Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wishing our Readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

2010 was a good year for Philips Publishing Group, and for Fishermen’s News and I write today to thank all of you whose support helped us achieve this success.

The fishing industry is a wonderful place to work, mostly because of the special character of those who work in it.

Whether born into the industry as my brother Chris and I were, or otherwise drawn to it, most of us are involved in it because we were called to it. As a result, the relationships we make are all the more satisfying because they are made in the furtherance of shared goals and values.

My father, Dick Philips, edited Fishermen’s News in the 70’s and early 80’s. He felt it important that he use his position to not only write about the fishing industry, but also to actively advocate on behalf of the independent commercial fishing fleet that makes up our readership.

When my brother Chris and I founded Philips Publishing Group in 2000, we based our company on the core values our father instilled in us: ethical, truthful and complete reporting of the issues and championing the causes that benefit the fishing industry and the communities that the industry supports.

Entering our 66th year of publication, Fishermen’s News continues as the voice of that advocacy.

We look forward to continuing to promote the West Coast independent commercial fishermen through Fishermen’s News, through our professional conferences and through the civic involvement of Philips Publishing Group staff.

And, we look forward to working with all of you who also advocate on behalf of our industry; educating the regulators, legislators, policymakers, environmental special interests, and the general business public about the economic value our industry represents and the social and cultural importance of the maritime and commercial fishing industries to the North American West Coast.

We wish you and your family a Happy and Prosperous New Year and look forward to seeing you next year on the waterfront.

Peter Philips
Philips Publishing Group

Study Shows Drifting Fish Larvae Allow Marine Reserves to Rebuild Fisheries

By David Stauth

Marine ecologists at Oregon State University have shown for the first time that tiny fish larvae can drift with ocean currents and “re-seed” fish stocks significant distances away – more than 100 miles in a new study from Hawaii.

The findings add credibility to what scientists have believed for some time, but until now been unable to directly document. The study also provides a significant demonstration of the ability of marine reserves to rebuild fishery stocks in areas outside the reserves.

The research was published this week in PLoS One, a scientific journal.

“We already know that marine reserves will grow larger fish and some of them will leave that specific area, what we call spillover,” said Mark Hixon, a professor of marine biology at OSU. “Now we’ve clearly shown that fish larvae that were spawned inside marine reserves can drift with currents and replenish fished areas long distances away.

“This is a direct observation, not just a model, that successful marine reserves can sustain fisheries beyond their borders,” he said. “That’s an important result that should help resolve some skepticism about reserves. And the life cycle of our study fish is very similar to many species of marine fish, including rockfishes and other species off Oregon. The results are highly relevant to other regions."

The findings were based on the creation in 1999 of nine marine protected areas on the west coast of the "big island" of Hawaii. They were set up in the face of serious declines of a beautiful tropical fish called yellow tang, which formed the basis for an important trade in the aquarium industry.

“This fishery was facing collapse about 10 years ago,” Hixon said. “Now, after the creation of marine reserves, the fishery is doing well.”

The yellow tang was an ideal fish to help answer the question of larval dispersal because once its larvae settle onto a reef and begin to grow, they are not migratory, and live in a home range about half a mile in diameter. If the fish are going to move any significant distance from where they are born, it would have to be as a larva – a young life form about the size of a grain of rice – drifting with the currents for up to two months before settling back to adult habitats.

Mark Christie, an OSU postdoctoral research associate and lead author of the study, developed some new approaches to the use of DNA fingerprinting and sophisticated statistical analysis that were able to match juvenile fish with their parents, wherever they may have been from. In field research from 2006, the scientists performed genetic and statistical analyses on 1,073 juvenile and adult fish, and found evidence that many healthy juvenile fish had spawned from parents long distances away, up to 114 miles, including some from marine protected areas.

“This is similar to the type of forensic technology you might see on television, but more advanced,” Christie said. “We’re optimistic it will help us learn a great deal more about fish movements, fishery stocks, and the genetic effects of fishing, including work with steelhead, salmon, rockfish and other species here in the Pacific Northwest.”

This study should help answer some of the questions about the ability of marine reserves to help rebuild fisheries, the scientists said. It should also add scientific precision to the siting of reserves for that purpose, which is just one of many roles that a marine reserve can play. Many states are establishing marine reserves off their coasts, and Oregon is in the process of developing a limited network of marine reserves to test their effectiveness. The methods used in this study could also become a powerful new tool to improve fisheries management, Hixon said.

“Tracking the movement of fish larvae in the open ocean isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do,” Hixon said. “It’s not like putting a radio collar on a deer. This approach will provide valuable information to help optimize the placement of reserves, identify the boundaries of fishery stocks, and other applications.”

The issue of larval dispersal is also important, the researchers say, because past studies at OSU have shown that large, fat female fish produce massive amounts of eggs and sometimes healthier larvae than smaller fish. For example, a single two-foot vermillion rockfish produces more eggs than 17 females that are 14 inches long.

But these same large fish, which have now been shown to play key roles in larval production and fish population replenishment, are also among those most commonly sought in fisheries.

The study was done in collaboration with the University of Hawaii, Washington State University, National Marine Fisheries Services and the Hawaii Department of Natural Resources. It was funded by Conservation International.

“The identification of connectivity between distant reef fish populations on the island of Hawaii demonstrates that human coastal communities are also linked,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion. “Management in one part of the ocean affects people who use another part of the ocean.”

Atlantis Japan Acquires 75% Stake in Prime Time Seafood Inc.

Atlantis Japan, a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlantis Group, seafood company and majority owner of Umami Sustainable Seafood (OTCBB "UMAM"), the largest global producer of Northern bluefin tuna, has acquired a 75% stake in Prime Time Seafood Inc.

Prime Time Seafood, Inc. is a Los Angeles based, California corporation established in 1988. It specializes in the grading and distribution of fresh tuna. The company currently imports Tuna from all over the world and supplies it to customers throughout the United States and Canada. It is based in Los Angeles.

