Astoria Fisheries Auction

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wild Salmon Catch in Alaska Exceeds 5.5 Million Fish

Alaska’s annual wild salmon catch is quickening its pace, with Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Western Alaska harvesters bringing thousands of fish, even as Copper River has peaked, but still continues to keep processors busy.

As of June 24, the estimated harvest stood at 5,506,000 salmon of all species, including 3,906,000 sockeye, 1,126,000 chum, 338,000 pink, 117,000 king and 20,000 silver salmon.

The state’s central region, including Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, has delivered to processors nearly 3 million salmon, the bulk of them reds. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimated in its daily blue sheet that those harvesters have delivered 2,144,000 sockeye, 561,000 chum, 198,000 pink, 15,000 silver and 10,000 king salmon.

For the Copper River district drift fishery alone, the estimated harvest stood yesterday at 1,591,000 fish, including 1,543,000 sockeye and 9,000 kings.

State area research biologist Chuck Prazil at King Salmon said the run into Bristol Bay is just starting to ramp, with the usual overcast weather, but if it stays at the usual pace the run appears to be at this week, it should peak right around July 4.

The catch in Bristol Bay’s Egegik District alone rose from 115,000 sockeyes by June 23 to 190,000 reds delivered on June 24, and the Togiak district has reached a harvest of 3,000 fish. Meanwhile prices are starting to fluctuate more.

At the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, whole Copper River sockeyes were commanding $69.95 a fish, with fillets being sold for $19.99 a pound. Pike Place was out of Copper River kings, but whole wild troll-caught king salmon from Southeast Alaska were fetching $16.99 a pound, and fillets of those kings $27.99.

In Anchorage, 10th and M Seafoods offered Prince William Sound reds for $6.95 a pound for the whole fish and $9.95 a pound for fillets. FishEx posted prices for wild salmon, including $44.95 a pound for fresh and frozen Copper River kings, $32.95 a pound for fresh Copper River sockeye fillets and $29.95 a pound for fresh Cook Inlet king salmon fillets.

Consumers are also finding online deals for smoked, fillet and canned wild Alaska salmon products via Amazon.com

State of Alaska Launches Chinook Salmon Website

Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game has introduced the online publication Chinook News, to offer a statewide perspective on major issues related to Chinook salmon in Alaska.

The publication is designed to highlight these issues while giving the reader an overview of what ASF&G is doing to understand and sustainably manage this important resource, said Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell.

Ed Jones, the state agency’s Chinook salmon research initiative coordinator, notes that Alaska’s Chinook salmon stocks currently are suffering from a prolonged period of poor productivity and research suggests that the problem lies mostly in the marine environment. “This is not unprecedented, it has happened historically, and it’s not a matter of if the runs will rebound, but when,” Jones said.

Meanwhile weak Chinook runs have impacted subsistence harvests, sport fishing opportunities and commercial activity. On the Lower Yukon River, commercial harvesters are using dip nets to harvest keta salmon, to avoid the kings that could otherwise be caught in drift nets.

ASF&G hopes that its Chinook Salmon Research Initiative launched in 2012 will help determine the causes for the downturn in production. They hope this effort will provide the information needed to better predict Chinook runs in the future and help them to better manage fisheries to sustain harvests even in years of low runs. Plans are over the next five years to study 12 river systems throughout Alaska.

Campbell said ADF&G is committed to keeping all Alaskans informed about this issue through the website, http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/library/pdfs/chinooknews/cn_summer2014_n1.pdf The current issue explains the research initiative and extensive information on king salmon, their diversity of life history traits, their role in Alaska’s lifestyle and Alaska and the world’s economy.

Opinion – REFI Act Will Support West Coast Fishing Jobs

By Jaime Herrera Beutler

It’s no secret that the health of our coastal communities is dependent of the success of local fishermen and the jobs they create. In my district of Southwest Washington and all along the West Coast, the groundfish fleet and the 3,000 jobs it supports are centrally important.

But fishermen off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California are struggling to sustain their businesses, due in large part to unnecessary regulatory and financial burdens. Many fishing businesses in the West Coast groundfish fishery have struggled to pay high interest rates on federal loans and fees on their catch. In order to provide some much needed economic relief, I have introduced H.R. 2646, the Revitalizing the Economy of Fisheries in the Pacific or REFI Act. This legislation ensures these fishermen receive the same interest rates on federal loans as other businesses, and extends the length of these loans from 30 to 45 years. The bill also reduces the cost recovery fees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects from fishermen to pay down their loans.

