All posts by dbreynolds2

State Legislators Looking to Eliminate Fisheries Limited Entry Commission


Bruce Twomley of the CFEC
Bruce Twomley of the CFEC

Alaska state legislators are trying to pass a new bill, HB112, which is designed to cut costs in the state, and will look specifically at the Commercial Fisheries Entries Commission.  This all began with a report that was submitted by Alaska Fish and Game that questions the structure and effectiveness of the CFEC.

Historically, the Commercial Fisheries Entries Commission has been a vital part of fisheries management and resource sustainability in Alaska.  The commission was established in 1973.  The idea of limited entry permits for fisheries in Alaskan waters is one of the foundations that our regulatory processes are built upon.  Limiting access to our fisheries has allowed us to manage them at sustainable levels, unlike many other areas of the world.

The primary role of the CFEC is to review and decide who can receive a permit into certain limited entry fisheries.  ADF&G feels that the commission in modern times is highly inefficient with this process, sitting on nearly 30 backlogged cases that are over 15 years old.  The report also indicated that the commission only made decisions on three cases in each of the last two years.

Earlier this year, a similar bill was introduced, HB386, which would have transferred most of these duties to ADF&G.  The Fish and Game report also brought into question the work ethics of several of the high level, highly-paid employees of the CFEC, who work from home and seldom work in the office.  Eliminating these positions would free up over $600,000.

Obviously CFEC has some issues with the report and are preparing a public response, and they are also set to present  an overview of the agency to the House Fisheries Committee soon.


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PFMC closes 2015 -2016 Pacific sardine fishery


Last week, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council voted to close the 2015-2016 sardine fishery that was set to begin on July 1st.  The council heard testimony from scientists that forecasted the abundance to be well below 150,000 metric tons, which is the minimum threshold to have a fishery.

The council also heard from fishermen and various environmental groups before making the decision to close the fishery.  There will still be small catches allowed during fisheries targeting other species, and a small quota will also be allowed to the Quinalt Indian Nation.

Several council members were interviewed and they all expressed their confidence in this decision.  They cited examples of past closures which have resulted in stocks rebounding over short periods of time, including salmon, lingcod, and other groundfish.

The vice chairman said: “This is a testimony to the precautionary provisions the Pacific Council has locked into our management regime.”  It is clear that the goal of the council is to rebuild and maintain this fishery at a sustainable level, even if that requires periodic closures.


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Sitka Herring a Cooperative Fishery in 2015

sacroeThis year, the  sac-roe herring fishery in Sitka was uncharacteristically quiet.  Usually known for it’s  competitive nature, Sitka herring is one of Alaska’s most popular, shootout-style fisheries.  2015 was a different year for the fishery, because the fleet decided to harvest the allotted quota on a cooperative basis.

This was the first time the fleet has initiated a co-op since the mid-1990s.  There are two reasons that the commercial fishing fleet decided to operate in this manner in 2015.  First, the price per ton for sac-roe herring is expected to be well below average this year.  The price was close to $180 per ton last year, and expected to be much lower this year.  This is down significantly from recent years where the price was closer to $500 per ton.  The low price makes it very difficult for the entire fleet to arrive and fish on a competitive basis.

Another reason behind the cooperative decision was that the allotted quota is also relatively low in 2015.   The quota was only 8750 tons this year, which is almost half of what it has been in recent years.  This small quota, combined with a price drop, caused the commercial fishing fleet to agree to a cooperative style fishery.

A cooperative fishery means that every single vessel does not need to travel to Sitka and participate in the harvest.  Half of the boats did not participate this year.  Instead, a smaller number of vessels worked together to harvest the allotted quota, and the entire fleet will split the profits.  The total allowed harvest was completed in about a week.  Instead of the usual excitement and the crash-bang shootout that Alaskans are accustomed to watching, this year was definitely quiet and uneventful.





Pacific Fishery Management to Restrict New Forage Fisheries


(Photo by Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian)


The Pacific Fishery Management Council recently voted for a ban on all new forage fisheries in the region.  This doesn’t affect existing fisheries such as sardines, herring, and anchovy.  However, it does protect the many species that are not currently regulated, such as sand lance and saury.

The Pacific council regulates fisheries in federal waters, between 3 and 200 miles off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California.  So each of these states will need to implement similar regulations to enforce near-shore fishing.  Also, the law will not go into effect until the National Marine Fishery Service grants approval and crafts the language, which could take some time.

A recent crash in the sardine fishery has been cause for major concern in the Pacific region.  The effects from the crash are being seen throughout the food web, such as lack of available food for sea lions.  It is becoming clear to researchers that managers need to consider all of the direct and indirect effects caused by the harvesting of forage fish.

