All posts by Sky

The Magnuson-Stevens Act Under Review

magnusen steven act

The Magnusen-Stevens Act in regards to fisheries management and conservation recently went under a review process by Congress. It was passed originally in 1976, has been through several review processes since then the most recent being in 2006 to what is is at this time. The Magnuson-Stevens act regulates the waters between 3 miles and 200 miles offshore. There are eight regional fisheries management councils that are authorized under this act. The act provides for management parameters to fisheries within the area including annual catch limits and various systems in place to “end overfishing”. Also included are limited access privilege programs and goals to increase international cooperation.

There are proposed changes or amendments to the act that are notable. Currently under the Arctic FMP (Fisheries Management Plan) there is no commercial fishing permitted. There is a proposed change to allow commercial fishing with has to first go through the North Pacific council.

There is a proposal to change the tools of fisheries managers from minimizing by-catch to avoiding by-catch.

There is a proposal to required stock assessments be conducted every 5 years.

There are many more details to the review process, however there are ecosystem-based policy changes and goals, proposals relating to forage fish management with more emphasis requested to be placed on dependent fish. There are technological based proposals calling for electronic monitoring in the North Pacific.

According to Senator Begich, the list of proposals are based on hearings and listening sessions held both here in Alaska and across the country over the course of a year.

There is no indication what will pass or fail, the processed should be finished by late summer or early fall.



Chinook Declines on the Yukon River

underwaterchinook2The decline of Chinook salmon populations on the Yukon River was the subject of a recent pre-season planning meeting hosted by the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association which included fisherman up and down the Yukon River as well as fisheries managers from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The 2014 King return is expected to be the lowest in 30 years, since 1982 according to an article recently published in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner. Fisherman are uniting on a common goal calling for a moratorium on King fishing on the Yukon River this upcoming season. Yukon Kings have gone from a valuable commercial fishery on the Yukon, to a primarily subsistence fishery, and have now become a species to avoid harvesting at all costs. Managers are anticipating drift gillnetting to be prohibited while Kings are present in the river and to have a new dip net only fishery where King salmon could then be released alive to allow to travel to their spawning grounds which will be put into place by the use of emergency order. The use of dip nets as a gear type was put into regulation by the Board of Fish. 2013 was the first year dip nets had been used in this manner in the Yukon somewhat experimentally and this year they are looking like they will be relied on to target other species both commercially and for subsistence purposes. One of the tools managers have in their “toolbox’ is the ability to issue emergency orders on behalf of the commissioner. Regulations that have been put into place by the Board of Fish can specify when this is an option for managers to allow management based on the strength of the run. On the Yukon River this enables manager to follow the run up the river, opening and closing fishing opportunity based on where the fish are located at a given time. This process, where the Board of Fish was established enabling an entity separate from the management authority was put into place along with the ability for managers to make these types of in-season alterations to fishing seasons and schedules occurred around 1960, directly following statehood. The Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association was established in 1990. This non governmental agency works to coordinate fisherman throughout the drainage with management to provide local knowledge and input and support for biological research and funding.



American Fisheries Society Symposium 70, 2009 © 2009 by the American Fisheries Society, Salmon Management in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Region of Alaska: Past, Present, and Future John R. Hilsinger, Eric Volk , Gene Sandone, and Richard Cannon    Alaska Department of Fish and Game 333 Raspberry Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99518, USA



Gulf of Alaska Flatfish Fishery – One of the Highest Percentages of Bycatch in America

halibut_demersal_trawlersAccording to a recently published report by Oceana, one of the largest ocean conservation non-profits, The Gulf of Alaska Flatfish Fishery is responsible for discarding 35% of it’s harvest overboard. This fishery is managed by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC), and is in federal, not state waters. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, state waters have not been harvested by this fishery since 1999.

This flatfish trawl fishery was one of nine U.S. fisheries listed in the report as being the most wasteful in terms of by-catch and is unique in that the by-catch consists of species that are marketable. Other high-waste fisheries were reported to have sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks being tossed aside. The report states that the by-catch alone is worth more in value than the actual product being harvested in some cases. According to a report by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game entitled “Commercial Fisheries of Alaska” published in June of 2005, The flatfish trawl fisheries have historically harvested “nontarget” species in which the NPFMC has been working to improved utilization of. Oceana’s report seems to be bringing media attention to an issue that has been ongoing for years.

