Wednesday, November 24, 2010

“Fish Basket” Website Promotes Permanent Protection for Bristol Bay

A coalition of commercial fishing, native, and conservation groups announced the launch of their website which will serve as an information center for groups and individuals seeking permanent protection for Bristol Bay from offshore oil and gas drilling.

In March of this year, prior to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration removed Bristol Bay from the federal offshore and gas leasing schedule until 2017. But, given Bristol Bay’s rich fishery, the coalition believes area deserves permanent protection from the inherent risks of offshore oil drilling. Bristol Bay fisheries are valued at more than $2 billion annually and sustainably support thousands of jobs, whereas the estimated value for finite oil and gas in the area is only $7 billion over the life of the field, the association says.

Man gets 18 months for Hoax distress call to Coast Guard

While most Americans know that making a false 911 call is illegal, a false distress call to the US Coast Guard is also a crime.

Recently a Detroit resident was convicted and sentenced in federal court for making a false distress call to the US Coast Guard, according to United States Attorney Barbara McQuade and Captain Stephen Torpey, Chief of Incident Management for the Ninth Coast Guard District.

Andre D. Cheatom, 19 years old, was sentenced to 18 months incarceration, supervised release for three years, a special assessment of $100.00, and ordered to pay $14,302 in restitution for knowingly and willfully causing the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help was needed, in violation of Title 14, U.S. Code, section 88(c).

“When members of the Coast Guard respond to a hoax call, they are diverted from people in actual distress,” McQuade said. “We take a hard line on these cases because we want to deter people from making hoax calls.”

“I am concerned that there are people willing to risk the lives of other boaters who might be in legitimate need of rescue or assistance, as well as needlessly endangering response crews, by knowingly making a false distress call,” said Captain Stephen Torpey, Chief of Incident Management for the Ninth Coast Guard District. “This conviction demonstrates the lengths we will go to ensure those who make hoax calls are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Lawmakers, Industry Blast Lubchenco Over Bluefin Comments at ICCAT

By Jonathan Hemmerdinger for Saving Seafood

Commercial bluefin tuna fishermen and the lawmakers who represent them in Washington are sparring with federal regulators over a statement made in Paris last week by the top US oceans official.

On Nov. 19, Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Reuters that the US government supports cuts in the commercial fishing quota for bluefin tuna in both the western and Eastern Atlantic Ocean.

"When there is uncertainty in science we believe that it is important to err on the side of caution. We believe that it is appropriate therefore to seek lower TACs (total allowable catches) for bluefin tuna for both sides of the Atlantic," said Lubchenco, who was attending a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the international body that sets catch limits on bluefin tuna.

Bluefin are a highly migratory species that range from the Canary Islands near the coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico and are prized by the Japanese for sushi and sashimi. There are two main bluefin tuna fisheries; the Eastern Atlantic fishery, which includes the Mediterranean Sea and is where most tuna are caught, and the Western Atlantic fishery, which includes US and Canadian fishermen.

Lubchenco's comment sparked a sharp response from US fishermen, who say fisheries officials have failed to recognize that the sacrifices of US bluefin tuna fishermen in recent years have helped rebuild stocks in the Western Atlantic.

And they say US fishermen have long abided by strict catch limits despite rampant overfishing in the Eastern Atlantic by foreign vessels feeding a booming tuna aquaculture industry. Boats fishing in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean hail from countries such as France, Italy, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Malta.

"We have paid the price to restore this resource. And we ask for the government to reward US fishermen," said Rich Ruais, executive director of the American Bluefin Tuna Association. "We are coming off a period of very painful, incredible abuse by the Eastern Atlantic and European community."

US Lawmakers also criticized Lubchenco's comment.

"By suggesting that reductions ... are warranted in both the eastern and western Atlantic, NOAA is effectively selling out US fishermen who for years have adhered to strict catch limits and conservation measures now proven to have boosted the health of the bluefin population," said Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) in a statement. "Our fishermen operate under the world's strictest management regime, and their sacrifices are largely responsible for the optimism found in the most recent scientific assessment for Western Atlantic bluefin."

By some estimates, Western Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks are improving. According to the ICATT report, one scientific model shows bluefin in the Western Atlantic have more than a 90 percent chance of recovering even if the Western Atlantic quota is increased to 2,000 tons.

Based on that estimate, the industry and lawmakers are seeking more quota.

"Our quota and other conservation restrictions are paying off ... We believe the US delegation should fight to increase the TAC in the west to 2,250 metric tons, which will still allow for a very high probability of success within the time frame outlined by the plan," said a Nov. 7 ABTA letter to the US ICCAT delegation.

Ten lawmakers echoed ABTA's stance in a Nov. 18 letter to Lubchenco.

"We wish to request that the US delegation pursue a modest, yet scientifically justifiable increase in the total allowable catch of Western Atlantic bluefin tuna," said the letter, which was signed by Senators Snowe, Collins, Shaheen, and Scott Brown, and Representatives Frank, Michaud, Pingree, Lynch, Tierney, and Delahunt.

According to ICCAT's 2010 report, fishermen in the Eastern Atlantic are estimated to have landed some 61,000 tons of bluefin tuna in 2007, more than double their quota.

The agency believes catches in the region were also much higher than allowed in the preceding years, due to "substantial under-reporting" of landings. The report did note that monitoring and enforcement have resulted in a "substantial decrease in the catch" in 2008 and 2009.

Meanwhile, US and Canadian fishermen have been restricted to substantially lower catch levels, have largely fished within their quotas. The 2009 Western Atlantic total allowable catch was 1,900 tons; in 2010, the limit dropped to 1,800 tons.

And US fishermen say foreign overfishing directly impacts their livelihoods. That's because bluefin tuna are highly migratory, and many travel across the ocean, mingling between the eastern and western stocks, according to ICCAT.

