Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BBRSDA Busy Funding Projects

Board members of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Corp. have approved a diverse group of projects to fund for the coming year, ranging from fisheries research to ice barges and marketing.

Among them, says Bob Waldrop, executive director of the BBRSDA, is a decision to again support the Port Moller test fishery, where biologists are trying to get more answers regarding stock diversification and abundance of the salmon migrating north from Port Moller north to Bristol Bay. The Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute, a research entity of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., collects the sample fish and delivers them to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s genetics lab in Anchorage. The BBRSDA is supporting this research with a $55,000 grant, as well as the quality improvement research of former commercial fisherman Mark Buckley.

The BBRSDA also is continuing to support ice barge operations of the BBEDC, with a grant based on sales – the pounds of ice sold to fish harvesters – to Trident Seafoods and Ocean Beauty Seafoods, operators of the ice barges.

The goal, said Waldrop, is to stimulate sales of ice and also to get these ice barges up to the level of economic sustainability. The RSDA is also looking for other opportunities to increase the supply of ice to commercial fishermen in Bristol Bay, including a potential grantee to help provide more ice to fishermen in the Naknek-Kvichak fishery.

The RSDA also has a marketing campaign in the wings, with a consumer oriented website to inform viewers of the dependable supply of high quality fish available from Bristol Bay. Meanwhile, the RSDA continues to talk with the drift gillnet fleet and motivating them to continue to improve the quality of their fish.

The RSDA also gave Dillingham’s public radio station, KDLG, $25,000 for expansion of coverage of commercial fisheries.

Also in the wings is a project with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to keep counting tower operations open earlier or later so that their count of the escapement is more complete, Waldrop said.

Pebble Issues

New issues continue to arise related to a proposed massive mining project at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed in Southwest Alaska. A study prepared for The Nature Conservancy by prominent biologists with experience in the Bristol Bay watershed notes that there are wild salmon swimming in streams on the surface of the area where the prospect would be developed.

According to one of the study authors, Carol Ann Woody, who has done years of research in Bristol Bay, the study, released in the past week, is the first to document that wild salmon are present in streams on top of the ore deposit. Woody, a fisheries research scientist based in Anchorage, co-authored the report with Sarah O’Neal, a biologist with the Wild Salmon Center of Portland, Oregon. The pair found salmon in three of every four streams that they surveyed.

Opponents of the Pebble Project are concerned that development of the mine would adversely affect spawning streams and ultimately the overall health of the fishery.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Ron Thiessen, president and chief executive officer of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which has a 50 percent investment in the Pebble Project, said it is likely that at some point a major mining company will take over Northern Dynasty, whose principal asset is the Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum deposit and 186 square miles of associated resource lands. The other entity in the Pebble Partnership is Anglo American, which has contributed the bulk of millions of dollars spent on mine exploration to date.

Thiessen said his responsibility, should a bid be made, is to be sure that shareholders get fair value for their shares. Thiessen did not rule out Rio Tinto, which already owns nearly 20 percent of Northern Dynasty, as a potential buyer. Rio Tinto owns and operates the Bingham Canyon mine in Utah, which environmental groups charge has polluted local groundwater to the point where it is unhealthy for human consumption.

Thiessen argues that his company respects the Bristol Bay fishery and spawning grounds. He said he remains confident that a mine can be established without damaging the fisheries, but if they can’t demonstrate that the mine won’t damage the fisheries, they won’t get the permits. Northern Dynasty is affiliated with Hunter Dickinson Inc., a diversified, global mining company also based in Vancouver.

AMSEA Adds Safety Classes for Commercial Fishermen

Commercial harvesters wanting to learn more about safety and survival at sea have a growing number of class options with the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association’s spring class guide. AMSEA has already held four classes for its drill conductor card at Dillingham, Anchorage, Homer and Galveston, Texas and this week added a two-day course in Dillingham June 2-3.

The revised of the agenda includes classes in Cordova May 5 and May 7; Anchorage May 7, Craig May 8, Valdez May 12, Haines May 19, Sitka May 24 and Naknek June 9, 10, 11, plus Dillingham in June.

The course will include instruction on fire fighting, life rafts, MAYDAYS, immersion suits and personal flotation devices, emergency drills, cold-water survival skills and emergency positioning. Some classes still have openings. To inquire log on to

The classes are funded by the US Coast Guard and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. They are free for commercial fishermen.

Crab Issues

Crab industry officials are presenting a crew workshop May 3 in Seattle to provide information on how crab vessel crewmembers can finance the purchase of quota share in that fishery. United Fishermen’s Marketing Association will facilitate Kodiak’s participation with a link to the Seattle meeting in Leif Erickson Hall from Fishermen’s Hall in Kodiak, while the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank will offer a similar participation location in Anchorage. CFAB’s Lea Klingert noted that the tough part for crewmembers or anyone who hasn’t run their own operation is establishing their ability to repay such loans. CFAB looks primarily at the history of the borrower and notes that for people solely reliant on that quota share to repay the loan it would be hard to determine their repayment ability, given unknowns about how they would manage their business, plus unknowns of what the allocation will be and price paid.

