Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Oregon’s Dungeness Season a Success

By Terry Dillman

Record-high whole season price; outlook good for next season

Oregon’s Dungeness crab fishermen logged another good year in terms of market value. The season ended August 14th with an estimated harvest of about 14.2 million pounds and to-the-boat value of $42 million, according to preliminary figures from the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission (ODCC).

“The real story for this year is the overall average price for the whole season,” said Nick Furman, the ODCC executive director.

The season began with the highest opening price ever at $2.30 per pound and ended with the highest overall value ever: a record-high to-the-boat price of $2.95 per pound. In 2011, 21.2 million pounds of Dungeness crabs netted an overall value of $49 million for Oregon crabbers based on the season average of $2.30 per pound, placing the fishery in the top 20 of Oregon’s commodities.

Usually, the opening price is set for a short period, then the market takes over. This year, through negotiations mediated by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), fishermen’s associations and processors settled on the highest-ever opening price $2.30 per pound, a deal reached by agreeing to lock in that price for the first 22 days of the season rather the usual three days.

Demand for live crab in Asia, particularly China, rose higher than ever this season, with live market buyers offering as much as $1.20 more per pound than the negotiated price. Furman said fishermen never really know how high the demand for live crab in Asia might be, and since live buyers purchase far fewer crabs than processing plants, they are not a part of the opening price negotiations.

The crabbing associations have negotiated opening price with processing plants under ODA’s mediation for the past nine years in an attempt to smooth out the bargaining process and get the season off and running without crabbers striking to protest what they might consider as refusal by processors to pay a fair price.

Dungeness crabs are a major part of the Pacific Northwest’s seafood heritage, with commercial fishermen harvesting them along the Pacific coast since the late 1800s. They range from central California to the Gulf of Alaska.

The ocean crab season along the Oregon coast begins December 1st and continues through August 14th. Peak harvest occurs during the first eight weeks of the season, with up to 75 percent of the annual production landed during that time. Effort traditionally decreases in the spring as fishermen gear up for other coastal fisheries, but fresh crab is available throughout the summer as a small number of boats fish until the August closure.

The Dungeness crab fishery is naturally cyclical, depending on ocean conditions, and crabbers say they expect a drop-off in landings after a boom.

Dungeness crab is the most valuable “single-species” fishery in Oregon. “Ex-vessel” value fluctuates yearly, based on the size of the harvest and prevailing market conditions. During the most recent 10-year period, Furman said the “to-the-boat” value ranged from $5 million to $49 million dollars.

Total production for the entire region (California to Alaska) averages 42.5 million pounds annually.

The average Oregon catch is just above 10 million pounds. According to the ODCC, harvests have fluctuated from a low of 3.2 million pounds to record levels from 2003 to 2006, peaking at the 33.6 million pounds in 2004, followed by 27.5 million pounds in 2005, valued at $44.6 million.

Furman said those harvests point to “healthy stocks and a sustainable fishery.”

In 2006, the catch dropped by almost half to 15.1 million pounds worth $32.9 million. Crabbers hauled 12.3 million pounds of Dungeness crabs values at $29.3 million into Oregon ports in 2007, and 13 million pounds in 2008.

The flow of crabs from pots to docks to markets hinges on bringing in most of the annual catch during the first two months. The surge helps processors, who depend on volume to feed hungry holiday markets.

Opening price is vital to the crabbers’ livelihoods. Crabbers remain “at the mercy of” the markets, because they harvest a natural resource. Natural cycles make crab populations boom and bust, and Furman said historically high landings are both good and bad. Successive years of high yields flood the market, pinching prices and leading to holdover inventories.

Fewer crabs, more money summed up the 2010-2011 season as the 325-boat Oregon fleet hauled in 21.2 million pounds of the state’s official crustacean – the fourth largest catch on record, exceeding 20 million pounds for the fifth time in the past decade.

“The real story was the landed value of the catch,” said Furman. “Strong demand in the marketplace pushed boat prices up, so although fishermen caught fewer crabs, they made more money.”

The to-the-boat harvest value reached almost $49 million, making it the second most valuable Oregon crab season in history. Associated processing activity upped the economic impact for the state’s coastal communities from Astoria to Brookings to more than $100 million.

Analysts say strong marketing and promotion efforts have heightened the image of Dungeness crab, creating demand that is transforming it from primarily a regional favorite to a more nationwide appeal in restaurants and other seafood outlets, including supermarket chains. An industry marketing partnership with the ODA focuses on promoting Dungeness crab in as many key markets as possible, including the international marketplace.

