Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New California Sea Grant Director

California Sea Grant is pleased to announce the selection of its new director, Dr. James E. Eckman, a biological oceanographer and longtime senior science administrator at the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia.

"Jim Eckman brings a fine mix of stellar leadership skills and excellent research credentials that will enable Sea Grant to continue its upward momentum," says Scripps Institution of Oceanography Director Dr. Tony Haymet. "We look forward to a new era with Jim at the helm."

Dr. Eckman comes to Sea Grant having led ONR’s flagship Marine Mammals and Biological Oceanography Program (and its predecessor programs) for the last 13 years. The marine mammal program, with an annual budget of about $14 million, supports basic and applied research related to understanding the effects of sound on marine mammals and the interactions between marine biota and sound or light.

“Jim’s personal research and management experience, and his interest in education and outreach make him an excellent fit for the California Sea Grant directorship position,” says Scripps professor Ron Burton, who was chair of the search committee. “We are delighted to have him.”

Dr. Eckman has also, in recent years, led ONR’s participation in the federal, multi-agency National Oceanographic Partnership Program, which coordinates the nation’s oceanographic research and education programs and promotes partnerships among academia, business and federal agencies.

Prior to working at ONR, Dr. Eckman was a professor at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Georgia (1984-97) and held adjunct faculty positions at the University of Georgia in Athens (1988-99) and University of South Carolina in Columbia (1985-99). Much of his research activities during this time focused on benthic ecology and its relationship to the physical environment, particularly boundary layer flows and sediment transport.

“I genuinely miss an academic environment, and the stimulation of day-to-day contact with research, students and scientific colleagues,” Dr. Eckman says, explaining his interest in California Sea Grant, which is based at the world-renowned Scripps in La Jolla. “I have a sincere wish to apply my skills to research that can solve serious societal problems related to our oceans.”

Dr. Eckman earned his doctorate in oceanography in 1982 from the University of Washington, Seattle and then spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, where he studied bay scallop recruitment and survival, with support from New York Sea Grant. For the last 25 years, he has participated in kelp ecology studies on the West Coast with colleagues at the University of Washington.

His official first day at the helm of California Sea Grant will be Jan. 3, 2011.

NOAA Announces Action Agenda for Recreational Saltwater Fisheries

NOAA has released the Recreational Saltwater Fisheries Action Agenda, a national plan to address the complex issues facing marine recreational fisheries. The plan will improve science and stewardship and build a stronger partnership with the recreational community. It is a direct outcome of input received from recreational fishermen during the April 2010 Recreational Saltwater Fishing Summit organized by NOAA.

The Action Agenda includes a set of broad national goals, while focusing immediate attention on five priority issues:

· ensuring balanced recreational representation in the management process;
· more fully integrating recreational fishing values into the NOAA mission and culture;
· improving data on recreational fishing and fisheries;
· addressing recreational interests in NOAA’s catch share policy; and
· supporting cooperative research and monitoring.

“The Action Agenda is the roadmap for us to fulfill our commitments made during NOAA’s Recreational Fishing Summit,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “We know it is the strength of our actions that matter in the end, and we are committed to moving forward aggressively.”

Schwaab also announced that NOAA will provide a $276,000 grant to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to help give recreational fishermen conservation information. A portion of the national grant will support a collaborative workshop in spring 2011 to examine how best to reduce barotrauma – the injury to deepwater fish when pulled to the surface rapidly – in recreational fisheries, in order to improve survival of fish caught and then released.

“The resulting mortality due to barotrauma is a contentious issue among stakeholders,” said John V. O’Shea, executive director of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. “The workshop will provide recreational fishermen, scientists, and managers the opportunity to develop a common understanding and approach to address this important issue.”

“Collaboratively, the recreational fishing community is a leading player in this program that will introduce stewardship to new anglers and reinforce the stewardship of existing anglers to reduce mortality of caught and released fish,” said Andy Loftus, coordinator for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission project. “The workshop will develop the best information available on catch-and-release practices that will be communicated to anglers for implementation. It’s a win-win in the best tradition of the recreational angling community and NOAA.”

North Coast Governments Urge Unified MLPA Proposal

Seventeen local government agencies have signed a resolution to the state of California urging the adoption without modification of the unified array for marine protected areas developed by North Coast Tribal, fishing and environmental stakeholders.

The resolution, sent to the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force and California Fish and Game Commission on October 20, says that if any changes to the proposal are considered, they must be developed in collaboration with Regional Stakeholders and North Coast communities.

The resolution emphasizes that “long term success of MPAs (marine protected areas) will required acceptance by local communities.”

“Although many community members do not believe any new MPAs are warranted, the Unified MLPA Array represents and compromise acceptable to North Coast residents, including recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen and conservation advocates,” the resolution says.