In announcing the acquisition, Oli Valur Steindorsson, the CEO of Atlantis Group and Umami stated: “Prime Time Seafood will serve as a reinforcement to our already strong seafood marketing operations. Prime Time will serve as our foothold and launchpad in the US market. With sustainability issues being firmly dealt with we believe that a large market for bluefin tuna will be opening up in the US, California especially”.

Rex Ito, founder and CEO of Prime Time Seafood stated: “The combination of Atlantis' resources and farmed fish through Umami, together with Prime Time's experience and knowledge in the tuna market will be highly beneficial for both parties. In addition to enhancing current operations and farmed bluefin distribution, Prime Time and Atlantis are also developing closed life-cycle production of other popular marine finfish in our operations in Ensenada, Mexico”.

Marine Refrigeration Workshops

Marine Refrigeration Workshops
Alaska Sea Grant MAP, Washington Sea Grant and IMS will be co-sponsoring one-day workshops in Alaska & Washington in February, March and April. This one-day workshop is designed to familiarize skippers and crew with basic onboard marine refrigeration system theory, maintenance, safety and troubleshooting. System sizing, log keeping, startup and winterization topics will also be covered. Participants will do supervised hands-on activities.
Sign up early … space is limited! You will find a printable flyer plus links to sign up for the workshops at the new IMS website:

  • Port Townsend Workshops will be held Saturday March 12th and Saturday April 16th. To sign up, contact: Sarah Fisken at Washington Sea Grant, / 206.543.122
  • Alaska Workshops will be held in Petersburg: Tuesday, February 1st and in Anchorage: Tuesday, March 29th.
  • Petersburg, sign up online at or contact Sunny Rice at Alaska Sea Grant MAP / / 907.772.3381 or 1.888.788.6333
  • To sign up for Anchorage, Contact Torie Baker at Alaska Sea Grant MAP: / 907.424.7542 or 1.888.788.6333

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Learn About First Aid at Sea Through Washington Sea Grant

Washington Sea Grant and Port of Seattle Fishermen’s Terminal are co-sponsoring two Coast Guard-approved First Aid at Sea courses for commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.

Topics include cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, patient assessment, hypothermia, cold-water near-drowning, shock, trauma, burns, fractures, choking, immobilization techniques, first-aid kits and more.

When: Friday, Jan. 21, or Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Nordby Conference Room, Nordby Bldg.
Fishermen’s Terminal, Seattle

The fee for the workshop is $80. Space is limited, so pre-registration is advised. To register or for more information, contact Sarah Fisken, WSG Marine Education Coordinator, at (206) 543-1225 or

Obama Administration Releases Report Announcing Support for Peripheral Canal

By Dan Bacher

On December 15, the Obama administration officially announced its support for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build a peripheral canal/tunnel, a project opposed by fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmentalists, family farmers and Delta residents.

A coordinated report issued by six federal agencies calls for the construction of a "new water conveyance system" - the peripheral canal/tunnel - to move water from north of the California Bay-Delta to corporate agribusiness on the side of the San Joaquin Valley and to Southern California water agencies.

The federal report, which complements a related report issued Wednesday by the Schwarzenegger administration, urges "continued progress toward completion of the California Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and supports major elements of the plan as a promising means of addressing the critical needs of both the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the state’s water delivery structure," according a news release from the Department of Interior.

"After years of drought, growing stress on water supplies, and with the Bay-Delta in full environmental collapse, it has become clear to everyone that the status quo for California's water infrastructure is no longer an option," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Salazar went on to praise Governor Schwarzenegger for developing "forward-thinking solutions," in spite of the fact the Schwarzenegger administration has presided over the collapse of Central Valley chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail and young striped bass populations and the exporting of record amounts of Delta water from 2004 to 2006.

"Governor Schwarzenegger and the State of California have worked tirelessly and in partnership with us to develop responsible, forward-thinking solutions that can help us break the cycle of shortages and water conflicts," Salazar said. "This is the moment to push forward with solutions, apply the best science available, and build a water future for California that is good for our economy, guards against the impacts of catastrophic earthquakes and other natural disasters, and helps restore California's Bay-Delta to health.”

Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke also lauded the release of the "coordinated report."

“Through the Interim Federal Action Plan for the Bay Delta, the Obama Administration has made significant progress working with California to address the State’s complex and long-standing water issues," stated Sutley. "However, there is still much more work to do. Finalizing a Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a key part of establishing a long-term sustainable future for California’s water system. Any solution must address the dual goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem health, be science-based, and be developed with the full engagement of stakeholders. We look forward to working with Governor-Elect Brown to continue and accelerate our progress.”

“Over the long-term, rebuilding the ecology of the Delta and securing the reliability of California's water delivery systems carries huge promise for growing jobs across California, from the salmon-dependent fishing communities of coastal California to the farming communities of the Central Valley to Los Angeles basin,” said Locke. “We will continue to focus on critical next steps, including applying the best scientific research available to inform sound decisions and long-term planning."

Locke failed to indicate how two mutually exclusive goals - restoring salmon populations and the jobs that depend on them and providing increased, more "reliable" supplies of water for unsustainable corporate agribusiness on drainage impaired land and land developers in southern California - can be achieved at the same time.

California Fishermen Give Lubchenco Opinions on Catch Shares

A crowd of concerned fishermen, environmentalists and others filled the chambers of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors earlier this month to share their complaints, ideas and worries with Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Catch shares are just one tool, and I believe they are a valuable tool if they are well-dispersed," said Lubchenco.

However, many fishermen who spoke Thursday believe catch shares will mean the end of their livelihoods.

"We've taken such good care of our oceans, we don't really need you," Judith Vidaver of the Ocean Protection Coalition told Dr. Lubchenco "I suggest you take your programs somewhere else."

"There are six trawl fishermen in Fort Bragg, and all are concerned (whether) they are going to be able to stay in business," said Daniel Platt of Fort Bragg, while another fisherman from Fort Bragg had similar concerns.