In a report to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council during its recent meeting in Anchorage, Ed Poulsen, executive director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, gave a status report on the industry’s progress in resolving matters of dispute brought up by crewmembers.

Poulsen said the industry has identified a right of first offer process that could provide improved opportunities for crew to purchase crab IFQ. The next item on the work group’s agenda will be leasing and crew pay issues, he said. Their goal is to provide a report and recommendations to the federal council at its’ October meeting.

Some crewmembers said they felt the industry session on IFQ loans should have been held in Alaska.

They also said they feel that the council has moved too slowly on crewmember issues related to the federal crab rationalization program. Shawn Dochtermann of the Crewman’s Association, based in Kodiak, has asked Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to have the National Marine Fisheries service look into “lack of the NPFMC to follow through with regulatory due process with regards to MSA” (the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act).

Dochtermann said crew have spent six years at council meetings asking that crew issues be dealt with, but little has been done.

Get Rich Quick

A man and his wife owned a very special goose. Every day the goose would lay a golden egg, which made the couple very rich.

“Just think,” said the man’s wife, “If we could have all the golden eggs that are inside the goose, we could be richer much faster.”

“You’re right,” said her husband, “We wouldn’t have to wait for the goose to lay her egg every day.”

So, the couple killed the goose and cut her open, only to find that she was just like every other goose. She had no golden eggs inside of her at all, and they had no more golden eggs.

-Aesop, circa 600 BC

A hundred years ago, municipal ownership of the Port of Seattle was approved by the voters of King County. Fishermen’s Terminal became the new port authority’s first priority, and in 1914 the facility was christened in conjunction with the opening of the Hiram Chittenden (Ballard) locks, becoming home to the North Pacific Fishing Fleet. The facility was an economic engine, powering the success and expansion of Seattle, bringing jobs and wealth to the area. A hundred years later, Fishermen’s Terminal remains the home of the fleet, but for how much longer?

As we noted in this space last month, the Seattle Port Commission is pessimistic about the future of the commercial fishing industry – especially in Seattle.

Commissioner John Creighton summed up the views of the Port of Seattle when he claimed, “fish stocks are dwindling,” and suggested that spending millions of dollars on infrastructure at Fishermen’s Terminal might not allow the port to be “nimble” enough to generate revenue.

As we went to press this month, Creighton’s colleague, Seattle Port Commissioner Rob Holland, echoed Creighton’s sentiments, suggesting that commercial or residential development would be a better use of the facility. In an email to the Commission and port leadership at the beginning of April, Commissioner Holland said that the commercial property at Fishermen’s Terminal could be very profitable, and “industrial cannot be our only option for Seattle’s future.”

Holland says, “I would like to see our port venture into profitable real estate developments…” and suggested that port property development be “addressed in a way that includes the hopes and dreams of local elected officials…”

Based on the above statements, it’s a safe bet these two elected officials will be happy with last month’s announcement that the largest seafood company based in Alaska, the Coastal Villages Region Fund (CVRF) fleet, is planning to shift the homeport for its 24-vessel fleet from Seattle to the City of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula.

With the departure of vessels comes the loss of income for the chandlers, shipyards, engine and gear suppliers that serviced these boats. Many of these suppliers are tenants of the Port, and with the loss of the Coastal Villages Region Fund fleet comes a loss of revenue for the port in moorage fees.

As this self-fulfilling prophesy plays out, the Port commission tells port tenants they are no longer welcome, which causes tenants to seek more hospitable moorage. As revenues drop, the port commission tells King County voters that the only way to replace that revenue is to develop port land into something else. As Commissioner Holland says, “Ports around the world participate in non-industrial uses and have made great profit from this activity. Why can’t we?”

The answer is found in Aesop’s fable of the goose that laid the golden egg. The Seattle-based fishing fleet remains an economic engine for the region generating more than $846 million locally in salaries and wages, more than $83 million in state and local taxes, and more than $113 million in local purchases. The average annual income for commercial fishing industry jobs related to Port properties was roughly $72,000. As long as the Port of Seattle continues to support the industries that have brought it a century of success and profit, the economic engine will continue to pull the community along.

The real estate market is not exactly booming these days. If the Port of Seattle Commission really believes its future lies in property development, it has missed the boat, by about four years. In those four years, Seattle real estate has lost an average of 28 percent of its value. In the meantime, the commercial fishing and maritime industries have largely weathered the recession. Pacific Fishermen Shipyard’s recent capital investment in a new paint and sandblast facility (see story on page 18 of this issue) is a good example of the direct benefits of the fishing industry on the local economy.

