October 13, 2013
This is Fish Radio. I’m Stephanie Mangini. Diving for dollars. Hear more after this . . .
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Diving for sea cucumbers, geoduck clams, and sea urchins is a unique yet very lucrative fishery. Southeast holds the title for the biggest dive fisheries in Alaska. Around 70 divers have been searching the bottom of the ocean for sea cumbers since opening day on October 1st. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s dive fisheries Stock Assessment Leader Mike Donnellan in Juneau gives us the scoop.
“For cucumbers we’ve got a GHL of just over a million pounds, and that is up about 81/2 percent over the last time these areas where opened.”
All of the diving grounds are on a three year rotation, for sea cucumbers and Geoduck clams.
“So they are only open every three years, and we re- survey prior to them reopening. For Geoduck clams we have a total GHL of 750,000 pound. That’s about a 12 percent decrees in real terms compared to the same areas that were open in 2012.
Donnellan says a few areas that had been closed due to high PSP have been added to the rotation this year.
“Our GHL is little higher than it would ordinarily be because there are two areas included in this rotation that normally are not in this rotation. There were issues with high P.S.P or Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning levels in those areas last time they were open, so there was a significant amount of quota left on the table.”
PSP continues to be a determining factor in the dive fisheries, and is having a huge effect on live sales to china. Otters are also taking a bite out of the dive fisheries.
“They don’t subscribe to fishing seasons. They constantly eat in these areas. The geoduck clams last a bit longer than other preferred prey items in the areas where sea otters are present. Because they are dug in so deep, it is a lot of work for a sea otter to dig one out.”
The Southeast Sea Otter population is about 25,000, He says about 12,000 otters invade the diving grounds. Prince of Whales and Craig are the latest to be shut down due to otters. A very hefty Red sea urchin fishery is also opens with a nearly 3.5 million pound harvest, but with little to no effort due to markets. Around Kodiak four areas are active for sea cucumbers with a 140,000 pound harvest. ADF&G’s groundfish/ shellfish Area Management Biologist, Trent Hartill in Kodiak catches us up to speed.”
“The Second opening is currently underway and there is varying levels of harvest remaining in each of those four main sections. And we are kind of anticipating that we will close the west side after this opening.”
Twenty divers are targeting sea cucumbers around Kodiak, talk on the dock is that the price is strong and fishermen are looking to get at least five dollars per pound.
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Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, an Alaska corporation proudly supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and the Alaskans who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and culture. In Kodiak, I’m Stephanie Mangini. www.oceanbeauty.com