The resolution also includes strong language supporting Tribal fishing and gathering rights. “Any approved MPA array design will need to allow traditional, non-commercial, gathering, subsistence, harvesting, ceremonial and stewardship activities by California Tribes and Tribal Communities,” the resolution states.

Government agencies endorsing the resolution include the Counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte and the cities of Monterey, Point Arena, Fort Bragg, Willits, Ukiah, Fortuna Eureka, Arcata, Trinidad and Crescent City. Other agencies signing onto the resolution include the Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District, Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District and Crescent City Harbor District.

The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) will meet on Monday, October 25 and Tuesday, October 26 at the River Lodge Conference Center, 1800 Riverwalk Drive in Fortuna, to approve a proposal for a network of marine protected areas to send to the Fish and Game Commission for approval.

North Coast residents fear that the task force will try to change the proposal under pressure by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom many believe is using the controversial MLPA process to greenwash his environmental legacy.

"Even with this widespread support for the single proposal, we are worried that the BRTF may be interested in coming up with its own alternative," said Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

North Coast fishermen, Tribes and environmentalists have criticized the MLPA Initiative for violating the Bagley-Keene Public Meetings Act, California Public Records Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and other state, federal and international laws.

MLPA critics also point out that the Blue Ribbon Task Force that oversees the process includes oil industry, real estate, marina development and other corporate operatives with numerous conflicts of interest. The process is funded by a private corporation, the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation overseen by executive director Michael Eaton.

On July 21, over 300 people including members of 50 Indian Nations, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, immigrant seafood industry workers and environmental activists peacefully took over the previous Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg to protest the denial of tribal rights and greenwashing that has occurred under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's MLPA Initiative. This was the largest protest held on the North Coast since the Redwood Summer of 1991.

More information about the upcoming meeting can be found at:

-Dan Bacher

Hot Boat Market Swells Demand for Loans

By Margaret Bauman

Last month Little Hoquiam Shipyard in Hoquiam, Washington launched the 58-foot by 23-foot shallow draft seiner-longliner F/V Invincible for owner and captain Phil Fogle. Photo by Tom John’s, courtesy of Little Hoquiam Shipyard.

A hot market for new fishing vessels, coupled with increasing prices for Alaska seafood, has the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank ( busy with requests from potential borrowers, says Lea Klingert, president and chief executive officer.

The member-owned cooperative, founded 30 years ago, is seeing requests for loans from $300,000 for new drift gillnetters for the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery up to $2 million for limit seiners, the 57-foot vessels used for salmon, herring, crab and bottom fish harvesters in Southeast Alaska, Klingert said.

CFAB’s stated vision is to be the premier lender to the commercial fishing, agriculture, timber, tourism and resource based industries in Alaska. In fact, 95 percent of its loans are to the fisheries industry.

“The boat market is pretty hot right now,” she said, in a telephone interview from her Anchorage office. “It’s supply and demand. There aren’t a lot of boats available, so a lot of boat builders are pulling out their old molds and starting to ramp up again.”

For several years, because the commercial fishing industry was in distress, these boat builders had switched to building yachts and pleasure boats, but now they are taking a renewed interest in commercial fishing vessels, she said. Most of these builders are in Washington State, but there are others in Homer and one in Anchorage, she said.

CFAB, as the cooperative is commonly known, is seeing requests from people who are selling their old boat and buying a new one for reasons of size and capacity, she said.

“The price of vessels, because of the cost of materials, has gone up considerably,” she noted.

CFAB, which is owned by its membership, is a cash flow lender. “Theoretically, CFAB’s lending policies would allow the cooperative to do 100 percent loans, if CFAB felt it was appropriate, Klingert said. “But realistically we want them to have some investment themselves. We want the borrower to have something at risk, so average loans are 80 percent,” she said.

Asset based lenders will use primarily the value of collateral in deciding whether to okay a loan and the amount of that loan. CFAB’s guideline is the historical cash flow or earnings of the borrower and the borrowers’s demonstrated ability to repay the loan.

While the first decade of its existence was sometimes a rocky one financially, CFAB has gotten over the hump and now has a pretty strong portfolio, worth some $25 million, with a very low delinquency rate. “We kind of fine tuned it after 30 years and, to be fair, the industry is probably in one of its strongest places right now, Klingert said.

While the lean years of the commercial fishing industry have their financial issues, it’s the euphoria of the really good years that are most challenging, she said. In good economic times, the tendency is to see only the upside of the industry and not to prepare for the downside, she said.

Still, there is this issue of lending to folks who may have a lot of hands-on experience in harvesting and vessels, but little practical experience in the business end of fisheries.

Klingert said that CFAB tries to rely on a number of resources in the industry to help educate potential borrowers, including the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, which organizes an annual Young Fishermen’s Summit in Anchorage.