The “hopes and dreams of local elected officials” John Creighton and Rob Holland don’t mesh with the reality of a healthy economy, but more with the lesson taught by Aesop’s fable. Perhaps the Seattle Port Commission should read more of the classics.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ramifications of the CG Authorization Act of 2010

By Commander Chris Woodley
Chief, Prevention Department
USCG Sector Seattle

The signing of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 was a watershed moment for fishing vessel safety and fishery management. Provisions within the Act mandate regular examination of vessels that operate beyond three nautical miles, upgrading of safety training requirements, and most importantly for Bering Sea fishermen, amending the American Fisheries Act (AFA) to allow for new construction of AFA catcher and catcher processor vessels. This, along with recent similar actions recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council that allow for new construction of Amendment 80 vessels, and recent passage of legislation to permit formation of a cooperative in the freezer-longline sector, have removed the most significant barriers to long-term safety improvements for commercial fishermen in the Bering Sea.

For newly constructed fishing, fish tender, and fish processing vessels, the Act establishes rigorous safety standards. Specifically, vessels over fifty feet in length built after July 1, 2012 will be required to constructed and maintained to state of the art safety standards as established by vessel classification societies. Vessels greater than 79 feet must also meet the hull and watertight integrity requirements of loadline. While financing of new construction remains problematic at this time for larger vessels, naval architects are nevertheless drawing plans for the newest generations of Bering Sea catcher and catcher processors.

The Act also provides significant safety improvement options for vessel owners who, for a variety of reasons, may decide against building new vessels, but instead choose to maintain or convert their existing vessels. For existing vessels, alternate safety and compliance programs will be developed jointly with the Coast Guard by 2017 (2012 for vessel conversions). These safety programs will be designed to address specific safety concerns on a regional and gear / fishery / geographic basis. The first alternate compliance and safety program (ACSA), pioneered in 2006 by the BSAI freezer longline and Amendment 80 catcher processor fleets, has clearly demonstrated the significant flexibility, collaboration and partnership that is achievable between the Coast Guard and the fishing industry.

ACSA has also demonstrated that the repairs and needed work on these older vessels may be extensive, and that early planning and a long lead time are essential to mitigating operational and financial impacts. Additionally, ACSA has shown that it will take considerable work and commitment to bring shipyards, welding crews, and vendors up to speed with the Coast Guard quality expectations for equipment and machinery installations, hull repairs and vessel stability work. It is for these reasons that Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound is already engaging various BSAI fishing fleets to begin discussions on how to move forward with their own alternate compliance programs, well ahead of the 2017 Congressionally mandated deadlines.

Finally, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, the Coast Guard Authorization Act is also a subtle but nevertheless convincing triumph of management philosophies applied to Bering Sea fisheries. Political leaders and policy makers are moving away from anachronistic fishery management practices which place a higher value on vessel inefficiency (unrealistic vessel size limits, maintaining old hulls until total loss, etc.). Instead, through the allowance of new construction, the Act embraces the belief that the fishery management policies of catch shares, IFQs, rationalization and co-ops are not only viable, but when properly enforced, are sufficiently robust to protect the fishery resource, promote economic stability, and prevent over-capitalization while simultaneously embracing appropriate safety standards. This is the true triumph of the Coast Guard Authorization Act.

NIOSH Renews Reminder To Fish Harvesters To Wear Those PFDs

The National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health is reminding commercial fishermen to look at the growing number of personal floatation devices being designed for their comfort and wearability and wear them every time they are on deck.

“There are enough PFDs out there to find one that works for you, “ Ted Teske, a NIOSH health communications specialist, told commercial harvesters and vessel owners at a fishing vessel safety forum this past week during Kodiak’s annual ComFish gathering.

NIOSH has had no trouble finding fishermen willing to participate in studies to determine which of the designs worked best for them on the job. “There was an overwhelming desire from fishermen to participate,” Teske said. “They did not know about the PFDs. “The fishermen were very willing to provide input on work gear designed for them.”

Some producers of rain gear are also starting to incorporate PFDs right into their products, he said. “And every one of the PFDs tested made somebody’s top three.”

Jennifer Lincoln, of the NIOSH commercial fishing research and design program, addressed the ComFish audience on the agency’s studies on work related illness, injury and deaths at sea.

“We do a lot of surveillance of fatalities in the fishing industry,” said Lincoln. “We collect information to look for patterns, causes. If we understand risks and contributing factors, we an figure out ways to stop them.”

This information is kept in a commercial fishing incident database about events, people involved, victims, survivors and vessels.

The focus this year is on preventing fatalities due to falls overboard, Lincoln said, noting the high fatality rate in Alaska salmon fisheries, of which 58 percent of deaths were in set net skiffs.

Every vessel should have some type of PFD policy, she said. “What is your PFD policy? Have you found a PFD that works for you?”

Alaska Legislature Honors Marine Conservation Biologist

A marine conservation biologist known for his work on constructive resolution of oil spills, including the Exxon Valdez, is being honored by Alaska legislators.

