Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Study Identifies Chronic Health Risks in Commercial Harvesters

A newly released study on chronic health risks in commercial seafood harvesting in Cordova, Alaska, found a prevalence of hearing loss, upper extremity disorders and sleep apnea risk factors higher in the fishing industry workers than in the community’s general population.

Occupational factors including exposure to noise, upper extremity demands of gillnetting and long working hours while fishing exacerbate these chronic health issues.

Authors of the study said health promotion programs targeted toward these conditions may present opportunities for improving total worker health.

The research was conducted by Carly Eckert of the University of Washington School of Public Health, Torie Baker of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska, and Debra Cherry, an occupational health physician at the UW School of Medicine.

The study was carried out in the gillnetting fishery in the Copper River salmon fishery. Sixty-six fishermen participated in the pre-season survey and 38 in the mid-season one. Researchers said the overwhelming majority of participants were white males with an average age of 49, and that 70 percent of respondents were overweight or obese but considered their health to be good or better. They reported longer working hours, less sleep and less aerobic exercise during the fishing season.

Researchers said they characterized a small sample of gillnet fishermen in Alaska to better understand their chronic health risks. They noted that these harvesters are accustomed to episodic work in a cramped, pressured setting, which takes place on gillnetters that are 28 to 34 feet in length with little space for exercise.

Researchers also noted that compared to the general Alaskan population study participants reported less tobacco use, more frequent health maintenance visits to health professionals and higher rates of health insurance. They also said that the prevalence of overweight or obesity in their sample was consistent with that of the general adult population of Alaska.

Study results were published in the Journal of Agromedicine.

Too Early to Tell on Impact of Tariffs

While the US and China are in a war of words involving tariffs on billions of dollars in imports to each country, the seafood industry in the Pacific Northwest is still uncertain where the chips may fall.

“This is a huge deal,” says Garrett Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group, a Juneau, Alaska based research and consulting services firm whose clients include the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (AMSI). “China is our most important trading partner. A lot of seafood harvested in Alaska is reprocessed and distributed globally.”

Still, Evridge said, “There is a lot of diplomacy happening behind the scenes that we are not aware of … and in terms of actual economic impact, it is too early to say.”

ASMI’s Executive Director, Alexa Tonkovich, said that the institute is working with other US seafood industry trade groups and its own China office to evaluate the situation. ASMI has been active in the Chinese marketplace for more than 20 years.

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) also spoke out, saying that it is reviewing China’s announcement to determine its impact on US seafood exports. NFI President John Connelly said “We are deeply disappointed in these retaliatory tariffs. There is no connection between the products targeted by the US and the tariffs Beijing plans to impose on exported American seafood. It is not clear where these trade actions will ultimately lead; what is clear is that they will negatively impact American seafood jobs.”

Products that are covered by the tariffs include frozen Alaska Pollock, Pacific cod, humpies and sockeye salmon and herring. It is uncertain whether the tariff would include reprocessed fish.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she is very concerned about the impact of the Chinese tariffs on Alaska’s economy.

“In 2017 alone, Alaskan seafood exports were worth $3.45 billion, and of that, nearly $1 billion was exported to China,” she explained. “It’s imperative that our seafood industry, one of the economic drivers of our state, has the ability to continue competitively exporting their products all over the world” Murkowski said she is urging Trump to work toward a trade policy with China “that protects these critical markets for our seafood industry.”

Commission Appoints Susewind to Head WDFW

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission (WDFW), a citizen panel appointed by the governor, has chosen Kelly Susewind of Olympia as the new director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, effective August 1, at an annual salary of $165,000.

His appointment came after the commission interviewed seven candidates in May and narrowed the field to three finalists, who were interviewed in mid-June.

Susewind has been employed at the Washington Department of Ecology since 1990 in several jobs. He served most recently as director of administrative services and environmental policy. He also worked for several years in the 1980s as a private sector environmental consultant.

Susewind holds a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from Washington State University and an associate degree in engineering from Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, Wash. He grew up in the Grays Harbor area.

The commission thanked Acting director Joe Stohr for his service in the wake of the resignation of former director Jim Unsworth in early February.

BBRSDA Selects Andy Wink as New Executive Director

Economist Andy Wink, who has analyzed Alaska’s seafood industry for nearly a decade, will come on board as executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) on July 23.

When announcing his appointment, the BBRSDA said Wink’s past work with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and many other industry groups would benefit its mission and membership. His work will focus mainly on improving the quality and appreciation of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon in the marketplace.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse, where he majored in economics and finance, Wink worked for the state of Alaska for seven years as a labor economist, seafood development specialist and investment officer. In 2010 he began working for the McDowell Group, a Juneau, Alaska based research and consulting firm, where he was the primary industry research analyst from 2012 through 2017 for Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Wink left McDowell in January to start his own business as an independent research contractor but has now joined the BBRSDA.

In addition to his work in the seafood industry, Wink has written economic impact studies on oil and gas projects in Africa, done education/training program analysis, administered a large seafood marketing grant program in Alaska, conducted investment research for a $30 billion plus fund, and contributed to local economic planning projects.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Copper River Still Closed to Commercial Salmon Fishing

The Copper River District on Alaska’s Prince William Sound remained closed to commercial fishing again this week, although open for subsistence fishing.

