Category Archives: Featured Content

Young Fishers’ Bill To US Senate

Photo courtesy of Salmon Sisters.

 

Earlier this year,  we shared the news about a proposed bill that would help Alasaka’s fishing cities support young peoples’ interest in the fishing industry. Today, the Fishing Communities Coalition reported that several Alaska senators have approved the bill’s move to the U.S. Senate floor. 

Here’s the joint release from the Fishing Communities Coalition, including the  Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association:

The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) today applauded Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) for cosponsoring the Young Fishermen’s Development Act (S.1323). The bipartisan and bicoastal bill, a top FCC priority (watch our new video (above) released today), would give fishing communities a needed boost by addressing steep and growing obstacles – including high cost of entry and limited entry-level opportunities – facing the next generation of America’s commercial fishermen.

“The growing bipartisan momentum behind this bill is very encouraging and shows that leaders in both parties understand that fishermen in today’s world need to know a lot more than simply how to fish,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “We appreciate Senator Markey’s leadership in getting this program off the ground because it will give the next generation of fishermen training in fisheries management, business planning and market development tools they’ll need to make a good living bringing sustainable seafood to Americans.”

The Senate legislation, which aligns closely with a House version introduced in April by U.S. Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Seth Moulton (D-MA), would launch the first coordinated, nationwide effort to train, educate and assist the next generation of commercial fishermen, providing grants of up to $200,000 (totaling $2 million annually) through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program. The FCC recently debuted a short video about the bill that features the voices of current and aspiring fishermen.

FCC member organizations, including Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC) and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), represent small-boat commercial fishermen who share a commitment to the sustainable management of Alaska’s fisheries. Both organizations consulted on the development of the legislation, leveraging their experiencing building capacity among (and providing training opportunities to) young fishermen.

 

“From what we have seen in Alaska, we believe that the kind of mentorship and training opportunity that this bill would provide is key to helping new fishing operations get off the ground and onto the water,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

 

“As one of those dependent on the long-term success of our working waterfronts, I’m very grateful to Senators Sullivan and Murkowski for supporting legislation that recognizes the challenges today’s fishermen face,” said Hannah Heimbuch, an Alaska commercial fisherman who also works for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. “By supporting independent fishermen with this action, we have an opportunity to bolster American food security and the health of coastal communities.”

The bill is modeled after the USDA’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is credited with preparing hundreds of young farmers and ranchers for rewarding careers in agriculture. Young fishermen representing FCC members from every U.S. coast recently traveled to Washington, DC, to urge legislators to support the initiative.

 “Fishing employs more Alaskans than any other industry in the state, but high barriers and costs remain for newer generations attempting to fill the ranks of this vital sector of our economy,” said Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK)“This legislation will coalesce regional efforts to lower these barriers through new grants, training opportunities and an apprenticeship program that will help harness the experience of seasoned fishermen. Replenishing the stocks of qualified stewards of our fisheries will help ensure Alaska remains the superpower of seafood.”

 

“For centuries, fishing has been at the heart of coastal communities in Massachusetts, but it is an increasingly challenging one for new fishermen to join,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). “This legislation will help make sure that our fishing industry continues to attract future generations of fishermen. These training programs will help young men and women be able to push off the dock into new careers and make vital economic contributions to their communities.”

About the Young Fishermen’s Development Act

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The Fishing Communities Coalition is the united voice for small-boat, community-focused, commercial fishermen from around the country who strive to bring their stewardship vision to bear on national issues. We believe that together, fishermen from around the United States who believe in community-focused ideals, science-based management and forward-looking policies can build a national movement that protects fish, fishermen and fishing communities for this and future generations.

Kenai River Salmon Surging Back

Photo by Earl Foytack

The Kenai River’s famed king salmon runs have taken a beating in recent years, resulting in shutdowns and more shutdowns and heavy restrictions. But as the Alaska Dispatch News  reports, prospects are looking up and regulations are being eased up.

Here’s ADN’s Mike Campbell with more:

In the midst of a strong early run of king salmon to the Kenai River, state biologists are allowing anglers to harvest larger Chinooks the rest of the month.

Effective at midnight Monday, anglers can take kings up to 46 inches; typically, that’s a fish of 35-40 pounds. So far this season, the limit has been 36 inches, about an 18-20 pound fish. The early run ends June 30.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists are attempting to rebuild the Kenai king run that has struggled for at least a decade.