In a citation made public this week, Rick Steiner of Anchorage is saluted for an extraordinary career spanning nearly 30 years at the University of Alaska, and for calling for independent scientific analysis to determine damages and recovery strategies for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which proved disastrous for fishermen in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

Steiner said he was surprised and humbled by the accolades from legislators.

Steiner has also been a strong advocate of public structures and processes to prevent future spills. Recently he served as a key advisor on developing strategies to assess impacts and remedies to address the Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

He has also spoken out at public hearings on his concerns about potentially adverse impacts to marine ecosystems from offshore oil and gas exploration. In late 2009, Steiner said he had lost a federal grant, which funded a portion of his work under the University of Alaska Sea Grant Program because of his outspoken criticism of the oil industry. His NOAA grant stripped by the university, because of his outspoken opposition to offshore oil development in the Bristol Bay region, Steiner resigned his academic post in early 2010, but has continued his global conservation work, including organizing an environmental damage assessment for the government of Lebanon after the massive eastern Mediterranean oil spill.

Coast Guard Begins 2011 Dockside Fishing Vessel Inspections in Prince William Sound

The 17th U.S. Coast Guard District has begun its annual voluntary dockside commercial fishing vessel safety examination and safety compliance spot check initiatives in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, with a goal of advancing safety within the commercial fleet.

Coast Guard officials announced this week that they will be available in Cordova from April 22 through May 27 for all commercial fishing vessel operators who are interested in scheduling a free voluntary dockside CFV safety exam. In Valdez, examiners are available throughout the year.

The exams are no fault and non-adversarial, serving to encourage compliance and discourage unsafe operations. Owners of vessels that do not pass the exam will be provided a list identifying deficiencies and items needed to be corrected for the vessel to be in full compliance with all applicable federal regulations. Upon successful completion of the exam, a CFV safety decal will be issued.

The Coast Guard said that in addition they would be conducting safety compliance spot checks on vessels not currently enrolled in the voluntary dockside program. Safety compliance spot checks focus on primary lifesaving and firefighting equipment aboard commercial fishing vessels in port. Spot checks are aimed to ensure critical safety items are ready for use, should an emergency occur at sea. Vessels possessing current CFV safety decals will not be selected for spot checks.

Vessels receiving a safety compliance spot check and found to have a major safety violation will be restricted from commercial fishing operations until the discrepancy is corrected and verified by a Coast Guard examiner.

Any questions regarding the voluntary dockside examinations or spot check program should be addressed to the Coast Guard MSU Valdez Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examiners at 907-255-8724 or 907-835-7225.

Free Safety Training Will Be Offered to Commercial Harvesters at Naknek

The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association is offering three opportunities in June for commercial fishermen to participate in AMSEA’s 10-hour emergency procedures and onboard drill conductor training in Naknek.

The sessions will be held at the Bristol Bay Borough Assembly Chambers on June 9, 10 and 11.

AMSEA officials said the course meets training requirements for commercial fishing vessels and is available free to commercial fishermen, thanks to funding from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the US Coast Guard.

Participants will practice hands-on in the water and on a vessel, with emergency equipment that should be onboard any commercial fishing or other sizeable vessel. These include personal floatation devices, life rafts, immersion suits, EPIRBs, fire extinguishers, and practice emergency procedures like man overboard, abandon ship, fire fighting and flooding control.

Those interested in this course or seeking additional information may contact AMSEA at 907-747-3287 or register online at

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From the Fleet

‘From the Fleet’ is intended to allow individuals and organizations the opportunity to express their opinions on commercial fishing-related issues and concerns. The views expressed herein are the opinions of the author, and do not reflect nor represent those of Fishermen’s News staff and/or any related constituents.

Years back, a resolution was submitted to PFMC (Pacific Fisheries Management Council), that said, “To maximize the poundage yield to the commercial troll fishery by minimizing the taking in that fishery of fish having significant remaining growth potential, however recognize that the desired yield to the sport fishery is primarily in the recreational value of the fish caught, not in pounds produced, and therefore, that optimum value does not necessarily require harvesting only mature fish.” These resolutions weren’t law – just recommendations. The passing of that resolution is a story in itself.

Early in the season a few years later some of the boats made really nice catches of king salmon on the northern Washington coast. Nice sized fish and good numbers. The next spring that area was closed and the whole fleet was bottled up on the south end, fishing salmon that at that time of year generally ran about two thirds as big as those from the north end. Smaller fish, less value per pound, therefore much less value per fish to the fisherman. For a troll fishery to make sense, boats need to be able to move away from smaller fish while looking for more mature stocks, but now the only option the fleet had to move from these smaller fish was going in and tying to the dock.

Now, that line, “Optimum value does not require harvesting only mature fish in the sport fishery” might well read, “Unlimited catch and release by a sport fishery gone crazy, promoted by a revenue-hungry governor and what we used to think of as fisheries management.”

And coho salmon, being very susceptible to dying from stress while being caught on either sport or commercial troll gear, must be released if they have an adipose fin, whether they’re wild or unclipped hatchery fish, regardless of size. This unnecessary slaughter also includes king salmon.

