permitting process.

The Bristol Bay Fisheries Report can be downloaded from the KDLG website at www.kdlg.org. The report can be heard each Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the fishing season. Airtime is 4-pm.