Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coalition Demands FDA Deny Approval Of Genetically Engineered Fish

A coalition of 31 consumer, animal welfare and environmental groups, along with commercial and recreational fisheries associations and food retailers submitted a joint statement criticizing an announcement last week by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it will potentially approve the long-shelved AquAdvantage transgenic salmon as the first genetically engineered (GE) animal intended for human consumption.

The engineered Atlantic salmon being considered was developed by AquaBounty Technologies, which artificially combined growth hormone genes from an unrelated Pacific salmon, (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) with DNA from the anti-freeze genes of an eelpout (Zoarces americanus). This modification causes production of growth-hormone year-round, creating a fish the company claims grows at twice the normal rate. This could allow factory fish farms to crowd fish into pens and still get high production rates.

Each year millions of farmed salmon escape from open-water net pens, threatening to outcompete wild populations for resources and straining ecosystems. “We believe any approval of GE salmon would represent a serious threat to the survival of native salmon populations, many of which have already suffered severe declines related to salmon farms and other man-made impacts,” Marianne Cufone, director of Food and Water Watch’s fish program said.

“Approving genetically engineered salmon is a sharp contradiction to the agreements the United States has signed at NASCO, where transgenic salmonids are considered a serious threat to wild salmon” said Boyce Thorne Miller, Science and Policy Coordinator for the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and accredited observer at the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization.

Escaped GE salmon can pose an additional threat – genetic pollution resulting from what scientists call the “Trojan gene” effect.” Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes that a release of just sixty GE salmon into a wild population of 60,000 would lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 generations.

Anticipating the stark danger to our fisheries and ocean environments – and trying to circumvent analyses of those dangers – AquaBounty has claimed that they will only raise their fish in land-based facilities. However most salmon farmers in the real world ply their trade in low-lying coastal areas and competing corporations could be enticed to produce GE fish in crowded open ocean facilities already in use for fish production. Backsliding on its original claims, reports have circulated that AquaBounty may only suggest producers raise GE fish in “inland waters” – presenting novel threats to our nation’s lakes, rivers, and estuaries – many of which are already under attack by invasive fish species like the Asian carp and Northern snakehead.
“FDA’s decision to go ahead with this approval process is misguided and dangerous, and is made worse by its complete lack of data to review” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety. “FDA has been sitting on this application for 10 years and yet it has chosen not to disclose any data about its decision until just a few days before the public meeting.”

On Wednesday, FDA officials announced that they had begun the approval process for the engineered salmon and have scheduled public meetings beginning Sunday, September 19. Speakers wishing to present oral comments are expected to submit their requests in writing by September 7th; one day after the FDA has said it may post “some” of the data to its website. “This is not a process that leads to full and informed public participation,” said Charles Margulis, Sustainable Food Program Coordinator for the Center for Environmental Health.

FDA announced the same day that it will hold a public comment period and a hearing on labeling for the transgenic salmon, which seems to presuppose that the controversial GE fish will be approved. If the GE fish is approved, Agency officials are undecided as to whether they will require any product labeling.

“We all know there is a great appetite for salmon, but the solution is not to ‘farm’ genetically engineered versions to put more on our dinner tables; the solution is to work to bring our wild salmon populations back” said Jonathan Rosenfield, PhD, a Conservation Biologist and President of the SalmonAID Foundation, a 28-member coalition of commercial, tribal, and sportfishing interests, conservation organizations and chefs. “The approval of these transgenic fish will only exacerbate the problems facing our wild fisheries.”

Divers Collect Juvenile Red King Crabs for Field Study

University of Alaska Fairbanks divers have gathered nearly 200 recently settled juvenile red king crabs, using artificial collectors. The collectors were deployed in May 2010 off Indian Point near Juneau by boat, and retrieved in late July using scuba and other methods. The collectors have an outer skin of tubular plastic netting stuffed with conditioned gillnet or artificial seaweed.

It took one week to retrieve and process nearly 60 collectors with the help of University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate students Ben Daly, Miranda Westphal, Jodi Pirtle, and Jon Richar, and laboratory technicians Jaspri Sylvan and Melissa Rhodes-Reese.

The purpose of the study was to determine the best method for collecting early juvenile king crabs. Similar studies were conducted in 2008 and 2009 near Juneau to help determine ideal benthic habitat for settling larvae, and to assess variability in numbers of larvae in different locations.

The 2010 study refined the collection techniques by comparing scuba and boat retrieval methods using clumped gillnet or artificial seaweed in the collectors. The gillnet and artificial seaweed are attractive to settling king crab post-larvae, which are looking for structural complexity. Both retrieval methods were successful for collecting the crabs, and more crabs were collected using clumped gillnet compared to artificial seaweed.

The crabs will be used in future field predation experiments in Juneau.

NOAA Fisheries Proposes Next Steps in West Coast Catch-Shares Plan

On August 9th, NOAA Fisheries adopted a catch-share program for West Coast trawl fishing that for the first time will make a major shift in how groundfish are managed, one that can benefit both fish and fishermen and lead to economic efficiencies that are difficult to obtain under traditional management schemes.

The new approach does away with the conventional practice of setting a fleet-wide quota of how many fish can be caught and then letting fishermen compete with each other to catch as much of that quota as possible before the fishery is closed. Instead, the new system divides the total quota into shares controlled by individual fishermen. Those shares can be caught whenever the fisherman wants, ideally more efficiently and at more profitable marketing times.

The new system has the support of the trawl fishing industry and was developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which works with the fisheries agency in producing fishery management plans for the West Coast.