The event allows young fishermen to network with their peers and to hear from people directly involved in harvesting, processing and marketing, and learn directly from the experience of successful commercial harvesters like Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association at Sitka, Al Burch of the Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association at Kodiak and Robin Samuelsen, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. at Dillingham. They also garner insight into what markets want from folks like Gunnar Knapp of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, Joe Egemo of Copper River Seafoods, and representatives from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Since CFAB is a cooperative, all borrowers must become members of CFAB, and their transactions in turn benefit themselves and other members in Alaska’s small business community.

The Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. also has programs to train fishermen on the business side of the industry, she said.

“They give them a business education. They make sure they are filing their taxes. We do provide coaching, but we can’t get too close or it is a conflict of interest.”

CFAB got its start back in the 1970s, when the Alaska Legislature chose to address the problem of access to credit by resident Alaska commercial harvesters of seafood, along with fish processors and farmers. The state initially purchased $32 million in CFAB preferred stock. That stock has since been repurchased by CFAB over a period of years, and today the cooperative is owned entirely by the member/borrowers.

It’s been a real learning curve, Klingert said.

The catch for the seafood industry has been that this is an industry where paydays are few and to be successful, commercial harvesters must know how to manage that lump sum money until the next payday, which could be months away.

“It isn’t necessarily the highliners or top producers who end up with the best financial success, she said.

One advantage CFAB has is that people who borrow from the cooperative who do hit a rough patch financially can get help from CFAB, so long as there is an open dialogue and a commitment to honor the loan. “If there is an open dialogue and commitment on the part of the borrower, we can work with them to get through some of these issues,” she said. “Our focus is concentrated (on fisheries, agriculture and tourism) so we can help them.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spanish Salmon 'Losing Distinct Genetic Characteristics'

A recent BBC report says the distinct genetic characteristics of salmon populations in Spain are being lost as a result of climate change and human interference.

According to the new agency, a team of UK and Spanish researchers say disrupting the species' migratory behavior and strong homing instinct could have long-term consequences.

They added that they were working on ways to "disentangle" the effects of climatic changes and anthropogenic factors (fisheries management practices).

The findings appear in the journal Global Change Biology.

The BBC notes the team's study focused on the changes recorded over a 20-year period to Atlantic salmon populations in Asturias, Spain considered to be the "vulnerable" southern limit of the species' natural range.

"Salmon develop quite distinct population structures because of their ability to home to their natal rivers," explained co-author Jamie Stevens, from the University of Exeter's School of Biosciences.

"If you have such a defined system, they will quite quickly develop genetic profiles that become definitive to a particular river system."

He said the unique characteristics meant that the fish adapted to the conditions found within a particular river.

"There is a whole bunch of things: river chemistry, ability of the fish to withstand things like temperature, behavioral factors like run time to the sea and return time to spawning grounds," Dr. Stevens told BBC News, noting that those local populations have a range of adaptations that can give the fish an advantage within that river."

The study identified two distinct periods. Until 1992, there were a lot of "foreign" fish being introduced to the river systems, from more productive rivers in other parts of Europe, to suit anglers who want bigger fish on their lines. After 1992, this practice was halted but there is still not a big recovery towards the genetic differences that is a signal of healthy populations.

Previous studies had suggested that increased water temperature was linked to an increase in fish straying between rivers and a breakdown of population structures.

"Increased water temperature appears to disrupt the fidelity of salmon returning to their natal rivers," said Dr. Stevens.

In their paper, the researchers from the universities of Exeter, UK, and Oviedo, Spain attempted to untangle how the different factors were undermining the salmon population structures of the five rivers.

Dr. Stevens explained that salmon was often used as an indicator for the state of rivers.

"Monitoring a fish that is a top predator gives you a really good feel for the overall health of river systems that you might want to manage."

NOAA Sends Catch Shares Applications to West Coast Fishermen

NOAA’s Fisheries Service has mailed applications to almost 240 trawl fishermen and processors on the West Coast to invite them into what will be arguably the most important change in West Coast trawl fisheries management in a generation.
The forms, due Nov. 1, are a crucial step for fishermen to participate in a catch-shares program, in which individual fishermen will be granted access to a specified share of the valuable West Coast bottomfish trawl harvest.

Starting Jan 1, the new catch shares system will replace 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. The catch shares system, by contrast, divides the total amount of an overall allowable catch or quota each year into shares controlled by individual fishermen. Those annual shares can be caught whenever the fisherman wants, ideally more efficiently, in safer weather and at more profitable marketing times.
“This ambitious and exciting new fisheries program can benefit both fish and fishermen,” said Will Stelle, northwest regional administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “The program can lead to economic efficiencies that are difficult to obtain under traditional management, while sustaining healthy fish stocks.”

