Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Alaska Seafood Ranked Most Popular Protein on US Menus

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s 2016 annual report, celebrates an exciting first, says ASMI Executive Director Alexa Tonkovich.

After years of holding steady in second place among protein brands, Alaska seafood is now the number one ranked most popular protein on US menus among the top 500 restaurant chains, besting Angus beef, Kobe beef, Louisiana seafood and more.

Global currency challenges and a rocky fiscal climate in Alaska notwithstanding, the seafood industry remains an asset in the state’s portfolio, Tonkovich said.

According to the report, some 60,000 resident and non-resident workers in Alaska’s seafood industry earn $1.6 billion in annual wages based on 2013 and 2014 averages. A total of 31,580 harvesters – the majority of whom are Alaskans – earned income as skippers and crew, operating some 8,600 vessels.

Alaska fisheries provided work statewide, -creating in excess of 10,000 full-time-equivalent jobs in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, nearly 10,000 in Southeast Alaska, more than 8,000 in Kodiak, 7,000 in Southcentral Alaska, more than 4,500 in Bristol Bay and nearly 1,000 jobs in the Arctic and Yukon Kuskokwim regions.

America’s increased seafood consumption is partly attributed to federal food assistance programs that distribute surplus canned salmon to food banks nationwide. AMSI was instrumental in coordinating the sale of $77 million in canned salmon to those programs between 2014 and 2015, helping the industry manage inventories after record pink and sockeye salmon harvests.

ASMI expanded domestic market channels for Alaska sockeye, with partnerships with Sam’s Club, Walmart and Red Lobster, thus avoiding significant carryover inventory of frozen sockeye heading into 2016, which could have lowered prices for the 2016 harvest, the report noted.

Meanwhile, Alaska seafood exports to ASMI program destinations maintained value at about the same level as the prior year, despite a strong US dollar and the Russian embargo.

The complete report is available online at https://indd.adobe.com/view/46b34fd5-da1f-4257-ae90-ada17dd5943c

Bill Would Boost Training of Young Fishermen

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the US House in April would establish the first national program to support young men and women entering the commercial fishing industry with educational opportunities through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program.

HR 2079, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act of 2017, would provide grants of up to $200,000 and a total of $2 million annually. The bill is a big step forward in the Fishing Communities Coalition’s effort to establish a coordinated, nationwide effort to train and assist the next generation of commercial harvesters.

“This legislation is about supporting the livelihoods that support entire fishing communities in Alaska and around the country,” said Rep. Don Young, R-AK, who introduced the bill with Rep. Seth Moulton, D-MA. “I am extremely proud to stand up with them.”

“This legislation will help to sustain the fishing industry by ensuring that our young people not only have a future in fishing, but are also empowered with the training and resources necessary to thrive in the 21st-century economy,” Moulton said.

The legislation is backed by the Fishing Communities Coalition, which represents commercial fishermen from New England, Alaska, California and the Gulf Coast.

Sea Lion Predation of Salmon Prompts Legislation

The latest effort to remove sea lions from areas of the Columbia River where they pose the greatest threat of survival of endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species was introduced in the US House in April.

The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act “is critical because sea lion predation is posing a serious threat to our salmon populations, impacting our efforts to ensure their survival,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-WA, who introduced the bill with Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-OR.

In the last few years there have been a record number of California and Steller sea lions in the Columbia River from Astoria to Bonneville Dam, numbers totally inconsistent with their historic range, Schrader said.

According to a statement released by Schrader, historic recovery efforts of endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River have been compromised by exponentially increasing sea lion predation in recent years.

The issue is a complex one, according to reports issued by NOAA Fisheries, saying that birds, fish and marine mammal predation are a major cause of mortality for Endangered Species Act listed juvenile and adult fish in the Columbia River Basin. California sea lions and Steller sea lions consume substantial numbers of adult spring Chinook salmon, sturgeon and winter steelhead below Bonneville Dam, the agency reported earlier.

Similar legislation was introduced in the last session of Congress.

AFSC Study Examines Bering Sea Fish Populations Over 34 Years

A new study by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center examines how fish populations have changed over the past 34 years of varying climate conditions, and researchers say their work may provide clues to how future changes will affect fisheries.

According to fisheries biologist Steve Barbeaux, lead author of the study, climate variability has increased in recent years in the Bering Sea and the science center will use that information to study how ecosystems respond to change.

Summer bottom trawl surveys provide information fisheries managers need to set quotas for sustainable fishing. Data collected include where fish are, how many and what species are found, sex, size and age, as well as environmental data such as ocean temperature.

Barbeaux analyzed survey data from 1986 through 2015 to explore patterns of fish distribution by species, size and sex in relation to environmental conditions. He mapped that data to create visualizations that show fish life histories unfolding over space and time.

Sufficient data was available for in-depth analyses of 22 groundfish species, from arrowtooth flounder to yellowfin sole. While changes in Bering Sea fish distributions in relation to climate variability have been widely reported, no other study has specifically examined ontogenetic differences in how fish respond to climate variability, Barbeaux said. Ontogeny relates to the origination and development of an organism, usually from the time of fertilization of the egg to the organism’s mature form.

Barbeaux said the studies show that some species prefer relatively cold or warm, shallow or deep waters and this knowledge could help predict where they will go as conditions change. Climate affected middle life stages the most, he said. For species that shifted distribution between warm and cold years, mid-size fish were most affected, he said.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Senators Back National Sea Grant Program

Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley and Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski have introduced a bipartisan Senate resolution expressing the support of the Senate for the National Sea Grant College Program.

The resolution, with 24 co-sponsors, highlights the importance of the program to improving the health of coastal ecosystems, sustaining fisheries and its economic impact in 31 states and two territories. President Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate funding for the Sea Grant College program.

