Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What to Look For in a New RSW Chiller

By Rick Greenquist

The most common on-board refrigeration system in the fishing industry, besides galley refrigeration, is the Refrigerated Sea Water (RSW) system. For the fisherman that needs to refrigerate his catch, the reliable operation of the RSW system is extremely critical. Inadequate capacity means shorter trips; unreliable operation can mean the loss of the entire catch, as well as the loss of fuel and supply expenses for that trip.

When you contract for a new RSW system, how do you know that the system you purchase will meet your expectations? In a highly competitive environment where the purchase price often sells the system, you can easily get shortchanged on capacity. Furthermore, the lack of a properly engineered RSW design can leave you with a troublesome system that costs more to own than any other system on your boat. Both of these problems often have no easy remedy.

Selecting a refrigeration manufacturer and installer is very important, but also important is having a basic understanding of how equipment capacity is determined, what kind of equipment is available, and how to get the important information documented on the purchase and sale documents.

Here are some frequently asked questions that will put you on top of your game as a purchaser and user of water chilling equipment.

Q: I have quotes from several different sources for a 20-ton chiller, and the prices are so different. Why?

A: There are a number of reasons, but first you must understand that refrigeration “tons” or “refrigeration capacity” means very little without knowing at what “temperature difference” or TD the tonnage was calculated at. TD is the difference between the refrigerant temperature and the water temperature, and it is directly related to the amount and quality of the heat conductive surface that is doing the refrigeration.

Let’s look at this 20-ton chiller - and let’s say that it can do 20 tons of refrigeration when the temperature of the refrigerant is 10?F lower than the seawater temperature. The heat from the seawater transfers across a heat exchange surface, and there is enough surface so that as long as the refrigerant is 10?F lower than the seawater, then the chiller will produce 20 tons of refrigeration. Now let’s cut the amount of heat transfer surface in half. If you maintain a refrigerant temperature that is 10?F lower that the seawater temperature, then you will only produce 10 tons of refrigeration, correct? But if we lower our refrigerant temperature another 10?F - giving us a 20?F temperature difference across the smaller heat exchange surface, we will regain our original capacity of 20 tons! Now we’ve learned something new: we can purchase half size chillers at half the cost, and still have as much capacity as we want, correct? Not really. The problem is the freezing point of seawater is around 28?F depending on regional salinity.

A properly designed chiller with adequate water flow can withstand a refrigerant temperature 10?F to 12?F lower than the freezing point without building ice, but at these temperatures, it is a delicate balance point. A chiller requiring a 20?F TD will start to build an ice film on the heat exchange surface when the sea water temperature is around 38?F or so - and once a thin film of ice forms, all of the refrigeration effect goes into building ice, and it is very difficult to bring the temperature down below the 38?F threshold. Again, once ice filming starts, the chiller is in danger of a catastrophic freeze-up that could irreparably damage the chiller.

The lesson here is this: do not purchase refrigeration “tons” without knowing the TD (temperature difference) at which refrigeration tonnage is rated!

Q: I see, so what “TD” rating should I be looking for.

A: In general, a water chiller will be rated at 10?F TD. A chiller with a lower TD - say 6?F will be much more expensive to build, but will have increased performance. A chiller with a higher TD - say 15?F will be much less expensive to build, but will have greater performance related issues. The reason that 10?F is more commonly seen is that it seems to be a good balance point between performance and cost.

Q: I’m replacing an old chiller on my fishing boat, and I’d like a chiller that will give me a faster pull-down time. Will a chiller of higher tonnage get me there?

A: Installing a larger chiller on an existing system may not necessarily give you more refrigeration capacity. If the old chiller was well matched to the compressor, motor, pump, condenser system, and refrigerant piping sizes, then a larger chiller may give you a small margin of capacity increase - but don’t expect much more without retrofitting the other important components. You need to have your whole system, and the way you operate it properly analyzed for compressor capacity, pump capacity, condensing system, piping sizes, etc. The mechanical engineer must also investigate other refrigeration equipment connected to your system before he can honestly tell you what your new chiller capacity will actually be.

Q: I remember the days when you could get those “box style chillers”. I liked them because they seemed to fit well in the companionway between the holds. But I don’t see them very often any more, why?

A: You are correct; they fit in tight, square spaces. That was important back when the mammoth carbon steel shell and tube condensers took up so much room. But these days you have much more compact and lightweight alternatives to the old heavy box style chiller.

The box style chiller also had a host of other problems - they were very sensitive to damage from excessive pump pressure, and limited pump pressures meant limited water flows, resulting in silting. They often had a reputation for being grossly undersized for the tonnage rating - which required very low suction temperatures, and often resulted in catastrophic freeze damage. Another problem is that they were typically made of galvanized steel. Once the galvanizing was eroded away, the remaining life was very short. You can’t get them re-galvanized these days - galvanizers won’t touch used refrigeration coils because they contain entrained compressor oil, which becomes a fire hazard.

Q: How about those “plate and frame” chillers? How do they work out?

A: On clean fluid systems in the commercial building or chemical industry they are very popular. In the marine and food processing industry, they get mixed results from those who have owned them. They are very sensitive to “silting” - (they get clogged with fine particles easily); but the water distribution area within the chiller is the main weak point as an RSW chiller - it easily becomes clogged with the “stringy” component of fish entrail waste, requiring disassembly of the water inlet piping for cleaning.

These chillers have the advantage of being extremely compact, and most on the market have fairly honest tonnage and TD ratings, however the silting and clogging problem remains the most prominent disadvantage - and it is an objection that the seller often counters with the fact that they can be disassembled and cleaned. However, you cannot re-use the between-the-plate gaskets, and a new gasket set is extraordinarily expensive. They are also extremely difficult for even experienced technicians to re-assemble without leaks. At the outset, plan on purchasing new and properly rated pumps, oversized sea strainers with high differential pressure shutdown control, keep track of performance so that you don’t schedule an expensive and troublesome teardown unnecessarily, but do plan for teardowns every two or three years, depending on the water you are fishing in.