Oregon leads the way in Dungeness production, with harvested crabs sold live, whole fresh or frozen, or as picked meat, legs and sections. Products are shipped around the world, although the United States remains the main market.

That is changing, Furman said, in part due to certification by the Marine Stewardship Council as the only one of the West Coast Dungeness crab fisheries (Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, British Columbia) to receive the designation for its good management practices, sustainable harvest methods and neutral environmental impacts. The certification, he noted, opened up additional marketplace opportunities for what is already the state’s most valuable fishery, due to the growing trend among the retail, food service and restaurant trade to offer products from sustainable fisheries certified by an independent entity using a proven scientific process.

“This sets the Oregon Dungeness brand apart from all other Dungeness in the marketplace,” Furman said. “Oregon has been harvesting Dungeness crab for over a century. Landings this past decade have been off the charts and nature continues to provide us with healthy stocks.”

But he is also fully aware of the fishery’s natural ups and downs, and providing an outlook for the next season, the start of which is only four months away, is iffy.

The impact of the live crab market in Asia is a potential key.

“It’s hard to say,” Furman noted. “If demand continues to be strong, and Asia continues to want live Dungeness crab, it would bode well. Historically, prices and markets are like a pendulum – when it swings high, it typically swings back, and when it does, it typically comes crashing back.”

Much, of course, depends on production and harvest levels – known in marketing circles as supply and demand. If production is down, it generally drives up the price. Harvest dropped from 21.2 million pounds in 2011 to 14.2 million in 2012, but this year’s haul is still well above the average of 10 to 12 million pounds. And the 2011 harvest was a bit less than the 2010 haul of 23 million pounds.

Furman said the fishery has gone through “some phenomenal harvests” during the past decade, in which the fishery was “really at a peak” with an average haul of 18.6 million pounds.

“At this point, it’s hard to tell whether we’re going back up or back down,” he concluded. “This last decade threw us off our cycle as we know it and put us in uncharted territory as far as highs and lows.”
Furman said crabbers would consider 2012 “a good season,” and would like to see a repeat in 2013.
Terry Dillman can be reached at

Gulf of Alaska Chinook Salmon Bycatch Limits In Effect

The 25,000 Chinook salmon limit is now in effect for Pollock boats fishing in the Gulf of Alaska. The rule recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service established the limit on pollock trawlers fishing in the Central and Western Gulf of Alaska. If the bycatch exceeds 25,000 kings, the fishery will be shut down.

Chinook harvests and Chinook abundance have been on a declining trend for over 50 years in Alaska, and on the entire Pacific coast. A number of groups, from salmon harvesters to international advocacy group Oceana, have advocated for limiting bycatch of this valuable fish.

For the rest of this year the hard cap for bycatch is 8,929 kings in the Central gulf and 5,598 kings in the Western Gulf.

Julie Bonney, executive director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank, said this will present a challenge for pollock harvesters because the total allowable catch on pollock is at a 10 year high of 18,676 metric tons in the Western Gulf and 32,535 metric tons in the Central Gulf.

Jon Warrenchuk, an ocean scientist with Oceana, said he is optimistic that the threat of a fishery closure will keep the eyes of the fleet on each other.

Full retention of all bycatch will be required. NMFS will take tissue samples from some. Processors would then be allowed to donate to food banks all kings suitable for human consumption.

NMFS is expected to publish final regulations on the related restructured observer program for this fishery by year’s end. Through the end of 2012, all vessels over 60 feet will need one observer for 30 percent of their fishing days, and the vessels get to choose when they carry the observers.

Under the new regulations, all vessels fishing for groundfish and halibut are under the restructured program, although NMFS has said that for at least the first year the regulations will likely apply to boats at least 40 feet in length and larger.

All catcher processors and other vessels required to have full observer coverage at all times will continue to pay for their own observers. The others – excluding those harvesting individual fishing quotas – are required to pay 1.25 percent of the ex-vessel value of their harvest into a fund for observer coverage and NMFS will determine which vessels and when they will carry observers.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has been concerned for some time about Chinook salmon as the species with the highest bycatch rate in recent years.

Chinook bycatch primarily occurs in trawl fisheries, in the central and western regulatory areas of the Gulf. Between 2003 and 2010, the pollock target fishery accounted for an average of three-quarters of intercepted king salmon, while other trawl fisheries for flatfish, rockfish and Pacific cod accounted for the remainder.

