Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
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  • The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has restricted fishing within 500 yards of the McLees Lake river mouth July 1-9.
  • The state-water cod fishery for pot gear boats of 58 feet or less in the Dutch Harbor Subdistrict opened Thursday, Feb. 1 at noon. Those harvesters have a limit of 60 pots per vessel and a guideline harvest level of a little more than 44 million pounds. That’s the largest harvest level the fishery has ever seen. Last year’s was the second biggest at just over 38 million pounds.
  • When scientists estimated that more than 10 billion snow crab had disappeared from the Eastern Bering Sea between 2018 and 2021, industry stakeholders and fisheries scientists had several ideas about where they’d gone. Some thought bycatch, disease, cannibalism, or crab fishing, while others believed it could be predation from other sea animals like Pacific cod. But now, scientists say they’ve distinguished the most likely cause for the disappearance. The culprit is a marine heatwave between 2018 and 2019, according to a new study authored by a group of scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is set to decide Friday whether or not to reopen the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery, which has been closed since 2021.Their decision will be based on recommendations from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is meeting through Oct. 11 in Anchorage.
  • A federal government shutdown likely won’t affect the start of a Bristol Bay red king crab season, according to fisheries officials.The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet in early October to discuss opening the crab fishery, which has been closed since 2021. The federal government shutdown, which could start Sunday, wouldn’t stop the regional council from meeting, but it could affect whether or not the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can distribute IFQ or Individual Fishing Quota, following the Council’s recommendation.
  • Unalaska is preparing to start monitoring for European Green Crab. That's after the invasive species was first found in Alaska last July. The crab could cause a big problem. They destroy habitat and outcompete native species.
  • Surveyors with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are knocking on doors in Unalaska this week and asking questions about salmon.
  • New data from drone surveys flown over Unalaska’s three road-system lakes last summer show low sockeye salmon counts. The counts total less than half of what they were in summer of 2020, according to data released in April by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. But Fish and Game biologist Tyler Lawson said the one-year drop isn’t too concerning. Escapement numbers often fluctuate and there’s more room for error in aerial surveys, he said. “We call them a ‘high error survey,’ which kind of sounds bad, but it's just because in comparison to the weir — which is a very precise tool — there's variability whenever you're up in the air, looking down and trying to count salmon,” he said. While the technology is still relatively new when it comes to counting salmon in Unalaska, Lawson said he’s hopeful that drones will play a key role in helping assess broader trends among salmon stocks in the region.
  • ABOARD THE PINNACLE, Bering Sea — Through the wheelhouse window, captain Mark Casto spotted a white line on the horizon. The edge of an ice floe was illuminated by bow lights piercing the morning darkness of the Bering Sea. He throttled back the engines. Soon, the Seattle-based crab boat began to nose through closely packed pancake-like pieces and bigger craggy chunks, some the size of boulders, which bobbed about in the currents and clanged against the hull. Casto had hoped this patch of sea would yield a bountiful catch of snow crab to help fill up the boat. Nearby, a few hours earlier, he had set more than two dozen baited pots along the sea bottom. Now, he risked losing them in the fast-moving ice.
  • The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has been collecting data on the salmon runs at McLees Lake at Cape Wislow for nearly two decades.While Fish and…