If you are considering purchasing a plate and frame chiller, try to find someone in the fishing industry that has some experience with them. Listen to their experience and consider whether or not your experience will be similar.

Q: How about shell and tube chillers?

A: The old shell and tube heat exchanger is still the favorite in the industry as long as you stay away from carbon steel and galvanizing. Look into the new titanium chillers - they are truly “forever” chillers that will probably outlast your boat. They are much more compact and lightweight compared with their carbon steel predecessors.

Here is a checklist that you can use:
  • Make sure that the shell and tube chiller is arranged so that the refrigerant is in the tubes, and the water is in the shell. With this configuration, a chiller will likely survive an accidental freeze-up.
  • If you design your system so that you are pumping into the chiller and not out of the chiller, then your pump will protect the chiller from the sort of debris that you don’t want going through the chiller, like seaweed, jellyfish, plastic film, net material, etc.
  • Select a chiller with no less than 3/8” tube spacing. The chiller pump tends to limit the size of foreign material that can pass. If you have 3/8” tube spacing and adhere to the manufacturer’s GPM requirement, your shell and tube chiller will always stay clear.
  • Cupro-nickel chillers have been popular for years; however there are some reports of discolored flesh in some species, and higher dead loss in live tanks among other species. If you are an aluminum boat owner, consider the galvanic corrosion between the copper and aluminum.
  • Make sure to protect the chiller with a flow switch to detect freeze up condition. Arrange your compressor controls so that the compressor will be disabled if the chiller pump is not running, and if there is inadequate flow through the chiller.

Q: So, let’s say that I have selected the best chiller for my boat. How can I know that I’ll get what I am paying for?

A: Ask for a written proposal that spells out the important facts so that both you and your contractor know what the engineering parameters and capacities are. The proposal that is delivered to you should contain the following information:

  • What is the ambient seawater temperature in the region where your boat will be fishing (57?F to 60?F in the pacific NW), and what is the final chilled water set point that you need? (Insist on a target temperature no higher than 32?F for seawater).
  • What is your fish hold capacity in cubic feet?
  • How much water will you be starting with - for example, tanked to 1/3 full, 1/2 full or fully pressed?
  • What kind “chill-down” time from ambient seawater temperature to the final set point temperature? For example, is a 5-hour chill-down for a fully pressed tank acceptable, or do you require a 3-hour chill-down? This is very important information because it essentially describes the refrigeration capacity of the system.
  • What is the refrigeration capacity of the RSW system in “tons of refrigeration”, based on what evaporating temperature, what chiller TD, what condensing temperature, and what RSW flow rate?
  • Given the refrigeration capacity of the RSW system, how many pounds of fish will that system chill down in one hour, given a fully prechilled tank of water?
  • What is the water flow in GPM, and what size piping will be required?
  • What are the motor KW or horsepower requirements? (Will you be able to run this equipment with your existing generator or hydraulic power equipment?)

Selecting the best chiller, getting a written proposal that clearly spells out the parameters and capacities, with a guaranteed performance based on proper insulation and equipment installation, all from a contractor who has a reputation in good standing in the industry, will give you the best chance of success!

Rick Greenquist, an applications engineer with Highland Refrigeration, began his career in the fishing industry unloading king crab in Dutch Harbor, Alaska in the mid 70s but quickly discovered that his true calling was the mechanical aspect of the seafood industry; specifically mechanical refrigeration. Rick has taught classes as an adjunct instructor through the Seattle Community College Marine Training Center, and through the Dutch Harbor, Alaska chapter of Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association. His focus in the last two decades has been in mechanical design of refrigeration systems, electronic controls and energy efficiency. He can be reached at

Commercial Fishermen Want A Role in Ocean Acidification Studies

Commercial fishermen from coastal Alaska say they want to participate in scientific monitoring of the ocean pH in studies of rising ocean acidification.

The Alaska Marine Conservation Council says in a new report out this week that residents of Kodiak, Dillingham and Homer, where they conducted roundtable discussions, are very concerned about damaging traditional uses of marine resources and the harm that will come to the ecosystem that supports those resources.

“The economic value of Alaska’s commercial fisheries approaches $4 billion (first wholesale value), but it is not known how ocean acidification will affect specific fisheries and what the cost will be to the seafood industry and fishery-dependent communities,” said report’s author, Rachel Donkersloot, fisheries program director for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

The full report, released March 26, is online at

The community roundtable sessions focused on two key points: consequences of ocean acidification are largely unknown, and uncertainty does not validate inaction.

Donkersloot said fishermen aboard vessels can collect water samples and shellfish growers are skilled observers of local conditions.

The roundtable participants acknowledged that ocean acidification is inevitable and the exact consequences are unknown at this time, yet a doom and gloom attitude did not permeate the discussions in these communities, she said. Instead the groups explored ways to address the root cause of ocean acidification in order to mitigate its effect, including reducing carbon emissions as individuals, industries, communities and a nation.

Donkersloot said the group also recognized the economic benefits of clean energy, especially in rural Alaska, where the cost of living soars with fuel prices.

Chum Bycatch Up for Discussion Before North Pacific Fishery Management Council

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is meeting this week in Anchorage, has set aside 12 hours for an initial review of the Bering Sea chum salmon prohibited species catch management environmental assessment and regulatory impact review.

It’s all part of the federal council’s continued effort to reduce the catch of prohibited species chum salmon in the Bering Sea Pollock fishery.