The West Coast groundfish fishery was declared an economic disaster in 2000, because of overcapitalization and overfishing. In 2003, Congress authorized buyback loans for the fishery to decrease fishing pressure and support a catch-share program in the fishery. These loans help eliminate overfishing by buying out the permits of those willing to leave the fleet. Congress was responding to a very real need, but we have since learned that the loans were structured in an unsustainable manner.

After Congress initiated the buyback, there was no payment mechanism set up for 18 months while interest accrued on the principle loan. As of this year, the fishermen have paid about $20 million of interest on the loan, but have made very little progress on the principle of the loan, which means $27 million is still owed for the original $35 million federal loan.

Fishermen in the region have been diligently paying back the loan – plus interest – but at its current rate, too many in the industry are finding it unaffordable to keep up. The more I hear from fishermen here in Southwest Washington, the more it is apparent that the cost of operating a fishing business is continuing to grow – from the remaining loans, to observer and monitoring costs, to state landing taxes. We need to ensure that federal policy is not adding to the problem and threatening the viability of these vital small businesses.

It’s time to update the terms of this loan program so that the industry can stay afloat.

If you take out a loan today, rates are much more reasonable than they were in 2003 when this program was established. By leveling the playing field for those fishermen who have been paying these loans, we’re providing small business relief, putting money back into the local economy, and doing it in a responsible, practical way. Refinancing increases the chances of the loans being fully repaid – plus interest. In the long run, it’s very likely this bill will bring more money into the treasury by keeping fishermen fishing and able to make their payments.

This bill enjoys broad, bipartisan support both in Congress and in fishing communities up and down the West Coast. I appreciate Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introducing the companion legislation in the U.S. Senate. The Pacific Fishery Management Council is also highly supportive of this bill and believes it will strengthen our ground fishery and help our economy.

I am working expeditiously to pass the REFI Act, as I believe it will have an immediate positive economic effect on our fishing businesses and our rural Washington coastal communities that rely on these fishermen.

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler is serving her second term as Southwest Washington’s member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She currently serves on the House Committee on Appropriations and the Small Business Committee. Jaime’s primary focus is on job creation and economic development, and has spearheaded several bipartisan proposals to get Southwest Washington back to work.

Restaurant World Illuminati Sample Wild Alaska Salmon, King Crab

Participants in the 2014 Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado, got to sample gourmet recipes of wild Alaska salmon and king crab June 20-22, courtesy of a Cordova-based marketing association, and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

“We couldn’t get the crackers out fast enough,” said Nelly Hand, executive director of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association, which was making its debut at an event that draws the illuminati of the restaurant world.

CRPWSMA partners up with the Vermont Creamery, and cracker producers Rain Coast of Vancouver, British Columbia and 34 Degrees in Denver, to present colorful appetizers of artisan crackers and crisps, spread with three gourmet cheeses, and smoked Copper River sockeye salmon. Hand and her program assistant, Blair Hensen, also talked with those they met about nutritional value of the fish and how purchasing Copper River salmon supports the economies of coastal communities. In addition, Hand said, award-winning Georgia chef Richard Blais employed Copper River sockeye salmon in one of his cooking demonstrations, searing the fish in a cast iron skillet.

ASMI marketing officials offered at their booth tastes of smoked salmon summer pasta salad, king crab and sole ceviche, and Alaska king crab legs with rouille dipping sauce.

The Food and Wine Classic was first held at Aspen back in 1987, and was known as the Aspen/Snowmass International Wine Classic. Since then the event has grown in popularity, attracting several thousand people who come to sample the food and wine and participant in related events, including cooking demonstrations, seminars on wines of the world, a 5K charity race, dessert party and more.

Among the major sponsors are Chobani Greek Yogurt, American Express, Kitchen Aid, Hendrick’s Gin, Lexus, Lindt and Royal Caribbean International. Go to www.foodandwine.com for more information.

