Wednesday, April 25, 2012
A network of 15 ports, large and small, along Oregon’s 362-mile coastline feature busy harbors. Some are alive with heavy industrial commerce, some an eclectic mix of commercial and recreational activity, serving as tourist destinations, and most provide refuge when the ocean turns temperamental.
Commercial fisheries and working waterfronts are essential sources of jobs and economic growth, according to the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association (OCZMA), which conducts studies of the Oregon coast economy and conveys information to an extensive network of government officials and others, aiming to improve the region’s standard of living.
Fisheries also provide part of the overall ambience folks want to experience when visiting the Oregon coast – or opting to live there. They attract artists, writers and others, including a growing number of retirees, who in turn make their own contributions to an ever-changing diverse economy and culture.
Travelers spend time watching and photographing the fishing fleets, and out-of-towners often show up at the coast seeking fresh, locally caught seafood.
Oregon coast ports feature a number of working waterfronts: Astoria/Warrenton, Garibaldi, Depoe Bay, Newport, Winchester Bay, Coos Bay/Charleston, Port Orford, Gold Beach and Brookings. In some towns, commercial fisheries provide 25 percent or more of total annual earned income. The seafood industry also supports associated fish processing plants, mechanics, welders, refrigeration specialists, machine shops, marine electronics sales and service firms, professional services (attorneys and accountants) and marine suppliers – mostly clustered adjacent to the waterfronts.
All Oregon ports – from larger (Coos Bay, Newport, Astoria) harbors that host international shipping and regional-scale fishing fleets to smaller, shallow-draft sites with limited capabilities (Depoe Bay, Alsea) – are integral to their communities’ lifestyles and economies.
Newport is a prime example, especially given what has transpired there during the past three years and what lies immediately ahead.
Steeped in Marine Research
Newport’s harbor serves as a major center of oceanographic research with the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) and related facilities operated by Oregon State University (OSU), along with federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). HMSC is one of the top three marine science research facilities in the nation, along with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California.
Still, few observers gave the Port of Newport – located midway on Oregon’s 362-mile coastline – any odds of earning the nod to provide a new home for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific research fleet when the agency started its demanding selection process in 2007. When NOAA shocked nearly everyone and selected Newport in 2009, most observers said they would never finish such an extensive project on such a tight schedule.
Not only did “the little port that could” finish the project, the folks that port officials chose to do the job completed it five days ahead of schedule.
When the 22-month effort reached what Port General Manager Don Mann called “the transition from construction to commissioning and operation,” and NOAA signed the initial 20-year lease and took over the facility in July 2011, it marked a major turning point for a port that celebrated its centennial in 2010. Lincoln County Commissioner and long-time commercial fisherman Terry Thompson said he looked forward to “a new cooperation” between the fishing industry and the research NOAA’s fleet performs, noting that it was something he had always hoped to see within his lifetime.
With jobs, growth, and economic development at stake, an extended backyard brawl ensued between Oregon and Washington leaders over the pending move. According to an economic impact analysis released by the Economic Development Alliance (EDA) of Lincoln County, the move could mean as much as a $32 million influx – the equivalent of 800 full-time family wage jobs in Lincoln County – after 10 years. But while local, state, and federal officials focused on the much-anticipated economic boost, the heart of this project was and is marine science, research, and education, with Newport – in particular the South Beach peninsula, where Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center and Oregon Coast Aquarium are already located – as a pivot point.
Port officials say the NOAA fleet will not only enhance research efforts, but will help attract additional marine science ventures, putting Newport’s marine science profile on a rising tide. Even without factoring in the value of attracting additional marine science research, the impact still pencils out to about $20 million annually in the local and regional economy, the EDA study noted.
Landing the homeport facility sets the stage for an enhanced focus on the long-time marine science and research efforts on Yaquina Bay’s South Beach peninsula. Local, state and federal officials believe what’s officially known as the NOAA Marine Operations Center – Pacific (MOC-P) could help take South Beach to the next level, transforming it into an international hub for research and development on ocean health – a key component in climate change.
