Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wild Fish Conservancy Sues Cooke Aquaculture

A legal battle has begun over a net pen failure at Cypress Island on August 19–20 that resulted in the release of more than 100,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound.

The Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) has filed suit against the owner of the net pens, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific LLC, under section 505 of the Clean Water Act, in an effort to hold the company responsible for negligent release of the farmed salmon.

The Wild Fish Conservancy contends that the net pen failure resulted in the discharge of the farmed salmon, dead fish carcasses and massive amounts of debris, among other pollutants.

The conservancy also contends “the escape event off Cypress Island represents a dire threat to already imperiled wild fish populations, beloved marine mammal species and the fragile Puget Sound ecosystem.

“These discharges represent blatantly negligent violations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits under which Cooke Aquaculture’s Atlantic salmon net pens currently operate,” the conservancy said.

Along with the lawsuit, the WFC said it is working to more precisely quantify the potential impacts of the August release by sending escaped Atlantic salmon samples obtained by the Lummi Nation to independent labs to test for a variety of toxins and viral diseases. Those tests will be crucial in determining the true impact on the well-being of wild fish and marine mammal populations.

Earlier this year, the WFC launched the “Our Sound, Our Salmon” campaign to oppose expansion of Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound. More information on that campaign can be found online at www.oursound-oursalmon.org

Research Shows How Ocean Acidification Affects Wild Salmon

Fisheries scientists studying the impact of ocean acidification on wild salmon will host a panel discussion on Friday, November 17 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the 2017 Seattle Pacific Marine Expo to discuss their findings.

Brett Veerhusen of United Fishermen of Alaska Salmon Habitat Information Program will moderate the discussion featuring Washington Sea Grant researcher Chase Williams, NOAA oceanographer Jessica Cross, and commercial salmon harvester Amy Grondin.

Williams has been engaged, with principal investigator Evan Gallagher of the University of Washington Department of Occupational and Health Science, and others, in testing the impact of high ocean carbon dioxide levels on the sense of smell of coho salmon and sablefish, including its effects on feeding and ability to avoid predators.

Their report notes that other studies show that anticipated marine carbon dioxide concentrations can alter vital smell-mediated behaviors in fish – even repelling fish from prey and drawing them to predators. Their project is exposing coho salmon and sablefish to actual and anticipated levels of carbon dioxide and to odorant signals for food, predators and schooling.

Meg Chadsey, an ocean acidification specialist with Washington Sea Grant, is also participating in the study. What Williams is doing, she said, is testing the fish’s sense of smell for many things. He has taken juvenile coho salmon and reared them in the lab’s tanks at different levels of carbon dioxide and run them through mazes to see if they would notice and turn away from the odor of a salmon skin compound within the maze.

When extra carbon dioxide is put in the water, the salmon seemed to lose their ability to smell or respond appropriately to the predator (salmon skin compound). As concentrations of carbon dioxide increased they didn’t seem able to sense the predator or respond appropriately, she explained.

Run Forecast for Bristol Bay is 51.28 Million Sockeyes

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is forecasting the return of 51.28 million sockeye salmon into Bristol Bay in the summer of 2018, which would allow for a potential harvest of nearly 38 million reds in Bristol Bay and 1.49 million fish in the South Peninsula.

A Bristol Bay harvest of that size would be 35 percent higher than the most recent 10-year harvest of 28.91 million fish, which has ranged from 15.43 million to 38.81 million fish and is 87 percent greater than the long-term harvest average of 20.85 million fish.

State fisheries biologists are forecasting that 36 percent of the 2018 run will consist of 18.43 million age-1.2 fish, with more than 6 million age-2.2 fish comprising 12 percent of it. Another 22.55 million age-1.3 fish would make up 44 percent of the total run and 4.13 million age-2-3 fish would account for 8 percent.

From 1963 through 2017 the Bristol Bay total run have averaged 33.78 million fish, and averaged 42.71 million fish over most of the most recent 10-year period.

ADF&G thanked the Bristol Bay Fisheries Collaborative (BBFC) for funding assistance this year. The BBFC, which began in 2016, is an agreement between ADF&G and the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute to work together with stakeholders to restore a world-class fishery management system and raise funds to support and maintain management.

Frances Leach Named to Head UFA

Frances Leach, a regulations coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), who grew up commercial fishing for salmon, halibut and shellfish with her family in Ketchikan, Alaska, takes the helm as executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska on January 5, 2018.

Leach, who grew up in a commercial fishing family in a coastal community but now a resident of Juneau, Alaska, said she understands the importance of commercial fishing to the state’s economy and cultural heritage.

“The commercial fishing industry faces many challenges at the state and federal level, and I look forward to addressing these challenges as UFA’s executive director,” she said.

