SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Catch share programs; Halibut dip; How's our salmon selling?;
& Alaska seafood at the Olympics



December 14, 2009

Federal managers have officially come out in support of catch share programs as the best tool for managing U.S. fisheries.

"Catch share is a general term for several fishery management strategies that allocate a specific percentage of the total allowable fishery catch, or a specific fishing area, to individuals, cooperatives, communities or other entities. So each recipient of the catch share is directly accountable to stop fishing when its specific quota is reached," said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere.

Speaking at a press conference last Thursday, Lubchenco said while the policy is not a mandate, NOAA "enthusiastically encourages" catch share programs as a way to end overfishing, rebuild stocks and provide more stability to fishing communities.

"Business as usual with our traditional management tools is not accomplishing what we need," she said. "We find the science is compelling that catch shares help restore the health of ecosystems and get fisheries on a path to profitability and sustainability."

Crafting the details of any catch share programs will fall to the nation's eight regional fishery management councils.

"One of the strengths of catch shares is that they allow councils a great deal of flexibility to design programs that meet specific goals," Lubchenco said.

The federal draft policy recommends that fishery councils pay particular attention to six issues: 1) identify specific management goals for each program, i.e., reducing bycatch or ending the race for fish; 2) choose whether, when and to whom to allow transfers of catch shares; 3) use catch share design options to promote sustainable fishing communities; 4) evaluate designs that would set aside shares to allow new generations of fishermen or small businesses into the fishery; 5) consider a royalty system to support management and research as fisheries become more profitable under catch shares; 6) periodically review catch share programs to gauge if they are meeting goals and objectives.

Catch share programs have been used in the U.S. since 1990 and are now operating in 13 commercial fisheries, including Alaska halibut, sablefish and Bering Sea crab.

Lubchenco said the Senate has included $18.6 million dollars in next year's appropriations budget to jump start more catch share programs. The public has until April 10 to comment on the draft policy. Learn more and comment at .

Halibut dip

As expected, Pacific halibut catches are set to take another nosedive next year. Scientific advisors to the International Pacific Halibut Commission are recommending a coast wide catch of 48.7 million pounds, a 10 percent decline for the second consecutive year. The catch numbers include halibut fisheries on the Pacific coast, British Columbia and Alaska.

Alaska always gets the lion's share of the big flatfish and next year's catch is pegged at 44.3 million pounds, down just slightly from 2009.

Biologists say Alaska's halibut stocks are still abundant, but on a downturn as two strong year classes from the late 1990s leave the fishery. Two more are big pulses are set to enter the fishery, said IPHC director Bruce Leaman, but those recruits are growing slowly.

"We think the low growth rates are associated both with high density of not only halibut, but also arrowtooth flounder in the Gulf of Alaska. That is probably depressing growth rates pretty substantially," Leaman said.

Once again, Southeast fishermen are bracing for the biggest pounding ­ just 3.7 million pounds is being recommended for that region, a 26% cut. That reflects a 65% reduction for Southeast longliners over the past five years.

For other Alaska regions: Area 3A, the Central Gulf, the suggested catch is 20 million pounds, down 7.9 percent; Area 3B, the Western Gulf, 9.9 million pounds, a drop of 9.2 percent; Area 4A, the Eastern Aleutians, 2.3 million pounds, down 8.6%; Area 4B, the Western Aleutians, could get a 15.5% boost to 2.2 million pounds; halibut fishermen in Areas CDE of the Bering Sea could see their catches drop 6.1% to 3.3 million pounds.

The IPHC will finalize the 2010 halibut catch limits in Seattle at its annual meeting in late January.

How's our salmon selling?

When people talk about the value of Alaska's salmon fishery, they refer to the ex-vessel value, the prices paid at the docks. But that represents only 40 percent of the total value of the salmon industry - it is first wholesale prices that provide a more complete picture.

And those values are trending upwards, according to the Alaska Salmon Price Report by the state Dept. of Revenue. The ASPR covers wholesale volumes and values by species and region for six key salmon products - canned salmon, frozen and fresh H&G (headed and gutted), frozen and fresh fillets, and salmon roe.

The latest report covers from May through August, which reflects over 90% of the sales of fresh salmon, and more than half of the year's sales of frozen salmon and roe.

According to a breakdown in ASMI's Seafood Market Report, the first wholesale value for all Alaska salmon totaled $447 million, up 10% from the same period in 2008.

Frozen H&G salmon, showed the biggest boost to $191 million, up 43 percent. The first wholesale value of fresh and frozen salmon fillets increased 35 percent to $64 million.

Not so for salmon roe ­ sales increased to 10 million pounds, but the value decreased 16 percent to $58 million.

The sales season for canned salmon is a bit different, running from September through the following August. For the 2008 pack, canned salmon dropped 24% in wholesale value to $67 million for that time period. While average case prices were up substantially, especially for pink salmon, the increase was offset by low sales of canned pinks and sockeye.

Find the Seafood Market Report at

Alaska seafood at the Olympics

Athletes from around the world will be enjoying Alaska seafood at the 2012 summer Olympics in London. As part of their "food vision," event organizers say they will only serve seafood from 'demonstrably sustainable' fisheries. More than 180 million pounds of fish and shellfish will be served to 15,000 athletes for the duration of the summer Olympics. Alaska is the world's largest producer of sustainable seafoods.

This fishing column began in 1991 at the request of the Anchorage Daily News and now appears weekly in 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. Thanks for your continued interest in Alaska's most fascinating industry!


E-mail your news, photos & letters to

SitNews ©2009
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.