Yukon River Salmon Plentiful, Prices Firm

Summer run Yukon River keta salmon – being caught in small boats with dip nets – are commanding $2 a pound in wholesale markets and says Jack Schultheis, general manager for Kwik’Pak Fisheries at Emmonak, Alaska, the run has been strong.

Commercial fishermen who live in Eskimo villages dotting the shores of the Lower Yukon in Western Alaska are using dip nets to avoid banned harvest of Chinook salmon, and most of the fish were weighing in at around 6.8 pounds, a bit heavier than average.

“And when the summer run is healthy, most likely you will have a good fall run,” said Schultheis, who oversees some 255 workers, and harvests heading to domestic as well as European markets. Kwik’Pak’s diverse domestic markets range from a high end deli in Brooklyn, New York, to the Pacific Northwest Division of Safeway, including stores in Washington, Oregon and California. One of the nice surprises this season, Schultheis said, is feedback from consumers in central Florida, who checked out Kwik’Pak’s website, www.kwikpaksalmon.com and called to compliment the company on the fish. “People calling to say what a nice product it is made me feel good about the fish itself,” he said.

Customers are also becoming increasingly aware of the nutritional value of the Yukon salmon and the fact that it is really safe to eat food, he said.

Markets are also strong for the Yukon fillets in the United Kingdom, and for headed and gutted Yukon salmon in Germany, where smoked salmon is produced.

Kwik’pak harvesters will continue using dip nets at least through June, then switch to drift nets when the fall run of the keta salmon begins in mid-July.

Through June 24, they had a harvest exceeding 140,000 keta, plus some 2,000 humpies, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimated.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gear to Keep You Safe

Grundéns launched their Nightwatch Puffy Jacket at Pacific Marine Expo (PME) last fall to rave reviews. In fact, the product sold out of stock within the first two months. "It's an obvious winner with our customer base," says Mike Jackson, President of Grundéns USA in Poulsbo, Washington. "It's a really good item for us."

The Nightwatch Puffy Jacket is unique in that it can be worn inside or out. With 60 grams of polyester fill quilted between two layers of light rip-stop nylon, the jacket keeps the wearer warm while not feeling heavy, bulky or impeding their natural movements. Its multi-functional capabilities also allow the wearer to use it for several tasks from light to heavy duty.

A new line of Balder PVC rainwear was also introduced at PME which was also very well received. Jackson reports the feedback from field-testing and use by commercial customers has been very positive. Lightweight and durable, the jacket also features a lightweight lined hood with draw cords and the accompanying Balder bib pants have reinforced leg cuffs as well as grommets located above the hip for the easy attachment of tools. The entire outfit is equipped with the reflective striping that is so crucial for visibility.

All these lightweight materials bode well for all fishermen, and the up and comers are especially responsive to it. "The young men who work on the decks these days recognize the value of lighter gear which provides professional-grade performance with less weight, especially if they're wearing it for 20 hours a day," says Jackson. "As these garments continue to have the ability to shed water and be durable while the fabrics continue to get thinner and stronger, who knows where the limit is in design."

Survitec Group located in Vancouver, British Columbia, manufacturers and carries a variety of life-saving equipment and clothing. Products include life rafts, PFDs, EPIRBs, immersion suits, and more. Of particular note is a newly introduced AIS Beacon manufactured by McMurdo.

"If a fishermen was to fall overboard, the beacon after activation, will automatically send a signal to the vessel if it is equipped with an AIS plotter," says Mark Hansen, Director of Sales. Hansen also notes that their Crewsaver brand of inflatable lifejacket, when equipped with this AIS beacon, is able to automatically activate the AIS beacon upon the lifejacket inflation, further increasing the timely rescue of the person in the water. Keeping the person above water and being able to quickly locate them will assist with recovery time.

For lifejackets, Survitec currently offers the Crewsaver Harvester personal flotation device (PFD), a hybrid, waistcoat-style. Making lifejackets easy to wear also goes a long way to making fishermen safe. "If they're not comfortable, people won't wear them," adds Hansen.

The USCG- and SOLAS-approved Imperial immersion suits are the predominant choice. There are numerous sizes from adult universal, adult intermediate and adult jumbo. Besides a number of other standout features, the suits offer wide shoulders and legs for quick donning, a three-fingered mitt for increased hand warmth and palm grip studs for improved grasping, as well as being equipped with a whistle. Survitec is also one of the few companies that offer custom suit size options.