"I take issue with catch shares being described as only one tool. According to the (Pacific Fishery Management Council), that is the tool," said Tom Estes, who said he shares a family fleet with his sons. "The more we talk, the more frightened I get. My son says that this might be the nail in the coffin, and I agree."

Vivian Helliwell described catch shares as "social engineering and market manipulation" that "the little guys always lose out on." She added that they would take the "fishing out of our community," and "mean the end of the fishing industry on the West Coast."

Dusty Dillon, who said he was a property owner in Fort Bragg, provided the crowd with some comic relief when he suggested to Lubchenco that, "we've got a lot of empty buildings if you'd like to open a local office. We're trying to revitalize our waterfront."

Other speakers urged Lubchenco to rescind the permit NOAA recently granted to the US Navy to begin five years of "warfare testing and exercises" in the Northwest Training Range Complex, which includes Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Lubchenco then took 10 minutes to address the numerous concerns raised.

"Thank you for your heartfelt, respectful and passionate comments, which give me hope that we can find solutions for the majority of these issues," she said. "I share many of the concerns that many of you raised, and you've also put new issues on our radar."

As for catch shares, Lubchenco said, "I urge you to keep an open mind. The results depend on the design of the catch share program, which is a much more powerful tool for creating sustainable fisheries than the traditional management.

Communities Awarded $20.7 Million in WA State Grants for Salmon Recovery

Communities around Washington State will receive $20.7 million in state grants to fix damaged rivers and streams, replace failing culverts and replant riverbanks with the goal of helping recover salmon from the brink of extinction, the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board announced last week.

“Salmon are an important part of Washington’s economy and culture. These grants will do two things,” said Steve Tharinger, chairman of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “They will help put people to work improving our environment, and they will help us protect and restore salmon populations important to communities across Washington.”

The grants will fund big and small restoration projects across the state, including planting trees along streams to cool the water enough so salmon can survive, replacing culverts that currently prevent salmon from migrating to and from spawning habitat and restoring entire floodplains and estuaries. The grants are estimated to create or continue about 250 jobs in the next four years.

Grants were given to projects as noted below. See details on each project at

Benton County........................... $114,055
Chelan County....................... $1,070,750
Clallam County....................... $1,074,347
Clark County............................... $886,486
Columbia County................... $1,014,179
Garfield County...................... See Details
Grays Harbor County................ $474,737
Island County............................. $268,875
Jefferson County.................... $1,332,911
King County............................ $2,128,798
Kitsap County............................. $148,115
Kittitas County............................ $609,549
Klickitat County.......................... $294,214
Lewis County................................ $56,000
Mason County............................ $435,118
Okanogan County.................. $1,110,100
Pacific County............................ $505,708
Pend Oreille County.................. $402,000
Pierce County............................. $851,007
San Juan County...................... $310,855
Skagit County.......................... $1,416,732
Skamania County.................. $1,376,500
Snohomish County................ $1,007,566
Thurston County........................ $624,279
Wahkiakum County.................. $578,500
Walla Walla County................... $426,201
Whatcom County....................... $794,480
Yakima County.......................... $708,664
Multiple Counties....................... $758,270

Local watershed groups develop these projects based on regional recovery plans, which are approved by the federal government. Individual projects are reviewed by regional salmon recovery organizations and the state’s technical review panel to make sure each project will help recover salmon in the most cost-effective manner.

“This local, state, and federal partnership has made Washington a national model in salmon recovery,” Tharinger said.

In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon, Snake River sockeye, as endangered. By the end of that decade, the federal government had designated 16 more species of salmon as at-risk of extinction, covering three-quarters of the state. Those listings set off a series of activities including the formation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to oversee the investment of state and federal funds for salmon recovery. Since 2000, the board has awarded nearly $417 million in grants, funded by federal and state dollars, for 1,775 projects. Grantees have contributed more than $189 million in matching resources.

Funding for the grants announced today comes from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. The funding for these grants was approved by Congress earlier this year.
Information about the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Recreation and Conservation Office is available online at

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Applications Open for Graduate Fellowships in Population Dynamics and Marine Resource Economics

The California Sea Grant College Program is now seeking applications for the 2011 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)–Sea Grant Joint Graduate Fellowship Programs in Population Dynamics and Marine Resource Economics.

These are national competitions, and applicants should contact the Sea Grant program in their state (or closest to them). See for locations of Sea Grant programs and contact information.

The award for each fellowship is contingent upon the availability of federal funds and will be in the form of a grant or cooperative agreement of $38,500 per year.

Formal announcements of the fellowships have been published in the Federal Register and the complete Federal Funding Opportunity can be accessed through the links provided on the California Sea Grant website:

National Marine Fisheries Service–Sea Grant Joint Graduate Fellowship Program in Population Dynamics
The Graduate Fellowship Program awards at least two new Ph.D. fellowships each year to students who are interested in careers related to the population dynamics of living marine resources and the development and implementation of quantitative methods for assessing their status. Fellows will work on thesis problems of public interest and relevance to NMFS under the guidance of NMFS mentors at participating NMFS Science Centers and Laboratories.
  • Applications are due 5 p.m. PST, January 21, 2011
  • Information and application:

National Marine Fisheries Service–Sea Grant Joint Graduate Fellowship Program in Marine Resource Economics
The Graduate Fellowship Program generally awards two new Ph.D. fellowships each year to students who are interested in careers related to the development and implementation of quantitative methods for assessing the economics of the conservation and management of living marine resources. Fellows will work on thesis problems of public interest and relevance to NMFS under the guidance of NMFS mentors at participating NMFS Science Centers and Laboratories.
  • Applications are due 5 p.m. PST, January 21, 2011
  • Information and application:

Southeast AK Shrimp Fishermen Could Receive Up To $12,000

Southeast Alaska commercial shrimp fishermen may have up to $12,000 from Uncle Sam waiting for them – but only if they sign up before Dec. 23 for a free federal program that provides training for people in industries suffering from foreign competition.