The West Coast trawl fishery, which includes such popular species as sole, sablefish and Pacific whiting, was worth about $40 million in dockside value last year to fishing communities that span the coast from Bellingham, Wash., to Morro Bay, Calif.
Each application already contains the recipient’s historic catch information as compiled by NOAA’s Fisheries Service. An applicant must complete and sign the form and return it to the agency by Nov. 1 to be considered for an initial quota share in the program. Applicants can correct any information they think is erroneous. Once NOAA Fisheries issues the catch-share permits later this year, there is an appeal process if applicants feel mistakes have been made. The forms cover a broad range of fishing categories from individual fishermen and at-sea processing vessels to shore-side processors and catcher-processor vessels.

The agency held workshops in coastal fishing communities to familiarize fishermen and processors with the program. The agency told fishermen it was imperative that they return the application forms by the Nov. 1 deadline or they will not receive an initial issuance of a quota or permit for the catch-shares program.

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

Fishermen can get help and further information at Fishermen who believe they are eligible for the program but who haven’t received an application form can obtain blank forms from the same Website.

NOAA Can Deny Port Entry to Illegal Fishing Vessels

A new federal rule will allow NOAA’s assistant administrator for fisheries to deny a vessel entry into a US port or access to port services if that vessel has been listed for engaging in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by one of the world’s international fishery management organizations. The rule takes effect on October 27.

“This is a global problem that subjects our fishermen to unfair competition with illegally caught fish products entering the marketplace here and abroad. Illegal fishing also depletes fish stocks, which ultimately hurts the legal fishermen, fishing nations and their economies,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “Denying port access to vessels engaged in illegal fishing is an effective way to curb this damaging activity.”

Foreign vessels are required to provide a notice to the U.S. Coast Guard prior to arriving in the U.S. If the vessel is on one of the IUU vessel lists, NOAA Fisheries will be notified and a consultation with federal agencies will ensue. NOAA’s assistant administrator for fisheries will determine whether to deny entry to the vessel or if other restrictions will be placed on the vessel consistent with our international obligations.

The new rule will also prohibit persons and businesses from providing certain services to, and engaging in commercial transactions with, listed IUU vessels. Those services would include at-sea transporting of fish harvested by a listed IUU vessel, processing fish harvested by a listed IUU vessel or processing fish using a listed IUU vessel; joint fishing operations; providing supplies, fuel, crew, or otherwise supporting a listed IUU vessel; and entering into a chartering arrangement with a listed IUU vessel.

Current US law has largely discouraged IUU fishing vessels from arriving in US ports. However, there have been a few instances when transport vessels identified on IUU lists have reached US ports. This rule clarifies actions that the US can take to deny these vessels entry into, or access to, the United States.

The new rule is part of international efforts to address IUU vessels, which often flout other rules as well, including labor rights, habitat protection, safety-at-sea and food safety requirements.

In recent years, several organizations, such as the International Commission for
Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries commissions, have adopted binding measures that establish both procedures for identifying vessels that engaged in IUU fishing activities and actions to be taken against such vessels. Such measures can act as a strong deterrent to IUU fishing by reducing the profitability of such activities. Nations that are members of these organizations are required to take actions against the listed IUU vessels, such as today’s action, which essentially closes markets to the vessels.

IUU fishing activities include fishing in an area without authorization; failing to record or declare catches, or making false reports; using prohibited fishing gear; re-supplying or re-fueling IUU vessels.

Links to relevant conservation measures and IUU vessel lists can be found at

Today’s Catch - Who’s the Boss?

In Colville, Washington, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a federal lawsuit against retail giant Walmart on behalf of an employee, a devout Mormon, has worked for the company since 1995. Until 2009, Walmart was able to accommodate his request for leave on Sundays to observe the Sabbath, but the company changed its scheduling system, and can no longer accommodate the employee.

Federal law requires employers to, “…provide reasonable accommodations to the sincere religious beliefs of employees, as long as the accommodations do not pose an undue hardship.”

The lawsuit brought by the EEOC raises important questions:
Will a fishing vessel be required to excuse a devout Mormon crewman from work on Sundays? What if the crew also contains a devout Jew who can’t work on Saturday? Catholics are required to attend Mass on Sunday or commit a mortal sin. Will the federal government require fishing vessels to keep a priest aboard?

In his column this month, Safety at Sea editor Alan Dujenski notes an often-overlooked fact that OSHA has jurisdiction over commercial fishing vessels. Imagine the additional layers of complexity if the federal government starts enforcing religious law as well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Fishing Industry Will Never Be Safer Than It Is Today

By Alan Dujenski

Safety in the fishing industry supposedly took a major leap forward in the early 1990’s with the implementation of regulations spawned from the Fishing Vessel Safety Act of 1988. If my calculations are correct, that would be about 30 years ago. I could start out sugar-coating how well we have been doing safety-wise but I won’t – I think we need to take a cold hard look at safety in the industry. Why do I believe that the commercial fishing industry has maxed out and is on the decline from a safety perspective? Here are the indicators I see – you can be the judge yourself:

The Coast Guard
1. September 11th events have refocused Coast Guard efforts and energies on port and vessel security. This is taking an enormous bite out of financial and personnel resources as well as leadership attention. There are pockets of Coast Guard Units around the country that are still carrying on business as usual, but these are very limited.