NOAA says that because the new management system is so new and complex, it’s being implemented in steps, through separate rules. The latest proposed rule, published yesterday for public comment, describes further important details of the catch-shares plan, including how data on bycatch will be collected, how observer coverage is to be managed, and how certain vessels can become eligible to take part in cooperative programs.

The public comment period ends Sept. 30. The proposed rule, including how and where comments can be submitted, can be found at http://www.regulations.gov.

Bad Joke

What do you get when you cross an Atlantic salmon with a northern pike? We may soon find out, as the Atlantic salmon species is one step closer to having its genome fully sequenced.

Vancouver, BC-based Genome BC has partnered with the Chilean Economic Development Agency, InnovaChile, Norwegian Research Council, Norwegian Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund to form an international co-op to sequence the Atlantic salmon genome, and claim they are well underway on a multi-million dollar project that will identify and map all of the genes in the Atlantic salmon genome, and can act as a reference/guide sequence for the genomes of other salmonids, including Pacific salmon, rainbow trout and more distantly related fish such as smelt and pike.

Therein lies the problem. With a map of the genes of these fish, scientists may be able to “mix and match” to give certain genetically modified (GM) fish the attributes of certain other fish. Some pike, for example, have been recorded at 6 feet and more than 75 pounds. An Atlantic salmon modified with pike genomes could grow very large very quickly, offering better returns to fish farmers. Pike are voracious predators, however, and escapes could be even more damaging to the wild salmon stocks than escapes of the current farmed Atlantic salmon.

Several companies and public research institutions have been developing various transgenic fish. One of these is an Atlantic salmon with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon that, according to Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies, provides the fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon. The company says the US FDA is considering approval of its AquAdvantage® Atlantic salmon eggs, which would make the fish the first food from a transgenic animal application approved by the FDA. How will an escape of these “Frankenfish” affect local wild populations? No one knows, and that is no laughing matter.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coalition Supports Chesbro's Request to Delay MLPA Process

By Dan Bacher

On August 17, the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO), a coalition of conservation and fishing industry organizations, announced that it "fully supports" the request by Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro to delay the implementation of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's fast-track Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative on the North Coast.

Chesbro recently asked California Resources Secretary Lester Snow for a six-month delay in the controversial process to allow more time to develop a plan that balances marine conservation with access for the public and traditional user groups. To date, Snow has not responded to Chesbro's request.

"I have met with Resources Secretary Lester Snow and strongly urged him to slow down the process and that no action be taken by the Blue Ribbon Task Force for at least six months to allow more time to develop a plan that protects marine life and balances the access rights of traditional user groups," Chesbro said. "I am confident that given enough time we can develop a workable solution between the fishing community, North Coast tribes and environmentalists. There has already been some movement in this direction. This is something that cannot be rushed."

Chesbro's request came in response to the increasing criticism of the MLPA Initiative by California Indian Tribes, fishermen, environmentalists and human rights advocates.

More than 300 people including members of 50 Indian Nations, environmentalists, immigrant sea urchin industry workers, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters and community activists peacefully took over an MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg on July 21 to protest the violation of tribal fishing and gathering rights and corporate greenwashing under the MLPA process. This was the largest protest on the North Coast since the Redwood Summer of 1990.

"We are pleased to see Assemblymember Chesbro step forward and request a slowdown of the MLPA," said Steve Fukuto, president of United Anglers of Southern California, a PSO member. "It's also disheartening that we continue to see the same concerns voiced again and again over the way the MLPA is being implemented."

"From the outset, the MLPA has been plagued by rushed goals and deadlines before important questions are answered and necessary resources are available. Those of us in the South Coast are frustrated by the state's continued desire to railroad the MLPA process while our questions and concerns are ignored," stated Fukuto.

A news release from PSO said "While it is fully supportive of restoring California's marine fisheries, it has expressed concerns over the rushed nature by which the MLPA has been planned and implemented throughout California's Central Coast, North Coast, South Coast and, now, the North Coast."

The PSO continues to question how the state plans to pay for the estimated $40-60 million a year to monitor and enforce the network of marine protected areas (MPAs) created under the MLPA, especially given the state's current fiscal crisis. "In addition to these concerns, the North Coast phase of the MLPA has faced heightened opposition from Tribal groups over the potential takeover of tribal gathering rights and traditional fishing grounds," the release stated.

"As someone who has participated in the North Coast planning process and seen firsthand the challenges facing the stakeholders in coming to agreement, I applaud Assemblymember Chesbro for requesting the needed delay and urge Secretary Snow to grant the request," said Allen Sansano, Director of Fisheries Affairs for NorCal Kayak Anglers, a PSO member. "Without time to address the serious issues and conflicts facing the North Coast process, we will end up with a hurried MPA proposal that no one is happy with."

Sandy Cooney, spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency, claimed that "there has been no formal request from Assemblymember Chesbro for an extension."

"Nonetheless, I do know that there have been conversations with the Assemblyman and his staff," said Cooney. "No decision, to grant or not grant an extension, had been made. You may remember that based upon a Chesbro request in late 2009 a six week extension, from mid-December 2009 to Feb. 1, 2010 was granted."

MLPA critics charge that the Marine Life Protection Act, a landpark law signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1998, has been eviscerated under the Schwarzenegger administration. They have blasted the initiative for taking oil drilling, water pollution, aquaculture, wave energy and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering off the table.

Initiative critics have also pointed out that the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces, created by Schwarzenegger to remove Tribal members, fishermen and seaweed harvesters from the water in so-called "marine protected areas" (MPAs), are dominated by oil industry, marina development, real estate and other corporate representatives who have a direct stake in the designation of these MPAs.