Survitec also manufacturers and sells the Elliot, Crewsaver and Zodiac liferaft brands. For example: the Survitec Zodiac Throw Over Liferafts are made with a durable polyurethane-coated fabric, and have a capacity range from six to 150 people. The four to eight-person SeaMaster includes a built-in canopy, a boarding ramp and a USCG-approved equipment pack.

Other diverse offerings include SOLAS-approved A pack (50+ miles offshore) + B pack (20-50 miles offshore) liferafts as well as a USCG-approved Coastal brand that have a cover, non-insulated floor, a minimum equipment pack that is approved for use in the up to 20-mile offshore range. Additionally, the IBA (inflatable buoyant apparatus), an uncovered liferaft, can also help people survive in protected areas for up to a day.

Hansen reports that larger commercial processing ships are now looking at the SurvitecZodiac Medium inflatable evacuation slide system that incorporates a twin-track inflatable slide that deploys at right angles to ships' sides for vessels with freeboard heights of between 3.8 meters and 12.5 meters. This system provides the quickest way to evacuate passengers into a liferaft from higher freeboard heights. As time is critical this system could make the difference in a safer and successful vessel evacuation.

Pending regulations from the USCG could soon affect smaller commercial fishing vessels. A standard allotment of safety equipment will be mandated to be on board. "We would like to see more use of safety equipment aboard vessels, but unfortunately, it often takes a death to get regulations changed," says Hansen. "Having said this, there has been more interest in safety by industry in the last five to 10 years. Companies are recognizing that it's less expensive to be pro-active."

Shawn Simmons from Marine Safety Services in Seattle says it's important to regularly service or replace safety equipment. For instance, liferafts should be inspected annually, EPIRBs checked or replaced every five to seven years, hydrostatic releases every two and pyrotechnics every three.

The company also provides on-vessel safety equipment inspections to help ensure all safety equipment is complaint with USCG regulations. This includes making a list of anything that needs service, repair or replacing and then providing the appropriate gear.

One item Simmons says is gaining more attention is survival suits, which don't get inspected as often as they should because, oftentimes, problems may not be readily seen by the naked eye and can only be determined with a pressure test. Right now, this is keeping the company quite busy. He adds: "In general, people are becoming a lot more safety conscious."

Bristol Bay Salmon Fishery Kicks In as Copper River Peaks

In a single day in mid-June, the preliminary harvest estimate for Bristol Bay’s Egegik district jumped by 38,000 sockeye salmon, and the renowned red salmon fishery was off and running, even as the Copper River fishery peaked.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary Alaska commercial salmon harvest blue sheet, which offers daily updates on statewide salmon fisheries, showed that the total harvest in Egegik had jumped from 17,000 red salmon on June 16 to a total harvest of 55,000 reds through June 17. ADF&G’s forecast calls for a total run of some 27 million sockeyes into Bristol Bay this year, with a harvest of near 17 million fish, including 3.36 million for Egegik, 5.48 million in the Naknek-Kvichak, 6.6 million in the Nushagak, and about 890,000 for the Ugashik.

The Copper River fishery forecast had anticipated a commercial harvest of 1.8 million sockeyes and some 33,000 king salmon. Through June 17, that harvest stood at nearly 1.4 million reds and just 9,000 kings. State fisheries biologists in Cordova said the sockeye harvest to date was ahead of the forecast, while the Chinook catch was much less than anticipated.

Meanwhile most permit holders had left the Copper River drift fishery for the Coghill and Eschamy drift districts in Prince William Sound, and with the general seine fishery picking up speed, the total Prince William Sound harvest was about 2 million salmon of all species. At Kodiak, harvesters have delivered 310,000 salmon to processors, including 298,000 sockeye, and 11,000 chums.

The harvest has reached 231,000 salmon in the Alaska Peninsula, including some 105,000 chums, 99,000 reds and 27,000 pink salmon taken in the South Peninsula.

In Cook Inlet, the bulk of the harvest so far has been in the eastern district of Lower Cook Inlet, with 71,000 sockeyes harvested.

Troll harvests of Chinook salmon in Southeast Alaska now total 78,000 fish, including some 57,000 from the winter troll and 18,000 from the spring troll.

