Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Funds for Electronic Monitoring Project

The North Pacific Fisheries Association, in Homer, Alaska, has received a $595,047 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to support pre-implementation of electronic monitoring on up to 30 vessels in the Alaska Pacific cod fixed gear fishery.

The project will be administered by Saltwater Inc.

The project also includes $1,050,000 in matching funds, including in-kind contributions and potential funds from the National Marine Fisheries Service, according to a spokesperson for NPFA.

The project, beginning in 2017, will build on successful pilot efforts to implement a cost-effective data collection and management infrastructure to provide timely and accurate catch accounting data for fishery managers, and support implementation of electronic monitoring.

The North Pacific Fisheries Association was incorporated in 1955 as a marketing entity, negotiating salmon prices for Cook Inlet seine and gillnet harvester, and later became active also on halibut and groundfish topics.

With the development of electronic monitoring technology for use in fisheries observation and compliance, NPFA was awarded grants for 2012-2013 to develop electronic monitoring systems on under 60 foot halibut boats and 2013-2015 to develop electronic monitoring systems for under 60 foot fixed gear cod boats.

Based on findings of those pilot projects, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended the pot cod fishery for pre-implementation beginning in 2017.

The project will also use and expand capabilities of an open-source data review software previously developed by Saltwater Inc. to provide a sustainable, cost effective data review infrastructure for electronic monitoring programs.

The overall effort is designed to implement electronic monitoring on a large scale to support full implementation of electronic monitoring in the Alaska pot cod fishery by 2018 or 2019, said Abigail Turner-Franke, program coordinator for NPFA.

The project fits with the Alaska Region Electronic Technologies Implementation Plan’s priority focus on electronic monitoring for small, fixed gear vessels, she said.

While the Sept. 20 deadline for the National Marine Fisheries Service electronic monitoring selection pool registration has passed, the project may be able to accept more pot cod vessels on a case-by-case basis depending on funds and available space within the program, she said. Priority is being given to smaller vessels that may have difficulties accommodating an observer on board, but otherwise acceptance has been first come, first serve, she said.

New Cod Fillets Debut in Washington, Oregon

Packages of wild Alaska cod fillets marinated with lemon, herbs and butter from Alaska Leader Fisheries have debuted in nine Costco stores in Washington State and Oregon, and company officials say there are more marinated flavors to come.

The product is also set to debut soon in Costco stores in Alaska, said Keith Singleton, a spokesman for Alaska Leader Fisheries.

Singleton and Norm Van Vactor, president and executive director of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., in Dillingham, Alaska, were on hand for the occasion Sept. 27 at one of the Seattle area Costco stores. The BBEDC is a partner in Alaska Leader.

What’s key to the taste of the fillets, said Van Vacctor, is that this cod is harvested in some of the most modern hook and line vessels in the industry.

The cod are hooked one fish at a time, processed immediately and frozen quickly, vacuum packed to retain the fresh flavor and texture.

And from the trimmings of cod left after filleting, Alaska Leader has produced a canine pet treat. The dried cod chips packaged as Wild Alaskan Cod Crunchies, already in retail markets.

NOAA Promoting Offshore Aquaculture for Southern California

Saying that a robust aquaculture industry in the United States would help reduce a seafood trade deficit exceeding $14 billion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California Sea Grant, and the Aquarium of the Pacific issued a report yesterday recommending the establishment of finfish aquaculture facilities in the Southern California Bight, which includes the area from Point Conception to San Diego.

The report is the result of two workshops convened in 2015 and 2016 sponsored by NOAA Sea Grant. The key findings from these workshops provide recommendations for growth and expansion of marine aquaculture in the US and address the complex permitting system and the need for continued research and public outreach.

“We are confident that aquaculture can be sited sustainably in the coastal ocean. Our challenge is putting the science to action to identify environmentally suitable locations that avoid conflicts with other users,” said Dr. James Morris, NOAA's National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

The workshops brought together regulators and scientists to discuss the application of the best available science and incorporating appropriate tools that can inform decision making for the permitting of marine aquaculture in California. The participants represented a cross-section of scientists, regulators, and industry practitioners with expertise in the field of aquaculture and environmental science. State and federal agencies with regulatory responsibilities for permitting aquaculture also participated.

A proposed demonstration project 4.5 miles off San Diego will culture yellowtail jack and possibly white seabass or striped bass in offshore net pens or cages. The production plan extends over eight years, starting with 1,000 metric tons per year and increasing to 5,000 metric tons per year. The harvested product is to be landed along traditional working waterfronts in the region.

More information can be found at www.aquariumofpacific.org/aquaculturereport

Alaska Seeks Disaster Relief for Pink Salmon

The state of Alaska has asked for federal disaster relief in the wake of dismal returns in the 2016 pink salmon fisheries in Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Chignik and Lower Cook Inlet.

The economic impact is already being felt by fishermen, processors and others in the industry who sell fuel, vessel supplies, groceries and lodging to those engaged in the fishery, Governor Bill Walker said in his request to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

It is important that people understand it wasn’t just a bad season and that it’s not just the fishermen who were affected,” said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, who urged the state to apply for federal aid. “This is a disaster,” Stutes said. “It has huge impacts on communities, whether from no raw fish tax to processing workers, to every business in those communities.”

