Astoria Fisheries Auction

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Oregon Fisheries Net More Value in 2011 Harvest, prices were up for most commercial fishermen

By Terry Dillman

More seafood, far more value.

 

That sums up the 2011 season for most Oregon fisheries, according to Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) officials and a consortium of four Oregon seafood commissions. 

Nick Furman, director of Seafood Oregon – a consortium featuring the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission (ODCC), Oregon Trawl Commission (OTC), Oregon Salmon Commission (OCS) and Oregon Albacore Commission (OAC) – said the state’s commercial seafood and fishing industry had an outstanding year, in fact the best in 23 years, with overall harvest value exceeding $145 million for all Oregon fisheries.

Both the amounts harvested (285 million pounds of fish and shellfish, up substantially from 216 million pounds in 2010) and dollar value were the best in nearly three decades. But the real key, at least for fishermen’s economic survival, lies in the dollar value. 

“We remind fishermen that it’s not the pounds of fish that you take to the bank,” Furman noted. “It’s the dollars you take to the bank.” 

The influx gave the state’s struggling coastal communities a much-needed boost, say ODA marketing experts, who have worked diligently for years to promote Oregon seafood in various export markets. 

Among them are the researchers with the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service, Oregon Sea Grant, and Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC), the university’s campus for research, education and outreach in marine and coastal sciences located in Newport’s South Beach district. With its annual budget of almost $46 million, 300 university, state and federal employees, and 150,000 visitors to the education outreach and free-choice learning center, HMSC plays a key role in Oregon’s coastal economy.

Much of the impact is in the seafood industry, where research efforts aim to keep seafood harvested off Oregon’s shore fresh, safe, plentiful and sustainable.

For example, food technologists developed a thin edible protective film to coat fish fillets and keep them fresh much longer. OSU researcher Jae Park has helped surimi – low-value fish processed into a high-value seafood product used to imitate crab and scallops – become an international commodity, which has helped revitalize fisheries in Oregon and beyond. And the Community Seafood Initiative (CSI) in Newport supports the commercial fishing industry and coastal communities by providing access to applied research and capital via a non-profit organization led by Executive Director Heather Mann and a nine-member board.

“We believe a knowledgeable industry is a powerful industry,” said Mann. “Listening to and providing seafood industry representatives and businesses with access to credible and accurate information allows them to not only better position themselves competitively, it also allows them to make proactive strategic decisions rather than reactionary choices.”

Among other things, CSI helps preserve seafood-related working waterfronts, offers value-added product development services, and operates the FishTrax program – a pioneer effort that uses an electronic fishing information system to deliver essential information to key markets and consumers. 

Fishermen must still harvest and the prices must be right to make their efforts worthwhile.
Marketing experts consider the 2011 numbers even more impressive given the fact that Oregon fisheries are harvesting seafood in a widely recognized sustainable way. Four of those fisheries – Dungeness crab, albacore tuna, pink shrimp and Pacific whiting – have earned certification from the international Marine Stewardship Council, indicating they are well managed and environmentally neutral, thus ensuring sustainable harvests.

Many fishermen say Oregon’s territorial sea is the healthiest they’ve seen in years, perhaps decades.

“While the volume of fish coming in has increased, it hasn’t been at the expense of healthy fisheries and the stocks available,” said Furman. “All this speaks well for the health of the ocean, it speaks well for the management schemes presently in place that ensure we have sustainably-harvested stocks. The result is the increase in pounds of fish harvested and dollar value.”

The $145 million gleaned in 2011 easily bested 2010’s $105 million, and stood about 44 percent above the annual average for the past decade.

Most Oregon fisheries netted higher prices and had higher catches. 

Pink shrimp fishermen finished with their best season since 1992, hauling in 48 million pounds of high-grade shrimp with a to-the-fleet value of $24.6 million. While the catch benefitted the fishermen and processors, it also supplied a growing demand for exports, bringing added revenue to coastal communities. With about three months still to go in the season, Dungeness crabbers have already netted $44 million as export demand in Asia boosted ex-vessel prices to “unheard of levels,” reaching a record-high average of $3.37 per pound, easily besting last year’s $2.30 average, said Furman. 

“The big story right now is definitely price,” he added. “Oregon is doing something right, and it is represented by healthy stocks, good volume and prices that are going through the roof because of the global economy and worldwide demand for seafood.”

Price also boosted the fortunes of the albacore tuna fishery, which brought in an average haul of 9.5 million pounds, but fetched a 33-year high of $18.7 million as high demand drove market prices sky-high. 

Not everyone prospered.
At 2.4 million pounds, salmon landings were well below expectations – even somewhat less than 2010, which was another dismal year for salmon trollers. Prices were slightly higher than 2010, but fishermen said they weren’t high enough to make up for lack of fish.

“Everyone was optimistic, but the fish simply didn’t show up as much as expected,” Furman said. “Last year was the first time in several years that trollers got to fish the Oregon coast for salmon.” This year, he noted, looks more promising, with higher harvest quotas and high fish numbers.

The sardine fishery also dropped, as Oregon landings were well below the norm, bringing a harvest value of $3.2 million – well below the $5.3 million in 2010. 

Overall, however, 2011 proved quite profitable for Oregon fisheries ports and coastal communities, and Furman said they’re “seeing evidence of the same level of activity” in 2012. 

Terry Dillman can be reached at tdwordwright@gmail.com

Alaska’s Wild Salmon Harvest Grows to More Than 4.5 Million Fish

With the Copper River District now past its peak, and Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet, Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula starting to gain harvest, the statewide salmon harvest now stands at a preliminary catch total of nearly 4.6 million fish.

That includes some 3,295,000 sockeye, 1,061,000 chum, 141,000 pink, 48,000 Chinook and 4,000 coho salmon.

The bulk of the 2012 harvest to date is from Prince William Sound, where harvesters netted more than 2 million fish, including 1,366,000 reds, 630,000 chum, 11,000 kings and fewer than 1,000 each of coho and pink salmon.

The Copper River District harvest alone accounted for 1,181,000 reds, 21,000 chum and 11,000 king salmon. Biologists said the peak of the Copper River red salmon run has passed. Still catches and escapements continue to be at good levels.

Bristol Bay harvesters in the Egegik district and also in the Naknek-Kvichak district, harvested about 30,000 fish per district. The Ugashik harvest stood at fewer than 1,000 reds and there was no harvest report yet from the Nushagak.

Biologists said fish were holding in the Egegik River because of cold outflow from Becharof Lake.

In the eastern district of Upper Cook Inlet, fishermen netted some 79,000 reds, compared with about 1,000 reds in the northern district of Upper Cook Inlet, and another 3,000 were caught in the southern district of Lower Cook Inlet .

Kodiak harvesters netted 378,000 salmon of all species through June 22, including 290,000 reds, 80,000 chum and 8,000 pinks while at Chignik, the harvest was reported to be 495,000 salmon, including 454,000 sockeye, 31,000 chum and 9,000 pink salmon.

For the Alaska Peninsula, the bulk of the harvest was on the south side, a total of 1,386,000 fish. The catch included 986,000 reds, 270,000 chum, 124,000 pink and 6,000 Chinooks. On the north side of the Peninsula, the harvest was 14,000 reds.

Copper River Seafoods Opens Manufacturing Facility in Kenai

Copper River Seafoods celebrated this past week the one-year anniversary of its apprenticeship program and the opening of its new seafood manufacturing facility at the port of Kenai. The renovated site is a vintage building that opened as a cannery in 1912, and was later occupied by Dragnet Fisheries from 1978 until 1997.

The plant now boasts new processing and refrigeration equipment and an all-Alaska staff, including some employees in the company’s apprenticeship program.

Scott Blake, president and chief executive officer of Copper River Seafoods, gave much credit to the company’s workforce development program, done in cooperation with the federal Department of Labor and the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Blake said he got into the business to protect his livelihood as a fifth generation fisherman in Alaska and he wants it to be there for his children. Blake said he has made a commitment to have his company “here to stay” in Alaska. He also told the crowd of about 100 people assembled for the presentation and plant tour “We have to get out of this perspective that we are just processing salmon or crab. We are a professional food manufacturing company that operates in Alaska, that creates opportunity for local Alaskans, sustainability for the fishermen and the state.”

For each job added at Copper River Seafoods, Balke estimated that two additional jobs are added with their associated suppliers of products and services.

Ben Eveland, the company’s human resources, development and training director, said the federal apprenticeship model being studied will keep those trained employed in fields ranging from construction equipment repair and mechanical repair to industrial/refrigeration jobs.

“We want to make sure that this stays Alaskan and that it is centered on the fishermen and the people in the industry, and that we make product here,” (in Alaska) he said.

Appointments Made to North Pacific, Pacific Fishery Management Councils

Dan Hull and Ed Dersham, both of Anchorage, have been reappointed to three year terms on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Craig Cross, who currently serves on the council’s advisory panel, was appointed to his first term.

The appointments are effective Aug. 11. They were announced June 25 by Sam Rauch, deputy assistant administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service.

Cross is the political liaison for Aleutian Spray Fisheries, which operates a fleet of fishing vessels that catch and process Alaska Pollock, Pacific cod, opilio and Alaska king crab. The fleet includes the at-sea processor Starbound, as well as freezer-long line and combination fishing vessels.

For the Pacific Council, whose membership includes California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State, the appointees for 2012 filled obligatory seats for California, Oregon and tribal governments and two-at large seas.

David M Crabbe, a commercial fisherman, fisheries consultant and Realtor in Carmel, California, and Dorothy Lowman, a natural resource consultant in Portland, Oregon, were reappointed and David B. Sones, whose hometown was not given, was named to the tribal seat. William “Buzz” Brizendine , a charter boat operator in San Diego, California, and Dale Myer of Arctic Storm Management Group, Seattle, were reappointed to the at-large seats.

A total of eight regional councils were established under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to prepare fishery management plans for marine fish stocks in their region. NOAAs Fisheries service works with the councils as plans are developed, and then reviews, approves and implements these fishery management plans.
Council members represent diverse groups, including commercial and recreational fishing industries, environmental interests and academia, and are mandated to carry out requirements to end overfishing, rebuild fish stocks and manage them sustainably. Each year about one-third of the 72 appointed members to the eight regional councils are appointed by the Commerce Secretary, from nominations submitted by the governors of fishing states, territories and tribal governments, and oversees the annual appointment process.

Salazar Looks to Open More of Arctic to Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration

The Obama Administration is planning to open up areas of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas for oil and gas exploration.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement June 26 in a teleconference from Trondheim, Norway, saying such activities would be part of a targeted leasing strategy – one that would put a few very sensitive areas of wildlife habitat off limits.
The five-year offshore leasing plan, which is opposed by environmental organizations and some Alaska Natives, would include potential lease sales for the Chukchi Sea in 2016 and the Beaufort Sea in 2017.

Meanwhile, many anticipate that Shell Oil will be granted permits to begin exploration this year, if the oil company meets final conditions of the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement that were developed after the Deepwater Horizon disaster two years ago.

Most Alaska officials, including Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, welcomed news of potential lease sales. Begich issued a statement saying “for over three years, my message to the Obama administration is that as America’s energy storehouse, Alaska can and should responsibly supply a significant portion of our country’s energy needs.” Begich said Salazar’s announcement showed that the Obama administration is getting the message.

But Lois Epstein, a member of the Interior Department’s Offshore Energy Safety Advisory Committee, and the Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society, called the potential lease “premature and technically problematic.”

Epstein said that by 2016, “there will not be cleanup technologies available to recover high percentages of oil released to the ocean, in ice or open water conditions.
“Currently oil spill recovery rates are in the single digits, percentage-wise,” she said.

“Additionally , this administration has not announced a plan to develop Arctic-specific regulatory standards for offshore drilling,” she said.

Epstein said that while there is a planned buffer along the Chukchi Sea coastline, because of its importance to subsistence hunters, the planned Beaufort Sea sale does not have a 25-mile protective buffer along the Beaufort coastline.

“With insufficient cleanup capabilities, inadequate science to establish an Arctic Ocean-wide ecological baseline, and limited drilling oversight that includes taking needed inspectors away from the Gulf of Mexico, it’s clear that we’re not ready to drill in the Arctic Ocean and will not be by 2016 or 2017,” she said.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Anomaly or Harbinger?

Massive dock float from Japan, teeming with invasive species, beaches itself in Newport
By Terry Dillman

A dock as big as a good-sized commercial fishing vessel washed shore in Agate Beach near Newport, Oregon on June 4, and has since caused quite a stir among scientists, government officials and curiosity seekers.

It also brought potential implications for Pacific Northwest commercial fisheries. The 165-ton steel-and-concrete dock float – one of four ripped from their moorings at the Port of Misawa by the massive tsunami that inundated Japan in March 2011 – teemed with non-native plant and animal marine species, known collectively and colloquially as invasive species.

How the gigantic piece of flotsam – 66 feet long, 19 feet wide, and seven feet high – rode the waves and currents for several thousand miles undetected until it neared Oregon’s central coast is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. The tsunami marine debris coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said even something that size floating amid the currents, winds and waves of the vast Pacific Ocean is quite difficult to monitor, even with satellites.

Whether it’s an anomaly or a harbinger of what lies ahead for Pacific Northwest shores as an estimated 1.5 million tons of tsunami debris wends its way across the ocean on the whims of wind and currents also remains uncertain. But such debris poses a certain threat for a number of reasons.

Commercial fishery leaders worry about the size and distribution of debris in terms of navigational hazards and equipment entanglement. Other issues are the possibility of radiation (although NOAA officials said the chances are slim to none) and chemical contamination. Then there are the potential costs of cleaning up tons of debris. But the dock’s June 4 arrival focused attention on another clear threat: alien flora and fauna.

The first hint that the dock had journeyed from Japan was found in a species of algae indigenous to Asia, including Japan.

Jessica Miller, an Oregon State University (OSU) marine ecologist, said brown algae commonly known as wakame covered much of the dock. She said the algae is native to the western Pacific Ocean in Asia, and has invaded several regions including southern California. OSU phycologist Gayle Hansen confirmed the species identification.

The examination by scientists uncovered a plaque bolted to the dock commemorating its June 2008 installation. The Japanese consulate in Portland, Oregon traced its origin to the Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of Japan’s coast. Used for loading fish into trucks, the dock is one of four the titanic tidal wave carried out to sea. Japanese officials say one showed up a few weeks later on an island south of Misawa. The other two are still missing.

Scientists at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) said millions of organisms hitched a ride aboard the ersatz island that beached on Oregon’s central coast – dozens of species of barnacles, starfish, urchins, anemones, amphipods, worms, mussels, limpets, snails, solitary tunicates and algae.

John Chapman, an OSU marine invasive species specialist, called the organisms’ survival of their trek across the Pacific Ocean “mind-boggling,” noting that the low productivity of open ocean waters should have starved at least some of them. “It’s as if the float drifted over here by hugging the coasts, but that’s impossible,” Chapman said. “Life on the open ocean, while drifting, may be more gentle for these organisms than we initially suspected. Invertebrates can survive for months without food, and the most abundant algae species may not have had the normal compliment of herbivores. Still, it is surprising.”

Chapman said the float “is unlike any transoceanic debris we have ever seen. Drifting boats lack such dense fouling communities, and few of these species are already on this coast. Nearly all of the species we’ve looked at were established on the float before the tsunami. Very few came after it was at sea.”

Full Alert
Invasive marine species are already a major problem on the West Coast, where they usually are introduced from ship ballast water.

Chapman is well aware of the issue, having for many years studied a parasitic isopod infesting and decimating mud shrimp populations in estuaries from California to Vancouver Island, with potentially dire consequences for the health of those estuaries. In 2010, an aggressive invasive tunicate appeared in Winchester Bay and Coos Bay along the southern Oregon coast. It’s on the state’s most dangerous species list and is both an ecological and economic threat because of its ability to spread and choke out native marine communities, said OSU’s Sam Chan, chair of the Oregon Invasive Species Council.

Researchers say it’s difficult to assess how much of a threat the newly arrived organisms represented. And there was no way they could tell if any of the hitchhikers aboard the float had already moved into nearshore waters.

“We have no evidence so far that anything from this float has established on our shores,” said Chapman. “That will take time. However, we are vulnerable. One new introduced species is discovered in Yaquina Bay, only two miles away, every year. We hope that none of these species we are finding on this float will be among the new discoveries in years to come.”

Possibilities are many and varied.
“Among the organisms we found are small shore crabs similar to ours that look like the same genus, but may be a different species,” she said. “There were also one or more species of oysters and small clam chitons, as well as limpets, small snails, numerous mussels, a sea star and an assortment of worms.”

As future debris arrives, it could bring additional species, they noted. Yet this dock could also be unique, because it is debris that was submerged in Japan and had a well-developed sub-tidal community. Researchers say that this situation could prove relatively rare, given the amount of debris that entered the ocean.

“Floating objects from near Sendai can drift around that coast for a while before getting into the Kuroshio current and then getting transported to the eastern Pacific,” Chapman said. The researchers want to find funding to go to Japan to sample similar floats and compare the biological life on them with that on the transoceanic traveler that ended up on Agate Beach.

State officials took no chances, following procedures designed to minimize potential spread of non-native species.

Personnel from Oregon State Parks and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife scraped away all plants and animals from the dock onto a tarp, stuffed them into large plastic garbage bags and buried it all in an eight-foot deep hole beyond the reach of high tides and storm surges. Without saltwater, the plants and animals cannot survive, officials noted. They used propane torches to sear any remaining traces of life still clinging to the dock float.

As of press time, two options were under review for taking care of the dock itself: either towing it off the beach to a nearby port or harbor or demolishing it onsite and disposing the remains in a landfill.

One major question remained. If a piece that size could show up far sooner than scientists expected, what lies ahead?

Flotsam and Jetsam
The Japanese government estimated that the 2011 tsunami washed about 5 million tons of debris into the ocean, 70 percent of which quickly sank. Every year, tons of flotsam coagulate into swirling trash heaps – dubbed “garbage patches” by oceanographers – within ocean gyres (locations where the water spins like a whirlpool without the downward spiral; they just sit and spin). Recent monitoring indicates that at least some of the tsunami debris would pull away and get caught in one of those north Pacific gyres.

NOAA monitored the debris field for about a month before it dispersed too widely for satellites to track. Initial tracking had the 1,000-mile debris trail traversing the sea at a rate of about 10 miles per day.

Scientists aren’t sure how much of the remaining 1.5 million tons is still afloat. Using computer models, NOAA researchers believed that most of the remaining debris wouldn’t reach the Pacific Northwest coast until next year. Using today’s form of “dead reckoning” – computer modeling of winds and currents – scientists say most of the debris that survives the journey would likely strike Oregon and Washington in 2013 and 2014, despite concerns about flotsam invasions as early as autumn 2012. Much of it, they said, might never get here.

Most still stick with that assessment, although winds, currents, tides and waves can alter the equation.

During a briefing in January at HMSC, representatives from NOAA, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, OSU, local emergency management agencies and others outlined the situation for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The unexpected arrival of the behemoth float prompted Wyden to renew his call for NOAA and other federal and state agencies to enhance efforts to track the debris, noting the danger such big pieces pose to sea traffic, including commercial fishermen. Safety at sea and on shore is the primary concern.

It prompted Wyden to urge officials to develop a response plan that “prepares for the worst while hoping for the best” in a letter to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. “Because the potential for damage to Oregon’s fishing, crabbing, shipping and tourism industries is a major concern, it is vital that federal, state and local agencies and outside organizations work together to get ahead of this issue,” he wrote. “This kind of broad-scale cooperation and coordination at every level is crucial to minimizing overlap and ensuring that accurate information is available to everyone who could come in contact with this debris, be it on water or on the beaches.”

The float was the second-largest piece of flotsam to show up from the tsunami. The waves dislodged the 164-foot shrimping vessel Ryou-Un Maru from its mooring in Hokkaido, Japan, where it awaited scrapping. The unmanned vessel drifted across the Pacific Ocean until the US Coast Guard sank it in April in the Gulf of Alaska after deciding it was a threat to shipping and the state’s coastline.

Tragic Reminder
The scientists said the dock float’s arrival is also a sobering reminder of the 2011 tragedy that cost thousands of lives.

“We have to remember that this dock, and the organisms that arrived on it, are here as a result of a great human tragedy,” Miller said. “We respect that and have profound sympathy for those who have suffered, and are still suffering.” ]

Alaska’s 2012 Wild Salmon Harvest Rises to 2.1 Million Fish


The 2012 harvest of Alaska’s famed wild salmon picked up speed in mid-June, reaching a total catch of 2.1 million salmon of all species. Prince William Sound was still leading the way, with a harvest of 1.5 million fish, including 1,185,000 sockeye, 349,000 chum, and 10,000 kings. The Copper River District produced 1.1 million of those reds, 20,000 chum and the vast majority of those 10,000 Chinook salmon, and that didn’t include the latest harvest report on the 36-hour opener on June 14, which the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said brought in a preliminary count of 600 kings, 44,900 sockeye and 1,400 chum salmon, which was slightly below the anticipated harvest for that period. Reports were not in yet on the 24-hour Copper River opener that ended on June 19.

Prices remained strong for the available harvest, and Pike Place Fish Market still had whole kings for $26.99 a pound, king fillets for $39.99, whole sockeye at $59.94 apiece and sockeye fillets for $16.99 a pound.

Bristol Bay fisheries, which opened in early June, reported a harvest of some 12,000 sockeye in the Egegik District.

Cook Inlet’s harvest reached 84,000 wild salmon, including 82,000 reds, of which approximately 70,000 were caught in the eastern district of Lower Cook Inlet.

On the south side of the Alaska Peninsula, commercial harvesters had a harvest of 140,000 sockeye, 71,000 chum and 10,000 pink salmon. Chignik saw a harvest of 138,000 wild salmon, including 136,000 reds, while at Kodiak the catch of 99,000 wild salmon included some 84,000 reds and 14,000 chum, plus less than 1,000 each of king, coho and pink salmon. In Southeast Alaska, the Chinook harvest reached 17,000 kings, plus some 3,000 reds.

Alaska’s Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region had no reported harvest, and the outlook remained bleak for commercial as well as subsistence harvesters. State biologists said Chinook salmon were showing up very late and in very small numbers on the Yukon River, and the Bethel test fish index of king salmon was well below average for this time of year.

Survey in Process in Southeast Alaska for Tsunami Debris


Five federal scientists have begun the first survey of Southeast Alaska beaches for debris from the Japanese tsunami. The crew from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration left Ketchikan late last week aboard the charter vessel Sumdum for a 10-day cruise to survey specific beaches of Southeast Alaska from Dixon Entrance to Cape Spencer. They plan to cover 78 kilometers of shoreline across 889 kilometers of outside coast.

Jeep Rice of NOAA’s Auke Bay Laboratory in Juneau said the team doubts that the peak of tsunami debris has arrived yet, so this is a preliminary assessment to get an idea of the scope of what is arriving right now. Rice said they are keeping a sharp eye out to see if there is anything chemically or physically dangerous in the debris that needs immediate attention, and that the scouting trip will help in planning future cleanup efforts.

Later this summer other locations further north and west in Alaska will be surveyed, including a wide area of coastline all the way out to Adak. Human related marine debris will be enumerated and cataloged so scientists can assess their spatial and temporal distribution. NOAA plans to continue tsunami debris surveys periodically throughout the next two years.

While this is the first NOAA survey in Alaska specifically for tsunami debris, NOAA has been conducting marine debris surveys along the Alaska coast every 5-10 years since standard survey protocols were developed in the 1970s, giving the agency nearly 40 years of data on marine debris in Southeast Alaska.

Cantwell Bill Takes Steps to Contain, Clean Up Ocean Oil Spills


Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, has introduced the Oil Spill Research and Technology Act of 2012, to create grants to support research and development of technologies to better contain and clean up all types of oil spills.

The bill also requires the US Coast Guard to establish a program to evaluate and implement “best available technology” to effectively respond to and clean up oil spills, Cantwell said.
Senate Bill 3298, would reorganize and streamline the Federal Oil Spill Research Committee, whose members include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, and Interior Department, as recommended last year by the Government Accountability Office. 

The committee would spearhead a comprehensive oil spill research and development program and distribute competitive grants to universities and other institutions to research new methods and technologies to clean up oil spills. Notably, the bill would require research into methods to clean up oil spills in icy conditions and into the unique properties of tar sands oil.

Cantwell said according to some reports Canadian companies are poised to increase by 300 percent traffic of supertankers carrying tar sands oil through the waters around the San Juan Islands and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

Oil from tar sands is uniquely difficult to remove after a spill, because it’s more corrosive than other types of oil and contains heavy metals. Tar sands oil also sinks, which renders ineffective conventional techniques to contain and remove oil from the water’s surface.
Cantwell’s bill would authorize the Coast Guard to thoroughly review and evaluate new oil spill response technology, and review regional oil spill response plans every five years to ensure the best available technology is in place.

The senator said the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 demonstrated the chronic underinvestment in oil spill research and development. The industry currently lacks incentives and requirements to research, develop and adopt new cleanup technologies, even those that are proven effective, she said. Among the new oil spill response technologies are oil solidifiers, blowout preventers, new techniques to break down spilled oil, fiber membranes to strain oil from water and software to ensure equipment works properly during clean up.

Hundreds of Juvenile Blue King Crab Shipped for Research


Some 1,500 juvenile blue king crab earmarked for research have been shipped from the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward to federal and university laboratories in Juneau, Alaska, and Newport, Oregon.

The recipients were the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center Behavioral Ecology Lab in Newport, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Juneau Center.

These crab are being used to evaluate growth rates and to develop tagging techniques.
It’s all part of the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology program, a research partnership of regional fishermen’s groups, coastal communities, NOAA Fisheries, the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, Chugach Regional Resources Commission, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and the Alaska Sea Grant program. Their aim is to hatch and rear wild red and blue king crab in a large-scale hatchery setting, to improve the long-term economic development and sustainability of these fisheries.

Since the program began in 2006, thousands of juvenile red and blue king crab have been shipped to laboratories to advance juvenile king crab biological research.

Researchers said a major benefit of developing techniques for large-scale hatchery culture is the ability to supply scientists with research crab. This reduces the need to collect from wild king crab populations and allows for experiments that would not be possible otherwise.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Alternate Safety Compliance Programs

USCG and affected industry parties strategize to target safety performance variability


By Leslie Hughes and Cdr. Chris Woodley

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 provides for the development of regional and fishery-specific safety programs, known as alternate safety compliance programs (ASCP). Such programs provide an alternative safety standard to existing vessels that cannot meet future requirements of vessel classification and loadline.

In fact, the 13th and 17th Coast Guard Districts have had much success with this kind of regional approach. Additionally, the recent Alternate Compliance and Safety Agreement has resulted in a comprehensive vessel inspection and training program for more than 50 catcher-processor vessels operating in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island region.

Measuring Risk in the Fishing Industry
Since 1990, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Alaska Pacific Regional Office has monitored the safety performance of fishing fleets throughout Alaska by measuring individual fleet fatality rates. Fatality rates are measured by comparing the ratio of the number of fatalities to an occupational risk exposure.

This operational risk exposure measurement is based upon several variables including:
• The number of vessels operating,
• The number of days the vessel is at sea,
• The number of crewmembers exposed to the occupational risk.
Review of this data clearly demonstrates that fatality rates and causal factors are highly differentiated among vessel types, fishery gear, species being fished, and geographic region.

Risk is Regional
For example, a recent safety study found that in the waters of the state of Alaska there were nearly 60 different vessel/gear/species combinations, with each fishery having significantly different fatality rates and casual factors.

Some of these fisheries had high rates of falls overboard related to gear-specific operational practices, some had problems with vessel stability, and other fisheries had a large number of capsizing events due to poor weather and local geographic features. Other fisheries had virtually none of these problems.

Alternate Safety Compliance Programs
Once a fishery has been determined to be high-risk and considered for an alternate safety compliance program, the Coast Guard and affected industry parties consider which strategies could prevent fatalities or vessel losses. Specifically, mitigation strategies should focus on achievable improvements, with some of the following considerations in mind.

Training: Are the risks associated with a particular fishery such that crewmembers would be better prepared to deal with the most common emergencies if they had more extensive training and/or if additional crewmembers received training? Is there a need for customized training to address the particular hazards a gear type encounters? Do crews actually conduct drills on a regular basis? Is there a need for increased compliance?

Structural Considerations: Are vessel losses due to poor hull condition, downflooding, overloading, or a combination of these? Are vessels seaworthy and able to withstand the sea conditions encountered? Do crews maintain watertight and weathertight closures? Do vessels have adequate stability for typically encountered loading conditions? Are captains adhering to vessel loading limits?

Operational Factors: Does a vessel need to cross a hazardous bar to get to the fishing grounds? Does the vessel operate in remote areas, far from Coast Guard search and rescue? How many people are aboard the vessel? Is processing conducted on board? Is fatigue an issue? Do crews adhere to watchkeeping standards?

Equipment Issues: Does the onboard safety equipment address the most common types of fatalities within the fleet? Is there better or more appropriate lifesaving equipment? If man overboard fatalities are a problem, do crewmembers wear flotation when working on deck? Do crewmembers wear strobe lights on their immersion suits?

Compliance: Are fatalities occurring within a fleet despite high levels of participation with the Coast Guard Dockside Exam Program? What is the level and quality of interactions with the Coast Guard? Could fatalities be reduced with increased compliance with existing fishing vessel safety regulations? Does the vessel carry required lifesaving appliances? Is lifesaving equipment well maintained and serviceable?

Implementing an ACSP
For an alternate safety compliance program to be successful, the Coast Guard must have a solid under­standing of actual industry practices, and risk to the fleet. Industry needs to acknowledge risks and be willing to move forward in order to mitigate them.

True collaboration with industry is vital. As such, each side must sublimate its own agenda to the overall goal of effectively reducing risk. Some guidelines include:

  • All parties should understand that quantifying the safety improvements might take years. This should not be viewed as a deterrent to establishing incre­mental safety improvements.
  • All entities must be realistic about what will be required to implement an alternate safety compliance program and adequate resources must be dedicated to conduct the program.
  • Both Coast Guard and industry must be flexible regarding how risks can be mitigated as well as how a safety regime can be upgraded. As the alternate safety compliance program for a particular fleet evolves, additional concerns may be discovered and changes to the requirements may result.
  • The Coast Guard must assume the lead for compliance with ACSP provisions by providing clear program guidance.
  • The Coast Guard must exercise continuous evaluation of industry’s progress and assess the effectiveness of the ACSP.
Leslie Hughes was the executive director of the NPFVOA vessel safety program until 2008, when she became the director of industry and government affairs. She has been actively involved with the commercial fishing industry for more than 35 years and currently serves on the Coast Guard’s Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Advisory Committee. She has received two Coast Guard meritorious public service awards for promoting safety for commercial fishermen.

CDR Chris Woodley is currently chief of the Prevention Department at Sector Puget Sound. As a 20-year career marine safety officer, he has enjoyed being able to collaboratively work with the North Pacific fishing industry in multiple tours and capacities as a senior marine inspector, an investigating officer, an oil spill responder, and as a fishing vessel safety/fishery management policy analyst. CDR Woodley graduated from the University of Oregon and also has a Master of Marine Affairs degree from the University of Washington.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2010-11 US Coast Guard Proceedings.

NIOSH to Fishermen: ‘Put one on, take the class, shut the door’

Jennifer Lincoln has never fished commercially, but for two decades at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health her goal has been saving the lives of those who do, through better safety practices and gear on board fishing vessels.

Since the early 1990s, more than 300 deaths have been prevented because of a variety of efforts, from use of personal floatation devices, and marine safety classes to the establishment of the individual fishing quotas for halibut and sablefish, and US Coast Guard dockside exams of crab fishing vessels, she said.

As director of the Alaska Pacific regional office of NIOSH, based in Anchorage, Lincoln supervises research programs to improve safe workplaces for those engaged in the oil and gas and aviation industries, while spending most of her time on commercial fisheries safety research.

“The part of my work I love the most is commercial fishing safety work,” Lincoln said in an interview with Fishermen’s News. “I feel like what I do really makes a difference in fishermen’s lives. I try to make sure the things we work on are relevant to fishermen. It’s something I don’t know how to explain, (but) I have such a passion and interest that it drives me.”

Lincoln, who holds a doctoral degree in health policy management from Johns Hopkins University, is a strong advocate of providing science to improve safety in the work place, with a specialty in commercial fishing safety research. She has authored numerous journal articles and reports related to commercial fishing safety. She is also regularly consulted regarding marine safety issues.

In 2010, she was the first recipient of NIOSH’s award for extraordinary intramural science in the category of early career scientist, for her research to prevent work-related deaths and injuries in commercial fishing.

Although Lincoln has not fished commercially herself, “I’ve tried to get underway with fishermen so I can understand the deck rotation and so forth,” she said. This has led to discussions with salmon trollers in Southeast Alaska, lobster and multi-species groundfish fishermen in New England, shrimp fishermen and Alabama and Louisiana and more. She also travels extensively to talk about results of her research, to compare notes with commercial fishermen and offer advice on how to avoid injury and fatal accidents aboard fishing vessels.

At the recent annual commercial fisheries forum and trade show known as ComFish, Lincoln and Chelsea Woodward, an engineering technician for NIOSH in Alaska and Spokane, Washington, attracted much interest with their forum on safety issues.

Their advice, in a nutshell, said Lincoln, was “put one on, take the class, shut the door.” Every commercial fish harvester should find a personal flotation device that works for him or her and wear it, take an eight-hour survival class (offered by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association) and shut the doors on fishing vessels, she said. “So often open doors lead to down-flooding,” she said.

Lincoln herself took an AMSEA basic commercial fishing training course in Seward, Alaska back in March 1992, and met Jerry Dzugan, executive director of AMSEA.

“I enjoyed meeting him, hearing about the various fishing stories, and I guess that was my introduction to it and why I became so interested in it,” she said. From there she went with US Coast Guardsmen to do some dockside exams at Seward, and the passion for her work hasn’t dimmed since.

Research studies have shown that survivors of commercial fishing mishaps in Alaska were seven times more likely to have worn an immersion suit, 15 times more likely to have used a life raft and 1.5 times more likely to have had formal marine safety training, at least once every five years, Lincoln reminded participants at Kodiak’s ComFish discussion.

AMSEA also notes on its website (http://amsea.org) that over the past several years commercial fishing has lost the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous industry in the nation. The loss of life has averaged about 11 lives a year for the last five years in Alaska, compared to a loss of about 38 lives a year before safety training was required. The greatest drop in fatalities in the nation has been in Alaska, but commercial fishing is still a high-risk occupation, AMSEA officials warn.

Half of the fatalities in the fishing industry have been the result of vessel disasters. There are also incidents of fishermen going overboard, injuries onboard, shore injuries and diving injuries.

“It is very important that harvesters wear those PFDs, she said. Many fishermen argue that they will die within five minutes of falling overboard anyhow, so why bother with the PFDs. “You will not die in the first five minutes,” Lincoln told the Kodiak audience. “Hypothermia doesn’t set in for 30 minutes. A life jacket will save your life. What will get you is your body not being able to float.”

The next big excuse NIOSH has heard is that flotation devices are hot, bulky and uncomfortable, but in fact NIOSH has tested a variety of PFDs which are neither hot, bulky or uncomfortable, including very light-weight vest PFDs which can be worn easily over rain gear.

“We bought 200 PFDs and distributed them to different fishermen to test,” Lincoln said. “I know what a crabber needs is different from a longliner.

Of the PFDs rated by fishermen in Alaska so far the most popular has been the inflatable Mustang PFD, she said.

She continues to buy and test more, because she is convinced there is one that will work for every fish harvester.

Lincoln said in a way the effort to get fishermen to wear these PFDs all the time is a one vessel at a time effort, but she was pleased to receive a recent phone call from one of the six Alaska fisheries community development associations, whose spokesman said that CDQ group planned to purchase 600 PFDs to accommodate everyone who was delivering fish to them.

Every time Lincoln meets with a fishing vessel owner she asks, “What is your PFD policy? Have you found one that works for you?” If they have, she wants to know when they are wearing them, if it is whenever they are on deck, for certain activities or under certain weather conditions.

Several owners of Bering Sea crab vessels, but not all, are now mandating that their crew wear them, and so has the Alaska Scallop Association, she said.

NIOSH also works continuously to improve deck safety, including development of the emergency-stop system (E-Stop) for hydraulic deck winches. The first NIOSH prototype of the device was put on a fishing vessel in the spring of 2005, and then three or four more prototypes were placed on vessels the following two summers, before it was licensed to a manufacturer.

A research paper published in the Journal of Safety Research in March 2008, Lincoln, Woodward and three other researchers wrote in detail about reducing commercial fishing deck hazards with engineering solutions for winch design.

They noted that the majority of hospitalized injuries among Alaska commercial fishermen are associated with deck machinery. Their paper described a “prevention through design” process to mitigate one serious machinery entanglement hazard posed by a capstan deck winch. After observing that the capstan winch provides no entanglement protection and the hydraulic controls are usually out of reach of the entangled person, NIOSH personnel met with fishermen and winch manufacturers to discuss various design solutions to mitigate these hazards.

As a result, an emergency-stop system was developed that incorporated a momentary contact button that when pushed, switches a safety-relay that de-energizes the solenoid of an electro-hydraulic valve stopping the rotating winch.

The vessel owners that had the system installed enthusiastically recommend it to other fishermen, the researchers said. “This is an example of a practical engineering control that effectively protects workers from a hazardous piece of equipment by preventing injuries due to entanglement,” the researchers said. “This solution could reduce these types of debilitating injuries and fatalities in this industry.”

More recently, in late 2011, the National Transportation safety Board released a series of recommendations related to safety in the commercial fishing industry. The recommendations, NIOSH noted in its electronic newsletter (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/enews/enewsv9n8.html) were a result of input given by industry experts, including Lincoln, at the NTSB’s fishing vessel safety forum held in October 2010 in Washington DC.

The NTSB cited NIOSH’s research into personal flotation devices as a primary source for their recommendation that all fishermen should wear a flotation aid while on deck. The NTSB also recommended a need to address intact stability, subdivision and watertight integrity of fishing vessels under 79 feet in length, and requiring all owners, masters and chief engineers of commercial fishing vessels to receive training and demonstrate competency in vessel stability, watertight integrity, subdivision and use of vessel stability information. The NTSB also recommended requiring owners of commercial fishing vessels to install fall overboard recovery devices appropriate for the vessel and to require all crewmembers to provide certification of completion of safety training before getting under way on commercial fishing vessels.

More information on the NIOSH commercial fishing safety program is at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/fishing.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at margieb42@mtaonline.net.

Copper River Harvest Hits One Million Mark on Sockeyes

Commercial harvesters have topped the one million mark in their harvest of the famed Copper River sockeye salmon – which are already sold out in one popular Anchorage seafood shop – while the Chinook harvest remains below average.

Bristol Bay drift gillnetters and set netters meanwhile are starting to show up on the grounds, where the forecast is for a run of 32 million sockeyes and a harvest of nearly 23 million reds. In Upper Cook Inlet, harvesters already had taken 51,000 reds.

As of June 12, popular Anchorage seafood retailer 10th & M Seafoods still had whole Copper River kings for $18.95 a pound and king fillets for $25.95 a pound, but the reds, they said, are all gone for this season. Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle was holding forth meanwhile, with whole Copper River kings at $28.99 a pound, king fillets at $43.99 a pound, sockeye fillets at $16.99 a pound and whole sockeyes for $49.95. Their prices have not dropped.

As of June 8, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was calculating the preliminary Copper River commercial harvest at about 1,038,000 reds and 9,300 kings, and more were expected from another 36-hour opener ended on June 12.

Biologists said the cumulative sonar count through June 8, a total of 542,000 fish, came in well above the anticipated count of 292,900 fish.
An estimated 400 to 450 drift gillnetters were still on the grounds of the Copper River fishery in mid-June.

With salmon harvests underway in Southeast Alaska, Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay, state officials tabulating weekly summaries put the total wild salmon harvest through June 8 at 1,183,000 fish, including 1,051,000 sockeye, 113,000 chum and 19,000 king salmon.

NPFMC Approves 15 Percent Reduction in Gulf of Alaska Halibut Bycatch

Federal fisheries managers have approved a 15 percent reduction in the tons of halibut that may be caught incidentally in groundfish fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska, in a plan expected to reduce the waste by some 300 metric tons annually.

The action by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, on June 8 in Kodiak, calls for bycatch reduction to be phased in, with a 7 percent reduction in 2014, another 5 percent reduction in 2015 and a third reduction of 3 percent in 2016.

The council vote came after two days of testimony by several dozen people involved in the fisheries industry. The majority of those testifying favored at least a 15 percent reduction in the catch of millions of pounds of halibut caught in prohibited species bycatch during groundfish fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska.

In its final motion, the NPFMC approved a 15 percent reduction in bycatch by trawl gear, and hook and line gear in the catcher vessel fleet, plus a 7 percent reduction in bycatch for the freezer-longliner catcher processor boats.

Halibut, a popular white fish once in abundance in Alaska waters, has been in serious decline over the past few years, prompting the International Pacific Halibut Commission to institute drastic reductions in harvest limits, particularly for the commercial setline fleet. Yet no significant efforts have been approved since the late 1980s to reduce the millions of pounds of halibut annually caught incidentally to Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries.

Commercial, sport and subsistence harvesters of halibut statewide have rallied to get what they are calling a first step in reducing the massive waste of halibut.

Supporters of reduced halibut bycatch had hoped the council would approve a 15 percent cut in a single year, but the council’s advisory panel instead recommended in a 12-9 vote to phase in the reduction over a three-year period.

The nine advisory panel members opposed to the plan called the proposed PSC reduction "allocative and responsive to political concerns, not scientifically based," and said it "does nothing to address wastage in the directed halibut fishery."

In other final action, the federal fish council adopted an alternative for rebuilding Pribilof Islands blue king crab stocks. Studies have determined that the current rebuilding plan was not achieving adequate progress to rebuild the stocks by 2014, in compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The alternative chosen closes the Pribilof Island Habitat Conservation Zone for vessels fishing for Pacific cod for pot gear. The directed blue king crab fishery has been closed since 1999, and action has already been taken to limit bycatch mortality in other crab and groundfish fisheries occurring near the Pribilof Islands.

ASMI Fetes UK Writers With Wild Alaska Seafood

Call it friendly persuasion, to keep members of the United Kingdom’s Guild of Food Writers aware of the gourmet potential of wild Alaska seafood.

For the fifth year in a row, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute had the honor of being selected to provide a selection of Alaska canapés and bowl foods for the annual awards ceremony in London.

The presentation comes as Alaska processors are trying to assure buyers in the United Kingdom that the standards for quality and sustainability of their products will remain at the highest level through certification by Ireland-based certifier Global Trust.

Major buyers in England’s markets have a commitment to carry Marine Stewardship Council certified seafood products and Alaska’s wild salmon is covered by MSC through October of this year, thanks to the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation serving as the client for certification. AFDF decided earlier this year to stop being the client for certification because major processors who paid the bill did not support the MSC certification plan for wild salmon any more. Their concern was in keeping consumer attention on the Alaska brand, rather than MSC certification. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, in full support of AFDF’s decision, then opted to be the client for certification on the sustainability of Alaska’s wild salmon under Global Trust, which has in the past done certification work for MSC.

The sumptuous presentation for the food writers on May 30 at London’s Fishmongers Hall included mini smoked Alaska sockeye salmon bagels with cream cheese, Alaska king crab with mango and lime crème fraiche, mini Alaska king salmon Thai fish cakes with sweet chili yoghurt dip and tartare of Alaska coho salmon and king crab with lemon, baby capers and mascarpone.

The writers also dined on Alaska black cod, Alaska king crab and tiger prawns with ginger in miso broth; salt and chili goujons of smoked Alaska Pollock with red onion and tomato salsa, with chips; tartare of smoked Alaska sockeye salmon with lemon, lime, cucumber and chili; quenelle of brandade of Alaska king salmon and horseradish served on crostini with apple, tomato and sweet chili relish, and millefeuille of Alaska salmon on whole meal rostini with crème fraiche and Alaska salmon eggs.

UAF Expands Research on Ocean Acidification

University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers, armed with a state capital budget allocation of $2.7 million, said June 8 they are expanding research on ocean acidification.

Jeremy Mathis, director of the UAF Ocean Acidification Research Center, made the announcement, calling the move "a tremendous opportunity to improve our understanding of a problem that could have far-reaching implications for our state.

"This infusion of funding will allow us to do things that we didn’t think were possible a couple of years ago," he said.

Mathis will use the new funding to build a network of ocean acidification buoys around the state to provide real-time monitoring of changing conditions throughout some of the state’s most sensitive coastal areas.

The project is to begin in July and Mathis said he plans to maintain the buoy network for at least four years.

The funding will be used to maintain existing buoys in the Gulf of Alaska outside of Resurrection Bay and in the Bering Sea west of Bristol Bay, plus new buoys in 2013 near Kodiak and in Southeast Alaska, between Juneau and Sitka.

The Alaska buoy network will be part of a larger operation along the west coast of North America and will involve partner institutions, including the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle.

Scientists will combine collected information with data from other research to develop a model to determine the current and future costs of ocean acidification. Mathis plans to work with scientists at NOAA fisheries labs in Kodiak and Newport, Ore., where researchers are studying the effects of ocean acidification on specific Alaska organisms like crab and Pollock.

The Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the UAF Marine Advisory Program were among those who organize support for the funds from the Legislature.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

NIOSH to Fishermen: ‘Put one on, take the class, shut the door’


By Margaret Bauman
June 2012


Jennifer Lincoln has never fished commercially, but for two decades at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health her goal has been saving the lives of those who do, through better safety practices and gear on board fishing vessels.

Since the early 1990s, more than 300 deaths have been prevented because of a variety of efforts, from use of personal floatation devices, and marine safety classes to the establishment of the individual fishing quotas for halibut and sablefish, and US Coast Guard dockside exams of crab fishing vessels, she said.

As director of the Alaska Pacific regional office of NIOSH, based in Anchorage, Lincoln supervises research programs to improve safe workplaces for those engaged in the oil and gas and aviation industries, while spending most of her time on commercial fisheries safety research.

“The part of my work I love the most is commercial fishing safety work,” Lincoln said in an interview with Fishermen’s News. “I feel like what I do really makes a difference in fishermen’s lives. I try to make sure the things we work on are relevant to fishermen. It’s something I don’t know how to explain, (but) I have such a passion and interest that it drives me.”

Lincoln, who holds a doctoral degree in health policy management from Johns Hopkins University, is a strong advocate of providing science to improve safety in the work place, with a specialty in commercial fishing safety research. She has authored numerous journal articles and reports related to commercial fishing safety. She is also regularly consulted regarding marine safety issues.

In 2010, she was the first recipient of NIOSH’s award for extraordinary intramural science in the category of early career scientist, for her research to prevent work-related deaths and injuries in commercial fishing.

Although Lincoln has not fished commercially herself, “I’ve tried to get underway with fishermen so I can understand the deck rotation and so forth,” she said. This has led to discussions with salmon trollers in Southeast Alaska, lobster and multi-species groundfish fishermen in New England, shrimp fishermen and Alabama and Louisiana and more. She also travels extensively to talk about results of her research, to compare notes with commercial fishermen and offer advice on how to avoid injury and fatal accidents aboard fishing vessels.

At the recent annual commercial fisheries forum and trade show known as ComFish, Lincoln and Chelsea Woodward, an engineering technician for NIOSH in Alaska and Spokane, Washington, attracted much interest with their forum on safety issues.

Their advice, in a nutshell, said Lincoln, was “put one on, take the class, shut the door.” Every commercial fish harvester should find a personal flotation device that works for him or her and wear it, take an eight-hour survival class (offered by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association) and shut the doors on fishing vessels, she said. “So often open doors lead to down-flooding,” she said.
Lincoln herself took an AMSEA basic commercial fishing training course in Seward, Alaska back in March 1992, and met Jerry Dzugan, executive director of AMSEA.

“I enjoyed meeting him, hearing about the various fishing stories, and I guess that was my introduction to it and why I became so interested in it,” she said. From there she went with US Coast Guardsmen to do some dockside exams at Seward, and the passion for her work hasn’t dimmed since.
Research studies have shown that survivors of commercial fishing mishaps in Alaska were seven times more likely to have worn an immersion suit, 15 times more likely to have used a life raft and 1.5 times more likely to have had formal marine safety training, at least once every five years, Lincoln reminded participants at Kodiak’s ComFish discussion.

AMSEA also notes on its website (http://amsea.org) that over the past several years commercial fishing has lost the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous industry in the nation. The loss of life has averaged about 11 lives a year for the last five years in Alaska, compared to a loss of about 38 lives a year before safety training was required. The greatest drop in fatalities in the nation has been in Alaska, but commercial fishing is still a high-risk occupation, AMSEA officials warn.

Half of the fatalities in the fishing industry have been the result of vessel disasters. There are also incidents of fishermen going overboard, injuries onboard, shore injuries and diving injuries.

“It is very important that harvesters wear those PFDs, she said. Many fishermen argue that they will die within five minutes of falling overboard anyhow, so why bother with the PFDs. “You will not die in the first five minutes,” Lincoln told the Kodiak audience. “Hypothermia doesn’t set in for 30 minutes. A life jacket will save your life. What will get you is your body not being able to float.”
The next big excuse NIOSH has heard is that flotation devices are hot, bulky and uncomfortable, but in fact NIOSH has tested a variety of PFDs which are neither hot, bulky or uncomfortable, including very light-weight vest PFDs which can be worn easily over rain gear.

“We bought 200 PFDs and distributed them to different fishermen to test,” Lincoln said. “I know what a crabber needs is different from a longliner.

Of the PFDs rated by fishermen in Alaska so far the most popular has been the inflatable Mustang PFD, she said.

She continues to buy and test more, because she is convinced there is one that will work for every fish harvester.

Lincoln said in a way the effort to get fishermen to wear these PFDs all the time is a one vessel at a time effort, but she was pleased to receive a recent phone call from one of the six Alaska fisheries community development associations, whose spokesman said that CDQ group planned to purchase 600 PFDs to accommodate everyone who was delivering fish to them.

Every time Lincoln meets with a fishing vessel owner she asks, “What is your PFD policy? Have you found one that works for you?” If they have, she wants to know when they are wearing them, if it is whenever they are on deck, for certain activities or under certain weather conditions.

Several owners of Bering Sea crab vessels, but not all, are now mandating that their crew wear them, and so has the Alaska Scallop Association, she said.

NIOSH also works continuously to improve deck safety, including development of the emergency-stop system (E-Stop) for hydraulic deck winches. The first NIOSH prototype of the device was put on a fishing vessel in the spring of 2005, and then three or four more prototypes were placed on vessels the following two summers, before it was licensed to a manufacturer.

A research paper published in the Journal of Safety Research in March 2008, Lincoln, Woodward and three other researchers wrote in detail about reducing commercial fishing deck hazards with engineering solutions for winch design.

They noted that the majority of hospitalized injuries among Alaska commercial fishermen are associated with deck machinery. Their paper described a “prevention through design” process to mitigate one serious machinery entanglement hazard posed by a capstan deck winch. After observing that the capstan winch provides no entanglement protection and the hydraulic controls are usually out of reach of the entangled person, NIOSH personnel met with fishermen and winch manufacturers to discuss various design solutions to mitigate these hazards.

As a result, an emergency-stop system was developed that incorporated a momentary contact button that when pushed, switches a safety-relay that de-energizes the solenoid of an electro-hydraulic valve stopping the rotating winch.

The vessel owners that had the system installed enthusiastically recommend it to other fishermen, the researchers said. “This is an example of a practical engineering control that effectively protects workers from a hazardous piece of equipment by preventing injuries due to entanglement,” the researchers said. “This solution could reduce these types of debilitating injuries and fatalities in this industry.”

More recently, in late 2011, the National Transportation safety Board released a series of recommendations related to safety in the commercial fishing industry. The recommendations, NIOSH noted in its electronic newsletter (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/enews/enewsv9n8.html) were a result of input given by industry experts, including Lincoln, at the NTSB’s fishing vessel safety forum held in October 2010 in Washington DC.

The NTSB cited NIOSH’s research into personal flotation devices as a primary source for their recommendation that all fishermen should wear a flotation aid while on deck. The NTSB also recommended a need to address intact stability, subdivision and watertight integrity of fishing vessels under 79 feet in length, and requiring all owners, masters and chief engineers of commercial fishing vessels to receive training and demonstrate competency in vessel stability, watertight integrity, subdivision and use of vessel stability information. The NTSB also recommended requiring owners of commercial fishing vessels to install fall overboard recovery devices appropriate for the vessel and to require all crewmembers to provide certification of completion of safety training before getting under way on commercial fishing vessels.

More information on the NIOSH commercial fishing safety program is at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/fishing.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at margieb42@mtaonline.net.

Alaska Weighs In on EPA Draft Watershed Assessment


The federal Environmental Protection Agency heard from several hundred people in Anchorage this week about their thoughts on a draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment that stands to play a role in whether or not the Pebble mine will be developed. The EPA said they were in Alaska “to make sure we get the science right” in the study, but with their testimony, boos, cheers and applause, the people packed into an auditorium at the University of Alaska Anchorage dwelled mainly on whether they thought the EPA had a right to be doing such studies in the first place or not. 

While more than 100 people testified for and against development of the Pebble mine during more than a four hour period on June 4, many others in the audience, armed with signs in favor of or opposed to either the mine or the EPA, ignored rules set down by a facilitator and applauded, booed or cheered testimony from either side.

The EPA has the power under the Clean Water Act, to prohibit use of an area for disposal of fill material if such discharges will have adverse effects on water, wildlife or fish. Mine opponents fear development of the Pebble mine would result in such adverse action, while proponents of the mine say they can avoid such incidences.

Many speakers, including Dillingham commercial fisherman and tribal leader Tom Tilden, spoke of the importance of the fish to the Bristol Bay economy and cultural well-being. “Fish is who we are,” Tilden said. “This is our economy.”

Others, including leaders of Alaska Native villages in Bristol Bay, spoke about the economic opportunities of mining, and the population losses due to lack of employment.
“Do not extinguish Native people’s opportunities through fear and emotion,” said Abe Williams, head of an Alaska Native corporation based in Naknek.

Retired Alaska senate President Rick Halford said the state’s lax enforcement of water quality standards was why the federal government got involved. “You are here at the request of the original people of the area and of the overwhelming majority of the population of the area,” Halford said.

An attorney for Trustees for Alaska said her public interest law firm had to litigate to get information on what the state has authorized and what Pebble has done at its exploration site at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed.

Others, like John Shively, the CEO of the Pebble Partnership, said the EPA was moving too quickly and more time was needed to collect comments on the draft document.

His stance was backed by many in Alaska’s business community, from the Alaska Chamber of Commerce to support industries for Alaska’s non-renewable resources.

Dennis McLaren, the EPA administrator for Region 10 in Seattle, said the request to extend the comment period is under consideration.

The EPA meanwhile has announced its independent scientific peer review panel for the draft document. More information is at

Scientists Embark on Annual, Biennial Bottom Trawl Surveys in Bering Sea


Thirty scientists from NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center will spend the next few months on the Bering Sea, collecting data in annual and biennial bottom trawl surveys of groundfish and crab species. 

The survey got under way in late May with 12 scientists aboard the F/V Aldebaran and F/V Alaska Knight for the annual survey of groundfish and crab that inhabit the continental shelf of the eastern Bering Sea. In early June, 18 more scientists were leaving Dutch Harbor aboard the F/V Vesteraalen, F/V Sea Storm and F/V Ocean Explorer for research in the eastern Bering Sea upper continental slope and groundfish surveys of the Aleutian Islands.

The bottom trawl surveys form the cornerstone for many of the stock assessment and ecosystem forecast models used by federal fisheries scientists for groundfish and crab harvest advice in Alaska. The combined area represented by the crab and groundfish trawl surveys covers an area greater than the size of Texas.

NOAA officials say the surveys are invaluable tools for observing and documenting effects of climate change on the benthic community and provide a unique foundation to systematically judge the change in the Arctic and subarctic waters off Alaska. The loss of sea ice in northern parts of the survey region is expected to exert a major influence on the structure and function of the ecosystems and the status of managed fish, crab and other marine species.

Stocks to be assessed include walleye Pollock, Pacific cod, yellowfin sole, northern rock sole, red king crab, and snow and Tanner crab. Scientists will collect information on relative abundance, size and age compositions for both.

Ocean Beauty’s Plant at Petersburg Closed for Season


Damage caused by an Alaska state ferry hitting processor facilities at Petersburg has prompted Ocean Beauty Seafoods to close its processing facilities at Petersburg for the season, although harvesters will find access to ice, administrative services and fishing tenders available as usual. Ocean Beauty’s vice president of Alaska operations, Jon Black, said June 5 that Ocean Beauty has a pretty good idea of the extent of damage caused when the ferry Matanuska hit the processing plant on May 7, but that a comprehensive assessment will take some time.

“Until we can absolutely guarantee that the working environment is safe, and that we are not at risk with any regulatory issues, there’s no way we can operate fish processing here,” he said.

Due to an anticipated lower run of pink salmon this season, Ocean Beauty had planned to have more 200 workers at the Petersburg plant to process mainly pink and chum salmon. 

The company has made arrangements to process at its Excursion Inlet facility the fish that would have been processed at Petersburg. In addition, arrangements have been made for custom processing at other Southeast Alaska processing facilities.

Ocean Beauty has six shoreside plants in Alaska, as well as two value-added plants in Washington State, eight distribution facilities in the western United States, and sales offices in Seattle and Tokyo.

The company said the state of Alaska has done everything in its power to help Ocean Beauty get operational at Petersburg as soon as practically possible, and that the city of Petersburg had also been helpful in facilitating resources.

Lower Yukon Anticipates a Strong Summer Chum Salmon Harvest


A dreary Chinook forecast aside, fishermen on the Lower Yukon River are anticipating a robust run of oil-rich summer chum salmon to fill market orders both domestically and in Europe.

“We have good markets,” said Jack Schultheis, sales manager for Kwik’Pak, at Emmonak, a subsidiary of the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association. The big question was how well buyers in England will respond to change, what with the state of Alaska embracing Global Trust over the Marine Stewardship Council to conduct third party certification of Alaska salmon fisheries.

Schultheis said in an interview June 4 that he expected to have 500 commercial fishing permit holders from the Lower Yukon River beginning to deliver their harvest once the fishery opened in late June.

That harvest, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, is projected at a potential 500,000 to one million salmon. The fall chum surplus potentially available for commercial harvest is anticipated at 500,000 to 700,000 fish. Schultheis said he anticipates prices to fishermen will be about the same as those paid in 2011, 75 cents a pound for summer chum and one dollar a pound for fall chum.

No directed harvest of king salmon was anticipated.

Alaska’s wild salmon certification through the Marine Stewardship Council ends in October, and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation has selected Global Trust to do its third party certification after that. AFDF made that decision in January after nine processors, including Kwik’Pak decided to pull the stopper on funds for third party certification through MSC, verifying that theirs is a sustainable fishery that adheres to best practices.

Alaska processors have expressed much concern over the past few years over the need to distinguish Alaska’s wild seafood from other wild seafood certified by MSC, to maintain the Alaska brand from a state where sustainability of seafood is mandated in the state constitution.

In April, the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association in Seattle, which represents many fishing vessel owners operating on the West Coast and in Alaska, opted to be the new MSC client for certification of Alaska’s salmon fisheries.

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