In fact, the chair of the South Coast MLPA task force is Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association. She also sits on the task North Coast task force and sat on the North Central Coast task force. In recent months she has called for new oil drilling off the California coast, in spite of the environmental and economic devastation caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A prominent environmental leader, Judith Vidaver, Chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition based in Mendocino County, asked for the resignation of Reheis-Boyd in her public testimony at the July 21 MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting.

"OPC respectively and regrettably requests that Catherine Reheis-Boyd voluntarily step down from her position on the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF)," said Vidaver. "Oil and water do not mix - as we are daily being reminded by the disaster spewing in the Gulf."

"These Marine Protected Areas would allow for deep water drilling, yet would ban Tribal gathering," emphasized Frankie Joe Myers, organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition and a Yurok Tribe ceremonial leader, in a news release on June 29.

As criticism of the MLPA Initiative is building among fishermen, Tribal members and environmentalists, Fukuto is urging anglers to contribute to the legal effort to challenge the MLPA.

"We urge anglers in the North Coast and throughout the state who are concerned with the nature in which the MLPA is being forced upon the public to step up and help us by donating to our legal effort to challenge this flawed process," added Fukuto. "We need all California anglers to donate what they can to protect their right to fish in the Ocean."

The recently formed Ocean Access Protection Fund will enable contributors to donate online through its website, OceanAccessProtectionFund.org. The purpose of the Fund, operated by the nonprofit group United Anglers of Southern California, is to provide the financial support necessary to maintain legal challenges involving the MLPA as well as future threats to recreational access to ocean and coastal waters.

Members of PSO include the American Sportfishing Association, Berkley Conservation Institute, supporting members of the Avalon Tuna Club, Coastside Fishing Club, International Game Fish Association, Kayak Fishing Association of California, National Marine Manufacturers Association, NorCal Kayak Anglers, Shimano Sport Fisheries Institute, Sportfishing Association of California, Southern California Marine Association, United Anglers of Southern California and Watermen's Alliance.

Fish Farms Operating Without Valid Crown Land Tenures

Salmon Feedlots in the Broughton Archipelago are operating on Crown Land tenures that have been expired for years. Last week biologist Alexandra Morton applied for these licences to return them to their natural state to grow wild fish to the much greater benefit of British Columbians and the BC economy.

Crown Land is public land that the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (MAL) leases to people and companies. MAL is also in charge of regulating the salmon feedlots.

“I don’t know how these foreign companies can be in full production for years on expired tenures, but these sites are the fishiest places in the Broughton where we once found the highest concentrations of herring, salmon, prawns and other species,” says biologist Alexandra Morton, “I have made detailed application to MAL to use these sites for what they have done so well for 8,000 years - grow wild fish to the benefit of the people, the economy and future generations who might appreciate the food security in the years to come.”

Morton’s applications recognize how the natural architecture of the sites perform to produce up-wellings, tide lines and back eddies that attract and feed valuable public fisheries, including prawns, rock cod, wild salmon, herring and other species. Some of the salmon feedlots violate provincial aquaculture-free zones. She writes in the applications:

“I offer that my intended use better serves Crown Land’s mission statement “to provide the greatest benefits for British Columbians.”

The salmon feedlots had “Licences of Occupation,” which are a lesser form of tenure and are not surveyed, considered short term, non-exclusive, non-registerable and intended for only “minimum improvements.”

“A disturbing lawlessness surrounds this industry, they post “no trespassing” signs on non-exclusive leases, that they let expire. On April 1, 2010 they slammed the door on government inspection for disease, while their pathogens free-flow into our richest fish habitat. This industry was unlawfully given to the province to manage who appears to let these companies do whatever they want. Privatizing ocean spaces and owning fish in the ocean is unconstitutional in Canada, is that why the leases have not been renewed,” asks Morton? “It is time we find out what is the relationship between this Norwegian industry and all levels of our government.”

“The Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council fully supports Alexandra securing these leases for safe-keeping as a means to preserve wild salmon stocks and the integrity of our eco-system. We look forward to working side by side with her on this,” states Chief Bob Chamberlin.

Morton thinks people in Nootka Sound, Port Hardy, Discovery Islands and Clayoquot Sound should also look into whether those leases are expired.

NOAA Scientist: Release of Oil Spill Report done by White House, Not NOAA

A NOAA scientist, Dr. Bill Lehr, last week told a group of Congressional staff investigators on a conference call that a controversial National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report claiming that nearly three-quarters of the oil from the Gulf oil spill has already been addressed was released by White House officials and not scientists at NOAA. The NOAA scientist told congressional investigators that the data backing up the assertions made in the report is still unavailable and that peer review of the report is still not complete. Officials at an August 4 White House press briefing had said that the report had been thoroughly peer reviewed.

“This is yet another in a long line of examples where the White House’s pre-occupation with the public relations of the oil spill has superseded the realities on the ground. It is deeply troubling that White House officials apparently preempted the completion and review of a scientific study on the oil spill by NOAA scientists in order to tout conclusions that many experts believe may be deeply flawed,” said Rep. Darrel Issa, ranking member of the House Committee on oversight and Government Reform, referring to an August 4 White House press briefing focused on the report. “This irresponsible action only adds to the perception that the Obama White House is more concerned about appearing competent than actually making sure the massive oil spill in the Gulf gets cleaned-up as quickly as possible. I will certainly be demanding the White House name those responsible for releasing this report, why it was released before it was complete, and whether its controversial conclusions have led to changes in Gulf clean-up efforts.”