The documents the council will be discussing and hearing testimony on were developed to provide federal decision makers and the public with an evaluation of the predicted environmental, social and economic effects of alternative measures to minimize primarily chum salmon as prohibited species catch in the pollock fishery.

The proposed action would amend the Bering Sea–Aleutian Islands groundfish fishery management plan and federal regulations, and take new steps to reduce chum salmon bycatch in the Bering sea Pollock fishery to the extent practicable while achieving optimum yield.

The documents note that the Bering Sea Pollock fishery catches the majority of the chum salmon harvested incidentally in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries.

Any amendment approved for the fishery management plan must comply with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Council staff also noted in an executive summary of the draft environmental assessment that with respect to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the amendment must be consistent with all ten national standards.

Most relevant for this action would be National Standard 9, which requires that conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, minimize bycatch and to the extent bycatch cannot be avoided, minimize the mortality of such bycatch. Also applicable is National standard 1, which requires that conservation and management measures prevent overfishing while achieving the optimum yield from each fishery.

The Magnuson–Stevens Act defines optimum yield as the amount of harvest that will provide the greatest overall benefit to the nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities, while taking into account protection of marine ecosystems.

State Challenges EPA on Watershed Assessment

The Environmental Protection Agency‘s extensive assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed and potential action that could block development of the massive Pebble Mine in Southwest Alaska is being challenged by the state of Alaska.

The EPA undertook the study, which is to be completed by the end of April, at the request of fishermen from the Bristol Bay region.

EPA officials in Region 10 in Seattle say they are preparing a response to the state’s challenge, which was contained in a recent letter from Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty, who argues that the assessment is premature. Geraghty also said in his letter that the EPA lacked authority to be conducting the survey and that this action was in conflict with federal and state laws. The assessment, said Geraghty, goes beyond any process or authority contemplated by the Clean Water Act.

Geraghty said the EPA’s watershed assessment and potential exercise of its 404(C) veto authority in the absence of an actual Section 404 permit application are premature and unprecedented.

“Until an application is filed describing a potential project, EPA will be speculating and prematurely ‘determining’ unavoidable adverse impacts based on hypotheticals and inapplicable modeling, rather than waiting to evaluate real information on specific proposals, as Congress clearly intended,” he said.

Geraghty noted that the state of Alaska selected the land where the mine would be developed for its natural resources potential to provide for the economic welfare of Alaska residents.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, formed in 2007, is co-owned by Northern Dynasty of Vancouver, British Columbia and Anglo American plc. of London.

Backers of the mine continue to maintain that they should be allowed due process in going through the permitting application period. They also maintain that the mine can be developed and operated in harmony with the Bristol Bay environment and its abundant fisheries, while mine opponents say there is great potential for some of the 10.78 billion tons of toxic tailings from the mine to disrupt the fishery.

Fishermen Unite Nationally to Protect Bristol Bay

Seventy-seven commercial fishing groups from Alaska to Maine have signed a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency asking for protection of the Bristol Bay watershed, its wild salmon stocks and the commercial fishing jobs that rely on them.

Bob Waldrop, a leader of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, made the announcement today in Washington DC Waldrop said the group is “Standing should to shoulder in support of sound science, the most valuable wild salmon fishery on earth and thousands of commercial fishing jobs that are threatened by development of the Pebble Mine.”

The fishing groups expressed support for the EPA’s ongoing scientific watershed assessment of the bay. The EPA is investigating potential impacts of large-scale development on Bristol Bay’s salmon streams and rivers. They are urging the agency to use its authority under Section 404 (C) of the Clean Water Act to block a required federal dredge-and-fill discharge permit for the proposed mine if the assessment finds that the bay’s natural resources would be harmed or compromised by large-scale mining.

The mine is expected to produce and store over 10 billion tons of toxic waste behind earthen dams, upstream of the bay’s salmon-spawning headwaters.

The direct value of Bristol Bay’s salmon averages $350 million per year, and the commercial fishery is the economic engine of the region. Now 130 years old, the commercial fishery supports 8,000 fishing jobs, and another 4,000 processing and industry-support positions.

Waldrop noted that commercial fishermen who participate in the Bristol Bay fishery come from 38 states where they spend their earnings, pay taxes and support local economics. “And just one federal permit stands between our fishery and a grave threat,” Waldrop said. “Anyone who suggests a huge mine can store billions of tons of toxic waste in our headwaters and not risk this fishery is substituting wishful thinking for facts.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

58-Foot Rule

A reader asked if there was a rule change this year regarding 58-foot limit seiners. Fishermen's News Alaska corespondent Margie Bauman checked with member of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, who said there has been no change.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had asked the board to define what an anchor roller is for the 58-foot limit seiners, as the board had done for the 32-foot drift gillnetters, but the board has decided to leave things status quo for this year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Salmon Numbers Bounce Back

By Terry Dillman

Depending on who’s talking, 2012 could usher in a new era or the end of the world as we know it – bring transformation or cataclysm.

If anyone can understand how it feels to get caught between those extremes, it would be Pacific Coast commercial salmon fishermen.

Idled for most of the past six years, the fleet faces much-improved prospects for the 2012 salmon season. Encouraged by predictions of plentiful overall salmon returns, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) on March 7 announced three alternatives for managing commercial and recreational salmon fisheries. Officials say salmon fisheries in Oregon and California “look particularly promising,” thanks to good river conditions and excellent ocean conditions for salmon.

The PFMC recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.
Fishery managers expect chinook returns in the Sacramento, Klamath and Rogue rivers at “significantly higher” levels than the past several years, and the Oregon coast coho forecast is also strong. There is a caveat: fishery alternatives are, they noted, “necessarily constrained” to protect Sacramento River chinook and Columbia River coho stocks on the endangered species list.

