Fishlines newsletter

Vol. 33, No. 6
June 2013

Alaska Sea Grant Gets New Leader

Paula CullenbergPaula Cullenberg. Photo by Deborah Mercy.

Paula Cullenberg will take over as Alaska Sea Grant director starting in July 2013. She replaces retiring director David Christie, who has led the program since 2008. Cullenberg has served as Alaska Sea Grant associate director since 2007, and as Marine Advisory Program leader since 2004. Prior to leading MAP, Cullenberg directed the North Pacific Fishery Observer Training Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and was the Bristol Bay MAP agent.

“Alaska Sea Grant is a positive force in our state,” said Cullenberg. “We reach out to all of our coastal communities and work with local residents on pressing issues such as increased shipping impacts on subsistence resources up north, concerns about the next generation of fishermen and seafood processors, and shellfish farming as a means of economic diversification. We support students, contribute new knowledge through our research and offer resources to teachers.”

As director, Cullenberg will continue the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit, Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute, international Wakefield fisheries symposium, and educating Alaskans via Alaska Sea Grant publications and videos. Ginny Eckert, University of Alaska Fairbanks fisheries associate professor, also will join Alaska Sea Grant as associate director for research.

Kurt Byers and Kathy Kurtenbach will depart from Alaska Sea Grant this month, and Doug Schneider and Karina Gonzales left the program in May. Byers has led the communications staff since 1988. During that time the Alaska Sea Grant publishing and marketing effort was recognized as the best among the 33 nationwide Sea Grant programs. In 2012 Byers and the communications staff won the 2012 Ocean Literacy Award for high quality communications efforts in marine resources. Starting in 2001, Kathy Kurtenbach formatted and marketed many award-winning Alaska Sea Grant publications. And Doug Schneider produced the award-winning Arctic Science Journeys Radio series and was Alaska Sea Grant’s public information officer; he began work at Alaska Sea Grant as science writer in 1988. Karina Gonzales served as the director’s assistant for two years.

Izetta Chambers also will leave Alaska Sea Grant this month. For four years Chambers has been the Marine Advisory agent in Dillingham, where she helped pave the way for fishing businesses to succeed through teaching, publishing bulletins, and one-on-one assistance. We wish all the departing staff well in their new endeavors.

Small Seafood Processor Goes into Business


A few years ago an entrepreneur in the Bristol Bay region got her seafood processing license and built a processing plant in Naknek, called Nakeen Homepack. But she ran into opposition by the local planning and zoning authority, who said her subdivision had restrictions and covenants that prohibited fish processing.

Izetta Chambers, Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent in Dillingham, helped the owner navigate the legal bumps by providing research and assistance. Chambers defined covenant language by finding relevant examples for a "meat and seafood market," and she introduced the processor to planning and zoning authorities and members of the local municipal assembly, so the processor could articulate her case to the planners and the assembly.

Thanks to public support and clarification of covenants and restrictions, the processor was granted her site development permit and operated during the 2012 salmon season. Nakeen processed over 30,000 pounds of salmon and hired five seasonal employees. Her company produced primarily frozen vacuum-packaged salmon, and also produced custom packaged salmon products for direct-market fishermen.

Nakeen Homepack serves direct-market fishermen by processing their catch in an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation–approved facility and by assisting them in marketing efforts. Nakeen is also collaborating with other small processors in the region—such as Naknek Family Fisheries and Alaska Wild Salmon and Seafood—on a barge freight consolidation project that could lower costs for small processors and direct market fishermen.

Salmon Gillnet Videos

silver salmon in iceSilver salmon in ice. Photo by Deborah Mercy.

Just in time for the fishing season, Deborah Mercy, Marine Advisory media specialist, has updated nine short videos that show how to maintain high quality in Alaska salmon harvested by gillnet fisheries. The videos demonstrate methods used by drift and set net fishermen in several Alaska locations, to care for the fish they catch. Topics are boat setup, fishing practices, onboard product handling, chilling, dressing, pressure bleeding, unloading, and cleanup.

Please visit the Salmon Quality for Gillnet Fisheries video series on the web, or watch the videos at the Alaska Sea Grant YouTube site.

Field Trip to the Bottom of Ward Cove, Alaska

Gary Freitag and studentsGary Freitag and Ketchikan High School ocean science students. Photo by Leila Kheiry, KRBD radio.

Students in a Ketchikan High School ocean science class had a unique field trip last month. They went out on the school-owned boat, Jack Cotant, to Ward Cove, did some chemical tests, watched a live video feed of the cove’s murky, desolate bottom, and compared it to a nearby healthy ocean bottom. Ward Cove is the site of a former pulp mill.

The method for examining the bottom was an ROV, a remote operated vehicle, operated by Ketchikan Marine Advisory agent Gary Freitag. OceansAlaska bought the ROV through a state grant for marine debris survey work and education. The compact submarine device can dive to about 800 feet, send back real-time video, and use a manipulator arm to lift up to 200 pounds.

“The intent of it is to do marine surveys, looking for ghost fishing gear, and to expose students to the idea that good stewardship is the way to go, not just throw things over the side,” said Barbara Morgan of OceansAlaska, who assisted on the science trip.

When the Jack Cotant reached its first destination, the students used standard, older technology to look at salinity, turbidity, plankton, dissolved oxygen, and temperature, and to collect a soil sample from the bottom.

When Freitag put the ROV into operation, the video showed a disappointing, barren sea-bottom. But after navigating the boat a short distance across the narrows, the students saw the contrast between a damaged and a healthy ocean floor. In the new spot, the ROV showed an abundance of rockfish and a variety of sea stars, sea pens, and crinoids.

The students, mostly seniors, were excited to see the healthy sea life, and teacher Julie Landwehr was gratified that the students were using the skills they learned in class on their major field trip of the semester. For more details on the story, please see Kayhi students observe underwater survey at