2. Over the past decade the Coast Guard has continued its stance of not keeping industry informed of problems with safety equipment including liferafts (primarily servicing problems) and EPIRBS (failures of equipment and problems with the satellite systems). Additionally, besides the lack of a notification program, there is no recall program for problematic safety equipment.

3. Failure of Coast Guard to develop any meaningful focus for promoting safety in the industry. Coast Guard ignored all input from the “listening sessions” held throughout the country last year and after almost 15 years is still calling for studies and then ignoring them when they get them.

4. The Coast Guard has developed no enforcement posture regarding safety training and drills on board vessels after more than a decade, but they have made sure that you lock your overboard valve from Marine Sanitation Devices.

5. Coast Guard investigations of casualties continue to miss important issues and the results are rarely reported as Lessons Learned. If the results of the investigation are made available it takes sometimes as much as two or more years after the incident.

6. The Coast Guard has done very little to promote the third party examination of fishing vessels (marine surveyors). The Coast Guard has actually chosen to promote safety exams conducted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and state Recreational boat agencies over marine surveyors.

7. In spite repeated promises to simplify and clarify the original regulations no effort has been made over the past decade to do so. If regulations are hard to read people will find compliance difficult.

The Fishing Industry
1. In spite of 30 years the regulations in place, the industry continues to have very poor compliance with even the basic requirements. According to the Coast Guard’s own information, which is corroborated by reports from marine surveyors, about 40 percent of EPIRBS and 35 percent of liferafts were not in compliance on vessels that crab in Alaska. The percentage for other vessels seem to follow the same trend nationwide.

2. Nationwide it is estimated only about 10 percent of the vessels are conducting drills on a monthly basis, and of those, about half are doing them correctly.

3. A high percentage of survival suits are not being maintained, and there is very little assurance that suits fit the various crewmembers.

4. High water alarms are not being tested regularly, and when broken are not replaced or repaired in a timely fashion.

5. Watertight doors and hatches are not being maintained and kept closed at sea.

6. Liferafts and EPIRBS are not being mounted in locations for easy access for manual launching.

7. There are a dwindling number of fishing industry personnel taking advantage of training classes. Exceptions seem to be the larger vessels.

8. The Coast Guard invested a lot of money and resources into providing damage control training modules nationwide along with ship stability models and few industry members have taken advantage of these free teaching aids.

9. The industry is being faced with a shortage of qualified crewmembers. The past draw for big money-making has declined and as a result more and more vessel operators are having to hire less-than-desirable folks to fill these positions.

10. Economics of the industry are resulting in less money being expended for vessel maintenance, crew training and purchase of more up-to-date safety equipment.

The Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Advisory Committee (CFVIAC)
1. In spite good intentions, the committee continues down the road of being ineffective. Committee members have done very little to communicate with the people they are representing and have failed to keep the industry advised as to what has transpired during the meetings with the Coast Guard.

2. Rather than being in an advisory capacity to the Coast Guard on regulatory and safety issues, they have been relegated to being tasked with performing the Coast Guard’s own grunt work. For a committee that is comprised of individuals donating their own time and money to be on this committee, and meeting only once or twice a year, this appears to be a great waste of a valuable resource.

Training Scholarships
1. Many institutions have set aside funds to pay for all or part of training costs for drill instructor training, survival at sea, stability, firefighting, etc. In recent years much of this money has gone unused.

Marine Surveyors
1. The lack of Coast Guard interaction and program involvement with the marine surveyors has allowed this valuable resource to go untapped. Fewer and fewer surveyors are conducting safety surveys.

2. Marine surveying organizations have done little to ensure quality and competence of those authorized to conduct safety examinations.

3. Fewer marine surveyors are entering the field, increasing the average age to 60 or older. In a few years there will be few available to do competent surveys.

The bottom line is that all parties involved have become complacent and there is a quickening down this road. On the present course within five years the overall safety will return to the pre-1990 level with increased loss of life. The present regulations do very little to promote vessel safety. A look at the statistics will show that the number of lives saved had increased over the past few decades, but the number and type of casualties has remained relatively the same. A major change in attitude by all involved is needed if we hope to curb the present trend. Maybe we should also be asking ourselves if the Coast Guard is still capable of taking the leadership role necessary to promote safety in the industry. The Coast Guard’s solution to safety appears to be, “let’s study it.” Since the 1980’s the Coast Guard conducts a national study/conference about every 5 years and then sets the results aside. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be sponsoring the next study group in October (, but I’m sure the local Coast Guard and your Advisory Committee member have already made you aware of this.