"Fishing in Mediterranean has an impact on the western Atlantic. We can't rebuild the west all ourselves," said Ruais. "We have been spinning our wheels making great economic sacrifices, but have been handicapped."

Despite support from Washington, Ruais isn't optimistic that US fishermen will see an increase in quota.

Does Not Compute

A letter, below, gives a real-life, firsthand account of the perils of the new electronically controlled marine diesels being mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency for installation in fishing boats. In his Toolbox column this month, David Rowland gives his own firsthand account of the process involved in holding a sea trial of a boat with one of these engines. A counterpoint is offered by a paper published recently by Alaska Sea Grant entitled, Does Diesel Have a Future in the Fishing Industry?

The piece, authored by Greg Fisk, owner of SeaFisk Consulting, suggests several alternatives to petroleum diesel, including nuclear power and hydrogen or electric propulsion, and offers biodiesel as another alternative, including diesel made from algae. Unfortunately, admits Mr. Fisk, none of these alternatives have much likelihood of viability. His conclusion suggests that EPA-mandated low-sulphur petroleum diesel will be the most likely short-term solution, so to answer the paper’s title question, yes. This puts us back where we started, with unelected political appointees deciding the fate of the US fishing fleet.

Given the safety issues posed by the sudden failure of a main propulsion engine while at sea, do we really want a computer making the final decision on whether or not to shut down? Do we really want the EPA mandating these engines for use in fishing vessels?

Are Computer Controlled Diesel Engines Safe?
In June 2009 we installed a new diesel engine in our 48-foot commercial fishing vessel. This engine performed well in the first Albacore tuna season and through the first Dungeness crab season. It had greater fuel efficiency, was quieter, and we felt we were doing our part to have cleaner air.

However, on my son's second Albacore tuna trip of 2010 the engine shut down when he was about 80 miles off shore. Finding that a fuse had blown on the computer power circuit he replaced the fuse and restarted the engine, which ran for about 30 minutes and shut down again. He once again replaced the fuse with a 20-amp fuse and it ran the rest of the day. The next morning when he started the engine it ran for about 30 seconds and shut down. He replaced the fuse with another 20-amp fuse and it blew as soon as the boat was put in gear. He replaced the fuse with a 10-amp fuse, which blew as soon as he turned on the switch. He waited 10 minutes and replaced the fuse again. The engine started and he was able to run home to Warrenton, Oregon.

We lost 2 Albacore trips during the time it took to have the problem analyzed and acquire the parts to fix it.

Fortunately our local electrician had diagnosed the same type of problem on a charter boat from the Warrenton area. He found that a faulty oil pressure gauge had caused the problem. He replaced the gauge on our vessel and my son made another Albacore trip without incident.

Since that time I have learned of 3 other vessels that have had problems with the main engine shutting down. The charter boat required a new gauge. A tuna boat required a new computer. An oyster dredge's problem was caused by a bad ground.

It is my opinion that the main engine should NEVER shut itself down. That should only be done by the operator. If an engine's computer can shut the engine down then there must be an emergency backup to enable the restart of that engine even if it is only for half power or some other speed.

As these computers, their components and the wiring to them age, these problems will happen at an ever-increasing rate.

Our boat for the most part fishes Dungeness crab as a day boat, which means we may make 150 to 200 bar crossings a year. Engine shutdown on an unfriendly or savage bar crossing could have very serious consequences.

Al Gann
Warrenton, Oregon

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hood Canal Salmon Need You

Are you interested in working with wild salmon and helping to restore this valuable and precious resource? Washington’s Hood Canal is home to several species of salmon and is one of the last locations with viable populations in the Puget Sound region. Julie Easton, Volunteer Coordinator for the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, says they need you to help with their continued salmon recovery efforts.

“Right now, we have some of big volunteer projects going on that you could help with,” she says.

Spawner surveys: “We have teams of volunteers and staff that walk Hood Canal creeks to count dead and live salmon throughout the coho and fall chum spawning season through January 1st.”

Native Riparian Plantings: “We are working to plant native species in riparian areas where we have treated invasive weeds.”

Office Help: “We need a volunteer around the office to answer phones and enter data.”
Miscellaneous Farm Projects: Painting, construction and gardening. “These are opportunities that are available year ‘round.”

Livestock Maintenance and Training: “We have dairy goats, alpacas and a llama. We are looking for volunteers with experience with these types of animals to come in and help with halter training and exercise.”

Equipment Operator: “We are looking for some experienced operators and maintainers of various farm equipment.”

“As you can see, an opportunity awaits for anyone,” says Easton. She notes that students, military personnel, college interns, home school students, Boy’s and Girl’s Club members and Scouts can earn merit and volunteer hours toward ranking and scholarship awards.” She says the experience and knowledge gained from working with the HCSEG has helped many previous and existing volunteers in obtaining gainful employment in positions with natural resource agencies. “We welcome corporations and businesses looking for local volunteer opportunities, too,” she says.

Julie Easton, Volunteer Coordinator for the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group: 360-275-3575 or

Interior Secretary Establishes New Conservation Directorate

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has issued a Secretarial Order elevating the Office of the National Landscape Conservation System and Community Partnerships in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to the level of a directorate within BLM.

“This action reflects the growing importance of the 27-million acre National Landscape Conservation System to local economies, to the health of communities, and to the conservation of some of America’s greatest landscapes,” Salazar said at the National Landscape Conservation System Summit in Las Vegas. “The BLM plays a special role in protecting America’s great outdoors for the benefit of all Americans – for it is the national conservation lands that contain the forests and canyons that families love to explore, the backcountry where children learn to hunt and fish, and the places that tell the story of our history and our cultures. Each of these places within the National Landscape Conservation System holds special meaning to the American people and is an engine for jobs and economic growth in local communities.”

