SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Got bait?


July 27, 2012

(SitNews) -  Fish scientists need 305,000 pounds of semi brite chum salmon for this year’s halibut stock surveys. The bait is staged at more than 1,200 stations between Oregon and the Bering Sea for use by up to 15 survey boats each June through August.

 “We typically buy from sometimes up to 6-7 providers in any given year. We look for the best possible price and the best staging arrangements,” said Bruce Leaman, executive director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission which staffs the annual stock surveys.

Bait is one of the most expensive parts of doing the annual halibut surveys, and increasing chum prices have boosted costs to as much as $450,000 in recent years. That has prompted a search for less pricey fish products that might work just as well.  

“Last year we did a pilot study with herring, pollock and pink salmon and compared it to chums.  We found that herring was the worst so we dropped that, and pinks performed about the same as chum salmon,” Leaman said. Typically, the boats use two sets of roughly 100 hooks with  test bait along with four sets of the chums.

 “The interesting thing from that experiment was that pollock ended up having a higher catch rate for halibut above 32 inches, and it also had lower catch rates of Pacific cod and spiny dogfish, which would be bycatch in our survey.”

This year the new baits will be tested alongside the chum salmon at every survey area.

 “It’s very important that if we ever make a change in the bait that we understand how it works in all the areas where we are doing the surveys,” Leaman said.

IPHC scientists will do analyses on the bait tests this fall, and there are no plans to make any bait changes for next year, Leaman said.

“We may have a recommendation for 2014,” he said.

Deadline to submit a bait bid is August 3. Contact is Ed Henry at . Find the bait poundage needs by port and bid form at

Water ways

With 82% of Alaska’s communities unreachable by roads, water is the way to go. Businesses that serve the marine industry, including ports and harbors, are a lifeline for coastal communities.  

State economic specialists want to highlight the importance of the marine trade sector, and the jobs it provides, which are often overlooked.

In March they launched an an online Business Retention and Expansion questionnaire hoping  to get feedback from coastal residents on how their marine businesses are faring.

“Ship building and repair businesses, all modes of transportation, marine vendors, such as welders or automotive folks, marine construction people, anyone dealing with logistics or fuel,  harbormasters and the infrastructure associated with that, and marine professional services we forget about  such as engineers, banks, insurance companies, and seafood processors,” said  Kevin O’Sullivan, a specialist with the Division of Economic Development.

The goal is to identify immediate problems challenging  businesses  as well as future opportunities. Deadline to participate in the brief online survey is August 15th.  Results will be released in September.

Skins state side!

 Salmon skins have finally made it to the US in a line of clothing and accessories set to make the fashion scene this fall.

Los Angeles designer Lindsay Long features the salmon leather on  jackets and  cuffs, bracelets, belts, yokes and collars on dresses.

“It is a very interesting textile and it’s a good eco-friendly, sustainable alternative to other exotic skins, like snakes and things like that,” Long told KMXT.

She said it’s still rare in the US, but the supple, durable salmon   leathers are used widely in Europe as upholstery in luxury cars, yachts and jets, as well as in the high fashion world.  

 “ Givenchy has used it on this killer pair of shoes I would love to wear,” Long said. “But other than that it’s new to the US. It’s kind of a cross over material – branching its way out into different industries. So we are the first that we know to be using it on the whole range – jackets, dresses, belts and everything like that.

The salmon skins come from an organic fish farm in Ireland; they are tanned   and sold by a German company called Nanai, which recently opened an office in LA. The company, reportedly wants to source more salmon skins state-side.  

“They researched an ancient tanning method that uses no harsh metals or chemicals and creates these beautiful, colorful pieces of leather. I just couldn’t resist,” Long said.   See Long’s $88 salmon belts at

 Learn how Alaska is using salmon skins and other byproducts at:

Salmon surge

Alaska’s wild salmon harvest was nearing 60 million fish by July 27, increasing by 18 million salmon in just two weeks. Here’s the statewide tally:

Chinook: 198,000
Sockeye: 33.7 million (nearly 21 million from Bristol Bay)
Coho: 536,000
Chum: 11 million
Pink: 13.1 million


This year marks the 21st year for this weekly column that focuses on Alaska’s seafood industry. It began in 1991 in the Anchorage Daily News, and now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A daily spin off – Fish Radio – airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. My goal is to make all people aware of the economic, social and cultural importance of Alaska’s fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world. 


Laine can be reached at msfish[AT]
E-mail your news, photos & letters to

SitNews ©2012
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska


Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews may be protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.