Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Alaska’s Salmon Harvest Reaches 216.5 Million

In the final weeks of Alaska’s summer salmon fishing season, with the yield estimated at 216.5 million fish, the harvest just keeps on coming. In the second week of September alone, fishermen delivered 2.4 million salmon, mostly coho and late running keta, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute said in a September 18 market update report produced by the McDowell Group in Juneau.

Late sockeye runs are producing more fish for processors in Southeast Alaska, while the Bristol Bay harvest is being hailed as one for the history books. The total inshore run is the second largest in 20 years and the preliminary value, $214 million, is nearly double the 20-year average. Bristol Bay sockeye averaged 5.5 pounds this season, below the long-term average of 5.9 pounds, but similar to recent years, according to the report.

The statewide catch to date of 136 million pink salmon compares to a forecast of 142 million fish and 190.6 million humpies harvested in 2015, while the sockeye harvest of more than 52 million fish far exceeds the nearly 41 million reds estimate, and is slightly lower than the 52.9 million reds caught in 2016. The pink salmon catch is down by 26 percent from the last odd year harvest of 2015, while the sockeye yield is down just 2 percent from last year.

The coho harvest, still underway, stands at 4.5 million, nearing the predicted 4.7 million silvers and already exceeds the 2016 harvest of 3.9 million fish by 36 percent. The keta harvest, also still ongoing, stands at 23.5 million fish, far above the 16.7 million forecast and up 54 percent over last year’s 16 million fish intake. The keta harvest for Alaska’s Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region – mostly the Lower Yukon – has come in to date with 1.7 million fish, up from the 2016 1.4 million fish, although below the 2017 forecast of 2.7 million.

Resolution Designates September as Alaska Wild Salmon Month

A resolution recognizing the contributions of Alaska’s wild salmon industry to the health and economy of the nation, and saluting September as “Alaska Wild Salmon Month” has passed the U.S. Senate.

The resolution, by Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, highlights a sustainable commercial fishery that contributes more than 38,000 jobs and nearly $2 billion annual labor income to the nation’s economy. The commercial catch of wild salmon in Alaska represents about half of the wild salmon caught worldwide. The sport fishing sector of salmon harvests in Alaska, by comparison, generates $500 million in economic output.

The resolution also recognizes that wild salmon returning to streams and rearing young in Alaska waters are the basis for one of the state’s most valuable and important industries.

“This bountiful resource has helped sustain our entire state for thousands of years,” Murkowski said.

“Alaska’s fisheries remain the most abundant and sustainably managed in the nation. Educating others about the strength of our fisheries, and the efforts to ensure that our wild stocks remain strong and healthy is so important.”

Panel Will Explore Potential for Building Alaska’s Blue Economy

A panel discussion on building Alaska’s blue economy is among dozens of sessions offered tomorrow, Thursday, at the Oceans ’17 conference in Anchorage, Alaska, hosted by the Marine Technology Society and the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society.

The application and commercialization of technology in marine science and oceanography is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global blue economy. Panelists will explore the challenges and opportunities for building Alaska’s blue economy.

The session, beginning at 1:30 p.m., will be chaired by Joel Cladoulos, director of the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, and moderated by Bradley Moran, dean of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, a program of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, is looking at opportunities for development of feasible ocean related products and services to be produced in Alaska.

There are more than 50 blue economy initiatives going on right now worldwide, but to date only five percent of oceans have been explored, Cladoulos said. “Right now we know more about the surface of the moon than the sea floor,” he said.

Panel members include Michael B. Jones, president of the Maritime Alliance; Molly McCammon, executive director of the Alaska Ocean Observing System; Rear Admiral Jonathan W. White, US Navy retired, president of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership; and Al Eisian, chief operating officer and founder of IntelinAir. Inc.

The theme of the international gathering, being held for the first time in Alaska, is “Our Harsh and Fragile Ocean,” or “How to protect the fragile from the harsh with application of modern technology and traditional knowledge working together.”

Also on the agenda is another panel, scheduled at the same time, on unmanned air systems for maritime operations. Panelists in this session will discuss the challenges, opportunities and potential synergies of new unmanned air system capabilities that will allow concepts of operation, which could have not been imagined before and will post new organizational and legal challenges.

The conference complete list of speakers and a schedule showing all technical discussions, is posted online at http://program.oceans17mtsieeeanchorage.org/glance.cfm

NOAA Seeks Comment on Reducing Paperwork

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published in the Federal Register a notice seeking comment on proposed information collection related to individual fishing quotas for Pacific halibut and sablefish in Alaska fisheries. The deadline for comments is November 20, 2017.

It is all part of NOAA’s continuing effort to reduce paperwork, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

The individual fishing quota program was established to improve the long-term productivity of the Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries by promoting conservation and management. The Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQ) program includes provisions such as ownership caps and vessel use caps that protect small harvesters and processors and others who could be adversely affected by excessive consolidation. Other restrictions of the IFQ program prevent the halibut and sablefish fisheries from domination by large boats or by a specific vessel class.

Now NOAA is inviting comment on whether the proposed collection of information related to these fisheries is necessary for the performance of the agency. NOAA wants the public’s opinion on the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, and ways to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of information to be collected, as well as ways to minimize the burden of collecting information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

Complete information is online at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/09/19/2017-19888/proposed-information-collection-comment-request-individual-fishing-quotas-for-pacific-halibut-and

(The link, above, is correct. Apparently NOAA is reducing word use as well. –Ed)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

NPFMC Offers Review Documents Prior to Meeting

In advance of its autumn meeting at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) has posted online, at www.npfmc.org, documents that are available for review prior to the meeting.

Included are a discussion paper on abundance-based management for Bering Sea and Aleutian Island Pacific halibut prohibited species catch limits, and a draft of a regulatory impact review related to charter halibut permit annual renewal.

Major issues on the October agenda include final specifications for six stocks of Bering Sea and Aleutian Island crab, initial reviews of the charter halibut annual permit registration and mixing of guided and unguided halibut, and a review of the 2018 observer program annual deployment plan.

The agenda and meeting schedule are complete and posted on the website.

The deadline for written comments is September 26, and they should be emailed to npfmc.comments@noaa.gov.

All council meetings are open to the public, except for executive sessions. The council meeting will be broadcast at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/october2017. Motions will be posted following the meeting.

Failed Net Pen Now Disposed

Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife says that Cooke Aquaculture crews working with salvage and waste removal contractors have disposed of the final three stock nets from a failed net pen that released some 305,000 Atlantic salmon into waters of the San Juan Islands.

The nets were offloaded directly into waste disposal trucks, covered with a roll-top tarp and taken to a waste transfer station.

The company’s final count on fish removed from the damaged structure was 145,851, including 5,166 fish that were harvested before the major damage occurred on August 20. Cooke crews captured 388 escaped Atlantic salmon using beach seines under an emergency permit issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

State officials said daily water quality sampling showed no irregularities compared with ambient samples taken up and downstream from the site.

Tribal, commercial and recreational harvesters who recapture any Atlantic salmon from the site are being asked to voluntarily report catch numbers and locations online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/atlantic_catch_map.php

An investigation into the incident is continuing.

SeaShare Offers Food Aid to Hurricane Victims

SeaShare, the Bainbridge Island, Washington, based non-profit dedicated to providing seafood to food banks, pantries, and shelters across America, has delivered thousands of pounds of Pollock and salmon to a Houston, Texas, food bank in the wake of hurricane damage.

Deliveries to the Houston food bank in mid-September include 30,000 pounds of Pollock portions donated by Trident Seafoods, and 36,000 pounds of salmon steaks from Unisea, confirmed Kate Tomkins, development director for SeaShare.

Jim Harmon, executive director of SeaShare, said that his organization has also received an additional 180,000 pounds of catfish from Harvest Select, some of which will probably go to feed victims of hurricanes Harvey and/or Irma, with the rest to backfill food banks sending food to other food banks in hurricane stricken areas.

SeaShare is now seeking more seafood donations and monetary contributions to help provide seafood to hurricane victims.

“Freight, cold storage and food bank partners are lined up and ready to receive these donations,” Harmon said. “Generous seafood companies have already pledged more than 100,000 pounds of salmon, Pollock and catfish, but the need is great and will continue for months head,” he said.

In the wake of hurricane Katrina in 2005, SeaShare sent 525,000 pounds of seafood to Louisiana and Texas. More information is online at www.seashare.org or contact Harmon at jharmon@seashare.org

UN Forecasts Fish Production Rise

Global fish production is expected to grow by 1.1 percent in 2017, in line with the long-term trend, according to the biannual report on global food markets by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Stagnating capture fisheries production continues to contrast with an aquaculture sector that is growing consistently at four to five percent annually, the report said. The contrast between the lack of growth in traded volumes over the last three years and the steady increase in total production, points to strong growth in the domestic market demand of major seafood producing countries, particularly in the developing world.

The impact on supply due to El Nino, disease and an algal bloom in Chile in 2016 saw prices rise for various species, with the FAO fish price index rising 10 points over the year.

This year, the forecast for production increases, for a number of species, is likely to exert downward pressure on seafood prices across multiple markets and commodity categories, the UN entity said.

On the demand side, seafood trade in the United Kingdom and the United States could be negatively affected by the UK’s impending exit from the European Union and the policy decisions of the current U.S. administration, the FAO report said. More broadly, early indications in 2017 suggest that political uncertainty in multiple world regions is suppressing growth in international seafood trade, with the total annual value of seafood trade expected to decline by one percent in U.S. dollar terms.