Alaska Wild Salmon Harvest Reaches 112 Million Fish

Preliminary counts based on processor reports show that Alaska’s commercial fleets have caught more than  112 million salmon of all species so far this season.

Through Aug. 24, processors reported a total harvest of 59,053,000 pink, 35,057,000 sockeye, 16,322,000 chum, 1,729,000 silver and 235,000 king salmon.

The increase over the previous week was just 4,3 million pink, 586,000 chum, 300,000 silver, 118,000 reds and 18,000 Chinook salmon.

In Southeast Alaska, the overall harvest of pink salmon rose from 15.8 million to more than 18 million fish. The pink salmon harvests in Southeast’s purse seine fishery peaked during the Aug. 6-7 fishing period at 3.5 million fish, but since have declined to 1.7 million fish during the Aug. 18-19 fishing period, biologist said. Still the preseason harvest forecast of 17 million pink salmon has been exceeded with an all-gear harvest of 18 million fish and biologists were anticipating a final harvest of about 23 million fish by the season’s close.

Through Aug. 22, the cumulative harvest from the Copper River stood at 1.86 million reds, compared with a harvest forecast of 1.23 million fish for that date, but the cumulative coho salmon harvest from the Copper River district was 21,400 fish, which is below the forecast of 92,700 fish through that date.
At Kodiak, the humpy harvest rose from 13.9 million to 15.7 million fish, and was slowing down. Kodiak management area’s sockeye salmon commercial harvests stood at 1.9 million fish, which is below average for this date, biologists said.

As one Alaska Fish and Game Department biologist in Cordova put it, things have slowed down and not too much is happening. Many boats have stood down and many processors have stopped buying fish. Hatcheries meanwhile are in the process of collecting brood stock and doing egg takes for the next season.

On the Lower Yukon, Kwik'Pak Fisheries, a subsidiary of the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, is seeing a strong run of fall chum salmon, which are about a pound bigger than the summer chums, but down on the overall chum harvest. The summer harvest was delayed by state fisheries officials to allow for escapement of king salmon moving up the river.

As of Aug. 24, preliminary state statistics showed a Lower Yukon River harvest of 453,000 chum and 48,000 silver salmon. The coho harvest is somewhat lower than a year ago, due to a weaker run.

What’s new at Kwik'Pak this year is more fish are being filleted and frozen at Emmonak and shipped out by boat to Dutch Harbor, from there they can be transported to Seattle for domestic markets, as well as to Europe. Kwik'Pak also processes headed and gutted chums and silvers for domestic markets.

Harvest of Norton Sound King Crab Continues

Community development quota fishermen rebaited their pots on Aug. 27, and set out to harvest the remaining 17,000 pounds of Norton Sound red king crab quota, on the heels of what has already proven a record payout season.

Spokesmen for the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. at Nome said that the fishery has already paid out nearly $2.4 million to 31 fishermen for approximately 435,000 pounds of delivered crab.

Norton Sound Seafood Products, a division of NSEDC, the regional CDQ group, sells the majority of its crab in Japan.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game noted in mid-August that Norton Sound permit holders had already harvested 440,000 pounds of red king crab in the open access commercial king crab fishery. It was back-to-back record payouts for Norton Sound crab fishermen as this year’s price to fishermen exceeded the previous record exvessel value of $2 million in 2011, state biologists said.

So far this year the prices paid to fishermen in Norton Sound for red king crab have ranged from $5.25 to $5.60 a pound. That compared with 75 cents a pound paid in 1979, a record harvest year when fishermen caught nearly 3 million pounds. The combined open access and CDQ harvest this year will be about 475,000 pounds of crab.

Moreland Will Be New Alaska Senior Advisor For Fisheries

Stephanie Moreland, currently the fisheries and Arctic matters aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will leave that post to become senior advisor for fisheries, oceans and Arctic policy for the state of Alaska in Juneau, effective Sept. 17.

Her appointment was announced Aug. 22.

She will serve as an advisor and coordinator on Alaska fisheries policy between the governor’s office and other state and federal agencies, and coordinate with state and federal agencies on Arctic policy matters.

Moreland was hired as Murkowski’s fisheries aide last fall, replacing Arne Fuglvog, who pleaded guilty last summer to a single count of violating the Lacy Act for falsely reporting where he caught sablefish during a commercial fishery. He has since served his sentence and been released from prison.

