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Fish Factor

Official Salmon Season, Poll Peek and Mermaid Day
By Laine Welch


April 30, 2007

Alaska's 2007 salmon season officially gets underway in May and major processors say they can handle the projected salmon runs, with a few possible exceptions.

For the past seven years state fishery managers have conducted a preseason survey of salmon processing capacity to determine where shortages might occur. Capacity is defined as a combination of the physical processing capacity and the intent of buyers and processors to purchase and process salmon. Major processors (those who bought more than 100,000 pounds of salmon during the past two years) are asked to report by April 13 the maximum amount of fish in pounds, or numbers of fish, they intend to purchase and process during the salmon season.

This year 70 processors received the survey, down from 81 last year, and 63 responded to the survey, down from 81 processors in 2006. The information they provide helps managers plan for the expected returns of salmon in each region, and may also be considered by the governor in determining whether foreign vessels should be allowed to help process salmon overages.

At a glance, processors in the Alaska Peninsula region said they plan to employ the same number of tenders as last year, and purchase salmon from roughly the same number of fishermen.

In Cook Inlet, processors said they will employ fewer tenders and they expect to purchase salmon from fewer harvesters. In Bristol Bay, Prince William Sound, Southeast/Yakutat and Kodiak, processors plan to increase their tender fleets and purchase salmon from an increased number of fishermen.

As in prior years, the AYK region (Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim) will have the least processing capacity, especially for chum salmon. The 2007 survey also indicates reduced capacity for processing Chinook and pink salmon, although smaller buyers may make up some of the shortfall for Chinook.

The state report also says processing capacity for chum salmon in the Southeast/Yakutat region presents a concern. "A processing capacity shortfall slightly above one million chum salmon is indicated by the survey," the report says, and it could be even more problematic "if the pink salmon return to Southeast is large and early."
The 2007Alaska salmon harvest is projected at 179 million fish, up from 142 million last year, which was the 15th largest catch in history.

The statewide pink salmon harvest is projected at 108 million, or 47 percent higher than last year. For chums, the forecast of 24.7 million fish is an increase of 15 percent. The projected sockeye catch of 40.8 million is a drop of two percent from the 2006 harvest. A Chinook catch of 789,000 would be about 28 percent higher, while projected coho catches of 4.7 million are 11 percent higher than last year. Historically, the actual harvests have varied widely from the forecasted returns.

Find the 2007 Salmon Processing Capacity Survey at

Poll peek

Protecting salmon outscored open pit mining by a wide margin in a new poll that also found Alaskans don't want cuts to the state Fish and Game budget.

Lawmakers are working well together and better than in past years, said 68 percent of 410 respondents who participated in an Alaskan Public Leadership and Legislative Overview survey prepared for the state senate by Dittman Research.

In other assessments of Alaska's political leadership, 76 percent said they support a coalition of Democrats or Republicans forming a bipartisan majority to run things in the state senate, as opposed to organizing along party lines.

A whopping 89 percent said they have "a lot or some trust" in Governor Palin; 65 percent gave the same answer for Democrats in the state legislature and 58 percent for Republicans.

When it comes to cutting the budget, 56 percent of the respondents said fish and game management should not be reduced.

The survey posed two questions about the proposed Pebble Mine. Here are the questions and results -

"The proposed Pebble Mine project near Lake Iliamna in Southwestern Alaska is located in an area set aside for mineral development, but it's also an area rich in fishing resources. In your opinion, do you believe mining can take place in the same area where there are major fishery resources, or not?"

No, cannot, 49 percent - Yes, can, 47 percent - Unsure, 4 percent

"If only one type of development could take place in the Lake Iliamna area, which would you support the most ­ a renewable resource such as salmon fishing, or a non-renewable resource such as mining?"

Salmon fishing, 79 percent - Mining, 12 percent - Unsure, 9 percent

Mermaid Day

April 30 marks the day of tribute to Saint Senara, a mermaid for whom the village of Zennor in England's Cornwall region is named. Saint Senara is celebrated each year on the Monday closest to the first Sunday in May.

According to legend, a young man named Mathew Trewhella always sang the closing hymn at the village church each day. A mermaid living in a nearby cove was enchanted by the music and came ashore to hear his singing. Eventually her visits became longer and the two fell in love. However, the mermaid knew she must return to the sea or die. As she prepared to leave, Mathew was so love struck that he swore to follow her wherever she went. He carried her to the cove and followed her beneath the waves, never to be seen again.
It is said that if you are above Pendour Cove at sunset you might hear Mathew singing. From his songs, the fishermen of Zennor know when it is safe to put out to sea, and when it is wise to remain at home. At St. Senara Church, visitors can still see a carved bench showing the mermaid that is over 500 years old.


Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. 2007 marks the 16th year that she has been writing this weekly fisheries column. It now appears in nearly 20 newspapers and web outlets.
Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

This article is protected by copyright and may not be reprinted or distributed without permission. Contact msfish[AT]
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