This National Landscape Conservation System was established as an integral part of the Bureau of Land Management by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, a bipartisan initiative that responded to the critical need, as the population of the West increases, to conserve open spaces that are a unique part of America’s heritage. As an integral part of the BLM’s multiple-use mission, conservation is a long-term investment that provides quality of life and economic benefits for current and future generations.

The system contains many of our Nation’s most treasured landscapes, including scientific, historic and cultural resources, wilderness and wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, national monuments, national conservation areas, and scenic and historic trails, among others.

These lands are managed as an integral part of the larger landscape, in collaboration with the neighboring landowners and surrounding communities. The management objectives are to maintain biodiversity and promote ecological connectivity and resilience in the face of climate change. When consistent with the values for which they were designated, lands in the system may allow appropriate multiple uses, such as grazing, energy development and tourism.

Managers of the system recognize the importance of a diversity of viewpoints when considering management options. These nationally important landscapes are managed from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing upon the expertise of specialists throughout the BLM, and in coordination with the tribes, other Federal, state, and local government agencies, interested local landowners, adjacent communities, and other public and private interests.

The directorate will be called the National Landscape Conservation System and Community Partnerships. The Assistant Secretary – Land and Minerals Management is responsible for ensuring implementation of this Order within 120 days. This responsibility may be delegated, as appropriate.

The signing of the Secretarial Order followed Salazar’s remarks to a summit of the National Landscape Conservation System, attended by several hundred BLM officials and employees as well as non-government stakeholders and state and local representatives.

Sakhalin Pink Salmon Fishery Enters MSC Assessment

The Sakhalin Island trap net pink salmon fishery announced this week that it has entered the full assessment phase of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification process. After more than two years of preparatory work, 11 fishing companies that annually harvest up to 21,000 metric tons of pink salmon have stepped forward.

“Entering full MSC assessment is an affirmation of our concerted efforts to conserve and sustainably manage Russia’s wild salmon resources,” said Vladimir Smirnov, head of Plavnik Co., one of the commercial fishing companies entering the program.

Howard Johnson, Global Programs Director of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, added, “MSC is the key to unlocking global markets for Sakhalin’s salmon fisheries. The MSC certification is becoming a ‘must-have’ for fisheries selling their products globally.”

“The MSC certification program is the gold standard eco-label for commercial fisheries worldwide and will provide significant market advantages for Sakhalin’s fisheries that are awarded the label”, said Sergei Didenko of the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center, one of the co-clients of the MSC assessment.

In September 2009, the Iturup Island pink and chum fishery (part of Sakhalin Oblast) became the first Russian fishery – and the first salmon fishery since Alaska – to receive the MSC certification.

“The MSC full assessment on Sakhalin points to a growing wave of interest in Russia to promote sustainable fisheries,” said Brian Caouette, Director of Sustainable Fisheries and Markets Program at the Wild Salmon Center.

The certification body, MRAG Americas, will conduct the full assessment with hopes of completion by late 2011.

The 600-mile long Sakhalin Island is located at the far eastern end of Russia, between the Tatar Strait and the Sea of Okhotsk, north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, and represents 20 percent of global Pacific salmon stocks.

This project is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund and the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company.

Canada Trains Arctic Rangers for Spill Response

By Bob Tkacz

Nicole Lefebvre, a Canadian Ranger from Atlin British Columbia and Canadian Coast Guard Environmental Response Officer Mike Leonard of Hay River practice deploying boom on the shoreline of Resolute Bay, Nunavut. Ms. Lefebvre is one of 17 Rangers who received spill response training from the Canadian Coast Guard. Photo courtesy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The Canadian government is using the knowledge of Arctic residents and local conditions like floating ice as a natural containment boom in response drills for the common northern hazard of diesel fuel spills.

“In some cases moving ice is going to be a problem because you have to fasten the boom like you would a fence. The mass of ice, moving through at slow currents is going to tear apart your boom,” said Larry Trigatti, superintendent of environmental response for the Canadian Coast Guard and manager of a week-long Tallurutiit spill response exercise at the island community of Resolute. Tallurutiit is an Inuktitut word that references the North West Passage.

“There are other ways you can actually use the ice to your advantage. Pack ice actually acts as a physical barrier for floating diesel. Depending on the circumstances it can be your enemy and it can be your best friend,” Trigatti said.

With a year-round population of fewer than 250 residents, Resolute is on the south coast of Cornwallis Island, about 457 miles above the Arctic Circle and 1,406 miles northeast of Barrow. About 25 Canadian Rangers, locally based military units similar to the US National Guard, and personnel from the Ministry of Indian Affairs and other Canadian agencies practiced on the shore and in coastal waters deploying containment boom, operating beach flushing systems and in assessment techniques. Assessments are “sort of pre-engineering,” Trigatti explained, which identify shoreline geography and other features and determine the level of oiling based on a predetermined scale so that appropriate equipment can be sent to the spill.

Rangers “bring unique local knowledge about the wildlife. They run safety patrols. They know the lay of land. They know the unique systems, the seasonal variances in their communities and their environments,” Trigatti said. Weather conditions for the Aug. 19-26 exercise were seasonal, with an average temperature of 41 degrees, some high winds and broken multi-year ice in Resolute Bay, he said.

Using ice as a natural spill containment boom, which Trigatti called “slotting techniques,” is standard practice on Canadian lakes. “Because oil floats what happens is it will actually collect in those areas and you can use a skimmer to recover it. You don’t need a boom,” he said.

Like Alaska, the vast distances, lack of transportation infrastructure and quickly changing weather can prevent responders to any emergency from reaching the scene for days or weeks. In addition to local training, Canada’s response includes pre-positioning of 19 spill response community packs in Arctic villages.