Go to http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyfisherysalmon.bluesheet for daily harvest updates from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Legislation Seen As Danger to Bristol Bay Fishery

Alaska fishermen are voicing criticism over a bill introduced in Congress that seeks to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from exercising veto rights under the Clean Water Act to protect watersheds critical to fisheries.

The target of their criticism is the Regulatory Certainty Act of 2014, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Nick Rahall, D-WVA., that would “clarify the EPA’s veto authority under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the section governing the permitting program administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers,” Gibbs said June 12 in a statement announcing filing of H.R. 4854.

“The permits are required for dredging and filling activities in jurisdictional waters and must be obtained for a wide array of activities. While the Clean Water Act provides EPA with the authority to veto an Army Corps permit, EPA has been overstepping their use of their veto authority,” Gibbs said.

“Recent actions by EPA to overstep its intended authority under the law have resulted in disruptions and uncertainty for businesses around the country. This legislation will clarify EPA’s role in the Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting process to ensure that the agency does not disrupt the normal permitting process by denying permits before they are ever even applied for and or revoking permits when they are not in violation of said permit.”

Sue Aspelund, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents the drift net fleet harvesting in Bristol Bay, spoke out against the bill. Just as the EPA has begun its lawful process, to determine if it should invoke Section 404 (c) of the act), “these lawmakers seek to pull the rug out from under it putting 14,000 jobs and a $1.5 billion fishing economy at risk,” she said.

Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program, said the bill would help pave the way for building the Pebble mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed by removing the very part of the Clean Water Act that the people of Alaska asked to be used to protect Bristol Bay.

Seafood Harvesters Seeks to Represent Diverse Commercial Fishing Interests

A spokesman for Seafood Harvesters of America, with members from New England and the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska, says the organization hopes to provide a united voice for commercial fishermen on Capitol Hill.

The newly formed group has proclaimed itself as a united voice for “accountable and thriving fisheries.”

According to Brett Veerhusen, a veteran of Alaska’s commercial fisheries, and executive director of Seafood Harvesters, the idea is to bring the small fishermen’s voices to the nation’s capital. “We are providing a mechanism and organization to be telling the stories of American fishermen and how federal law really affects commercial fishermen,” he told Fishermen’s News on June 17.

Participation in a much-publicized panel discussion during Capitol Hill Ocean Week, offered the organization a lot exposure and networking opportunities, he said.

Among the major concerns of Seafood Harvesters are the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, which is now before Congress, the US Coast Guard load line classification and alternative compliance rules, and the moratorium on vessel discharge, which is set to expire at the end of this year. "The moratorium has already been extended for recreational boats, and we want to even the playing field” for commercial fishermen, he said.

So far 14 organizations have thrown their support behind Seafood Harvesters, including Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, of Seattle; the Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association, Kodiak; Fishing Vessel Owners Association, Seattle; The Fort Bragg Groundfish Association, Fort Bragg, CA., North Pacific Fishing Association, Homer, Alaska, and United Catcher Boats, Seattle.

The organization’s five member board includes Chris Brown, Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association; John Schmidt, Gulf Fishermen’s Association; Jack Cox, South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association, and Brent Paine, United Catcher Boats, Seattle; and Mark Gleason, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, Seattle.

More information about the organization is at www.seafoodharvesters.org

Oregon Firm Traces All Ingredients
in Seafood Gourmet Offerings

A Portland, Oregon producer of sauces, bisques and chowders for chef-inspired seafood meals is taking seriously consumer demand to trace ingredients, from Pacific Northwest Chinook salmon right down to the butter and dill. The secret is in the batch code printed on the back of each packet of Fishpeople’s product packets, on display at Fred Meyer, Albertsons, Whole Foods and other chain stores in the Pacific Northwest, California and Alaska. Fishpeople, which first put its product on grocery shelves in late 2012, plans to open its own processing facility at Toledo, Oregon in July, to process Chinook salmon, albacore tuna and razor clams, said Jodie Emmett, brand manager. The plant is currently under construction, and hiring has not yet commenced. Fishpeople currently employs seven people full time, plus some part time workers, she said.