As of Sunday, the sonar at river Mile 14 had counted 4,010 large kings. That’s already in the range of 3,900-6,600 fish biologists want to see escape anglers and reach their spawning grounds, largely in Kenai River tributaries.

If this run proves typical, about half of the kings should have passed the sonar by now.

But there’s a big difference between how biologists are counting this run compared to past years. Previously, the sonar counted kings of all sizes. This year, only kings 34 inches or larger are being tabulated. So how many smaller kings counted in previous runs are passing uncounted this year?

“I would say at least hundreds, probably thousands,” said Brian Marston, the area management biologist for Fish and Game. “You’re looking at several thousand by the time the run is done.”

Here’s the ADFG release on the new regulations:

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) manages the Kenai River early-run king salmon run in order to achieve an escapement goal of 3,900 to 6,600 large king salmon. In order to help achieve the escapement goal, and rebuild the abundance of older and larger fish, ADF&G has increased the maximum size limit to less than 46 inches in waters below the markers at Slikok Creek.

As of June 11, 2017, approximately 4,010 large king salmon have been counted through the sonar site located at river mile 14. During normal run timing, 51% of the run would have passed the river mile 14 sonar site by this date. ADF&G currently projects that the run of large king salmon will be 7,870 fish. Even after taking into consideration the projected sport fish harvest above the sonar site, including catch-and-release mortality, the escapement goal of the early-run king salmon will exceed 7,660 large fish, which is well above the established goal. Abundance indices from ADF&G sport harvest creel and size distribution netting projects are also above average.

This size limit increase to king salmon less than 46 inches continues to protect the majority of the age 7 fish, while increasing harvest potential to help achieve the escapement goal. As per 5 AAC 57.160 Kenai River and Kasilof River Early-run King Salmon Management Plan the harvest of king salmon above the Slikok Creek markers shall remain limited to fish less than 36 inches.

ADFG Preparing For The Worst: An Alaskan Government Shutdown

 

 

 

 

Gov. Bill Walker (left, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) is facing his state’s government shutting down. (U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE)

 

Uh oh; we’re now in one of those times again, when nobody in office can come together and the dreaded government shutdown watch is upon at least Alaskans this time.  (The last one nationally was sure fun, right?)

Well, it’s so 2017 that Alaska’s politicans are struggling to put together a budget (Gov. Bill Walker was nice enough to give everyone a heads’ up yesterday).

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also released a statement yesterday with what could happen if the state’s lawmakers can’t figure out a budget by July 1.

Here’s ADFG’s take:

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is working with the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Law to analyze the impacts of a potential shutdown of government services. Individual programs are currently being reviewed, including an assessment of the impact of a shutdown on the commercial, subsistence, personal use fisheries, and sport fisheries; as well as hunting seasons.

Alaska’s multi-billion dollar salmon industry is primarily based on fisheries that occur between the months of June and September. These fisheries provide the sole means of subsistence and livelihood for many Alaskans. A government shutdown would coincide with the peak of the Bristol Bay sockeye season, which regularly occurs around July 4th. Not only would current season fisheries be potentially impacted, the department’s ability to forecast future escapement goal analyses and data collection could also be significantly compromised. Insufficient sampling could hinder assessment of the state’s performance for Pacific Salmon Treaty obligations, the department’s ability to manage allocations set by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, and impact the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s stock assessment program.

The issuance of subsistence and drawing permits could be delayed, interrupted or even not issued, creating food insecurity, cultural and economic impacts, as well as loss of hunting opportunities. Additionally, hunts with in-season management, permitting, or reporting could potentially be delayed or cancelled. This includes hunts managed by quota such as Nelchina caribou, most western Alaska moose hunts, and all goat hunts. Hunts for sheep could also potentially close or be delayed due to sealing requirements.

Alaska’s two state-owned hatcheries annually produce over 4.5 million salmon, rainbow trout, and Arctic Char. Although the department will take all actions within its authority to avoid adverse consequences for the hatcheries, a shutdown could threaten the 2.5 million fish currently housed at the hatchery, and prevent the collection of Chinook and Coho broodstock. These potential losses could be long-term, surpassing the three to four years required to rebuild the basic broodstock.

Additional Fish and Game services potentially at risk of being shut down, delayed or interrupted if a fully funded budget is not passed before July 1 include:

  • Prevention of, and response to, encounters with wildlife such as moose, bears or musk ox.
  • Issuing or amending Title 16 permits from the Division of Habitat, which could delay or halt many projects.
  • Responding to emergency resource conservation situations.
  • Timely release of the 2017-2018 proposal books.
  • Timely meetings to inform the public to engage and participate in the regulatory process.
  • Operation of state shooting ranges.
  • Operation of McNeil River and Round Island wildlife viewing areas.

