Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
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ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

  • The recent closure of the Bering Sea snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab fisheries has some of Western Alaska’s coastal towns taking a hard look at their futures, and one small island is bracing for a huge hit. The Pribilof Island of St. Paul runs on snow crab — also known as opilio crab. The community’s Trident Seafoods is one of the largest crab processing plants in the world. So when fisheries management officials announced the species “overfished” and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shut down snow crab for the first time in the fishery’s history in October, City Manager Phillip Zavadil knew the community needed to act fast. “We're trying to get creative and have people understand that this is going to happen more and more, and that we need to address it,” Zavadil said. “We can do something now, instead of waiting for next year, when we don't have any funding or we can't provide services.”
  • The Governor requested expedited disaster designations to jumpstart the process of sending money to fishermen in both the 2022 Bering Sea snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab fisheries, citing the complete closure of both this season.Rep. Mary Peltola has also requested emergency relief funding in a letter addressed to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chair of the House Appropriations Committee.The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced earlier this month that the Bering Sea snow crab fishery will not open for the first time in its history.
  • Bering Sea snow crab will close for the first time in the fishery’s history. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Monday afternoon that snow crab — also known as opilio crab — and Bristol Bay red king crab would not open for the upcoming fall and winter fishing seasons. Miranda Westphal, an area management biologist for ADF&G, said stocks are just too low to justify opening either fishery. “All of our crab stocks in the Bering Sea have seen declines the last few years,” Westphal said. “[For] red king crab, we've been seeing declines for a little over a decade now. We just see very little recruitment coming into the population — not a lot of crab maturing into a fishable size. And so we're just seeing more of that this year.”
  • Regulation reminders:The bag limit for Unalaska Bay fresh and saltwaters is 5 salmon per day of which only 2 may be sockeye.Anglers are reminded that Town…
  • In a historically late push, almost 3,000 sockeye salmon came through the weir at McLees Lake on Sunday. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says the salmon run in Unalaska is now at a sustainable level and fishing restrictions have been lifted.
  • The Alaska House of Representatives agreed last week to changes made to a mariculture enhancement bill that would allow shellfish to be farmed in hatcheries, moving it one step closer to becoming law. House Bill 41 would allow certain nonprofits to pursue mariculture enhancement or restoration projects for species of shellfish — like abalone, razor clams, sea cucumbers and king crab. It would be the first time in Alaska’s history that people could raise animals like crab in hatcheries and release them into the wild to support commercial fisheries. Independent Rep. Dan Ortiz sponsored the bill, which was presented in February last year.
  • The governor’s task force to review the effect of bycatch in Alaska fisheries is working to organize against its tight timeline for submitting recommendations to state and federal policymakers. It also has to balance commercial and subsistence interests.
  • Fishermen in the Bering Sea reported spotting at least two North Pacific right whales about 80 miles from Unalaska earlier this month. Scientists say it's likely the first visual evidence of the highly endangered whales feeding in the Bering Sea in winter, and they’re urging fishing boats in the area to exercise caution.
  • Earlier this month, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce declared disasters for over a dozen fisheries in Alaska — more than the federal government usually approves at once. The designation is supposed to unlock funds to help the communities impacted by those fisheries failures, including communities around Cook Inlet. But it can take years for the money to reach fishermen’s pockets.
  • The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced earlier this month that all major crab stocks are down. And for the first time in over 25 years, the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery will be closed.