The complete report is available online at http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7343e.pdf

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Recovery of Escaped Atlantic Salmon
Reaches 145,101 Fish

Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say that 145,101 of the Atlantic salmon that escaped with failure of a net pen in the San Juan Islands owned by Cooke Aquaculture have been recovered, and more fish are being counted.

Current estimates are that the incident released upwards of 165,000 of some 305,000 fish.

An investigation into what caused the net pen failure is continuing.

The unified incident command also noted that Cooke Aquaculture crews are continuing to deconstruct damaged net pen array two, with outside walkways removed from two of the pens, as well as one half and one full outrigger.

All ten stock nets have now been taken out and all fish left on site have been recovered, along with four anchors, including chain and rope. Structures removed from the wreckage are being staged for lifting by the crane barge. All rope and netting must be discarded and the pieces split into 40-foot lengths, state officials said.

Water quality samples are being conducted on a daily basis and have shown no adverse effects.

Meanwhile tribal, commercial and recreational harvesters are continuing to recapture fish that escaped the enclosure, and the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is collecting data on those catches.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists noted that Atlantic salmon, which are not native to the Pacific Ocean, could potentially compete with native salmon and trout for spawning and rearing habitat and/or introduce pathogens.

Wild Fish Conservancy Northwest meanwhile has served a 60-day notice of intent to file a citizen suit against Cooke Aquaculture under the Clean Water Act. The conservancy said that the net pen failure resulted in the discharge of the farmed salmon, dead fish carcasses and massive amounts of debris, among other pollutants. These discharges represent blatantly negligent violations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits under which Cooke Aquaculture’s Atlantic salmon net pens currently operate.

Harvesters Asked to Help Stem
Alaska’s Opioid Epidemic

Fishing vessel owners are being asked to help combat the opioid epidemic sweeping the country, as families, businesses and communities struggle to cope with the devastating effects of opioid misuse, heroin abuse and addiction disorders.

With heroin and opioid addiction issues reaching epic proportions in the state, Alaska Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan sent letters to commercial fishing vessel owners operating in Alaska in August asking them to be vigilant in preventing opioid abuse and distribution.

It is in the best interest of every vessel owner, crew, their families and all Alaskans for the commercial fishing fleet to be free of opioid abuse, Monegan said. “All Alaskans have the right to work and live in safe and healthy environments, and it is time to reverse the destructive impact opioid abuse has had on our state, so I am reaching out to you to ask that you do your part to ensure that Alaska’s fishing crews are safe from the impact of opioid abuse.”

“We’re not singling out the fishing industry,” said Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten. “There are some really alarming statistics about overdose in Alaska,” he added. From 2009 through 2015, the number of heroin deaths throughout Alaska more than quadrupled, Cotten explained. That’s 50 percent higher than the national rate.

In the letter to vessel owners, Cotton said that “the fishing industry is only one of the industries in Alaska that may be affected by the opioid epidemic.

“The impacts of this epidemic affect fishing families, fishing communities and the safety of our men and women at sea,” he said. “Please help your crew be aware of the risks involved, including the risks to the lives of their fellow crewmen and the potential financial losses to the owners of the business.”

Gov. Bill Walker has decided to declare a public health crisis, and most people agree that this is not some small concern, Cotten said. “The governor has organized a cabinet team to deal with this issue and actually comes to all the meetings. We suggested this one outreach method, the letter.

Cotten and Bill Comer, deputy commissioner of public safety, said the focus of the letter was to encourage boat owners and fishermen to be vigilant about opioid abuse. The response to date has been good, they said. Cotton added he has heard personally from people in small fishing communities concerned about young people caught up in drugs, and how the issue is affecting family fishing businesses, where parents want to pass on their permits to their children.

In addition to stemming the tide of opioid use, the state hopes to get all people who are addicted to opioids into treatment.

For additional information on preventing opioid dependence, reducing addiction by recognizing and treating it, and saving lives by using the spray Naloxone go online to www.opioids.alaska.gov

SeaShare Delivers 15,000 Pounds of Halibut
to Nome, Kotzebue

SeaShare partnered with harvesters, processors, the U.S. Coast Guard, Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. in Nome, and Maniilaq Association, in Kotzebue, to deliver 15,000 pounds of donated halibut to people in western and northwest Alaska in August.

This is the fifth year that SeaShare, based on Bainbridge Island, Wash., has donated seafood to communities in remote communities in this area of Alaska.

Ocean Beauty Seafoods processed the halibut donated by fishermen in Kodiak. The U.S. Coast Guard’s Air Station Kodiak provided transport on their C-130 plane, and NSEDC and Maniilaq Association, a non-profit providing health and social services in Northwest Alaska, are coordinating the donation to people struggling with hunger in their communities.

Ocean Beauty Seafoods’ plant manager James Turner said it was “just the right thing to do. This helps communities in Alaska, especially the outer lying areas of Alaska.” SeaShare is the only non-profit in the United States dedicated to bringing seafood to food banks. The organization donated over 185,000 pounds of high protein seafood throughout Alaska last year, and 30,000 pounds went to remote villages in Western Alaska.

Founded in 1994 to help the seafood industry donate to hunger relief efforts across the country, the non-profit has to date provided over 216 million servings to food banks across the nation.

October 6 Deadline Set for Alaska Symphony of Seafood Entries

Entries are due by October 6 for the 25th annual Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition, with gala events set for November in Seattle, Wash. and February in Juneau, Alaska.

The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation announced on September 5 that entries would be accepted in the retail, food service, beyond the plate and beyond the egg categories, with the last two reserved for products made with seafood byproducts or roe.

All entries must be market ready and already in commercial production.

Each entry will be evaluated by a panel of judges, based on packaging and presentation, overall eating experience, price and potential for commercial success.

Prizes for first, second and third place are to be awarded in each category, along with a grand prize winner and People’s Choice award winners in both locations.

First place winners will get complimentary booth space and free airfare to and from the Seafood Expo North America in Boston, March 11-13, 2018, the industry’s biggest domestic event of the year.They will also be entered into new products competition held during the expo.

Judging and open house events are scheduled for November 15 in Seattle and tentatively for February 27 in Juneau, where the Juneau Legislative Reception will be co-hosted by United Fishermen of Alaska.

All entry information is available online at http://www.afdf.org/symphony-of-seafood/

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Washington Halts on Net Pen Permits until Investigation is Complete

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has put a hold on any new permits for net pens until a thorough investigation is completed into the escape of Atlantic salmon from net pens on Cypress Island.

Inslee said this week that the release of net pen-raised Atlantic salmon into Washington’s waters has created an emergency situation that has state agencies working together to protect the health of Washington’s salmon.

The governor said those who fish Washington’s waters deserve a comprehensive response to the incident, including answers to what happened and assurances that it won’t happen again.

Inslee said the company–Cooke Aquaculture–must do everything it can to stop any additional escapes and to recover as many fish as possible, including adequate compensation for those working to remove Atlantic salmon from our waters.

Washington’s Department of Natural Resources has estimated that as many as 185,700 fish were released. DNR officials said they would be working with other state agencies and tribes to find a solution “to this serious threat to our native salmon species.” The incident took place on aquatic lands leased to Cooke Aquaculture by DNR.

DNR, along with the Washington departments of Fish and Wildlife and Ecology have joined with the governor’s office and state Emergency Management Division in setting up an incident command structure in Anacortes to respond to the incident.

As of Aug. 27, the incident command said that Cooke Aquaculture had removed 119,266 Atlantic salmon from the damaged cage structure at its Cypress Island farm site No. 2.

Company officials have not yet issued a firm number on how many fish escaped.

Cooke Seafood, the parent company of Cooke Aquaculture, acquired ownership of Icicle Seafoods last year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is also asking sport anglers and commercial fishermen to report harvests of Atlantic salmon.

“Atlantic salmon are not native to the Pacific Ocean and their presence in Alaska waters is biologically undesirable,” said ADFG Commissioner Sam Cotten.

New Marine Environment Protections Announced for Canadian Arctic

The Canadian government has announced an investment of more than $175 million to help protect Arctic waters as part of an Oceans Protection Plan launched late last year by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said this week that the funds would be spread over seven areas, including $94.3 million for more efficient Arctic resupply operations through safety equipment and basic marine infrastructure in a Northern Communities initiative.

More than $29 million is earmarked for a new Arctic National Aerial Surveillance Program Complex in Iqaluit, Nunavut, to further improve spill prevention. Another $16.89 million will fund establishment of Transport Canada’s Office of Incident Management, which will modernize and standardize the department’s incident response processes. This will improve the department’s response capability in emergency situations and improve seamless coordination with other response partners, the government said. Also included is funding for continued expansion of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary in the Arctic to boost the collective ability to respond to maritime all-hazard incidents in the future. The auxiliary is made up of trained volunteers who use their own vessels to respond to incidents in Canadian waters.

Communities Want More Science, Accountability in Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

Veteran harvesters and conservation advocates are urging Congress to include greater accountability and conservation measures in reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Sitka’s Linda Behnken testified this week in Alaska at a field hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard that “in the long run no one wins if the resource losses.”

“As Congress works to strengthen the Magnuson-Stevens Act to support community based fishermen, we firmly believe that maintaining productive fisheries through resource conservation is step one in that process,” she said. “The heightened emphasis on resource rebuilding that was central to the last reauthorization is still essential to long term resource health and we ask that Congress recommit to conservation goals,” she explained.

