Alaska has one of the most productive and sustainable commercial fishing economies in the world.
November 20, 2010
The 2011 forecast calls for an anticipated boost in catches to 1.2 million tons for the nation’s largest fishery – Alaska pollock. Strong year classes that fish scientists have been tracking are finally recruiting into the Bering Sea fishery after a two year wait, allowing for the quota increase.
Another crown jewel of Alaska’s fisheries – codfish –is poised for a 23 percent catch boost next year to 281,300 tons from the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. Alaska currently produces 65 to 70 percent of the world's Pacific cod, and about 20 percent of the global codfish harvest. Alaska’s cod fisheries begin on January 1.
Other 2011 fish forecasts trickling: the sockeye catch at Bristol Bay is pegged at 28.5 million fish, based on a run of nearly 40 million reds, similar to this year. If the forecast holds true, it would be the 8th consecutive year where the total run is close to or tops 40 million sockeye salmon.
Also in Bristol Bay – Alaska’s biggest roe herring fishery at Togiak has a forecast of nearly 25,000 tons next spring, down just slightly.
State managers also are predicting an excellent 2011 pink salmon catch for Southeast fishermen of 55 million fish, compared to a lackluster humpy harvest of about 24 million this summer.
Halibut wrap - The Pacific halibut fishery ended last week amid little fanfare, although it is likely to be one for the record books in terms of value.
Alaska longliners landed 98% of a 40 million pound catch limit, leaving about 700,000 pounds in the water. Despite the lingering recession, demand for fresh fish held steady all season. Halibut prices started out topping $6 a pound at major ports, and seldom dipped below $5/lb during the eight month fishery.
Nearly one-quarter of the total catch crossed the docks at Homer, followed by landings at Kodiak, Seward, Dutch Harbor and Sitka.
Fishermen are bracing for another possible catch cut next year, as they wait for three large year classes of halibut to recruit into the fishery. The fish, however, are taking longer than usual to grow to the 32 inch legal limit.
Preliminary catch limits for 2011 will be announced by the International Pacific Halibut Commission at the end of November. The halibut fishery reopens in March. www.iphc.washington.edu/
Fish fist bump
No one likes their fish catches to be reduced, but Alaska’s industry has a reputation for always “standing behind the science.”
Regarding quota cuts, Dave Benton, director of the Marine Conservation Alliance, said: “That is OK with us. These conservative measures are how we have done business in Alaska for roughly 30 years. It’s why we have sustainable fisheries for the long haul.”
Favorite fish taco
A nationwide search is underway for the best Alaska fish taco. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has partnered with celebrity chefs at the Los-Angeles based Border Grill to find the best taco recipe.
“Fish tacos are all the rage right now,” said Claudia Hogue, ASMI food service director, adding that the contest is not limited to fish.
“Any species of crab or scallops would be eligible,” she said. “We just wanted to keep the title as simple as possible so we called it a fish taco.”
The taco contest is open only to at-home cooks, not professional chefs.
“We really wanted this to be a grass roots effort,” Hogue said.
The fish taco campaign features “surfer dudes” who take a wrong turn heading to Mexico and end up in Alaska’s surfing capital –Yakutat.
Hogue said the promotion is targeted to Generation Y, those born after 1980, also called the Millennial Generation. Gen Y is the fastest growing segment of the nation’s workforce, estimated at more than 70 million. The generation is also marked by its savvy with social media and digital technologies.
“Our research shows that Gen Y really does believe that Alaska means something special, and they also are very interested in the sustainability message,” Hogue said.
The winner gets a trip to LA; a People’s Choice prize is an iPad. Deadline to enter the Alaska fish taco contest is January 31. See the taco campaign and find an entry form at www.alaskafishtaco.com
The call is out for product entries for the 18th annual Symphony of Seafood competition. Seafood products in retail, food service and smoked categories will be judged Feb. 3 in Seattle; winners will be announced at a gala soiree in Anchorage on Feb. 11; and a third seafood ‘sampler’ event has been added in Juneau on March 18. Get details at www.afdf.org
A new web site called Fish Basket is promoting permanent protection from oil and gas exploration at Bristol Bay. www.fishbasket.org –
Get National Geographic’s take on the proposed Pebble Mine. Find ‘Alaska’s Choice: Salmon or Gold’ at www.nationalgeographic.com
Check out the latest ASMI Seafood Market Bulletin at www.alaskaseafood.org
Mainstream Canada, the second largest fish farmer in British Columbia, is posting sea lice counts at each of its 24 fish farms on Vancouver Island at www.mainstreamcanada.com.
This weekly column focusing on Alaska's seafood industry began in 1991, and it now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A spin off - Fish Radio - airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. The goal of both is to make all people aware of the economic and social importance of Alaska's fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world. Happy New Year and thanks for your continued support of fishing news!