Weekly Fish Reports

Sea to Table's Weekly Fish Report provides weekly information on landings and species availability from each of our partner fisheries.

Sockeye Salmon Season Surging

June 28, 2015

Although the early Copper River run was below expectations, an anticipated bumper salmon harvest seems to be shaping up all around Alaska. King Salmon are appearing in larger numbers than the past few years at Beluga Point on the Kenai. Sockeye are landing near Sand Point and heading to Cook Inlet, and the world’s largest sockeye run has begun further north in Bristol Bay.

More than 50 million salmon are expected to return to the place of their birth near Bristol Bay in the next month. In what is generally considered the world’s best managed fishery, over 37 million sockeye will be available to be harvested, a potentially record number. A significant volume of additional processing capacity has been added in the bay this year, strengthening the fishery, but the specter of Pebble Mine still casts a shadow as earlier this month a federal judge ruled in favor of the massive proposed open pit mine in the epicenter of Bristol Bay’s watershed.

Many threats to wild salmon have been well documented by The Breach, a film that has been widely distributed this year. Recent reports of the spread of sea lice and ISA (infectious salmon anemia) from farmed salmon escaping from their pens at record rates are concerning. The threat of the FDA approving a genetically modified salmon, affectionately known as Frankenfish, remains strong in spite of new damaging research out of Canada. Thankfully none of these issues seem to be affecting the appetites of the large Brown Bear community near Brooks Falls in Alaska’s Katmai National Park  who frequently demonstrate their salmon fishing prowess on this Live Cam. They clearly appreciate the amazing gift of wild salmon.

Sockeye salmon heading to spawn at the place of their birth in the watershed of Bristol Bay, AK

The ADF&G successfully manage the salmon fishery to a remarkable level of detail

It is generally accepted that to effectively turn the tide on rebuilding fisheries worldwide will require the intense cooperation of all major fishing nations. There has been great concern among Asian nations concerning China’s new hegemony towards the ocean. In all the big news stories of the past week, a potentially remarkable development did not receive much coverage. On Wednesday, Washington and Beijing agreed to work together on fighting illegal fishing, as well as to broaden cooperation on maritime law enforcement, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced following the Strategic Oceans Meeting at the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, DC. If the world’s two largest economies can begin to understand that the health of oceans and fisheries are truly in their mutual best interest, nothing is impossible.

All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team


Invasive Species

June 21, 2015

Invasive plants are well known on land, often crowding out native plants. Kudzu, also known as Japanese Arrowroot, was introduced into the United States in the late nineteenth century and now covers much of the southeast and continues to spread. Invasive species are also found at sea, often causing havoc. Our friend Bun Lai has the idea that eating them is a good idea, focusing Miya Sushi, his New Haven, CT restaurant around serving them.

In the early 1970s Wild Blue Catfish were introduced into Virginia’s James River for the amusement of  local recreational fishermen. Little did they dream that 40 years later blue catfish would be the dominant species throughout the Chesapeake, feeding on countless juvenile blue crabs, striped bass, and many other species that call this home. So much so that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources have declared them an invasive species, imploring people to try to “eat” nature back into balance. Blue Catfish don’t live in mud, have clean white flesh, and as “we are what we eat” are quite delicious. We are working with a group of local fishermen, and a processor in Southern Virginia to ship Blue Catfish both fresh and frozen.

Word from the southern oceans is that the “climbing perch”,  an invasive fish species that can crawl across dry land, live up to six days out of water and suffocate its predators, threatens to reach the Australian mainland after migrating south from New Guinea.  James Cook University Scientist Nathan Waltham said the hardy fish would be a “major disaster” for certain native Australian fish species and other wetland dwellers, including turtles and birds.

Native to the South Pacific, elegant Lionfish are now found in the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Urban legend has it that they were the prized pets of drug lords of the early 1990s living in Miami’s glass towers when Hurricane Andrew released a half dozen into the wild in 1992.  Lionfish now dominate coral reefs from the Carolinas to Columbia, without any natural predator, consuming juvenile snapper and grouper at will. Many chefs have discovered the delicious, sweet taste of their flesh, but as Lionfish eschew any bait, and refuse to be lured into traps, up to now they have only been harvested by spearfishers. The tiny supply is almost all consumed where caught. Florida reefs, overrun by Lionfish, are the home of Spiny Lobster, carefully protected by Flordia Fish and Wildlife. There is a two day lobster season for recreational divers every year with a limit of 6 spinies each day. This year a new rule allow a diver one extra lobster if accompanied by 10 speared Lionfish.

If only Lionfish could be lured into traps. We have a pet theory that the secret to luring lionfish may lie like most things in sex, using “lionfish pheromones” as bait. We hope our friends at NOAA find the magic key. Many chefs and diners, as well as groupers and snappers, would be most grateful.