Still, Dan Woldford, PFMC chairman, noted the “nice rebound for California salmon populations and the prospect of good fishing in 2012.”

To the North
Fisheries north of Cape Falcon are expected to emulate last season, with an Oregon coho forecast of 632,700 fish – about equal to 2011. Although Columbia River hatchery coho returns were bigger than expected in 2011, fishery managers say they were still below average. Meanwhile, Columbia River chinook returns were generally lower than expected last year, but above historical averages.

Biologists anticipate about 742,5000 summer and fall chinook to return to the Columbia River compared to last year’s actual return of 684,400. The 2012 forecasts for the river’s total chinook are “mixed, but overall above average.” Hatchery coho forecasts are slightly lower than 2011, while those for Oregon coastal natural coho are similar to last year’s actual return and “the highest forecast since 1996.”

Washington coast coho forecasts are “generally higher” than 2011, but generally lower for Puget Sound.

The ocean sport fishery alternatives north of Cape Falcon in Oregon and off the Washington coast offer seasons akin to last year, with mark-selective coho quotas ranging from 54,600 to 71,400 (2011’s quota of marked coho was 67,200) starting in late June and lasting into September. Chinook quotas are 35,500 to 51,500 (compared to last year’s quota of 64,600). Two alternatives feature a mark-selective chinook fishery in June.

Commercial salmon fishery alternatives north of Cape Falcon feature traditional Chinook seasons between May and September.

Quotas for all areas and times range from 32,500 to 47,500 – higher than the 2011 quota of 30,900. Marked coho quotas are 10,400 to 13,600, compared to last year’s 12,800.

Chinook and coho quotas for tribal ocean fishery alternatives are 40,000 to 55,000. Last year’s quotas were 41,000 and 42,000, respectively.

To the South
“Biologists are forecasting four times more salmon than last year in the Klamath River, and an astounding 15 times more than in 2006,” noted Jennifer Gilden, PFMC’s communications officer.

Biologists estimate the ocean salmon population at 1.6 million adult Klamath River fall chinook, well above last year’s 371,100. That estimate derives mainly from the 85,840 two-year-old salmon (jacks) that returned to the river in 2011. “This is the highest of jacks to return since at least 1978, when recordkeeping began,” Gilden added.

Sacramento River stocks also show improvement, with a “conservative” forecast of 819,400 fall chinook, up from last year’s 729,000. Biologists expect at least 436,000 adult spawners in the river system, and the 2012 annual catch limit is at least 245,820 spawners.

“These returns are particularly important when seen in the context of the last several years,” noted Gilden. “Klamath and Sacramento stocks drive ocean fishing seasons off California and Oregon.”

Commercial chinook salmon season options for Oregon in the Tillamook, Newport and Coos Bay areas open April 1 and run through October. In the Brookings area, the season opens April, but only runs through August or September, with monthly quota fisheries starting in June.

For California, Crescent City and Eureka have quota fisheries in late September or are closed. At Fort Bragg, commercial alternatives open in July or August, extending through September. The San Francisco and Monterey areas open May 1 and go through September, with some closures in June. The south-central coast areas are open May 1 to September 30.

Research fishery alternatives allow collection of genetic stock identification samples in closed areas. Salmon caught in research fisheries must be released unharmed after the samples are taken.

Cautious Optimism
Despite the generally rosy predictions, a number of commercial fishermen don’t expect a silver lining in the black cloud that has hung over them for the past several seasons as they watched their livelihoods shrink to almost nil.

“Commercial fishermen have noted that because of the series of poor years, much of the capacity to fish commercially – especially in California – has been lost,” Gilden stated.

Since 2004, when Oregon’s salmon trollers landed 2.9 million pounds of fish, and 2005, when they hauled in 2.6 million pounds, they have endured a federally-declared disaster in 2006, a well-below-average catch in 2007, another federally-declared disaster in 2008, a basically non-existent 2009 season, a somewhat improved, yet quite limited season in 2010, and a disappointing 2011, when fish were scarce, despite healthy forecasts. Fishery managers predicted much stronger returns of fall chinook and coho, opening the hatch to more sizeable commercial ocean salmon season that never materialized. Many fishermen ended up in debt or broke after gearing up for a season that failed to live up to the early expectations, said Nancy Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Lincoln City-based Oregon Salmon Commission. Others who don’t want to follow in their wake this season are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Eric Schindler, the Ocean Salmon Sampling Project leader with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Resources Program, said he was among those who “were not exactly convinced” about the Sacramento River forecast last season.

The 2011 predictions, while up over the previous year, were still below average. “Even if they were right, nothing really materialized, anyway” he noted. “This year, chinook is definitely looking better. We’re looking at a very good year for chinook.”

Public hearings on the 2012 alternatives were scheduled for March 26 in Coos Bay and Westport, Wash., and March 27 in Eureka, Calif. The council also took public comment during its April 2 meeting in Seattle, with adoption of final recommendations tentatively scheduled for April 6. The National Marine Fisheries Service is set to adopt the 2012 regulations May 1.

Southwest Alaska Communities Want J-1 Visa Program Kept Alive

An economic group representing more than 50 communities in Southwest Alaska is asking the federal government to keep alive a student work visa program they say is critical to the commercial fisheries industry. The concerns of the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference for the J-1 Visa summer work travel program are contained in a March 16 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Similar concerns were voiced again this past week to the federal Office of Management and Budget by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

The Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference said excluding seafood processing from the J-1 program will likely displace 3,000 to 5,000 student workers already signed on to work in Alaska this summer, while leaving processors with a labor shortage.

The program received much negative publicity last summer when foreign students in the J-1 program protested working conditions at facilities packing chocolates for Hershey in Pennsylvania. The State Department’s response included a proposed interim final rule that would exclude all seafood processing from the program. Leaders of the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference said students engaged for fish processing jobs in Southwest Alaska received a good wage, plus an opportunity to experience a remote, culturally and geographically abundant region of America.