At least four vessels from NOAA’s Pacific research fleet will dock here, and berths are available for two additional visiting ships.
The fleet provides floating, mobile platforms for marine science research, collecting data essential to protecting marine mammals, coral reefs and historic shipwrecks, managing commercial marine fish stocks, understanding climate processes, and nautical charting. They also deploy and maintain buoys that gather oceanographic weather information and other data.
“NOAA’s mission touches the lives of every American,” says NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, who brought an extensive background as a marine ecologist and environmental scientist, and expertise in oceans and climate change to the agency’s leadership position.
That mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, share that knowledge and information with others, and conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.
NOAA MOC-P plays a central role.
It serves as homeport for NOAA’s Pacific research and survey ships; provides administrative, engineering, maintenance and logistical support to the nine-vessel Pacific fleet; and houses the MOC directorate, which oversees both the Pacific and Atlantic marine centers, and all NOAA ship operations.
Their activities also support existing NOAA facilities at HMSC.
The Newport Research Station is the only ocean port research facility for NOAA’s Seattle-based Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Located in the heart of Oregon’s groundfish, salmon and other fisheries, the vessels offer support for the 70 scientists and staff who conduct marine science research throughout the Pacific coast region.
Capt. Rick Brown, a retired NOAA Corps officer and current program manager at NWFSC at HMSC, says their work depends on those NOAA ships “to support a variety of fisheries and ecosystem-based cruises.”
During the field season (spring, summer, autumn – roughly April through October or November), the vessels are almost always out at sea, conducting essential ocean research, fisheries surveys and seafloor mapping. When home, they are highly visible from many viewpoints, standing out at the facility’s central location in Yaquina Bay that allows them quick, easy access to the ocean, from where they can fan out in any direction for exploration purposes.
Former Gov. Ted Kulongoski called the homeport’s construction in Newport “a landmark event for this state,” noting that the ensuing research and development that could evolve from it “will not only put Newport on the map, it will put Oregon on the map.”
During the competitive lease process, Port of Newport officials touted the city as having “the best working waterfront on the West Coast,” with its commercial fishing fleet, US Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay, and ocean research activities. The NOAA fleet, they said, would not only enhance such research efforts, but would help attract additional marine science ventures, putting Newport’s already considerable marine science profile on a rising tide.
Factoring in the port’s current project to renovate its international terminal, which has already drawn intense interest from timber exporting ventures and cruise lines, Newport is seemingly standing at the cusp of economic prosperity forged from a diverse mix of traditional and emerging industries.
A Socioeconomic Network
Collectively, Oregon’s ports forge “an important regional network of maritime infrastructure,” said Onno Husing, former executive director of OCZMA.
Heading north to south, Oregon’s coastal ports and harbors are Port of Astoria (www.portofastoria.com), Port of Garibaldi (www.portofgaribaldi.com), Port of Nehalem (no website), Port of Tillamook Bay (www.potb.org), City of Depoe Bay (www.ci.depoe-bay.or.us), Port of Newport (www.portofnewport.com), Port of Toledo (www.portoftoledo.org), Port of Alsea (www.portofalsea.com), Port of Siuslaw (www.portofsiuslaw.com), Port of Umpqua (www.portofumpqua.com), Oregon International Port of Coos Bay (www.portofcoosbay.com), Port of Bandon (www.portofbandon.com), Port of Coquille River (no website), Port of Port Orford (www.portofportorford.com) and Port of Brookings Harbor (www.port-brookings-harbor.org).
Terry Dillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
By Rick GreenquistThe 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 email@example.com.
Federal fisheries officials have scheduled public hearings in Washington State, Oregon and Alaska on proposed restructuring of the observer program for North Pacific groundfish and halibut fisheries. The changes would involve Amendment 86 to the fishery management plan for groundfish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area and Amendment 76 to the fishery management plan for groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska.
