Astoria Fisheries Auction

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Funds for Electronic Monitoring Project

The North Pacific Fisheries Association, in Homer, Alaska, has received a $595,047 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to support pre-implementation of electronic monitoring on up to 30 vessels in the Alaska Pacific cod fixed gear fishery.

The project will be administered by Saltwater Inc.

The project also includes $1,050,000 in matching funds, including in-kind contributions and potential funds from the National Marine Fisheries Service, according to a spokesperson for NPFA.

The project, beginning in 2017, will build on successful pilot efforts to implement a cost-effective data collection and management infrastructure to provide timely and accurate catch accounting data for fishery managers, and support implementation of electronic monitoring.

The North Pacific Fisheries Association was incorporated in 1955 as a marketing entity, negotiating salmon prices for Cook Inlet seine and gillnet harvester, and later became active also on halibut and groundfish topics.

With the development of electronic monitoring technology for use in fisheries observation and compliance, NPFA was awarded grants for 2012-2013 to develop electronic monitoring systems on under 60 foot halibut boats and 2013-2015 to develop electronic monitoring systems for under 60 foot fixed gear cod boats.

Based on findings of those pilot projects, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended the pot cod fishery for pre-implementation beginning in 2017.

The project will also use and expand capabilities of an open-source data review software previously developed by Saltwater Inc. to provide a sustainable, cost effective data review infrastructure for electronic monitoring programs.

The overall effort is designed to implement electronic monitoring on a large scale to support full implementation of electronic monitoring in the Alaska pot cod fishery by 2018 or 2019, said Abigail Turner-Franke, program coordinator for NPFA.

The project fits with the Alaska Region Electronic Technologies Implementation Plan’s priority focus on electronic monitoring for small, fixed gear vessels, she said.

While the Sept. 20 deadline for the National Marine Fisheries Service electronic monitoring selection pool registration has passed, the project may be able to accept more pot cod vessels on a case-by-case basis depending on funds and available space within the program, she said. Priority is being given to smaller vessels that may have difficulties accommodating an observer on board, but otherwise acceptance has been first come, first serve, she said.

New Cod Fillets Debut in Washington, Oregon

Packages of wild Alaska cod fillets marinated with lemon, herbs and butter from Alaska Leader Fisheries have debuted in nine Costco stores in Washington State and Oregon, and company officials say there are more marinated flavors to come.

The product is also set to debut soon in Costco stores in Alaska, said Keith Singleton, a spokesman for Alaska Leader Fisheries.

Singleton and Norm Van Vactor, president and executive director of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., in Dillingham, Alaska, were on hand for the occasion Sept. 27 at one of the Seattle area Costco stores. The BBEDC is a partner in Alaska Leader.

What’s key to the taste of the fillets, said Van Vacctor, is that this cod is harvested in some of the most modern hook and line vessels in the industry.

The cod are hooked one fish at a time, processed immediately and frozen quickly, vacuum packed to retain the fresh flavor and texture.

And from the trimmings of cod left after filleting, Alaska Leader has produced a canine pet treat. The dried cod chips packaged as Wild Alaskan Cod Crunchies, already in retail markets.

NOAA Promoting Offshore Aquaculture for Southern California

Saying that a robust aquaculture industry in the United States would help reduce a seafood trade deficit exceeding $14 billion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California Sea Grant, and the Aquarium of the Pacific issued a report yesterday recommending the establishment of finfish aquaculture facilities in the Southern California Bight, which includes the area from Point Conception to San Diego.

The report is the result of two workshops convened in 2015 and 2016 sponsored by NOAA Sea Grant. The key findings from these workshops provide recommendations for growth and expansion of marine aquaculture in the US and address the complex permitting system and the need for continued research and public outreach.

“We are confident that aquaculture can be sited sustainably in the coastal ocean. Our challenge is putting the science to action to identify environmentally suitable locations that avoid conflicts with other users,” said Dr. James Morris, NOAA's National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

The workshops brought together regulators and scientists to discuss the application of the best available science and incorporating appropriate tools that can inform decision making for the permitting of marine aquaculture in California. The participants represented a cross-section of scientists, regulators, and industry practitioners with expertise in the field of aquaculture and environmental science. State and federal agencies with regulatory responsibilities for permitting aquaculture also participated.