UFA President Jerry McCune said that Leach has a proven track record of success and demonstrated leadership during her professional career. “In addition, her life experience working in her family’s commercial fishing business makes her uniquely qualified to be UFA’s executive director,” he noted.

UFA, Alaska’s statewide commercial fishing umbrella association, represents 34-member organizations from fisheries throughout Alaska and its offshore waters.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Alaska Board of Fisheries to Take Up Finfish Issues at Valdez

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will review 50 proposals regarding the Prince William Sound, Upper Copper and Susitna rivers finfish issues December 1–5 in Valdez, Alaska, including 10 related specifically to the Copper River commercial salmon fishery. Proposal 28, from Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU), recommends the repeal of mandatory inside waters commercial salmon fishery closures under the Copper River King Salmon Management Plan.

CDFU argues that since the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has demonstrated its ability to manage fisheries effectively that mandatory closures are unnecessary.

“ADF&G has opposed mandatory closures on sport fisheries as these closures are mandated even when the circumstances of a current year’s run strength and timing do not require them,” CDFU said.

The proposal suggests eliminating the mandatory language regarding the inside closure tool and not the abolishment of tool itself.

Of the 50 proposals up for consideration several come from the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory committee, including one calling for reducing the maximum depth of drift nets in the Copper River District commercial drift gillnet fishery to 29 meshes through the end of May.

The advisory committee contends that deep nets are harvesting too many king salmon in the May gillnet fishery, at the expense of dipnetters and sport anglers, and that escapement goals for the kings were not met in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Public written comments on specific proposals must be submitted by November 17 in order to be included in the board’s workbook prior to the meeting. For submission details visit http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=process.comments.

Comments submitted after the November 17 deadline will be limited to 10 single-sided pages in length, and will be inserted in board member workbooks at the start of the meeting.

During the meeting, written public comments may be submitted by hand delivery at any time if 21 copies are provided. Individuals not in attendance can submit their comments by fax at 1-907-465-6094.

All portions of the meeting are open to the public and a live audio stream is intended to be available on the Board of Fisheries website at www.boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov

Copies of advanced meeting materials, including the agenda and roadmap, are available from Boards Support Section, 1-907-465-4110, or online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo.

EPA Settles with Kloosterboer Dutch Harbor over Ammonia Release

A settlement has been reached by federal authorities with Kloosterboer Dutch Harbor LLC, a Seattle-based firm that operates a seafood cold storage facility at Unalaska, Alaska, for violations related to an ammonia release last year that seriously injured a facility worker.

Kloosterboer has agreed to complete supplemental environmental projects, valued at about $26,000, which will help prevent or reduce future ammonia releases and improve safety at the facility, according to Region 10 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The company will also pay a $10,008 penalty to the federal agency.

Under terms of the settlement, Kloosterboer will upgrade its computerized refrigeration control system. The upgraded system will use leak detectors to monitor ammonia levels in the freezer and send signals to the computerized control system if ammonia levels reach preset concentrations. If a leak occurs, the control system will notify operators and managers via audible and visual alarms, automatically shut off the ammonia pumps, and activate the emergency exhaust system.

Kloosterboer also agreed to purchase hazardous materials emergency response equipment for Unalaska’s Department of Public Safety and to train two of the company’s personnel to respond to hazmat emergencies at the facility and other facilities at Unalaska.

Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Region 10 compliance and enforcement division in Seattle, noted that federal emergency planning, reporting and response requirements are important for protecting workers, emergency responders and the community.

“The company’s failure to provide timely information, crucial in an emergency response, put their workers, first responders and the public at risk,” he said.

The incident occurred on December 3, 2016 when Kloosterboer’s Unalaska facility released 125 pounds of anhydrous ammonia inside the facility’s freezer. Anhydrous ammonia is harmful to skin, eyes, throat and lungs and can cause serious injury or death.The company reported the release to the National Response Center and the Alaska Emergency Response Commission on December 5, more than 46 hours after the release occurred and failed to submit follow-up notification. The release and emergency reporting delays violated the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Final Action on Charter Halibut Management Measures Before NPFMC

Federal fisheries managers have scheduled final action on charter halibut management measures when the council holds its December meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska.

High on the agenda for this North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) meeting are final specifications for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, and Gulf of Alaska groundfish harvest for the coming year.

Other major issues include discussion papers on Bering Sea cod trawl catcher vessel participation, charter halibut permits, self-guided halibut rental boats and an initial review of small sideboards. Also slated for discussion is the Western Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod A and C/D seasons, and a consultation related to the Chinook salmon excluder.

Other meetings scheduled during the December 4–12 week include the Charter Halibut Management Committee, the Scientific and Statistical Committee, the Advisory Panel, and Legislative Committee.

All meetings, except for executive sessions, are open to the public. Submit comments by emailing npfmc.comments@noaa.gov by November 30. The meeting will be broadcast beginning on December 6 at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/december2017.

Motions will be posted online following the meeting.

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