The executive-branch still believes that the legislature will pass a budget before July 1, 2017. Therefore, the programs and services at Fish and Game will continue on their normal course through the month of June. Only if a shutdown occurs on July 1 will the department begin to pull their staff back from the field and begin working on any closures that need to occur.

This year’s preparations for a government shutdown are different than in 2015, when the legislature had passed a partially funded budget. This year, money has not been appropriated for any government services. As a government shutdown in Alaska is unprecedented, Department of Law is examining what money could be spent to continue vital state services if the legislature has not fulfilled its constitutional obligation to pass a budget.

 

 

 

A Compelling Take On The Iditarod And Dog Owning Culture

Photos by Chris Cocoles

As a dog dad and lover of all things canine, I figure I’ve been reduced into a blubbering, middle-aged mess more often reading or watching stories on dog-related tragedies more than I have about humans (does that make me inhuman? I don’t really know, but that’s just what triggers more emotion in my soul, so sorry in advance).

I have the utmost support of dog sledding in Alaska, particularly after the interviews I’ve done with four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey and the mushing sled driving twins (and Iditarod competitors) Kristy and Anna Berington.  I’ve also written about going on a short dog sled ride and visiting a kennel in Finland, and I remembered how excited the huskies and malamutes were to run and work. There’s a reason why they’re called working dogs; they love the running and working part of their lives.

But I adore dogs, and it’s tragic when dogs fall participating in races like the Iditarod, so of course I’m sad when it happens. But I also understand that safety is always considered by the mushers and race officials. And then I think back to all the despicable cases of animal cruelty I have to hear or read about as a dog lover.

I read this Alaska Dispatch News report from veteran Alaska dog sledder John Schandelmeier, who’s won the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race twice. Schandelmeier made some excellent points in his column:

While the sled dog industry is not problem-free by any stretch, most kennels are very good. Sled dogs are trained, fed and handled far better than the average house pet.

People get up in arms about sled dogs being tethered, but tethered dogs get to interact with each other. Dogs kept in kennels do not. Kennels are jail cells. Groups of dogs kept in yards without constant monitoring have a high likelihood of fight injuries or even deaths.

No doubt, how animals are kept is a source of controversy. But first, we should take a look at what is considered the normal life of many house pets.

The owner puts his dog in an airline kennel and goes to work. Some owners get to come home at lunch. They let the dog out for a few minutes then head back to work.

The lucky dog gets a 15-minute walk on a leash after work — much like a prisoner getting his time in the exercise yard.

The poor sled dog has to run. Keeping a sled dog from running is the same as stopping a Labrador from chasing sticks. Or kicking the Yorkie off your lap. Or preventing the Aussie from herding. Common sense dictates otherwise.

The editor’s dog, Emma, enjoying some outdoor time.

Right now, sitting at my desk, I’m thinking about my own dog, Emma. (above). She’s a pretty mellow Lab and German shepherd mix that’s content either going out for long walks and running around the dog park, but also lazy enough to cuddle up next to me on the couch or retreat to her dog bed on the other end of my living room. I don’t crate Emma – but I do a lot of traveling and have her boarded where many times she’ll sleep in a crate- but I know she’s miserable during the day by herself when I’m at work (fencing my backyard and having a dog door installed has allowed her to go outside since I’ll often leave her alone for up to 10 hours on days when I don’t go home for lunch). We try to take at least two walks a day, but – and sorry, Emma – sometimes we don’t get out as often as we should!

On the other hand, when I spent six years living in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I’d walk my previous BFF, Sharkie, and it appalled me how many “family pets” were chained to trees in fenceless yards. Needless to say, most of those dogs would growl and bark rather aggressively at Sharkie and I as we’d wander past, likely jealous as hell as that other dog might ask, “WTF does that guy get to walk around and I’m stuck here with no one to hang out with?” So I’m confident that my dog gets treated with love after she was rescued by a foster mom from a shelter in California (Sharkie was adopted from the Fayetteville Animal Shelter).

We live in a holier-than-thou society where Twitter and Facebook go on the attack whenever Twitter and Facebook get offended, and I’m not here to judge anyone and make it personal from the safety of my keyboard (Twitter particularly is full of cowards with a smartphone as a weapon of mass destruction), and I think that’s the point of Schandelmeier’s piece, that those who bash his sport forget about the big picture. Here’s more from the writer:

The Iditarod lost five dogs this year. They can do better, and they have in other years.