The positive aspect of Oceana’s report highlights potential solutions or recommendations that are proactive. This also sends the message that Oceana is not calling for a moratorium on flatfish harvest in the Gulf of Alaska, they are calling for more responsible fishing and management practices. Currently the observer coverage for this fishery is at 14%, Oceana proposes more coverage and monitoring. They are also calling for stricter penalties for catching marine life, closing fishing if by-catch limits are reached, the use of in-season population reporting, and require the use of Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED’s) in trawl nets.



Atlantic Cod Showing Signs of Recovery in Newfoundland

Atlantic cod, CanadaThe centuries-old  infamous Atlantic cod fishery experienced a devastating collapse in the 1990’s due to unsustainable fishing practices as well as changing environmental conditions. It has been unclear if this fishery would be able to recover. Accourding to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) website, 30,000 jobs were lost-a huge impact on Newfoundland’s economy. This was the single  largest mass layoff that Canada had ever experienced. WWF has been working with the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) to develop better management strategies which include sustainable fishing practices. This effort has brought the fishery to the table for assessment by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC can certify or deny a fishery to be labeled as sustainable.

The World Wildlife Fund, known as WWF has put in to action a vigourous project to rebuild this area known as the Grand Banks. The project is called a Fisheries Improvement Plan and was officially started in 2011. WWF and NAFO have been working for years to close 18 areas to bottom fishing. The result, according to an article in Power Engineering, “was the outcome of the 2013 stock assessment by Fisheries and Oceans Canada showing a positive biomass trajectory for the next three years”. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada  (DFO)  has extended the fishing season on the sounthern coast of Newfoundland into the spawning season for cod  through the end of March at the least. This is partly to the majority of the quota not being harvested, and interest in seeing what is produced at this time of year.

Although this all seems like great news, fisheries scientists remain cautious. The Atlantic cod are living longer and doing better than they have been in the last 20 years, yet their reproduction rate is still reportedly low, and they are still nowhere near where they should be, 90 per cent below levels measured in the 1980s. The work of WWF has been important to the recovery, although scientists also attribute some of this to the warming of the oceans having a positive effect on the fishery. Many remain skeptical that there will ever be a thriving commercial fishery again in Newfoundland. Many fisherman have left the areas, and fishing communites have drastically reduced in population.



Orca’s, Fisherman, and Chinook Salmon

orca eating chinookCommercial ocean fisheries on the west coast that target Chinook salmon may someday compete with the killer whales.  Orca whales that  share the marine environment with Chinook salmon  seem to prefer the same fatty Chinook that fisherman are targeting.    Approximately 80 percent of the killer whales’ diet in this area  consists of Chinook salmon.  The population of Orcas is low, only 89 are estimated  in the total population for this area according to NOAA’s researchers, and the Chinook populations are also reportedly  at risk.  Scientists have been doing genetic testing on the Chinook DNA which can determine which river they will be migrating to spawn and therefore what the  Orca’s are feasting upon to determine which stocks are the primary target for these killer whales.  They are finding  that the vast majority of the Chinook that these whales prefer are destined to migrate up Canada’s Fraser River to spawn.

This is where the management of the Chinook fishery comes into play. The current management plan for the Puget Sound lists the impact on killer whales to be “non-jeopardizing”. This is considered a biological opinion. With new information on the diet of these marine mammals, this opinion could change. Orca’s are endangered. Chinook are at risk. The data is not sufficient at this time to warrant management actions restricting fishing on the Chinook yet, however this is bringing to light that there is a possibility that managers could restrict fishing in the future on Chinook if harvest is found to affect and limit an important food source to this marine mammal population. As for commercial trollers, they could even potentially be shut down completely.

More research is needed to be sure exactly how much fishing is affecting the whales. Part of this research is determining if restricting or closing this fishery would actually benefit the killer whale population. In addition to whale consumption of Chinook,  there are also other predators that eat Chinook salmon aside from human harvest. If fishing were stopped altogether, how much of the excess Chinook left in the marine environment would the Orca’s have access to? At this time there appears to be no clear answer.

Sources:[3/5/2014 Pacific Fishing Magazine, Will Killer Whales Stop You From Fishing? Mintz,Daniel June 2013

Northern Pike


Pike pic220px-Pike_caught_frog

Hi, My name is Pike, my friends call me Jack, Water Wolf, or Pickerel, but if you prefer to address me in a more official sounding way, please call me Great Northern Pike, Great Northern Pickerel, or American Pike.

If you are a scientist you are probably more interested in my scientific name in which case please call me Esox lucius.