The UAF Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program would host the training workshops in several Panhandle communities where eligible fishermen live.

Alaska’s commercial shrimp fishermen have faced stiff competition from foreign shrimp fishermen and farmers. Because of low prices and lack of markets, only about 100 of the state’s 300 permitted shrimp fishermen actually fished in recent years. Most of the permit-holders live and work in Southeast Alaska.

“Alaska commercial shrimp fishermen have been severely diminished economically in recent years,” said Glenn Haight, fisheries business specialist with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program. “There’s hardly any commercial fishing for shrimp here now. There just isn’t much of a market and the prices are low.”

Haight said Canadian shrimp dominate the coldwater shrimp fishery where Alaska shrimp normally compete.

The compensation and training is being offered through the US Department of Agriculture. To qualify for compensation, fishermen must have caught and landed shrimp in either the pot or beam trawl commercial fishery in 2008 and during at least one of the three previous years. Crew and spouses of eligible permit holders also may qualify.

Of the 100 or so fishermen that may qualify for the free program, Haight said only about ten fishermen have so far signed up for the training. The sign-up deadline is Dec. 23, 2010.

To receive the cash payout, eligible fishermen must enroll and take 16 hours of industry-specific training in order to receive up to $4,000, Haight explained. Following that, eligible fishermen must write a business plan that implements changes to their operations aimed at making them more profitable and competitive, or moves them into a different line of work. Once fishermen complete that, they would get up to $8,000 in additional compensation.

The exact amount of cash shrimp fishermen will receive depends on how many fishermen across the country take advantage of the program. The training and compensation is being offered to shrimp fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico and lobster fishermen in the northeast.

Alaska Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Program is conducting the Alaska training. Depending on the number of qualified fishermen, the Marine Advisory Program will hold as many as six workshops in Southeast communities. Training will include business management and planning, state and global seafood markets, direct seafood marketing, fisheries management, financial management and other related topics.

The deadline to sign up is Dec. 23, 2010. Signups must be done through the Alaska USDA Farm Service Agency. To learn more about the program, contact any of the following people:

USDA Farm Service Agency
Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program

NOAA Sea Grant Awards $394,000 to Breed a Bigger, Better Pacific Oyster

Two University of Southern California biology professors and a California Sea Grant marine advisor have been awarded $394,000 in a national aquaculture research competition sponsored by NOAA Sea Grant.

The two-year award will fund genetic studies and field tests of a newly developed double-hybrid Pacific oyster that the biologists believe can transform the West Coast’s $72-million-a-year oyster growing industry.

“This research is of great interest to us,” says Jonathan Davis of Taylor Shellfish Farms, one of the region’s largest shellfish growers and a collaborator on the project. “We believe we can leverage grant resources into a new product stream of high-yielding Pacific oysters.”

The new oyster, 15 years in the making, is produced through a two-stage cross-breeding process that confers “hybrid vigor”– superior growth, size and health – to its tasty offspring, says the project’s leader, USC biology professor Dennis Hedgecock. In small-scale experiments funded by the US Department of Agriculture, the first generation hybrid oyster was shown to grow twice as fast as the industry standard, meaning that farm yields could potentially double, too.

The NOAA Sea Grant award will allow Hedgecock and grant co-recipient Donal Manahan, also a biology professor at USC, to identify genes and metabolic processes responsible for hybrid vigor in the oyster and to use what is learned to develop a tag for identifying, within the first few hours of birth, offspring with desired traits.

This early-detection tool will enable researchers to continue experimenting with breeding bigger and better Pacific oysters rapidly, without having to wait two years for the oysters to reach maturity and undergo normal testing.

The Pacific oyster, whose scientific name Crassostrea gigas means “giant cupped oyster,” is the species selected for the hybrid breeding program, as it accounts for about 95 percent of the West Coast’s cultured oyster product and about 98 percent of total global production.

Paul Olin, an aquaculture specialist and marine advisor with California Sea Grant, is overseeing the soon-to-begin farm trials, to document the oyster’s performance under in-situ environmental conditions representative of California’s varying coastal climes. The Hog Island Oyster Company in Tomales Bay, Grassy Bar Oyster Company in Morro Bay and Carlsbad Aquafarm in northern San Diego County are participating in these trials.

Olin will make sure that the new oyster and control groups are properly matched, identified and separated from each other. He will also collect data on yields, production costs and return on investment for the trials.

“We want to demonstrate to oyster growers that science translates to the bottom line,” Hedgecock says. “We want to show them that a better seed is a better business.”

Chinook 'Eco-Salmon' Farming Starting in China

By Bob Tkacz

Pollution, escape and drug-free Chinook salmon farming has begun in China.

"Our objective is, within a couple of years, to be up to 5,000 tons of (annual) production in our existing sites around our Benxi hatchery," said Richard Buchanan, president and CEO of AgriMarine, Inc. at the second China Sustainable Seafood Forum, in Dalian, China, Nov. 1.

Located in the Guangmanshan Reservoir, outside of Benxi and about 200 miles north of Dalian, the AgriMarine farm is the result of almost a decade of research started to find a solution to the lice, pollution and other problems facing traditional net pen salmon farms in Canada.

Headquartered in Campbell River, British Columbia, AgriMarine began putting the results of its research to work in China in September of 2009 when it began farming Steelhead trout in Guangmanshan.

Steelhead, which are native to China, were chosen because of their existing markets and because feed formulations were readily available. AgriMarine began selling its Steelhead in Beijing and Shanghai this fall, one year after they were planted in the Guangmanshan tanks, Buchanan said.

"Our first harvests commenced this September and we've harvested between 30 and 50 tons already since the beginning of September," Buchanan said at the forum.

"Our main market so far has been the five-star hotels that are already using Norwegian salmon. The Norwegians have done a good job of marketing for us and we're providing an alternative that is one day from the pen to the hotel," he added.

