Wednesday, May 20, 2015

APICDA’s Cannon Fish Co. Opens Processing Plant in Kent, Washington

Cannon Fish Co., a value-added seafood processing and marketing firm owned by the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, has opened a new processing facility in Kent, Washington, with the potential to employ 200 people.

Company president Pat Rogan announced this week plans for a media tour and ribbon cutting event on May 23 at the energy efficient, state of the art facility.

Rogan said the new primary and secondary processing facility would allow the company to reduce costs and control its own production.

Most of the fish being processed there are caught by fishing families living in villages in the Aleutian Islands adjacent to the Bering Sea, said Larry Cotter, chief executive officer of APICDA.

The facility ties directly to APICDA’s processing plants in Alaska – the Atka Pride Seafoods plant in Atka and the Bering Pacific Seafoods plant in False Pass – and enhances the viability of all three facilities,” Cotter said. “The new facility also demonstrates that CDQ investments benefit communities and states beyond Alaska,” Cotter said.

APICDA acquired Cannon Fish Co., which caters to a nationwide network of retailers, restaurants, specialty grocers and institutions, back in August of 2013.

APICDA is one of six western Alaska community development quota corporations designed to boost the economy of the regions they serve through fisheries.

The CDQ program allocates a percentage of all Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands quotas for groundfish, halibut and crab to each of the six CDQ groups.

APICDA and its subsidiary firms generate proceeds through the management of those quotas to fulfill its charitable purpose of developing stable local economies in six remote villages in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands.

NPAFC Reports Dramatic Rise in Sockeye Salmon Harvest in 2014

The North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission says that preliminary statistics on North Pacific wide total salmon catches for 2014 reported by its member countries - Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States - totaled some 394 million fish, or 0.86 million metric tons.

Sixty-four percent of the total 2014 sockeye salmon catch, of 177,000 metric tons came from Alaska and another 21 percent of that total from Russia, NPAFC said in an update issued this past week. The total sockeye catch showed an increase of roughly 33 percent over last year’s catch.

Chum salmon constituted the majority of the total commercial catch, at 38 percent by weight, followed by humpies, 36 percent by weight, and sockeyes, 21 percent by weight. Coho salmon comprised 5 percent of the catch and kings, 1 percent.

The United States harvested 345.7 thousand tons, or 40 percent of the harvest, with 328.8 thousand tons of that coming from Alaska, NPAFC said. Other member nation portions of the harvest included 39 percent, or 339.1 thousand tons for Russia; 17 percent, or 144.3 thousand tons for Japan; 4 percent, or 37.7 thousand tons for Canada, and less than 1 percent, or 437 tons for Korea.

Hatchery release of salmon and steelhead from NPAFC member countries totaled some 5.2 billion fish in 2014. Hatcheries released 2,064 million fish in the United States; 1,903 million fish in Japan, 969 million fish in Russia, 240 million fish in Canada and 28 million fish in Korea.

The report was issued in the wake of the 23rd annual NPAFC meeting in Kobe, Japan. The NPAFC is an international organization that promotes the conservation of Pacific salmon and steelhead in the North Pacific and its adjacent seas.

More information about NPAFC is online at www.npafc.org.

MSC Wants Maximum Use of Certificates, Urges Mediation

Marine Stewardship Council officials are urging both sides in a dispute over certification of wild Alaska salmon to seek mediation services in Seattle.

MSC chief executive Rupert Howes made the request May 19 in a letter to Stefanie Moreland of Trident Seafoods and Rob Zuanich, executive director of the Alaska Salmon Processors Association, the client for MSC certification of the Alaska salmon.

Howes said that MSC is prepared to identify a suitable facilitator/mediator, coordinate the process and pay for facilitation services.

Howes said MSC requires that all clients be willing to accept new clients to their certificate, and that MSC expects clients and eligible new entrants to engage in good faith discussion to determine an appropriate cost-sharing mechanism to allow eligible new entrants to access existing certificates.