Moreland has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and a master’s degree in resource and applied economics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Before joining Murkowski’s staff she served as the federal fisheries coordinator, extended jurisdiction program manager and economist for the state of Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game. She has also worked for the state’s Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Federal Lawmakers Express Concern About Commercial Fishing and Shipping Safety

By Terry Dillman

Concerned about the threat that debris from the March 2011 tsunami that wracked Japan poses to ocean-going vessels, US Representative Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) met in Newport with fishing vessel, tugboat and steamship operators on June 30 to discuss what those operators are seeing in the ocean, what is being done about it, and what still needs doing.

The meeting at Oregon State University (OSU)’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) also included representatives from the US Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and various state and local officials.

Oregon authorities have established a network of 32 collection stations, and it seems everyone is on the lookout for tsunami debris that washes up on the state’s shores, but Wyden and Schrader (D-Ore.) said they were concerned about potential threats to fishing and shipping interests by debris still floating across the Pacific Ocean toward the coast of Washington, Oregon and to a lesser extent California. Such debris is expected to remain an issue for at least the next few years as it circulates to and fro among the ocean currents.

“A lot of attention has focused on the debris that is washing ashore along our coast, but it’s important that we not overlook what’s in the water and the dangers it poses to fishermen, tugboat operators, steamboat operators and others,” Wyden noted.

“It’s what you can’t see that is our biggest concern,” Schrader said. “We need to understand the degree of threat and how to respond to it.”

A dock 66 feet long, 19 feet wide and seven feet high washed up on Newport’s Agate Beach on June 5, stirring worldwide interest and concern among emergency response officials, partly because of its size, but mainly due to its arrival nine months ahead of scientific predictions. Should smaller fishing and other vessels encounter such a large piece of debris, especially at night, it could prove disastrous, Charleston-based commercial fisherman Rick Goche told the federal lawmakers during a 90-minute brainstorming session at HMSC that took place after Wyden and Schrader visited the attention-getting dock on Newport’s Agate Beach.

Goche and others painted a Titanic-type scenario, with a piece of debris the size of the Agate Beach dock playing the role of the iceberg. Most of it would lurk beneath the surface, making it difficult to detect at night on the ocean waves, even with radar and spotlights. By the time anyone noticed, they said, it would be too late.

Both federal lawmakers said they want the federal government to become a “better and smarter partner” in tackling the threat that such floating debris could pose to fishing boats, barges and tugs along the Oregon Coast.

“This is an enormous part of our economy,” Wyden said. “This is vital for the men and women whose jobs and lives are at stake.”

After visiting the dock and talking to reporters at the beach, Schrader and Wyden went to HMSC to talk with representatives from the commercial and recreational fishing industry, commercial shipping industry, state and federal agencies, including the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, along with local emergency managers, to determine how to deal with the issue. The focus on hazards to ocean-going vessels had not been previously discussed, and the key aspect for most fishing industry folks was knowing where and when they might encounter debris, especially the boat-scuttling size.

Goche and others said they would like a better way of notifying vessels about dangerous debris. Most folks put the spotlight on the US Coast Guard, which Wyden said is responsible for keeping shipping lanes clear, but noted a “gray area” between those lanes and the shore.
Various reports surfaced that Coast Guard officials were alerted to the dock’s presence three days before it beached itself, but failed to notify anyone.

Coast Guard and NOAA officials say alerts go out routinely, and did in this instance. Coast Guard crews monitored the dock’s movement along the coast until its journey ended with the beach landing seen ’round the world. Coast Guard officials said they rely on commercial vessels to be their eyes and ears out at sea, a notion backed by fishing and other agency representatives. They suggested a system in which everybody on the water can put debris sightings into one site, although given the size of the ocean and its constant motion, they could never track every piece of debris or keep complete tabs on it after spotting it.

Wyden and Schrader said they would use the information gleaned from the June 30 meeting to decide the best way for the federal government and its relevant agencies to help.

“We need to do everything to protect our residents, industries and visitors, so everyone can enjoy our coastline for years to come,” Schrader noted.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has formed a high-level tsunami debris task force led by Brig. Gen. Mike Caldwell, deputy director of the Oregon National Guard and interim director of the state’s Office of Emergency Management, who participated in the June 30 interactive briefing. Caldwell, who is coordinating tsunami debris response and cleanup efforts, suggested they set up a system similar to the one already in place for tsunami alerts to warn commercial fleets about possible threats from tsunami-generated debris.