Take the Chinook Salmon in a Chardonnay Reduction Sauce, for example. The message on the back of the colorful seven ounce packet says ingredients include fall run Columbia River Chinook freshly poached and swimming in a fine light cream sauce of dill and sweet onions grown on Northwest farms, with capers and a splash of Cooper Mountain Chardonnay.

But type the 7-digit batch code stamped on the packet into the fishpeople website, www.fishpeopleseafood.com, and you’ll learn, as fishpeople says, “the juicy truth behind our ingredients.”

The Chinook salmon, which began and ended its journey on the Columbia River, a hatchery born fish released into the wild at a few months of age, “headed to Alaska for a few years until it felt the primal urge to return to its homeland and reproduce,” the web page advises. “After completing the journey, it was scooped up at the hatchery – having been one of the lucky ones to complete its journey to the end, skipping every hook and net along the way.”

The web page then goes on to explain where each and very ingredient in the Chinook salmon in a chardonnay reduction sauce came from.

Sometimes the web page even identified the vessel that caught the fish.

Batch code TCL0108 for the Albacore Tuna in Thai Coconut Lemongrass notes that the albacore tuna in that pouch was caught by one of two fishing vessels, either the F/V Valor III, captained by Dan Glissendorf, who docks the fish at Newport, Oregon, or the F/V Sundancer, a new business owned by two young brothers, Mike Quandt, a fisherman, and Tim Quandt, a refrigeration expert.

Duncan Berry, chief executive officer and co-founder of Fishpeople, was raised in Portland and on the coast at Gearhart, Oregon, and developed an early love of seafood while working as a salmon fisherman in the Pacific Ocean.

More information about Duncan and other employees, and their products is on the website, at www.fishpeopleseafood.com.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Safety in the Amendment 80 Fleet

By Devin Lucas

A new study by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has assessed worker safety in the Amendment 80 fleet of factory-trawlers in Alaska. NIOSH is the federal agency responsible for conducting scientific research and making evidence-based recommendations to prevent workplace injury and illness. The NIOSH Alaska Pacific Office has been involved with research on worker safety in the commercial fishing industry since 1991.
Amendment 80 vessels catch, process and freeze fish onboard the vessel. To conduct these operations, these vessels have larger crew complements than catcher vessels. The majority of Amendment 80 vessel crews are not professional mariners, but instead are fish processing workers. In addition to large crews, these vessels also carry processing and freezing machinery, hazardous gases for refrigeration, and large amounts of combustible packaging materials, which create hazards that do not exist on catcher vessels. Amendment 80 vessels operate nearly year round. Because of their ability to freeze, package, and store frozen catch, these vessels can operate in the most remote areas of Alaska for extended periods of time, far away from search and rescue support.

To assess vessel safety in the Amendment 80 fleet, NIOSH researchers analyzed data on a selection of marine casualties including personnel casualties (e.g., fatal and non-fatal work-related injuries) and vessel casualties (e.g., sinking, grounding, collision, flooding, fire, loss of propulsion, loss of electrical power, and loss of steering).

During 2001-2012, 24 Amendment 80 vessels operated in Alaskan waters at some time. A total of 772 marine casualties were reported, of which 409 were work-related injuries. Of the 409 injuries, 25 were fatal and 384 were non-fatal. Approximately half of injuries were minor and 39 percent were moderate. Most of the fatal injuries occurred during two vessel disasters, the sinking of the Arctic Rose in 2001 (15 deaths) and the sinking of the Alaska Ranger in 2008 (5 deaths). The other five fatal injuries were caused by drowning after falling overboard (3 deaths) and blunt force trauma due to being struck by a cable and a hydraulic door (2 deaths).

The injury rates measured in the Amendment 80 fleet showed that workers on those vessels were at high risk for work-related injuries. The risk of fatal injury was 41 times higher than for all US workers, and the risk of non-fatal injury was four times higher than for all US workers. Compared to other fisheries in the US, the fatality rate in the Amendment 80 fleet was lower than in many others, including the Northeast US groundfish trawl fleet, Atlantic scallop fleet, and West coast Dungeness crab fleet. However, both the fatality rate and non-fatal injury rate in the A80 fleet were higher than in the similar Alaska freezer-longline fleet.