The only bright spot was the strength of the chum salmon run in the Coghill district, where the preliminary harvest estimate from a 36-hour opener on June 7 yielded 1,700 sockeyes and 48,200 chums, with 631 deliveries reported, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). The chums being caught in the Coghill district were averaging nine pounds.

Meanwhile, in western Alaska, commercial fishing with dip nets and beach seines was scheduled for a 12-hour opener from noon today through midnight and a 24-hour opener from noon on June 14 through noon on June 15.

Dip nets were required to assure escapement of king salmon to the Canadian border to comply with treaty obligations. Any Chinooks caught are required to be released immediately and recorded on fish tickets.

A directed commercial fishery for lingcod in Prince William Sound will open July 1 and will run through December 31 or earlier by emergency order. State fisheries officials reminds everyone that directed fishing for all groundfish species, including lingcod, is closed in waters within three nautical miles of two Steller sea lion rookeries within Prince William Sound, at Seal Rocks and Wooded Island.

In Norton Sound, the summer red king crab commercial fishery gets under way on June 24, with a guideline harvest level (GHL) of 290,282 pounds. Last year’s GHL for the Norton Sound fishery was 419,000 pounds.

BBEDC Backs Salmon Ballot Initiative

Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. (BBEDC) has added its support to an initiative on Alaska’s 2018 general election ballot to update a 60-year-old law aimed at protecting salmon habitat.

“Critical salmon spawning and rearing habitat in Alaska, particularly the Bristol Bay region, face many threats, and protecting it for future generations is a major priority,” BBEDC’s directors said in a statement issued in Dillingham, Alaska, June 7.

The board has concluded that the current law falls short of protecting Alaska salmon and believes that this ballot initiative is the right step toward strengthening systems that not only support traditional life ways of Bristol Bay, but also support tens of thousands of Alaska’s jobs.

With the unanimous vote of support from its board, BBEDC joined many Bristol Bay tribes, the Bristol Bay Native Association and hundreds of Alaska owned businesses, commercial fishermen and organizations statewide in support of the Yes for Salmon ballot initiative.

BBEDC is one of six Western Alaska Community Development Quota entities organized under the CDQ program in 1992 to promote economic growth and opportunities within their region.

Backers of the initiative say the existing legal provision protecting salmon habitat is so ambiguous that it is vulnerable to political interference to allow pet projects to be permitted despite scientific research that shows such projects pose potential adverse impact to fish.

Meanwhile a coalition of other business and industry organization, Stand for Alaska, contends that the initiative poses a threat to Alaska jobs and communities and the Alaska way of life. Major contributors to Stand for Alaska include BP Alaska, Teck Alaska and ConocoPhillips Alaska.

The Yes for Salmon ballot initiative would update Title 16 of Alaska Statutes to give the state’s Department of Fish and Game authority to enforce scientific standards during the permitting process for development round salmon streams and allow Alaskans to voice their perspectives during the process.

The initiative itself makes no reference to specific resource development projects but is aimed at protecting fish habitat from potential adverse environmental impact from development of oil and gas and mining projects, including the proposed Pebble mine within the Bristol Bay watershed region.

Small Amounts of Water Make a Big Difference for Endangered Salmon

A University of California San Diego study says even small amounts of running water could mean the difference between life and death for juvenile coho salmon in coastal California streams.

The study, published in early June in the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, shows that during dry periods less than a gallon of water per second was enough to keep pools interconnected, allowing young salmon to survive through the hot, dry summer months.

“The good news is that if we can get just a little bit of water back in these streams, we can make a really big difference,” said Marika Obedzinski, a California Sea Grant extension specialist. Obedzinski is the lead in a monitoring program for endangered coho salmon and steelhead in small streams of Sonoma County that flow into the Russian River.

Russian River coho salmon were listed as threatened in 1996, but despite efforts to improve habitat, the species hit crisis levels by the early 2000’s and became endangered in 2005 when scientists noted fewer than 10 fish returning to the Russian River annually to spawn. Local, state and federal agencies teamed up to start a conservation hatchery program to breed and release the fish. The Sea Grant monitoring program was set up to track the success of the hatchery releases and to better understand factors that were preventing recovery of the species. Researchers found that low streamflow in summer is one of the biggest blockers to coho recovery.

“After the hatchery fish are released, we see them migrating out to the ocean and coming back as adults to spawn,” Obedzinski said. “We even see their offspring in creeks in the early summer, but by late summer the creeks dry out, the young salmon die, and the next generation is not surviving.”

Water is a limited resource in central California, an area impacted by population growth, development and climate change. While intermittent streams may overflow their banks in wet winter months, they may dwindle to a trickle or dry up in sections during the summer.

The new study offers a clearer link between salmon survival and water flow rates in Russian River tributaries, which could be useful for resource agencies and organizations working on salmon recovery, and land owners who want to help restore endangered salmon populations.

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