Speaking of sex, scientists are studying sawfish. Some female members of a critically endangered species of sawfish are reproducing in the wild without sex, according to recent research published in the journal Current Biology. The discovery marks the first time living offspring from "virgin births" have been found in a normally sexually reproducing vertebrate in the wild, the researchers say. Miracles never cease.

Lad Akins from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation carefully grasps a football-sized lionfish on a reef off the Florida Keys
photo student.societyforscience.org

An invasive tasting prepared by Bun Lai , featuring sushi with invasive blue catfish, jellyfish and dandelion greens, and invasive plants such as garlic mustard and Japanese knotweed.
photo Hannah Newman

Octopus are endlessly facinating creatures whose behaviors sometimes defy interpretation. Scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium have discovered a new specimen that is so cute that folks are considering the scientific name Opisthoteuthis Adorabilis. Truly adorable.

Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs 2015 are celebrating this weekend at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. A special shout out to celebrants, Katie Button of Curate and Nightbell in Asheville, NC and Michael Fojtasek & Grae Nonas of Olamaie in Austin, TX, who not only know the best way to source seafood, but how to create amazing deliciousness with it.

All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team


Calling All Fish Cops

June 14, 2015

Fish never sleep, and it seems that high seas wrongdoers don’t either. It sure is good that fish cops always seem to have one eye open.

In the Pacific Northwest, fish cops have been busting shellfish poachers and sellers. Wendy Willette, an investigator with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, heads an operation to unravel a shellfish black market that has sprung up on Puget Sound.  Valued at $270 million, Washington's shellfish industry is tops in the nation. “As long as there’s money to be made and there’s shellfish to be had, it’s never going to stop,” Willette says.

Dogs have been helping in Connecticut.  A Labrador Retriever that just completed training in the detection of illegally caught fish was used by Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Police to find two striped bass caught that did not meet minimum length requirements. EnCon officers saw  two men fishing and stopped to conduct a fishing compliance check. The men said they had not caught any fish, but the officers dispatched their specially trained canine “Saydee” who searched the shoreline and indicated a “find” on a black trash bag tucked in a rocky embankment, finding two undersized fish. The perpetrators face fines.

On Cape Cod, Great White Shark populations have exploded such that they are stimulating an entire eco-tourism industry. So much so that last week the fish cops adopted “emergency regulations – effective immediately – that restrict activity around white sharks,  with the specific goal of constraining certain activities designed to attract white sharks to persons, objects or vessels to protect the sharks and safeguard public health.” We're gonna need a bigger boat….

On the federal level , NOAA’s fish cops (OLE) are responsible for enforcing laws governing behaviors in the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between 3 and 200 miles from our shores.  Their work supports NOAA Fisheries’ core mission mandates—maximizing productivity of sustainable fisheries and fishing communities and protection, recovery, and conservation of protected species. They are the Feds.

Across the Pacific Ocean, the tiny island nation of Palau has traditionally been a sleepy tropical paradise whose EEZ is home to one of the world’s greatest tuna populations. In the past many nations have disrespected Palau’s fishing sovereignty, but the fish cops there say it is a whole new ballgame. They are discussing implementing a marine sanctuary throughout their entire EEZ, and last week Palauan fish cops burned four Vietnamese “Blue Boat” vessels that were caught fishing illegally. "We wanted to send a very strong message. We will not tolerate any more these pirates who come and steal our resources," Palau’s President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. told the Associated Press.

In China, prosecutors are preparing court cases to try the country’s biggest-ever seafood smuggling bust, in an operation code-named “Operation Icebreaker” after scores of arrests nationwide of alleged seafood smugglers who smuggled product into China and mislabeled salmon as mackerel in order to pay lower customs taxes. Authorities claim to have seized 300 metric tons (MT) of seafood imported into China, part of a massive smuggling operation worth about $500,000,000 USD, in a swoop coordinated by fish cops and customs officials. "Our region has never imported such expensive fishes like sablefish or salmon. So we started a special intelligence operation according to the unusual situation," said a member of the anti-smuggling office of the Huangpu fish cops.

Federal Fish Cops

Fed up Palau fish cops burn four Vietnamese "blue boats" photo Jeff Barabe

Last week celebrated World Ocean Day as the United Nations urged global resolve to ‘appreciate, protect and restore’ Earth’s oceans. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “Oceans are an essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem, and healthy oceans are critical to sustaining a healthy planet. Given how critical oceans are to the health of our planet and the prosperity of people, they are an essential element in our emerging vision for sustainable development.” After years of doomsday predictions, there seems a new optimism that international cooperation might begin to address some critical ocean issues. In honor of World Ocean Day, Google introduced a startling “street view” of many worldwide underwater attractions. Just incredible.

All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team

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