Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NOAA Fisheries Embarks on Bering Sea Surveys

NOAA Fisheries scientists are scheduled to depart from Dutch Harbor in late May to begin three groundfish and crab bottom trawl surveys and one midwater acoustic-trawl survey to gather data considered crucial to sustainable Alaska fisheries.

What they learn helps them determine sustainable fishery harvest levels.

NOAA scientists conduct groundfish and crab surveys annually in the Eastern Bering Sea continental shelf from May through July, and biennially in the eastern Bering Sea upper continental slope from May through August, and the Aleutian Islands, from June through August.

The midwater survey, from June through August, focuses mainly on walleye Pollock. It is conducted biennially on the Eastern Bering Sea shelf and typically extends into Russian waters.

Doug DeMaster, science and research director of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, noted that understanding how well fish stocks are doing is critical because fishermen and managers rely on such data to set sustainable annual fishing quotas.

During surveys, NOAA scientists sort, weigh and count species collected by each trawl, with an emphasis on biological data for target species. They will also collect specimens and data on a variety of species, as requested by cooperating scientists, agencies and institutions.

NOAA officials also said that information collected as part of these surveys, as well as other available data on oceanographic conditions fisheries and protected species, are integrated to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how marine ecosystems are affected. The Eastern Bering Sea groundfish, and crab shelf survey, for example, is a collaborative effort between NOAA and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Should a trawl bring in rare fishes and invertebrates, scientists would collect and preserve them.

For four decades, NOAA Fisheries has conducted annual bottom trawl surveys of the continental shelf and Eastern Bering Sea. Their focus species include walleye Pollock, Pacific cod, Greenland Turbot, yellowfin sole, northern rock sole, red king , snow, and Tanner crab.

Trident Akutan Facilities Featured on The Science Channel

Trident Seafoods’ processing facility at Akutan, in Alaska’s eastern Aleutian Islands, is featured today on a new program entitled “Alaska Mega Machines”, on The Science Channel, a network created by Discovery.

The “mega” series, focused on impressive machinery in use throughout Alaska, highlights in the Akutan segment, Trident equipment that works at high speed to process seafood quickly, safely and efficiently.

“Akutan is a very remote location,” said John Salle, senior vice president of marketing and innovation at Trident, “and we were honored to showcase the operation and the people that keep this facility processing millions of pounds of seafood day-in and day-out.”

The program, said Salle, highlights the success story of Alaska Pollock and how it is processed into a variety of convenient, quick-frozen products for customers around the world. “This is a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of pollock processing first-hand,” he said.

Trident’s Akutan facility processes Alaska Pollock primarily into individual quick frozen fillets, frozen fillet blocks and surimi. The plant also supports full utilization of virtually the entire fish, including roe products, stomachs, fish meal, bone meal and fish oil.

Trident’s mission, Salle said, “is to make fish the food of the future.

“We are working diligently to make Alaskan Pollock easy to love by turning this incredible, renewable resource into convenient value-added products such as surimi seafood snacks under the Louis Kemp brand, fully cooked ready-to-serve grilled Pollock fillets for food service operators, and of course, our all-new Alaskan Pollock Burgers,” he said.

“Our goal is pretty simple,” he said. “We want more people, eating more fish, more often, and it’s our job to make it delicious and easy for them to do it.”

More information about the show and schedule is online at

Copper River Yields 78,600 Reds, 3,100 Chinook

Harvesters in Alaska’s Copper River salmon fishery delivered a total of 78,600 sockeyes and 3,100 Chinook salmon from their first two openers and began a 48-hour opener on May 23, with harvest reports anticipated by May 25.

Jeremy Botz, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s office in Cordova, said the Bering River District was also opened for a 24-hour commercial fishing period on May 23, with the intent of targeting Copper River sockeyes traveling through the western portion of that district. As overlap with the Bering River sockeye salmon run time increases, the likelihood of future early season opening in the Bering River District would diminish.

Fishmongers at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle are encouraging shoppers to purchase the popular Copper River salmon while it is available. Pike Place is posting $99.96 apiece for whole fresh Copper River sockeyes, $34.99 a pound for Copper River sockeye fillets, $45.99 a pound for whole fresh Copper River kings, $64.99 a pound for fresh Copper River king fillets, $22.99 a pound for other fresh whole wild Alaska kings, and $37.99 a pound for other fresh wild Alaska king fillets.

10th & M Seafoods is Anchorage has fresh Copper River sockeye fillets at $32.95 a pound. New Sagaya, another popular seafood merchant, has not yet posted prices on Copper River salmon.

FishEx, an online seafood company in Anchorage, had fresh Copper River king premium portion fillets for $64.95 a pound, and fresh Copper River premium portion sockeye fillets for $46.95 a pound, plus fresh Copper River sockeye fillets for $36.95 a pound, other fresh Alaska king fillets for $36.95 a pound, and other fresh Alaska sockeye fillets for $25.95 a pound.

GE Salmon Approved by Health Canada

Canadian health officials say that after rigorous scientific reviews they have decided to allow the genetically engineered salmon from AquaBounty Technologies to be sold in Canada.

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a statement released this past week that they found the product as safe and nutritious for humans and livestock as conventional salmon.