Many salmon stocks in the state are considered endangered, but in the Columbia system most of the salmon habitat is made out of reach by dams or buried under a bunch of lakes. So, of course they’re endangered. At one time, the Columbia was the strongest source of king salmon in the world, and still may be – sort of. They brag about record runs of king salmon, but 90 percent of these fish can’t be counted because they came out of a salmon hatchery, and hatchery fish are no good because they might wink at a wild salmon. But salmon have been winking for thousands of years before even the first hatchery salmon fell out of the sky. I keep wondering: could “endangered species” have anything to do with justifying certain management policies, or funding certain agencies?

Speaking of agencies, what is WDFW doing, comparing the value of the sport caught salmon with those taken in the commercial fisheries? 
Can there be some agenda here? Are salmon-eating consumers being acclimated before being herded down that farmed salmon tunnel? Salmon are a very nutritious, delicious natural resource. How do you factor in their value to the consumer?

For years now, salmon from some of the State’s inside waters have been held back for months at hatcheries. The shortened feeding time in the ocean results in a much smaller fish, higher feed costs over this extended hatchery time, and fewer fish raised per dollar spent. Late release, meant to stifle migration to the ocean and provide extended sport fishing on inside waters, also compromises migration patterns toward the end of their lives. Some fish return to rivers far too early and in too poor condition to live to full maturity. They’ve been deprived of full feeding time in the ocean, and there’s not much to eat in these inside waters.

So for some reason, hatchery fish have picked up a bad name. We looked the other way while salmon habitat was obliterated and water diverted, and now, “We have to protect the wild stocks.” But we didn’t, and we aren’t now. Every time a dollar loomed over the horizon, including for electricity, the corporate farms and gold mines to name a few, or just in various forms of buying silence, we didn’t protect the wild stocks. And I kind of like electricity.

I keep wondering why are hatchery fish so bad? I spent a lot of time up at the hatchery when I was a kid. I liked large numbers of good sized fish, and they tasted pretty good when they first hit the river – just like a wild salmon. Years later in Alaska, I caught several kings that dressed over 50 pounds that were hatchery fish. Why did hatcheries work so well here in the past and still do in other places, even without a lot of dollars and cement? Why do some hatchery people think they could have the state overflowing with salmon if given the chance? One Director of Fisheries years ago sure thought so, and did.

I wonder, could this natural resource be manipulated toward take-over by the sport fisheries? I think we’ve watched it happen, but wonder where and when it really started. I think of that line – “No, they weren’t forced out bit by bit, for reasons unknown, they just quit.” Salmon being a natural resource, that’s how you’d have to do it. I wonder if that’s not what we’ve been seeing over the last forty years.

One thing I’m certain of, is that strong volumes of hatchery raised salmon, going to the ocean where they can reach full size and value naturally, would be one of the biggest obstacles to farmed salmon interests taking over the salmon industry in the United States. Then, maybe, after the last salmon boat falls apart at the dock, hatcheries might be okay after all. And that ocean might be good for something after all.

I think we’ve been sold out, at both federal and state levels, and at each level, I think new faces and perhaps an old way of thinking would be in order. We need better management of this natural resource than our governors have been appointing since the days of Governors Wahlgren and Rosellini. They each appointed Milo Moore, and Milo’s prejudice only ran one way: For the fish.

Vince Cameron has been a salmon troller since he graduated from high school in 1957, starting with a 19-foot plywood boat that he fished off the Washington coast, before installing a new engine and running it up to Alaska. Vince retired from fishing after the 1991 season, and has written a book about his experiences, We All Choke the Same Herring, available at

Alaska Salmon Recognized for Responsible Fisheries Management

Alaska salmon has become the first of the state’s major commercial fisheries to be awarded the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization based Responsible Fisheries Management Certification. The honors, announced this past week by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, came after a 12-month independent assessment of the salmon fisheries. The certification covers king, sockeye, silver, pink and chum salmon deemed to be managed responsibly by effective management institutions using robust fishery management plans based on good science.

The certification lasts for five years and involves annual surveillance assessments of the fisheries. It means that Alaska commercial salmon fisheries have met the criteria for certification of responsibly managed fisheries at the time of the assessment, but doe not certify that the fisheries will remain responsibly managed in the future. Therefore there are annual surveillance audits to review changes in fishery management regime, operations and consistency of application to confirm that the management system does remain in line with the FAO code.

Anyone interested in submitting comments in response to this certification report or other information of relevance for future surveillance audit of the Alaska salmon fishery management to the FAO code may do so by logging on to http://sustainability.alaskaseafood.or/salmon-certification-3 ASMI will collect all inquiries and comments and submit them to the certification body for review and evaluation during the annual surveillance assessment in 2012.