Chinook, which are expected to take about 15 months to reach five kilogram-and-up market size, will be AgriMarine's main product, with coho and Atlantic salmon joining its menu in the future as the company targets a more lucrative Chinese audience. Each tank is projected to yield 250 metric tons per 15-month cycle.

"The China market is used to the Norwegian salmon being very large and the trout are only half the size. It limits our market for them and even though it may be a wider market, but the market we're targeting with the hotels is size," Buchanan explained.

"This year we'll import one million Canadian-sourced ova to our hatchery in China which represents about 4,000 metric tons of production when they become whole fish," Buchanan said during my exclusive tour of the Benxi farm, Oct. 29. The first eggs to arrive in China, raised for some seven months in its Benxi hatchery, were being planted at the Guangmanshan farm as each of what will eventually be ten tanks is completed.

"A year from right now we'll be harvesting our salmon," Buchanan said. What has been a research and development facility at Campbell River was also on track to become a commercial Chinook farm with tank construction expected to be completed by the end of November. A second farm in China, about 200 miles north of Benxi in another reservoir near the city of Siping, is also in early development.

Buchanan said overall expansion will be measured and is limited mainly by the 24-hour limit on transport of fingerlings from the Benxi hatchery, and by the availability of fresh, cool and clean water. Guangmanshan Reservoir is several miles long and boats are not allowed on it so that the water is "pristine" according to Buchanan. The farm does not filter the water before sending it into tanks, nor does it use pesticides or antibiotics.

The reservoir freezes over in winter and the colder weather will slow fish growth, but AgriMarine operations will continue year round because the water in the tanks, maintained at a temperature of 39° Fahrenheit, is continually circulated. In summer water is pumped from the depths of the 150-foot deep reservoir to keep tank temperatures sufficiently cool.

"It's a perfect environment to grow fish in a closed-containment system," Buchanan said.

Fish eggs are the only part of the AgriMarine operation not produced in China. The 24-meter diameter, 7-meter deep fiberglass composite tanks are produced in Shenyang, an hour's drive from Benxi. Tanks comprise 24 pie-shaped wedges with a central floor drain that collects feces and minimal amounts of unconsumed feed, which will be pumped to shore for use as fertilizer in this corn-growing region.

Tanks are neutrally buoyant. The first two were assembled onshore and lowered into the reservoir with cranes, but Chinese commercial divers convinced AgriMarine they could assemble the units in the water, which produced a 20 percent construction cost savings.

All the tanks are held in place with a dock system, linked through buoys to anchors, which also contains control and mechanical units for water circulation and oxygenation pumps and subsurface cameras that monitor feed consumption. The three million liters (792,516 gallons) of water in each tank is refreshed every hour and water circulation speed is increased as fish age.

"Hydraulics is very important in closed containment to make sure oxygen is distributed and that the swim speed is perfect for the fish. (It) also provides a healthier flesh because the fish are exercising. The flesh is much firmer than what I've experienced in net cage farming," Buchanan said, based on his ten years of net pen farming.

Including mechanical systems, each tank cost about $300,000 to build. For year-round production a farm will require eight grow-out tanks plus two more where salmon ready for market will be held without feeding for two days for final conditioning that eliminates feces and excess fat.

AgriMarine has partnered with distributors in Beijing and Shanghai that import Norwegian salmon for the five-start hotels. "We've established contractual relationships with these distributors so they're introducing the home-grown large finfish, trout and salmon grown in China, alongside Norwegian fish so the buyers, the hotel chefs can see the difference," Buchanan said.

The buyers, he said, "notice the difference between Pacifics and Atlantics. The feedback we're getting is in the freshness and taste... They say it's got a much more flavor and freshness than the Norwegian fish."

Among the differences they noticed was the absence of the white fat stripes that are a hallmark of Norwegian salmon. "We had some feedback last week from some restaurants in Beijing that tried our fish. They wanted to know why there weren't stripes in them," Buchanan said in October.

Norwegian farms, and a New York investor that owns Puget Sound farms have taken note of AgriMarine's technology, which could become the world standard. "We're talking to Norway because Norway owns BC farms so there's a fit," Buchanan said.

AgriMarine is also in the early stages of marketing what Buchanan called its "eco-salmon" in British Columbia and wrestling the issue of how to distinguish its new system from sustainably certified net pen farms.

"World wide, we are the only company with this type of technology that can convert a net cage production to large scale closed-containment production ... The question is, if net cages can comply with aquaculture guidelines what distinguishes closed containment ... Is there a higher standard if you have closed containment and still meet the world standard for aquaculture?" he asked.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Congressman Objects to NOAA Asset Forfeiture Fund Policy

Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) wrote to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco last week raising concerns about NOAA plans for reforming the agency's use of funds derived from fines and forfeited assets from fishermen.

Congressman Jones called it "extremely troubling that the agency's draft policy would allow proceeds from fines, penalties and forfeitures from fishermen to be used to pay the salaries of the Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) deciding cases brought against fishermen. Not only is this use of funds not authorized by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, it is terrible policy. The right to a trial before an unbiased, impartial judge is a bedrock principle of our democracy. If fisheries law judges are compensated with money from judgments against fishermen, the appearance, if not the practice, of impartiality is fundamentally compromised."

The Congressman pointed out that in a recent Inspector General-commissioned audit of the NOAA Fisheries Asset Forfeiture Fund (AFF) found extensive waste, fraud and abuse by the agency. The audit found that NOAA Fisheries "administered the AFF in a manner that is neither transparent nor conducive to accountability, thus rendering it susceptible to both error and abuse." It also found that NOAA Fisheries used the AFF extensively "to cover a variety of expenses which do not appear to be '...directly related to investigations and civil or criminal enforcement proceedings," which they are required to be by law. Such expenditures include over $500,000 spent on international travel in the past four and a half years. Other expenditures include $4.6 million for the purchase of 200 vehicles for only 172 enforcement personnel, including a vehicle for former OLE Director, Dale Jones, who would "ride the train to his office free of charge, by virtue of his status as an armed law enforcement officer,"; $2.7 million for the purchase of vessels, including $300,000 for an undercover vessel that the manufacturer's website described as "luxurious" with a "beautifully appointed cabin"; and dozens of purchase card transactions that were either improper, fraudulent or duplicative.