I think it is a crying shame that the fishing industry needs outsiders and do-gooders to make our vessels safe. Who has more at stake than the crews of these vessels? Who should be setting the standards for safety if not the men and women on these vessels? For the life of me I can’t figure out why people will have thousands of dollars of safety equipment around them and have no idea of how to use it or maintain it. Heck for $5 you can buy a nice St. Christopher medal and it might be more beneficial.

If you think I am wrong, please write the Fishermen’s News and show me the error of my thoughts, and please share specific examples. This is one time I hope I am wrong.

Editorial Comment - US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska)

Alaska’s fisheries are considered among the best managed in the world. The state and federal agencies that sustainably manage Alaskan fisheries have done so with science-based conservative catch limits, comprehensive catch accounting, a transparent public process, and effective monitoring and enforcement.

Alaska’s commercial fisheries are major contributors to the state’s economy and our unique way of life. Alaska has the nation’s most abundant fisheries, with an annual catch of nearly 5 billion pounds for the past two decades and an economic output of almost $6 billion. This continued success is the result of sound management that keeps our fisheries sustainable while providing a good living for so many Americans.

I am fortunate to be in a position to help the fishing industry as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I am on the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) budget, including NOAA fisheries. I have obtained funding for fisheries and marine mammal research, Bering Sea crab management and loan program, the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund, Yukon and Pacific Salmon Treaty implementation, habitat restoration projects and numerous boat harbor and port around the state.

I also sit on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee which oversees the United States Coast Guard’s budget. They are responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of fisheries, as well as providing search and rescue operations in Alaskan waters. I’ve continually fought to ensure the Coast Guard in Alaska is adequately funded, keeping adequate numbers of ships and aircraft, so that it can carry out its mission of both protecting our waters and keeping mariners safe.

As well as obtaining funding, I also support Alaska’s fisheries and coastal communities with legislation. Recently, a bill I sponsored, S. 3372, extended a two-year moratorium on a Clean Water Act permit for incidental discharges from commercial fishing vessels. The legislation extended the moratorium on the permit requirement until December 2013, allowing time to work on a permanent exemption.

I have previously sponsored legislation that allowed fishermen to average their income for tax purposes; to include fishermen in Trade Adjustment Assistance programs; made Country of Origin and wild and farmed labeling mandatory for seafood; provided tax relief for plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez oil spill and introduced a bill to reform the capital construction fund program.

In the recently enacted Coast Guard reauthorization bill, I advocated to make sure that fishing vessels would not be subject to onerous loadline and classification requirements. Instead, they can now work with the Coast Guard to develop an alternative safety program tailored to their fishery, vessel type and region.

I’m working on a number of other issues that affect Alaska’s fisheries: including active engagement in the draft biological opinion for the Western Population of Steller Sea Lion and providing comments to the National Ocean Policy Task Force on marine spatial planning. I am actively tracking the development of a national offshore aquaculture policy and I continue to advocate for regional stakeholder driven ocean policy and oppose any offshore finfish aquaculture development that might impact wild fish stocks and markets. Recently, I became more engaged in the FDA approval process for genetically engineered salmon and am strongly opposed to any approval for this product. I have also strongly opposed a provision in a recently introduced maritime bill that would have increased protection and indemnity (P & I) insurance costs for all fishing vessel owners.

I understand how important our commercial fisheries are for fishermen and coastal communities. I am committed to keeping them sustainable and economically viable, so they continue to support so many jobs; over 50,000 in Alaska alone. I am proud to be an advocate on behalf of so many fishing families.

Fishermen’s News Online welcomes editorial submissions from those interested in promoting the West Coast commercial fishery. Submissions may be sent to

Groundfish Catch Shares Fishery Enforcement Compliance Workshops

The West Coast Groundfish Trawl Fishery will soon be managed under a new, innovative approach, known as a catch share program, to achieve long-term ecological and economic sustainability of fishery resources and fishing communities. NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement is hosting several enforcement compliance workshops to provide an overview of the new regulations and an opportunity for questions and answers. These workshops will be useful for limited-entry trawl permit holders, fishermen, first receivers and processors.

Half Moon Bay, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 9 a.m.-12 noon
The Train Depot, 110 Higgins Canyon Rd, Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Monterey Bay, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 9 a.m.-12 noon
California Dept. of Fish and Game Office, 20 Lower Ragsdale Dr, Ste 100,
Monterey, Calif.

Morro Bay, Thursday, Oct. 21, 6 - 9 p.m.
Veterans’ Memorial Building, 209 Surf St, Morro Bay, Calif.

Fort Bragg, Monday, Oct. 25, 9 a.m.-12 noon
CV Starr Community Center, 300 S Lincoln St, Fort Bragg, Calif.

Eureka, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 9 a.m.-12 noon
Fisherman’s Marketing Association, 1585 Heartwood Dr, McKinleyville, Calif.

Brookings, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 9 a.m.-12 noon
Harbor Sanitation Building Conference Room, 16408 Lower Harbor Rd,
Harbor, Ore.

