Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pacific Seafood Processors Association

Celebrating Our 100th Anniversary – 1914-2014

By Glenn Reed

In 2014 Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA) celebrates 100 years of service. The association’s membership includes both seafood producers and associate members involved in supporting the seafood industry. PSPA has been through two world wars, a great depression, the change from wind to diesel powered vessels, a great recession, and untold predictions of the demise of the world we live in. Through all of this we have maintained a written record of our history and activity from our first organizational meetings in 1914, to our February Board meeting in Juneau, Alaska.

“At a gathering of canners, packers and others interested in the fishing industry, at the Hotel Washington, March 12th, an address was delivered by Mr. Frank Warren urging the necessity of the fishing interests in all lines forming a general organization which should embrace all branches of the fisheries of the Pacific Coast.” This is the first sentence from the first set of minutes establishing the ‘Pacific Coast Fisheries Association’. That first meeting lasted two days, March 12th & 13th, 1914. Voting rights were (and are) set at one person-one vote, no proxies. Initial dues were assessed “...based on the number of full cases of 48 pounds per case of canned salmon packed...”. Minimum dues were set at $50.00 per year. (Needless to say, 100 years of inflation have changed the dues considerably.)

By the time articles of incorporation were signed by Washington’s Assistant Secretary of State on June 29th, 1914 our name had been changed to the Association of Pacific Fisheries. In 1978, after passage of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA), our name was changed to the Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA).

Excerpts from the original 1914 Articles of Incorporation define the purpose of the Association, in part, as follows: “To secure the enactment and enforcement of laws to properly regulate, protect and encourage the fishing industry. To advertise fish, and to explore new markets for its sale. To promote a higher standard of education among the members, with respect to both scientific and practical features of the industry. To improve and perpetuate the fishing industry on the Pacific Coast, and promote the welfare of the members of this Association.” Today our objectives remain much the same, although PSPA now represents our industry through offices in Seattle, Washington, Juneau, Alaska and Washington, DC.

Over the years PSPA has been involved in all areas of the seafood industry of the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. We have seen the decline of the commercial salmon industry on the West Coast and the rise of Alaska’s. We have seen Alaska move from territorial status to statehood. We have seen the dominance of foreign fishing fleets come and go off our shores. We have seen a frenzied race to develop underutilized fisheries after the 200 mile EEZ was established. We have seen the extreme lows in salmon abundance of the early 1970’s give way to record production now. We have seen Olympic-style derby fisheries replaced with various new management systems, which rationalized both harvesting and processing. And while, in more recent years, we have focused largely on the resources off Alaska, we continue to be actively involved in both state and federal legislative and regulatory arenas as they relate to the entire nation’s seafood industry.

The first President of our Association was E. B. Deming, a name that is still seen on quality seafood products today, 100 years later. This longevity reminds me of a Satchell Paige quote that may best define our pragmatic approach: “You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for them all.” We embrace the longer view. We take pride in our role in the seafood industry and fishery management, and in the sustainably managed fisheries we are engaged in today.

We take pride in our past, and see hope in the future as our members provide the most nutritious food on earth to markets in every corner of it. The uncertainty of the future has always defined our industry, and for many the future seems more uncertain than ever before. But we continue to believe that as long as we focus on the scientific needs of our fisheries, we will have healthy, sustainable fisheries for generations to come.

Set Netter Ban Initiative Back in Court

An Alaska Superior Court Judge is considering oral arguments in the latest round of a dispute over a decision by Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell to prevent a set netter ban initiative from getting on to the state’s primary election ballot in August 2016.

Judge Catherine Easter heard those oral arguments on April 22 in Superior Court in Anchorage and said she would issue a decision within 60 days.

The case stems from a ballot initiative application for an urban commercial set net ban sought by an organization of Kenai Peninsula sport fishing advocates, Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance.

Treadwell rejected the proposed statewide initiative that would have banned commercial shore gill nets and set nets in non-subsistence areas of the state.

His decision was based on an opinion from the state Department of Law that the proposed initiative is prohibited under the Alaska Constitution. The Law Department cited primarily a 1996 Pullen v. Ulmer decision of the Alaska Supreme Court, a case that held that salmon are assets of the state which may not be appropriated by initiative and that the preferential treatment of certain fisheries may constitute a prohibited appropriation, Treadwell said.

Anchorage attorney Matt Singer, legal counsel to the sportsmen’s group, argued that Treadwell’s decision was wrong and dangerous. “Alaskan voters have a long history of using ballot initiatives to protect fish and game,” Singer said. Using that logic, several ballot initiatives, including a ban on fish traps and same day aerial wolf hunting would never have been passed by the Alaska public, he said.

Advocates for the commercial set netters, united as Resources for All Alaskans, agree with Treadwell that a set netter ban would be unconstitutional. Resources for All Alaska, whose six member board represents a cross-section of Alaska commercial fishing interests and fishing communities, said they would continue to supplement the state’s legal arguments and work to avoid what they termed ill-conceived allocation of state assets by way of an unconstitutional initiative.

Kenai Peninsula set netter Jim Butler, president of Resources for All Alaskans, said the big deal here is the legal question.

