Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Seafood Added $5.6B to Alaska Economy in 2017–2018

Alaska’s seafood industry added $5.6 billion in economic output to the state economy in 2017–2018, employing nearly 59,000 workers in harvesting, processing and other industry-related jobs who earned a combined $1.7 billion in wages.

The 29,400 commercial fishermen employed in harvesting fish in each of those year came away with earnings of more than $1 billion.

The 5.7 billion pounds of seafood worth $2 billion that was harvested annually in those years was turned by processors into 2.8 billion pounds of seafood product worth $4.7 billion. Exports of about two thirds of Alaska seafood, in sales value for 2018, went to 97 countries, while the other third was purchased domestically.

The processing sector employs an average of 26,000 workers at 166 shore-based plants, 49 catcher-processor vessels and about 10 large floating processors. The industry also supports more than 40 different occupations, including vessel builders, shipyard workers, machinists, engineers, electricians, cooks and laborers.

In fact, the seafood industry directly employs more workers than any other private sector industry in Alaska and is the foundation of many rural communities.

The national economic impact of the Alaska’s seafood industry includes $8.0 billion in multiplier effects generated as industry income circulates throughout the country economy.

The study, prepared by McDowell Group in Juneau, Alaska, is the latest report on the economic value of the state’s seafood industry. The group compiled the report with consideration only for the commercial seafood industry and does not account for the additional multi-million-dollar economic impact of recreational, charter and subsistence fisheries in Alaska. It was prepared for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a public-private partnership of the state and the seafood industry. According to the report, the state’s commercial fleet includes more than 9,000 vessels, which if lined up bow to stern, would span over 64 miles. Regardless of vessel size or involvement, each fishing operation represents a business generating new income from a renewable resource.

Since statehood in 1959, Alaska’s commercial fisheries have produced more than 181 billion pounds of seafood, or 12.9 billing servings annually, enough to feed everyone in the world at least one serving each year.

Regional economic trends in the seafood industry documented by the report show that the number of resident commercial fishermen has declined from 3,489 in 2012 to 2,590 in 2018, while the gross earnings of those harvesters rose from $19 million to $20 million. The value of regional harvests rose from $11 million to $13 million and first wholesale value rose from $13 million to $17 million for those years.

Alaska Marine Science Symposium Opens Jan. 27 in Anchorage

The annual Alaska Marine Science Symposium, which brings together scientists, educators, resource managers and others, opens Jan. 27, with presentations about the latest research in Alaska’s marine ecosystems.

The conference, presented at the Captain Cook Hotel, will open with presentations by four keynote speakers, followed by three days of meetings focused on the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and the Arctic respectively. Research topics on the agenda range from ocean physics, fishes and invertebrates to seabirds, marine mammals and local traditional knowledge. The event is sponsored by the North Pacific Research Board.

This year’s keynote speakers include Western Arctic Parklands superintendent Maija Katak Lukin; Cisco Werner, chief science advisor to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Sebastien de Halleux, chief operations officer of Saildrone; and Andrew Pietruszka, an underwater archaeologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

A workshop on the opening day of the symposium will be led by Brian Brettschneider, an expert on climate science in Alaska who generates seasonal sea ice forecasts for the International Arctic Research Center. His presentation will focus on how to effectively use social media to deliver scientific content. Brettschneider, one of Alaska’s esteemed climatologists, has a social media following of over 16,000 people. His workshop is free and space is not limited. It will run from 9 a.m. to noon at the Captain Cook.

NOAA Fisheries research biologist Steve Barbeaux, will talk about heatwaves and their impact on Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska during the Tuesday afternoon session.

Also, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, the symposium will sponsor an ocean acidification town hall, with five-minute updates from ocean acidification researchers ranging from open ocean and nearshore monitoring to species response in the lab. A question and answer session will follow.

The agenda and abstract book for all four days is now posted online at https://www.alaskamarinescience.org/.

Today is the deadline for online registration. You can find the form at https://www.alaskamarinescience.org/register.