A proposed demonstration project 4.5 miles off San Diego will culture yellowtail jack and possibly white seabass or striped bass in offshore net pens or cages. The production plan extends over eight years, starting with 1,000 metric tons per year and increasing to 5,000 metric tons per year. The harvested product is to be landed along traditional working waterfronts in the region.

More information can be found at www.aquariumofpacific.org/aquaculturereport

Alaska Seeks Disaster Relief for Pink Salmon

The state of Alaska has asked for federal disaster relief in the wake of dismal returns in the 2016 pink salmon fisheries in Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Chignik and Lower Cook Inlet.

The economic impact is already being felt by fishermen, processors and others in the industry who sell fuel, vessel supplies, groceries and lodging to those engaged in the fishery, Governor Bill Walker said in his request to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

It is important that people understand it wasn’t just a bad season and that it’s not just the fishermen who were affected,” said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, who urged the state to apply for federal aid. “This is a disaster,” Stutes said. “It has huge impacts on communities, whether from no raw fish tax to processing workers, to every business in those communities.”

Through mid-September, the 2016 Prince William Sound pink salmon fishery’s combined natural and hatchery pink salmon harvest totaled 12.1 million fish, which is 46.5 percent of the lower bound of the forecast range estimate of 26 million fish, and 30.5 percent of the five year average harvest for even year pink salmon, the governor’s office said. And two out of three Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. hatcheries were experiencing record low commercial harvests as well.

The preliminary value of the 2016 Prince William Sound combined natural and hatchery pink salmon harvest stood at $6.6 million, compared with a five-year average value of $43.87 million, the governor told Pritzker.

Through mid-September, when the disaster relief request was filed, the Kodiak area pink salmon harvest of 3.2 million humpies was just 20 percent of the five-year average harvest for even-year pinks, the Chignik area harvest was 19 percent of that same five-year average and the Lower Cook Inlet catch was 17 percent of that five-year-average for even years.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Transboundary Issues Prompt Discussion

Alaska and British Columbia are getting closer to reaching a statement of cooperation on dealing with environmental concerns related to potential impact of mining on Transboundary rivers flowing into Southeast Alaska.

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott said on Sept. 20 that that the SOC will likely be signed by the end of this month or early October. It will serve as a framework for Alaska to work as cooperatively as possible with the relevant ministries of British Columbia to create access for Alaska to their mine permitting processes, Mallott said.

The state’s goal is to assure that habitat critical to these salmon-rich rivers is not adversely affected by mines now operating and planned along the British Columbia side of the Transboundary Rivers.

Alaska concerns over acid mine drainage issues was heightened by recent reports that one of those mines, which has leaked acid drainage for years, is now in receivership. Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is moving ahead with plans to begin a five-year water monitoring effort in Southeast Alaska.

Michelle Hale, director of DEC’s Division of Water, said the plan is for DEC’s Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program to sample lakes, rivers and some coastline. The monitoring effort will include habitat, monitor pH and conductivity, metals in the water column, and metals in the sediment under water, and hydrocarbons.

Hale said that DEC will also work with its British Columbia counterparts through a technical work group, to assure that information collected by both sides can be compared in a meaningful way.

Alaska’s congressional delegation meanwhile has again requested that the State Department get involved under the Boundary Waters Treaty, to protect waterways that are critical to Southeast Alaska’s fisheries, waterways and cultural lifestyle.

The delegation is still waiting for a response.

Better Communications Urged Between Navy and Fisheries Communities

Coastal communities’ concerns over military training exercises scheduled in the Gulf of Alaska next summer have prompted Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska to ask the US Navy to be more transparent about what’s on tap for Northern Edge 2017.

Murkowski chided Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in a letter this week for what she said was a lack of transparency, for not discussing proposed mitigation and avoidance techniques with stakeholder communities. She said she wants to ensure greater collaboration and cooperation between communities and the Navy prior to Northern Edge 2017.