I’ve been a dog musher for decades, entering an array of Alaska races and twice winning the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks. My wife, Zoya DeNure, finished 57th in this year’s Iditarod, the seventh time she’s started the race to Nome. Between us, we’ve entered 23 races of 1,000 miles — and more than 100 races of at least 200 miles — without a dog death.

Roughly 1,100 dogs participated in this year’s race. Five died.

By comparison, 25,000 dogs landed in Minneapolis/St. Paul shelters this past year and 1,300 were euthanized, according to the Humane Society of Minnesota. Additionally, there are 150 rescue shelters within 25 miles of the city. Some are no-kill, some are not.

Minneapolis has a large hunting dog population in the surrounding area. According to Last Hope Animal Rescue, which adopts out 1,500 to 2,000 dogs annually, many hunting dogs are given up when their perceived usefulness has passed.

So there you have it. Critics relentlessly attack the Iditarod and the dog sledding game for treating these athletes like pawns only competing for fans’ entertainment purposes. And I agree that five deaths is five too many, but call me naive if you’d like, I don’t think any of the dogs that passed away running the Iditarod ever dreaded what they were asked to do over the course of the 1,000 or so miles of Alaskan wilderness they run across.
Do these deaths need to be prevented at all costs? Absolutely. But let’s make a deal, people: Don’t let our dogs be neglected, don’t adopt dogs and realize you can’t handle the responsibilities before sending them back to kennels they may never leave again, adopt dogs from rescue organizations and the local animal shelters whenever possible, and stop judging the Schandelmeier’s of the sledding inner cirlce. Chances are – and it’s hard to argue with the numbers – that they care about their dogs as much as the rest of us.

Youth-Only Fishing Days In Southcentral Alaska

Homer Spit photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game: 

Homer – Two youth-only sport fisheries are scheduled in June. The first will be held on Saturday, June 3, from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit and the second on Wednesday, June 7, from 6:00 a.m. to 9:59 p.m. at the Ninilchik River.

Youth–only sport fisheries are open to anglers age 15 and younger and were established by the Alaska State Legislature and implemented by the Alaska Board of Fisheries to provide special opportunity for young people to catch fish.

During the June youth-only fisheries, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) staff will be present at the times listed below to help young anglers gear up and fish for king salmon. Fishing rods will also be available for kids to check out and use. Other activities will include tying egg loops and fishing knots, and learning the best way for handling and releasing fish.

At the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, the youth-only area will be posted and the remaining area of the lagoon will be open for fishing by anglers of all ages. ADF&G staff will be present at the Fishing Lagoon from 9:00 a.m. to noon. All other sport fishing regulations remain in effect for the Fishing Lagoon and are found on page 72 of the 2017 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary Booklet. Another youth-only fishing day will be held in the lagoon onSaturday, August 5.

The Ninilchik River, youth-only fishery will extend from the mouth upstream to the ADF&G markers near the Sterling Highway Bridge. ADF&G staff will be present at the river section under Sterling Highway Bridge from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Sport fishing regulations for the Ninilchik River youth-only fishery are found on page 69 of the 2017 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary Booklet.

Alaska Communities To Receive Cleanup Grants From EPA

 

The following press release is courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency:

SEATTLE  —  EPA has selected communities in Alaska, Oregon and Washington for Brownfields environmental site assessment and cleanup grants. The grants, ranging from nearly $200,000 up to $600,000, will be used to conduct brownfield site assessments and cleanups to help redevelop vacant and underutilized properties, transforming them into an asset for both the community and the local economy while protecting public health and the environment.

“EPA is committed to working with communities to redevelop Brownfields sites which have plagued their neighborhoods. EPA’s Assessment and Cleanup grants target communities that are economically disadvantaged and include places where environmental cleanup and new jobs are most needed,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These grants leverage considerable infrastructure and other investments, improving local economies and creating an environment where jobs can grow. I am very pleased the President’s budget recognizes the importance of these grants by providing continued funding for this important program.”

Kodiak Island Borough and coalition members – the City of Kodiak and Natives of Kodiak, Inc., were selected for two brownfields environmental site assessment grants totaling $600,000. https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/kodiak-island-borough-selected-600000-brownfields-assessment-grants

Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska, was selected for two brownfields environmental site assessment grants totaling $300,000. https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/municipality-anchorage-selected-300000-brownfields-assessment-grants

Brownfields assessment and cleanup grants target communities with significant distress. These communities are economically disadvantaged — neighborhoods where environmental assessment, cleanup and new jobs are most needed for residents that have historically been left behind. EPA selected 172 communities nationally for new brownfields assessment and cleanup funding in 2017.  Across the country, $56.8 million in funding will be granted.