From the Fleet

Chris Goldblatt, Gold Leaf Sustainable

To set the record straight, I do not represent the commercial fishery or any other interest. I am acting solely out of my deepest sense of right and wrong. The Marine Protected Areas (MPA) will not remove the existing, complex fishing regulations; they will be in addition to them.
I recently attended a meeting at the Double Tree in Santa Barbara, California. The Department of Fish and Game-assisted meeting was technically public and formally intended to field ideas about how the marine protected areas were to be monitored once they were established.
My wife and I showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed. It was just us, two former abalone divers looking down the barrel of 30 or so hard core pro MPA people, most of them scientists, university heads and Packard Foundation members.

We had expected it to be a meeting well attended by the general public – it was not. Why? Because there was four million bucks of hard earned California Tax payer money up for grabs. The 30 plus scientists who looked like drooling hyenas at a fresh kill, certainly did not want to have to share a penny of it with any annoying members of the fishing public who will be giving up their freedom next year when several hundred square miles of the very best fishing grounds are forever and permanently off limits to any form of fishing or extraction. The meeting was even hidden under a fake name at the front desk.

When you contact fish and game to ask questions about the MPAs you are directed to Kelly Sayce of Strategic Earth, a foundation set up by Julie Packard of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and others to provide “information” to the public about the MPA process. So if you want info about the MPA’s our government passes you off to the pro MPA information minister. Kelly swears that she is neutral, but we all have allegiance to those that pay us.

Julie Packard funded the $18 million study to map out where to put the MPAs, but the day-to-day funding of $40 million a year is all on the taxpayer’s back. What else can be done with such a king’s ransom? How about actually managing the fisheries for a start, or funding anti pollution initiatives. Anything is better than the blatant waste the MPA crowd has planned for all the dough.

I was shocked when we broke down into smaller committees to come up with ideas as to how we should monitor the MPAs. So far they do not even have working definition for what constitutes success inside or outside the MPAs. I laughed when the seaweed guy wanted money to study seaweed, then the otter guy wanted big money for the otters. Each person came up with a non-committal open-ended study idea that would ensure funding for his respective University departments or foundations indefinitely.

One table was a study to look at the potential negative effects of surfing and paddle boarding on the intertidal areas inside the MPA. Also talked about was looking at how the use of SCUBA and underwater photography might harm the ecosystem. I am sure the pro MPA Surfrider Foundation and those that like to use SCUBA and take pictures will soon regret their support of the MPA as they may lose their right to surf and SCUBA dive inside the MPAs.

The Chumash nation, who initially supported the MPAs, also attended. When I explained that the MPA people were rounding up the last hunter-gatherers and putting them in reservations, one of the elders turned to me and said, “So you feel how we feel?” I replied, “Yes we do.” It was a powerful moment, especially given that the MPA people have formally revoked the Chumash federal treaty that guarantees them native harvest right inside the MPAs. Now even the Chumash and more than 15 other tribes will be denied their federally guaranteed rights to harvest clams and other seafood in areas where their people have sought ocean sustenance since the end of the ice age.

Nothing is sacred to the MPA people, except of course money. The California constitution guarantees the right to fish from the waters thereof.

Many of the scientists in the group had read my last piece in the Santa Barbara Independent and took the opportunity to personally insult me. One woman said she was personally offended that I said we need to study any potential long term negative effects on the coastal communities who used to fish the soon-to-be closed waters. Greg Helms who, like most others attending, was well paid to attend the meeting, said that he had never even visited some of affected communities, such as Paradise Cove, in Malibu, and that there was no need as they were properly represented in the process. Helms, who is profiting off the destruction of the fishing culture, had never even been the communities he has a hand in rendering mute.

The MPAs are the single biggest rescission of Freedom to Americans since Manzanar and the Indian reservations.

Wake up! We are being corralled like sheep by an arrogant scientific dictatorship whose only way to have a meaning in life is to take it away from others.

The MPAs exist for several reasons, none of which are to enhance or manage the fisheries. The MPAs are designed to green-wash the Governor’s legacy, feed Julie Packard’s ego and create funding and purpose for the marine biology industrial complex. Not a shred of scientific evidence can substantiate the need for the MPAs – we already have some at the islands and up north, why not study them for another ten years, then determine of more will be beneficial?
The MPA people open their eyes wide and look over your head when they repeat their cult-like mantras. They are very smart and know exactly how to manipulate us all. They are not pro environment; rather they are simply, anti man and see themselves as the ushers of a new age, forced evolution if you will.

I urge anybody who cares about the ocean, freedom and despises government waste to write to the DFG and the Governor and tell them to stop the MPAs before it is too late. Tell them to take a vote of NO action of a complete fisheries stock assessment of all of California can be conducted.

This is a clear case of private money not too subtly dictating public policy. I cannot think of a greater threat to our democracy.
Long Live A Free Ocean!

Chris Goldblatt has a BS in Fisheries and Business from Humboldt State University. He has operated and owned commercial and sport charter vessels all up and down the West Coast. He currently owns a dietary supplement company. Mr. Goldblatt has written two adventure novels based on his fishing experience, Stone Shot and Explosive Crossroads, both available on Amazon.com, and is finishing his third, The Lost Treasure of the Darien.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Independent Toxicologists Issue Warning: Urgent Concerns Regarding FDA Recommendations to Open Offshore Shrimp Fisheries

Attorney Stuart H. Smith, representing the United Commercial Fishermen's Association, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, public and private entities, and citizens harmed by the BP oil catastrophe, today issued this statement:

"Independent water and seafood testing and analyses by Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery experts reveal that highly toxic chemicals remain in the water and food chain. These toxins pose a significant risk to marine reproduction and human consumption of Gulf seafood.