The letter came in the wake of a decision by ASPA to reject an appeal by Moreland on behalf of Trident Seafoods, Peter Pan Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, North Pacific Seafoods, Alaska General Seafoods, Leader Creek Seafoods, and KwikPak Fisheries to be covered under ASPA’s certificate.

Moreland appealed to MSC to intervene on May 15 after receiving the emailed rejection from ASPA to join its client group. Trident and the other processers on whose behalf Moreland made the request are certified as sustainable through an Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute sponsored program, but some major European buyers require the MCS certification.

One processor said a major European client has said without MSC certification there would be no purchases.

Alaska’s constitution requires that all fisheries in the state be managed for sustainability, and when MSC began its sustainability certification program, the London-based organization appealed to Alaska processors to join.

Now without the MSC certification, some of the companies who helped MSC gain stature in European markets might find it difficult to sell into those markets.

In its rejection of Moreland’s request, Zuanich, a Seattle attorney and managing partner in Silver Bay Seafoods, an ASPA member, chronicled events in which ASMI and some major processors were highly critical of MSC.

“We see a group of large processors who attempted to destroy the MSC certification of Alaska salmon through almost any means possible,” Zuanich wrote. “We also see that when this group of large processors were members of past MSC salmon client groups they gave no consideration to the views of the smaller processors or Alaska’s salmon fishermen.”

Zuanich said with the fishing season under way, ASPA members have their businesses to run, and were willing to resume discussions in September “with the express intention of establishing comprehensive stable sustainability certification or verification in 2016 for Alaska salmon.”

Slow Start on Copper River Fishery Brings High Prices to Harvesters

Alaska’s celebrated Copper River salmon fishery is off and running, with first run kings and sockeyes paying record prices of $8 and $5.25 a pound respectively to harvesters. And in the marketplace seafood aficionados were lining up in Anchorage to pay $31.95 a pound for Chinook fillets and $24.99 a pound for fillets of red salmon.

Troll caught king salmon from Southeast Alaska, where available in the Anchorage area, was holding its own price wise at $24.95 a pound for fillets and $16.95 a pound for head on whole fish.

Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market was offering whole fresh Copper River sockeyes for $103.96 per fish and sockeye fillets for $33.99 a pound. Pike Place customers were told on the website to call for availability of whole fresh Copper River kings. Prices for whole kings and fillets were not posted as of May 20.

The forecast for the first opener on the Copper River was for a harvest of some 40,000 reds, but the actual harvest was about 16,000 reds. The harvest of some 1,300 kings, however, was above the forecast for that first run, state biologists said.

The first harvest of the season on the Copper River got the usual red carpet treatment in both Seattle and Anchorage from Alaska Airlines, whose pilots delivered the coveted first harvest from processing facilities in Cordova.

Some of the catch delivered to Anchorage went directly to three popular downtown restaurants noted for their seafood entrees. Other boxes of red and king salmon were quickly loaded onto a helicopter for delivery to chefs at wilderness lodges in the area of Denali National Park, where the summer visitor season has begun.

A spokesman for Holland America and Princess Cruises at the Anchorage red carpet event said his company plans to purchase about 60,000 to 70,000 pounds of wild Alaska salmon to serve its customers this summer season.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Time to Say Goodbye

By Zeke Grader

Late last summer I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I had not felt well for most of the summer and thought it was psychological – that I was just becoming burned out, having been too long on the job. It was more than that.

My first thought after learning what was wrong – well, after “Aw s __t” – was where was the nearest hospice, and then wondering how my wife would cope without me doing the physical work around the house, and thinking about all the work left to be done on the job. My doctors, however, were more optimistic, telling me some new treatments had been developed that made my chances for survival better than I thought. They recommended a chemotherapy regimen that I began in mid-September.

I have been fortunate thus far and have been able to keep working. But I have not had the energy, nor the strength to put in the hours, or do the travel the job as Executive Director of the PCFFA requires.