Each pack contains three response kits. Kits include enough boom, beach wash and other equipment to respond to a five ton or 1,320 gallon diesel spill. “We have a quick response that’s going to deal with source control and be able to protect local priorities in the zero to 48-hour time frame,” Trigatti said.

Local response capability is critical because the CCG’s primary storage base for spill response gear is in Hay River, Northwest Territories, 994 miles and a full day’s loading and flight time from Resolute. The village can have several million gallons of diesel fuel in storage at any given time and larger communities may have tens of millions of gallons for heating and electrical generation.

Privately owned aircraft carrying RAT, or rapid air transportable response packages from the Hay River base need landing strips at least 3,000 feet long, but kits must be repackaged to reach smaller communities.

The CCG has no heavy lift aircraft. It would use contract or spot charter planes for most spill response transport, but could get help from the Canadian Air Force for larger incidents Trigatti said.

Unlike the United States, Canada does not use dispersants to respond to hydrocarbon spills. “We don’t factor in a capacity for dispersants in our planning right now. We’re focused on the physical removal of the product. It’s the skimming. It’s dealing with the physical properties of the pollutants, not with the chemical at this point,” Trigatti said.

Canada began placing community packs in the mid-1990s and has been expanding its spill response capability ever since. “There’s so much more to the exercise or to the deployments than just the boom in the water. It’s how you held your people, how you assessed the human resources that you need. It’s a three-pronged approach, maintaining the infrastructure, having the personnel available and then having the equipment to do the heavy lifting,” Trigatti said.

Gail Shea, federal minister of fisheries and oceans, said Tallurutiit was intended “to make sure we are as prepared as possible. The Canadian Coast Guard is very much aware of the unique marine environmental sensitivities in the Arctic. Our training was an opportunity for all responders to work together to improve communications and coordination for potential responses to pollution incidents in Canadian Arctic waters.”

Bob Tkacz can be reached at

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

White House Altered Drilling Safety Report

According to news accounts from Fox News and the Associated Press, the Interior Department's inspector general says the White House edited a drilling safety report in a way that made it falsely appear that scientists and experts supported the administration's six-month ban on new drilling.

The inspector general says the editing changes resulted "in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed." But it hadn't been. The scientists were only asked to review new safety measures for offshore drilling.

The investigation is the latest in a string of incidents where the Obama administration has been accused of overstating the science behind official reports and political decisions made after the massive Gulf oil spill.

Last month, staff for the presidential oil spill commission said that the White House's budget office delayed publication of a report by federal scientists that forecast how much oil could potentially reach the Gulf's shores. Federal scientists initially used a volume of oil that did not account for the administration's various cleanup efforts. A smaller volume was ultimately presented.

The same report said that President Barack Obama's energy adviser, Carol Browner, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Jane Lubchenco contributed to the public's perception that a government report on where the oil had gone was more exact than it was by emphasizing peer review. Browner, the commission's staff said, also mischaracterized the analysis on national TV, saying it showed most of the oil was "gone." The report said it could still be there.

"There was no intent to mislead the public," said Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for Salazar, who also recommended in the May 27 safety report that a moratorium be placed on deepwater oil and gas exploration. "The decision to impose a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling was made by the secretary, following consultation with colleagues including the White House."

The Interior Department, after one of the reviewers complained about the inference, promptly issued an apology during a conference call, with a letter and personal meeting in June.

At least eight of the 15 experts asked to review the Interior Department's work expressed concern about the change made by the White House, saying that it differed in important ways from the draft they had signed off on. But the experts also questioned the basis for the drilling ban.

"We believe the report does not justify the moratorium as written and that the moratorium as changed will not contribute measurably to increased safety and will have immediate and long-term economic effects," the scientists wrote in a fax sent to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Louisiana Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, earlier this year. "The secretary should be free to recommend whatever he thinks is correct, but he should not be free to use our names to justify his political decisions."

A federal judge in New Orleans struck down the Interior Department's first moratorium in June, saying the government didn't justify it, and ruled that the department improperly issued safety rules because it issued them without soliciting public comment.

Fall Salmon Counts Improve on Central Valley Rivers

The numbers of fall run chinook salmon returning to spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries to date are significantly better than the record low returns of last year, although the numbers are well below the banner run of 2002 when nearly 800,000 fish returned to the system.

Last year only 39,530 fall chinooks returned to Central Valley rivers. Fishing was closed in the Sacramento and tributaries in 2008 and 2009, with the exception of targeted season for late fall chinooks on the Sacramento, due to the unprecedented fishery collapse.

However, a pre-season estimate of 245,000 fish by the National Marine Fisheries Service spurred the state and federal government fishery agencies to allow limited recreational fishing for fall chinooks on the Feather, American and Sacramento rivers this year, as well as restricted recreational and commercial ocean salmon seasons.

Fishermen, environmentalists and independent scientists pointed to water exports out of the California Delta, declining water quality and poor freshwater management as the key factors behind the collapse. On the other hand, state and federal government representatives repeatedly claimed that poor ocean conditions were the likely culprit, although they admitted that other factors played a role as well.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coleman National Fish Hatchery on Battle Creek is seeing a much better run this fall, well over twice of last year’s dismal return.

“We’re past the three-quarter mark in the run and we estimate 22,000 fish have returned to date, including 11,000 adults and 11,000 jacks, between the hatchery and the river,” said Brett Galtean, assistant hatchery manager. “Last year we had 9,000 total salmon including 719 jacks (two-year-old fish). The surprising number of jacks gives us hope for a really good year next fall.”