ASMI announced back in March 2010 that Global Trust Certification Ltd. Had been chosen to do the independent, third-party certification of Alaska’s fisheries management systems. Under the agreed model, each major Alaska fishery is to be assessed for conformance to the FAO code of conduct for responsible fisheries and the FAO guidelines for eco-labeling fishery products.

Crab Crewmen’s Workshop Announced May 3 in Seattle

An industry group has announced plans to hold a Bering Sea crab crew workshop at the Leif Erikson Hall in Seattle for several hours on May 3 to discuss a number of issues of concern.

The event is billed as having a goal of educating crew and owners regarding opportunities for crew to invest in crab IFQ.

The group has also reserved the Fishermen’s Hall in Kodiak and will have a teleconference line set up as a minimum, the group said in a meeting announcement.

Ed Poulsen, executive director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, is scheduled to present an overview of the right of first offer proposal and opportunities for crew, and Don Pease, loan officer for National Marine Fisheries Service’s financial services, will give an introduction to the NMFS crab crew loan program. Other scheduled topics are crab quota share/IFQ eligibility requirements and the quota share transfer process.

Some crewmembers, including Shawn Dochtermann, executive director of the Crewman’s Association, said they felt the meeting should be held in Alaska. They also want the meeting structures to put crew compensation issues first, then have the loan program meeting led by National Marine Fisheries Service financial services.

Crew compensation has remained a sore point with a number of fishermen who have worked as crew board crab boats, who feel some costs deducted from their paychecks as their share of vessel overhead are unfairly deducted. Another is that when vessels are fishing leased shares, for which there is a significant price tag to the owner of those shares, that the crew effort is the same, but that the overall percentage pay to harvesters is significantly lower.

Icicle Fisheries Leases Adak Processing Facilities

Icicle Seafoods is readying a leased seafood plant at Adak for limited capacity processing this summer, with plans to become fully operational in time for the 2012 Pacific cod season. Icicle president Dennis Guhlke said the Adak facility presents both unique opportunities and challenges.

“We are excited by the prospect of it complementing our existing Icicle operations and providing further scale and diversification to our business,” Guhlke said in a news release issued jointly this week by Icicle and Aleut Enterprise LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Aleut Corp., an Alaska Native regional firm.

Aleut Corp. board chairman Sharon Lind said the Native firm is happy to be providing Icicle with the opportunity to bring additional economic development to the Western Aleutians and Adak in particular.

“We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship that will benefit not only Icicle Seafoods and the Aleut Enterprise, but the community and the fishing sector that harvests in the area,” Lind said.

The deal, announced April 8, was put together by Aleut Fisheries LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aleut Enterprises, and Western Star Seafoods, Inc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Icicle Seafoods.

Guhlke said he hopes his company’s presence at Adak will be well-received, and offer more opportunity to vessels operating further west of Alaska. “I hope we can partner up with some fishermen in the area,” he said.

While it’s difficult to say what employment opportunities the plant will be offering, the diversified seafood firm hopes to be operational by mid-summer to support the fleet on halibut, back cod and Pacific cod, he said.

Major Fisheries Donations Offered for Japanese Tsunami Relief

Large monetary donations are pouring in from Alaska and Seattle-based participants in the seafood industry to aid fishing communities hard hit by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission in Juneau announced this week that the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association has donated $20,000, while Unisea has pledged to match donations to AFIRM from its employees and crab fleet up to $50,000. In addition, said AFIRM director Terry Shaff, president of Unisea, Tatoosh Seafoods has donated $5,000, the Northwest Farm Service Creditors has donated $5,000, United Fishermen of Alaska, $1,000, and other individual donations are pushing AFIRM over $140,000 raised or committee in just a week of active fundraising.

AFIRM chairman Larry Cotter of APICDA urged those who make their living from the seafood industry to remember their long-term partnership with and many friends in Japan.

Meanwhile, AFIRM board members and advisors have been in contact with the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC, the Japanese Fisheries Association, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Maruha Nichiro, Nissui and other Japanese companies to seek their input on the most effective way to directly assist people and communities in need.

AFIRM, a non-profit charity, was first formed to assist Gulf of Mexico fishing communities following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

All donations to AFIRM are tax deductible and may be made online at

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rebuild or Replace? Prospects for Modernizing the Bering Sea Groundfish Fleets

By Steve Johnson

The Bering Sea groundfish fleets have been largely frozen in place for the past 20 years by the limited entry schemes imposed on the groundfish fisheries. But that's about to change.

Recent federal legislation has freed pollock catcher/processors, catcher boats and motherships from the restrictions on vessel rebuilding and replacement previously imposed by the American Fisheries Act and the North Pacific Council's license limitation program. Proposals by the H&G mixed species trawl fleet and Pacific cod freezer longline fleet for similar relief are pending.

A flood of vessels entered the Bering Sea groundfish fisheries in the 1980s and early1990s as vessel owners rushed to get in on the ground floor of the rapidly Americanizing Bering Sea groundfish fisheries. In the rush to put operating capacity on the water, many vessels were converted from other uses – crab boats, oil supply vessels, salmon tenders, navy vessels, even a container ship – anything that provided a hull, a propulsion system and a platform that could be adapted, more or less, to the new use. Many compromises were made with efficiency and safety in making these conversions.