I can be found geographically in freshwater throughout the northern hemisphere, including Russia, Europe and North America. I have been introduced to lakes in Morocco although it is never a good idea to introduce me to a new place, I am quite invasive. I am also in the brackish water of the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea is the only salt water area you will find me in, I can survive there because the salinity levels are quite low.

Don’t hate me because I am an ambush predator with needle-like teeth! I am a very stealth and aggressive predator and I enjoy sneaking up on my prey and catching them off guard. I eat other fish mainly whitefish, however I will happily feast on suckers, burbot, smaller northern pike and juvenile salmon. Being a large adult, I can eat voles, shrews, red squirrels, and small waterfowl. Not to brag, but I have been known to swallow small bald eagle chicks if the opportunity arises. When I was a juvenile I enjoyed small crustaceans and insects.

That being said, predators such as larger pike, otters, hawks, burbot, and humans are among who are interested in eating me as an adult. When I was a juvenile I was sought after by crayfish, frogs, and other fish.

I spent the first year of my life in my wetland home, upon which it was time for me to leave, and travel to the cooler waters of the lake that my parents lived in. Sometimes I spend my whole life within a very small area where I also have the potential as a species to span many miles of stream. I enjoy the habitat of sluggish streams and shallow, weedy places in lakes, as well as in cold, clear, rocky waters. Due to the ice-covered, shallow lakes becoming depleted of oxygen, or freezing solid, I usually overwinter in rivers. Thus I migrate short distances from rivers in the winter to spawning grounds, and then to feeding areas in the summer to shallow areas. When the water is warm I get lethargic, and have much more energy in low temperatures making me quite active.

In late March to early May I will be ready to spawn. I may decide to lay my eggs under the ice, but I prefer warmer water somewhere between 39 and 52 degrees Fahrenheit and will then move into small streams and flooded marshes to do my business. I can deposit up to 100,000 eggs!   My eggs stick to the vegetation I lay them on. They will remain there for about two weeks, become fertilized by a male, and then they will hatch. My species is not one for parental care, they are on their own.

I am an adult female which means I am bigger than other male Pike and I live longer. Males of my species become sexually mature at 2-3 years-old and us females at 3-4 years-old. Otherwise we as females look pretty similar to the males in appearance.

In case you were wondering, I have a tendency to deposit my feces away from where I like to forage. Other species avoid my feces due to high levels of alarm pheromones.

When I am in Michigan I have been known to hybridize with the muskellunge E. masquinongy, we are close relatives.


You may have noticed I am famous. Here are the posters with my picture.   Lucky for me it is not me they are after, it’s the humans who are introducing me into Kenai Peninsula waters that are apparently in deep trouble!

pike_reward_posterThere is even a poem written about me! Check it out:

Poem entitled Northern Pike by poet James Wright:






The Modoc Sucker Proposed to be Removed from Endangered Species List


The Modoc sucker (Catostomus microps) is a rare fish that inhabits small tributaries in northeastern California and south-central Oregon, more specifically the Pit River drainage in the high desert country of Modoc and Lassen counties in California, and the Goose Lake subbasin in Lake County in Oregon (see map below). They are a small sucker averaging between 3 to 6 inches with a maximum of 11 inches in length.  In 1985, this fish was listed officially as an endangered species due to loss of habitat with a total population thought to be approximately 1,300 fish. Presently, 20 years later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed to have it removed from the list.

Apparently there are more Modoc suckers than previously thought by federal biologists. USFWS had documented their realized niche, the space they actually occupied, in only 12.9 miles of streams which has increased to 42.5 miles of stream habitat. Their preferred habitat consists of fine silt to small gravel within streambeds where they prefer to be near vegetation, roots, and overhanging branches.

Their diet consists of algae, invertebrates and organic matter which is greatly affected by erosion. Cattle grazing and particularly watering can cause erosion which damage the Modoc’s habitat. The growth in numbers and area is thought to be in part due to forest management which provided and increased fundamental niche or potential area that could be inhabited by these fish. The management strategy involved reducing run-off from roads, and moving cattle to other watering locations including the use of cattle exclusion fences. In addition to forest management practices, a group called the Lake County Umbrella Watershed Council has been working with private landowners in the area to install fish passages which reportedly allow for year-round migration.

The proposal to remove the Modoc sucker from the endangered species list is open for public commentary. According to the federal proposal:

“…We are seeking information and
comments from the public regardingmodoc-sucker-map-2-12-14
this 12-month finding and proposed
rule. In addition to the proposed rule,
we are also seeking information and
comments on the draft post-delisting
monitoring plan.
We will accept comments
received or postmarked on or before

April 14, 2014….”