SWAMC and Begich both told the federal government that the foreign student workers are a vital part of the work force for processing seafood and that a labor shortage in the processing sector would have a direct impact on harvesters who would be unable to sell all their catch due to disruptions in processing capacity.

They asked federal officials to consider necessary adjustments to meet the program’s intended goals, while keeping in mind the economic value of the foreign student workers to execute the summer salmon fisheries.

Legislation on the Move to Boost Limit on Fisheries Loans

A bill moving through the Alaska Legislature would boost loan amounts to qualified resident commercial fishermen to purchase limited entry fishing permits from $100,000 to $200,000.

The committee substitute for House Bill 261, by Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, moved out of the House Finance Committee on March 20, headed for the Rules Committee and then to the House floor. If approved by the House, it will move on to the state Senate.

The initial language in the bill called for loans at two percent below the prime rate, with an interest floor of three percent, but that language was removed by legislators during the House Finance Committee meeting before being passed out of committee.

Edgmon says his legislation is aimed at increasing Alaskan ownership in Alaskan fisheries by enabling more state residents to buy limited entry fishing permits.

Residents not eligible for financing through commercial banks or the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank in Anchorage would be eligible for the loans.

Commercial fishing permit prices have fluctuated widely over the years with the value of their harvest. At one point over a decade ago some permits were valued as low as $18,000, but this year some Prince William Sound drift permits were commanding asking prices as high as $193,000.

The bill has support from United Fishermen of Alaska.

Alaska Governor Proposes Second NPFMC Terms for Dersham, Hull

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has nominated Dan Hull and Ed Dersham for second terms on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Parnell made his recommendations this past week to Secretary of Commerce John Bryson, with Timothy Evers and Julianne Curry as alternate choices.

Dersham is an active charter boat operator and lodge owner in Lower Cook Inlet who served for nine years on the Alaska Board of Fisheries. He has also worked as a consultant for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and as a coordinating liaison between the Board of Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. He is a retired special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Hull is the owner of Hull Fisheries LLC, and fishes for halibut and salmon out of Cordova on Prince William Sound. He is a member of the Alaska Sea Grant Advisory Committee and a former member of the Cordova District Fishermen United board of directors, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s public advisory group, the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. board of directors, the Prince William Sound Fisheries Ecosystem Research Planning Group, and the board of United Fishermen of Alaska. He has fished commercially for 30 years.

Evers, a long time charter operator from Ninilchik on the Kenai Peninsula, currently serves on the NPFMC advisory panel. He owns the Deep Creek Sport Shop, Big Valley Lodge and Cabin Rentals and Fishward Bound Adventures. He is also the founder and a former president of the Depp Creek Charterboat Association.

Curry is the executive director of the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association and a member of the NPFMC advisory panel. She has participated in the commercial fishery of halibut, sablefish, salmon, herring and crab. Curry is also a board member and member of the executive committee of United fishermen of Alaska and chairs the Petersburg Commercial Fishing Committee.

Conservation Group Threatens Lawsuit Over Endangered Right Whales

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a formal notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for failure to develop a recovery plan for the endangered North Pacific right whale.

The 60-day notice of intent to sue is required before such a lawsuit is filed under the Endangered Species Act. These whales have been listed as endangered since 1973.

The announcement on March 20 came from Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director for the national conservation group devoted to protecting endangered species and wild places. Noblin said that what with the increased shipping activity there is growing urgency to protect the northern right whales, who are very slow moving and for some reason don’t get out of the way of ships. Noblin said the best thing to prevent ship strikes of the whales would be to slow ships and have established shipping lanes.

The right whales got their name because they were considered “the right whale to hunt,” and back in the days before the advent of commercial whaling they numbered as many as 20,000 whales. Noblin said that the few remaining individual whales today are extremely vulnerable to ship strikes, oil development and oil spills, and entanglement in fishing gear. Even the loss of one whale could threaten the entire population, she said.

Noblin said there are an estimated 30 such whales in the North Pacific and stocks in Russia are estimated at about a few hundred.

Under the Endangered Species Act, NPFS is required to issue and implement a plan for conservation and recovery of these whales.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Halibut Workshop Slated for April 24-25 in Seattle

A workshop on the methodology and accuracy of the estimation of halibut bycatch is set for April 24-25 in Seattle, to gather more information in advance of final action by federal fisheries managers in June at Kodiak on Gulf of Alaska halibut prohibited species catch.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is expected to take action at that meeting to reduce the prohibited species catch limit.

The workshop is a collaborative effort of the council and the International Pacific Halibut Commission. It will broadcast over an Internet website, with presentations for viewing and audio of the entire session, said Bruce Leaman, executive director of the IPHC.

The workshop was prompted by testimony taken by the NPFMC at its June 2011 meeting in Nome from six people who identified themselves as the “halibut workgroup.”

They included Lori Swanson, executive director of the Groundfish Forum; John Gruver, intercoop manager, United Catcher Boats; Stephanie Madsen, executive director, At-Sea Processors Association; Heather McCarty, a fisheries consultant whose clients include the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association; Paul MacGregor, an attorney whose clients include the At-Sea Processors Association, and Julie Bonney, owner of the Groundfish Data Bank. McCarty is the wife of Jim Balsiger, an IPHC commissioner and regional administrator for Alaska fisheries for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

At the conclusion of that meeting, the council directed staff to send a letter to the IPHC requesting cooperation and assistance with a halibut migration and stock assessment review workshop.

The workshop is to include short summary presentations from agency science staffs and invited industry science representatives, with a scientific panel to be charged with providing a review of the discussion and its findings.