The Congressman praised the parts of agency's draft policy which prohibit the use of AFF funds for:
  • funding for NOAA employee labor, benefits, or awards;
  • funding for vehicle or vessel purchases or leases;
  • funding for travel not related to specific investigations or enforcement proceedings; and,
  • funding for equipment such as computers, blackberries, cell phones and furniture.

- Saving Seafood

United Fishermen of Alaska Endorses Cora Campbell for ADFG Commissioner

United Fishermen of Alaska, representing 38 Alaska commercial fishing organizations, announced its support of Cora Campbell for Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. UFA highlighted Campbell’s wide ranging experience in the state and federal fisheries management processes. UFA members have worked with Campbell during her career as Fisheries Policy Analyst for Governors Parnell and Palin, and the members are keenly aware of the skills she has acquired in the Fish and Game policy and planning process during this period of time.

“Cora has impressed the UFA board with her presentations and public comments. She routinely displays a depth of knowledge of state and federal management processes, the importance of science-base management and the far-reaching effects of fish and game management on Alaska citizens. In addition, although she is well grounded in commercial fisheries, she has extensive experience and knowledge in the federal subsistence management process,” said UFA President Arni Thomson.

“We feel she is uniquely qualified with this broad perspective, and we support Governor Parnell in providing her the opportunity to lead the State’s world class science based management of our fish and game resources,” said Thomson.

Salmon Need Exercise Too

Swimming against a current is a challenging exercise, and hatchery fish, it turns out, benefit from the workout, according to the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute. This seemingly obvious research finding highlights potential shortcomings in raising juvenile hatchery salmon and steelhead in rectangular raceways with little or no current for fish to swim against. It also points the way for hatchery managers in the Northwest to save water while substantially increasing the percentage of the fish they raise that will successfully migrate to the ocean.

The research, conducted by the Chelan County Public Utility District, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and The Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute at the Eastbank Hatchery near Wenatchee, Washington, compared the effectiveness of raising steelhead and summer Chinook salmon in circular tanks that reuse water to the traditional method of raising the fish in rectangular, flow-through raceways.

The researchers found that the fish raised in the circular reuse systems migrated downstream faster, in greater numbers and with higher survival rates than the fish grown in the raceways. The main difference: the fish raised in the circular tanks swim against a relatively swift current compared to the fish in the raceways. The current is generated as water is pumped through the circular tanks in which the fish are raised.

The circular tanks are part of a system that, depending on the technologies employed, can reuse up to 99 percent of the water in the system. In the pilot project at Eastbank Hatchery the system was designed to use four times less water than the raceway systems. In addition the circular tanks collect and concentrate waste products from the fish and uneaten food, making it easier for hatchery managers to clean their discharge water and meet permit requirements.

“We are really at the early stages here and recognize that hatchery innovations may require many years to prove their effectiveness, but in this case, we are extremely optimistic that water conservation and hatchery supplementation efforts can complement one another. This could be a win-win for hatchery managers and the public alike as we face increasing demands on our water resources” said Joe Miller Hatchery Program Manager for Chelan County Public Utility District.

The researchers applied a high level of scrutiny to the research, knowing that salmon and steelhead hatcheries throughout the Northwest have had a history of unintended consequences.

In addition to migration speed and survival, the researchers looked at the growth, physiology and overall health of fish raised in circular reuse tanks. They determined that there were no indications of significant deleterious side effects and found there was no significant difference in growth, lipid levels, condition factors, or smolt development between the reuse fish and the raceway fish.

The differences were observed when the fish were released. The fish raised in the circular, reuse tanks migrated faster and in greater numbers. They cleared the checkpoint five-days sooner and survived in greater numbers – 72 percent compared to 52 percent -- than the raceway-raised fish.

In addition, the reuse group had far fewer “mini-jacks,” or small, juvenile male salmon that become sexually mature early and stay in the freshwater section of the rivers, rather than migrate to the ocean.

Mini-jacks occur naturally, but in less than 5 percent of the total males. In hatchery raised fish, however, mini-jacks are sometimes as high as 90 percent of the population. Scientists recognize the potential that, over time, mini-jacks from hatcheries could skew the wild population’s genetic makeup toward domesticated qualities found in hatchery fish.

In the recent study, the numbers of mini-jacks produced in the reuse, circular tanks was approximately 1.5 percent of all fish compared to 4.5 percent of all of the raceway fish. In the second year the number of mini-jacks was 6.5 percent of all fish versus 13 percent for the raceway-raised fish.

“Water reuse in circular tanks provides a range of swimming velocities that appears to be beneficial to the fish, and it does so with a far more efficient use of water,” said Dr. Brian Vinci, Director of Engineering Services for the Freshwater Institute, located in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Vinci has been helping public utility districts in Eastern Washington implement water reuse technologies.

GSI Results: Numbers Don’t Lie

By John Hurwitz

I have been writing about this survey in recent columns so I knew the numbers would be poor from our experience alone. What follows are the August results of the Genetic Stock Identification (GSI) Survey. Half Moon Bay had extremely bleak salmon catch numbers, but some of the other ports did better. What’s better? See for yourself.

The samples were collected by the GSI fishermen, given to the port liaisons, and shipped to the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Laboratory in Santa Cruz, California. There the samples were processed and analyzed by the scientists under the direction of John Carlos Garza, Ph.D. and Eric Crandall, Ph.D.

As with all the ports participating in the survey, we had a certain number of fishing days per month. Each management zone received sixty days a month, which were divided up among the ports in each zone. For example, the San Francisco management zone had 60 days per month to divide between its two ports, 30 days to Half Moon Bay and 30 days to San Francisco.