Good idea theoretically, said NOAA officials. But they noted that it took years to develop the tsunami alert set-up, and tracking debris from tsunamis is far from an exact science. Wind and currents are mercurial during most seasons, and with this year’s spring-like conditions still holding sway in the Pacific, including unusual prevailing southwesterlies, tracking pieces of debris – even ones the size of the Agate Beach dock – is a needle-and-haystack scenario. First, they have to find it, then identify it, then somehow track it – a difficult venture at best, given the ever-moving targets involved. Even tracking via satellite can prove problematic. It also costs money.

NOAA’s marine debris program, they noted, is small, including the budget for it. And during an election year, federal budget trimming is at a crescendo from every angle.

“We continue to actively work with the state and other federal agencies on the challenges associated with tsunami debris,” Nancy Wallace, director of NOAA’s marine debris program, said in a press release announcing the availability of $250,000 in grants for Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and Hawaii to cover debris removal costs.

As of press time, no new or varied form of official warning system was in place, other than the usual marine alerts issued by the Coast Guard and NOAA.

“The agencies need credit for their work in cleaning and removing debris,” Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson, a long-time commercial fisherman and member of the governor’s task force, said.

He, too, is concerned about communication to the fishing fleet alerting vessel crews to debris in the water. “We need better communication if people identify debris in the ocean to report it to the fleet,” he said, noting that Coast Guard did issue a Notice to Mariners about the Agate Beach dock, but “those don’t always repeat.”

With the tuna fisheries in full swing, Thompson said that it could prove disastrous if a boat should strike something the size of that dock as it floated across the ocean at a 45-degree angle. Other costs associated with tsunami debris are also a concern.

The state recently awarded an $84,000 contract for demolition and removal of the dock, but Thompson sees a potential issue if more starts coming ashore at one time.

“If it all came ashore at one time, we’d have an emergency. Because it’s coming ashore now and will be over a period of time, it hasn’t been considered a disaster,” Thompson said.

The task force will meet at least monthly to discuss issues related to tsunami debris, and track when and where debris comes ashore.

Invasive Species a Big Concern
Marine scientists were aware that an unknown amount of debris washed into the ocean in the aftermath of the earthquake-generated tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. They were also aware that an unknown but sizeable chunk of that debris would eventually wash up on Oregon shores. They even had what they considered a reasonable estimate of the arrival time.

Nature had other ideas as the ocean unexpectedly chucked the piece of floating dock as big as a good-sized commercial fishing vessel onto Agate Beach several months earlier than anticipated.

While researchers and officials from various government agencies are concerned about possible chemical contamination and cost of cleaning up the debris navigating haphazardly toward Oregon with the wind and currents, the dock turned their attention to what could become a more viable threat: invasive species. “This float is an island unlike any other transoceanic debris we have ever seen,” said John Chapman, marine invasive species specialist at HMSC.

The dock was a de facto island teeming with invasive plants and animals, including two – brown algae known as wakame kelp and northern Pacific sea stars – among the 100 worst invasive species, according to the Oregon Invasive Species Council (OISC).

Invasive species are plants, animals and other organisms not native to a region which, when introduced either accidentally or intentionally, out-compete native species for available resources. Because they often arrive in new areas without their natural predators, invasive species are often difficult to control. Left unchecked, many invasive species can transform entire ecosystems, as native species and those that depend on them for food, shelter and habitat disappear.

Such wholesale changes can wreak environmental and economic havoc, altering an ecosystem and ruining fisheries, either partially or completely.

A team led by Steve Rumrill, the shellfish program leader for ODFW in the Marine Resources Program at HMSC, scraped the dock clean of all plants and animals and buried them in the sand out of reach of the high tide mark.

Caren Braby, ODFW’s marine resources program manager, said the only way to stop invading species is to kill them by removing them from the aquatic marine environment. “We had no big vat of chlorine to dip it into,” she said of the dock, noting it as the only way they could be certain of killing off every last trace of the invasive algae and other organisms.

With such invasive species as wakame or the aggressive northern Pacific sea stars, it’s a matter of kill or be killed.

So Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) officials, working with ODFW, have chosen to demolish the dock rather than tow it to another location and risk spreading invasive species. ODFW is coordinating with various state and federal agencies, non-government organizations, and university researchers to formulate a response to the potential invasive species threat from tsunami debris.