The council is evaluating proposed reductions to the halibut prohibited species catch limits for trawl/longline fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska.

Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, said she is looking forward to a productive review of IPHC stock assessment and migration processes and data. “There is an idea in the trawl industry that if they review the IPHC models they will find something inappropriate,” she said. “All of us want to make sure we have the best possible science. If new ways come to light to view, the IPHC and commissioners will be open to that.”

Background information on the workshop and more details on topics to be discussed are on the NPFMC website at

Supermarket, Asset Management Industries Support Bristol Bay Watershed Study

Investors in the supermarket and multi-million dollar asset management industries have come out in support of a federal study to determine what protective measures the federal government should take to protect the Bristol Bay watershed.

The Food Marketing Institute, which represents 26,000 retail food stores and $680 billion in annual revenues, and from Trillium Asset Management, whose investors represent $170 billion in assets, made their position public this past week.

Erik Leiberman, regulatory counsel for FMI, said in a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the Bristol Bay wild sockeye salmon fishery plays an important role in the supply chains of a number of its wholesale and retail members.

Leiberman said his industry’s customers demand wild Alaska salmon and they want to continue to provide it to them. “It is a very important product,” he said.

Jonas Kron, vice president of Trillium Asset Management, said the investment community has a unique perspective to share, “and we think that expressing our opinions to companies and policy makers is a productive use of our position as shareholders.” Trillium, a major independent investment management firm, is devoted to sustainable and responsible investing.
The EPA study now underway will determine whether the agency may use its authority under section 404c of the Clean Water Act to restrict the disposal of mine waste into the waters of Bristol Bay.

Concern over proposed development of the Pebble Mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed prompted the commercial fishing industry and Bristol Bay Native Corp. to request the EPA study, to determine whether protective action could be taken under section 404 (C) of the Clean Water Act.

The Pebble Limited Partnership maintains that it can develop the mine in a way that would allow mining activity and the fisheries to co-exist. Commercial, sport and subsistence fish harvesters, as well as several prominent fisheries researchers and biologists, have said the mine would adversely affect spawning streams vital to the world renown Bristol Bay wild salmon fisheries.

Alaska Processors Still Uncertain About J-1 Work Visa Program

With hiring underway for summer seafood processing jobs, the processors are waiting to hear the State Department’s decision on an interim final rule to exclude seafood processing from a summer work visa program that fills many jobs in Alaska.

Alaska’s congressional delegation has asked the federal Office of Management and Budget to reject the proposal for interim final rulemaking which excludes seafood processing facilities from the J-1 Visa Summer Work Travel program. There’s no word yet, however, on what OMB’s decision will be.

Such an exclusion would likely have a more severe impact on smaller processing firms, said Joe Plesha, legal counsel for Trident Seafoods. Plesha said such an exclusion would likely have a more severe impact on smaller processing firms.

Leader Creek Fisheries is proceeding under the assumption that the J-1 students will be denied reentry into the program and is advertising on the Internet and elsewhere for workers, according to spokesman Norm Van Vactor.

Copper River Seafoods also is not relying on the J-1 program.

"Copper River Seafoods has and continues to recruit for a total of 300 seasonal seafood processors, posted on the state of Alaska ALEXsys system,” said Robin Richardson, chief business development officer for CRS.

“To date, 175 have been successfully recruited,” she said. “While CRS has successfully used the Travel and Cultural Exchange Program (J1) for the past 10 years, it has been anticipated that this would not be a long-term solution. As a result of the concerns by the US State Department, it was apparent that it would not be prudent to depend on the program for summer 2012.
“Therefore, CRS has adopted the US Department of Labor, Certified Apprenticeship model to fortify a year-round, Alaska-based, skilled workforce to support an increasingly automated manufacturing process.”

The bottom line, Richardson added, is that CRS has always clearly understood that this (J-1) was not a work permit visa. It was a travel/cultural exchange program for our college juniors and seniors that came to visit and work. The company’s experience with students from the Czech Republic in particular has been outstanding, she said.

Alaska’s congressional delegation meanwhile is trying to keep the program intact for processors who do depend on it. They sent a letter to Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, in early March asking that the proposal be rejected and that his department be directed to proceed with a formal process of proposed rulemaking which includes notice and comments from the affected seafood sector and coastal communities hosting students under the program.

“The use of interim final rule making to exclude seafood processing facilities from the J-1 program is not appropriate,” they said.

Kerry Bill Would Return Saltonstall-Kennedy Funds to Fishermen

Legislation introduced in the US Senate by Senators John Kerry, D-Mass and Olympia Snow, R-Maine, would restore use of Saltonstall-Kennedy funds to fishermen for fisheries research and development.

Similar legislation would be introduced in the US House in March.

Kerry wrote in a recent op-ed article published in the Gloucester Times in Massachusetts that the purpose of the legislation is to return the use of Saltonstall-Kennedy funds to fishermen. For research and development. That was the original intent of the fund, created by Massachusetts Senators Leverett Saltonstall and John F. Kennedy in 1954.

Under their law, Kerry noted, 30 percent of the duties on imported fish products were to be transferred to a grant program to benefit the US fishing industry. “It was meant to be a permanent appropriation to promote science, research and the development of American fisheries,” he said. As years passed, use of those funds was side tracked to fund other priorities, and the money was not going where it was originally intended, he said.

For 2010 alone, estimated total duties collected on imports of fish products were $3767.6 million. Thirty percent of that total, some $113 million, should have gone toward improving science and helping fisheries, but in 2011, only $8.4 million of that $113 million was used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for grants for fisheries research and development projects. The rest was used for other operations in NOAA.

The Kerry-Snowe legislation to provide exclusive funding to support fisheries and the communities that rely on them, would be known as the Fisheries Investment and Regulatory Relief Act of 2012.