"The greatest concern is the presence of chemicals known as PAHs (or polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons), which have carcinogenic properties. Our studies have shown that PAHs are present in shrimp from the impacted Gulf areas of the spill at 10 times the levels found in shrimp from inland, low-impacted areas.
"Further, BP's use of dispersants at 5000 feet below the sea surface caused PAHs and other toxic substances to remain in the seawater. This means biodegradation of the toxins in crude oil is greatly reduced. It could be at least 8 months before the toxic soup we are seeing in the Gulf experiences significant biodegradation, due to low temperatures, lack of sunlight, and other factors.

"Moreover, we have major concerns about FDA disclosures regarding seafood safety. The decisions to re-open commercial fishing in selected off-shore areas affects thousands of seafood consumers of shrimp in Louisiana and Mississippi. However, these decisions were based upon as few as a single shrimp sample from Louisiana offshore waters, and two shrimp samples from Mississippi offshore waters (rendered as composites from 12 shrimp), with detectable PAH levels present in all shrimp samples.

"We vigorously refute FDA claims that they have performed sufficient sampling to declare shrimp from this area safe for consumption. The result may have been for state authorities to issue premature shrimp harvesting area re-openings, based on flawed FDA recommendations. Given the potential public health issues at stake, this is a major cause for concern.

"Therefore, I am releasing several statements by toxicologist Dr. William Sawyer, as well as supporting material, which address these issues in greater detail. Official documents from FDA confirm that the recommendations to re-open selected areas for commercial harvesting were based on insufficient samples for state authorities to render responsible decisions. A thorough review of all available FDA test results to date further confirm our findings."

-PR Newswire

Coast Guard celebrates 220 Years of Service to the Nation

From its genesis as the Revenue Marine, the Coast Guard has evolved to become the world’s premiere multi-mission, maritime service, conducting operations around the globe to execute its 11 missions.

“Coast Guardsmen are agile, adaptable and multi-missioned,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr. “Born as revenue cuttermen, lighthouse keepers, steamboat inspectors and surfmen, we have expanded to meet the maritime needs of our nation. As Coast Guard men and women, we share a bond of pride in our rich heritage and a common purpose to uphold our honorable traditions.”

The Coast Guard began its service to America in 1790 within the Treasury Department as the Revenue Marine, later renamed the Revenue Cutter Service. The Revenue Cutter Service joined with the US Lifesaving Service in 1915 to create the Coast Guard. The US Lighthouse Service was added to the US Coast Guard in 1939, followed by the Steamboat Inspection Service in 1946. The Coast Guard transferred from the Treasury Department to the Department of Transportation in 1967 and to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.

“We are still keepers of the lights, but we also now patrol far more distant waters,” said Papp. “We readily go wherever there are important, difficult and dangerous maritime duties to be performed.”

In 1851 customs activities established a central role in monitoring trade in the Pacific Northwest and in 1854 with maritime trade flourishing in the region the Revenue Cutter Jefferson Davis was dispatched to interdict smuggling activities. The crew of the Jefferson Davis sailed into Puget Sound on September 28, 1854. The cutter's arrival marked the first unit of the U. S. Coast Guard to be stationed in the states of Washington and Oregon.

Recently the Pacific Northwest continued its rich Coast Guard tradition by establishing the first Marine Safety and Security Team (MSST). MSSTs were created under the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) 2002 and are a part of the Department of Homeland Security's layered strategy directed at protecting our seaports and waterways. MSSTs were created in direct response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Accordingly, every MSST designation number begins with "911." Commissioned on July 3, 2002, MSST Seattle was the first of its kind; hence having the honor of being known as 91101.

Today Coast Guardsmen worldwide carry out five missions:
  • Maritime safety (including search and rescue)
  • Maritime mobility
  • Maritime security
  • National defense
  • Protection of natural resources
Since 1790 the Coast Guard has defended the nation's maritime borders safely and securely and Coast Guardsmen here in the 13th Coast Guard District and abroad will continue to honor their shipmates of the past and continue to adapt to the challenges their shipmates may face in the future.


The nation's farmers could face new restrictions on the use of pesticides as environmentalists and fishermen’s groups, spurred by a favorable ruling from a federal judge in Washington state, want the courts to force federal regulators to protect endangered salmon and steelhead from the ill effects of many commonly used agricultural chemicals. The eight-year-old ruling by a federal Judge in Seattle required the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review whether 54 pesticides, herbicides and fungicides were jeopardizing troubled West Coast salmon runs.

The agencies moved recently to restrict the use of three of these chemicals, methomyl, carbofuran and carbaryl, near bodies of water that flow into salmon-bearing streams, and they're considering restrictions on 12 additional chemicals. But the Washington State Department of Agriculture says such restrictions would prevent pesticide use on 75 percent of the state's farmland. A federal judge in California has issued a similar ruling that involves 11 endangered and threatened species and 75 pesticides in the San Francisco Bay area.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was signed into law in 1973, requires federal agencies that are contemplating any action that could "jeopardize" listed species to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service and come up with a plan to alleviate or lessen the effects. The National Marine Fisheries Service has jurisdiction over some anadromous fish species, such as salmon, and the Fish & Wildlife Service covers everything else. The EPA has jurisdiction over pesticides, but environmentalists said it had largely ignored the endangered species requirements. "For years and years and years, EPA didn't do these consultations on pesticides," said Steve Mashuda of the Seattle office of Earthjustice, the law firm that brought the 2002 suit on behalf of the Washington Toxics Coalition and others.

"Those days are over." PCFFA and IFR were both co-plaintiffs in that case.


Salty Seafarers Share Seafood Recipes

Sisters Kiyo and Tomi Marsh were rolling around the stormy Bering Sea on Tomi’s 78-foot fishing boat, the F/V Savage, when the jokes began about “cooking in the ditch” – the trough of the wave.