The job tasks associated with the highest number of injuries were handling frozen fish, processing fish, and foot traffic onboard. The specific job tasks that were associated with the most injuries while handling frozen fish were stacking blocks of fish in the freezer hold and offloading product. Handling frozen fish was the most common job task for undiagnosed pain/swelling, sprains/strains/tears, contusions, fractures, crushing injuries, and intracranial injuries. Handling frozen fish injuries were most often caused by being struck by a box of frozen fish and by single episodes of overexertion.

Fish products manufactured in the factories onboard A80 vessels are frozen in plate freezers and then packaged and stored in freezer holds. Boxes of frozen fish products are moved around by a combination of conveyor systems, chutes and manual labor. The job task of handling frozen fish was responsible for nearly half of all injuries and should be a priority area for injury prevention strategies. Injury prevention solutions are needed to protect workers from being struck by boxes of frozen fish, especially while stacking boxes in the freezer holds and during offload. Ergonomic interventions are also needed to prevent injuries caused by single episodes of overexertion while manually moving boxes of fish.

The job task of processing fish was responsible for most of the laceration/puncture/avulsion injuries, amputations, and poisonings. These injuries were most often caused by being caught in running equipment and by slipping knives. The factories onboard A80 vessels are equipped with fish processing machinery and conveyor systems to move fish from one machine to the next. The machines have different levels of automation that either increase or decrease the need for worker contact. The injuries sustained while processing fish were different in nature from those sustained while handling frozen fish, suggesting that successful injury prevention efforts must also be different. Interventions to reduce injuries need to target the specific hazards encountered while processing fish that cause lacerations, punctures, avulsions and amputations, which were the most frequent types of injuries associated with processing fish. Working with knives and running equipment are exposures of particular concern that need to be a high priority.

Aside from worker injuries, there were also 357 vessel casualties during 2001-2012. The majority of vessel casualties were minor (73 percent), meaning that the problem was resolved permanently by the crew at sea without any third-party assistance. Moderate vessel casualties were defined as problems that required the vessel to return immediately to port for repairs, accounting for 20 percent of reported casualties. The remaining 7 percent of vessel casualties were serious, meaning that the vessel was unable to cope with the problem at sea on its own and had to be rescued by a third party (such as being towed to port).



Industry Again Asked To Reduce BSAI Halibut Mortalities

Federal fisheries managers are asking all industry sectors to voluntarily undertake efforts to reduce halibut mortalities in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, by 10 percent from the current five-year average levels, through the 2014-15 fisheries.

To evaluate progress in these efforts, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council also requested in a motion passed June 8 during its summer meeting in Nome, that industry report back to the council on measures being implemented and developed, and, to the extent possible, the effectiveness of those measures in terms of absolute reductions in halibut mortality.

The NPFMC additionally approved motions initiating an analysis of Chinook and chum salmon bycatch measures in the Bering Sea pollock fishery with five alternatives, and an observer program motion to develop a draft 2015 annual deployment plan for council review with several considerations.

The halibut bycatch motion encouraged the National Marine Fisheries Service to continue working closely with the Amendment 80 sector to develop deck sorting procedures and technologies that could reduce halibut mortalities, in order to initiate regulatory changes for a full-scale program.

The council also asked NMFS to work with the International Pacific Halibut Commission to provide halibut bycatch and discard size data from the observer program in a form that can be better incorporated into IPHC stock assessments.

Council member Duncan Fields, of Kodiak, said he was supporting the action with reluctance, saying the motion did not go far enough fast enough. “I think we are taking a tepid step in the right direction,” he said.

“I wish there were more tools at our disposal to address the halibut PSC concerns,” Fields said, in comments addressed to the council through Chairman Eric Olson.

“The bottom line is, mister chairman, the industry, which is a wonderfully, hard working, productive, innovative industry, is still taking five to six million pounds of halibut out of the Bering Sea on an annual basis, and I appreciate all the reasons that halibut is needed but I also appreciate the need for conservation, the need to recognize the impact of PSC both in the Bering Sea as well as in the Gulf of Alaska.”

The salmon bycatch motion stated that the current chum salmon bycatch reduction program does not meet the council’s objectives to prioritize Chinook salmon bycatch avoidance, while preventing high chum salmon bycatch and focusing on avoidance of Alaska chum salmon stocks, allowing flexibility to harvest pollock in times and places that best support those goals. Incorporating chum salmon avoidance through the inventive plan agreements should more effectively meet those objectives by allowing for establishment of chum measures through a program that is sufficiently flexible to adapt to changing conditions quickly, the motion said.
The alternatives include one to revise federal regulations to lower the performance standard in years of low Chinook salmon abundance, with low abundance defined as fewer than 500,000 king salmon.