Behnken is a harvester of more than three decades, longlining for halibut and black cod and trolling for salmon out of Sitka with her family. She is also president of the Halibut Coalition and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

“Rebuilding fish populations benefits not only fish and fishermen, but also those who are part of the larger seafood economy, including the chefs, restaurants, retailers and other seafood businesses that rely on a steady supply of seafood,” she said. “As U.S. consumers increasingly demand sustainably managed and caught seafood, the conservation requirements of the MSA are a win for both business owners and their customers,” she added.

Behnken was one of 14 people testifying in three panels during the subcommittee hearing chaired by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Transcripts of their testimony are online at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings

Harvest of Salmon in Alaska Tops 201 Million Fish

Commercial harvesters in Alaska have now exceeded the 201 million fish mark in their catch so far this year. The latest preliminary harvest data released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADG&F) includes delivery to processors of 123.9 million pink, 51.8 million sockeye, 21.8 million chum, 3.5 million coho and 243,000 king salmon.

State biologists noted in their weekly summary on Southeast Alaska fisheries that the preseason pink salmon harvest forecast for 2017 was 43 million fish with a range of 27 to 59 million. Pink salmon harvests to date now project a total harvest of less than 10 million for Southern Southeast Alaska districts and 25-28 million fish in Northern Southeast Alaska districts.,. By statistical week 34, on average, pink salmon harvest in Southern Southeast districts was 88 percent complete, while at 92 percent in Northern Southeast districts. In general, pink salmon escapement was near average in most Southeast Alaska districts.

In Prince William Sound, harvesters have delivered more than 46 million humpies to processors, while the Westward region, including the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak and Chignik, have brought in 47.4 million pink salmon.

Chum harvest totals include 8.5 million in the Southeast region, 7.2 million in the Central region, 4.3 million in the Westward region and 1.6 million in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region. The preliminary catch totals for silver salmon are led by a harvest of 2 million coho in the Southeast region, 667,000 in the Westward region, 565,000 in the Central region and 267,000 for the Arctic-Yukon Kuskokwim.

Daily updates are posted online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyfisherysalmon.bluesheet

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Deadline for Saltonstall-Kennedy

NOAA Fisheries officials have put out a reminder about the October 10 deadline for pre-proposals for the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant program.

Saltonstall-Kennedy is a nationwide competitive grant program to fund projects addressing the needs of fishing communities, optimize economic benefits by building and maintaining sustainable fisheries, and increase other opportunities to keep working waterfront viable.

The 2018 solicitation is seeking applications that fall into one of four priorities:

• Marine aquaculture

• Adapting to environmental changes and other long-term impacts in marine ecosystems

• Promotion, development and marketing

• Territorial science

This year’s solicitation consists of two separate submission processes.

All interested applicants must first submit a two-page pre-proposal as directed at the website www.grants.gov. Following the review process, those interested can submit a full application through the same web page.

This past June NOAA Fisheries announced more than $10 million in recommended grants through the 2017 Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant competition.

Recommended projects among the applicants from Alaska included three from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), the University of Alaska Southeast, Fishext Research LLC, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Prince William Sound Science and Technology Institute and the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

Requested amounts ranged from $78,224 for development of age determination methods for Alaska crab to $299,652 for a 2018-2020 Southern Bering Sea juvenile Chinook salmon survey. ADF&G applied for both projects.

West Coast applications included two from the University of Washington for nearly $300,000 each in marine aquaculture. The first was for development of genetic risk assessment tools and management strategy evaluation for aquaculture of Native shellfish. The second was for modeling transmission of a bacterial pathogen among farmed and wild abalones in the face of climate change and declining wild populations.

An application from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, for about $299,000 was also recommended, for development of combined hydro-acoustic and visual survey.

The complete list can be found at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/mb/financial_services/fy17_sk_grants_successful_applicants.htm

Farmed Atlantic Salmon Spilled from Damaged Net Pen

Washington state salmon managers are encouraging anglers to harvest thousands of Atlantic salmon that escaped after a net pen failure on August 19 at Cooke Aquaculture on Cypress Island, along Rosario Strait between Guemes and Blakely islands.

About 305,000 salmon were in the net pen at the time, although it was initially estimated that only 4,000 to 5,000 fish escaped, state fisheries officials said in a statement issued on August 22.

The state has authorized Cooke Aquaculture to fish with beach seine nets, and encouraged anglers to also harvest fish.

“Our first concern, of course, is to protect native fish species, so we’d like to see as many of these escaped fish caught as possible,” said Ron Warren, who heads the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fish Program (WDFW).

Warren said there is no evidence that these fish pose a threat to native fish populations, either through disease or crossbreeding with Pacific salmon. He noted that to date there is no record of Atlantic salmon successfully reproducing with Pacific salmon in Washington.

Participating anglers must have a current fishing license and must observe gear regulations identified in the 2017-2018 sport fishing pamphlet, but they do not have to report Atlantic salmon on their catch record cards. To help anglers identify Atlantic salmon, WDFW has posted a salmon identification guide on its webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/atlantic.html

In a statement issued by Cooke, and published in The Seattle Times, the aquaculture company said “exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week’s solar eclipse” caused the damage. Cooke said the incident was due to a “structural failure” of a net pen.

The Puget Soundkeeper countered that the fish escaped at a time “when charts show that tides and currents were well within predictions.” The Puget Soundkeeper said Cooke’s statement was misleading, “distracting from their failure to secure the pens safely and to adequately prepare for predictable tide events.

“In fact, over the last month, there were at least 11 days with higher tides than occurred on August 19th,” Soundkeeper said. “And king tides during the winter are routinely much higher than those reported this month.” Cooke Industries meanwhile has plans to expand a net pen site near Port Angeles, and install up to 20 more sites in the Puget Sound area. A hearing is scheduled on the Port Angeles proposal on September 7.

(See our editorial on the subject in the September, 2017 Fishermen’s News.)

Fire Engulfs Peter Pan Plant at Port Moller

A fire of undetermined cause that began late on August 15 engulfed the 100-year-old Port Moller seafood processing plant owned by Peter Pan Seafoods.

Company officials declined to comment but posted on the Peter Pan Seafoods’ Facebook page that all crew and personnel were reported safe and uninjured, and that the damage is extensive enough to halt operations for the rest of the 2017 season.

The company did note that all the processing workers were safely evacuated from the premises. Peter Pan spokesman Dale Schiffler said the investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing.

Port Moller, the company’s most remote facility, is a salmon processing plant some 550 air miles southwest of Anchorage, on the north side of the Alaska Peninsula. It primarily processes sockeyes, but also produces small amounts of king, coho and chum salmon. Before the fire, the plant was able to process about 250,000 pounds of salmon a day, in product forms including frozen headed and gutted, fillets, salted fillets and sujiko (salted salmon eggs). During peak production, it employs a crew of 140 people.

Peter Pan was buying fish from and supporting a fleet of 105 drift gill netters and 30 set netters, both resident and non-resident fishermen.

An Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist, Bob Murphy, who is living at Port Moller for the summer, talked about the fire with Dave Bendinger of Dillingham’s public radio station, KDLG. Murphy told Bendinger that plant workers used a fire suppression system, water lines and hoses to fight the fire, but that their efforts were no match for flames fueled by dry timbers from the 100-year-old buildings.

Port Moller has no fire department.

Mine Opponents Rally in Anchorage

Some 200 Alaskans gathered in the pouring rain in downtown Anchorage on August 21 to tell the Pebble Limited Partnership once again that Bristol Bay residents will not help build a mine not wanted in their region of Alaska. “It has been much more than just a decade of deception,” former Alaska State Senator Rick Halford told the crowd. “Pebble has been telling us things that weren’t true over and over again.

The source of contention is a proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine that commercial, sport and subsistence fish harvesters, major environmental groups and others contend has the potential to destroy fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed.

“They know they don’t have local support,” Halford said. “The fact is that salmon are life to Bristol Bay. They feed everything from the tiniest microorganism to the brown bear. They feed the heart, the soul and the faith of everybody there. And they feed the dreams of people worldwide.”

Norm Van Vactor, chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. at Dillingham, described the mine project advocated by British Columbia’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, of which the PLP is a subsidiary, as “a cloud over Bristol Bay’s head for more than a decade. “Enough is enough,” Van Vactor said. “Bristol Bay has a robust economic engine that is sustainable –our fisheries. Just this year the commercial fishery harvested more than 37 million sockeyes.” That’s the economy we will fight to preserve.”

The mine opponents gathered outside the Hotel Captain Cook, where the PLP’s advisory committee planned to hold a private meeting about the mine.

PLP spokesman Mike Heatwole said several people from groups opposed to the mine were invited to the meeting to share their views but that they all declined.

Heatwole said the PLP is in the midst of active discussions with potential investors in the project and that it plans to begin filing for permits for the mine by year’s end. He acknowledged that approval of permits would be needed from more than 60 classifications, and that every stream crossing permit would need approval from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Heatwole also said that no final decision has been made on the gas fired electrical plant needed for the mine, but said the PLP planned to resolve that issue before submitting permit applications.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

AMSEA Urges Safety for Vessels and Crews

In the midst of the 2017 commercial fishing season, the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association is urging harvesters to take a little time out and think about further reducing risks to their vessels and crews.

This advice from Jerry Dzugan, executive director of AMSEA, comes in a year that has already resulted in nine commercial fishing fatalities, plus swamping of several vessels in Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound, due to weather and overloading, but fortunately with no loss of life.