So far the hatchery has taken 14,250,000 eggs. “We target taking 14,000,000 to 15,000,000 eggs annually, but we will continue to spawn fish into this month,” explained Scott Hamelburg, hatchery manager. “As long as the fish keep coming, we will continue to take fish to get full genetic representation of the entire run.”
The Feather River hatchery is also seeing much better salmon numbers than last year. The total adult salmon count to date is 14,523 adults compared to 5367 last year, reported A.J. Dill, assistant hatchery manager. The two-year-old (jack and jill) count to date is 2417 fish, compared to 3429 last fall.

The Mokelumne River salmon run is also much better than last year’s dismal run. The 4,070 fish counted to date at Woodbridge Dam are already about twice as many as were counted last year.

The Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery as of November 4 has trapped 1,267 salmon, including 614 adults and 653 jacks. Last year the facility to date received 341 fish, including 167 adults and 174 jacks.

Although the run is nothing like the run of 2005, when the hatchery trapped 8,219 salmon, the salmon population is definitely on the upswing.

“We’re happy – the run is headed back in the right direction,” said Will Smith, hatchery manager. “We will probably meet our mitigation goal of 3.4 million salmon smolts (juveniles), but we are unlikely to meet our enhancement goal totaling 5.4 million fish.”

Smith attributes the increased salmon run to the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s release of pulse flows up to 2400 cfs below Camanche Dam in October to attract the fish upriver to the hatchery, rather than going up the American and other rivers. He said that the two day closure of the gates of the Delta Cross Channel, a canal that connects the Mokelumne River with the Sacramento River, also help reduced straying.

Bob Burks, Nimbus Fish Hatchery manager, said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the run size on the American River will meet expectations and more than enough salmon will be available for spawning and angling.

“We opened the fish ladder on November 1 and spawned our first batch of fish on November 2,” said Burks. “DFG staffer Paula Hoover did an aerial survey of the river and saw a few ribbons of fish holding downriver, although the majority of fish can be found between Sunrise and the hatchery.”

Over the next few months, Nimbus Hatchery staff plan to spawn between 5,000 and 7,000 adult salmon, taking up to eight million eggs. The hatchery traditionally releases four million young Chinook salmon (smolts) each spring.

“It is encouraging to see the both the adult and jack salmon counts increase this year, but the Central Valley salmon fishery is still in a state of disaster,” said Dick Pool, coordinator of Water 4 Fish, an organization working to restore salmon and other fish populations. “Until the run reaches 200,000 fish again, the fishery will continue to hang on the brink of survival.”

Pool noted that he was disappointed that the Bureau of Reclamation has failed to heed the advice of fishing and environmental groups and Members of Congress to close the Delta Cross Channel gates for 14 days starting October 4. When the gates are open, chinook salmon stray into the Sacramento system rather than going up the Mokelumne and other rivers of their birth.

Pool also said that although the ocean survival of salmon has increased because of improved forage and water conditions, the many problems that fall run and other Central Valley chinook populations face because of Delta water exports and poor freshwater management still remain to be addressed.

Anglers and biologists are hopeful that the Sacramento River fall run chinook spawning escapement will meet its conservation goal of 180,000 fish this year, an indication that the run is on its way to recovery from the record low years of 2007, 2008 and 2009.

For more information, go to: .

-Dan Bacher

NOAA Policy Encourages Catch Shares

NOAA last week released a national policy encouraging the consideration and use of catch shares, a fishery management tool that has shown it can help rebuild fisheries and sustain fishermen, communities, vibrant working waterfronts and culturally important fishing traditions.

“Catch share programs have proven to be powerful tools to transform fisheries, making them prosperous, stable and sustainable parts of our nation’s strategy for healthy and resilient ocean ecosystems,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator . “NOAA’s policy encourages fishery management councils and stakeholders to explore the design possibilities of catch shares to tailor programs to best meet local needs.”

Catch share programs, which include limited access privilege programs and individual fishing quotas, dedicate a secure share of fish to individual fishermen, cooperatives or fishing communities. Catch shares are used in 14 fisheries managed by six fishery management councils from Alaska to Florida and are being developed in additional fisheries. Both here and in other countries, catch shares are helping eliminate overfishing and achieve annual catch limits, improve fishermen’s safety and profits, and reduce the negative biological and economic effects of the race for fish that develops with some traditional fishery management.

After considering extensive public comment on its draft policy, NOAA added several important guiding principles to the policy, including a recommendation that regional fishery management councils periodically revisit allocations between commercial and recreational sectors in fisheries.

The policy also does not advocate individual catch shares for private recreational anglers. Councils will have NOAA support to consider catch share programs for charter boat and head boat sectors to explore recreational catch share pools that could benefit the health of the resource and the charter industry.

“The purpose of this policy is to provide a strong foundation for the widespread consideration of catch shares, which have proven to be an effective tool to help rebuild fisheries,” said Monica Medina, principal deputy under secretary for oceans and atmosphere. “ The key to a successful catch share program is extensive stakeholder involvement in the design of catch shares that take into consideration each community’s particular fishing traditions and goals.”

David Walker, a commercial fisherman who is part of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper individual fishing quota program, has seen how a catch share program can transform a fishery.

“This program has been a phenomenal success for the fish, and when you take care of the fish, you take care of the fishermen,” said Walker, who fishes from the homeport of Destin, Fla. “Before the program began in 2007, we were having to fish under derbies and having to go farther and farther to fish. We were getting fewer and fewer days as efforts were intensifying. Everyone raced for the fish and we were fishing in weather conditions that were dangerous at times. Fishing under the IFQ program implemented in 2007 has been a blessing to us. Now we have a year round season with very few discards. Fish prices are good. And the fish stock is rebuilding.”

On the West Coast, Steve Bodnar, the executive director of the Coos Bay Trawler Association, has been working with the Pacific Fishery Management Council to help develop a catch share program for the West Coast bottomfish trawl fishery.