It would direct implementation of regional fishery investment plans, which would be developed by the regional fishery management councils, released in the Federal Register for public comment and need approval by the Secretary of Commerce.

Priorities would include everything from more frequent stock assessments and better recreational data to crucial habitat restoration.

The legislation also contains specific guidelines for selection of members of the fishery investment committees, including conflict of interest issues.

A copy of the legislation is at

Long Beach Port HQ Move May Come By Year’s End

The Port of Long Beach, which for years has tried to find a new location to replace its crumbling headquarters, but saw it’s the momentum stalled last year by a board stalemate, could move its administrative offices to an interim location by the end of 2011, according to officials.

The current seven-story headquarters is located on the outskirts of the port’s confines, but the new offices could be located outside the port.

“We’re looking primarily in downtown Long Beach, but we’re not limiting the field,” Doug Thiessen, the port’s managing director of engineering, revealed during the harbor commission’s March 12 business meeting.

“We’d prefer to keep all the employees in one building, but if we had to break them in different locations, what would be the drive time to and from the port facilities,” is something under consideration, he said.

Also among the criteria port staff is looking at, he said, is drive time to the port from the headquarters building, the building’s size, security and whether there’s a need for a real estate appraisal.

The port had originally planned to internally fund and build a $220 million state-of-the-art headquarters within the harbor; however the idea was eventually shot down by Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster as too expensive. Since then, the port’s been looking to lease or purchase a nearby office building to house the port’s 400-member staff.

Last fall, the harbor commission twice deadlocked on a 2-2 vote whether to purchase the Long Beach World Trade Center. Vice President Thomas Fields and commissioner Nick Sramek voted for the extension and commissioners Rich Dines and Doug Drummond against. The fifth member, President Susan Wise has recused herself from the issue because she and her husband both have office space in the building.

Fields and Sramek argued the purchase was needed to expedite the exodus of the port’s 450-person staff from the current building, which was built in the 1950s and has been declared seismically deficient.

But Dines and Drummond argued that the purchase price – $130 million – was too steep for the 27-story downtown building. The purchase plan was eventually dropped.

APM Wins Terminal Safety Awards

For the fifth straight year, APM Terminals’ Pier 400 facility at the Port of Los Angeles has won the Pacific Maritime Association’s Category A Southern California Area Container Terminal Safety Award, and the PMA’s Coast Award for the safest terminal on the Pacific Coast.

The awards were announced March 1 at the PMA’s 63rd annual West Coast Safety Southern California Area Awards in Los Angeles.

“It is gratifying that the hard work of our men and women in ensuring the safe operation of our terminals is recognized by our peers in the industry,” APM Terminals’ Americas Region President Eric Sisco said.

The awards, which are based on reported injury rates per man-hours worked, are divided by geographic area and by size and are presented for the Southern California, Washington and Oregon ports.

Facilities are separated into three categories according to size; in Category A are terminals totaling more than one million man hours worked per year. Category B is for terminals with more than 500,000, but less than one million man hours worked, and Category C are those terminal operators with fewer than 500,000 thousand man hours worked per year.

Local area awards are presented in each of the terminal categories based on injury rates. The Coast awards are given in each terminal category for the best safety performance on the West Coast.

Pier 400, the largest container terminal in the US, saw its lost-time injury frequency (LTIF) rate drop 22 percent from 2010 to 6.01 per million man-hours worked for the year. The facility handled 1.91 million TEUs in 2011.

On Feb. 29, the PMA held its State of Washington Area Safety Awards and APM Terminals Tacoma was the winner of the Category C Container Terminal Safety Award and the Coast Award for Category C for the safest terminal on the Pacific Coast.

APM Tacoma, which handled 264,397 TEUs in 2011, improved its LTIF rate by 64 percent to 8.39 per million man-hours worked for the year, also won the award for the “Greatest reduction in injury rates for the Washington Area,” which is given irrespective of terminal size.

Detained Car Carried Cleared to Leave Portland

A nearly 650-foot car carrier that had been detained at the Port of Portland after losing power near the mouth of the Columbia River last week has been cleared by the US Coast Guard to leave.

The M/V Morning Spruce had been detained since Feb. 28 after the vessel lost engine power while 12 miles southwest of the Columbia River bar. Power was restored by the ship’s engineer about four-and-a-half hours later.

A subsequent inspection by Coast Guard Port State Control Branch of Marine Safety Unit in Portland found numerous safety hazards on the vessel.

After remaining in port for a few days, another Coast Guard inspection determined that the violations, which included fire control boundaries, excessive oil in machinery spaces, soft patches on fire main piping and heavy hydraulic leaks had been remedied, according to the USCG.

In addition to a full shipment of vehicular cargo, the vessel was also reportedly found to be carrying 543,000 gallons of heavy oil, diesel fuel and lubricant oil when initially inspected.

The Singapore-flagged car carrier is owned by EUKOR Car Carriers, one of the world’s largest operators of car and truck carriers.

Seattle Port Commissioner Announces State Senate Run

Gael Tarleton, who’s been a member of the Port of Seattle Commission since 2007 has announced she’s running for the 36th District legislative seat being vacated with the retirement of veteran State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle).

“I have been watching the education cuts and watching the challenges to women’s rights that we thought were settled 35 years ago, and just decided that I wanted my voice to be heard,” she said in her March 12 announcement.

Tarleton, a Democrat, has been president of the five-member Port Commission since January and is in the first year of her second four-year term as an elected official on the port board.

A Massachusetts native and Georgetown University graduate, she works at the University of Washington’s Institute for National Security Education and Research, which specializes in issues of public safety and national security policy.