For more information about Brownfields Cleanup and Assessment Grants: www.epa.gov/brownfields

To view fact sheets about the 2017 grant recipients: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/brownfields-list-fy17-grants-selected-funding

 

Fisherman Dies After Going Overboard

Sad story in the Alaska Dispatch News on the death of a commercial fisherman who went overboard.

Here’s ADN with more:

 A Cordova man was found dead Thursday after going overboard in the Copper River flats during a stormy commercial fishing opener.

Clifford “Mick” Johns, 69, had been fishing alone that day on his 29-foot gillnetter, named Dances With Clams.

At about 9 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard received a report that the boat was “driving around in circles with no one onboard” near Pete Dahl Slough, an area of the Copper River flats fishing grounds southeast of Cordova, according to the Alaska State Troopers.

“It didn’t look like anybody was manning it,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios of the Coast Guard’s District 17 Public Affairs Office in Juneau.

Two Alaska Wildlife Troopers went to the scene with help from a fisherman whose boat could navigate the shallow water, troopers said.

Our thoughts are with Johns’ loved ones.

Remembering The Maine, Remembrance On Memorial Day

Photos by Chris Cocoles unless noted.

Nobody is more of a history geek than this editor whenever he travels. If there’s a battlefield, museum or monument nearby, I want to see it. I’ve visited Civil War sites near Nashville and a  Revolutionary War battlefield around Greensboro, North Carolina. In Greece I saw a memorial for locals murdered by Nazis and even a German cemetery  honoring paratroopers killed during the invasion of Crete.  I took my time walking through the Museum of Occupation in Riga, Lativa, a country that suffered horribly at the hands of not just Hitler but also Stalin.

So when I went to Cuba in late March and early April (I’ll have a feature on Cuba’s adopted son, famed American writer/fisherman Ernest Hemingway, later this year), I wanted to make sure I got a history lesson while I was there. While I learned so much Cuban history and found some perspective about a very complicated nation, it’s funny that I had to be reminded by our tour guide about our country’s pre-Castro connection with Cuba. “That’s the U.S.S. Maine memorial,” she told us as we sped in a 50s-era Chevy along the iconic Malecón, the wide boulevard that separates Havana from the Atlantic.

We must have driven back and forth between that statue five times during our (too) short Cuban trip, and I kept wondering if I’d have time to see it. We did so much walking around Old Havana, including one night strolling on the waterfront, but we never had a chance to actually walk the Malecón. So on our last day as we headed back from Playa Girón (site of the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion), I asked our very friendly guide and our driver if we could make a quick stop so I could take a quick peek at the Maine monument. It was a very significant moment in both American and Cuban history.

The Maine entering Harbor of Havana. January 1898. Scribners Collection. (Army)
Exact Date Shot Unknown

Here’s more from PBS: 

At 9:40pm on February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, killing 268 men and shocking the American populace. Of the two-thirds of the crew who perished, only 200 bodies were recovered and 76 identified.

The crew of the U.S.S. Maine. (Edward H. Hart, Detroit Publishing Company)

The sinking of the Maine, which had been in Havana since February 15, 1898, on an official observation visit, was a climax in pre-war tension between the United States and Spain. In the American press, headlines proclaimed “Spanish Treachery!” and “Destruction of the War Ship Maine Was the Work of an Enemy!” William Randolph Hearst and his New York Journal offered a $50,000 award for the “detection of the Perpetrator of the Maine Outrage.” Many Americans assumed the Spanish were responsible for the Maine’s destruction.