Through mid-September, the 2016 Prince William Sound pink salmon fishery’s combined natural and hatchery pink salmon harvest totaled 12.1 million fish, which is 46.5 percent of the lower bound of the forecast range estimate of 26 million fish, and 30.5 percent of the five year average harvest for even year pink salmon, the governor’s office said. And two out of three Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. hatcheries were experiencing record low commercial harvests as well.

The preliminary value of the 2016 Prince William Sound combined natural and hatchery pink salmon harvest stood at $6.6 million, compared with a five-year average value of $43.87 million, the governor told Pritzker.

Through mid-September, when the disaster relief request was filed, the Kodiak area pink salmon harvest of 3.2 million humpies was just 20 percent of the five-year average harvest for even-year pinks, the Chignik area harvest was 19 percent of that same five-year average and the Lower Cook Inlet catch was 17 percent of that five-year-average for even years.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Transboundary Issues Prompt Discussion

Alaska and British Columbia are getting closer to reaching a statement of cooperation on dealing with environmental concerns related to potential impact of mining on Transboundary rivers flowing into Southeast Alaska.

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott said on Sept. 20 that that the SOC will likely be signed by the end of this month or early October. It will serve as a framework for Alaska to work as cooperatively as possible with the relevant ministries of British Columbia to create access for Alaska to their mine permitting processes, Mallott said.

The state’s goal is to assure that habitat critical to these salmon-rich rivers is not adversely affected by mines now operating and planned along the British Columbia side of the Transboundary Rivers.

Alaska concerns over acid mine drainage issues was heightened by recent reports that one of those mines, which has leaked acid drainage for years, is now in receivership. Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is moving ahead with plans to begin a five-year water monitoring effort in Southeast Alaska.

Michelle Hale, director of DEC’s Division of Water, said the plan is for DEC’s Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program to sample lakes, rivers and some coastline. The monitoring effort will include habitat, monitor pH and conductivity, metals in the water column, and metals in the sediment under water, and hydrocarbons.

Hale said that DEC will also work with its British Columbia counterparts through a technical work group, to assure that information collected by both sides can be compared in a meaningful way.

Alaska’s congressional delegation meanwhile has again requested that the State Department get involved under the Boundary Waters Treaty, to protect waterways that are critical to Southeast Alaska’s fisheries, waterways and cultural lifestyle.

The delegation is still waiting for a response.

Better Communications Urged Between Navy and Fisheries Communities

Coastal communities’ concerns over military training exercises scheduled in the Gulf of Alaska next summer have prompted Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska to ask the US Navy to be more transparent about what’s on tap for Northern Edge 2017.

Murkowski chided Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in a letter this week for what she said was a lack of transparency, for not discussing proposed mitigation and avoidance techniques with stakeholder communities. She said she wants to ensure greater collaboration and cooperation between communities and the Navy prior to Northern Edge 2017.

The fishing community of Homer, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, has already passed a resolution asking the Navy to refrain from using live ordnance or sonar in many marine protected area, including NOAA Fisheries Marine Protected Areas, state marine protected areas and habitat areas of particular concern. Homer also wants the Navy to relocate its training area to the far areas of the Gulf and away from seamounts, and for the Navy to schedule those training exercises after mid-September and before spring, to avoid impacting migrating salmon and other species.

Those 2017 exercises are scheduled to run from May 1-12. That’s when many species of marine and anadromous fishes are migrating and spawning in the training area, the Homer resolution said.

And the port of Homer is reliant on the fish and wildlife resources in the Gulf of Alaska for livelihoods supported by commercial fishing, the resolution said.

Murkowski told Mabus that she has received over 100 letters from residents concerned about the timing and impact of Northern Edge 2017. Residents of coastal communities, like other Alaskans, are strong supporters of the military, she said, but they need to know that fishery conflicts will be avoided and marine resources will be protected.

The senator urged the commander of the Pacific Fleet, with his partners at the Alaskan Command, to quickly reengage with stakeholders, lest they endanger support for the Navy’s long-term involvement in Northern Edge.

Prince William Sound Crab Test Fishery

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is taking a new look at the possibilities of reviving the Tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound, which has been closed since 1988.

A Tanner crab test fishery will be conducted in Prince William Sound from Oct. 20 through Dec. 15, and data collected will be used to evaluate tanner crab abundance in currently unsurveyed parts of the Sound.

ADF&G’s goal is to determine the distribution of Tanner carb outside the current trawl survey area and at historical survey and commercial fishery locations. Biologists will measure catch per pot and begin developing an index of abundance for male Tanner crab recruit categories and females, and collect information on tanner crab size, sex, and maturity status.

ADF&G officials began marking Tanner crab test fishery bid packets available on Sept. 19 at Cordova and Homer. Those bid packets are due back by noon on Oct. 14, and the contract is to be awarded by Oct. 17 to the best-qualified bidder.

ADF&G said bids would be accepted for two individual lots of 300 pot pulls each, with all legal male crab from these pots sold.

Bidders must demonstrate that there is a market for the legal male Tanner crab caught and retained during the test fishery. A processor’s letter of intent will be required from the winning bidders.

The minimum bid price is 10 percent of proceeds from the sale of all Tanner crab paid to the state of Alaska, with the remaining proceeds will be paid out to successful bidders.

Landings in the Prince William Sound Tanner crab commercial fishery declined from a peak of 13.9 million pounds during the 1971-1972 season to some 474,092 pounds in the 1988 season, the last year the fishery was prosecuted.

The fishery has been closed since due to low abundance demonstrated in earlier pot surveys and the current biennial trawl survey.

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