We were notified last winter that without an "RSW" (Refrigerated Sea Water) system no cannery would purchase our fish, so we essentially had no option but to obtain a HUGE state loan to have the refrigeration components custom-built to fit into the available space on the F/V Woody. In his 45 years of fishing the waters around Kodiak Island, Stan has only fished in June a handful of times due to the "nautical" weather & ocean conditions out on the capes where Sockeye are typically caught. We would've liked to participate this time around but we were busy installing the RSW system & missed the early run of Sockeye entirely. As it turned out, last year's early "Red" run ended up being the best portion of the Kodiak area return.
In early November Alaska's Department of Fish & Game released the end of season report for the salmon fishery in the Kodiak Management Area (KMA) & the numbers showed what any Kodiak salmon seiner already knew: the pink salmon return in 2016 was arguably one of the worst in 50 years!!
You can read the full report here but to simplify here are the highlights, or rather the LOW points made in the report...
"The total Kodiak area wide harvest........ of 5,926,918 salmon was well below the 2016 forecast and the previous 10-year average of approximately 24,068,105 salmon (Table 2)."
"Purse seine fishermen accounted for the majority of the total harvest (in number of fish) and their earnings averaged $66,243 per fished permit." (Check out Table 3!!)
"The 2016 pink salmon harvest of 3,245,549 fish was well below the forecast (16,193,000 fish) and the previous 10-year average harvest of 20,721,265 fish, and the smallest harvest since 1975 in the KMA (Table 2)....The wild stock pink salmon harvest was one of the lowest in the past 50 years with 2,100,315 pink salmon harvested in the KMA."
Since Kodiak is Alaska's second-largest commercial fishing port, the "trickle-down" or "domino" effect is tremendous, as a large percentage of local business' primary income is earned in support of the fishing industry. From the hundreds of cannery workers who process the fleet's catch, the vendors who provide necessary supplies to the boats, the staff of my own father's welding shop & other similar service businesses, all the way up the chain to the shipping companies' employees that normally transport millions more pounds of product than were available to distribute out of Kodiak this summer, all of us in this tight-knit town are feeling the pinch.
Our local House Representative, Republican Louise Stutes, has gone to bat for our devastated maritime community, pushing for federal disaster relief funds to help those affected by the shortfall to get through this rough patch. The irony is that even once approved, and after some monetary figure is determined & then finally allocated for the desperately needed help, the disbursement of funds isn't likely to come down the pike for anywhere from 18-24 months! On a brighter note, Stutes' efforts on our behalves has helped convince Alaska's CFEC to postpone loan payments till after the next salmon season.
The federal fishery for Pacific Grey Cod just closed a few days ago & the local fleet is standing by while the Fish & Game tallies their reports for resource management purposes. We expect the season to open for cod "jigging" in the near future, which we have participated in for the last several years. If you have purchased some of our delicious, delicate cod fillets in the past, or would like to, please contact us to get your name on a waiting list for "Direct To You" delivery of this amazing product, which I personally prefer to the more widely popular Halibut.
For now we will continue to do what we know better than most just how to...hunker down, get by as best we can with what's on hand, & keep our hopes up that NEXT summer's salmon season will be one full of CATCHING, not just FISHING!!