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Fish Factor

Opening date for halibut announced
By Laine Welch


January 23, 2006
Monday AM

Halibut fishermen will hit the water on March 5 this year - a Sunday opening date that will get the fish to market early during the first week of Lent. Harvesters will also take home a slightly lower catch during the halibut fishery which will last through mid-November.

That news was announced Friday by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which sets annual catch limits for Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia. The Commission recommended a coast-wide halibut catch totaling 69,860,000 pounds, a 5.37 percent decrease from the 2005 catch limit of 73,819,000 pounds.

The IPHC said in its 2006 annual report that the halibut stock appears healthy throughout much of its range, but is believed to have declined in the Western Gulf of Alaska and parts of the Bering Sea. This is the second year in a row that harvest rates for those areas have been lowered as a precautionary measure, the IPHC said. Following are the 2006 halibut catch limits for Alaska. Get more information at

catch limits gif

FISHING AND FLYING still account for most deaths on the job in Alaska. Air transportation and commercial fishing accounted for the most work related deaths in Alaska in 2004, the latest year for which there are statistics.

According to the state Dept. of Labor's January issue of Alaska Economic Trends that has been the case since 1992, when the U.S. first began tracking work place fatalities. The data are derived from the number of deaths per 100,000 workers.

Transportation incidents led Alaska's deadly list, accounting for 73 percent of job fatalities in 2004. That includes any mode of transportation, from cars and trucks to boats and aircraft. Nearly one out of three deaths was associated with some type of marine mishap. Twenty percent of Alaska's workplace fatalities that year, or 8 out of 40, were commercial fishermen. Air craft incidents accounted for one third of work place fatalities, or three out of every ten deaths.

In more recent years, the on the job death rate has improved dramatically for both fishing and flying. For fishing, it has dropped from 38 percent in 1992 to 20 percent in 2004. The rate has declined from an average of nine deaths per year for aircraft pilots to four.

Between 1992 and 2004, 721 workers died in Alaska's workplaces, an average of about one every seven days. Alaska's average annual number of workplace deaths has decreased in the last ten years, even though the number of workers has increased 10 percent

In all, Alaska had 40 workplace deaths in 2004, down from an average of 55 in a run of previous years. Nearly three fourths of the people who died in Alaska's workplaces were between the ages of 25-54, and white/non Hispanic and Asian made up 85 percent of the deaths.

While things are improving, Alaska's on the job fatality rate is among the nation's highest at 9.2 persons per year. That is second only to Wyoming, with a rate of 13.9 on the job deaths.

VEGAS IS WILD FOR "THE KING" - Seafood lovers selected smoked Yukon king salmon as their favorite at the Alaska Symphony of Salmon contest last week in Las Vegas. The popular People's Choice Award went to Yukon King Seafoods of Marshall, Alaska, for its Smoked Cajun King Salmon. The buttery texture and balanced flavor of the salmon portions bested 18 other seafood entries, and also drew raves from the judges.

On its entry form, Yukon King Seafoods said its smoked salmon products (also available in lemon pepper, traditional and peppered) are currently being sold in villages along the Yukon River, and will soon be available online at

The Seafood of Symphony event now moves to Anchorage, where three winners will be announced in three categories - retail, food service and smoked - along with a grand prize winner. First place entries earn a trip to the International Boston Seafood Show in March.

Now in its 13th year, the Symphony of Seafood was created by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation to showcase new products and introduce them to the marketplace.
EXXON VIGIL - An all night vigil will begin at 5pm on Thursday, January 26 in front of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The next day (Jan. 27) will mark the third and probably final round of oral arguments about whether Exxon should pay $4.5 billion (plus interest) in punitive damages to more than 30,000 Alaska plaintiffs, whose livelihoods were hurt by the 1989 oil spill in Prince William Sound. "Bring raingear and candles," said vigil organizer Bill Black. Questions? Contact Black at 360-671-3955 or via email at .



Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. Her Fish Factor column appears weekly in over a dozen papers and websites. Her Fish Radio programs air on 27 stations across Alaska.

Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

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Ketchikan, Alaska