SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Higher prices for halibut, Favorite fish folks, Fish Watch
By Laine Welch


December 10, 2007
Monday AM

Buyers will likely be paying higher prices for halibut next year if proposed cuts get the nod from fish managers.

Scientists with the International Pacific Halibut Commission are recommending a nine percent cut to the coast-wide catch next year - meaning California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. The IPHC also oversees British Columbia's halibut fishery. The suggested U.S. catch of 59 million pounds means six million pounds less of the popular fish will be crossing the docks.

The industry was anticipating the drop. Starting two years ago, IPHC scientists began assessing the Pacific halibut stocks as a single coast wide unit instead of by separate regions, as they have been doing for the past two decades. New information from tagging programs showed greater movement of adult halibut than previously believed.

Alaska always gets the lion's share of the Pacific halibut catch and managers are recommending a 50 million pound harvest next year. That's a drop of two million pounds from the 2007 catch limit. The biggest hits could be felt in the regions that supply most of the fish, especially to the fresh markets.

For Southeast Alaska, a catch of 6.2 million pounds would be a 27 percent reduction. For the Central Gulf, which includes the top ports of Homer, Kodiak and Seward, a catch of 24 million pounds reflects a drop of 7.6 percent. Halibut catches in the Western Gulf, Aleutians and Bering Sea could see a slight boost next year.

Along with next year's catches, the IPHC will also consider several management changes to the fishery. The Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association is asking that the first Saturday in March be set as the opening date for the next three years. Two proposals request expanding the use of vessel monitoring systems to allow fishermen to report their catches from distant waters. Another asks for a ban on electric or hydraulic reels by sport fish operators.

The IPHC will make its decisions during the week of January 15th at its annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. Get more information on the web at

jpg 2008 recommended catches....

Favorite fish folks

Since the late 1970s ADF&G's Commercial Fisheries Division has recognized staff for outstanding achievements and service.. The Com Fish division has 30 offices and six vessels scattered around the state, and total staff of 800. Director John Hilsinger said the merit awards help far flung Com Fish staff feel more connected.

"A lot of our staff don't really know each other, or what goes on in other areas. So it's a way to recognize them and also to make them feel like they are part of the whole state organization," Hilsinger said.

The awards are also a good way to draw attention to careers in fisheries management, which is a tough sell.

"We have had a difficult time recruiting in recent years, especially finding people who want to work in commercial fisheries. In a lot of sectors, I think commercial fisheries are viewed in a negative light with all the bad press on how fisheries will be gone in 40 years because of over harvests. So we've really tried to put a positive light on the management system that exists in Alaska, and the great job we do here so that we can attract people who want to be part of managing commercial fisheries," he added.

Adding to the recruitment problem, Hilsinger said, is lower pay checks.

"I think we have a reputation as a good place to work. What hurts us is our salaries are lower than federal agencies and some in the private sector," he said.

The Com Fish division is especially interested in attracting more Alaskans from rural regions.

"We've been successful in some areas, especially Southeast and Western Alaska in developing partnerships with local native organizations where they do a lot of the hiring, and local people work on our projects," Hilsinger said. "One of the points I try to make is how important these fisheries are to the economy of coastal Alaska, and how it's really an opportunity for them to be a part of maintaining that lifestyle. And it's one of the only things that allows people to continue to live in their rural communities."

The Commercial Fisheries division is accepting names for 2007 achievers through December 15. See last years merit winners at /

Fish Watch

The '08 Sitka Sound roe herring catch has been boosted to 13,796 tons, up from 11,904. For Togiak in Bristol Bay, the roe herring catch will decrease slightly to 22,881 tons. More buyers will be purchasing Togiak herring next spring, according to Labor Dept. job specialists.

Interested in advancing your career in seafood processing? The deadline to apply for the Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute is December 15. Training and travel to East coast sites begins in February. Get more information at

Stephanie Madsen filed a letter of intent last week with the state Division of Elections to run for a seat in the Alaska legislature. Madsen was a former chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and is now director of the At Sea Processors Association. She will run as a Republican against Rep. Andrea Doll, a Democrat, who has warmed the District 4/Juneau seat since 2006.


Kodiak-based Laine Welch has been reporting news of Alaska's seafood industry for print and radio for 20 years. Fish Factor appears in 15 newspapers and websites. Laine's Fish Radio programs air daily on more than 25 stations across Alaska.
Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

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

E-mail your news, photos & letters to

SitNews ©2007
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska