Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No Immediate Danger from ISA Virus Says Pathologist

By Margaret Bauman

Alaska’s chief fish pathologist said Dec. 7 that the state’s wild Pacific salmon stocks are in no immediate danger from the infectious salmon anemia virus, a pathogen linked to fish farming that has killed millions of salmon in Chile and Europe.

“I think science will prevail and at some point we will get some answers, but I don’t think our wild stocks are in immediate jeopardy,” said Ted Meyers, in a telephone interview from his Juneau office.

“I think we need to get more information. We need to first corroborate the research that has already been done (in Canada) and reexamine it. The current testing in Canada has looked at over 5,000 farmed fish and 500 wild fish and they have never found a pathogenic virus,” he said.

As for the newly released reports that the virus was detected a decade ago, Meyers said “ It would have been nice if the scientific community had been apprised of those results. If the information had been released then (in 2002) it would have diffused the hysteria of the rediscovery.”

Meyers, who has been in steady contact with his Canadian counterparts, spoke after news emerged of an unpublished report that the virus was detected a decade ago off British Columbia’s coast. The virus is not harmful to humans, but it is known to devastate farmed salmon stocks and there is concern that the ISA could spread to wild Pacific stocks.

Meyers noted that there are different strains of ISA virus, the pathogen strains found in Atlantic salmon, and the ancestral or wild strain, which is non-pathogenic and found in wild stocks in Norway.

The pathogenic strain causes destruction of cells and produces disease in the host fish, while the ancestral strain co-exists very nicely with the host fish without causing disease, he said.

“It’s like a virus in humans,” he said. “Some are benign and some are not.”
What likely happened is that when fish farming was put into place in Canada the ancestral strain mutated into the farmed Atlantic salmon, and it is entirely feasible that we have our own Pacific strain as well, he said.

Canadian authorities have been doing required testing of farmed salmon in that nation for about eight years and no pathogenic strains of the virus have been found, he said. The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is a molecular test to detect nucleonic acids from the target organism researchers are trying to detect.

“They have not, to their knowledge, imported any pathogenic virus from wherever they have gotten their Atlantic salmon eggs, he said, “so they need to corroborate the 2002 information of a non-pathogenic strain in wild stocks and then we can go from there,” he said.

Alaska, meanwhile is participating in a planning program with the state of Washington and federal agencies, for similar testing, but it will take a while to establish what will be done, what laboratories will do it, and to be sure surveillance tests are in place.

“We would sample our own fish in Alaska, incorporate those fish into our usual programs for other disease pathogens,” he said. “We do it every year. We look at our own stocks for different viruses and would incorporate ISA virus testing as one of those.”

News of the unpublished 2002 studies has prompted much concern, with the Los Angeles Times calling the issue “Salmongate,” and the News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington expressing its editorial viewpoint that there is something fishy about Canada’s response to salmon virus reports.

Almost a decade ago, it turns out, there were reports of a European strain of ISA in 117 fish from Alaska to Vancouver Island, though none of the fish were sick, the newspaper noted. This led the fisheries biologist Molly Kibenge to surmise that a nonlethal form of ISA may be present in Northwest wild salmon.

“The fear with ISA has always been that it could mutate into a lethal form. Yet Canadian fishery officials failed to follow up on Kibenge’s research and neglected to inform their American counterparts of her findings. The only reason the news is getting out now is that Kibenge and her husband, a noted fish virologist, went public after her request to publish her old data was denied.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, on Dec. 1 expressed her concern on the status of the virus reports. “These troubling reports reinforce the need for a coordinated, multi-national strategy to control the spread of this virus threat,” Cantwell said. “American and Canadian scientists need to have access to all relevant research on this deadly virus. We can’t afford to leave the Pacific Northwest’s fishery jobs at risk.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration what details, if any, were known by the US of the previous research, and how this new information is being taken into account in plans to expand testing efforts.

Murkowski said she was troubled when reports appeared earlier this fall of the ISA virus being in fisheries. “But now I am absolutely alarmed that this was not the first our neighbors to the east had heard of this, and had sat on critical information for ten years, putting us 10 years behind in addressing this situation,” she said.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at

Lower-Interest Loans for Entry Permits to be Considered by Alaska Legislature

Legislation introduced in the second session of the 27th Alaska Legislature by Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D- Dillingham, would amend the state’s Commercial Fishing Loan Act to allow lower-interest loans for entry permits under section B of the revolving loan fund.

Edgmon said the purpose of the legislation, currently before the House Fisheries Committee, is to increase Alaskan ownership of Alaskan fisheries by enabling a larger number of state residents to purchase limited entry commercial fishing permits.

House Bill 261 would modify Section B of the Commercial Fishing Loan Act to allow loans for entry permits of two percent below the prime rate with an interest floor of three percent, Edgmon said. Additionally, to address the reality of today’s permit costs, the bill would increase the maximum loan amount for entry permits under section B from $100,000 to $200,000, he said.

These loans would only be available to Alaska resident borrowers who are not eligible for financing from commercial banks, so they would not put the state in competition with private sector lenders.

“This legislation holds special promise for young Alaskan entrepreneurs, who in recent years have found it more difficult to secure the large amounts of capital needed to launch gainful, life-long fisheries businesses,” Edgmon said. “By helping a larger number of young Alaskans pursue ownership-level careers in fisheries, HB 261 will contribute to efforts to reverse the ‘graying of the fleet’ – the worrying increase in the average age of resident skippers in commercial fisheries across Alaska.”

The Dillingham Democrat said that support of HB 261 would strengthen one of the Commercial Fishing Loan Act’s most important purposes, to develop predominantly resident fisheries in Alaska. “In turn, by helping to put a greater number of limited entry permits in residents’ hands and by keeping a greater proportion of fisheries earnings in the state, HB 261 will strengthen Alaska’s economy,” he said.

Also before the Alaska House Fisheries Committee are several other bills introduced in the first half of the 27th session of the Legislature, last winter, including House Bill 237, to declare June 10 of every year Alaska Wild Salmon Day.

That measure, introduced by Edgmon, has a number of sponsors, but has not moved out of committee yet. It would honor the enormous bounty that wild king, sockeye, coho, chum and pink salmon bring to the state year after year.

Court Rules That NMFS Properly Imposed Fishing Restrictions to Protect Sea Lions

A federal judge in Anchorage says that commercial fishing restrictions to protect Steller sea lions in the western Aleutian Islands were properly imposed, but likely will order the National Marine Fisheries Service to prepare an environmental impact statement.

US District Judge Timothy Burgess handed down his decision Jan. 19 in Anchorage, in litigation brought against NMFS by the state of Alaska and the Alaska Seafood Cooperative. Burgess set a Feb. 8 deadline to file briefs responding to the court’s proposed decision. The case is seen by some as critical to the future of the commercial Pacific cod and Atka mackerel fisheries in the western Aleutians, and by others as critical to the future survival of the endangered Steller sea lions.

Commercial fishing interests engaged in the Pacific cod and Atka mackerel fisheries in the western Aleutians say the initial rule is causing them to lose millions of dollars annually in fish they cannot harvest. By NMFS’s own estimate, “the loss to the groundfish industry is $44 million to $61 million annually,” said Linda Larson, an attorney for the Alaska Seafood Cooperative.
John Gauvin, an industry veteran currently working as science director for the Alaska Seafood Cooperative, said he was disappointed that the judge didn’t see that NMFS misapplied the jeopardy standard.

The trend for the western Aleutians was that the Stellers were declining, he said.

“They used that to conclude that the overall population of Stellers was in jeopardy. The bi-op (biological opinion) doesn’t demonstrate that the decline in one small population area jeopardized the overall population of sea lions. In fact, NMFS admitted that overall the western population is increasing overall by 1.5 percent,” he said.

Environmental attorneys with Oceana, who intervened in the case, meanwhile applauded the judge’s decision to keep the protections in place, to reduce competition for fish between large-scale commercial fisheries and the endangered Steller sea lions.

“It’s a good day for our oceans,” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s senior director for the Pacific region.

On the heels of the Burgess ruling came a report from researchers at Oregon State University and the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward noting that killer whales and other ocean predators are killing Steller sea lions pups in increasingly high numbers.

The researchers had monitored 36 juvenile sea lions in Alaska’s Kenai Fjords and Prince William Sound region of the Gulf of Alaska from 2005 through 2011 and documented, using tag data transmitted by satellite, the deaths of 11 pups. Results of their work, plus a computer model o survival rates, “suggest predation on juvenile sea lions as the largest impediment to recover of the species in the eastern Gulf of Alaska region,” the researchers said in a report published online Jan. 17 in the scientific journal PLoS One.

Major Processors, Newcomers, Compete in 2012 Alaska Symphony of Seafood

Seafood industry veterans and newcomers alike are vying for top honors in the 2012 Alaska Symphony of Seafood, with judging in Seattle on Feb. 2 and winners to be announced at a gala soiree in Anchorage on Feb 10.

First place winners in the retail, food service and smoked products categories, along with grand prize and people’s choice winners, will get a trip to and booth space at the International Boston Seafood Show in March.

Among the competitors in retail products are Trident Seafoods, with Trident Cheddar Crumb encrusted Pollock and Wild Alaskan Smoked King Salmon, Ocean Beauty Seafoods’ Echo Falls Sockeye Salmon Pinwheels and Louvier’s Wild Alaskan Salmon Cajun Rice Dressing.

Maria Louvier, who owns the fledging Anchorage company Louvier’s with her husband, Jason, said their entries use wild Alaska salmon as the main ingredient in the dressing. The couple rented space in a church kitchen for the competition, she said, because they got rave reviews for the dressing, which is like stuffing, from friends and family. Louvier’s has also entered its wild Alaskan Salmon Cajun Rice Dressing Croquette in the food service competition.

Eleven of the 19 entries are from Alaska based firms, including Pickled Willys of Kodiak, Tracy’s King Crab Shack of Juneau, Tustumena Smokehouse of Kasilof, and Kwik'Pak Fisheries of Emmonk.

Rounding out the entries are others from Trident Seafoods- last year’s grand prize winner – plus others from AquaCuisine, American Pride Seafoods, and Triad Fisheries.

More information on the competition is at

NOAA Biologists Brave Winter Seas on Sablefish Research Cruise

Federal fisheries scientists say they hope to get some concrete answers on the age when female sablefish become reproductively active by examining fish ovaries gathered during stormy winter cruise near Kodiak.

During the December 2011 cruise aboard the chartered FV Gold Rush, the scientists collected data on the length, age, weight and anatomical features, along with ovaries from 385 female sablefish.

The study is a joint effort led by Jim Stark of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering division, with Katy Echave of the Auke Bay Laboratories division, with support from NOAA’s Alaska regional office.

Although NOAA has been conducting maturity observations on sablefish in Alaska since 1979, the research was always done in summer months when maturity is difficult to assess. By conducting the research in winter, when scientists can clearly identify mature females that will spawn during the next annual spawning cycle, scientists will be able to provide the first accurate estimate of the age that female sablefish become reproductively active, NOAA officials said.

Cara Rodgveller, another NOAA biologist involved in the study, said that mid--December is a good time to sample maturing fish since almost all fish were preparing to spawn but have not yet spawned. Since there is very little knowledge of the winter distribution of sablefish preparing to spawn, Echave placed satellite tags on several individual sablefish to monitor their movements during the spawning season over the next few months.

These tags were set to pop up to the surface in mid-January and February and transmit data to a satellite.

Other fishery scientists will use the information collected during the sablefish cruise to determine the spawning stock size and ultimately set sustainable catch levels for Alaska waters.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Oregon’s Pink Shrimp Fishery Trying to Net Eco-Recertification

By Terry Dillman

Yaquina Bay, ORNewport’s fishing fleet casts reflections in Yaquina Bay in the early morning light of a tranquil day. Oregon’s pink shrimp fishery based in Newport, Charleston and Astoria was the first fishery in the state and the first shrimp fishery worldwide to earn eco-friendly certification from the international Marine Stewardship Council in 2007. Fishery managers are currently seeking recertification. Photo by Terry Dillman.

In 2007, Oregon’s pink shrimp fishery became the state’s first fishery and the world’s first shrimp fishery to earn certification – and the blue eco-label on their products signifying the achievement – from the international Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

At the time, then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski called the designation “a very important milestone in sustainability that will bring international attention to our state. This achievement represents a significant step in identifying Oregon as a leader in sustainable resource management.”

Now fishery leaders and managers, seeking to sustain the label, have voluntarily entered a full reassessment process to obtain recertification.

An international non-profit organization, MSC operates the world’s leading independent certification program for wild fisheries, bestowing its coveted blue eco-label on those fisheries it deems well-managed and sustainable, and using that label to educate consumers about those fisheries. Council officials said they are “dedicated to improving the health of the world’s oceans and creating a sustainable global seafood market.”

Focusing on three main principles – fish stock health, fishery management and the fishery’s effects on the ecosystem, council certification for pink shrimp involved an intense process that began with pre-assessment in 2003, followed by full assessment beginning in 2005 and wrapping up late in 2007. The Oregon Trawl Commission (OTC), which represents Oregon’s traditional groundfish, whiting and pink shrimp fisheries, funded and provided documentation for the fishery’s certification review. The trawl commission provides support for education, research and marketing, and advocates for proposed legislation on behalf of those fleets and fisheries.

The certification, which lasts five years with annual surveillance audits, featured improvement actions for the fishery to put in place, among them recording additional data in vessel logbooks and obtaining more independent research about the fishery’s catch and ecosystem impacts to glean information for fishery managers.

“Certification confirms to the public, retailers, the conservation community and our government officials that the Oregon pink shrimp fishery is managed to the highest standards in the world,” said Brad Pettinger, OTC director. He said they look forward to the recertification effort to prove that the fishery “is deserving of the right to use” the MSC’s blue label.

Intertek Moody Marine will conduct the independent reassessment process, which officials expect to take about a year.
Value and Viability
Fished from the cold waters of the Pacific, Oregon pink shrimp or ocean shrimp (often erroneously called bay shrimp or simply salad shrimp) are – compared to the larger species usually found in supermarkets and restaurants – the real “shrimps” of the shrimp world, with 100 to 160 whole shrimp comprising one pound.

Started in 1957, Oregon’s commercial pink shrimp fleet is considered one of the most consistently valuable commercial trawl fisheries in the state. Centered off the Oregon coast with operations extending from Washington to northern California, the 50 to 60-vessel fleet works out of Newport, Charleston, and Astoria. With short at-sea trips and immediate on-board icing, pink shrimp fishermen quickly deliver their catch to shore for cooking, peeling, and freezing.

Best of all, they do it in an ecologically friendly manner.

Pettinger said fishery activities and shrimp landings are carefully monitored “to maintain an ecologically sustainable trawl fishery.”

While many shrimp species exist in the ocean off Oregon’s shores, pink shrimp is the only species found in quantities large enough for commercial harvest. Populations vary widely from year-to-year, and their life history makes them somewhat naturally resistant to overharvest, since overall numbers determine take.

The season is open from April 1 to October 31 to avoid interfering with the typical December-to-March reproductive cycle and taking the emerging young shrimp. Pink shrimp have a life span of just four years, with two-year-olds the most common age found in the commercial catch. That catch must average 160 or fewer shrimp per pound, so fishermen shy away from areas with higher populations of one-year-old or younger (and smaller) shrimp.

Primary management tools - beyond mandatory commercial fishing licenses and limited entry shrimp fishing permit system - are season, shrimp size (age) and gear modifications, said Pettinger, noting that the fishery historically concentrates on four beds - “areas of commercially sustainable populations” where the bottom is relatively flat and smooth, consisting of mostly green mud or sand. Those beds expand or shrink each season, depending on the shrimp population at the time.

Boats generally work during the day, since shrimp migrate off the bottom at night to feed, and most are double-rigged, with nets set at depths of 450 to 750 feet (75 to 125 fathoms).

“Trawls used to catch Oregon pink shrimp do not have full contact with the sea floor, which means that bycatch of unwanted fish is greatly reduced,” an OTC fact sheet notes.

In addition, boats often work together to locate the highest densities and largest sizes of pink shrimp.

Feeling ‘Grate’
However, the main key to the fishery’s latest eco-exploits involves harvesting with trawl nets containing a Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD) known as the Oregon Grate, a “fish sorter” placed in the net to separate the shrimp from other fish and prevent excessive incidental capture of other species, such as hake and rockfish. Developed through a long-term collaboration between the fishery and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and its Marine Resources Program (MRP), the grate keeps the shrimp in the net while allowing most fish to escape, guided by either rigid aluminum grids (preferred by most fishermen) or soft panels through a large opening at the top of the net.

ODFW/MRP scientists say shrimp trawl fisheries worldwide are notorious for high levels of fish bycatch. They cite on-going monitoring and research during the past three decades, along with mandatory logbooks, biological sampling, and population dynamics modeling, as factors in raising the ecological profile of Oregon’s pink shrimp fishery.

But the collaborative effort with the fishery in developing and mandating use of BRDs really made the difference.

Use of the grates – mandatory in Oregon since April 1, 2003 - helped make the Oregon pink shrimp fishery one of the “cleanest” fisheries, with little or no impact on other commercial species. Their use first led to a “Best Choice” recommendation from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which also caters to environmentally concerned seafood consumers, and played a major role in earning the MSC sustainability nod.

Jeff Boardman, who has 31 years of shrimping experience, 25 aboard his trawler F/V Miss Yvonne, helped develop the grate in 2001 and credited the cooperative research effort – research that he said actually began in 1994 – for getting the fishery to this pinnacle of success. In particular, he gave ODFW’s Bob Hannah, Steve Jones, and Keith Matteson his seal of approval. Matteson, he noted, “did a lot of underwater camera work” to show the effectiveness of BRDs. Based in Newport at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, Hannah and Jones – project leaders for the commercial pink shrimp fishery – were instrumental in assisting the OTC in the certification effort.

They also publish an annual pink shrimp newsletter, which outlines trends, issues, and other vital information with fishery participants.

“This should prove to fishermen these things are actually working,” Boardman said. “It makes the fishing a lot cleaner and the product a lot fresher, with a lot less effort on deck.”

Long-time commercial fisherman and current Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson called the 2007 certification “a real success story” that began when the state legislature under former Gov. John Kitzhaber restored ODFW research funding. He also lauded ODFW for not forcing the BRD issue.

“They let the fleet work on it,” he noted. “The fishermen perfected the device.”

Thompson also pointed to the pink shrimp fishery as a prime example of the best way to manage ocean resources. “When we go after shrimp, we catch shrimp,” he added.

“Although we produce just two percent of the world’s coldwater shrimp supply, Oregon is leading the way for other shrimp fisheries, and providing a best case example of how to run and manage a sustainable fishery,” said Pettinger.

Yields during the past decade tell the tale: Shrimpers took 6.1 million pounds in 1998, followed by 20.5 million (1999), 25.5 million (2000), 28.5 million (2001), 41.6 million (2002), 20.6 million (2003), 12.2 million (2004), 15.8 million (2005), 12.2 million (2006), 20.1 million (2007), 25.6 million (2008), 22.1 million (2009) and 31.4 million (2010).

Market Boost?
Fresh pink shrimp are available at local and regional markets during the season (April 1 to October 31), while canned and frozen shrimp are marketed throughout the year.

Going green and earning the blue was touted as a way to keep this vital Oregon fishery in the pink, or at least out of the red. Reality has yet to even get within shouting distance of the hype in terms of boosting ex-vessel prices, but most shrimpers remain pragmatic about it, knowing that numerous other factors beyond catering to the folks of the green revolution are at work.

From a marketing standpoint, Oregon Department of Agriculture and fishery officials said in 2007 that certification would help the fishery maintain existing access and possibly provide access to new markets, since it allows Oregon pink shrimp to go to market as a premium product. “This program is targeted to consumers,” Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said when the fishery first earned the designation. “The MSC eco-label goes onto the product and consumers will see that label at the retail level. This certification gives a boost to the credibility of Oregon wild fisheries in both the domestic and international marketplace.”

MSC officials said global demand for independently certified and labeled sustainable seafood is growing, and certification allows Oregon pink shrimp to go to market as a premium product.

Little has changed since then, as possible fell short of probable, at least at the fishermen’s level.

Corey Rock, skipper of Newport-based F/V Kylie Lynn, said he really saw no up-tick in market prices during the past four seasons, but slapping the MSC label on their products did broaden the market scope.

“It might not help us to have it at the moment, but it could hurt us not to,” he said, noting continued public clamor for sustainable commercial fisheries that are conservation-minded and eco-friendly as a result. That clamor, Rock added, is only likely to intensify in the years ahead, making the overt endorsement conferred on pink shrimp by the MSC label almost a must to stay in business at any viable level.

During testimony about a separate matter at a hearing of the Senate Committee on General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection in March, Boardman noted that Oregon’s shrimp fishermen “have been leaders in developing a fishery that is certified as sustainable” by the MSC.

Boardman, a member of the Shrimp Producers Marketing Cooperative since 1986, told the Senate committee that wholesale and retail prices for pink shrimp have risen, ex vessel prices paid to the fishermen have dropped. He cited data from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Urner Barry – “the industry’s leading tracker of wholesale seafood prices” – indicating that while wholesale price for pink shrimp “has moved up substantially” during the past five years, ex vessel prices for pink shrimp landed in Oregon have remained at or below 50 cents per pound since 2006, and stood at 31 cents per pound on average in 2009 and 35 cents in 2010.

“I am fortunate not to have any mortgage on my fish boat, but it has still become harder and harder to make a decent living in my fishery over the last five years,” Boardman noted.

The fault for the “disconnect” between wholesale/retail and ex vessel prices, he said, lies elsewhere, and many shrimpers say enhancing marketability of pink shrimp with the MSC label could never make up for it. But they take pride and satisfaction in earning the label, knowing that it’s best to pursue anything that might open up new markets or maintain or enhance existing ones.

Fishery officials continue to hold out hope that the labeling will help fetch a higher price for the fishery, which generates hundreds of seasonal harvesting and processing jobs along the Oregon coast. Stock-wise, the fishery is in good shape, they noted, and landings are up. Overall, the cold water shrimp market is improved worldwide, and they hope to take the product to the next level.

Consumers, however, are fickle and price “seems to rule the marketplace.”

Boardman agreed, but is bothered by something else he hopes this ongoing recognition can amend. “If we can just get them to stop calling them bay shrimp,” he concluded, finding the misnomer grating. “They’re Oregon pink shrimp.”

Terry Dillman can be reached at

Major Processors Pulling Out of MSC Salmon Certification Program

Eight major primary processors of wild Alaska salmon are phasing out their financial support for the Marine Stewardship council salmon certification program.

The board of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF), the client for the certification process, voted on Jan. 16 to maintain certification only through Oct. 29, after the eight processors said they were withdrawing support.

The reason for the decision by Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Peter Pan Seafoods, Alaska General Seafoods, Kwik’Pak Fisheries, E & E Foods, and North Pacific Seafoods was not disclosed. The group represents about 75 percent of the salmon harvest.

Industry sources said that the current required annual surveillance audit, plus recertification for the next five years, would cost the industry approximately $400,000, based on a rate of $500 per million pounds, and annual harvests totaling about 800 million pounds. AFDF took over clientship for MSC certification of Alaska salmon in December 2009, after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said it would no longer carry out the duties required of the client to verify the sustainability of the salmon fisheries.

Jim Browning, executive director of AFDF, said that the individual companies noted that MSC certification has been welcome and valuable for more than a decade. “MSC has offered independent affirmation of what the Alaska industry and fishery managers have held since statehood, that Alaska salmon fisheries are sustainably managed,” Browning said.

However, the majority of these processors now feel it is time to redirect their resources toward a broader marketing message.

Kerry Coughlin, MSC Americas regional director, said the organization regrets the decision. “We hope this fishery will re-enter assessment, maintain the market advantage of MSC certification, and continue to showcase their sustainability.”

Coughlin said the number of fisheries and supply chain companies using the MSC program continues to expand worldwide, and consumer appreciation for the MSC ecolabel on products is increasing.

Ray Riutta, executive director of ASMI, noted that the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute also provides a third party program for certification of sustainable fisheries, one that Riutta said equals or exceeds any method currently in the marketplace.

Arni Thomson, president of United Fishermen of Alaska, said that UFA fully supports the processors’ decision, and believe it is in the best interest of the Alaska salmon fishery.

Copper River Seafoods in Recovery Mode in Cordova

A winter storm that all but brought Cordova, Alaska, to a standstill did severe damage to facilities owned by Copper River Seafoods, and the company has been busy cleaning up and assessing the damages. Pip Fillingham, a company owner who lives in Cordova, has been overseeing the work crews reinforcing company structures, cleaning up debris and securing boats and supplies stored there.

As of this week, nearly one third of one of the company’s warehouse buildings damaged by very heavy snow on the roof had been torn down. Of the 20 fishing vessels stored inside that warehouse, three boats sustained minor damage and one more severe damage, said Robin Richardson, company spokesperson. Copper River Seafoods representatives are meeting with owners of each vessel on the status of their boats and arrangements are being made on a case-by-case basis for handling and movement, she said.

Severe weather conditions that delayed the arrival of equipment have hampered the cleanup operation. Once the equipment arrives, the warehouse will be demolished and the vessels and supplies that were stored in lockers in the warehouse will be secured, she said.

In the wake of the storm, Copper River Seafoods shipped specially made snow shovels, a snow blower, a 40,000 pound front end loader and a 12-yard dump truck to Cordova to begin the cleanup.

Cordova’s harbor itself sustained only minor damage of a finger float, according to the harbormaster’s office. Owners of vessels stored there are required to have a watchman to make sure each of the vessels is secure. In the aftermath of the stormy weather dozens of people came down to the harbor to tend to their own vessels and also pitched in to remove snow from other vessels that were unattended, said Glenn Anderson, operations and maintenance supervisor at the harbor.

Alaska Marine Conservation Council to Host a Tanner Crab Soiree

A Taste of Kodiak, a celebration of tanner crab, conservation and community based fishing opportunities in Alaska, is set for Monday, Jan. 23, at ORSO restaurant in Anchorage, hosted by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and ORSO.

Along with the tasty menu of unique creations fresh crab, wines and other hors d’oeuvres harvested mostly in the Gulf of Alaska, guests will get to mingle with crab fishermen and learn more about the work of AMCC, a non-profit organization with a “boots on deck” approach to maintaining healthy fisheries and working waterfronts in Alaska.

The tanner crab soiree is part of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council’s Catch of the Season program, which aims to connect residents of the Anchorage area with the network of independent fishermen committed to stewardship of the marine resources that they depend on.

All proceeds from the soiree will go to AMCC’s working waterfronts program. AMCC officials said they hope this will be the first among many events to highlight locally caught sustainable seafood and community fishermen.

AMCC has worked for years with local Kodiak fishermen to protect the tanner crab habitat around Kodiak Island.

Earlier this year, AMCC offered subscriptions to tanner crab from Kodiak through its catch of the season project.

AMCC, founded in 1994, is a community-based organization dedicated to protecting the long-term health of Alaska’s oceans and sustaining the working waterfronts of coastal communities. Its membership includes fishermen, subsistence harvesters, marine scientists, small business owners, conservationists, families and others concerned about Alaska’s oceans. AMCC supports an ecosystem approach to research and marine resource management that incorporates the best science, experiential knowledge and the wisdom of tradition.

Marine Science Symposium Showcases Ocean Research

Dozens of marine scientists from the United States, Canada and beyond converged on Anchorage this week to report on research projects pertinent to fish and fish habitat, and much more in the Arctic, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska.
The annual event, organized by the North Pacific Research Board, is sponsored by a variety of federal and state agencies, plus commercial fisheries, conservation and environmental organizations. It is open to the public and continues through Friday.
This year’s keynote speakers included Eddy Carmack of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada, speaking on the interconnected roles of the Arctic and subarctic oceans in global change. By looking at and understanding the changes taking place in the Arctic, scientists may develop potentially powerful tools to manage and cope with emerging global-scale issues, Carmack said.

Carin Ashjian of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Jeff Napp of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center did a keynote presentation on understanding ecosystem processes for the Bering Sea. Their research is part of an effort of the North Pacific Research Board and National Science Foundation in support of a comprehensive multi-million dollar investigation of the eastern Bering Sea ecosystem to understand how climate change and associated changes in sea-ice are impacting this ecosystem and consequences of these changes on fish, seabirds, marine mammals and ultimately people. The partnership is now in its sixth year

Jamal Moss and Olav Ormseth of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center spoke about the Gulf of Alaska integrated ecosystem research program. Their research is focused on identifying and quantifying the key processes that regulate recruitment of five commercially and ecologically important groundfish species.

Complete details on the symposium are online at,
Including abstracts for every presentation scheduled for the gathering.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Today's Catch - Happy New Year!

With the January issue we are happy to welcome our newest contributor, Terry Dillman, who will be reporting on commercial fisheries issues in Oregon and Northern California. Terry is a seasoned writer, editor and photographer with 34 years of newspaper and magazine experience. He is the assistant editor and business editor of the News-Times, a twice-weekly newspaper in Newport, Oregon, where he writes about ocean issues, including commercial fishing.

His first contribution, on the delay of the Dungeness crab season due to meat quality issues, ran last month. This month he reports on Oregon’s pink shrimp fishery (page 1), the Pacific Seafood Antitrust suit (page 8) and marine reserve restrictions in Oregon (Page 18).

We are also happy to announce the promotion of veteran Alaska correspondent Margaret Bauman to a full-time staff position as Alaska editor. Margie is an Alaska journalist and photographer with an extensive background in Alaska’s commercial fisheries and environmental issues related to those fisheries, and has written for Fishermen’s News in a freelance capacity for almost 20 years. A long-time Alaska resident, she has also covered news of national and international importance in other states on the staff of United Press International, the Associated Press and CBS News.

In her new position Margie will continue to provide editorial for the Fishermen’s News print and online publications, as well as representing the company in Alaska while reporting on issues of importance to the commercial fisherman, including legislative, environmental and business issues.

We’re happy to have both Terry and Margie onboard in their new positions, and we wish them and their audience a successful and prosperous 2012.

Chris Philips

Trident Seafoods Adds 60 to St. Paul Crab Processing Crew

Trident Seafoods, bracing for an exceptionally large amount of snow crab in the Bering Sea, has hired on an additional 60 workers for its processing facilities at St. Paul Island.

Joe Plesha, chief legal counsel for the Seattle based seafood company, said yesterday that the last of those workers was arriving this week, making a full crew of some 320 workers. “We’re doing this because of a larger quota, substantially larger this year than last year,” Plesha said.

Trident facilities at St. Paul Island have the greatest capacity in the northern region of the Bering Sea for crab processing. Only one other company has processing facilities in that region.

The total allowable catch aside, the harvest will be dictated somewhat by weather conditions, which can be particularly harsh in winter months in the Bering Sea.

As mid-January approached, temperatures ranged from the low teens up to about 30 degrees, with snow showers more likely than not, and winds up to 40 miles an hour.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced in early October a Bering Sea snow crab season with a total allowable quota of 88,894,000 pounds of snow crab, including 80,004,600 to holders of individual fishing quota and 8,889,400 pounds for community development quota groups.

A year earlier, the state agency had the total quota set at 54,281,000, including 48,852,900 pounds of the opilio to holders of individual fishing quota and 5,428,100 allocated to community development quota groups.

The quota is set each year based on analysis of a National Marine Fisheries Service trawl survey of Bering Sea snow crab stocks.

The 2011/2012 total allowable catch is based on abundance and biomass estimates from the NMFS stock assessment model.

There is no pot limit or buoy tag requirement for the Bering Sea snow crab fishery. Vessel operators may register up to 20 groundfish pots and may register gear operation cooperatives with other registered vessels.

Judge Sets Trial Date for Pebble Initiative for February 2013

Alaska Superior Court Judge John Suddock on Jan. 10 consolidated two lawsuits aimed at halting enforcement of an initiative to forbid permitting large-scale mines that could significantly impact on salmon streams, and set a trial date for Feb. 11, 2013.

Suddock made his decision after hearing comments in the Anchorage courtroom from all parties involved in the litigation. Both the Pebble Limited Partnership, which wants to develop the prospect, and the state of Alaska are challenging the legality of the initiative.

The case could be resolved on motions before the actual trial date.

Voters in Southwest Alaska’s Lake and Peninsula Borough approved during a general election last November an initiative aimed at blocking development of the massive Pebble mine prospect at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The Save Our Salmon initiative was the work of a group concerned that development of the copper, gold and molybdenum Pebble prospect could have a devastating effect on Bristol Bay’s wild sockeye salmon, salmon spawned in the river systems of the Bristol Bay watershed.

The initiative, approved by a vote of 280-246, changes borough law to forbid the permitting of large mines that would have “significant adverse impact” on salmon streams, which are in abundance in the region.

The main thrust of the initiative is that it would add language to the borough’s permitting code that states “where a resource extraction activity could result in excavation, placement of fill, grading, removal and disturbance of the topsoil of more than 640 acres of land and will have a significant adverse impact on existing anadromous waters, a development permit shall not be issued by the (planning) commission.”

The initiative also changes the preferred order in which permits are applied for. Prior to passage of the initiative, the borough code required that an applicant seeking a borough permit must have already secured all state and federal permits. The initiative strikes that language and states, “the applicant should obtain its development permit from the borough prior to obtaining state and federal permits.”

Copper River Seafoods Cleaning up Cordova Facilities Hard Hit by Storm

Copper River Seafoods has begun assessment of damage from heavy snowfall to the roof of one of its buildings in Cordova, which houses 20 boats and associated fishermen’s lockers, valued at more than $2 million.

The roof of the two-story building collapsed on Jan. 6, in the wake of a snowstorm so severe that the Alaska National Guard is now on the scene helping residents shovel out.

Although Cordova residents are used to heavy snowfall, so much snow fell in early January that residents say they are running out of places to put it.

Copper River Seafoods officials say they have not yet determined the extent of damages, or whether there was impact to the first floor, where boats are stored.

“Our first concern, is, of course, the safety of those in our community of Cordova”, said Scott Blake, company president. “Beyond the safety of the community, we are making every effort to recover the fishing fleet that is staged over the winter in our facility.”

Copper River Seafoods has dispatched equipment to Cordova, including aluminum shovels custom made for this particular snow situation, a snow blower, a 40,000 pound front end loader and a 12-yard dump truck. Company employees are working to clear snow from around the fish processing company’s facilities on the waterfront.

Company employees were also making assessments on each and every piece of equipment in storage. Pip Fillingham, a Cordova resident and one of the company owners, is on site overseeing the cleanup and assessment.

The affected building is adjacent to the main seafood processing facility. It is a 7,000 square foot metal construction building erected in the late 1970's.

While, weather officials forecast more snow for the area, Copper River Seafoods is moving equipment and staff to Cordova to secure the area and protect the fishing fleet in a situation of very challenging weather conditions, company officials said on Jan. 10.

Alaska Fisheries Board Seeks Proposed Regulation Changes for Fisheries

The Alaska Board of Fisheries is accepting proposed regulation changes through 5 p.m. on April 10 for fisheries in the Bristol Bay, Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim and Alaska Peninsula/Aleutian Islands management areas. Proposals may be for commercial, subsistence, personal use, sport, guide sport and guided sport ecotourism finfish regulations. Finfish include salmon, herring, trout, groundfish, char, burbot, northern pike, whitefish, Pacific cod, sablefish, shark, and Pollock, but not halibut.

Examples of “statewide finfish” regulations can be found in Title 5 of the Alaska Administrative Code and include, but are not limited to, policy for the management of sustainable salmon fisheries, policy for the management of mixed stock fisheries, policy for statewide salmon escapement goals, possession of sport-caught fish, and fishing by proxy.

Proposals may be submitted by mail, fax, or online. The board is currently unable to accept proposals via email but hopes to soon be able to offer this option.

Mail proposals to ASD&F, Boards support Section, P.O. Box 115526, Juneau, AK 99811-5526; fax to 1-907-465-6094, or send online to
Writers of proposals should use the Board of Fisheries proposal form, available from the Boards Support Section or online at

Proposals must include a contact telephone number and address, as well as the name of the individual or organization making the proposal.

Fisheries board staff caution that language that is emotionally charged detracts from the substance of the proposal. The board's proposal review committee will review each proposal prior to publication.

The proposal review committee reserves the right to edit proposals containing offensive language. Proposals published in the proposal book will be referenced with the appropriate Alaska Administrative Code citation and include a brief description of the action requested. Following publication, proposal booklets will be available to advisory committees and the public for review and comment.

For more information, please contact the Alaska Board of Fisheries executive director at (907) 465-4110.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pacific Seafood Antitrust Lawsuit Still On Course

By Terry Dillman

A class action antitrust lawsuit filed in June 2010 against Clackamas, Oregon-based Pacific Seafood Group (PSG) is still tacking toward a requested court showdown, despite some legal course changes along the way.

Initially filed by Portland law firm Haglund Kelley Horngren Jones & Wilder LLP for Brookings-based fishermen Lloyd Whaley and Todd Whaley and as many as 3,000 other “similarly situated fishermen and fishing vessel owners,” the lawsuit alleges monopolization of the Dungeness crab, Oregon coldwater (pink) shrimp, groundfish, and whiting seafood markets along the West Coast by PSG and its owner Frank Dulcich. Prices paid to fishermen are the central issue. The complaint alleges that PSG uses its market share of 50 to 70 percent in each of those four critical fisheries and coordinates with other processors to drive down those prices, thus violating federal antitrust laws.

The original complaint also featured an allegation of conspiracy to restrain trade, which disappeared in the filing of a first amended complaint in August 2010. The plaintiffs’ lead attorney Michael Haglund said they re-filed after learning that Dulcich owns PSG outright and is not just a majority partner.

Antitrust laws say “you can’t conspire with yourself,” said Haglund, noting that they weren’t aware of the 57-company conglomerate’s full organization at the time of the initial filing, and that it’s common to re-file a case after such discoveries.

The complaint has since undergone two more iterations, and the latest re-filing in July 2011 added Newport-based pink shrimp fisherman Jeff Boardman, Brookings-based fisherman Brian Nolte and Dynamik Fisheries, Inc. and Miss Sarah LLC as plaintiffs.

The monopoly allegations remain, and the law firm’s website prominently features a section devoted to the lawsuit. It describes the actions taken so far, a copy of the complaint to download and peruse, and lists seven categories of alleged anticompetitive conduct:

• Price fixing – using “multiple tactics to set and enforce low prices to fishermen, including “retaliation against processors who dare to deviate from Pacific’s set prices.”

• Theft from fishermen by manipulating scales, misreporting actual weights, or “arbitrarily designating a portion of a delivered catch as an unusable ‘weighback’” and deducting it from the paid poundage, yet still processing and selling the “unusable” fish.

• Acquiring 18 West Coast seafood processing plants – some through “predatory tactics” that set up a vulnerable company for acquisition “at a bargain price.”

• Widespread use of “exclusive dealing and tying arrangements.”

• Restricting crab, shrimp and groundfish harvest outputs.

• “False representations” to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council that “have impacted” council decisions.

• “Miscellaneous dirty tricks” – among them, “illegally targeting” threatened fish stocks (criminally prosecuted by the state in 2001), and “fraudulently manipulating a delay” in the start of the 2005-2006 crab season.

The lawsuit remains on course toward a potential courtroom showdown, despite a setback at the end of February.

During the discovery process, Haglund said they found out that Pacific aimed at boosting its market share even more by purchasing Westport, Washington-based Ocean Gold, the largest whiting processor and owner of the single largest seafood processing plant on the West Coast.

Founded in 1991 by Washington fisherman Dennis Rydman, Ocean Gold now employs 700 people and processes more than 100 million pounds of fish annually.

In 2006, Ocean Gold and Pacific inked a 10-year deal that made Pacific Seafood “solely responsible” for setting “raw material costs” (fishermen’s prices), and obligated Ocean Gold to sell all fish it buys from fishermen to Pacific. The companies split the profits 50-50. Dulcich currently owns 32 percent of Ocean Gold, and was recently negotiating to buy it outright until Haglund took legal action to try to stop it with a preliminary injunction, asking the court to keep the two companies from communicating with each other about the prices they are paying fishermen, except as needed for accounting. It also asked to halt any communications “intended to direct fishing vessels to particular seafood processing plants.”

Pacific Seafood put the purchase on hold in December 2010, awaiting the outcome.

At the end of February, US District Court Judge Owen Panner rejected the request to keep PSG from communicating with Ocean Gold about how much to pay for whiting, and from which boats to buy the fish.

The judge also noted that Haglund failed to prove that Pacific has used its market share to suppress prices paid to fishermen.

“Plaintiffs have not shown at this stage that they are being harmed by defendants’ alleged illegal price-fixing,” Panner wrote. “On the other hand, the defendants have presented evidence that the proposed injunction would interfere with their business operations.”

Haglund, who won an $82 million judgment against Weyerhaeuser in 2007 following a seven-year legal fight that went to the US Supreme Court, remained undaunted, noting that the decision did not reflect on the merits of his case. He said the case against Weyerhaeuser started out much weaker than the case against Pacific Seafood.

Ocean Gold is also now a named defendant in the antitrust lawsuit.

‘Without Merit’
Craig Urness, PSG’s general counsel, has said the claims “are completely without merit,” and the lawsuit contains “gross misinterpretations.”

Launched in 1941 as a small, fresh seafood retail operation, PSG has since expanded to encompass 57 companies that together put PSG at the top of the seafood seller food chain, with $1 billion in annual global sales. The group’s holdings include Pacific Shrimp in Newport, added to the fold in 1996.

“We plan to aggressively defend against the allegations,” Urness noted. “Pacific Seafood has a long history on the Oregon coast. For more than 25 years, we’ve prided ourselves on providing value, service and jobs on the Oregon coast to our partners in the fishing and seafood industries. We will continue this commitment into the future.”

Attorneys for PSG and Ocean Gold say that most of the complaint field by Haglund focuses on actions that took place outside the statute of limitations, and that neither company has hurt either the fishermen or the industry. They say the companies open up new markets, put more fishermen to work, and allow those fishermen “to earn substantially more money” than they could without the companies’ influence and purchasing power.

But Haglund said the evidence already on the record indicates that Dulcich built his conglomerate in violation of federal antitrust laws, and has used the network of companies to illegally dictate prices, harming not just the fishermen, but also the coastal communities that rely on their incomes.

And his team is still immersed in the discovery process.

In fact, the website offers a questionnaire for commercial fishermen to use to describe “any predatory tactic directed at you or known by you” pertaining to PSG. “Although we spent many months investigating this case, we believe there is considerable additional evidence of anticompetitive behavior by Pacific Seafood Group which is not detailed in the complaint,” it states. “We want to hear from everyone who has evidence of anticompetitive conduct by Pacific Seafood Group.”

Any fishermen with a tale to tell can go to and fill out the questionnaire.

Permit Limits?
State Rep. Wayne Krieger (R-Gold Beach) introduced Senate Bill 668 that would limit the number of commercial fishing permits any individual or company could hold in any fishery to no more than three. Krieger said the bill derived from his frustration over Pacific’s ability to hinder competition in fish prices.

PSG attorney Urness said the bill unfairly targets a successful, family-owned Oregon company that has developed new markets for fishermen.

Pacific Seafood was just named as one of Oregon’s 10 most admired companies in the agriculture and forest products category for 2011 during the seventh annual recognition event held Dec. 7 in Portland. The company earned similar honors in 2007 and 2009.

The Portland Business Journal sponsors the program aimed at recognizing Oregon’s “leading businesses.”

But fishermen claim PSG leads the way in much less flattering and admired categories. Several of them testified in favor of Krieger’s bill during the March 14 hearing of the Senate Committee on General Government, Consumer, and Small Business Protection, and repeated many of the accusations made in the antitrust case.

“I am fortunate not to have any mortgage on my fish boat, but it still has become harder and harder to make a decent living in my fishery over the last five years,” Newport-based Jeff Boardman, skipper of the F/V Miss Yvonne, told the committee. Boardman has been an Oregon coast shrimper since 1967.

“Although the wholesale and retail prices for our shrimp have been rising since 2006, the ex vessel prices paid to fishermen for pink shrimp have been on the decline during this same period,” he added. “I strongly believe that all of the fault for this disconnect between wholesale prices and ex vessel prices lies with Pacific Seafood. With more than three permits, any large processor just has too much power to dictate price. I believe we have been receiving prices that are 10 to 15 cents below what we would be paid if the processor market was truly competitive.”

With 30 million pounds of shrimp landings during an average year, that price difference means a loss of $3 million to $4.5 million to fishing families and Oregon coastal communities.

Steve Bodnar, executive director of the Coos Bay Trawlers (which favors the bill), testified as a private citizen in relation to specific comments about Pacific Seafood. He said Urness called the president of the organization and “asked him to stop me from testifying.” As a result, Bodnar said he “was told not to say anything negative about Pacific Seafood” in his testimony.

“I cannot in good conscience testify in a way that keeps this committee in the dark,” he said.

Emily Dunn has fished on the West Coast for 26 years, the past eight out of Garibaldi with her husband, Edward, primarily for Dungeness crab. She told the committee that it had become “increasingly difficult to make a good living” during the past five years as operating costs rose and prices paid to crabbers “flat-lined,” averaging about $2 per pound. At the same time, she noted, wholesale prices rose substantially.

“None of this increase has been shared with fishermen, and I place all the blame for this at the door of Pacific Seafood,” she stated. “Competing processors are intimidated by Pacific and wait to see what price Pacific Seafood will set at the beginning of each season. With their market share and reputation, Pacific Seafood can veto the higher prices that would be set in a competitive market.”

Darus Peake, who owns and operates Garibaldi-based Tillamook Bay Boathouse, which processes crab, tuna, salmon and some groundfish and has eight employees. He is currently chairman of the Oregon Salmon Commission, and has served as a port commissioner in Garibaldi.

Peake participated in the 2010 crab price negotiations sponsored by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and said he “came away disgusted” over Pacific Seafood’s refusal to budge above $1.675 per pound, even though he and “a number of other processors” were willing to pay prices higher than the 2009 opening price of $1.75 per pound. PS representatives also insisted on delaying the season to Dec. 10 to set crab pots, and first deliveries in Dec. 12.

“Because of their market share and the practice of requiring complete consensus on the processor side in those negotiations, we ended up with no choice but to stick with the prices proposed by Pacific Seafood,” said Peake. “I see the financial stress encountered by many fishing families on Oregon’s north coast and I see the declining level of maintenance throughout the Oregon fleet. If competitive conditions do not improve, I fear that we will lose a significant share of our fleet, and it will gradually be taken over through acquisitions of fishing vessels and permits by Pacific Seafood.”

Unlike the PS business model, which he said aims to dominate and buy up fishermen, he has a vision “where free and fair competition results in more processors, more fresh as opposed to frozen product, and more fishing industry jobs in Oregon.”

Krieger’s bill is still stuck in the committee process.

Seeking Compensation
The lawsuit alleges that PSG uses vertically integrated acquisitions, multiple tactics to set and enforce ex-vessel prices, exclusive dealing and tying arrangements, restrictions on output, “theft of seafood commodities” from fishermen, “fraudulent representations” to public agencies, and “miscellaneous dirty tricks.” The lawsuit requests a trial by jury, and asks the court, among other things, to declare PSG’s conduct illegal, and award the fishermen and fishing vessel owners a class judgment of $131.5 million to $173.5 million for actual damages, and to triple those damages to between $394 million and $520 million “as a result of the antitrust violations.”