Dzugan’s words of advice include having respect for icing and anything that raises the vessel’s center of gravity, keeping vessels and crew afloat, paying attention to weather forecasts, and getting sufficient sleep.

“In the 15-year National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study, out of 210 fishermen who fell overboard and died, not one was wearing a PFD,” he said.

“There is no reason for crew members on deck to not wear one of the many types of comfortable and snag resistant PFDs that are now on the market.”

As for weather watching, if there’s a storm forecast, don’t go! It’s not worth it,” Dzugan said. And find the highest risk item on your deferred maintenance checklist and fix it, he said.

“When we ask the Coast Guard or others to rescue us, it puts them at risk as well, Dzugan writes. Instead, he advises to take preventive measures now to save family members and friends from attending another fishermen’s memorial services. “They are all depending on you to come back alive,” he said. Read his entire article online at http://www.amsea.org/single-post/2017/08/01/Time-Out

Alaska Salmon Harvest Edges Toward 160 Million Fish

Harvests of pink salmon in Alaska’s commercial fisheries have reached more than 86 million fish, bringing the total preliminary salmon catch total to date to nearly 160 million salmon.

The statewide catch also includes upwards of 51 million sockeyes, 19.7 million chum, 2.5 million coho and 242,000 Chinook salmon.

In Southeast Alaska, 20,732,000 of the 30,071,000 salmon delivered to processors are humpies. The forecast for Southeast Alaska’s pink salmon was for an estimated 43 million fish. An actual harvest of 43 million pinks would be just above the recent 10-year average harvest of 39 million pink salmon.

ADF&G fisheries researcher Andy Piston, in Ketchikan, says it’s still too early to say how the humpy harvest in Southeast Alaska will add up this year.

Right now, he said, it looks like it will come in around the low 30 million range. Why the odd-year harvest is lower than anticipated is an unknown. “Nobody knows what combination of factors in the ocean is influencing pink salmon survival, in localized areas especially.

The whole dynamic in the ocean is extremely complex and even with an unlimited budget, which they don’t have, it would be extremely difficult to pin down, he said.

In Prince William Sound, 35,809,000 of the 42,648,000 salmon harvested to date are humpies.

In Alaska’s Westward region, harvesters in the Alaska Peninsula have now delivered 22.5 million salmon to processors. Kodiak area harvests have brought in another 15.8 million salmon, and Chignik has added over 4 million more salmon.

The catch of chum salmon on the Lower Yukon River has reached more than 677,000 fish, and on the Upper Yukon, another 163,000 chum have been caught.

In Bristol Bay, the harvest stands at over 39 million fish, while Cook Inlet’s total salmon harvest to date is approaching 4 million fish.

AK Board of Fisheries Releases Proposal Book

In advance of its work session in Anchorage in October for the upcoming meeting cycle, the Alaska Board of Fisheries has issued its 2017-2018 proposal book, which includes 227 proposals for review at these sessions.

The proposals will be under discussion during the board’s Prince William Sound finfish, Southeast and Yakutat finfish and shellfish, and statewide (except Southeast and Yakutat) Dungeness crab, shrimp, and other miscellaneous shellfish regulatory meetings. The proposals constitute proposed regulatory changes for identified regions and species.

Download the proposals individually, in sections, or for entire meetings at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.proposalbook.

During the work session at the Egan Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage Oct. 17-19, the board will consider agenda change requests, cycle organization, and stocks of concern. Work session comments are due by Oct. 3. Check online for several ways to send comments.

From Dec. 1-5, the board will meet at the Valdez Convention and Civic Center to take up Prince William Sound finfish issues. The comment deadline is Nov. 17.

From Jan. 11-23, the board will meet at Harrigan Centennial Hall in Sitka on Southeast and Yakutat finfish and shellfish matters. The comment deadline is Dec. 28.

The board’s final meeting of this cycle will be back at the Egan Center, March 6-9, to discuss statewide (except Southeast and Yakutat) Dungeness crab, shrimp, other miscellaneous shellfish and supplemental issues. The comment deadline is Feb. 23.

Senate Passes Marine Debris Legislation

The U.S. Senate has passed legislation aimed at confronting the global marine debris crisis. The Save Our Seas Act, which would boost the federal government’s domestic and international response to ocean waste, now goes for consideration to the U.S. House, where the House oceans Caucus has introduced companion language.

The Save Our Seas Act would allow the NOAA administrator to declare severe marine debris events and authorize funds to assist with cleanup and response.

Governors of affected states could ask NOAA to make the declaration.

The act would reauthorize NOAA”s Marine Debris Program through fiscal year 2022.

It would also encourage the executive branch of the government to engage with leaders of nations responsible for the majority of marine debris, support research into ocean biodegradable plastics, examine the causes of ocean debris, develop effective prevention and mitigation strategies and quantify the economic benefits for treaty nations in addressing the crisis.

The legislation was introduced by Senators Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wild Salmon Harvest Tops 132.8 M,
Pink Harvest Lags in SE

Commercial harvests of wild Alaska salmon rose to nearly 133 million fish through August 8, including upwards of 50 million sockeyes, while a weak catch of humpies in Southeast Alaska left the pink salmon preliminary harvest at about 62 million fish.

The commercial harvest of pink salmon in the Sitka area was in full swing, with a catch of 5.5 million humpies during the last opening, but so far the overall commercial harvest in Southeast Alaska stands at 14.9 million pinks, compared to a forecast of 43 million.

“We had some weakness in the southern areas, in Ketchikan, Petersburg and Juneau,” said Eric Coonradt, the state management biologist for salmon at Sitka. Just why that run in southern areas of Alaska was coming in weak is not known. While it probably has more to do with ocean temperatures, there are also a multitude of probable reasons.

In Prince William Sound meanwhile, the pink salmon commercial fishery was going strong, “with greater than 1.7 million fish per 14-hour period on every other day schedule that week,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game management biologist Bert Lewis in Anchorage.

Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. cost recovery is making good progress and expected to finish later this week. There is strong wild stock escapement and harvest and hatchery run entry is steadily increasing, Lewis said.

The total Prince William Sound purse seine harvest through August 8 was 26 million fish. Adding the 2 million fish in hatchery cost recovery made for a preliminary harvest total of 28 million fish.

“The total harvest forecast is for 55 million pinks and we are approaching the 50 percentile of all pink salmon returns,” Lewis said. “We are tracking pretty close to forecast. The parent year for this season was an all-time record in 2015 of a total pink run of over 100 million fish, with a harvest of 97 million.”

Along with those 50 million sockeyes and some 62 million humpies, the statewide preliminary harvest totals compiled by ADF&G included in excess of 18 million chum, 1.9 million silver and 237,000 Chinook salmon.

Due to poor ocean survival conditions for Chinooks, which are persisting in Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, ADF&G put into effect on August 7 a restriction on harvests in coast wide fisheries directed at stocks originating in Southeast Alaska, Northern British Columbia, the Fraser River and the Washington coast. Inseason information from ADF&G, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and NOAA surveys off the coast of Oregon, Washington and the Gulf of Alaska all indicate that poor production conditions are currently occurring and will persist through at least 2018, ADF&G biologists said.

Saying it was a very difficult decision to make, ADF&G announced that retention of Chinook salmon would cease on August 10 in the Southeast Alaska commercial and recreational fisheries and that non-retention would continue through September.

Bristol Bay’s harvest stood at 39 million fish, including 37,627,000 sockeyes, 1.3 million chum, 40,000 coho, 39,000 king and 32,000 pink salmon. Cook Inlet has delivered to processors over 3 million salmon, including 1.9 million reds, 666,000 pinks, 356,000 chums, 159,000 silvers and 8,000 kings.

Options for EM Offered by NOAA

Beginning next year, Alaska fishermen will have the option to use an electronic monitoring (EM) system in lieu of a NOAA Fisheries observer, as the federal agency integrates EM into the North Pacific Observer Program. NOAA Fisheries made the announcement on August 8, after the final rule waspublished in the Federal Register. The rule will be effective September 7, 2017.

Information gathered by observers while on board these commercial vessels is crucial to sustainable management of Alaska’s multi-billion-dollar fishing industry.

NOAA Fisheries restructured the North Pacific Observer Program in 2013 to place fisheries observers on small boats between 40 and 60 feet, and those harvesting halibut in Alaska.

Some small vessel owners and operators have advocated for the choice to use an EM system rather than carry an observer. They worked with NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop the EM technology that works best in Alaska. The federal agency will use EM to collect catch and bycatch data from vessels while they are fishing.

“This program is a first step toward automating observer data for the very specialized North Pacific fleet,” said Jim Balsiger, NOAA Fisheries assistant administrator for the Alaska Region.

NOAA”s final rule allows EM technology to be available only to owners and operators of fixed gear (hook and line, and pot gear) vessels in the partial coverage category of the observer program, in which the agency places observers on randomly selected vessels. In the full coverage category, observers are required on all boats, in addition to separate requirements for video monitoring systems for compliance purposes only, not catch estimation.

Participation in EM is voluntary, and each year vessel owners or operators will need to apply by November 1 to participate.

Vessels meeting eligibility criteria will be placed in the EM selection pool and NOAA Fisheries will randomly select trips among participating boats.. Those who volunteer would be responsible for making sure the EM system is working and to send the video storage devices back to NOAA Fisheries for review. Vessel owners and operators who do not wish to participate in the EM program will remain subject to observer coverage.