Coos Bay, Thursday, Oct. 28, 9 a.m.-12 noon
Charleston Marina RV Park Conference Room, Charleston, Ore.

Newport, Friday, Oct. 29, 9 a.m.-12 noon
Englund Marine, 880 SE Bay Blvd, Newport, Ore.

Astoria, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 9 a.m.-12 noon
Best Western Lincoln Inn, 555 Hamburg Ave, Astoria, Ore.

Westport, Monday, Nov. 1, 1-4 p.m.
Maritime Museum, Old Coast Guard Building, 2201 Westhaven Dr, Westport,

Bering Sea Crabbers Support Conservative Catch Limits

Bering Sea crabbers will be hauling up less king crab in their pots when fisheries begin next week - but they say they support the lower catches.

The annual catch quotas are based on extensive crab stock surveys done each summer by state and federal fishery scientists. Managers announced the catch limits last week.

The harvest for Alaska’s premiere crab fishery - red king crab at Bristol Bay - will be limited to just under 15 million pounds, a drop of 7.5% from last year.

The reduction came as no surprise, as the king crab stocks have been on a downward trend, said Edward Poulsen, spokesman for the trade group Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

The news is better for Alaska’s biggest crab fishery – snow crab. That catch was boosted by 13% to more than 54 million pounds.

Crabbers were “appreciative” of the increase, Poulsen said, and hope the upward trend will continue as data show an abundant snow crab resource.

Bering Sea veteran Jim Stone said industry stakeholders might differ on some of the data, but “they applaud Alaska’s conservative stance on setting the harvest limits.”

The crabbers will continue to partner with state and federal managers to improve information on all Bering Sea crab fisheries, Stone said, in hopes of higher, sustainable catches in the future.

The combined value of the Bering Sea red king crab and snow crab fisheries in 2009 was $180 million at the Alaska docks.

Alaska’s Bering Sea crab fisheries open on October 15.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Requesting Public Comment Through October 16, 2010

The management plan review process for NOAA's Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is underway, and the public is encouraged to participate by providing comments to the sanctuary. The public comment period, which began in July, will continue through October 16, 2010.

The sanctuary is encouraging public input on a proposal to expand the sanctuary’s scope to protect and conserve other living marine resources, in addition to humpback whales and submerged cultural heritage resources within the sanctuary. This proposal is detailed in the State of the Sanctuary Report Special Management Plan Review Edition and is available to the public on the Internet at:

A series of public scoping meetings was held from August 10 through August 26, 2010. During the meetings, comments on management considerations were accepted as input to the management plan process.

Additional comments on future management priorities are being accepted through October 16. During this period, comments can be sent via mail, email or fax. Information on how to submit comments, and links to related documents, including the Sanctuary Condition Report, are also available on the sanctuary website, or can be obtained by phone by calling: 1-888-55-WHALE, ext. 267

NOAA Commissions New Research Ship Bell M. Shimada

Federal officials in late August commissioned NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, a state-of-the-art research vessel that will study a wide range of marine life and ocean conditions along the West Coast.

“NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada represents a major step forward in NOAA’s effort to modernize its fleet of fisheries, oceanographic and hydrographic survey ships,” said Rear Adm. Jonathan Bailey, director of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the NOAA Corps. “This highly capable ship will enable researchers to collect data on sea life and habitats with unprecedented accuracy.”

Bell M. Shimada’s design allows for quieter operation and movement of the vessel through the water, giving scientists the ability to study fish and marine mammals without significantly altering their behavior.

The vessel is the fourth of a new class of ships designed to meet the NOAA Marine Fisheries Service’s specific data collection requirements and the International Council for Exploration of the Seas’ standards for a low acoustic signature. The ship’s capabilities include a sophisticated sonar system and equipment for deploying buoys and sensor-packed underwater vehicles. In addition to studying fish and marine mammals, researchers will also use the ship to observe marine bird populations.

“NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada will play a vital role in supporting NOAA’s mission to protect, restore and manage living marine, coastal and ocean resources,” said Steve Murawski, Ph.D., NOAA’s chief scientist for fisheries. “Equipped with the latest technology, this new vessel will enhance significantly our ability to conduct research essential to sustaining and rebuilding fisheries.”

Bell M. Shimada was named by a team of students from Marina High School in Monterey, Calif., who won a regional NOAA contest to name the vessel. The ship's namesake served with the Bureau of Fisheries and Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, and was known for his contributions to the study of tropical Pacific tuna stocks, which were important to the development of West Coast commercial fisheries following World War II. Bell M. Shimada’s son, Allen, is a fisheries scientist with NOAA’s Fisheries Service.

Launched in September 2008, the 208-ft. Bell M. Shimada was built for NOAA by VT Halter Marine Inc., in Moss Point, Miss., as part of the NOAA’s fleet replacement strategy to provide world-class platforms for US scientists. The ship will operate primarily in US waters from Washington State to southern California.