AK Board of Fisheries Cuts Kodiak’s Salmon Allocation

This past week, the Alaska Board of Fisheries set new limits on commercial salmon harvests for the Kodiak area.

The Cape Igvak salmon management plan, proposal 60, called for a reduction of the Cape Igvak section allocation from 15 percent to five percent of the total Chignik area sockeye salmon catch. Proposal 64 amended management plans to restrict the commercial seine fishery from June 28 through July 25. Both proposals passed following a 4-1 vote.

Kodiak Salmon work group chairman Duncan Fields, a veteran harvester and former member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, told Kodiak public radio station KMXT that in dollar terms the passage of those proposals will cost Kodiak $2 million to $3 million annually. Fields also expressed concern that the fisheries board didn’t seem swayed by testimony from Kodiak fishermen who packed the standing-room only meeting to speak in defense of their fishery.

A number of those who testified noted that the Cape Igvak plan currently in place doesn’t allow Kodiak harvesters to fish until Chignik has received a certain number of salmon and during Chignik’s most disastrous recent years, Kodiak fishermen didn’t fish Cape Igvak.

The decision on the proposals came to a 4-1 vote because board member Fritz Johnson of Dillingham was absent and board member Gerad Godfrey of Eagle River had to recuse himself, because his uncle hold a Kodiak district seine permit.

In a letter to board chairman Reed Morisky prior to the vote, Fields said the work group challenged board member Marit Carlson-Van Dort’s ethics disclosure statement, which said there were no interests of a personal or financial nature that she or any members of her immediate family have that may be affected by the proposals before the board.

Fields said the work group had learned that Carlson-Van Dort has first, second and third cousins who hold Chignik District salmon seine permits and that the work group found it difficult to believe that none of her relatives would be personally or financially impacted by those proposals.

A summary of all proposal actions taken at the Kodiak meeting is available online at https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/regulations/regprocess/fisheriesboard/pdfs/2019-2020/kodiak/soa.pdf
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The fisheries board will take up Upper Cook Inlet finfish issues at its Anchorage meeting slated for Feb. 7-19 and statewide king and tanner crab and supplemental issues on March 8-11. Details on proposals to be covered at those meetings and how to participate can be found online at https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo.

Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor Training Coming to Petersburg, Alaska

Commercial fishermen in Southeast Alaska can learn or refresh their skills in fishing vessel safety with a fishing vessel drill conductor class being offered in Petersburg on Feb. 10 at the Tides Inn.

The class offers an excellent opportunity for commercial harvesters and others to get hands-on training with marine safety equipment and learn best practices for surviving emergencies at sea.

The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) is offering the class at a cost of $95 for commercial fishermen and $175 for all others. The association is able to provide the reduced price thanks to support from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, and AMSEA members.

The curriculum from instructor Chris Angel includes cold-water survival skills, EPIRBS (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), signal flares, and mayday calls, man-overboard recovery, firefighting, flooding and damage control, dewatering pumps, immersion suits and PFDs, helicopter rescue, life rafts, abandon ship procedures and emergency drills.

All AMSEA fishing vessel drill conductor workshops meet the US Coast Guard training requirements or drill conductors on commercial fishing vessels.

Register online at www.amsea.org or call 907-747-3287. Check the website for a complete list of upcoming AMSEA courses, including additional fishing vessel drill conductor training and first aid and CPR/AED classes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Senate Approves Bill to Save Seas from Plastics

The US Senate has unanimously approved the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, addressing the plastic debris crisis threatening coastal economies and marine life.

The legislation, introduced by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has 17 Senate co-sponsors, including Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, both D-Hawaii.

Supporters of the companion legislation still moving through the US House include Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., and Don Young, R-Alaska, co-chairs of the House Oceans Caucus.

Save Our Seas 2.0 builds on the success of the 2018 Save Our Seas Act. It is composed of three main components.

The first part aims to strengthen the nation’s domestic marine debris response capability with a Marine Debris Foundation, a genius prize for innovation, and new research to tackle and reduce marine debris. The legislation calls for a prize of at least $100,000 each time in competition to be held every other year for a decade.