Even for vessels built new for these fisheries 20 years ago, changes in products and product forms, technologies and regulations – not to mention the price of fuel – now force vessel owners to ask whether increased efficiencies might justify the rebuilding or replacing of their vessels.

The American Fisheries Act limited the right to participate in the Bering Sea pollock fishery to vessels named in the Act. A named vessel could only be replaced if it suffered a total loss. Further, the AFA prohibited any vessel greater than 165 feet in length, of more than 750 gross tons or with engines capable of generating more than 3,000 shaft horsepower from entering any US fishery unless specifically recommended by the relevant fishery management council and approved by NMFS. These restrictions made it impossible to replace an AFA pollock vessel prior to enactment of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010.

Beyond the AFA, the North Pacific Council's LLP license program prohibits the rebuilding or replacement of any groundfish vessel so as to increase its length beyond the "maximum length overall (MLOA)" specified on the vessel's LLP license – a limitation based on the length of the original qualifying vessel. The LLP license program has effectively prohibited the rebuilding or replacement of a vessel to increase its size.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 eliminated the AFA's restrictions on the replacement of AFA pollock vessels and also expressly overrode the restrictions of the LLP license program for pollock vessels. AFA pollock vessels may now be rebuilt or replaced without limitation as to length, tonnage or horsepower.

The H&G trawl and the freezer longline fleets have also made proposals to the North Pacific Council to relax the LLP license restrictions on the rebuilding or replacement of their vessels. At its June 2010 meeting, the North Pacific Council adopted the H&G trawl fleet's proposal to permit vessels of that fleet to be rebuilt or replaced by vessels up to 295 feet in length, regardless of the size of the vessel being rebuilt or replaced. In February 2011, the Freezer Longline Coalition submitted its own proposal for relaxation of the LLP license length restrictions on rebuilt or replacement vessels in their fleet.

The freeze on the rebuilding and replacement of Bering Sea groundfish vessels is on its way out – and good riddance! Vessel owners need the flexibility to maximize the efficiency and safety on their vessels without regulatory impediments.

Steve Johnson, an attorney with the Seattle law firm Garvey Schubert Barer,
will be presenting a paper at the Bering Sea Fisheries Conference: Building
the Next Generation of Bering Sea Vessels ( on
April 21, from 9:00am to 5:00pm at the Red Lion Hotel, Fifth Avenue,
Seattle, WA. Mr. Johnson has represented participants in the Bering Sea
groundfish fisheries for more than 30 years. He can be reached at

National Seafood Marketing Coalition Hopeful for Congressional Funding

It’s been industry donations alone so far, but the National Seafood Marketing Coalition is optimistic about getting legislation introduced in Congress for a National Seafood Marketing Fund, says Bruce Schactler of Kodiak, the coalition’s director.

The coalition would like to see $100 million a year nationwide in that fund, to invest in the marketing of domestic seafood products, he said in an interview April 5.

“We’re not in a big hurry,” he said. “The draft bill is out for discussion right now across Congress. A lot of people are looking at it.”

The Saltonstall Kennedy Act of 1954 was initially intended to promote and develop fisheries products. The legislation initially established a fund that, among other things, was intended to support fishery research and development projects, with funding awarded annually on a competitive basis, with the objective of addressing the needs of fishing communities in providing economic benefits for rebuilding and maintaining sustainable fisheries, and in dealing with the impacts of conservation and management measures.

In the ensuing years it has moved through fisheries research and development projects and now is used for National Marine Fisheries Service operations.

“We’re not going to get the SK money,” he said. “We don’t want to go to war with NMFS. Those funds are being used to keep us all fishing.”

So the coalition is into finding other sources of funds “and I am confident we will find those sources of funds,” he said.

There are other funds available from the original source of the SK funds, from duties and tariffs on fish and fish products, he said.

The funding is needed to support the domestic seafood industry in the face of market challenges from groups with their own political agenda, he said.

A case in point is the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico this past summer, where there were many comments suggesting that the seafood from the Gulf was contaminated, which turned out not to be the case.

A fund like this is needed to support the domestic seafood industry in the face of all these challenges, Schactler said. “Sustained funding would put the industry in a position to address these challenges in the marketplace that come to us every time we turn around.”

PWSAC Study Touts Harvests of Hatchery Produced Salmon

An economic study released by the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. shows that for the past five years PWSAC has been a key supplier of Alaska pink salmon, producing 43 percent of the statewide pink salmon harvest.

In 2010 along, PWSAC hatcheries produced 46 percent of the statewide pink harvest, the study said.

Large harvests of PWSAC pinks have provided the industry with the volume and economies of scale needed to fulfill demand, PWSAC said.

Conclusions of the McDowell Economic Impact Study were released April 5.