Of course, the Spanish-American War was the byproduct of the tragedy of the Maine and the sailors who perished in Havana Harbor. A little more about the famous “Remember The Maine” battlecry and  ramifications of the explosion, via Historytoday.com:

The wreckage of the Maine in Havana Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo)

No one has ever established exactly what caused the explosion or who was responsible, but the consequence was the brief Spanish-American War of 1898. American sentiment was strongly behind Cuban independence and many Americans blamed the Spanish for the outrage. The yellow press, led by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, proprietors of the New York Journal and the New York World, took every opportunity to inflame the situation with the exhortation to ‘Remember the Maine’, publicise the alleged cruelties of Spanish repression and encourage a belligerent hunger for action. They were vigorously supported by hawkish senators and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, who attacked President McKinley for trying to cool the situation down. In the end the government in Spain declared war on the United States on April 24th. The American Congress had already authorised the use of armed force and the United States formally declared war on April 25th. …

As it turned out,  the Spanish-American War was a mismatch

On July 1st, Teddy Roosevelt’s volunteer ‘Rough Riders’, whooping and hollering, helped Negro troopers of the 10th Cavalry to take the San Juan Heights above the city of Santiago, which surrendered on the 17th. The Spanish Cuban fleet, which had meanwhile fled Santiago harbour, was hunted down by American battleships ‘like hounds after rabbits’ and destroyed in four hours. American troops took Puerto Rico a few days afterwards and the Spanish government sued for peace.

Far more Americans were killed by tropical diseases – typhoid, yellow fever and malaria – in the course of the war than fell in battle (roughly 4,000 to 300). When a peace treaty was signed in Paris in December, Spain lost its last colonies in the New World. The United States took the Philippines, Puerto Rico and the Pacific island of Guam, and achieved worldwide recognition as a great power. Cuba gained independence.

To be honest, I was so focused on soaking up the Cuban culture, seeing the Maine tribute brought me back to reality of the connection our country has to Cuba (it’s incredible how much Cold War tension there was between nations that were separated by all of 90 miles).

I knew I couldn’t stay long at the memorial that warm day in Havana. Our guides had to get home and we wanted to head back to our family-owned casa particular, freshen up and  get ready to spend one more night in this exciting, energy-fueled city. So I snapped a few photos and then just stopped for a few minutes to reflect about the American sailors lost (the cause of the explosion remains a mystery).

The names of those killed on the Maine.

As we celebrate American servicemen and -women lost in the line of duty on Memorial Day, I’m reminded of what they have sacrificed for me and allowed me the chance to visit tributes to the fallen heroes and heroines, even in Cuba.

Enjoy this holiday, but please take some time to Remember The Maine and remember everyone who got us here.

New Information Helps Understand How Rockfish Live

Shortraker rockfish
Shortraker rockfish  Photo: Rebecca Reuter, NOAA Fisheries

 

The following is courtesy of Christine Baier of the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center: 

Some things just get better with age. Like rockfish mothers.

A rockfish might not start spawning until she is 25 years old. As she gets older she produces more, and more robust, young. She continues to produce them over many years, into advanced age – which for some rockfish means 100 or 200 years.

That is the sluggish end of the spectrum, but rockfish in general are slow-growing, late-maturing, long-lived species. This evolutionary strategy has helped rockfish weather difficult times over millennia—but makes them highly vulnerable to overfishing. Recovering from fishing pressure is another thing rockfish do slowly.

To set sustainable fishing quotas for any fishery, managers need to know how many fish there are now, and how many to expect in the future. Understanding the reproductive biology of a species—when females produce young, how many, and how often—is essential to predicting future production.

With rockfish, it’s complicated.

Rockfish species have developed complex reproductive strategies to increase the likelihood of survival for their young. They are livebearers, protecting their young during the earliest stages of development. Late maturity and increased productivity with age may ensure that females are large enough to have energy reserves to sustain production during difficult times. A long reproductive lifespan increases the chance that some young will be born during good years. Some species skip spawning in some years, possibly saving their efforts for years with better conditions for embryo development, or channeling energy into their own growth and survival to increase future reproductive success.

To further complicate things, reproductive biology changes from species to seemingly similar species, and can vary with location and environmental conditions.

Rockfish embryos
Rockfish embryos   Photo: Christina Conrath, NOAA Fisheries

 

NOAA Fisheries scientist Christina Conrath of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center set out to collect maturity and reproductive data to improve stock assessments for three deepwater rockfish species. Until now, little was known about the reproductive biology of rougheye, blackspotted, and shortraker rockfish. Conrath got new maturity data, and some surprises.

“The most exciting part of this research was documenting skip spawning for the first time for these species,” said Conrath “High rates in all three species—from 37% in rougheye to 94% in blackspotted–suggest that this is an important reproductive strategy. It opens a lot of questions for further research: is skip spawning constant, or related to environmental conditions, or to female condition or age or size?”

Another important finding was a marked difference in the age that rougheye and blackspotted rockfish reach reproductive maturity. Until recently, these were thought to be one species, and are still managed as one complex. Conrath found the age at maturity for rougheye was less than 20 years; for blackspotted, over 27 years. That age difference has important implications for managing these species.