I notified the PCFFA Board right away and in October we met and began planning on a job search to find a replacement for me. Rather than going through an advertised job posting, the consensus was to talk to individuals we knew were competent and had an idea of what the job entailed. Most were colleagues working on most of the issues PCFFA was engaged in and, frankly, were more valuable to us in the positions they hold. Moreover, many were nearing retirement, meaning PCFFA would be going through an Executive Director search again in a few years.

After that it was decided to take a look at some of our past legal interns and AmeriCorps personnel who had worked in the office, who knew the organization and had some idea of the PCFFA Executive Director job.

One of our past legal interns, Tim Sloane, who is now a lawyer, was interested. Tim, 31, was raised in San Diego and went to law school in San Francisco and at the time was working for a large East Bay law firm. The PCFFA Board’s Executive Committee conducted the interview and was impressed with his qualifications and attitude. They gave a positive recommendation and in March Tim was hired. He was given a 90-day trial period and plans are that he will officially take over from me by summer.

This is my 40th year on the job with PCFFA, and even without the health issues, I was feeling it was time for a replacement, for me to step down – at least from the Executive Director position. It was time for some new blood, new energy and new ideas.

Working for PCFFA and IFR, has been a dream job. Since boyhood I never really thought about anything but fish work, whether working on a fishing boat or in a fish plant. Much of my youth was spent on Noyo Flat in Fort Bragg, playing on fishing boats and running through fish plants, watching fishing boats being built and diesels rebuilt, boats coming in and out of the harbor, unloading the fish, loading ice and fueling, and it seemed growing up that our house was always filled with fishermen and politicians. I wrote in this column at least once about it (see FN, September 2005, www.pcffa.org/fn-jul05.htm). You can also see an interview I did last winter on my work, go to: http://theforcesofnature.com/movies/zeke-grader-2).

As a teenager with college looming, thoughts went to careers like a teacher/fisherman, lawyer/fisherman or even a fisheries biologist. Seasickness, however, pretty much ruled out working on boats.
By the end of law school I was beginning to wonder where I would end up. At that time, fishermen along the California coast were working to unite California’s fish marketing associations into a statewide organization with full-time staff to address all non-price related fishery issues. The timing was fortuitous for me, as soon after passing the bar these groups came together and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations was incorporated in March 1976. I was offered the job as its first staff member; the rest is history.

I have never once regretted taking the job, nor staying around for 40 years. I have regrets at times about my own actions over those 40 years, wishing I, or we, might have done something differently, handled a situation better, or approached an issue from another angle. At the same time, I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished, even though there is much left to do.

Part of what we were able to accomplish came about from some excellent guidance. My first mentor was my father who I tagged along with as a kid to many of his fishing meetings. Later, after going to work for PCFFA, he would offer up advice, although mostly reluctantly since he did not want to interfere in my job or the workings of the organization.

My other mentor for most of the past 40 years has been Bill Kier, a fishery biologist who headed the California Senate’s Office of Research when I first began working with him. I had first met Bill about 10 years earlier when he and my father worked together at the California Resources Agency and were engaged in everything from parks acquisition, to coastal protection, to fisheries.

I was also extremely lucky in having a number of veteran fishing men and women, both on and off the PCFFA Board, who were there to offer me counsel and support. Indeed, many were “Highliner of the Year” recipients; I had guidance from some of the best.

PCFFA has been blessed with Directors who were visionaries and not afraid to act, coupled with having some activist Presidents who were willing to put in time – far beyond a couple of terms – that made a real difference. They made my job a lot easier and were great fun to collaborate with; the late Nat Bingham, Pietro Parravano and, now, Dave Bitts immediately come to mind.

Looking back over the past 40 years, a lot has been accomplished. It was PCFFA, for example, that got language in California’s Coastal Act to protect commercial fishing facilities within the state’s coastal zone (they would have otherwise been at the mercy of large developers). We did that in 1976.
It was PCFFA that developed the legislation for California’s salmon limited entry program; it crafted the Salmon Stamp legislation with a fishermen committee to oversee the program; it wrote the bill establishing the California Salmon Council, and a citizen’s California Advisory Committee on Salmon & Steelhead Trout. In fact, much of PCFFA’s work has been to empower fishermen, giving them more say over the resources they depend upon.