“Bycatch is not the only issue,” said veteran fisheries consultant Gale Vick, who addressed the council on behalf of the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks, noting a historic stand-down on king salmon harvests by subsistence users. “We all need to work together to resolve this immense problem. If Chinook goes down, we are all in deep trouble,” she said.

Plan to boost maritime workforce taking shape

Collaborators in the seafood and other marine industries have completed a maritime workforce development plan to address a growing number of shortages in their industries and are now working on funding sources to activate the plan.

The announcement on June 10 came from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where the fisheries, seafood and Maritime Initiative Industry Advisory Council produced the plan. The two-year effort comes in response to growing concern over the graying of leadership in the commercial seafood industry in Alaska, plus expanding demands in seafood harvesting and processing, research, management and other aspects of marine occupations.

The plan sets forth goals and strategies to guide how industry, state agencies, education and training entities can work together to support and enhance the maritime workforce.

Goals include development of a workforce that enables the maritime sector to remain a substantial contributor to the state’s economy and increasing the number of Alaskans working in skilled maritime occupations.

Strategies include increasing awareness of opportunity in various occupations and development of career pathways, supporting recruitment and retention of people to these occupations and promoting sustained industry engagement in this effort.

Participating entities range from Kris Norosz of Icicle Seafoods, the FSMI Industry co-chair, to Stephanie Madsen of the At-Sea Processors Association, and Vince O’Shea of Pacific Seafood Processors Association to Julie Decker, representing United Fishermen of Alaska and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation.


The plan itself is online at http://www.alaska.edu/fsmi/

Salmon Harvest Tops 1.5 Million Fish As Season Kicks In

Alaska’s wild salmon fisheries have delivered upwards of 1.5 million fish so far this season, mostly sockeyes, and the catch is also growing in chum, king and pink salmon.

As of June 11, the estimated catch included 1,358,000 red, 110,000 chum, 83,000 king and about 1,000 pink salmon.

The bulk of the harvest has been in Prince William Sound, where the Copper River drift fishery alone has caught more than 1.1 million salmon, including 1,121,000 red, 34,000 chum and 8,000 king salmon.

Even as speculation is rising that the Copper River run may exceed forecast, increasing numbers of the state’s salmon streams delivering fish have predictably lowered retail prices.

As the Copper River drift fishery nears its peak, some of the approximately 500 vessels that were on the Copper River have moved on to the Coghill district drift, where the harvest had reached 43,000 salmon, and Eschamy district drift and set net fisheries, where fishermen have caught an estimated 29,000 salmon.

Harvests for Prince William Sound were approximately 1,256,000 salmon, including all five species, although mainly sockeye. The Prince William Sound general seine fishery had caught some 20,000 chum and fewer than 1,000 kings.

In Southeast Alaska, where the spring king salmon troll fishery has been underway since May 1, some 15,000 kings had been netted. Harvesters in Upper Cook Inlet had a catch of 7,000 salmon, mainly sockeye and in Bristol Bay harvests were just starting to come in for the Egegik and Ugashik districts. At Kodiak some 133,000 sockeyes were delivered, along with fewer than 1,000 king and 3,000 chum salmon.


ADF&G also posts a weekly in-season Alaska commercial salmon summary online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyfisherysalmon.bluesheetsummary

With the competition from various fisheries, prices were starting to drop. At 10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage, whole Copper River kings were $20.50 a pound, Copper River king fillets were $29.95 a pond, Copper River sockeye fillets were $15.95 a pound and Copper River whole sockeyes were $9.95 a pound.

Sockeye fillets from Main Bay in Prince William Sound were going for $13.95 a pound and whole sockeyes for $8.95 a pound at the same fish shop.


In Seattle, however, Pike Place Fish Market posted Copper River salmon prices online as $29.99 a pound for whole fresh kings, $41.99 a pound for fresh king fillets, $111.93 for whole sockeyes and $25.99 a pound for sockeye fillets.

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