“These numbers directly influence stock assessments of how many mature females there are,” Conrath explains. “Because of the effect on spawning stock size, a small change in age at maturity can have a big impact on how many fish can be caught.”

These new findings provide managers with information they need to ensure that deepwater Alaska rockfish populations stay healthy. They also advance our knowledge of the various ways rockfish can adjust their reproduction, and that raises new questions.

“An ongoing challenge in rockfish research will be to determine which mechanisms rockfish are most likely to use in different environmental conditions,” says Conrath. ”How much they can adapt their reproductive strategies to a changing climate?”

Bristol Bay Fishing Update

 

Photo by Scott Haugen

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

Bristol Bay Fishing Report for the week of May 25th

Fresh Waters

  • All rivers and most lakes are now ice free or nearly ice free.

King Salmon

  • Naknek River and Alagnak River Drainages
    • It is still very early for kings in the Naknek River and Alagnak River Drainages. Sport fishing should be productive by mid-June in the Naknek River and late June in the Alagnak River.
  • Nushagak River Drainage
    • It is still very early for kings. Sport fishing should be productive by mid-June.
    • The sonar is scheduled to be operational approximately June 5. Management will be in accordance with the Nushagak/Mulchatna King Salmon Management Plan. No substantial in-season information will be available until after June 20. Productivity of Nushagak River kings has been consistently good in recent years; therefore, ADF&G is cautiously optimistic for a good return in 2017.
  • Togiak River and Nearby Drainages
    • It is still very early for kings in the Togiak River. Sport fishing will not likely be productive until late June.

Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic Grayling

  • Naknek River and Alagnak River Drainages
    • Most of the flowing waters of the Kvichak River and Alagnak River Drainages and portions of the Naknek River Drainage remain closed to all fishing until June 8, to protect spawning rainbow trout.
    • On the Naknek River, angling is fair to good in the portions of the drainage that remain open to fishing.
  • Togiak River and Nearby Drainages
    • There have been no angling reports from this section, though opportunities should improve as waters warm.
  • Wood River Lakes System
    • Angling is good to excellent in and at the outlets of larger tributaries of the lakes. However, the upper lakes are still partially ice covered and access by boat is limited.

Northern Pike

  • Naknek River and Alagnak River Drainages
    • Angling should be good in the portions of the drainage that remain open to fishing.
  • Wood River Lake System
    • Angling should be good along lake and slough shores as the ice recedes. However, the upper lakes are still partially ice covered and access by boat is limited.

Salt Waters

Halibut

  •  Nushagak Bay
    • Angling should be fair to very good off the coast of Protection Point.

Here’s also an Anchorage-area preview:

Week of May 25 to May 31

General Area Description: All waters draining into the east side of Knik arm south of, and including, the Eklutna River drainage, and all waters draining into the north and west sides of Turnagain Arm, and all waters draining into the south side of Turnagain Arm east of, and including, Ingram Creek.

Regulation Reminders and Emergency Orders

  • Ship Creek is currently open to salmon fishing from the mouth to a cable 100 feet below the Chugach Power Plant Dam.
  • Campbell Creek (entire drainage) is closed to fishing April 15 through June 14.
  • Chester Creek (entire drainage) is closed to fishing April 15 through June 14.
  • Bird Creek (entire drainage) is closed to fishing January 1 through July 13.
  • Symphony Lake is closed to fishing May 1 through June 30.
  • Eagle River (entire drainage) is closed to king salmon fishing. A section between the Bailey Bridge to an ADF&G marker at the Alaska State Park’s Campground will open to king salmon fishing on a weekend basis beginning Memorial Day Weekend.

New Regulations

  • The NEW 2017 sport fishing regulation summary is available online and at local vendors!
  • Ship Creek is closed YEAR ROUND to ALL fishing from 100 feet below the Chugach Power Plant Dam upstream to 300 feet above the Elmendorf Power Plant Dam, near the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery.
  • A Ship Creek Youth-only king salmon fishery will take place on June 17 from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The area open to youth only is from the C Street Bridge upstream to the Bridge Restaurant. During this timeframe adults may assist youth fishing but only anglers 15 years old and younger may fish in this area.
  • Campbell Creek from ADF&G markers on the upstream side of the Lake Otis Parkway Bridge to an ADF&G maker located near the forks at Piper Street is only open to sport fishing from July 14 through September 30.