The second piece aims to enhance global engagement to combat marine debris, including formalizing US policy on international cooperation, enhancing federal agency outreach to other countries, and exploring potential for a new international agreement on the challenge. This component would increase the authorization for NOAA’s Marine Debris Program annual budget from $10 million to $15 million.

The third component calls for improving domestic infrastructure to prevent marine debris through new grants for and studies of waste management and mitigation. The accompanying financial package of $85 million a year for five years would establish four grant programs to improve the water and waste management infrastructure in the US.

Ocean Conservancy spokesman Jeff Watters cited the bill for taking a science-based approach to tackle ocean plastics pollution and for setting the stage for more ambitious action to come.

The bill “rightly recognizes the global nature of the ocean plastics crisis, proposes badly needed improvements to both domestic and international waste management and recycling systems, and supports more research to better understand the problem and what interventions would be most effective,” he said.

Decisions Expected Today at Kodiak Board of Fisheries Meeting

The Alaska Board of Fisheries is expected to make its decisions known today, Jan. 15, on a number of finfish proposals following three days of debates in standing room only meeting at the Kodiak convention center.

The 37 agenda items include proposals submitted by United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA) urging restriction of commercial salmon fisheries in the Kodiak area to limit interception of fish that UCIDA contends are stocks headed for Upper Cook Inlet.

Kodiak harvests dispute this claim. Duncan Fields, who chairs the Kodiak Salmon Work Group, noted that the restrictions proposed by UCIDA would limit July harvests of sockeyes bound for Upper Cook Inlet and restrict some commercial seine fishing in the Kodiak Management area to conserve Chinook stocks.

Fields warned the Kodiak Island Borough in a letter sent last September that these proposals would pose a serious threat to Kodiak’s historical salmon fishery and could reduce Kodiak salmon fishermen revenue by as much as 35 to 40 percent.

UCIDA maintains that recent genetic data shows that the Kodiak salmon fishery intercepts sockeye salmon bound for Upper Cook Inlet and it is reasonable to require Kodiak to reel back on Upper Cook Inlet reds at least in nonterminal fisheries. Fields counters that “it seems a fool’s errand to put additional closures in the Kodiak area based on random occurrences both year by year and place by place.”

All meeting documents, including on-time public comments in support and opposition to the various proposals, are available online at https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo&date=01-11-2020&meeting=kodiak.

All portions of the Kodiak meeting are open to the public and a live audio stream is available on the board’s website at www.boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov

Optimism Up on Demand and Prices for Snow Crab

In a year when Bering Sea crab are continuing to rebound – prompting the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to boost the quota for a third straight year –strong demand in domestic markets is expected to command robust pricing.

“The demand is so strong for snow crab that even though there is more Alaska snow crab we expect the prices to be higher than last year,” said Jake Jacobsen, executive director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange in Seattle, Wash. “People want crab, so they are willing to pay for it.”

The primary demand for Alaska snow crab comes from US domestic markets and Japan. Actual prices are usually negotiated before season closures in June.

Snow crab, known for its sweet taste and delicate texture, is sold fully cooked and ready to eat, served hot or cold in a variety of entrees. In Anchorage in mid-January, five pounds of Alaskan snow crab legs sold for approximately $180 at 10th & M Seafoods’ two shops, and online seafood purveyor FishEx had it listed for $205. Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash., was offering snow crab legs by the pound at $26.99.

The Canadian snow crab fishery is reported to be at an all-time high moving into 2020, feeding what the marketing group Urner Barry describes as a seemingly insatiable demand for the succulent shellfish.

There is also a strong demand from China for Russian and Canadian snow crab, Jacobsen said. Some Canadian crab goes to China, although most of it finds its way to US markets, while most of the Russian crab goes to China, he explained.

The fishery officially opened on Oct. 15 in Alaska with a quota of 34,019,000 pounds, up from 27,581,000 pounds in 2018 and 18,961,000 pounds in 2017. Holders of individual fishing quota permits received 30,617,000 pounds. Community development quota was set at 3,410,900 pounds.

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