Wild weather notwithstanding, the Marsh sisters and their friend Laura Cooper, went on to assemble quite a collection of recipes, stories and beautiful photographs gleaned from their adventures in the rough and tumble world of Alaska commercial fisheries. The result was “The Fishes and Dishes Cookbook,” a delightful volume of tasty recipes using Alaska’s wonderful wild seafood offerings, published by Seattle’s Epicenter Press.

The volume serves up, along with the recipes, the flavor of Alaska’s commercial fisheries, where these women have worked every job, from cook to captain.

Try the corn cakes with shrimp, avocado and tomato; salmon dumplings with coconut curry sauce; Thai clam chowder; halibut cheeks Picatta; linguine with mussels and cider, bacon and shallot cream sauce; and the crab, shiso, and avocado tempura salad.
There’s enough breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes, plus more for appetizers and libations, like a Salty Dog, to capture the hearts of seafarers and landlubbers alike, plus fishing basics for greenhorns, like how to head and gut a fish, or kill, clean and cook a crab, or debeard mussels. Another section explains how to pair wine with fish.

The adventurous cooks also offer a section of unusual ingredients included in their recipes, from Japanese rice vinegar and pink peppercorns to shiso (a member of the mint family) and togarashi a Japanese spice blend of red chili peppers with other ingredients.

Tomi Marsh, a veteran of 27 years in commercial fisheries, including crabbing in the Bering Sea, lives today in Ketchikan, Alaska, while her sister Kiyo – an avid cook, artist and world traveler - and friend Laura Cooper – a collage artist – reside in Seattle.

Check it out at www.fishesanddishes.com

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fishermen’s Memorial Flag

The Commercial Fishermen’s Festival (astoriasundaymarket.com/cff/), which will take place on September 18th and 19th in Astoria, Oregon is preparing a special memorial flag to honor deceased commercial fishermen.

To have a name added to the flag, email the name of the fisherman, city/state, date of death and name of the vessel the fisherman was most closely associated with. Also include your own name, phone and email so the festival organizers can verify the information provided. This is open to all commercial fishermen.

Send information to cyndi@commercialfishermensfestival.com by August 20.

The mission of the Commercial Fishermen’s Festival is to offer fishermen and industry professionals an opportunity to bond and share information that will save lives, improve productivity, increase demand for seafood products, and promote job opportunities. The mission is also dedicated to educating the public about the fishing industry including the steps fishermen have taken to ensure a renewable resource for the future. The Festival will showcase American fisheries and the process of selecting, preparing and cooking seafood.

New LLC Acquires Idle Harbor Crown Seafood Plant

A new company known as Dutch Harbor Acquisitions LLC has purchased the assets of the Harbor Crown processing plant located in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

Dutch Harbor Acquisitions LLC is led by Siu Alaska Corporation and Copper River Seafoods.

Siu Alaska Corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC), a private, non-profit Community Development Quota corporation which represents fifteen member communities in the Norton Sound Region including over 8,500 residents. NSEDC owns quota for red king crab, snow crab, and golden king crab, as well as halibut and sablefish IFQ and CDQ quotas. NSEDC and Siu also have ownership interests in a number of Bering Sea vessels including Pollock at-sea catcher processors, a cod freezer-longliner and crab vessels. NSEDC uses the profits from these activities to provide support to the subsistence and commercial fisheries, education, employment and other economic development activities in the Norton Sound region.

Copper River Seafoods, Inc. is participating in Dutch Harbor Acquisitions, LLC, through Western Alaska Ventures LLC., which is a partnership between Copper River Seafoods, Inc., Anchorage, AK, Stuart and Benett Kozloff owners of International Seafood Ventures LLC, Seattle, WA., and James Gonzalez owner of Pacific Harvest Seafood, Bellevue, WA. Copper River Seafoods is a significant producer of fin fish, primarily salmon, halibut and cod products with five operating companies and plants strategically located in Alaska’s Southeast, Central, Togiak and Bristol Bay regions.

Regarding the purchase of the plant, which currently sits dormant, Scott Blake, President of Copper River Seafoods states: “We are excited about the opportunity to expand into the Bering Sea and Aleutian chain regions with such strategic partners. This allows our group total access to Alaska’s vast resources.”

John Eckels, President of Siu, stated: “The joining of these entities gives us a unique perspective and delivery mechanism through the supply chain and gives us a solid foothold for future expansion in the largest seafood landing port in the world. It will also provide job opportunities and further economic stability to our member communities in the region.”

The plant will operate under the trade name Bering Star Fisheries LLC and will be purchasing and processing halibut, cod, black cod and crab with plans to be open and operating by the end of 2010. The plant will be the only 100 percent Alaskan owned and Alaskan operated plant in Dutch Harbor.

UFA Endorses Lisa Murkowski for Reelection to US Senate

United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) last week announced its endorsement of Senator Lisa Murkowski for the United States Senate. UFA is a statewide organization representing 38 commercial fishing associations and hundreds of additional independent commercial fishermen from fisheries throughout the state and its offshore federal waters. The group organized a special endorsement meeting on August 5 after being approached by the Murkowski campaign for an endorsement prior to the August 24 primary.

“With this early endorsement, Alaska fishermen are recognizing Senator Murkowski’s extraordinary efforts to improve their businesses and the communities they live in”, said UFA President Arni Thomson.