“We’re on the edge of doing something great,” said Bodnar, who represents a group of fishermen based in Coos Bay, Oregon, who own and fish from nine trawlers. “This program is opening up communication between fishermen who were used to working alone. We're going to swap quota to keep as many boats on the water in order to keep our port whole. We’ll also work together to share resources, to develop gear that will avoid fish that are not as abundant and catch the healthier stocks, and to market our catch to help consumers support local fishermen. By working together, we will survive.”

To read the policy and profiles of catch share programs, go to

A Visit to Puget Island on the Columbia River

By James A. Cole

A recent visit I made to Puget Island on the Columbia River rewarded me with impressions and stories that went beyond the subject of Columbia River fishing vessels. Puget Island is across from Cathlamet, Washington, approximately 40 miles from the river’s mouth. It was the home of a number of boat builders and fishermen who fished mostly in the Columbia River and Bristol Bay, Alaska gillnet fisheries. Most of them were Norwegians who settled there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and many of their third generation descendants are still on the island.

The Lower Columbia River is also populated by Finns who chose Astoria, Oregon and the Washington side of the river (known as the Northshore), and Italians, Greeks, and Slavs, who settled in Clifton, Oregon downstream of Puget Island. All of these groups started by clearing the land. Some families went on to become farmers; others became fishermen or boat builders, having only a vegetable garden, some fruit trees, a cow or two, a pig, and some chickens.

Some of the boat building families on Puget Island were the Andersons, Blixes, Enges, Gilbertsons, Johnsons, Nelsons, the Rennes and Don Drew who came later. The reason for my visit was to learn about the fishing and boat building, and I enjoyed visits with four men who are members of third generation Norwegian families - Rod Prestegard, Gilbert and Art Vik, and Dennis Blix. All of them share common experiences, such as having picked cucumbers on Puget Island cucumber farms during their youth. The cucumber farms are gone, and so is the custom of young people working “in the fields” during the summers.

But there still are signs of resourcefulness here. There are vintage flat bed trucks among the pick-ups, and some one-man sawmills because the men of Puget Island would retrieve logs that showed up on the island beaches when the river was high during the winter and spring rains. Some of the logs were choice, straight grain Douglas fir that had been cut in the higher elevations where the timber grows more slowly. This makes the grain more dense, and the wood is stronger and more durable. Many of the men who didn’t build boats for a living were capable of doing so, and occasionally would help someone get their boat built for the upcoming season.

Rod Prestegard is one of these. He lives on the shore of Cathlamet Channel on the Washington side of the island; his shop is across the road from his home. The shop is large and has been the site of some interesting projects - one of them was the building of the vintage design sailing gillnetter, seen here hitched to a vintage tractor. This boat is a classic 26-foot by 8-foot by 3-foot double-ender. The design was taken from a half-model made by Marcus Gilbertson from lines done by Dennis Blix’s grandfather Sigurd. Rod built the hull, the hollow mast and the spars in about 2003, and the workmanship is first class. The deck is straight grain Douglas fir from a log that Rod pulled out of the river, dried and cut into lumber. It had been a float log for some time and was from an old growth tree that must have been cut up in the mountains. The annual rings of the grain are about 1/16-inch apart.

Rod offered to move the gillnetter and trailer out of the shop so that I could take some pictures. He did it with panache by hitching up to the trailer with a fully restored vintage Ford tractor. The one lung engine in this beautiful boat is a 4 HP, Frisco Standard gasoline engine. Rod Prestegard claimed to not be a boat builder because he didn’t do it for a steady living. Other people I later talked to said that he was a boat builder alright, based on his skill if not the number of boats that he built.

That evening we visited Gilbert Vik, whose grandfather, John Vik, had come to Puget Island from Ulstein Vik, Norway in about 1913. Gilbert took us to the home of his uncle Art, who is 95 years old and lives up the road in a one room cottage that had been his net shed during his fishing days. This is on the Oregon side of Puget Island where you can look out at the main ship channel.

Art Vik started fishing on the Columbia River in 1934 in his father’s 26-foot gillnet boat that was built in 1917. He remembered that the hull was shallow and not blown around by the strong winds, which made it easier to pull the net in by hand. He went on to fish in Alaska for about 28 years in his own 32-foot gillnetter. After World War II, he built a new boat. His uncles framed it, Art and Marvel Blix planked it, and Art made the summer season in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

A visit with Dennis Blix was the last of the three stops on this trip. Dennis’s grandfather Sigurd started boat building on Puget Island using the skills that he brought from Norway. He became a major builder of gillnet boats which led his sons Marvel and Sankey to come into the business in the 1930s. Sigurd worked at the US Navy Shipyard in Vallejo, California during World War II and returned to Puget Island to resume boat building with his sons. Sigurd’s grandsons Jerry, Arvid and Dennis came into the business in the 1950s when the Blix Boat Building Company shop on Welcome Slough was built. Arvid Blix is still doing boat repair and although Dennis has left boat building and repair, he has built some fine models of the local boats.

I knew that this trip was going to be a good one because an old shipmate from my 1950s Coast Guard duty on the Oregon Coast joined me. We hadn’t seen each other in 42 years and he had as much fun as I did.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

California Waypoints - The Handwriting Is On the Wall

By John Hurwitz

In California the great salmon fishing days of the early decade are gone. If you’re a salmon fisherman and had a few good days up north, you may not agree. All right, I’ll give you that; but “up north” is only a small part of the overall salmon fishing grounds. We’ve just finished the 2010 Genetic Stock Identification (GSI) survey, which spanned the coast from Santa Barbara to Crescent City, and the results are outright disturbing.

