Nushagak District reopens to commercial fishing

Jul 31, 2018

After being closed for nearly a week following a fuel spill from a sunken vessel, the Nushagak District reopened to set and drift fishermen Tuesday afternoon.

F/V Pacific Knight
Credit Bruce Ilutsik

Commercial fishing in the Nushagak District reopened at 4 p.m. this afternoon. KDLG’s Avery Lill has more.

Audio Transcript:

The district was closed to salmon fishing for nearly a week. The wreckage of the F/V Pacific Knight, which sank near Clark’s Point last Wednesday, was leaking fuel. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was concerned diesel floating in the tide rips could contaminate fish and nets.

Area management biologist Tim Sands has been monitoring the situation by air. He flew an aerial survey Tuesday morning.

"We basically flew down to the wreck sight and we saw no fuel coming out, no sign of any sheen anywhere. Sands added that fishermen on the district’s beaches reported they also did not see or smell fuel on the water," said Sands.

Even though the district’s sockeye run is tailing off, Sands said there is still significant interest in fishing for pink, coho and the remaining red salmon. At least three major processors are still buying.

Additionally, Sands said that there is "not much threat anymore" of contaminated fish for subsistence users on Dillingham beaches.

The owner of the wrecked vessel is contracting with the private company Resolve Marine on salvage efforts for the 58-foot vessel.

“Right now we are actually in a fuel removal process, so we have divers that are working on the vessel," said Todd Duke, Resolve Marine’s Alaska area manager. "They’re doing a couple of things. They’re pumping the remaining fuel off the vessel. They’re also sealing vents. They’re utilizing different techniques to keep any residual fuel from leaking out.”

Duke said the salvage team is also conducting surveys to better understand how the vessel is situated on the riverbed. He said that low visibility and strong tidal current have slowed diver’s efforts.

When the Pacific Knight sank, over a thousand gallons of fuel were on board. Duke said that some remains on the vessel and that divers have removed a “substantial amount,” but could not provide a specific figures.

After the remaining fuel is pumped off, the owner and insurance company will decide whether or not to remove the sunk boat.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.