PenAir Files for Chapter 11 Reorganization Plan

PenAir, a major Alaska air carrier whose destinations include the fishing ports of Dutch Harbor, Sand Point, King Salmon, Dillingham and St. Paul Island, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In an announcement issued on August 7, PenAir chairman and chief executive officer Danny Seybert said that the action would keep scheduled air service operations in Southwest Alaska and the Boston area intact, while PenAir’s hubs in Portland, Ore., and Denver, Colo., would shut down scheduled service over the next 90 days.

PenAir routes in Alaska also include Cold Bay, St. George and McGrath.

“The steps we are taking will allow PenAir to emerge as a stronger airline, while continuing our focus on safe operations,” Seybert said. “The company will work with a restructuring officer to present a reorganization plan that will allow management to focus on its employees, safe operations, retiring debt and taking care of customers,” he explained.

PenAir has filed a request with federal transportation officials to end essential air service routes between Crescent City, Calif., and Portland, Ore.,, in addition to regional routes served from its Denver hub.

Alaska Public Radio noted that PenAir’s filing for bankruptcy came just two months after PenAir halted daily flight service to Unalaska, citing declining revenue from its contract with the US Postal Service.

Seybert’s father, Orin Seybert, founded PenAir at Pilot Point in 1955. The carrier is one of the oldest family owned airlines in the nation, and one of the largest regional airlines in Alaska.

Alaska Marks Second Annual Wild Salmon Day

Alaska will celebrate Wild Salmon Day on August 10, with free salmon chowder and barbecues, music, community art projects, salmon dip competition, fisher poetry and games.

Meanwhile select restaurants in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Sitka and Juneau are featuring wild Alaska salmon entrees on their menus to celebrate the impact of wild salmon on nearly all of the state’s residents.

A complimentary evening barbecue at Cuddy Family Midtown Park in Anchorage will serve up salmon provided by Northline Seafoods and Sitka Salmon Shares and showcase multiple entertainment opportunities.

The Sitka Conservation Society will host a special screening of the film “The Salmon Forest” at the Mean Queen restaurant in Sitka , while in Soldotna, on the Kenai Peninsula, Cook Inletkeeper will offer up free salmon chowder, along with live music and fish poetry.

Bristol Bay Native Association is hosting a community barbecue in Dillingham, along with a salmon dip competition and salon delicacy contest.

At Talkeetna, along the Alaska railbelt, the Susitna River Coalition is planning a sampling of wild Susitna River salmon, as well as Susitna River cleanup, a salmon obstacle course for kids, in addition to games, and arts and crafts for all ages.

Wild Salmon Day was established a year ago when Gov. Bill Walker signed legislation creating the state’s latest holiday. The legislation, said Walker, “is intended to celebrate these uniquely Alaskan ways of life, and share our appreciation for wild Alaskan salmon with the rest of the world.

More information on Wild Salmon Day is available at http://www.aksalmonday.com

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fisheries Legislation Included in Appropriations Bill

The US Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill, which contains millions of dollars for sustainable management of Alaska fisheries.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the package continued several items for which she supported robust funding, including $164.7 million for data collection, surveys and assessments, and $35.8 million for regional councils and fisheries commissioners, $65 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, and $14 million for salmon management activities under the Pacific Salmon Treaty, plus funding for electronic monitoring and reporting and expanding annual stock assessments.

Murkowski also cosponsored an amendment with Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Diane Feinstein of California to fund $150 million in recent West Coast fishery disasters.

While the amendment was withdrawn without a vote, commitments were made by the committee to continue working to fund fishery disasters, Murkowski said.

Also in the appropriations package was $11 million to address ocean acidification issues, and $113.3 million to allow NOAA Fisheries to promote species recovery while enabling sustainable economic activity.

Hiring for Bristol Bay Seafood Processing:
a Complex Issue

Processing a Bristol Bay salmon harvest in excess of 39 million fish, far exceeding the forecast of a harvest of 27.4 million reds, proved challenging to some processors, prompting plenty of commentary on why more Alaskans weren’t hired on.

It is a big challenge, said Nelson San Juan, coordinator of seafood employment for the Alaska Department of Labor, trying to educate people on how they can work their way up in the industry, in positions starting perhaps on the slime line but leading eventually to management. They need to know there are different opportunities, and that most employers promote from within, he said.

Bristol Bay is a unique challenge because the period of real work is short, said John Garner, chief operating officer with North Pacific Seafoods. Still it’s not unusual in four to five weeks in Bristol Bay for some working long hours to gross $10,000.

The seafood industry competes for Alaska workers in summer with the construction, agriculture and tourism industries, he said. North Pacific Seafoods participates in job fairs in Alaska and has targeted western Alaska seeking processing workers, “but this isn’t a job for everybody,” he said. “It’s not a walk in the park.”

Veteran Bristol Bay harvester Robin Samuelsen of Dillingham said making it more attractive for workers to come to work in canneries, including better wages, is key.

“Offer them a good wage and show them that they will make income,” said Samuelsen, who is critical of processors who charge workers for room and board.

Every processing company has a different policy on room and board, however, and some said they rebate some or all of those costs to workers who complete the season.

Companies that rely on hiring a lot of foreign workers under the federal H-2B visa program, had a tough time this year because a previous exemption from the cap on temporary seasonal workers given for returning workers expired last year.

Brian Gannon, senior director of corporate relations for United Work and Travel, said that the Alaska seafood industry has been importing labor to Alaska to export fish out of the state for 130 years, to the benefit of local communities, fishermen, the state and processing companies.

“History will show that the next 20 years will be a race to see which companies can and will figure out the labor issue in Alaska, with or without the help from Washington DC and visa based labor programs,” he said.

Alaska Salmon Harvest Tops 112 Million Fish

The statewide catch of wild salmon in Alaska topped 122.6 million fish through Aug. 2, including 49.5 million sockeye salmon, 37.6 million of which were caught in Bristol Bay. Processors were offering a base price of one dollar, up from 75 cents last year and 50 cents from 2015. For chilled salmon, which comprise about 60 percent of the Bristol Bay catch, the base price was $1.20.

Also processed to date were 44.2 million humpies, 17 million chum, 1.4 million silver and 234,000 kings.

The Prince William Sound harvest, as of the first week of August, stood at 28 million fish, including nearly 22 million pink, 5 million chum, 1.3 million red, 13,000 king and 12,000 silver salmon. On the Lower Yukon, the keta salmon harvest has grown to 554,000 fish and on the Upper Yukon another 158,000 chum have been delivered to processors.

In the Westward region, harvesters in the Alaska Peninsula have caught more than 14 million salmon. Their catch includes 6.5 million red, 6 million pink, 1.5 million chum, 195,000 coho and 9,000 Chinooks. At Kodiak, the harvest delivered to processors reached 8 million salmon, including 5.3 million pink, 1.4 million red, 1.3 million chum, 62,000 coho and 5,000 kings.

Cook Inlet’s total catch to date is 2.4 million fish. Processors have received 1.7 million sockeye, 351,000 pink, 274,000 chum, 45,000 coho and 7,000 kings.

!0th & M Seafoods in Anchorage had Alaska king salmon fillets ready for the freezer at $22.95 a pound, and Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market was offering fresh wild Alaskan sockeye fillets for $19.99 a pound. Fred Meyer stores in Alaska had fresh whole wild Alaska sockeyes for $5.99 a pound.

BC Vows to Resolve Tulsequah Chief Mine Issues

Mining officials in British Columbia say discussions are off for the purchase of the Tulsequah Chief Mine and that they are escalating efforts to halt the flow of pollution from that mine into the Taku River watershed. The Taku is part of the salmon-rich transboundary river system flowing from British Columbia into Southeast Alaska, where salmon fisheries are critical to the economy.

Tribal entities, the environmental entity Rivers Without Borders, and commercial fishing entities have been pushing BC officials for several years to clean up the dormant mine.

Chieftain Metals, owner of the controversial copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold mine southwest of Atlin, BC is no longer in discussion with Black Loon Metals about purchasing the mine, said Lindsay Byers, a spokeswoman for the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

Byers said Aug. 1 that the province’s chief inspector of mines has escalated enforcement and ordered Chieftain Metals to resolve issues identified during a September 2016 site inspection. If Chieftain Metals does not comply with these additional orders, the government will take appropriate steps, which may include seeking relief from the courts, Byers said in email response to a query.

“The province also understands that a third party (secured creditor) will be retaining an environmental consultant to review the existing data pertaining to the mine and will be developing a set of remediation plans in contemplation of operating the mine should there be a sale of the company Chieftain Metals,” Byers said. In the fall of 2016, the province confiscated the $1.2 million security held for the mine, and a portion of those funds has been used to secure some hazardous waste on site and complete the aquatic and ecological risk assessment, Byers said. This summer the province will conduct work to address the orders in relation to the exfiltration pond at the site, and removal of some remaining hazardous waste from the mine site, she said. Chris Zimmer, Alaska campaign director for Rivers Without Borders said the Aquatic Ecological Risk Assessment released by the BC government on July 18 documents unacceptable risks from the ongoing acid mine drainage from the Tulsequah Chief.

The assessment by SLR under contract with the BC government, is online at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/site-permitting-and-compliance/tulsequah/2017-04-17_tulsequah_mine_aera_slr_final_report.pdf

The assessment concludes, in part that “restricting overland flow would reduce exposure and thereby reduce risk to aquatic receptors. Overland discharge of untreated mine source waters from the exfiltration pond and portals into the Tulsequah River are sources of contamination to the Tulsequah River and aquatic receptors.”