Earlier this year the California Department of Fish & Game’s best thinkers came to the conclusion that there were at least 245,000 kings (Chinook salmon, or Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) available for taking this year. I don’t know how they came up with these numbers, I’m pretty sure they have scientific types like marine biologists and such on their staff. I presume they’re involved in the process of setting sustainable season fish catches and thereby set the season or no season accordingly. I imagine they collaborate with other like-minded agencies like NOAA/NMFS/PFMC to obtain a consensus about the abundance of the Chinook salmon in California. They probably even ask the Pew Foundation! Who the heck is the Pew Foundation anyway? They seem to have an opinion on just about everything else in the world and have a willing spokesperson to step up at any press conference to voice that opinion. When I was growing up in this fishing business, “Pew,” is what you said after you discovered some old stinking bait hiding in the hold. I get the same reaction each time I hear what Pew thinks about some issue directing our lives today. If anybody out there knows who Pew is, please send me an email. I’ve been fishing so hard for one or two of those 245,000 salmon I haven’t had time to research it. This is not meant to lay blame on Pew. After all, we have our own government to deal with…state legislators, the state Department of Water Resources, the US Bureau of Reclamation, etc.

The frustration I feel is mirrored by so many of my counterparts. Fishermen, be it nearshore, crab, salmon, etc, are trying to ascertain and perform to a reasonable sustainable standard. Yet in fishery after fishery, there always seems to be a barrier to enacting the needed changes on a timely basis.

This summer the bill outlining California crab pot limits failed. Why? Because someone wanted it to fail. Who do you suppose that someone is? All the fishermen I work with wanted this bill and representative from Half Moon Bay worked hard to make it happen. Could it be that someone scuttled this bill to protect a special interest? A special interest with deep pockets? Or maybe not so nefarious, are we playing in someone else’s sandbox? Are these suggested proposals just too close to some agency’s span of control? Can’t do that. Perhaps, there’s just no will to fight the larger bureaucracies, not this year, maybe next.

So this bill goes away, who would care? Who would be hurt financially if they could fish no more than 500 pots? Gosh, can’t think of soul, can you? Can there be boats out there that make so much money fishing 1,000-2,500 pots that they can spend it to defeat this pot limit bill? Could it be that people or processors own more than one boat and are really fishing all that gear? Gee, a boat must have to fish day and night to get through all that gear. How does a bill on “No Night Crabbing”, along with another pot limit bill, sound to you? The pot limit proposal sounded reasonable and remarkably it took a lot of concessions and compromise to achieve the final version; for this the participants should be commended. The results were unfortunately poor. Nothing’s changed. What are the chances that we poor 150-pot fishermen can mount a financial offensive sufficient enough to defeat the special interest guys? I think, none.

This is what I do know. The California salmon industry is in terrible trouble. If science prevails, (no guarantees), the powers that be won’t allow a sport or commercial salmon season in this state for a long time to come. The closures must be complete, even closing the rivers to fishing, especially when the salmon return to spawn. Oh my, another special interest I completely forgot about, guides, motels, bait and tackle shops, river towns, the CADFG licensing and revenue branch and on and on.
What if science does not prevail? What if season designers don’t look at the data from the GSI (genetic stock identification) surveys that have been conducted from north central California to Oregon from May through September? They could somehow have to convince themselves that: 1. The assigned fishermen in each port didn’t fish in the right spots or 2. These fishermen were not competent enough and thereby missed catching all those salmon that were supposed to be out there.

In the case of all the GSI fishermen, all were more than qualified to find and catch salmon, and possessed more than a thousand years of collective salmon fishing experience amongst them.

Unfortunately, either way it goes, the decline in salmon income to the fishermen intensifies the effort on our crab stocks. This may be catastrophic. With each crab season the number of crab is finite; so once those crab are caught there are no more to replace them. With no legal barrier to prevent overfishing, i.e. pot limits, night fishing, etc, we are looking at a future of diminishing returns and finally no seasons. This could be the future of both fisheries. Another happy thought! Even if all goes right, the pot limit bill passes, there’s more water for salmon and they return in sustainable numbers after an appropriate closure period, we have a new problem: Enforcement!

West Coast Trawlers Prepare for Transition to Catch Shares Management

Fishermen communicate, cooperate and innovate in the face of major change

A group of West Coast commercial fishing organizations is taking unusual measures to prepare for changes to the West Coast trawl fishery. First they held a workshop in Santa Rosa, CA, that was attended by more than half of the West Coast trawl fleet, and now they're posting educational online videos to reach the other half.

To inform participants in the groundfish trawl industry as well as interested members of the public and the media, the West Coast Trawlers' Network is making available videos of trawl fishermen and other industry and policy experts delivering candid, real-world information on the changes coming to the West Coast in January, 2011. The videos present an unusual opportunity to hear from a broad range of experts addressing catch share management of the trawl fishery - a timely topic that affects nearly every West Coast fishing community.

The experts hail from widely diverse backgrounds, but every one of them is committed to building a strong and sustainable trawl fishery.

Developing a Plan Under Catch Shares
Rules of the Road: Regulatory Requirements Under the Catch Share System - A Practical Discussion of What Will Be Expected of Fishermen
Managing Risks Associated with Constraining Species and Modifying Fishing Behavior
Approaches for Maximizing Opportunity: Gear Modification, Handling Techniques, and Behavior Changes
Approaches for Maximizing Opportunity - Mapping and Hotspot Management
Managing Your Quota Portfolio: Trading, Tracking and Financing
Strategies for Minimizing Observer and Other Costs
Growing the Pie - Strategies for Improving Revenue

The links above lead to individual videos - this one will take you to the home page where you can browse among them: .

DVDs of the educational videos will also be mailed to West Coast permit holders and vessel owners in November.

The West Coast Trawlers' Network is an informal association comprised of the Fisherman's Marketing Association , Midwater Trawler's Cooperative, Oregon Trawl Commission , Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative and United Catcher Boats .

Contact information for all participating experts is available at the website or by calling Scott Coughlin, at (206) 228-4141.