The hearings are set for April 17 at the NOAA Western Regional Center in Seattle, April 19 at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, and May 2 at Centennial Hall in Juneau. All sessions are from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. local times.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council in October 2010 recommended restructuring the observer program to have the National Marine Fisheries Service contract directly with observer companies to deploy observers according to a scientifically valid sampling and deployment plan, with industry to pay a fee equal to 1.25 percent of the ex-vessel value of the landings included under the program.
The Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act authorizes collection of an ex-vessel fee of up to 2 percent.
The restructured program is intended to provide National Marine Fisheries service with the flexibility to deploy observers in response to fishery management needs and to reduce the bias inherent in the existing program, NMFS officials said.
Anyone wishing to make an oral statement for the record at one of these hearings is asked to provide a written copy of their statement to the hearing panel. While there is no limit on the length of written comment, time allotted for individual oral statements may be limited by the number of people wishing to present their statements, the National Marine Fisheries Service said.
Written comments, identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2011-0210, may be submitted via the federal eRulemaking portal website at http://www.regulations.gov or mailed to Glenn Merrill, assistant regional administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668; faxed to Merrill at 1-907-586-7557, or hand delivered, addressed to Merrill, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, at 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, Alaska.
The comment period extends through May 14.
Fourteen community fishing associations, from Maine to Alaska, are banding together as the Community Fisheries Network to share their knowledge to promote environmental stewardship of local waters and sustained participation in community-based fisheries.
Linda Behnken is the executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka, a charter member of the network announced April 12.
“Strong community groups are the key to well-managed fish stocks and healthy working waterfronts across the country,” Behnken said.
“Having strong community fishing organizations is the best way to nurture and strengthen that connection between people and place,” said Ed Backus, vice president for fisheries at Ecotrust, based in Portland, Oregon, a co-convener of the network.
Other members include the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Cape Cod Fisheries Trust, Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association, Cape Cod Development Partnership, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Calendar Island Maine Lobster Co., Penobscot East Resource Center, Port Clyde Fresh Catch, Port Orford Ocean Resources Team, San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group, Port of Morro Bay, California, San Francisco Community Fishing Association and Island Institute.
The network issued a statement saying their decision to unite as a network demonstrates the strength of community-based fishing organizations, a classification within the fishing industry that is recognized in national fisheries law, but has been largely overlooked in policy development and management decisions by regional fisheries councils that oversee the nation’s fishing sector.
“We will be working toward positive change in national fisheries policy that recognizes and supports sustained participation by community-based fishermen in coastal fisheries,” said Behnken.
More information is at www.communityfisheriesnetwork.org
University of Alaska Anchorage economics professor Gunnar Knapp says he’s optimistic about the future of Alaska wild salmon, but also cautions about challenges ahead.
Knapp told participants in ComFish 2012 at Kodiak on April 12 that global demand for Alaska wild salmon is likely to keep growing, for reasons ranging from growing populations to the popularity of new product forms, but that regime shifts, climate change and the potential for farmed salmon supply to exceed demand and glut markets could post problems.
Knapp also said non-salmon species from world aquaculture production and world economic uncertainty pose potential problems.
The professor posted his ComFish presentation online at http://www.iser.uaa.alaska.edu/Publications/presentations/2012_04_12-TrendsInAKSalmonMarkets.pdf.
Alaska’s seafood exports meanwhile did very well in 2011, state export figures show.
Seafood worth a total of $2.5 billion – up 35.1 percent from a year earlier – topped the state’s exports for 2011.
The announcement came April 13 from Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, who credited industry and state agencies like the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority for the record exports.
2011 marked the first year that China topped the list of Alaska’s export markets, with purchases that included $836.1 million in seafood purchases.