The attorneys squared off in front of Judge Panner in October, with PSG’s legal eagles trying to convince the judge that the lawsuit doesn’t merit class action status. As of this writing, Panner had yet to rule on motions from Ocean Gold and Pacific to dismiss the lawsuit, or determine whether or not it merits class action status.

The trial was originally scheduled to begin in February 2012.

Terry Dillman can be reached at

China’s Hunger for Alaska Seafood Rising

Alaska’s seafood exports to China for the first 10 months of 2011 were valued at $762,795,549, out of the state’s total seafood exports of $2,242,202,197 for that period. Those are the preliminary figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, which values all commodities by the commercial invoices that accompany shipments, usually the first wholesale value, says Patricia Eckert of the Alaska Office of International Trade.

Seafood, in fact, led all other exports from Alaska in value for those months in 2009 through 2011. Final export figures for 2011 are due out this coming spring.

Those purchases by China are a jump up from $484,895,187 for the same months in 2010 and $400,543,908 in 2009.

Seafood exports to Japan for the same months in those years were $527,392,711 in 2011, $464,830,703 in 2010 and $483,401,577 in 2009, and Koreans purchased seafood valued at $274,556,271 in 2011, up from $251,393,089 in 2010 and $216,959,105 in 2009.

Eckert said the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has estimated that 70 percent of the seafood going to China is for reprocessing, and later re-exporting to Japan, Europe and other areas of the world, while 30 percent is for domestic use for China’s rising middle class. A decade ago, maybe less than 10 percent of that seafood was for domestic consumption, she said.

One reason more seafood is being processed in China is because of lower labor costs and because China has come into compliance with the European ISO (International Organization for Standardization) system, she said.

Ocean Beauty Will Process Wild Salmon in Petersburg This Summer

The size of the plant’s work force and product forms for pink salmon have not been determined yet, but Ocean Beauty Seafoods does plan to process wild Alaska pink, chum, coho and sockeye salmon this summer at its plant in Petersburg in Southeast Alaska.

The pace may be somewhat slowed in anticipation of a lower pink salmon run. Tom Sunderland, vice president of marketing for Ocean Beauty, said the company has to make preparations based on the current forecast, but that on the other hand, maybe there will be more fish than the current forecast anticipates. Back in 2010, the company shuttered its Petersburg plant due to the low run of pink salmon.

This season, “we will be buying salmon and putting it into some form,” Sunderland said. “I will know more as the winter goes on.”

The highest pink salmon harvest in Southeast Alaska since 1998 was 77.8 million pounds in 1999, according to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In 2010, the Southeast Alaska pink salmon harvest totaled 23.4 million pounds, then rose to 58.5 million pounds in 2011.

This year the National Marine Fisheries service is forecasting a harvest of 19 million pink salmon, while the Alaska Department of Fish and Game anticipates a harvest of 17 million pinks. An actual harvest of 17 million pinks would be well below the 10-year average of 40 million pinks, ADF&G officials said.

The state’s forecast is an average of two forecasts: a forecast of the trend in the harvest and the forecast trend adjusted using 2011 juvenile pink salmon abundance date provided by the NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Auke Bay Laboratories.

Proposed Watercraft Race for Alaska Draws Interest in Fishing Communities

An international 2000-mile personal watercraft (PWC) race proposed to attract 1,000 riders for a route from Whittier to Iliamna Alaska in May of 2013 is drawing interest and some concern in fishing communities that the race and its entourage would pass through.

Planning for the Alaskan Wet Dog Race ( has been in the works for several years and the deadline for commenting to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (at for the land use permits race organizers are seeking is Jan. 26.

Promoter John Lang, an Anchorage project engineer and former operator of a watercraft tour company at Whittier, said there have been hits on the race website from more than 100 countries. He said the race would bring $35 million into Alaska annually, including approximately $500,000 to $1 million to each community the race passes through. All participants would participate in a pre-race orientation workshop covering everything from safety equipment operation to wildlife and cultural awareness, said Lang.

Some residents of fishing communities like Cordova, King Cove and Kodiak have expressed caution, however.

Former Cordova Mayor Tim Joyce, a federal wildlife biologist, said he felt that from a tourism perspective it would be good for the Prince William Sound community, but that environmentally he is divided. He said he has concerns about the environmental impact of all those watercraft going by fish and wildlife habitat and possible interaction with commercial fish harvesters.

King Cove Mayor Henry Mack said nobody has ever contacted officials in that fishing community on the Alaska Peninsula about the race, and Kodiak’s city manager, Aimee Kniaziowski expressed concern about putting a strain on Kodiak resources. Kniaziowski said the first she heard of the race was when she got a notice from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources in late November advising that public comment on the race was being accepted through Jan. 26. One of her concerns is the demand on harbor services. While it sounds like a great activity, said Kniaziowski, the boat slips at Kodiak’s harbor are spoken for and she wonders where all those watercraft and support vessels would be parked.

Petersburg and Ketchikan Will Host Upcoming Alaska Board of Fisheries Meetings

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will meet Jan. 15-21 at the Sons of Norway facilities in Petersburg on proposals involving Southeast and Yakutat crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish, including Dungeness, king and tanner crab. Then from Feb. 24 to March 4, the Board of Fisheries will be at the Ted Ferry Civic Center in Ketchikan for action on proposals offered on Southeast and Yakutat finfish, including salmon, herring and groundfish.

The proposal package for Petersburg includes several dozen items on related to topics ranging from revising the Southeast red king crab management plan and revising the management plan for Southeast pot shrimp fisheries to a variable harvest strategy for sea cucumbers, and harvest strategies for geoducks.

Nearly 150 proposals will be up for consideration at the Ketchikan session, on Southeast groundfish, Southeast herring, Southeast commercial salmon management, allocation plans, special harvest areas and terminal harvest areas, as well as sport, subsistence and personal use issues. Proposal 285 would repeal the 58-foot vessel limit in the Southeast salmon purse seine fishery in combination with a form of permit reduction to reduce capacity and enhance the value of the fishery. The proposal from Eric Rosvold and Ryan Kapp, argues that the board’s adoption of excluding the “bulbous bow” from the length measure of a salmon purse seine vessel was progress. “It should now repeal the 58-foot limit on the length of vessel in the salmon purse seine fishery coupled with an additional permit requirement to address the problem of potential excesses capacity within the Southeast salmon seine fishery,” they said. Their proposal also suggests that existing 58-foot vessels could be lengthened on the stern for better flotation so aft holds could produce fish with better quality. Another proposal, from Larry Demmert, would increase the length limit for Southeast salmon seiners to 75 feet, to allow more room for custom processing, fresh packaging or freezing on board.

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