The fishing community of Homer, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, has already passed a resolution asking the Navy to refrain from using live ordnance or sonar in many marine protected area, including NOAA Fisheries Marine Protected Areas, state marine protected areas and habitat areas of particular concern. Homer also wants the Navy to relocate its training area to the far areas of the Gulf and away from seamounts, and for the Navy to schedule those training exercises after mid-September and before spring, to avoid impacting migrating salmon and other species.

Those 2017 exercises are scheduled to run from May 1-12. That’s when many species of marine and anadromous fishes are migrating and spawning in the training area, the Homer resolution said.

And the port of Homer is reliant on the fish and wildlife resources in the Gulf of Alaska for livelihoods supported by commercial fishing, the resolution said.

Murkowski told Mabus that she has received over 100 letters from residents concerned about the timing and impact of Northern Edge 2017. Residents of coastal communities, like other Alaskans, are strong supporters of the military, she said, but they need to know that fishery conflicts will be avoided and marine resources will be protected.

The senator urged the commander of the Pacific Fleet, with his partners at the Alaskan Command, to quickly reengage with stakeholders, lest they endanger support for the Navy’s long-term involvement in Northern Edge.

Prince William Sound Crab Test Fishery

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is taking a new look at the possibilities of reviving the Tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound, which has been closed since 1988.

A Tanner crab test fishery will be conducted in Prince William Sound from Oct. 20 through Dec. 15, and data collected will be used to evaluate tanner crab abundance in currently unsurveyed parts of the Sound.

ADF&G’s goal is to determine the distribution of Tanner carb outside the current trawl survey area and at historical survey and commercial fishery locations. Biologists will measure catch per pot and begin developing an index of abundance for male Tanner crab recruit categories and females, and collect information on tanner crab size, sex, and maturity status.

ADF&G officials began marking Tanner crab test fishery bid packets available on Sept. 19 at Cordova and Homer. Those bid packets are due back by noon on Oct. 14, and the contract is to be awarded by Oct. 17 to the best-qualified bidder.

ADF&G said bids would be accepted for two individual lots of 300 pot pulls each, with all legal male crab from these pots sold.

Bidders must demonstrate that there is a market for the legal male Tanner crab caught and retained during the test fishery. A processor’s letter of intent will be required from the winning bidders.

The minimum bid price is 10 percent of proceeds from the sale of all Tanner crab paid to the state of Alaska, with the remaining proceeds will be paid out to successful bidders.

Landings in the Prince William Sound Tanner crab commercial fishery declined from a peak of 13.9 million pounds during the 1971-1972 season to some 474,092 pounds in the 1988 season, the last year the fishery was prosecuted.

The fishery has been closed since due to low abundance demonstrated in earlier pot surveys and the current biennial trawl survey.

New Technology Will Help Track Overfishing

Global Fishing Watch, online at www.globalfishingwatch.org, is a new technology platform geared to allow anyone with Internet access to track global fishing activity.

The website, developed through a partnership of Oceana, SkyTruth and Google, was unveiled on Sept. 16 by Academy award winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio at the US State Department’s Our Ocean Conference in Washington DC.

The website analyzes data from the Automatic Identification System, which is collected via satellite and terrestrial receivers, to identify apparent fishing behavior based on movement of vessels over time. Over the course of a year, thousands of vessels, including more than 35,000 known or likely commercial fishing boats, broadcast their position, course and speed through AIS. Fleets of satellites then record these broadcasts and transmit the information to Earth. Users can track and measure both near real-time and historical commercial fishing activity using the Global Fishing Watch heat map, view individual vessel tracks, exclusive economic zones, marine protected areas, and more.

With some three billion people relying on the ocean as their primary food source, the environmental non-profit Oceana is encouraging users of the website to share information when they suspect online evidence of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activity, to help governments facing the challenge of sustainably managing vast areas of the ocean.

The website’s overall goals are to improve decision-making about effective management of the world’s fisheries and oceans, to engage citizens in helping to rebuild and maintain abundant oceans and to provide a powerful tool to show consumers where and by whom their fish are being caught.