Japan purchased $589.2 million in Alaska seafood, followed by Korea, $303.6 million; Germany, $201.4 million; the Netherlands, $159.4 million; Canada, $89.5 million; France, $46.3 million; Thailand, $34.6 million; Spain, $33.8 million, and Portugal, $30.3 million. Alaska’s seafood exports to Europe in 2011 constituted 22.2 percent of total seafood exports, compared to 20.8 percent a year earlier.
Federal fisheries managers are asking for public comment as they begin preparing an environmental impact statement on Steller sea lion protection measures for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area groundfish fisheries.
“Scoping brings out ideas that help shape what comes through the process,” said Jim Balsiger, administrator for the Alaska region of NOAA Fisheries. “I hope people take time to send us their written comments, including potential impacts and alternatives that should be considered in revising the Steller sea lion protection measures.”
The western distinct population segment of Steller sea lions is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. By law, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration must ensure that the groundfish fisheries are not likely to result in jeopardy of continued existence or adverse modification or destruction of designated critical habitat for these sea lions.
Steller sea lion protection measures have been used to manage the groundfish fisheries since 1999.
The current protections were put into effect in January 2011, after a biological opinion concluded that primarily Pacific cod and Atka mackerel commercial fishing in part of the Aleutian Islands may be preventing the recovery of the endangered Steller sea lions. Atka mackerel and Pacific cod are important prey species for the Stellers.
Balsiger said NOAA Fisheries intends to work with stakeholders to develop fisheries restrictions that are not likely to result in jeopardizing the continued existence of the Stellers and to minimize potential economic impact on the fishing industry.
The formal public scoping period ends Oct. 15.
NOAA, in coordination with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, plans to hold public meetings to inform the public of the proposed action and alternatives, to present issues and potential impacts and gather public comment. The schedule for these meetings will be announced by notice in the Federal Register and online at http://alaskafisheris.noaa.gov/npfmc.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Methodology and accuracy of the estimation of halibut bycatch will be under discussion at an April workshop in Seattle aimed at getting more information in advance of final action in June on Gulf of Alaska halibut prohibited species catch by federal fisheries managers.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is expected to take action at that meeting in Kodiak to reduce the prohibited species catch limit.
The workshop, organized by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the NPFMC, is set for April 24-25. It will broadcast over an Internet website, with presentations for viewing and audio of the entire session, but will not be interactive, said Bruce Leaman, executive director of the IPHC.
It 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 panel is to include staff from IPHC, the Council, the NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center, the council’s scientific and statistical committee, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 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 noted in a draft document in January chat on bycatch estimation, “there is broad agreement that the current levels of bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska are poorly understood, partly because 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.
Some concern has been expressed by those engaged in halibut fisheries over the fact that the panelists include two scientists hired by the groundfish, trawl sector, identified as Steve Martell of the University of British Columbia and Tom Jagielo, who is retired from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Also participating in the panel will be two independent academics considered to be experts on bycatch, said Jane DiCosimo, a senior plan coordinator with NPFMC. They are Michelle Allen of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Belfast, Ireland, and John Neilson, a research scientist with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences in New Brunswick, Canada.
Workshop materials are to be posted at www.iphc.int as they become available, the IPHC said.
Bob Alverson, general manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association in Seattle, expressed concern that Martell has been provided working space at IPHC and access to its files.
“I find it unprecedented to have an advocacy group with their own scientists having their own desk at IPHC and with complete access to their data,” he said.
“Has NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) ever provided that openness? I think if we had an issue, I don’t think NMFS would provide us that kind of access.”
According to Leaman, the decision to allow Martell such access to IPHC was a result of “a process we established in discussions with the trawl sector before the workshops came up.” Leaman said that the trawl sector had made a request to get the IPHC computer codes for its models and that Martell is currently working with the IPHC in its offices.
“This is something where the staff met with some representatives of the trawl sector before the workshop got generated and we agreed to do it,” he said.
Similar requests have not come from the halibut sector, he said.