“This new study finds “unacceptable risks” from acid mine drainage pouring out of the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine and should put to rest claims that the pollution is not harming fish and water quality,” Zimmer said. “The only way to stop the illegal and clearly harmful acid mine drainage from the abandoned mine into the salmon-rich Taku watershed is for BC to honor its promises and take responsibility for mine cleanup and closure,” he said.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Alaska Salmon Harvest Nears 94 Million Fish

Alaska’s commercial salmon harvesters delivered nearly 94 million fish to processors through July 25, according to preliminary harvest data compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). That total includes some 48 million sockeyes − 37 million of which are from Bristol Bay − and nearly 30 million pinks, upwards of 15 million chums, 919,000 cohos and 229,000 Chinook salmon.

ADF&G harvest projections released in March predicted a sockeye harvest of some 41 million reds, and 142 million pink salmon. If realized, the total forecast harvest of 204 million salmon would be substantially greater than the 112.5 million caught in 2016, owing mostly to larger projected numbers of humpies, ADF&G biologists said.

Bristol Bay harvesters have delivered in excess of 38 million fish, including 37 million reds, 1.3 million chums, 38,000 kings, 22,000 pinks and 2,000 cohos.

In Prince William sound the humpy catch to date is about 17.6 million fish, compared to a forecast of 67 million pinks, but seine area management biologist Charlie Russell says that’s real close to the five odd year average, and the season could end up with some 40 million humpies. On the Lower Yukon River, the harvest of those oil rich keta salmon has been good and the runs fantastic, said KwikPak’s Jack Schultheis. The summer run of chums, now over, was a great one, and the fall run that started on July 17 has proven fantastic so far, he said. Prices are a little higher than last year and the demand is the best ever for fillets, and headed and gutted product, he noted.

Other preliminary salmon harvest totals include 10.6 million fish from the Alaska Peninsula, including 6 million sockeyes; 4.6 million fish from Kodiak, including 2.3 million pinks, 1.2 million reds and 1 million chums; 1.6 million fish from Chignik, including 665,000 reds, 643,000 pinks, 310,000 chums, 20,000 silvers and 2,000 kings.

The Southeast region produced 12 million with nearly 6 million pinks, more than 5 million chums, 730,000 cohos, 237,000 sockeyes and 156,000 Chinooks.

NOAA: Marine Debris Can Be Prevented

The director of NOAA’s marine debris program, Nancy Wallace, says that all marine debris comes from humans and thus, for the most part, can be prevented.

Wallace was one of three people testifying on July 25 before the Senate subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, which was exploring solutions to marine debris. She advised that NOAA’s marine debris program is focused around five pillars: research, removal, prevention, emergency response and regional coordination. While the problem of marine debris has existed for decades and has received considerable attention from NOAA and other partners, there is still much to learn in addressing the impacts of marine debris on the environment, marine species and human health and safety, she told the subcommittee.

Because marine debris is a global problem, NOAA works closely with the State Department and participates in other international efforts related to marine debris, she added. NOAA is also working with the UN Environmental Programme to help organize and facilitate the 6th International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego, California, March 12-16, 2018.

Complete hearing testimony is online at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?ID=62EF9156-2910-4318-BC6C-3D4801C82C6B

Sitka Seafood Festival Kicks Off

Organizers of the Sitka Seafood Festival are planning a series of events from August 1 to 19 in celebration of wild Alaska seafood, with proceeds to fund efforts to help more young fishermen participate in commercial fisheries.

The festival, which began in 2009, has been adopted by the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT), a Sitka-based nonprofit dedicated to strengthening fishing communities. The organization is hosting the 2017 festivities in partnership with the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

Willow Moore, ASFT’s executive director, says the festival celebrates the fishing culture and heritage that local economies depend on, and the unique ecosystems of Southeast Alaska that sustain local fish and families.

The festival lineup ranges from an evening of storytelling at a local restaurant to a film festival, lectures and tours on marine biology, fish skin sewing classes at the Sheldon Jackson Museum and culminate with a season’s end banquet at Sitka’s Centennial Hall.

Donations as well as volunteers to operate educational booths and games are still needed according to festival coordinator Emma Edson.

More about the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association’s Young Fishermen’s Initiative is online at http://www.alfafish.org/youngfishermen/

UFA Texting Salmon Habitat Information

United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) is using text messaging to keep commercial fishermen informed about salmon habitat developments requiring quick action, and offering prizes for those signing in to stay updated.

It’s all part of UFA’s Salmon Habitat Information Program (SHIP) summer sweepstakes.

“Fishermen care deeply about all issues related to salmon habitat, from ocean acidification and water quality to in river impacts such as dewatering and blocked fish passage,” said Lindsey Bloom, manager of UFA’s SHIP program. “We have also learned that fishermen have a variety of preferred communication styles – texting, social media or email – and we created these sweepstakes to increase our reach to fishermen through multiple channels.”

About once a month SHIP will send text updates directly to fishermen’s phones.

SHIP also invites visits to its Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/UFAAlaskaSalmonHabitat) to guess this summer’s total Bristol Bay sockeye harvest. As of July 25, the preliminary commercial harvest in Bristol Bay exceeded 38 million fish, including 37 million sockeyes, exceeding the sockeye forecast by 10 million fish.

Brett Veerhusen, of Ocean Strategies, said more than 100 entries were received through July 25, and calculated that with the sharing of posts the message had reached over 19,000 people, although some of those were likely duplicates. Participation to date “demonstrates how some fishermen and supporters get their information via social media channels, especially Facebook,” Veerhusen said.

More than 90 fishermen have texted “ufaship” to 313131 to enter the sweepstakes and in total over 170 fishermen are on the texting list to receive information on salmon habitat, proving that cell phones are a viable way to communicate with some fishermen

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pinbone Removal Tech Sparks Interest

Technology that detects the bones in filleted fish and suggests an optimal cut based on processors’ pre-defined specifications is already installed in several European countries and is now drawing more interest in the United States.

A spokeswoman for Marel, in Reykjavik, Iceland, says that Alaskan and Seattle processors are looking into the benefits of such systems for their operations both onshore and offshore. At least one FleXicut system designed by Marel was installed on the US East Coast earlier this year, said Stella Bjorg Kristinsdottir, marketing manager for the Icelandic firm.

Pinbones are located at the most valuable part of the fillet and these bones are usually removed from the fillet by manual cutting, a labor-intensive process that requires skill that takes time and practice to develop. It is also critical that the cutting, whether manual or automatic, does not leave bone or bone fragments in the fillet, and that the amount of high value raw material cut away with the pinbone removal is minimal, she said.

The FleXicut combines waterjet cutters and traditional cutting blades to remove the pinbone and portion the fillet in an optimal way. Along with labor reduction, the FleXicut system also improves productivity, raw material utilization, and uniformity of end product, while reducing product handling.. “We believe that processors that install an integrated FleXicut system are taking an important step into the future and will gain a competitive edge in today’s challenging business environment,” she said. “We also know that the combination of shorter production time and less manual product handling will result in higher quality end product with less bones, that also will be appreciated by the end consumer.”

The technology stems from APRICOT (automated pinbone removal in cod and whitefish) which was the working name of a collaborative project initiated several years ago by Nordic Innovation, Marel, Norway Seafood, Faroe Origin and Sintef.

Watch a video of the overall benefits of an integrated Marel system, online at http://player.vimeo.com/video/198822203?badge=0&autoplay=1

Alaska Salmon Catch Exceeds 75 Million Fish

Alaska’s wild salmon catch now exceeds 75 million fish, up from some 48 million salmon caught commercially through last week.

The latest preliminary harvest figures compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) break down the catch to date to 43.5 million sockeyes, 18.7 million pinks, 12.2 million chums, 506,000 cohos and 221,000 Chinook salmon.

Of that total more than 35 million fish have come from Bristol Bay, including 34 million red salmon. The Nushagak District had the highest harvest boastingmore than 11.3 million salmon, followed closely by the Egegik district with 10.5 million and the Ugashik district at 4.6 million salmon.

The Cook Inlet fisheries have delivered 1.7 million salmon to processors, including 1.4 million sockeyes, 152,000 chums, 132,000 pinks, 11, 000 cohos and 5,000 kings, while in Prince William Sound the commercial catch of 17.5 million salmon broke down to over 12 million humpies, 4.3 million chums, over one thousand red and 13,000 king salmon.

On the Lower Yukon River, the catch of oil rich keta salmon was at 441,000 fish, with another 127,000 chums brought in from the Upper Yukon River.

In Southeast Alaska, commercial harvesters have delivered nearly 4 million fish, including 3.8 million chums, nearly 3 million pinks, 419,000 cohos, 179,000 reds and 153,000 kings.

Processors in Alaska’s Western region have receive an estimated 12.3 million fish, of which 6.8 million were reds, 3.4 million were humpies and 1.9 million were chum salmon.

Changes Coming in Alaska Symphony of Seafood

In order to better serve the industry, the upcoming Alaska Symphony of Seafood events will be held during Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, Washington, in November and in mid-February in Juneau, Alaska.

According to Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF), the change of locations and scheduling are coming at the request of the industry, to provide more lead time for entries into the competition and allow winning products to also be included in national and international competitions, giving them greater exposure.

The call for product is to be released in mid-August, with all entry forms and fees due by October 6. Entries will be accepted into one of four categories: Retail (including smoked product), Food Service, Beyond the Plate and Beyond the Egg.

Winners will have the opportunity to display their products at the Seafood Expo North American in Boston March 11-13, 2018. For the first time, winning entries will also be entered into SENA’s Seafood Excellence Awards competition.