New Brewpub

Fishermen in Seattle have a new neighbor. Figurehead Brewing Company (www.figureheadbrewingcompany.com) is open for business adjacent to Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal at 4001 21st Ave West.

Open from 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm on Fridays and Noon to 10:00 pm on Saturdays, the new taproom is the result of hard work by brewers Bob Monroe, Jesse Duncan, and Jesse Warner.

The three share a passion for brewing beer and sharing it with friends, and their goal is to “create a welcoming, non-pretentious place where our neighbors can learn about and enjoy simple, honest, straightforward, quality beer.”

The brewery has three 200-gallon fermenters, and the crew taps a new cask each week and pours until it’s gone. At press time the beers on tap included:

Patersbier: A light Abbey style beer with a malty profile and Belgian yeast character. Dubbel: Inspired by the traditional Trappist beer, this is a bigger and slightly darker Belgian style ale.

IPA: A beer with “tons of hop character but without the sometimes harsh bitterness.” Belgian IPA: This golden beer combines the malt bill and yeast of a Belgian ale, with the hoppiness of a Northwest IPA.

Bigger Brown: An English style brown ale that has been “kicked up a notch.” ESB: A traditional English Extra Special Bitter.

Proprietor Jesse Duncan says dogs and kids are welcome as long as neither bites.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

NMFS GOA Groundfish Plan

A final rule has been implemented to allow reapportionment of unused Chinook salmon prohibited species catch in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries among specific trawl sectors, based on specific criteria and within specified limits.

The National Marine Fisheries Service published the final rule to implement Amendment 103 to the fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska in the Federal Register, effective on Sept. 12.

The complete document is online at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/09/12/2016-21808/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-chinook-salmon-bycatch-management-in-the-gulf-of.

Reapportionments of unused Chinook salmon PSC may not exceed 3,342 Chinook salmon to vessels participating in the Western GOA pollock sector, 9,158 Chinook salmon to vessels participating in the Central GOA pollock sector, 600 Chinook salmon to the rockfish program catcher vessel sector, and 1,250 Chinook salmon to the non-rockfish program catcher vessel sector.

The final rule also acknowledges that NMFS’s ability to reapportion unused Chinook salmon PSC does not offer any certainty for any pollock or non-pollock sector that a fishery will remain open. Kodiak harvester and processor Duncan Fields, who recently completed his tenure on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, noted that there was general recognition that the council’s previous actions to reduce Chinook bycatch in pollock and non-pollock fisheries had been substantial, and that individual processing facilities can opt to donate the PSC Chinooks to SeaShare, the Seattle entity that accepts and distributes large quantities of donated seafood to food banks and other entities in need.

While SeaShare does a wonderful job, the percentage of total salmon and halibut bycatch that is donated to SeaShare is relatively small, Fields said. “I think that salmon and halibut bycatch should be better utilized. While I appreciate that donations to SeaShare are voluntary, I also see the need for more directive regulations with regards to the SeaShare program.”

Fields noted that he had twice moved for 100 percent retention of PSC and having it donated to SeaShare, but some companies did not want this because they wanted to have the choice of whether to process and donate bycatch, based on their economics and capacity. They told the NPFMC that making retention of and donation to SeaShare of all PSC took away from the spirit of the program, Fields said.

Push for SE Alaska River Protection

Alaska fishermen are renewing their pursuit of State Department action to protect transboundary watersheds in Southeast Alaska from adverse affects of mining.

Fishermen are calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to secure agreements with Canada to protect transboundary rivers and indemnify from loss those who could be harmed by mining activity along the border, says Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trawlers Association.

Kelley’s comments came in the wake of a fourth letter sent by Alaska’s congressional delegation in early September seeking a meeting with Kerry along with his efforts to ensure that British Columbia institutes appropriate safeguards to prevent potential negative impacts from mining to fisheries habitat.

The transboundary watershed conservation entity Rivers Without Borders meanwhile noted that Chieftain Metals Corp., owner of the defunct Tulsequah Chief mine in the transboundary Taku watershed since 2010, is in receivership, and that the majority of directors of the company had resigned.