In the wake of the dock’s arrival, folks have inundated HMSC and ODFW with pieces of marine debris discovered on the beach, especially those with any living flora or fauna on them. HMSC and ODFW officials are asking beachcombers to instead become the first line of defense.

“We don’t have the staff or resources to focus on each piece of debris,” Braby said, noting they are asking beachcombers to “take ownership” in their interactions with marine debris and to “make good decisions” in handling it. 
“The main thing is to get it out of the water, and if something is living on it, make sure it goes to the nearest garbage can,” she added.

ODFW officials also would like as much information about any debris as possible. They ask beachcombers to take photos, if possible, and submit them with details about location, date and time to or call 1-866-INVADER. For large marine debris that can’t be moved, report the item and location to OPRD at , or call 2-1-1, a new system that has been set up to handle tsunami debris.

Dream Team
Land-based efforts are more shipshape, and will indirectly help the fishing industry. Four nonprofit organizations with long histories of stewardship on the Oregon coast have joined forces to also focus the threat of tsunami debris washing up on Oregon’s shoreline and into its bays, where it could wreak havoc on commercial fishing ingress and egress.

CoastWatch, Surfrider Foundation, SOLVE and Washed Ashore – along with academic partner Oregon Sea Grant – have formed the Oregon Marine Debris Team to collaborate on citizen-based efforts to track and clean up tsunami debris. An estimated 1.5-million tons of debris pulled out to sea by the tsunami is circulating the Pacific, with an unknown amount likely to wash up in Oregon.

This “dream team” wants to organize hundreds of volunteers to systematically monitor the coast, identify and report areas where tsunami debris is accumulating, and participate in cleanup efforts. Willing citizens will join pools of volunteers available to respond to cleanup alerts in a given area.

“Public agencies are making plans at the state, federal and local levels about tsunami debris issues,” said Charlie Plybon, Surfrider Foundation’s Oregon field manager. “They have an important role to play in setting up hotlines, providing debris receptacles and handling material that is dangerous or too bulky for volunteers to handle. However, cleaning up our beaches relies upon all of us. The key to responding to this challenge to our coastal environment lies with educating and activating volunteers.”

Agencies, he noted, can’t do that by themselves.

The groups forming the Oregon Marine Debris Team began working together earlier this year, holding a series of 13 public workshops throughout the coastal region and inland. The workshops focused on the nature and extent of the debris problem, sought to dispel unnecessary concerns about radiation, and explained the role state and federal agencies can play and the roles for which volunteers are crucial. Through these workshops, the team began building a database of potential volunteers for their collective project.

“We have an extraordinary tradition of public use of our shoreline, and public stewardship over that shoreline,” said CoastWatch Director Phillip Johnson.

The Oregon Marine Debris Team also collaborates with Oregon’s Japanese tsunami marine debris coordination efforts, and has representatives on the West Coast Governor’s Alliance and governor’s tsunami debris task force.

Terry Dillman can be reached at

ASMI Customers Bullish on Independent Certification

The state agency charged with promoting Alaska’s abundance of wild seafood drew kudos from major customers this past week for success in establishing the Alaska brand and for seeking independent certification of sustainable fisheries. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute last year hired Ireland based Global Trust to assess Alaska’s wild fisheries in salmon, halibut/black cod, groundfish, Pollock and crab against the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization code of conduct for responsible fisheries.

The move away from the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification program, ASMI officials said, was an effort to find a more cost effective way to provide third party assurance that Alaska fisheries are well-managed and sustainable. The move came after major processors withdrew their financial support for MSC certification with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation serving as the client for certification.

ASMI’s customer advisory panel, meeting with board members at Girdwood, also voiced concern that development of the Pebble mine, a massive copper, gold and molybdenum project proposed at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, could devalue Alaska seafood. Some committee members noted that after the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico many people became confused about whether seafood from that area was safe and as a result found other foods to eat. After hearing the concerns of buyers from major firms selling Alaska seafood domestically, in Europe and Asia, the committee asked ASMI executive director Ray Riutta to convey their concerns to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell. ASMI itself has not taken a stand on the mine.

The committee proposed that ASMI consider using third party research to find ways to expand its markets, and give retailers and distributors more notice about promotions and work with them on timing of such events.