Information will be posted online at www.afdf.org/symphony-of-seafood/

The Symphony, now in its 25th year, will hold a unique sponsorship at Pacific Marine Expo from November 16−19, with activities to include a “Hall of Fame” displaying 25 years of winning products, a panel presentation about the importance of produce development for the seafood industry, an announcement of the Seattle People’s Choice winner, and other promotional activities, Decker said.

Guests at the February’s event are to include legislators in session in Juneau.

AFDF, a private, non-profit entity, depends on sponsors to fund the event.

Major sponsors from the 2016 symphony were the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Alaska Air Cargo, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, At-sea Processors Association, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Alaskan Brewing Co., Marel, Northwest Fisheries Association, Kwik’Pak Fisheries LLC, Trident Seafoods, UniSea and United Fishermen of Alaska.

New GE Salmon Leveling Bill Introduced in Senate

New legislation mandating the labeling of genetically engineered salmon introduced in the US Senate would require specific labeling of that product to assure that consumers have all the facts about what they are buying.

“The primary purpose of this bill is to ensure that consumers have all the facts and can make an informed decision when they are purchasing salmon,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, sponsor of the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act.

“There is a huge difference between ‘Frankenfish’ and the wild, healthy, sustainably-caught, delicious real thing, and I want to make sure folks are aware of that,” Murkowski said. “The potential for escapement from pens to occur from hatcheries and any facility where fish are grown would decrease the immense value of our fisheries,” she said.

“These Frankenfish could wreak havoc upon wild stocks and pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of fishermen everywhere,” she added.

The bill would also require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure a third party independent scientific review of the federal Food and Drug Administration’s environmental assessment for all genetically modified finfish, including GE salmon, for human consumption.

Co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Maria Cantwell, D-WA.; Jeff Merkley, D-OR; and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New Freezer for Bristol Bay Salmon in 2018

Two commercial fisheries veterans are renovating a former helicopter logging barge in Sitka,Alaska, with plans to use it as a floating processor in Bristol Bay in 2018.

“We’re looking to start in the Ugashik [River],” said Pat Glaab, who is partnering with Ben Blakey in Northline Seafoods, to offer harvesters not equipped with cooling systems on their fishing vessels a method of delivering consistently high quality fish.

“The Bay is still struggling with getting refrigeration to fish,” said Glaab. “Our model is the fish is never better than when they come out of the water. We will park the barge where you would normally park a tender. We will give them slush ice, and all the fish they catch will go into the slush ice.”

Once the catch is delivered back to the barge, it will be flash frozen immediately.

By providing ice to their fishermen, Northline also hopes to substantially increase the incomes of those delivering to them.

“We’re talking about 50 percent more for the same fish because they will have access to cooling,” Blakey said. “Our process makes that available to everybody who fishes for us.”

Glaab and Blakey said they are confident that the barge, once renovation is completed, will have the capacity to freeze up to 300,000 pounds, or some 50,000 salmon, every day.

“Last summer we frozen 10,000 to15,000 pounds a day of pink, chum and sockeye salmon from Southeast Alaska,” Blakey said. “When our fish were compared with other product on the market, ours was consistently higher quality than other headed and gutted coming out of Alaska at the time.

This summer in Sitka, Northline anticipates freezing a smaller volume of pink and chum salmon, as renovation of the barge continues. “We are producing a product and proving you can preserve the quality of the roe and the fish,” Glaab said.

Flash freezing will also maintain the quality of the head, guts and fish oil, all with potential marketability in products including fishmeal and pet foods.

“This can’t be anything but helpful,” said Norm Van Vactor, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. at Dillingham, Alaska, who is also a seafood industry veteran.

“In rural locations the cost of production is significantly higher than doing it in other places,” he said. “Freezing fish appropriately in the round means you can process the fish in a preliminary stage with minimum cost.”

It’s not for everyone, but it will certainly be a viable solution and a positive forward step for certain areas, areas that might not be able to justify a large shore based processing facility and the cost of tendering with it.

Alaska’s Salmon Harvest Nears 48 Million Fish

Preliminary harvest data show the catch in Alaska’s wild salmon fisheries is nearing the 48 million fish mark. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ASF&G) count includes 31.6 million sockeyes, 8.4 million chums, 7.6 million pinks, 198,000 silvers and 193,000 Chinook salmon.

More than 25 million of those sockeyes were caught in the Bristol Bay fishery, including 9.6 million in the Nushagak district, 8 million in the Egegik district, in excess of 4 million in the Naknek-Kvichak district and 2.2 million in the Ugashik district.

State fisheries biologist Tim Sands, Dillingham, Alaska, described the sockeye fishery in the Nushagak district as “gangbusters,” as fishermen there brought in a record 1.2 million salmon on July 3. It was the second time this year, and in the history of the Nushagak district, that the daily sockeye salmon harvest exceeded one million reds, Sands said.

Processors on the Lower Yukon have taken deliver of some 331,000 oil rich keta salmon, and another 66,000 keta salmon were caught on the Upper Yukon.

Processors in Prince William Sound have received 7.9 million fish, including 482,000 Copper River reds and another 417,000 sockeyes from the Eshamy District, 51,000 from the Coghill District, 33,000 from the PWS general seine fishery, 2,000 from the Bering River drift and 1,000 from the Unakwik District drift fisheries.

PWS also had 2.9 million chums, nearly 4 million pinks and 13,000 king salmon.

Cook Inlet harvesters have brought in some 777,000 fish, including 671,000 reds, 61,000 chums, 40,000 pinks, 3,000 kings and 2,000 silver salmon.

Harvesters in the Western region have an overall catch of 9.4 million salmon, including 6.7 million in the Alaska Peninsula, 1.5 million more at Kodiak and more than 1 million at Chignik. The breakdown for the Western region was 5.7 million reds, 2.4 million pinks, 1.3 million chums, 12,000 kings and 14,000 coho salmon.

EPA Restriction Withdrawal Proposed for Pebble Mine

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials says that they are proposing to withdraw their July 2014 Clean Water Act proposed determination for the Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. That determination would, if finalized, impose restrictions on the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with the mine.

EPA agreed to initiate the proposed withdrawal as part of a May 11, 2017 settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership.The matter is to be posted by mid-July in the Federal Register, after which the EPA has set a 90-day period for public comment on the proposed withdrawal of those restrictions. All comments must be received on or before the end of that timeframe.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said on June 27 that she had raised concerns with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that a public comment period during the midst of the commercial fishing season would not allow enough time for all relevant stakeholders to weigh in. Murkowski said she requested the 90-day comment period to allow for local stakeholders to be heard in the process.

The Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) is urging the EPA to extend the comment period to no less than 120 days and to hold hearings in the Bristol Bay region, so its residents can express their opinions.

“Thousands of fishermen and women are currently in Bristol Bay participating in what is proving to be a tremendously successful commercial fishing season,” said Jason Metrokin, chief executive officer of BBNC, “That the EPA is now proposing to withdraw potential protections for this world class billion-dollar resource is not sound economic or environmental policy.”

More information, including the pre-publication Federal Register Notice announcing the public comment period, is available online at https://www.epa.gov/bristolbay

Comments may be emailed to: ow-docket@epa.gov with docket number EPA-R10-OW-2017-0369 in the subject line.

Increasing Risk of Oil Spills in North Pacific Basin

New reports in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology outline how the increase in marine vessel traffic, and oil and gas exploration and development in the North Pacific basin pose increased risks of oil spills.

The leading journal of studies on environmental pollution, released a special issue on July 10 devoted to monitoring and evaluating effects and repercussions of oil spills It can be found at https://link.springer.com/journal/244/onlineFirst/page/1.

Original research featured in this issue includes major discoveries from scientific studies of oil spill effects on marine ecosystems and environments, beginning with the 1989 Exxon Valdez, and increasing recognition on the limited ability of scientists to evaluate the damage caused by those events.

The articles offer a framework for assessing oil spill risks to marine mammals that considers length of exposure, potential for oil adhesion, inhalation, direct and indirect ingestion, in addition to the likelihood of population-level effects of an oil spill determined by population size, distribution, diversity of diet and susceptibility of prey to decline.

The Trump administration has opened a public comment period on a new five-year (2017-2022) offshore drilling program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, which would allow for the expansion of drilling efforts into environmentally significant areas.

The 45-day comment period began with the publication of the notice in the Federal Register on July 3, and ends on August 17.

Opinions can be submitted electronically at https://www.boem.gov/Public-Engagement-Opportunities/ by clicking on the “open comment document” link and following the instructions to view the relevant documents prior to submission All comments must be received on or before August 17.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Alaska’s Salmon Harvest Nears 23 Million Fish

Preliminary harvest data shows the catch in Alaska’s wild salmon fisheries rose to over 22.7 million fish through July 4, including a record 1.2 million salmon caught on July 3 in Bristol Bay’s Nushagak District. It was the second time this year, and in the history of the Nushagak District, that the daily sockeye salmon harvest exceeded one million reds, noted Tim Sands, an area biologist at Dillingham for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who described the sockeye fishery as “gangbusters.”

As of July 4, the cumulative Nushagak District harvest stood at 5.2 million sockeyes, with 542 permits and 421 vessels registered to fish there. The strength of the run has been such that Peter Pan Seafoods still had its harvesters on limits, and two other processors, Silver Bay and Ekuk Fisheries had suspended buying on the morning of Independence Day, Sands said.