The study also found that pink salmon product-form shift from canned to frozen production had a major impact on the wholesale value of pink salmon products, which in turn increased the ex-vessel price for pinks. The wholesale price of frozen pinks climbed 37 percent to $1.27 a pound.

The report also drew several other conclusions.

One was that the increased volume of pink salmon harvested and canned from Prince William Sound enabled other regions to efficiently focus on frozen production. Another was that more health-conscious consumers are turning to wild salmon to meet their needs for alternative sources of protein.

New consumers also have entered the market, due to widely available and inexpensive farmed salmon, driving up demand for all sources, including Alaska wild caught salmon.

Consumers are more aware of the environmental impact of their spending choices too, with the state’s emphasis on responsible and sustainable resource management The economy has also increased demand for budget-friendly salmon choices. Over 50 new value-added products featuring pink salmon, including salmon burgers, have helped to fill the void.

Dave Reggiani, general manager for PWSAC, said the 2010 season produced the largest run of pink salmon in the history of the fishery, with more than 50 million fish caught and processed in just three weeks, “underscoring PWSAC’s importance as both an economic drier for the state and a commodity source for global markets.

“Increased demand for Alaska seafood and value-added salmon products boosts the demand for the enhanced salmon fisheries,” Reggiani said. “This makes reliable and sustainable returns even more critical.”

Bristol Bay Native Corp. Produces “Pebble Watch” Newsletter

The land department of the Bristol Bay Native Corp., the regional Alaska Native Corporation for Southwest Alaska, is producing Pebble Watch, a newsletter dedicated to impartial information on the proposed Pebble Mine project. In addition to its printed form, BBNC is offering updates on current events affecting the proposed mine area at

Pebble developers have said they intend to begin the permitting process in 2012.

Pebble Watch does not attempt to integrate or interpret data; this would occur during an Environmental impact Statement process, BBNC says. Instead the publication and online updates are intended to help BBNC shareholders and all others interested to better understand data by providing summaries as well as context, such as how the data may be used in the permitting process and how it relates to regulatory benchmarks. The current issue of Pebble Watch focuses on the Pebble Partnership’s data release “report Series F: Surface Water and Groundwater Quality,” an overview of surface water and groundwater quality data collected between 2004 and 2007 in the Pebble project deposit area, Iliamna Lake and along the proposed transportation corridor. The newsletter includes a summary of the report, explains how the data relates to permitting, highlights some water quality issues related to mining and supplies answers to questions community members first asked Pebble developers in 2005.

Because of the potential for some mining activities and facilities to affect water quality, federal and state agencies often require monitoring programs to continue well beyond operations and closure as a condition of the permit. The deposit area is undeveloped and includes habitat for salmon and other fish harvested for both personal and commercial use. Establishing baseline water quality data is important for determining what an undeveloped environment looks like and for documenting any seasonal or site-specific conditions in the region, which include salmon habitat.

In mining projects, new permit applications must be completed as the work changes from exploration to construction, operation and closure. A temporary water use permit already exists for exploration of the Pebble deposit area. New applications pertaining to water resource use will be required if the project is developed

BBEDC Offers Fishing Permit Loan Program

Bristol Bay watershed residents wishing to acquire limited entry fishing permits can save a lot of money by qualifying for the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.’s permit loan program, a cooperative effort with the Commercial Fisheries and Agriculture Bank.

BBEDC, one of six community development quota organizations established by the state of Alaska, is working cooperatively with CFAB to guarantee appropriate loans to qualified Bristol Bay drainage residents to purchase drift or set permits.

The program also will provide financial assistance in the form of interest subsidy and “sweat equity” as well as business counseling and educational opportunities to improve the permit holder’s ability to manage their business successfully.

Patience, however, will be appreciated, for as BBEDC notes, this is a new program for administrators as well as participants.

The first step for those interested is to apply for a loan with CFAB in Anchorage. If the loan is denied the resident then becomes eligible to apply for the BBEDC permit loan program. Qualifications include being a resident of one of 25 Bristol Bay watershed communities, and at least 18 years of age. Applicants must have no overdue child support payments or be delinquent in their IRS tax obligations. They must also demonstrate active participation for three years previously in the Bristol Bay drift or set net fishery for which the permit is being acquired. Approval will be based on credit worthiness that can be addressed via the permit loan program.

There are several benefits of this program over some other existing loan options.
The loan guarantees are from 25 percent to 75 percent of the permit costs.

They require 5 percent rather than 20 percent down payment. Loan terms do not exceed 15 years.

A reduction of principal is available through sweat equity, as well as an interest subsidy. BBEDC will pay CRAB on behalf of the borrower up to 4.5 percent of the original loan amount under the CFAB loan annually as an interest subsidy for the duration of the loan term, not to exceed 15 year, payable on the anniversary date of the agreement, with the annual payment not exceeding $4,000 or the total amount of the interest due, whichever is less.

More information is at

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