Management zones with only one port had all 60 days allocated to the one port, as was the case with Ft. Bragg and Bodega Bay. Utilizing different strategies the fishing days were then divided evenly among the boats in each port. In Half Moon Bay any leftover days were distributed among the boats by lottery, allowing each boat at least one extra day.

Latitude lines defined the management zones. In the SF management zone, fishermen from the San Francisco port fished from the northern latitude, Pt. Reyes south to Point San Pedro; Half Moon Bay fishermen fished from Point San Pedro south to Pigeon Point. The Bodega Bay boats fished from Reyes north to Arena, and the Ft. Bragg boats from Arena north to Horse Mountain above Shelter Cove.

Just to give you an idea of how many salmon aren’t out there to be caught, take a look at the following numbers from Ft. Bragg for all of August. Keep in mind that all the GSI fishermen below Arena were fishing mostly closed salmon zones whereas Ft. Bragg had a quota salmon fishery. In July, Ft. Bragg was allowed 18,000 fish from July 15 to the 31st. In August, they were given a quota of 9,000 fish for the entire month. In a normal salmon fishing year (pre 2006), the July quota would be filled in a few days and the August quota would be over in a week. This year neither month came even close to meeting the quota, not even remotely near the number of fish needed to “fill out” the quota. Incidentally, Ft. Bragg was the most productive port of all the ports in the GSI Survey.

Have I got your attention yet? I hope so because this survey was very, very good science and we need to pay close attention to it.

Keep in mind that for August Ft. Bragg fished 117 sample days and the boat average was between 4 and 5 fish per day. Due to constraints on space we’re unable to show the charts, but another interesting finding in the study is the percentage of Central Valley Fall-Run Chinook Salmon caught in August: Ft Bragg had 51.42 percent, Bodega Bay 94.97 percent, San Francisco 99.09 percent, Half Moon Bay 100.0 percent, Santa Cruz/Monterey 90.54 percent. Another thing not included in the preceding information is the number of sub-legals (shorts) in the total catch.

Again for August the ports have the following percentages: Ft Bragg 21 percent sub-legals, Bodega Bay 38 percent, San Francisco 35 percent, Half Moon Bay 50 percent, Santa Cruz/Monterey 17 percent. The concern about the Central Valley Fall-Run Chinook Salmon is that it has been defined as a collapsed run. In reality our retention fisheries (Pt Arena and north) were taking even more fish out of this collapsed run.

What’s next?
The guidelines for sampling were that we should fish just as we would commercially, in other words, go for it. I have never fished harder, nor more diligently, to catch a fish than I did this summer during the survey. We continually ran gear, changed gear regularly, tried plugs, tried all flashers and hoochies, tried no flashers and hoochies, we tried hoochies and no flashers.

Sometimes if we caught a fish on a certain spoon, we would change one side to that spoon and back tack over and over that spot to see if the magic would work again. No. Nothing worked. Know why? Because there were so few salmon out there to be caught.

It should also be noted that these fishermen were not rookies. To give you an idea of the experience of the Half Moon Bay GSI fleet: F/V Irene Marie- Irene and I have fished salmon for 35 years, Rusty Boro, F/V BeBe, has been fishing salmon for more than 35 years, most of it out of Half Moon Bay. Jim Andersen, F/V Allaine, grew up fishing salmon in Half Moon Bay, again for more than 35 years, Steve and Eric Masuda, F/V Sachiko, more than 35 years. Bill Webb, F/V Cricket, more than 35 years, Gary Thurston, F/V Becky Ann, lifetime fisherman, Bob Berry, F/V Donald B, grew up fishing on the boat with his dad, and now fishes it with his wife, Mary Alice. Hopefully, you get the point. We knew what we were doing, and mostly what we were doing was fishing, not catching. All the other ports had similarly staffed vessels with long time salmon fishermen at the helm.

In my opinion, there are not enough salmon along this California coast to allow any commercial or sports fishery. I believe that a multi-year closure would give these fish a chance to rebound. We’ve seen this work with the improved coho salmon runs and we’ve seen management of the Klamath stocks show positive results. These closures should be commercial, sport, and complete.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Court to Hear Challenge to Water Diversion Permits on Scott and Shasta Rivers

by Dan Bacher

The Superior Court in San Francisco on Wednesday, December 1 will hear a court challenge to salmon-killing water diversion permits approved by the California Department of Fish and Game on the Scott and Shasta Rivers on September 22, 2009.

Attorneys Wendy Park and Greg Loarie will be in court challenging the permitting programs that are driving endangered wild coho salmon extinct. The de-watering of the two major Klamath River tributaries has resulted in major fish kills over the years. During the past two years, DFG staff were forced to rescue juvenile salmon from certain death in drying pools on the rivers.

The attorneys are representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Klamath Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club, the Quartz Valley Indian Tribe, Northcoast Environmental Center and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) in the case.

"The permits would allow the 'incidental take' (i.e., killing) of coho by agriculture, so long as these water users abide by a list of generic, unstudied, and inadequate mitigation measures," said Park. "Ultimately, the permits allow the continuation of the destructive activities that resulted in the collapse of the coho fishery in the first place."

Local ranchers divert so much water from both rivers to grow hay that the rivers often dry up during part of the year, according to Park. Coho salmon that historically spawned in these two rivers are at, or close to, extinction.

"The California Department of Fish and Game is issuing permits to ranchers to continue dewatering the rivers based on historic diversion levels which leave baby salmon high and dry and block the return of adult fish to spawn," Park added. "Last year only nine adult coho salmon returned to the Shasta River to spawn."

In April 2010, water conditions on the Scott and Shasta became so inhospitable that DFG staff relocated what few endangered coho salmon could still be found in the two rivers, transplanting them dozens of miles down the mainstem Klamath River to supposed safety.

