Saturday, August 31, 2019

Hilcorp holds Homer meeting on seismic testing; questions and comments get heated

"A public meeting last Friday night on Hilcorp Alaska LLC’s plan to start seismic testing in lower Cook Inlet moved from information to indignation as some people asked pointed questions and someone blew an air horn.

"About 100 people attended the meeting at Land’s End Resort held by the oil and gas company to discuss its plan to do a seismic survey this fall in about 200-square-miles of federal waters near Homer. On Aug. 14, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced it had approved a permit for Hilcorp to do geophysical exploration of 14 federal Outer Continental Shelf leases Hilcorp acquired in 2014."

Read more at the Homer News site.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Sail-drones to Help NOAA Survey Fish Stocks

"The ocean is vast, and fish swim.

"These are challenges for scientists who need to find out when, where, and how many, fish are found in Alaska’s marine waters. They also want to know which species and what ages are found there—all information essential to managing Alaska’s valuable commercial fisheries sustainably.

"Recent advances in autonomous vehicle and fish finders or echosounder (sonar) technology may help overcome those challenges. A new NOAA Fisheries study demonstrates that unmanned surface vehicles can expand the range and duration of ship-based acoustic fish surveys.

“This opens a window in time and space that we didn’t have using ships alone,” said Alex De Robertis, the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center scientist who led the study. “Ship-based surveys are limited because they are short, and mostly done in summer—we don’t know what happens the rest of the time. Our results show that oceangoing robots such as saildrones now make autonomous long-term acoustic measurements possible.”
Read more here.

Hilcorp clears some regulatory hurdles to conduct a seismic survey in lower Cook Inlet

"Oil and gas development company Hilcorp is planning to survey an offshore lease site in lower Cook Inlet. This survey is looking for untapped oil and gas deposits it could develop near Anchor Point and Homer.

The Texas energy company had originally hoped to conduct the roughly 45-to-60 day survey earlier this year. However, due to concerns about the effect of the survey during the fishing season as well as permitting delays, its plans were pushed back.

Hilcorp still needs a permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. But on Tuesday, the regulator released an environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact. The bureau said the seismic survey, roughly 370 square miles, would have negligible effects on marine life and birds.

In a related development, NOAA announced provisions last week allowing Hilcorp’s proposed oil and gas activities across Cook Inlet. The authorization says its aim is to minimize harm to marine mammals over the next five years. Read more here at

"This Week in Bycatch"

Kudos to J. Lockwood and KBBI public radio in Homer, Alaska, for this weekly report on by catch in Alaska's fisheries.

Click here to see the weekly report.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What's it Worth?

Measuring economic contributions of the marine recreational charter fishing sector using a resampling approach

- by Daniel K. Lew and Chang K. Seung

Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management Division, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115, USA

LAST MONTH we linked to an article by journalist Craig Medred who investigated the value of Alaska's recreational charter fishing fleet.

As Medred reported, NOAA Fisheries sent out a press release describing their work on showcasing the economic contribution of sportfishing.

NOAA outlined the dollar value of the charter industry in Alaska but few details were provided.

Now we have received the advance copy the underlying economic study conducted by Dan Lew and Chang Seung. It's a technical paper and dense reading. They've put together a time series of economic data over the years when we've gone through some severe restrictions in the guided halibut fishery.

Now it should be possible to tease out the economic effects of regulatory changes over the past few years.

Due to copyright issues we can't share the full report at this time. Some highlights from the report:
  • The authors developed a way to look at the value of the charter fleet over a period of several years, showing how restrictions to the sector have resulted in declines in revenue to the state of Alaska. 
  • The study develops a new method to predict more accurately the economic impact of specific regulatory changes, as we manage future seasons. 
  • Total charter fishing industry output declined from 2011, when the Halibut Catch Sharing Plan was implemented, to 2012 by more than 100 million dollars.
  • Total output in for Alaska's charter fleet 2011 was $248 million, and climbed back up in more recent years to $166 million in 2015. 
  • Not in the report, but included here for comparison, in 2013 the commercial directed halibut fishery landed five times the amount of halibut with an ex-vessel value of $115 million. Of course there are other revenues associated with these commercial landings - but even so: is the state of Alaska receiving full value for these fish by restricting access to halibut for guided anglers?