Fishing Tip: Before you go fishing ALWAYS review the 2017 Sport Fishing Regulations. For additional information about regulations in the Anchorage Area, please review the 2017 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulation Summary booklet.

Sport fishing licenses, king salmon stamps, Personal Use Dipnet, and Prince William Sound Shrimp Permits are available for purchase online at the ADF&G Online Store.

Stream Fishing

Salmon

  • Kings have been caught at Ship Creek! The run is building so you still have lots of time to get your 2017 catch!
  • Right now Ship Creek is the only stream in the Anchorage area currently open to king salmon fishing. Fishing on Ship Creek is open from the mouth up to a cable crossing roughly 100 feet below the Chugach Power Plant dam. Try both roe and spinners.
  • All other waters in the Anchorage Management Area are currently closed to king salmon fishing.
  • If you are successful and would like to report a catch please contact the Sport Fish Information Center at 267-2218.

Fishing Tip: It has been a long winter. Brush up on your fish identification before you head out fishing. Test your fish identification knowledge with the new Pacific Salmon ID Quiz.

Trout

  • All of Campbell Creek, Chester Creek, and portions of Ship Creek are currently closed to fishing to protect spawning rainbow trout. The closure on Chester Creek includes East Chester Lagoon, West Chester Lagoon, and APU/University Lake.

Lake Fishing

General

  • Arctic char were stocked into Sand Lake, Fish Lake, Thompson Lake, Green Lake, and Clunie Lake last week.
  • Rainbow trout have been stocked into Sand Lake, Taku-Campbell Lake, Delong Lake, Campbell Point Lake, Jewel Lake, Spring Lake, Triangle Lake, Waldon Lake, Green Lake, and Hillberg Lake.
  • Airstrip Lake, Alder Lake, and Tangle Lake were stocked at the end of last week.
  • Cheney Lake was stocked with Chinook salmon at the beginning of April.
  • Try casting small lures or wet flies to attract fish. Bait under a bobber is also a good option. In the evening, watch for fish rising, as this is a great time to fish with dry and surface flies.
  • Taku-Campbell Lake is one great place to take the kids for some rainbow trout action!
  • Anglers can visit ADF&G’s Hatcheries and Stocking web page for more information regarding when and where fish are stocked.
  • Often after fish are stocked, they remain in large schools. Spend some time searching for these schools.

Have you noticed a few dead fish washed up along the shores of local lakes this spring? Some winter kill has been observed at Mirror Lake. Don’t be alarmed! Our lakes often see winterkill of some fish. Winterkill is used to describe fish dying because of low oxygen levels. This is a natural process! In the summer, submerged plants and algae create oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. During our long and cold Alaska winters, when lakes freeze over and are covered with snow, very little light makes its way to the vegetation below, reducing and sometimes eliminating oxygen production. In small shallow lakes the limited oxygen can quickly be used up by fish and bacteria. When oxygen levels decline far enough, fish may not survive. Given the long winter and thick ice we just had, some of our lakes may have experienced winterkill.

Fishing Tip: To improve your success in local stocked lakes review the lake bathymetric (bottom depth profile) map online. This will help you determine what type of fish you are fishing for and where they might be. Often a little walk or getting away from the pack will provide rewards.

Northern Pike

  • There are very few opportunities for Northern Pike in Anchorage as they are not native to the region. ADF&G has taken steps to keep pike out of Anchorage lakes. Lower Fire Lake is the closest place to find Northern pike in the Anchorage Area. If you catch a Northern Pike in the Anchorage area, please contact the ADF&G Division of Sport Fish immediately at 267-2218.

Hooligan

  • Open season for hooligan (smelt) in salt waters is April 1 through May 31; in fresh waters, it is April 1 through June 15. There is no bag or possession limit for personal use smelt. Hooligan may be taken by dip net in any fresh or salt water during this time period.
  • This is a personal-use fishery and only Alaska residents can participate. No permit is required, but you do need a 2017 Alaska resident sport fishing license or ADF&G Permanent ID card with you.

20 Mile River

  • The hooligan are in and it’s a busy place. Lots of fish are being caught!
  • The salt water section of this fishery closes on Wednesday, May 31. The fresh waters remain open through June 15.
  • For your safety, and for the safety of others, please park well off the highway. Do not trespass on the railroad tracks or the railroad right-of-way. Please be respectful and take all your trash with you, don’t throw it on the ground.
  • For more information on hooligan dipnetting and hooligan dipnetting regulations, see the 2017 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations summary booklets.