"At this point, coho are so close to extinction and the Scott and Shasta are so severely dewatered each year that this type of rescue action may be warranted, but it cannot be a substitute for rewatering, and in the long term it's not likely to be a viable survival strategy for coho in these basins," said Klamath Riverkeeper Erica Terence. "It's a band-aid solution at best on what has become a major water hemorrhage."

NOAA, Spain Announce Cooperative Arrangement to Preserve Maritime Underwater Heritage

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and Spain’s Ministry of Culture announced today the signing of a memorandum of understanding outlining a framework to jointly identify, protect, manage and preserve underwater cultural resources of mutual interest within their respective areas of responsibility.

The arrangement calls for the exchange of information on actual or potential identification and location of underwater cultural resources, research and archeological examination of the resources, provision of information concerning potential or actual unauthorized disturbances of underwater cultural resources, cooperation with nongovernmental organizations engaged in historical or archeological programs compatible with the objectives of the arrangement, and preparation and dissemination of educational and outreach materials.

“Today marks the beginning of a more formal and active interaction between NOAA and Spain as we learn from each other’s archives and share that information for a better understanding and appreciation of Spain’s important maritime cultural legacy in America,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program.

“The heritage spawned by Spain’s interactions with the sea and the exploration and settlement of our coasts by Spanish mariners dates back 500 years,” said James P. Delgado, Ph.D., NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Maritime Heritage Program director. “This arrangement will give us access to the incredible records in the archives and libraries of Spain.”

An example of the type of work that will benefit from the new arrangement is the discovery of a wreck that may be the Spanish ship San Agustin, which was lost in November 1595 in the California waters of the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Point Reyes National Seashore. The U.S. National Park Service located an offshore wreck site during a survey of Drakes Bay in 1982-1983. No excavation of the buried wreck site offshore has been done to confirm that it is all or a portion of the lost galleon. The National Marine Sanctuary Program, working with partners in Spain as well as the Park Service, will have a strengthened ability to discuss appropriate actions to better understand and document that shipwreck in the future.

It Is Time to Remove the Pens

Last week “A Digital Gathering” began and 2,098 people have signed.

“Out of respect for the law of this land, the Broughton First Nations and future generations, we recognize that the land tenures under the salmon feedlots in Broughton have expired. We the under-signed affirm that the region known as the Broughton Archipelago (between and including Kingcome and Knight Inlets and west through Drury Inlet) is therefore legally salmon feedlot-free. We call on the Province of British Columbia to honour this reality that they caused by not renewing the salmon feedlot leases and remove the feedlot equipment from Broughton so that wild fish can thrive in these waters to the benefit of all.”

While the BC government appears to support salmon feedlots in the ocean, they have not renewed the land tenure agreements that give each feedlot legal access to anchor over the seafloor in the Broughton Archipelago.

“Some of these operations have not had a valid tenure for several years,” says BC biologist, Alexandra Morton. “They are operating on a month-to-month arrangement. This is rather huge. No one can figure out why and that concerns us.”

It is unclear whether the problem is failure to win First Nations approval, failure to clear Transport Canada, constitutional matters that prohibit privatization of ocean spaces, or liability issues. But as it stand the Broughton Archipelago is legally salmon feedlot-free.

On December 18, as per a BC Supreme Court ruling, the province must hand management of the salmon feedlot industry back to the Federal Government, which gave it to BC unlawfully in 1988. Federal authorizations to operate will be issued, but the land tenures agreements (or lack of) will remain with the province.

“How can the federal government authorize an industrial activity that appears unable to get legal tenure to the physical sites they occupy,” asks Morton? “Legally, constitutionally and biologically this industry never quite fits and we in the Broughton live with the day-to-day consequences of this. If the province can’t tenure this industry what is it doing in the ocean? Legally Broughton is salmon feedlot-free and the province needs to own up to that.”

Contact – Alexandra Morton 250-974-7086

Biggest Salmon Paychecks Since 1992

By Margaret Bauman

Preliminary estimates from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the 2010 commercial salmon harvest and its value show that harvesters of wild salmon took home their largest paychecks in 18 years.

The preliminary 2010 estimate indicates that the harvest generated $533.9 million for those paychecks, the highest ex-vessel value of any season since 1992, with Bristol bay and Prince William Sound accounting for 55 percent of the total value of all salmon harvested.

The ADF&G report, issued Nov. 8, notes that preliminary 2010 statewide average prices showed an increase for all species of salmon compared to final 2009 prices. “The increase continues a strong recovery trend from the low salmon prices of 2002,” researchers said. Final 2010 prices for all salmon species may be higher yet, once post-season adjustments and end-of-season bonuses are paid to fishermen.

The harvest of 168.6 million pounds of all salmon species in Alaska is the 11th largest harvest since statehood, up 5.6 million fish over the 2009 harvest of 162.9 million fish, 31.3 million fish above the preseason forecast of 137.3 million fish, and 1.1 million fish above the most recent 10-year average commercial harvest of 167.5 million salmon.

The Bristol Bay sockeye salmon harvest of 28.6 million fish was likewise the 11th largest harvest in the Bay since statehood. While the 2010 sockeye catch was 2.3 million fish fewer than the 2009 total, the ex-vessel value of $148.7 million was $4.5 million higher than the 2009 value.

In Prince William Sound, harvesters set a record with a harvest of 75.4 million salmon. That’s 44.5 percent of all the salmon harvested statewide this year. The total included a pink salmon harvest of 69 million fish, a record high for Prince William Sound, which accounted for 66 percent of the state’s total pink salmon harvest for 2010.

The chum salmon harvest, the 8th highest since statehood, came in at 18.2 million fish, with an ex-vessel value of $92.7 million. That’s the second highest value for a chum salmon harvest since 1975.

The report will be revised and finalized once ADF&G receives all fish ticket data and annual processor reports that include final prices paid for all salmon this year.

For the details on numbers and pounds of fish, average fish weight, average price per pound and ex-vessel value for each salmon species by area and statewide, check under “2010 Preliminary Season Summary” on the ADF&G website (

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