The court order resulted from West Face Capitol, which owns about one third of Chieftain, issuing a repayment demand in August for $26 million in loans to Chieftain that the company has not paid back. Since the mining companies have been unable to halt the ongoing acid mine drainage into the Tulsequah River, which has been going on for over two decades, it is time for the government of British Columbia to honor the promises made last August by Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett and clean it up, said Chris Zimmer, Alaska Campaign Director for Rivers Without Borders.

Bennett had visited the site in August 2015 and pledged to do something about it.

A spokesperson for the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines had no immediate response on what action, if any, the ministry planned to take.

In their letter to Kerry, the Alaska congressional delegation expressed their frustration over seeing little action from the State Department regarding transboundary waters.

Homer Celebrates Halibut

Wooden boats, a community fish fry and an update on research by the International Pacific Halibut Commission under warm, sunny skies attracted several hundred people to the combined Homer Halibut Festival and Wooden Boat Festival.

Claude Dykstra, research scientist, and Tracee Geernaert, survey coordinator for the IPHC, gave an update on their research and survey work at the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center in Homer, one of several events during the four day festival, which ran through Sept. 11.

The main focus of IPHC research currently is reproduction, growth (using models), oceanographic and environmental monitoring, and the migration, Dykstra said, during his talk on halibut ecology. The IPHC halibut surveys cover some 1,265 stations each year, and 705 of those stations have been identified for expansion, to collect more data.

The expansions will come in shallower and deeper waters, as well as some standard depth ranges not previously covered before, including some a little further north in the Bering Sea and a little further South in California, areas seen as showing gaps in the commission’s knowledge, Dykstra said. The normal survey footprint is from 20 fathoms to 275 fathoms, but the expansion will cover 10 fathoms to 20 fathoms in shallower waters and from 275 fathoms to 400 fathoms in deeper waters, Dykstra said.

The Alaska Marine Conservation Council, lead sponsor of the Homer Halibut Festival, joined with the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society’s Wooden Boat Festival in other events, from the annual Kachemak Bay CoastWalk, to clean up the shores of Kachemak Bay, to the singing of sea shanties, recitation of fish poetry, a dinner-dance-auction benefitting KBWBS and AMCC and the 5k Halibut Hustle fun run on the end of the Homer spit.

The events attracted an eclectic group, including veteran commercial harvesters and several generations of their families.

Sponsors included the Homer-based North Pacific Fisheries Association, local processors and farmers and Alaska Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer.

Kelly Harrell, executive director of AMCC, said this salute to Homer as the halibut capital of the world would be back again in Homer in 2017.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Proposed Timber Sale Prompts Habitat Concern

A US Forest Service decision to hold an old growth timber sale on Kuiu Island in Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska has raised concerns that logging would adversely impact salmon habitat.

As of Sept. 6, nobody had put in a bid for the 866-acre sale, of which 341 acres lie in high priority salmon producing watersheds, but bids were being accepted through Sept. 13.

The cold water fisheries conservation organization Trout Unlimited Alaska contends that the Forest Service is fast-tracking what it seems an irresponsible old-growth timber sale from some of the best salmon habitats on the Tongass National Forest.

According to Trout Unlimited, the Forest Service is relying on outdated environmental analysis to prop up unsustainable logging at the expense of the region’s important fishing and tourism industries, without meaningful opportunity for public participation.

Trout Unlimited would like the Forest Service to go back and review that environmental assessment and reconsider whether the offering is in the best interests of Alaska, said Austin Williams, spokesman for TU.

According to Jason Anderson, deputy forest supervisor for the Tongass, timber harvest activities under the Tongass National Forest Plan are very conservative, in recognition of the importance of salmon to the people and economies of Southeast Alaska. “All timber harvest under our plan requires the implementation of 100 foot ‘no harvest’ buffer on all fish bearing streams, in addition to other ‘best management practices’ designed to protect important fish habitat during and after timber harvest activities,” Anderson said, noting the agency’s duel responsibilities of providing timber resources and protecting salmon streams.

Under the proposed amendment to the current forest plan, new old growth sales in the Tongass 77 – the area of the Tongass’ most productive and valuable salmon and trout watersheds –would not be planned, he said.