The surge of reds aside, four vessels harvesting in the Nushagak were partially submerged after taking on water, but good Samaritan boats assisted everyone on board and no injuries were reported. “More than one boat out there was deck loaded with lots of fish on board and you throw weather into that mix and it can go fast,” Sands said. One of the vessels involved was reported to have about 14,000 pounds of fish on board, far exceeding its capacity.

The preliminary Bristol Bay harvest, totaling 10.5 million salmon, including 9.6 million reds, also includes 3.5 million sockeyes harvested in the Egegik District, 720,000 in the Naknek-Kvichak, 140,000 in the Ugashik and 40,000 at Togiak.

Processors in Prince William Sound have received nearly 14 million fish, including 445,000 Copper River reds and another 331,000 sockeyes from the Eshamy District. Cook Inlet harvesters have brought in some 270,000 fish, including 253,000 reds.

Harvests mounted too in the Western Region with a catch of 5.7 million salmon in the Alaska Peninsula, 829,000 more at Kodiak and 752,000 at Chignik.

Harvests of oil-rich keta salmon have reached 204,000 on the Lower Yukon River and 31,000 on the Upper Yukon.

Witherell Succeeds Oliver at NPFMC

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) in Anchorage, Alaska has announced the appointment of David Witherell as its new executive director.

Witherell joined the council in 1992, first as a plan coordinator, then in 2002 became deputy director. Prior to being hired by the council, he was a marine biologist for the state of Massachusetts, working on resource surveys and stock assessments. He earned a master’s degree in fisheries biology from the University of Massachusetts.

Council chairman Dan Hull said that Witherell “brings a long history of council experience and proven leadership skills as deputy director. We’re very pleased and fortunate that he has accepted the executive director position.”

Oliver was named on June 19 as the new assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, taking the helm from acting assistant administrator Samuel Rauch, who then returned to his post as deputy assistant administrator for regulatory programs.

Concerns in Southeast Alaska Over Transboundary Mine

Concerns are growing again in Southeast Alaska over the potential purchase of a British Columbia mine that has been leaking acid drainage into the salmon rich Taku watershed for more than 50 years, which has not been cleaned up as promised.

In a statement issued this past week, Frederick Olsen Jr., chairman of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, said he found it shocking that British Columbia has not discussed the implications of a new buyer for the Tulsequah Chief mine with the state of Alaska through the statement of cooperation signed last year. “Alaska needs to seek the help of the U.S. federal government to hold British Columbia accountable for its environmental responsibilities at Tulsequah Chief,” Olsen said.

Nearly two years ago B.C.’s then Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett came to Juneau, Alaska, flew over the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine, and promised to clean up the ongoing acid mine drainage, said Chris Zimmer, of Rivers Without Borders.

The current mine owner, Chieftain Metals, declared bankruptcy in September 2016 and the company was placed in receivership. On June 2, the receiver, Grant Thornton, posted documents on its website showing a new company was interested in purchasing the mine, with the company’s name redacted from the documents, Zimmer said.

Asked for comment on the issue, Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott said the state’s BC counterparts are aware that “we are concerned over the potential sale of the Tulsequah Chief mine and we will have the opportunity to reengage with our bilateral workgroup once their new provincial leadership takes office. Mallott also said he plans to meet in Washington, DC in July with the State Department, International Joint Commission and Alaska’s congressional delegation about the issue.

BC officials have so far declined to comment, noting that any statement regarding the future of the Tulsequah Chief mine won’t be forthcoming at least until its new government is sworn in.

Juvenile Pollock Survival Better Than Expected

A new federal study suggests that young Pollock survived at a rate better than anticipated during the most recent warm phase in the Bering Sea, having found alternative resources not available during the last warming phase.

With 2017 showing signs of cooling, Pollock populations may have successfully weathered the warm years of 2014 though 2016, according to a report by scientists with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center published in the journal PLOS on June 28.

Juvenile Pollock need energy-rich prey to survive winter in the Bering Sea.

The study led by NOAA Fisheries scientist Janet Duffy-Anderson showed that Arctic algae are attached to the sea ice. When the ice melts, said Duffy-Anderson, “these algae are released into the water column to be eaten by larger, oil-rich zooplankton, which are in turn eaten by young Pollock fattening up to prepare for the Bering Sea’s harsh winter. This chain of events is critical to Pollock success.”

The 2001-2005 warm stanza triggered ecological changes that resulted in a decline in the number of walleye Pollock, ultimately leading to a 40 percent reduction in the fishing quota. Sea ice eventually returned to the southeast Bering Sea shelf, bringing cold sea temperatures from 2007 to 2013, with oil-rich prey. By 2013, recruitment to the Pollock fishery recovered completely.

When ocean conditions turned warm again in 2014, scientists were concerned this was the start of a new warm stanza. Pollock survival declined, as expected after 2014, and 2015 proved to be even warmer, but scientists said it was warm for a reason not seen before.

The year 2015 acted like a cold year, with strong winds from the north pushing Arctic sea ice southward to the southern Bering Sea, but the sea ice was stopped by “the Blob,” a mass of warm water from the Gulf of Alaska invading the Bering Sea.

By 2016, with sea ice absent, the water was very warm over the southern shelf, and while large copepod preys were scarce, krill remains in the area.

Young Pollock from the southern shelf may have taken refuge in the northern cold pool in 2015, feeding on fat-rich copepods or krill, and then in 2016 they consumed large numbers of krill, possibly remnant populations from 2015. This suggests that switching prey sources figured in their survival, said Duffy-Anderson. Successive warm years due to reduced Arctic winds, weak sea ice advance and warm ocean temperatures still, however, spell trouble for Pollock, she said.

The complete study appears online at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0178955

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Alaska Salmon Harvest Near Nine Million Fish

Bristol Bay’s famed sockeye salmon fishery is off and running, with 1.5 million red salmon so far – mainly from the Egegik District – helping to boost the statewide preliminary harvest to 8,974,000 fish.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) latest data report shows deliveries in the Egegik District of 1.4 million sockeyes, followed by 138,000 reds in the Ugashik District and 37,000 in the Naknek-Kvichak. Togiak district harvesters have brought in another 10,000 reds, plus 7,000 chum salmon.

Prince William Sound processors now have delivery of 1.8 million salmon, including 1.1 million chum, 595,000 reds, 17,000 pinks and 13,000 Chinook salmon. The Copper River drift fishery’s catch has reached 434,000 fish, including 411,000 sockeye, 13,000 kings and 10,000 chum salmon. The king harvest was above the preseason forecast, while sockeyes were still tracking well below the forecast, although still within the bounds of what to expect, said Jeremy Botz, gillnet area manager at Cordova for ADF&G.

Chinook average weights for the Copper River fishery were up by two to three pounds over last year, and sockeyes by half a pound, putting the overall average at 20.5 pounds for kings and 5.5 pounds for red salmon. Botz said foraging must have been better in the ocean this year to help with that overall gain. Cook Inlet’s preliminary numbers includes 125,000 sockeye, 2,000 kings, 2,000 chum and about one thousand pink salmon.

In Alaska’s westward region, the preliminary catch data shows nearly four million salmon taken by fishermen in the Alaska Peninsula, including 2.4 million reds, 1.1 million humpies, 489,000 chum and 4,000 kings.

Kodiak harvesters have delivered 668,000 fish, bringing processors 548,000 sockeye, 78,000 chum, 40,000 pinks and 2,000 kings.

In Southeast Alaska the harvest is at 277,000 fish, with 172,000 chum, 68,000 Chinook, 33,000 reds and 4,000 humpies.

The Lower Yukon harvest of succulent Yukon keta has reached 97,000 fish.

Commercial Fish Dumped Nears 10 Million Tons

A study by Canadian and Australian university researchers concludes that industrial fishing fleets worldwide are dumping nearly 10 million tons of good fish back into the ocean annually, due to poor fishing practices and inadequate management.

The report comes from researchers with Sea Around Us, an initiative at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and the University of Western Australia.

The paper, “Global marine fisheries discards: a synthesis of reconstructed data,” was published on June 26 in the journal Fish & Fisheries, online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/faf.12233/full The loss of good fish is equivalent to throwing back enough fish to fill about 4,500 Olympic sized swimming pools every year, the report said.

“While indeed discard mortality rates vary by location, species and gear type used, our numbers are all dead discards,” said Dirk Zeller, a professor of marine conservation with the University of Western Australia’s School of Biological Sciences, in response to an email query.

In cases such as the United States, where total discard rates as well as discard mortality rates are known, we take this into account, but the US is an exception, and for most countries and thus most fisheries, this is not known, recorded or studied, Zeller said.

Given that the researchers only estimate major discards in each country, and thus are missing discards from many other gear types in each country, our discard estimates are conservative, he said.

Given the current era of increasing food insecurity and human nutritional health concerns, these findings are important, said Zeller, lead author for the study and senior research partner with the Sea Around Us. “The discarded fish could have been put to better use.”

Zeller and his colleagues Tim Cashion, Maria Palomares and Daniel Pauly said they study also showed how industrial fleets move to new waters once certain fisheries decline.

“The shift of discards from Atlantic to Pacific waters shows a dangerous trend in fisheries of exporting our fishing needs and fishing problems to new areas, Cashion said.

While the study showed a decline in discards in recent years that could be attributed to improved fisheries management and new technology, Zeller and his colleagues say it’s likely also an indicator of depleted fish stocks.

“Discards are now declining because we have already fished these species down so much that fishing operations are catching less and less each year, and therefore there’s less for them to throw away,” Zeller said.

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