UFA provided an early endorsement for Senator Murkowski in 2004 and now recognizes her strong accomplishments in her ensuing six years in office. The group recognized her work in 2005 to gain seafood country of origin and wild and farmed labeling as instrumental to thousands of fishing families throughout Alaska. She was honored as Person of the year in Alaska politics in 2007 for her help to Exxon Valdez oil spill claimants with tax treatment and retirement accounts for settlement payments. Most recently, she helped tens of thousands of Alaska fishermen by extending a moratorium on EPA vessel discharge permit requirements which would have taken effect on July 31, while the EPA study on the effects of runoff and discharges is still in progress.

“With this early endorsement, UFA recognizes the record of Senator Murkowski’s awareness and effectiveness in helping Alaska’s fishing families and businesses. She has risen in her stature in the Senate and worked successfully on our behalf on a wide variety of issues that affect thousands of our members,” said UFA President Arni Thomson.

UFA will consider other candidate endorsements at its Fall meeting scheduled for September 28-30 in Anchorage.

Today’s Catch - Suit Filed

On June 22nd, two commercial fishermen based in Brookings, Oregon filed a class action suit against Pacific Seafood Group (PSG), alleging that company founder Frank Dulcich and his company have used its size and clout to control the West Coast seafood industry and suppress prices paid for certain seafood product by as much as 15 to 50 percent.

According to the suit filed in US District Court, father and son plaintiffs Lloyd and Todd Whaley are representatives of a class of West Coast fishermen or fishing vessel owners who delivered certain seafoods to seafood processors in Oregon, Washington or California any time between June 21, 2006 and “three months before the date of trial in this case.”

The suit alleges that since at least 2005, Pacific Seafood Group has possessed monopoly power in the relevant seafood input markets for Dungeness crab, groundfish, Pacific onshore whiting and/or Pacific coldwater shrimp. The suit further claims that PSG has used its power to suppress the ex vessel prices paid to fishermen by aggressively acquiring competitor processors, fishing vessels and harvest permits. The suit further accuses PSG of “stealing of seafood commodities through fraudulent schemes, fraudulent representations to a federal agency and miscellaneous dirty tricks.”

Some of the practices outlined in the suit seem to be simply the normal actions of a for-profit company, but some of the alleged “dirty tricks” include manipulating the rockfish bycatch market, altering scales and not recording portions of a fisherman’s catch.

The lawsuit seeks at least $394 million in damages, with the attorneys and the class members sharing the damages. The suit also seeks to break up Pacific Seafoods into smaller entities.

The same day the suit was filed, Pacific Seafood Group issued a statement in response, saying the claims are “completely without merit,” and the company “plans to aggressively defend against the allegations.”

More Bugs
According to British Columbia scientist and activist Alexandra Morton, a new virus has been identified in Norway’s aquatic feedlot industry.

A scientific article recently published in a journal for the communication of peer-reviewed scientific and medical research on July 9th claims a new Atlantic salmon feedlot disease has spread to more than 400 feedlots in Norway over 11 years and is threatening wild salmon in the area.

The same disease might already have arrived at salmon farms in British Columbia and Washington waters.

The paper, Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation of Farmed Salmon Is Associated with Infection with a Novel Reovirus, notes that Atlantic salmon mariculture has been associated with epidemics of infectious diseases that threaten not only local production, but also wild fish coming into close proximity to marine pens and fish escaping from them. The paper notes that heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) is a frequently fatal disease of farmed Atlantic salmon and provides evidence that HSMI is associated with infection with piscine reovirus (PRV) which not only threatens domestic salmon production but also has the potential for transmission to wild salmon populations.

The paper says, “Both poultry production and aquaculture confine animals at high density in conditions that are conducive to transmission of infectious agents and may reduce resistance to disease by induction of stress.

Unlike terrestrial animal farming, where contact between domestic and free ranging wild animals of the same or closely related species is easily monitored and controlled, ocean based aquaculture is an open system wherein farmed fish may incubate and transmit infectious agents to already diminishing stocks of wild fish”
Morton notes that scientists at an international conference in May reported farm sea lice are becoming harder to control, leading to more toxic drugs released into the ocean. She says BC sockeye and other salmon migrating past salmon farms are heavily infested with sea lice again this year. An outbreak of PRV could devastate the wild salmon in the area.

Learn more about Alex Morton’s strong support of wild salmon and opposition to salmon farming at www. raincoastresearch.org.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

NZ Salmon Pastrami Nets Aussie Award

New Zealand’s Regal Salmon Pastrami has landed the meat and smallgoods award at the 6th annual Food Magazine Challenge Awards in Australia.

The Awards recognise and reward industry leaders in their drive for ‘best practice’ food and drink processing in Australia and New Zealand. They also acknowledge those brands that most successfully demonstrate product innovation and excellence.

NZ King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne says the accolade is testament to the brand’s ongoing efforts to meet consumer needs in innovative ways.

“Pastrami and salmon is not the sort of product you’d ordinarily expect to come across in the supermarket chiller. We constantly strive to surprise and exceed consumer expectations and globally, food professionals seem to agree that Regal Smoked Salmon Pastrami does just that.”

On presenting the award, the judges said, "New Zealand King Salmon demonstrated an innovative approach to working with salmon, creating a unique product which offers consumers a new variety in small goods products.

Regal Salmon Pastrami comprises fresh premium King salmon which is cold smoked then crusted with a classic New York-styled Pastrami crust of three cracked peppers. It’s then sliced into thin smoked salmon pastrami slices.

The company says its product is versatile and easy to use and an excellent natural source of omega-3 and essential amino acids.

Australia’s Food Magazine Challenge Awards are open to all companies that have food or drink processing in Australia and New Zealand. There were six finalists in the meat and smallgoods category with Regal’s Salmon Pastrami the only one from New Zealand.

