'Threats and challenges'

A new annual report from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute sees a number of "threats and challenges for Alaska in the global marketplace."

Among the listed items:

• Chilean salmon farmers have greatly increased production and are on track to fully rebound from devastating outbreaks of the ISA virus, infectious salmon anemia.

• Funding could be reduced for the Market Access Program, which helps promote American products abroad. The federal program has allocated millions of dollars to ASMI in years past.

• Aquaculture continues to increase its percentage of world seafood supply, with Alaska's share now down to 1.3 percent.

• With increases in the value of state's wild salmon, halibut and other species, Alaska producers face "price resistance" in the marketplace.

• Alaska always has been an expensive place to operate, and it's getting worse with rising fuel and transportation costs.

Legislature approves Fish Board appointees

The Alaska Legislature today confirmed Gov. Sean Parnell's picks for the state Board of Fisheries, Karl Johnstone and Orville Huntington.

Most of the governor's appointees, for posts ranging from state attorney general to the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers, passed by unanimous consent.

Johnstone was among the very few names drawing an objection, meaning his appointment was put to a vote of senators and representatives meeting jointly to consider the governor's appointees.

The vote proceeded without any discussion. Here is the outcome:

Senators: 17 yea, 2 nay
Representatives: 27 yea, 11 nay

For your entertainment

Deadliest Catch begins its eighth season Tuesday night. Check your local listings, potheads.

Deckboss also recommends you catch Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a really nice film.

Less than half of Sitka herring quota taken so far

The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery opened for a third time Saturday, and seiners bagged 3,740 tons in a little over three hours.

State fishery managers now estimate a total of 13,776 tons have been taken so far this year.

That's less than half the preseason quota of 28,829 tons.

Not to worry, however.

The latest Department of Fish and Game update suggests plenty of herring are still in the area.

To the deep

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Anacapa opened fire today on the Ryou-Un Maru, sinking her in 6,072 feet of water 180 miles off the Southeast Alaska coast.

Click here for Coast Guard video and photos.

Sinking imminent?

Here's another look at that derelict Japanese fishing vessel, the Ryou-Un Maru, as seen Wednesday about 170 nautical miles southwest of Sitka. The unmanned boat, drifting northwest, got loose after Japan's massive tsunami in March 2011. CNN and other media outlets are reporting the owner of the squid boat has been identified, and that the U.S. Coast Guard today might sink the vessel as a hazard to shipping. USCG photo

CDQ champions recognized

Deckboss certainly didn't receive an invitation. Heck, he didn't even known it was happening.

But apparently a big event was held last week in Anchorage to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the Community Development Quota program.

The festivities included recognizing 15 people who helped create one of Alaska's "most innovative and successful economic development projects."

Among the honorees: the late Sen. Ted Stevens, the late Harvey Samuelsen of Dillingham, former state "fisheries tsar" Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove, and former Anchorage banker Ed Rasmuson.

For the complete list and more details on the March 30 celebration, check out this press release.

Launched in 1992, the CDQ program is a government initiative that reserves roughly 10 percent of the Bering Sea's lucrative fish and crab quotas for the benefit of Western Alaska villages. Six companies represent groups of villages, managing their seafood harvests and investments.

The six CDQ companies have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, including interests in large fishing vessels and processing plants. Creating rural jobs and educational opportunities is a major focus for the CDQ program, its leaders say.

A third of Sitka herring quota taken thus far

Sitka Sound seiners scooped up another 5,610 tons of roe-rich herring in yesterday's opener, the second of the season, the state Department of Fish and Game reports.

That brings the year's total an estimated 10,340 tons, or more than a third of the 28,829-ton quota.

"The plan is to stand down on further fishing until Thursday to allow for processing and tendering capacity to become available for the next harvesting opportunity," the department said this morning.

Tsunami ghost ship adrift off Southeast Alaska

Unmanned and unlit. USCG photo

The U.S. Coast Guard says a derelict Japanese fishing vessel, the Ryou-Un Maru, has drifted into Southeast Alaska waters and is posing a navigational hazard some 180 miles west of Dixon Entrance.

The vessel was first sighted more than a week ago in Canadian waters.

The Ryou-Un Maru has been drifting unmanned and unlit at sea presumably since Japan's massive tsunami more than a year ago, the Coast Guard says.

The Coast Guard has dropped a data marker buoy near the vessel to track its location, and a cutter is heading out to assess the situation.

Sitka herring update

Saturday's herring opener at Sitka, the first of the season, produced an estimated catch of 4,700 tons, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says.

That's about 16 percent of this season's giant quota of 28,829 tons.

The opener lasted just under three and a half hours.

Fishery managers called a second opening for 11:30 a.m. today, KCAW Raven Radio in Sitka reported.

As usual, the price situation is murky at best. Anybody heard anything credible?

Buyback balloting under way

The voting period has opened for the proposed Southeast Alaska salmon seine permit buyback program.

Permit holders eligible to vote were mailed ballots on Thursday.

Voters must return their ballots by April 30.

If a majority of the 379 ballots come back in favor, the government will proceed with a buyback of 64 permits at a cost of $13.1 million.

Seiners remaining in the fishery will then repay the money over time.

For more information, click here.

And they're off in Sitka

After days of waiting for the right conditions, the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery saw its first opener Saturday afternoon.

No word on the size of the catch.

Or whether seiners and processors were able to reach a preseason price agreement.

Or how many boats rammed other boats.