With her announcement, she becomes just the latest commissioner to attempt to jump from the port to higher office. Last year John Creighton, a commissioner since 2006, ran for the King County Council, but was defeated and remains on the port board.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

NPFMC Takes Up Salmon Bycatch, GOA Cod Issues

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has set aside 12 hours of its schedule for its spring meeting in Anchorage March 28-April 3 to deal with the contentious issue of chum salmon caught incidentally to groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Also on the agenda, which is online at, is a 10-hour slot for habitat conservation issues, eight hours for halibut issues, including final action to allow Area 4B fish-up, and six hours for Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod issues. The last will include an updated discussion paper on Pacific Cod jig management, a discussion paper on limiting other gear on jig vessels, and a discussion paper on Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod A-season opening dates.

Also noted on the council’s website is an upcoming workshop for the council and the International Pacific Halibut Commission April 24-25 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Seattle.

The workshop is to include short summary presentations from agency science staffs and invited industry science representatives, with a scientific panel to be charged with providing a review of the discussion and its findings. The panel is to include staff from IPHC, the Council, the NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center, the council’s SSC, Canada’s DFO, independent scientists sponsored by the fishing industry and two independent, external scientific experts on bycatch issues.

The council is evaluating proposed reductions to the halibut prohibited species catch limits for trawl/longline fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska. The council notes in a draft document that on bycatch estimation, “there is broad agreement that the current levels of bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska are poorly understood, partly beause of necessary extrapolations to vessels not subject to observer coverage, and are not subject to high confidence intervals.

“Recognizing that the groundfish observer program in the GOA is being restructured to address these deficiencies and to provide better use of available observer coverage, a review and assessment of bycatch estimation at this workshop could be very informative to that restructuring process,” the council document said.

Alaska Crab Fisheries Enter Peer Review Stage

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute says that Alaska’s crab fisheries have entered the peer review stage for FAO-based responsible fisheries management certification. The review will include Bering Sea/Aleutian Island king and snow crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, St. Matthew blue king crab, and Eastern Bering Sea snow crab commercial fisheries.

Based on the technical expertise required to carry out the fishery assessment, Global Trust Certification Ltd. has chosen for its external peer review team Earl Krygier and Jerry Ennis. Krygier is a retired long time employee of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game who also served as the Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation’s cooperative research coordinator. Ennis is a retired researcher from the University of Liverpool’s Department of fisheries and Oceans.

Peer review is a technical review of the evidence documented by the assessment team that demonstrates the level of conformity of the fishery to the FAO code and guides. Ultimately, peer reviewers provide a critical evaluation of the consistency of the recommendation made by the assessment team as to whether the fishery is recommended for certification.

The peer review must be undertaken by two independent experts who are not members of the certifying body nor the assessment team. The outcome of the peer review is included in the final assessment report and is submitted, along with any assessment team responses to peer comments, to the certification committee.

More information is at

ComFish Agenda Ranges from Salmon Markets to Mining Perspectives

ComFish Alaska, Kodiak’s annual commercial fisheries forum and trade show, set for April 12-14, will cover a range of topics this year, from salmon market trends and new safety regulations to perspectives on the Chuitna coal and Pebble mine projects.

University of Alaska Anchorage fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp will deliver a 20 year overview of Alaska’s salmon markets, along with a look at future opportunities. Tyson Fick of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute will likewise address current market conditions, challenges and opportunities for Alaska seafood around the world.

Ken Lawrenson, the US Coast Guard commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator, will discuss the latest updates on dockside exams and safety training, life rafts, building to class and more related to new fishing vessel safety regulations. Jennifer Lincoln of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health will speak on advances in fishing safety, from vessel hatch and door monitors to other new life saving items.

Forum organizer Laine Welch, who reports on commercial fisheries from Kodiak, says she has also lined up an unprecedented mining block, with speakers from the state of Alaska’s large mine permitting team, the Chuitna coal project and the Pebble project. The state officials will discuss permitting and state process on both hard rock metal and coal mines and explain differences on requirements for coal between the state Department of Natural Resources and federal Office of Surface Mining.

Also on tap is a pre-ComFish workshop. The sponsors, Alaska Marine Conservation Council and Alaska Sea Grant, will advise on how to participate effectively in the upcoming North Pacific Fishery management Council meeting in Kodiak in June. That event, with complementary seafood chowder, is set for the evening of April 11

Federal Court Upholds Fishing Restrictions to Protect Steller Sea Lions

Federal Judge Timothy Burgess is upholding fishing restrictions put in place to reduce the competition between commercial fisheries and endangered Steller sea lions in the Aleutian Islands.

The US District Court judge announced his decision on March 5 in the case filed by the state of Alaska, Alaska Seafood Cooperative and the Freezer Longline Coalition against administrator Jane Lubchenco of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The court found that the National Marine Fisheries Service based its decision on good science and reiterated that the protections currently in place are both justified and necessary.

The court has also ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service to prepare an environmental impact statement by March 2, 2014 to allow for more public input. In its summary judgment, the court concluded that NMFS violated the National Environmental Policy Act in failing to prepare an EIS, as opposed to an environmental assessment, and did not provide the public with a sufficient opportunity for review and comment on the environmental assessment.

“Given that NEPA is a procedural statute, thee violations are significant regardless of whether they affected the outcome of NMFS’s decision making process,” the court ruled. The NEPA violations “caused irreparable harm to the plaintiffs’ and the public’s procedural rights which cannot be remedied through damages,” the judge said. “The harm is exacerbated by the fact that the restrictions may continue indefinitely.”

The environmental organization Oceana, meanwhile, hailed the Burgess decision to uphold the sea lion protections. “The tide is turning for Aleutian sea lions,” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s senior director, Pacific. Murray said the decision “can serve as an example of how to move away from single species money fish management and toward ecosystem-based approach that takes into account the needs of apex predators in our oceans.”

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