North Coast Task Force Approves Unified MLPA Proposal

by Dan Bacher

A panel overseeing the creation of marine protected areas on the North Coast voted unanimously today to forward the unified proposal developed by Tribal, fishing and environmental stateholders to the Fish and Game Commission.

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) also unanimously passed a motion, made by BRTF member Roberta Cordero, affirming the uniqueness of tribal uses of ocean resources. The motion included a mutual reservation of rights by the state and California Tribes and Tribal communities.

In addition, the panel passed a motion, made by BRTF member Meg Caldwell, urging the state agencies to work with Tribes in the comanagement of marine protected areas, according to Annie Reisewitz of the MLPA Initiative. The Task Force also voted to forward an “enhanced compliance alternative” plan that aims to meet more science guidelines.

If adopted by the Commission, the unified proposal would result in about 13 percent of the North Coast region being restricted or closed to fishing and gathering, versus 16 to 20 percent in other regions of the state.

"The actions taken today really exemplified the unified voice that came from the North Coast communities and it was a nice ending to the MLPA process on the North Coast," said Reisewitz.

Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said the approval of the single proposal represented a "tremendous effort by North Coast recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Indian Tribes and Tribal Communities, local conservationists and local governments to come together."

On October 20, three counties, 10 cities and three harbor districts signed and sent 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.

Resolution endorsers 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.

Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata), who has been critical of the MLPA Initiative, urged the task force to adopt the single proposal.

"I believe that there are fundamental flaws in the way that the MLPA has been implemented," Chesbro told the panel. "The MLPA Initiative has not looked at the ecological differences betweeen regions in the state. They have no consideration of existing fishing regulations. I strongly urge that the unified proposal be adopted unchanged."

"The unified proposal is fragile like a soap bubble," quipped Martin, emphasizing the hundreds and hundreds of hours that were spent by Tribes, fishermen, seaweed harvesters, local governments and businesses to develop one proposal. "If you reach out and touch it, it will pop. The adoption of the proposal with no substantive changes is a huge victory for all of the North Coast communities who participated in the process."

Megan Rocha, Self-Governance Officer of the Yurok Tribe, applauded the resounding support for the unified proposal plus the recognition of tribal uses by the task force and the stakeholders.

"The Tribe now looks forward to working with the Department of Fish and Game, the Fish and Game Commission and the Legislature to resolve the tribal use issue," she said.
"The motion regarding the mutual reservation of rights by the Tribes and the state is really big, since early on in the process the state said it didn't have the authority to recognize tribal uses. Now we can move forward and recognize that the real issue is resource management, not quibbling over who has authority."

On July 21, over 300 members of 50 Indian Nations, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, environmentalists, seaweed harvesters and community activists peacefully took over the previous Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting to protest the violation of tribal fishing and gathering rights under the MLPA.

Frankie Joe Myers, a Yurok Tribal ceremonial leader and organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition that organized the direct action, said that he was glad that the task force adopted the unified proposal and made motions supporting traditional tribal gathering and co-management.

"It is close to what we are looking for," said Myers. "However, the proposal still has to go through the Fish and Game Commission - it's not over yet. As native people, we have seen time and time again where we sit down and agree on something and then what comes out in the end is nothing like we expected."

A Special Evening of Southeast Alaska Seafood and Photography by Amy Gulick at the Burke Museum Tuesday, Nov.16

Braided River joins award-winning photographer Amy Gulick, Jon Rowley, Blueacre Seafood Restaurant and Steelhead Diner in presenting a special evening of Southeast Alaska seafood and photography at the Burke Museum of History and Culture 6:30-8:30 pm, November 16. The sumptuous feast of oysters, wild salmon, Dungeness crab, spot prawns, Firesteed and Cayalla wines, Alaskan Amber and more will celebrate Gulick’s stunning exhibit and book Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest.

The $75 ticket, which can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets until November 12, includes entry to the Burke Museum Salmon in the Trees photography exhibit, a signed copy of the book, tax, gratuity, and Southeast Alaska seafood feast by heralded chefs Kevin Davis and Anthony Polizzi. Proceeds benefit Braided River, a Seattle based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization—funding books, exhibits and events to engage citizens and preserve the last remaining wild places in western North America.

“We want this to be as much about enjoying the foods of the Tongass as viewing the photographs,” says Amy Gulick. “It is all interrelated. We want to make it fun and give people of like mind a chance to socialize. We are so pleased to be working with Chefs Kevin Davis and Anthony Polizzi, both fantastic wild salmon proponents and these guys can cook!

Salmon in the Trees is the stunning visual and written story of Amy Gulick’s multi-year journey as she treks and kayaks among bears, bald eagles, and salmon in the Tongass rain forest. The Tongass, which circumscribes the popular Inside Passage, is a rare forest where the original natural cycle of life is still intact and connected. And yes, salmon are in trees and trees in salmon as Salmon in the Trees, the exhibit and the book so beautifully document. Imagine Washington state’s wild rivers 200 years ago: this is the Tongass of today.

“The only chance salmon have is for us to protect their wild natural rivers,” says Blueacre’s Kevin Davis. “We are all about wild salmon in our future. It is an honor and privilege to support Amy’s work with our food at the Burke on November 16.”

The event is sponsored by an optimistic coalition of organizations and individuals who love wild salmon, and want to “give back to where we take from”: Braided River, Jon Rowley, Blueacre Seafood Restaurant, Steelhead Diner, Trout Unlimited, Alaska Wilderness League, Chase Jarvis, Bruce Gore, Ray Troll, Firesteed Cellars, Alaskan Brewing Company, Burke Museum, CaffĂ© Vita and Mountaineers Books. The exhibit will be on display at the Burke from November 4 to February 13, 2011.

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