When not in the halls of the Legislatures, or in Pacific Council or Fish & Wildlife Commission meeting rooms, PCFFA has been in court, mostly on behalf of the salmon – from the Columbia to the Central Valley, litigating for flows and habitat essential for these fish. Our string of cases, mostly wins, is nearly as long as our list of legislative accomplishments. There would be no salmon fishery left in California, I believe, had it not been for PCFFA.

Salmon is not the only fishery PCFFA has been involved with. We drafted the legislation, after all, to allow set gillnets (and, thus, small boats) to catch herring in San Francisco Bay, with a bill creating a research program for the fish. While we might have liked to see some changes, it was PCFFA that initiated the legislation for crab limited entry and, later, trap limits, as well as requiring limiting effort in the squid fishery and mandating a management plan for California’s largest fishery.

PCFFA has fought – so far without much success – to ensure access for the small boat fleet (hook-and-liners, light touch trawl) to groundfish, including development of experimental fishery permits to test different gear to avoid species of concern, and establishment of community fishing associations (CFAs) to protect small boat fleets in our coastal ports. It has worked, as well, on everything in between, from a ban on a highly toxic bottom paint, to protections for fish from the apex (white shark) to the base (krill) of the ocean food chain.

At the federal level, PCFFA only played a peripheral role in passage of the Fishery Conservation & Management Act in 1976. It, however, has been a member of the Marine Fish Conservation Network for the past two Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorizations, pushing the legislation now making the US fishing fleet the most sustainably-operated in the world.

So, yeah, there’s been all of that and a lot more that PCFFA and I am proud of. And while I have been given a lot of credit for accomplishments over the course of my career, I, we, did not do it alone. Key friends in the Congress and state Legislatures and their staff have been critical to making these things happen, as have been the allies among other fishing associations, among recreational fishing groups, among the Tribes and conservation organizations, foundation funders, and among scientists in the bowels of the fishery agencies who really do care about the fish and fisheries despite their agency policies.

But at the end of 40 years, I am not here to look back. The challenges ahead are daunting; more challenging, I believe, than what we faced the past two score of years. Consider what Tim Sloane and the young leaders of other fishing organizations have to look forward to.

Drought/Climate Change. The current drought in the West threatens salmon specifically, but also could affect estuarine dependent fish (e.g., crab) in the future. It is going to be difficult to keep what little flow there is in-stream for fish, given the magnitude of the scarcity and demand by cities and agriculture for that water. Worse yet, with climate change, these droughts are predicted to be even more severe and of longer duration – pointing to a need for fishermen to get behind measures such as water conservation, water recycling, groundwater management and cleanup, and development of green desalination technology. All of this is on top of warming and more acidic oceans.

Preventing Investor Takeover of our Food Supplies. We are already witnessing Wall Street investors getting control over large commodity crops (e.g., almonds, grapes) in the US and abroad. Unless we are careful, our fisheries could be next, making sharecroppers out of fishermen. Catch share programs and individual fishing quotas may make fishing better for some, but unless these programs are carefully crafted and tightly enforced, they will be the pathway for third party take-overs of our fish stocks.

Unsustainable Aquaculture. A third major challenge is to prevent government and some NGOs – anxious to have “green” farmed fish on our shelves – from promoting and approving as “sustainable” aquaculture that’s not sustainable. Today, there is no open water aquaculture that is sustainable, despite their claims; problems remain with open water and even some on-shore facilities using antibiotics and non-sustainable food sources (e.g., wild fish, feed made from GMO crops). Aquaculture can be sustainable, but it’s mostly not today and won’t be until it is set on a different course.

It is tempting to want to stay on the job, given the challenges ahead, but for me it’s time to say good-bye as PCFFA Executive Director, and to step down at IFR as well.

I have every confidence in Tim Sloane and some of our younger board members. It is now their time. I plan to be around, depending on my health, helping out and lending counsel when asked. PCFFA/IFR Northwest Director, Glen Spain, is putting off his retirement to also stay around and help Tim.