“This is an allocation of a state asset by initiative, and that is prohibited in the constitution,” said Butler. “Essentially we believe the government was correct, that this was an inappropriate allocation of a state asset by the initiative process.”

Fishermen’s Finest Pleads Guilty to Illegal Fishing

A Kirkland, Washington based corporation that operates two commercial trawling vessels in Alaska waters has pleaded guilty in court in Cordova, Alaska, to illegal fishing with non-pelagic trawl gear in state waters closed to trawl gear use.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers’ investigations unit said their investigation revealed that in July of 2010 and again in July of 2011, the F/V US Intrepid, owned by Fishermen’s Finest LLC, harvested a total of over 56,000 pounds of lingcod by catch in waters of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska using non-pelagic trawl gear during a federal fishery.

While a majority of the lingcod was released, 11,000 pounds were retained and sold commercially, running the corporation afoul with state law, troopers said.

As part of a plea agreement with the state of Alaska reached on April 21, Fishermen’s Finest was sentenced to pay a fine of $12,500, and an additional $2,500 suspended with a probationary period of three years.  The company was also ordered to forfeit proceeds from the sale of the illegal catch in the amount of $10,326, troopers said.

“In just one week, this one vessel illegally harvested approximately 70 percent of the entire lingcod quota for the Super Exclusive Icy Bay Subdistrict Lingcod fishery,” said Alaska Wildlife Troopers Sgt. Brent Johnson. “This case highlights the importance of Wildlife Investigations Unit as it was specifically created to investigate these types of high value cases involving commercial users of Alaska’s fish and wildlife resources.”

Fishermen’s Finest, an independent American fishing company, manages two catcher/processor vessels in the bottomfish fisheries of the North Pacific and Bering Sea, the 185-foot F/V U.S. Intrepid, with 44 crew, and the 160-foot F/V American #1, with a crew of 39 workers.

Lingcod are a fish of the greenling family unique to the west coast of north America, from the Shumagin Islands in the Gulf of Alaska to Baja California, Mexico. Lingcod is well known for its cod-like white, flaky flesh.

ComFish Salutes Skills of Cannery Workers in Kodiak

Wind, rain and temperatures hovering in the low 40s, but feeling a lot colder, set the stage in Kodiak on April 19 for an outdoor fish filleting contest honoring the skills of the men and women on the Alaska island’s cannery row.

Under a canopy provided by the local Lions Club, in an event organized by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Arturo Fangorila of Pacific Seafoods filleted four baskets full of Pacific cod, Arrowtooth flounder, rex sole and rock sole to win a round trip ticket to Anchorage on Alaska Airlines donated by the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank.

Fangorila and eight other cannery workers were judged on their speed in filleting, cutting and trimming skills, and got points deducted for any blemishes, bones, ragged edges and other improper cut or trimmed fillets.

Jeff Stephan of the United Fishermen’s Marketing Association in Kodiak, was the master of ceremonies for the event, which drew a crowd of cannery workers and participants in Kodiak’s annual ComFish fishery forums and trade show.

They were there, said Stephan, to celebrate the processor workforce, a group of people not much seen by the public, but very key to the success of seafood processing in Alaska.

While filleting contestants worked under the watchful eyes of judges, the crowd stood in their rain gear outside the protection of the canopy, cheering the contestants on. Participants in addition to Fangorila, represented Westward Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, Global Seafoods, Alaska Pacific Seafoods and Ocean Beauty Seafoods.

The fillet competition, a first for ComFish, was organized by Tony Olazabal, production manager for Ocean Beauty Seafoods in Kodiak

Family Asks Supreme Court to Save Oyster Farm

A third generation ocean ranching family is seeking a judicial review through the US Supreme Court in an effort to keep operating an 80-year-old California oyster farm in what is now Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco.

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on April 14 for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in this case.

At issue is former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s denial of Drakes Bay’s permit to continue operating the oyster farm.

The original deal for creation of Point Reyes National Seashore, which was supported by the National Park Service, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, and other interested environmental and civic groups, was that the oyster farm was always supposed to stay.

The Ninth Circuit Court held that a federal court does not have jurisdiction to review a discretionary agency decision for abuse of discretion. At stake, say owners of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., is whether the government, in making countless everyday decisions, can be taken to court when it abuses its power.

A writ of certiorari is an order a higher court issues in order to review the decision and proceedings in a lower court and to determine whether there were any irregularities. When the Supreme Court orders a lower court to transmit records for a case for which it will hear on appeal, it is done through a writ of certiorari.

“If this judgment is not overturned, government agencies will have the power to deny a permit to any individual or business for any reason, without judicial review,” said Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., “Citizens must have recourse in the face of an arbitrary and capricious decision.”

Lunny’s small, family-owned farm has been in a legal battle with federal regulators for its survival. Because Drakes Bay showed that there is a “reasonable probability” that the Supreme Court will take this case and a “significant possibility” that the oyster farm will win, the Ninth Circuit has allowed Drakes Bay to remain open while it takes its case to the Supreme Court.

More information is at