The agencies said that genetically modified foods are becoming more common every day and are part of the regular diets of Canadians.

The AquAdvantage Salmon has undergone separate safety and nutrition assessments by Health Canada for use as food and by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for use as livestock feed, and both reviews found the product to be as safe and nutritious as conventional salmon, they said.

The agencies also said there would be no special labeling requirements for the product, which was created from Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon and Arctic Ocean eelpout.

In the US meanwhile, a coalition of environmental, consumer and commercial groups is suing the Food and Drug Administration over its approval of genetically engineered fish. Legislation introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to label the product as such, is before Congress. The Genetically engineered Salmon Labeling Act is co-sponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell, D-WA, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

AquaBounty said it would produce the genetically engineered salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and grow them to market size in Panama, to be processed into fillets and then shipped to the US for sale.

While the product is not yet ready for market, controversy in the US commercial fishing industry and beyond has prompted some major retail outlets, including Costco stores, and numerous restaurants to say they will not sell genetically engineered fish products.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Effort to Halt IIU Fishing Starts June 5

The first ever binding international accord specifically targeting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing will become international law on June 5.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement issued on May 17 that 29 countries and the European Union have formally committed themselves to the Port State Measures Agreement, creating a new era in the effort to combat illegal fishing.

The new treaty requires that parties designate specific ports for use by foreign vessels, making control easier. Those ships must request permission to enter ports ahead of time. They must provide local authorities with information regarding the fish they have on board, and allow inspection of their log book, licenses, fishing gear and actual cargo, among other things.

The agreement calls on these countries to deny entry or inspect vessels that have been involved in IUU fishing, and to take necessary action. To support this, the agreement also includes the obligation for parties to share information regionally and globally, regarding any vessels discovered to be involved in IUU fishing.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization noted that IUU fishing is responsible for annual catches of up to 26 million tons of seafood with a value of up to $23 billion in US dollars. IUU fishing also undermines efforts to ensure sustainable fisheries and responsible fish stock management worldwide, the agency said.

The agreement applies to any use of a port, so even vessels that are just refueling will have to comply with inspection requirements.

Parties to the agreement include Australia, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, European Union-Member Organization, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Iceland, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palau, Republic of Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Tonga, United States of America, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

GOA Trawl Fishery Opens Under Temporary Rule

Harvesters aboard vessels using trawl gear in the Gulf of Alaska are back for now into fishing for several deep-water species, thanks to a temporary rule issued on May 16 by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Federal fisheries officials said the opener was necessary to fully utilize the 2016 groundfish total allowable catch specified for species comprising the deep-water species category in the gulf.

In its announcement in the Federal Register, NMFS determined that there is some 135 metric tons of trawl Pacific halibut prohibited species catch limit remaining in the deep-water fishery and shallow-water fishery seasonal apportionments. To fully utilize the 2016 groundfish total allowable catch available in this category, NMFS opted to terminate the previous closure and reopen directed fishing for species comprising the deep-water fishery category in the gulf.

Council staff said that this was the first time since the North Pacific Fishery Management Council passed Amendment 95 package in 2012 to reduce prohibited species catch of halibut in the Gulf that the deep water complex was closed prior to May 15 because of the amount of halibut PSC taken by that date. But after May 15, Amendment 95 allows for the fishery to reopen to utilize remaining halibut PSC in deep and shallow water sectors for that season for that fishery, until it runs out.

Amendment 95 separated out the halibut PSC limits for the Gulf over five seasons each year, with specific deep and shallow water limits for each season.

Deep-water species open under the temporary rule include Pacific Whiting, Dover sole, English sole, Petrale sole, sablefish, rockfish and other flatfish.

NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the gulf’s exclusive economic zone according to the fishery management plan for groundfish in the gulf prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The complete notices is at

Bristol Bay Sockeye Promotion Planned

Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association has teamed up with Copper River Seafoods to promote Bristol Bay sockeye salmon.

The BBRSDA announced on May 16 that the association would provide Bristol Bay sockeye labels for 100,000 packages of fresh sockeye salmon in July.

Becky Martello, executive director of the association, said one big marketing challenge is getting consumers to recognize Bristol Bay is having product in the retail market that is actually labeled Bristol Bay.

Copper River Seafoods, with Copper River salmon as its flagship product, purchased the Extreme Seafoods processing facility at Naknek in 2015.

Cassandra Squibb, marketing officer for Copper River Seafoods, said the goal is to increase the value of the Bristol Bay sockeye resource through brand development.

We are feeling positive about the potential for bringing additional customers on board,” she said.

“This season’s fresh sockeye from Bristol Bay will be available at more than 1,500 stores of a major nationwide retailer,” she said.

Martello said that the BBRSDA is also moving forward with a branding pilot project in a target market later this summer. The concept project will focus primarily on marketing refreshed sockeyes as a means to provide Bristol Bay salmon to consumers all year long. Such a program for refreshed sockeyes has the potential to move large volumes of red salmon out of Bristol Bay to consumers, and given the sheer size of that sockeye harvest, moving a high volume of the catch is a priority, she said.

The goal of the BBRSDA, which represents gillnet harvesters, is to maximize the value of the Bristol Bay fishery for the benefit of its members.

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