Judge Rules That MLPA Panels Are State Agencies

In a landmark decision on October 1, a California Superior Court issued a ruling confirming that two panels overseeing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative are state agencies that must comply with the California Public Records Act.

Judge Patrick Marlette of the California Superior Court in Sacramento ruled that the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) and Master Plan Team (MPT) — also known as the Science Advisory Team- are state agencies and therefore compelled by California’s Public Records Act to share information with representatives of angling/conservation organizations working to protect recreational ocean access.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Malloy & Natsis LLP, on behalf of Robert C. Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California, a member organization in the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO), requesting the release of public records.

Marlette ruled that the agencies must release all of the documents requested by Fletcher by October 10, 2010.

“This is a very significant ruling to the many recreational angling groups and individuals across California who have invested so much time and energy in the MLPA process,” said Fletcher. “This ruling validates our long-held position that the groups implementing the MLPA and making decisions that result in closures of large areas of the Pacific Ocean to recreational activities cannot carry on as if they were not agencies of the state.”

“Like any other state agency, these groups are responsible to the public and must do their work in an open and transparent way that the public can learn about through laws like the Public Records Act," added Fletcher.

“Now we’ll get to see information that has been previously hidden from us about key decisions made by the BRTF and MPT,” said Steven Fukuto, president of non-profit United Anglers of Southern California (UASC) and director of the Ocean Access Protection Fund (OAPF), a division of UASC formed to rally anglers and sportsmen across California in support of legal action.

“Our success in this lawsuit will allow us to shine a light on important decisions that have been made in the dark. We have every confidence this ruling will help us better understand how decisions have been made under the MLPA, and to examine the legal basis for those decisions on behalf of anglers and sportsmen across the state,” added Fukuto.

“This ruling is an important first step, but we’re going to need more financial assistance from anglers to support our efforts to flight this flawed process in the courts,” Fukuto said.

David Gurney, the independent journalist who was arrested for filming a “work session” of the MLPA Initiatives’ Regional Stakeholders Group in Fort Bragg in April, praised the decision.

“This decision is important because Ken Wiseman, the executive director of the MLPA Initiative and others in the MLPAI have consistently stated that the MLPAI is not a state agency, but an advisory body, and therefore the only had to abide by Bagley-Keene and other state laws as a matter of ‘good faith.'"

Indian Tribes, fishing groups, grassroots environmentalists and seaweed harvesters have criticized the MLPA for the violation of numerous state, federal and international laws. These include the Bagley-Keene Act, the California Public Records Act, the California Fair Political Practices Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

-Dan Bacher

US Seafood Consumption Declines Slightly in 2009

The average American ate 15.8 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2009, a slight decline from the 2008 consumption figure of 16.0 pounds, according to a NOAA Fisheries Service report out today.

The US continues as the third-ranked country for consuming fish and shellfish, behind China and Japan. In total, Americans consumed a total of 4.833 billion pounds of seafood in 2009, slightly less than the 4.858 billion pounds in 2008.

Shrimp remained the top seafood item of choice for the United States at 4.1 pounds per person, a level unchanged since 2007.

The average 15.8 pounds consumed per person in 2009 was composed of 11.8 pounds of fresh and frozen finfish and shellfish, 3.7 pounds of canned seafood, primarily canned tuna, and 0.3 pounds of cured seafood, such as smoked salmon and dried cod. The overall decline in average consumption per American was due to a decrease in canned seafood consumed.

“With one of the highest consumption rates in the world, the US has the ability to affect the world fish trade,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “NOAA supports rebuilding and sustaining wild fisheries populations and building a strong aquaculture program that can help the US fishing industry gain a larger share of the US market. Americans should know that buying American seafood supports our economy, as well as the high environmental and safety standards our fishermen meet.”

Most of the seafood consumed in the US was not caught in US waters. About 84 percent of the seafood consumed in the US is imported, a dramatic increase from the 66 percent just a decade ago.

Farmed seafood, or aquaculture, comprises almost half of the imported seafood. Aquaculture production outside the US has expanded dramatically in the last three decades and now supplies half of the world’s seafood demand, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

America’s aquaculture industry, though vibrant and diverse, currently meets less than ten percent of US demand for seafood. Most of the US aquaculture industry is catfish, with marine aquaculture products like oysters, clams, mussels and salmon supplying less than two percent of American seafood demand.

“This report demonstrates there is room for the US aquaculture industry to grow,” said Schwaab. “NOAA is working to develop a new national policy for sustainable marine aquaculture that will help us narrow the trade gap and strengthen the entire fishing industry in this country.”

NOAA’s Fisheries Service has been calculating the nation’s seafood consumption rates since 1910 to keep consumers and the industry informed about trends in seafood consumption and trade.

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