What I ask from all of you is to lend your support to this next generation of fishery leaders, as I plan to. They will need it; our fishing industry is depending on them.

I want to thank Fishermen’s News, and you its readers, for the opportunity over the years to voice my thoughts on these pages. I am grateful, too, for the wonderful people I have had the privilege of working with in the course of this job. Finally, I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the privilege of serving for the past 40 years the very best people on the face of this Earth – working fishing men and women.

Zeke Grader has served as Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) Executive Director (1976-2015), as well as Executive Director of the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR) since 1992. He can be contacted at zgrader@ifrfish.org. PCFFA’s Home Page is: www.pcffa.org.


Deadline is Oct. 15 for New Fishing Vessel Regulations

Many commercial fishing vessels harvesting in Alaska are already in compliance with new safety and equipment requirements effective in 2015 and 2016, and the US Coast Guard has a busy schedule ahead to help them meet those deadlines.

Those regulations, contained in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 and the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012, include mandatory dockside safety exams for vessels operating beyond three nautical miles of the baseline of the US territorial sea or the coastline of the Great Lakes, operating anywhere with more than 16 individuals on board, inside or outside of that baseline, and tenders engaged in the Aleutian trade.

Other new requirements relate to survival craft, standards for design, construction and maintenance of new vessels, safety equipment for vessels less than 50 feet overall in length, assignment of load lines, and alternate safety programs.

In December 2014, the Coast Guard outlined in a two page document the specifics of these new requirements, to give fair warning to all those engaged in commercial fishing.

Scott Wilwert, the fishing vessel safety coordinator for Coast Guard District 17 in Juneau, says that many vessels in Alaska are already in compliance because they have traditionally been voluntary participants in the dockside examination program. “Well more than half are good to go as we speak,” Wilwert said in an interview in early May.

Vessel owners are encouraged to fill out the checklist generator online at www.fishsafe.info in preparation for dockside exams.

Successful completion of those dockside exams earns the vessel a decal required for safety reasons for all vessels taking onboard fisheries observers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Passing that exam is also a requirement of some insurance pools and some vessel owner associations, Wilwert said.

The new regulations also include a requirement, effective Feb. 16, 2016, to carry a survival craft to keep those on board out of the water in the event of an abandon ship need.

All vessels built after July 1, 2013 must be designed, constructed and maintained to the standards of a recognized classification society. Vessels classed before July 1, 2012 will remain subject to the requirements of a classification society and have on board a certificate from that society.


Vessels less than 50 feet overall in length, built after Jan. 1, 2010, are also required under the new regulations to be constructed to provide a level of safety equivalent to the minimum safety standards established for recreational vessels.

Alaska Wants More Residents in Processing Jobs

Alaska’s labor officials are working with seafood processors in hope of putting Alaska residents into many of the 1,600 seasonal jobs needed to process the state’s 2015 commercial salmon and pollock harvests.

Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Heidi Drygas met with many of the largest seafood processors operating in Alaska in late April to discuss how they can increase Alaska hire through use of registered apprenticeships, work release programs and employment of returning citizens.

Now is the time for workers to be contacting their nearest Alaska Job Center to apply, said Nelson San Juan, an employment security specialist at the Seafood Employment Office in the Anchorage Midtown Job Center. These jobs provide an excellent opportunity for those who enjoy physical work, want to establish a work history, earn and save money quickly, and move up the career ladder, he said.

Seafood processers are continuing to recruit to fill more than 1,000 seafood-processing jobs for the Bristol Bay salmon season, in Naknek and Togiak.

Seafood firms in Dutch Harbor meanwhile are recruiting for more than 100 jobs processing pollock beginning in June. Salmon processors in Kenai hope to fill nearly 500 jobs from late June through mid-August.


The jobs are posted online at Alaska’s Labor Exchange System. They include higher paying skilled and technical positions. More information is available by calling the Anchorage Seafood Employment Office at 1-800-473-0688.

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