Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Alaska Salmon Harvest Nears 5 Million Fish

Commercial harvests of Alaska’s wild salmon have expanded statewide, with total deliveries nearing 5 million fish, including nearly 3 million sockeyes.

Preliminary harvest figures compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show that in the westward region, processors in the Alaska Peninsula have received 950,000 humpies, 883,000 sockeyes, 134,000 chums and fewer than 1,000 cohos.

At Chignik, the catch reached 334,000 reds, 16,000 chums, 7,000 pinks and 1,000 kings, and at Kodiak 176,000 sockeyes, 63,000 chums, 8,000 pinks and 1,000 kings.

In Prince William Sound, including the Copper River district, the harvest has reached 1,062,000 chums, 632,000 reds and 11,000 kings, while in Cook Inlet, 53,000 reds and 3,000 kings have been delivered.

Harvests are picking up in Bristol Bay, where processors have received 100,000 reds in the Egegik district, 73,000 reds in the Nushagak district, 21,000 reds in the Ugashik district, 10,000 reds in the Naknek-Kvichak district and under 1,000 reds in the Togiak district.

Chum harvests on the Lower Yukon River have jumped, with deliveries of some 89,000 fish, and in Southeast Alaska deliveries include some 88,000 kings, 22,000 chums, 13,000 reds, 1,000 cohos and fewer than 1,000 humpies.

ADF&G updates preliminary commercial salmon harvests online daily.

As more areas of the state deliver more salmon, prices at retail counters are dropping. Fred Meyer stores in the Anchorage area this week are offering fresh wild Alaska sockeye salmon fillets for $9.99 a pound.

Canada Begins Process Review

Canada has announced the start of a review of the nation’s environmental and regulatory processes, in an effort to restore public trust.

The government said this week that a belief that a clean environment and a strong economy can go hand in hand is central to the health and well-being of Canadians as they work to get resources to market and develop infrastructure projects responsibly in the 21st century.

The announcement is perhaps of particular interest to those with an eye on development of mines along salmon-rich transboundary waterways flowing from British Columbia into Southeast Alaska.

Karina Brino, president of the Mining Association of British Columbia, said that her association would be involved, through the Mining Association of Canada and also on its own. “The biggest challenge that we have as a society is to hold ourselves accountable for finding that common ground,” 
said Brino, speaking to miners’ interest in exploration and development versus the fisheries industry’s concerns over potential harmful impact to salmon habitat. “Ultimately we all want the same things and we need to be respectful of each other’s concerns and work together.”

Pierre Gratton, president and chief executive officer of the Mining Association of Canada, said that as mining projects are regulated provincially and territorially, the federal government should consider how to improve coordination not only between various federal departments, but also with provinces and territories, to avoid delays and confusion.

“While we’re glad to see Canada recognizing that it needs to restore fish, habitat and water quality protections that have been gutted over the last decade, the key thing we are waiting to see is whether or not laws and regulations will actually be enforced,” said Chris Zimmer, in Juneau, speaking for Salmon Beyond Borders.

“The BC Auditor General’s recent scathing report on major flaws in BC’s mining enforcement and compliance programs and the ongoing inaction over acid mine drainage from the Tulsequah Chief mine in the Taku watershed have caused Alaskans to question how serious BC and Canada are about enforcing the law and ensuring mining activities do not harm salmon and water quality. Fixing regulations on paper is one thing, but the more important need is to actually enforce those regulations, “ he said.

Congress Revisits Mine Permitting

Another congressional oversight hearing was convened in Washington DC this morning by the House Committee on Natural Resources, regarding the National Environmental Policy Act’s role in permitting projects, including the Pebble mine.

Witnesses included Tom Collier, chief executive officer of the Pebble Partnership, the subsidiary of British Columbia’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, which wants to build and operate the mine.

The witness list also includes Kim Williams, executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai, the Dillingham, Alaska, entity working with village corporations and tribal governments for responsible land and water management in the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon.

“Pebble is not supported by Alaskans and shouldn’t be given a stage by lawmakers in DC, especially behind our backs and during our busiest time of the year,” said Melanie Brown, a veteran fish harvester, who was already out in her boat on Bristol Bay pulling in salmon. Brown called the hearing “a sneak attack, bait and switch that shows how out of touch the committee members are with Alaska.

“We are working non-stop this time of year to make sure our boats and nets are ready to catch fish that feed not only our families and support our businesses, while a foreign mining company gets another pointless hearing,” she said.

Representatives of 15 national sportsmen’s organizations also signed a letter sent to Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, expressing their concern that Pebble mine backers continue to get a political stage to promote the mine, particularly at this time of year. “We just need Pebble to go away so we can run our businesses without a giant threat hanging over our shoulders,” said John Holman, a lodge owner on the Kvichak River, in a statement released by the Bristol Bay sportsmen’s group.

Mine backers contend that the massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine can be built and operated in harmony with the salmon fishery. Extensive testimony compiled by the US Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that there is great potential risk of adverse effects on salmon habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed if the mine is developed.

Fisheries Expert to Head Alaska Research Institute

Ralph Townsend, a Minnesota college dean with extensive background in fisheries and economics, is the new head of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.

Townsend is set to take the helm at ISER in August, succeeding economist Gunnar Knapp, who retired at the end of July. Knapp said he would continue research there on both salmon markets and Alaska fiscal policy issues.

A native of Maine, Townsend earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Since 2010 he has been dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Winona State University in Minnesota.

Townsend is president of the International Institute for Fisheries Economics and Trade and a past president of the North American Association of Fisheries Economics. He has served as an advisor to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Western Pacific and New England fisheries management councils, and the US Department of State. He has also worked, during sabbaticals, in Iceland, Australia and the Philippines.

From 2007-2010, Townsend was the chief economist for the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries, a period of significant change and innovation in managing New Zealand’s fisheries.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

NPFMC Wrestles With Bycatch Management

Federal fisheries managers considering a revised management structure for Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawl fisheries heard hours of testimony at Kodiak in early June from dozens of industry participants advocating for and against the plan.

Harvesters, fisheries organizations, processors, communities and environmental entities addressed the issue in written testimony and hours of oral comment before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which was tasked with refining action alternatives including Alternative 1, to maintain the status quo.

At length the council refined the alternatives in a 17-page document, and directed staff to provide a preliminary analysis describing impacts of the revised alternatives adopted. The council also asked the National Marine Fisheries Service to publish a Federal Register notice announcing a new public scoping opportunity on the council’s purpose and need, goals and objectives, and alternatives adopted.

During staff tasking the matter was placed on the agenda for the council’s December meeting in Anchorage for further discussion and possible further action.

The overarching goal and objective included in the revised document includes minimizing economic barriers for new participants by limiting harvest privileges that may be allocated in order to maintain opportunity for entry into Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries.

The overall motivation for the proposed management plan is to provide the fleet with a structure under which it can minimize prohibited species catch, better utilize the allowed prohibited species catch to harvest more groundfish, create additional value from the resource, and provide stability for dependent Gulf fishing communities.

Alternative 2 would allocate groundfish and prohibited species catch access privileges to voluntary cooperatives based on the fishing history associated with the federal licenses enrolled in each cooperative.

Alternative 3 would allocate only prohibited species catch to the cooperatives. Allocation would be based on vessels’ intent to participate in the Gulf trawl fishery during the upcoming year, historical dependency on Gulf trawl fisheries, and membership in a cooperative that signs onto an inter-cooperative bycatch management agreement.

Alternative 4, which could be paired with alternatives 2 or 3, includes options for additional measures meant to address community stability and other unanticipated effects of the program that could arise in the future.

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