The idea behind the law is that if fishermen want to start a new fishery, they must prove that it won’t be damaging to the ecosystem or food web structure.  This is a fairly new kind of management style, with extra care being given to the ecosystem as a whole.



Chums for life!

Name:  Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)


AKA:  dog salmon, keta salmon, calico salmon

Taxonomy:  Kingdom: Animalia    Phylum: Chordata                          Class: Osteichtheyes    Order: Salmoniformes   Family: Salmonidae    Genus: Oncorhyncus    Species: keta

Length: up to 3.6 feet

Weight: up to 45 lbs!!  (typically 8-15 lbs)

Average Lifespan: 4 years  – “Life is short, just go with the flow!”

Friends: I’ve been known to school around with my other salmon buddies:  Chinook (aka “The King”), Sockeye (we call him “Red”),  Pink (“Pinky” or “Humpy”), and Coho (the infamous  “Silver”)


Foes:    Nemesis: The Bear.    Black, brown, whatever… I despise you all.    C’mon man, I’m just trying to get my spawn on!


Other Archenemies: many marine mammals like seals and sea lions, large birds…why can’t you all just leave me alone!  Oh and let’s not forget humans!   Not all of you of course, but definitely the commercial fishermen and recreational anglers.  What am I to you, just a piece of meat?


Favorite Foods:  insect larvae, copepods, tunicates, mollusks, squid, and a variety of small fishes.

Reproduction:   Semalparous.  One and done.  As an adult (3-4 years old) I travel upstream and spawn one time in my life, before perishing.  Spawn ’til you die!

Appearance:   While at sea, I have a silvery blue-green color.  Upon entering freshwater, my body changes dramatically.  I turn to a dark, olive green color and develop purple, blotchy streaks on my sides.  Males develop a very pronounced hooked snout with enlarged teeth.  Females also develop these “kypes” and enlarged teeth, but usually not  as pronounced.


Where I live:  I have the widest distribution of the Pacific salmon.  I range from Alaska down to the Oregon coast, all the way over to Japan and north into Russia.


Feeding Behavior: As a juvenile, I feed on things like insect larvae while I migrate towards the sea.  Once I reach the sea, I stay close to shore for awhile and feed on crustaceans, insects, and small fish.  After this I head to the open ocean and feed on copepods, tunicates, mollusks, and fishes.  When I return to freshwater to spawn, I cease feeding altogether.  At this point I use the energy stored in my body tissue to complete my migration and spawn.

My Life History:  I am born in a gravel bed in a freshwater stream.  When I hatch, I begin my migration to the sea after a few days or weeks.  I spend the next 3 to 4 years surviving in the open ocean, feeding and growing until I reach maturity.  Once I reach adulthood, I migrate all the way back to the exact same stream where I was born.  Here, I spawn once before my life ends.


Quotes about me:

“It’s okay to eat fish ’cause they don’t have any feelings.” – Kurt Cobain  (really Kurt?)


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Female Cichlid Shoaling to Promote Fitness

Researchers from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology in Vienna recently published a study on the effects of cichlid sex and size on their shoaling and dispersal behaviors.  The paper, titled “Sex biases in kin shoaling and dispersal in a cichlid fish” and published in the December 2014 issue of the journal Oecologia, studied the cichlid Neolamprologus caudopunctatus in Lake Tanganyika, Africa.  The researchers genetically sampled over 900 breeders and shoaling fish, and also documented their sex and body size.  After extensive data collection and analysis, they discovered some interesting behaviors.

Photo Credit: Stefanie Schwamberger

They were surprised to find that female cichlids dispersed longer distances from their place of birth than the males did.  While dispersal is a common behavior, it is more common to see male-dispersal.  In this case, the females exhibited 11 times higher migration rates than the males.  It is theorized that the purpose of dispersal is often to avoid inbreeding and competition for resources among relatives, and also to increase access to available resources and mates.

cichlid 2
Neolamprologus caudopunctatus


The second phenomenon the researchers discovered was the presence of kin shoaling among small female cichlids.  Small, young, female cichlids tended to shoal with their female siblings. However, there was no observation of small males shoaling with kin.  The males seemed to shoal with other non-sibling males, and no kin-shoaling was observed for larger, older fish.  Dispersing fish may tend to shoal to avoid predation.  The researchers theorize that the small females may shoal with siblings in order to increase the likelihood of one of their family surviving, and therefore increasing the survivability of their genetic material.  The abstract of the paper reads: “Further, kin shoaling may augment inclusive fitness by reducing predation of relatives.”

This may be one of the first  studies to give evidence towards a relationship in sex-based dispersal and kin shoaling. The names of the researchers were:  Franziska Lemmel-Schädelin, Wouter van Dongen, Yoshan Moodley and Richard Wagner.

Lake Tanganyika holds at least 250 species of cichlid fish and 75 species of non-cichlid fish.