Alverson said there was some consideration of finding such representatives for the halibut sector, but none were found that they felt they could sponsor.
“We have confidence in the IPHC to defend their position,” he said. “I think ‘let’s have the circus. Let the trawlers make their case and let the IPHC, which has been studying this for 90 years, make their case. They believe that for every pound of immature halibut taken in bycatch there is a loss of 2.2 pounds in the spawning biomass. The trawl industry is questioning these things. Let’s see that they come up with.
“I think they will find the IPHC general theories are sound and the resource is in a declining state in the Gulf of Alaska and because of that overall concern, the hard caps in the Gulf of Alaska need to be reduced,” he said.
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.
“I expect it to be a good, objective review of the IPHC’s methodology.”
Background information on the workshop and more details on topics to be discussed are on the NPFMC website at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/PDFdocuments/halibut/HalibutBycWkshop0412.pdf.
Margaret Bauman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis McLerran, administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 10 in Seattle, made his comments in a letter to Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty, who was highly critical of the assessment and asked the EPA to stop it.
“The purpose of the watershed assessment effort is to research and better understand the unique resources in the Bristol Bay watershed and the effects of pollution from large-scale development on such resources, including effects on water quality and salmon fisheries,” McLerran said. “The watershed assessment is similar to other environmental assessments EPA has conducted to evaluate the impacts of past actions or estimate the potential impacts of future actions.”
McLerran also noted that the EPA intends to share the draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment with the public in early May and to begin public meetings on the watershed assessment in early June. There will also be a public meeting in Anchorage in August with the peer review panel. McLerran offered to meet with Geraghty to discuss his concerns.
The watershed assessment controversy centers on plans of the Pebble Limited Partnership to develop and operate a massive copper, gold and molybdenum prospect at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the massive wild sockeye salmon run. Backers of the Pebble mine maintain that the mine can be developed and operated in harmony with the fishery. Opponents contend that the mine would have adverse effects on the fishery, particularly salmon spawning streams, which are in evidence near and at the mine site.
The watershed assessment was prompted by a request in May 2010 by nine tribes, two commercial fishing organizations, the Bristol Bay Native Corp. and others. They asked the EPA to initiate a Clean Water Act, section 404 © process to prohibit or restrict discharges of dredged or fill materials associated with metallic sulfide mining within the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed. Two Alaska tribes, other tribal entities, the Pebble Limited Partnership and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell requested that the EPA instead use the standard permitting and environmental review process to evaluate proposed mining operations in the Bristol Bay watershed.
The accolades went to a list of individuals well known in Alaska’s commercial fisheries circles, from the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to former North Pacific Fishery Management Council chairman Rick Lauber of Juneau, the late Harvey Samuelsen, of Dillingham and former Alaska fisheries czar Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove.
Those gathered at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage had much to celebrate regarding the success of the Community Development Quota program, established in 1992 by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The plan was to provide economic opportunity for some 27,000 people in 65 fishing communities dotting the coast of Western Alaska by addressing the issue of high unemployment, while giving these coastal residents access to fisheries.
The program does not depend on any direct government funding, but rather on the ability of the six CDQ groups to harvest that 10 percent of the Bering Sea resources, including Pollock crab and halibut, allocated to them under the program.
Initially the program, authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, was managed by the state of Alaska. Since 2006, under amendments to that federal legislation, the Western Alaska Community Development Association has been the umbrella group for the six CDQs: Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, Coastal Villages Region Fund, Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, and Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation.
In 2010 alone, the six CDQ entities generated revenues of more than $414.5 million with operating expenses of about $178.8 million, resulting in an increase in net assets of more than $235.7 million, WADCA reported in its latest report. These revenues have funded critical infrastructure for these communities, development of local fisheries, training and scholarship programs, grant programs and social services in CDQ member communities.