California Sea Grant Announces Funding for 17 New Marine Research Projects

California Sea Grant has awarded funding to 17 marine research projects to further the program’s expertise along new avenues of scientific inquiry.

In total, about $550,000 was awarded to the year-long projects, including traineeships for 13 graduate student researchers.

“We are excited to see some new faces in the Sea Grant fold and some new research approaches,” says California Sea Grant Assistant Director Shauna Oh.

Some of the new names – people who have never before received California Sea Grant research funds – include Diana Steller, a marine biologist at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, who will be studying red coralline algae nodules around the Channel Islands. Not your typical slimy algal goo, these algae (called rhodoliths) tricked even the first scientists into thinking they were corals – because they build an intricate, calcium-based outer covering and can transform sandy areas into a complex, three-dimensional reef habitat.

“It’s so cool,” says Steller, an avid diver and head of Moss Landing’s research diving program. “It’s like we found a whole new habitat to explore right out our door.”

Another new addition to the Sea Grant portfolio is Jesse Dillon, a professor in microbiology at Cal State Long Beach. Dillon’s area of expertise is extremophiles: microbes that thrive in unlikely corners of the planet – polar ice, deep-sea vents and hyper-saline marshes.

“The Sea Grant award gives us seed money to demonstrate the efficacy of stable isotope probing in characterizing microbial food webs in salt marshes,” Dillon says. Translation: The method will tell scientists who is eating whom, at the microbial level. The mud-loving, salt-tolerant microbes are important to society at large because of their potentially huge role in removing carbon from the air and putting it in the ground.

“Our grant was written in the context of rising sea levels and whether wetland loss might measurably affect global carbon cycling,” Dillon says. “That is the big picture.”

Wei-Chun Chin, an assistant engineering professor at UC Merced, is yet another Sea Grant first-timer, funded to study the physiology of toxin-producing marine algae, in particular the intracellular chemical signaling processes that trigger toxin release.

“In animal cells, calcium ions trigger the release of hormones,” Chin explains. “I want to verify if the same signaling mechanism occurs in harmful algae.”

Xiaochun Wang, a computer modeler with the Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering at UCLA, is yet another newcomer, funded to develop the ability to forecast upwelling intensities along the California coast 48 hours in advance. High-frequency radar data, 2D surface current observations, as well as single-point temperature and salinity measurements, will be used to truth-check the forecasts.

Alison Purcell, an assistant professor in environmental sciences at Humboldt State University, is also receiving her first Sea Grant award. She will be investigating the pros and cons of eradicating the invasive cordgrass Spartina densiflora in tidal marshes of Humboldt Bay. In particular, she hopes to establish whether cordgrass removal increases or decreases total net primary productivity in the marshes.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New Addition to Sustainability Menu: Cownose Ray

From Slashfood.com by way of the National Review Online comes an innovative answer to invasive species.

Move over Asian carp, you’re not the only pesky species to be eyed by the seafood industry as a potential food source. Officials in Virginia have set their sights on the homely cownose ray, whose population has exploded, in part because of a sharp decline in their natural predator, the inland coastal shark. The population boom is bad news for valuable Chesapeake oysters, clams and scallops. Hungry rays have been known to wipe out entire shellfish beds with their powerful crushing jaws.

Mike Hutt, executive director for the Virginia Marine Products Board has been working to develop a market for the red-fleshed cownose ray (renamed a more appealing Chesapeake Ray), but don’t expect it to taste like its white-fleshed cousin, skate.

“It’s not flaky, and it has a texture and tastes closer to veal or beef,” says Hutt.

Ray Popson, seafood manager at Wegmans in Hunt Valley, Maryland introduced the Chesapeake Ray in his store this morning by handing out tasty samples and placing a whopping 30-pound whole ray on display.

“The reaction has been incredible,” says Popson. “Some people don’t even know it’s in the bay or what it can do.”

If consumer response continues to go well, Wegmans anticipates rolling the ray out to its Maryland and Virginia stores shortly, and they’re not alone in promoting the fish. Processor L.D. Amory & Company, Inc., has been breading and pre-frying strips of ray, calling the product Chesapeake Stingers; while Chef Tim Miller of restaurant Mie N Yu has been serving the ray to customers as a sushi hand roll for nearly a year.

Temperature Experiments on Hatchery-Cultured Red King Crabs at NOAA

NOAA researchers at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Behavioral Ecology Laboratory in Newport, Oregon, conducted experiments to explore how temperature mediates growth and energy allocation in newly settled red king crab juveniles. Crabs used in the experiments were reared at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery and were shipped to Newport in May 2009. Juvenile crabs were held at four temperatures, ranging from 1.5 to 12°C, for 60 days. Temperature did not affect survival; however, growth increased exponentially with temperature. Crabs molted more frequently in warmer temperatures and had a greater increase in size with each molt. Twenty percent of the crabs held at 1.5°C never molted, while more than 90% of the crabs at 12°C molted four or more times. Biochemical analysis showed that larger crabs cultured at 12°C had higher proportions of lipids than smaller crabs cultured at colder temperatures. All crab treatments had high proportions of essential fatty acids, suggesting that rapid growth does not negatively affect condition in juvenile red king crab. Data provided by this study will help to model temperature-dependent growth and recruitment in the field, and suggest optimal temperatures for growth of juvenile king crabs intended for rehabilitation of depleted red king crab stocks. Results from this study were recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, a peer reviewed scientific journal. Titled “Temperature effects on the molting, growth, and lipid composition of newly settled red king crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus,” the paper is coauthored by Allan Stoner, Michele Ottmar, and Louise Copeman. http://seagrant.uaf.edu/research/projects/initiatives/king_crab/general.

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