“However, sales with existing records of decision, such as this one being advertised now, would not be retroactively affected,” he said. “This specific sale would be allowed under the new plan. The draft record of decision for the plan amendment out on the street now would not apply the new standards and guidelines to previous decisions.”

Yukon River Kwik’Pak Harvest Tops 1 Million

Kwik’Pak Fisheries, in Alaska’s Lower Yukon River community of Emmonak, is winding up a very good year, with more than one million salmon delivered, in a season that will conclude just four days from now.

Preliminary harvest estimates from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game would put deliveries through Sept. 6 to Kwik’Pak, a subsidiary of the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, at a total of 1.2 million salmon.

The breakdown includes some 942,000 chums, including more than 500,000 from the summer chum run, plus 153,000 silvers and 127,000 humpies.

“We’ve had a really good, really successful season, the best we’ve ever had,” said Jack Schultheis, general manager for Kwik’Pak. “We feel very fortunate to have had the season we had this year,” he said. “It’s good for the community. The people are happy. The people made money. It’s a very positive thing for the community.”

During peak production, Kwik’Pak had a work force of some 300 workers. At one point, between harvesters, processors, tenderers and equipment workers, there were 15 villages represented, he said.

A healthy run of the oil-rich summer chum was followed by a fall run of very robust fish, averaging about 7.5 pounds, “really nice fish,” said Schultheis.

The Yukon cohos, not a big fish by nature, were averaging 6.4-6.5 pounds.

Markets this year have been good for Kwik’Pak, with market prices up maybe 10 percent to 20 percent over 2015, he said.

A lot of Kwik’Pak’s fall chums went out fresh to domestic markets, while others were frozen and are selling as fillets and headed and gutted product. Coho salmon went to domestic markets, groceries in the Lower 48, as fillets and headed and gutted fish.

Kwik’Pak’s fish also found markets in the United Kingdom, France and Japan.

BSAI Crab, Monitoring on NPFMC Agenda

Final specifications for six stocks of Bering sea/Aleutian Island crab are on the agenda, along with an initial review of electronic monitoring integration when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets in Anchorage in early October.

The council has already posted online the agenda and schedule for the meeting and accompanying documents are expected to be posted well in advance of the meeting.

Also on the list of major issues are proposed specifications for groundfish harvests, the 2017 observer program annual deployment plan, and reviews of the halibut/sablefish individual fishing quota program, and Area 4 halibut IFQ leasing.

Discussion papers on the agenda include one on Bering Sea/Aleutian Island halibut abundance-based prohibited species catch.

The council session, at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel, will be held from Oct. 5-11.

Related meetings, also at the Hilton, include the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee meeting Oct. 3-6; Advisory Panel, Oct. 4-8; Halibut Management Committee, Oct 5; Enforcement Committee, Oct 4; and Ecosystem Committee, Oct. 4.

All meetings are open to the public, except executive sessions. The deadline for written comments is Sept. 27. Email them to npfmc.comments@noaa.gov.

The council meeting will be broadcast at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/october2016 Log into www.npfmc.org for more details.

NOAA to De-List Most Humpbacks

A final rule issued by the federal government has declared humpback whales in nine of 14 newly identified distinct population segments recovered enough to no longer need listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The announcement on Sept. 6 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said international conservation efforts to protect and conserve whales over the past 40 years has proven successful for most populations.

Four distinct population segments are still protected as endangered and one is now listed as threatened.

Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries, saluted the event as a true ecological success story. “Whales, including the humpback, serve an important role in our marine environment,” she said. “Separately managing humpback whale populations that are largely independent of each other allows us to tailor conservation approaches for each population.”

Two of the four populations that remain endangered are found in US waters at certain times of the year. The Central America population feeds off the West Coast, while the Western North Pacific population feeds in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The Mexico population, which is listed as threatened, also feeds off the West Coast of the United States and Alaska.

Two separate, complementary regulations fired today maintain protections for whales in waters off Hawaii and Alaska by specifying distance limits for approaching vessels. All humpback whales remain protected in US waters and on the high seas under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, regardless of their status under the Endangered Species Act.

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