The program has also enabled residents of Western Alaska to gain employment on vessels that fish for the CDQ quotas, in local fish plants built with the support of harvest revenues and in myriad other jobs associated with and supported by the CDQ program. And the benefits keep on coming.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials said that under Chinook salmon management provisions of the treaty, the 2012 abundance index for Southeast Alaska was calculated to be 1.52, which results in an all-gear harvest quota of 266,800 treaty Chinook salmon.
The all-gear abundance -based quota represents a decrease of 28,000 fish when compared with last year’s preseason estimate of 294,800 fish with an abundance index of 1.69.
The all-gear Chinook salmon quota is allocated among commercial and sport fisheries according to management plans established in regulation by the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Most Chinook salmon produced from Alaska hatcheries are not factored into the abundance index and may be harvested in addition to the treaty limit.
The allocations to fisheries this year under the regulatory management plan include: purse seine, 11,472 kings; drift gillnet, 7,737 kings; set gillnet, 1,000 kings; troll, 197,272 kings, and sport, 49,318 kings.
The summer commercial troll quota is calculated by subtracting the treaty Chinook salmon harvested in the winter and spring troll fisheries from the annual troll allocation.
As the final harvest numbers for non-Alaska hatchery fish (treaty fish) in the winter and spring fisheries will not be known until late June, fishing time for the summer season will not be set until just prior to the first summer season Chinook salmon opening on July 1, fisheries officials said.
The winter fishery is managed not to exceed the 45,000 king salmon guideline harvest level. While there is no specific total limit on the number of treaty kings that may be harvested in the spring fishery, the goal of that fishery is the harvest of Alaska hatchery fish and fisheries are managed to limit the harvest of treaty Chinooks.
The summer fishery is managed to target the harvest of 70 percent of the total summer quota in the first summer Chinook salmon opening in July, with the remaining quota available for harvest in a second opening, likely in August.
State biologists said a decision on whether the first summer opening will be managed in season rather than for a fixed number of days will be announced just prior to the July 1 opening.
The report from the U.S. Geological Survey in early April comes on the heels of hair loss, skin sores and lethargic behavior in ringed seals, with cause and significance of lesions also unknown, according to marine mammal scientists.
Julie Speegle, a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Juneau, said April 9 that the agency is aware that the symptoms are similar, but that it will take more testing to determine if there is a link.
A USGS report issued in Anchorage on April 6 said 9 polar bears were observed with alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions, but that the animals otherwise appeared to be healthy.
USGS scientists have collected blood and tissue samples from afflicted polar bears to try and determine if there is any relationship between the symptoms observed in polar bears and those reported for arctic pinnipeds from the same geographical region earlier this year.
The afflicted polar bears were observed at the start of the USGS annual fieldwork season. The polar bears are observed annually in the southern Beaufort Sea region as part of a long-term USGS research program.
Observations last summer of unusual numbers of ringed seals hauled out on beaches along the Arctic coast of Alaska, and later on, of dead and dying seals with hair loss and skin sores, led to declaration of an unusual mortality event by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Dec. 20.
Based on observations of Pacific walruses with similar skin lesions at a coastal haul-out in the same region during the fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined the unusual mortality event investigation.
Most walruses exhibiting skin lesions appeared also to be otherwise healthy, and whether the symptoms observed in the seals and walruses are related is unknown, NOAA officials said.
Since the initial reports from northern Alaska, ice seals with similar symptoms have also been reported in adjacent regions of Canada and Russia and from the Bering Strait region.
NOAA meanwhile has also announced that a team of researchers from the US and Russia have begun the largest survey effort ever to estimate how many ice-associated seals live in the Bering Sea region. The springtime aerial survey, begun this week from Nome, will include survey flights originating from Bethel, Dillingham and St. Paul.
The survey is a joint effort of researchers from the United States and Russia.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
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.
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.
To learn more, contact the PFMC at www.pcouncil.org or 1-503-820-2280, or Eric Schindler at 541-867-0300.
Terry Dillman can be reached at email@example.com