The committee also proposed that ASMI build alignment strategies and identify allies and be alert in seeking out new transportation and packaging techniques that may be relevant to Alaska.
The committee initially was scheduled to meet for two days in Kodiak, but weather conditions prevented most of those planning to attend from reaching the island, so the session was hastily reconvened in Girdwood.

Alaska Commercial Salmon Harvest Tops 107 Million Fish

The 2012 preliminary harvest count of Alaska’s pink, sockeye, coho, chum and Chinook salmon grew to 107,087,000 fish for the week ended Aug. 17. State biologists said the humpy harvest led the way with an additional 15,758,000 fish, boosting the overall harvest of pink salmon to 54,766,000 pinks. The sockeye harvest rose by 253,000 fish to 34,939,000, the chum harvest by 870,000 to 15,736,000 fish, the silver harvest by 277,000 fish to 1,429,000 fish, and the king harvest by 7,000 fish for a total of 217,000 Chinooks.

The preliminary harvest total still has a way to go to meet the preseason statewide forecast of 132.1 million salmon of all species.

The humpy harvest got plenty of help from commercial fishermen in Prince William Sound, where the pink catch alone rose from 18,190,000 to 22,597,000 fish. State biologists there said they anticipated that the purse seine fleet’s effort would be focused this week on the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp.’s remaining pink salmon run. Weather has not appeared to limit fishing efforts in Prince William Sound so far this season.

In Kodiak, the humpy harvest rose from 9,439,000 to 13,914,000 fish, and the silver salmon harvest jumped from 44,000 to 78,000 cohos, while harvests of chum, and sockeye salmon grew at a slower pace.

Fred Meyer supermarkets in Anchorage meanwhile had a sale going for the week beginning Aug. 18 of whole silver salmon at $5.99 a pound. A number of Internet marketers also were offering sockeye, king and other Alaska salmon for sale. FishEx in Anchorage was asking $36.95 a pound for frozen Copper River king fillets and $24.95 a pound for frozen Copper River sockeye fillets, while Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle had whole fresh wild Alaska kings for $14.99 a pound, king fillets for $22.99 a pound, whole coho for $7.99 a pound and silver fillets for $13.99 a pound.

Fisheries Golfers Turn Out to Aid SeaShare

Ocean Beauty Seafoods’ annual charity golf tournament garnered a record $10,000 for SeaShare, a Bainbridge Island, Washington nonprofit organization that fights hunger through seafood donations.

About 130 golfers turned out on the Seattle area greens on Aug. 10, a cloudless day with a high of 78 degrees, to benefit SeaShare, said Tom Sunderland, director of marketing for Ocean Beauty. “You couldn’t have asked for a better day.”

Jim Harmon, executive director of SeaShare, thanked Ocean Beauty and event sponsors for embracing their responsibility to their communities and for good resource stewardship. “Protein is the most difficult type of food for food banks to get, and nothing is more needed or nutritious than seafood,” he said.
The company, which has donated more than 12 million meals to SeaShare over the years, plans to continue the annual fundraiser into the foreseeable future, Sunderland said.

Ocean Beauty President Mark Palmer credited the success of the tournament to business partners, suppliers, customers and employees.

“This is bigger than Ocean Beauty,” he said. “We rely on every one of these sponsors for our success, and every one of them serves the larger community through this support. With their help, we can live out our belief that sustainability is not just about the fish – it’s about the fish and everybody who depends on the fish.”

Major sponsors of this year’s event were Alaska Airlines, Alaska Marine Lines, Lynden Transport, Brown Lines, Apex Cold Storage, Carlile Transportation, Junction Solutions, North Pacific Seafoods, Raw Seafoods, Silgan Containers, SM Products, Sym-Pac, Vita, Amende and Schultz, CenturyLink, Commodity Forwarders, Frontier Packaging, Horizon Lines, Icicle Seafoods, Maersk, Marine Harvest Canada, JS McMillan, Nakamura, Northern Air Cargo, Ocean Blue, Odyssey, Penn Cover and Presidio.

Other tournament sponsors were Aquagold Seafood, Azimut, Cannon Fish, East Coast Lobster, Fisher King, GCI, Georgia Pacific, Great Pacific, Hanjin, Heartland Catfish, International Seafoods of Alaska, Ivar’s, Janssen Associates, the Nerland Agency, Nippon Shoken, Parker Smith and Feek, Salmones, Pacific Star, Shining Ocean, South Bend Products, Sujiyo, Twin Tails, Western United, AGS, Mac’s Oysters, Oregon Lox and JP Shellfish.

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