Merkley called the Sea Grant Program “a textbook example of a smart and targeted investment in local communities that helps create economic growth. Our coastal communities are a key part of our economy in Oregon and numerous other states.”

“At a time when coastal ecosystems and infrastructure are under unique stress from a changing climate, it would be a terrible idea to cut back on support that will help our communities adapt and continue to thrive and create jobs,” he said.

Sea Grant plays a vital role in Alaska and throughout the state’s coastal communities, with the programs combining essential aspects of applied research, communication, extension and education, Murkowski said.

“For more than four decades, the National Sea Grant programs have aided in spreading economic sustainability and environmental conservation of our nation’s bountiful marine resources,” she added.

The resolution available online at https://www.merkley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Sos%20Sea%20Grant%20Resolution%20Final.pdf notes than 42 percent of the population of the United States lives or works in coastal areas and that coastal counties contribute over $7.6 trillion annually to the economy.

The resolution also indicates that the National Sea Grant College program had an economic impact of $575 million in 2015 from a Federal investment of $67.3 million, an 854-percent return on investment.

Outlook Issued for Prince William Sound, Bristol Bay Salmon Fisheries

Commercial fishing in the Copper River’s famed wild salmon fishery is expected to begin the week of May 14, with a harvest projection for the Copper River District of 889,000 sockeye, 207,000 coho and 4,000 Chinook salmon.

State Department of Fish and Game biologists say the initial management strategy will be based on anticipated weekly sockeye and Chinook salmon harvests, with additional assessments of river conditions, fishing effort and harvest consistency. Beginning in early to mid-August, when coho harvest becomes predominant, the Copper and Bering River districts will be managed for coho stocks.

The 2017 pink salmon forecast run for Prince William Sound is 67.16 million fish, of which 58.92 million will be available for commercial harvest. If the natural stock pink salmon forecast is realized it would be the second largest natural run on record, and well above the 1997–2015 odd-year average return of 12.29 million fish. State biologists said the 2017 Prince William Sound pink salmon forecast is the largest on record and liberal fishing time and area is anticipated if returns are as strong as expected.

The 2017 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon forecast is for some 41.5 million fish, with a projected bay-wide harvest of 27.47 million reds. Last year the Bay produced a sockeye harvest of 37.3 million fish from a total run of 51.4 million, exceeding the forecasted 46.55 million fish.

The average ex-vessel price of 76 cents a pound put the total sockeye fishery value at $153.2 million, according to the Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association (formerly the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association).

Forecasters call for a total run of 10.65 million reds into Egegik and projected harvest of 8.56 million fish, while the Naknek-Kvichak district is anticipated to have a run of 16.07 million fish and harvest of 8.29 million.

For the Nushagak district, the anticipated sockeye run is 8.62 million, with a harvest of 6.06 million. The Ugashik district has a forecasted run of 5.46 million reds and harvest of 4.09 million fish, while Togiak’s anticipated run of 0.66 million reds is expected to produce a harvest of 0.48 million fish.

Southeast Alaska Chinook Salmon All-Gear Harvest Limit Set at 209,700 Fish

The preseason Chinook salmon all-gear harvest limit for Southeast Alaska in 2017 has been set at 209,700 fish, under provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced this week.

Southeast Alaska’s treaty harvest limit on Chinooks is determined by the Chinook Technical Committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission. It is based on the forecast of an aggregate abundance of Pacific Coast Chinook salmon stocks subject to management under the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

The allocation is shared by sport and commercial troll and net fisheries, under management plans specified by the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

For 2017, the troll sector will get 154,990 fish, and sport harvesters will get 38,720 fish, both after net gear is subtracted. The purse seiners are allocated 9,020 kings, drift gillnetters 6,080 kings and set gillnetters 1,000 fish.

Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association, said that even though they fish for kings year round right now everybody is fixated on how many fish they will get when they go fishing on July 1.

“Given that we just came off of a difficult winter fishery dominated by bad weather conditions, and we are going to be tightening our belts in the spring to protect local stocks, the quota announcement is extremely disappointing and presents enormous economic challenges for trollers and other fishermen in Southeast Communities,” she said.

NPFMC Take Action on CDQ Ownership Caps

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) has taken final action to establish limitations on ownership and use of limited access privileges to prevent the excessive consolidation of privileges under Community Development Quota (CDQ) caps.

During its spring meeting in Anchorage the council voted to revise the regulations governing the ownership attribution model for CDQ groups for excessive share limitations under the American Fisheries Act (AFA) Program.

The preferred alternative also calls for revision to regulations and to the crab fisheries management plan governing the ownership attribution model for CDQ groups for the processor quota share ownership and individual processor quota use caps under the crab rationalization program, as directed in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

In addition to their allocations under the CDQ program, CDQ groups participate in other limited access privilege programs, including AFA and crab rationalization by purchasing quota shares or thorough vessel ownership and processors participating in these fisheries.

Since the 2006 amendment to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service has implemented the proportional ownership attribution method for CDQ groups to monitor excessive share caps in the AFA and crab rationalization programs. However, these and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands crab fisheries management plan have not been updated to reflect that change. The council’s action would revise regulations and the crab FMP to make them consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and current practice.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Progress Reported in Implementing Pot Cod Fleet Monitoring

An electronic monitoring (EM) project for Alaska’s pot cod fishery is building on two prior pilot projects by North Pacific Fisheries Association (NPFA) and Saltwater Inc. to determine the feasibility of this technology.

A critical goal of this pre-implementation effort is to develop sustainable infrastructure to support long-term implementation of EM in Alaska, says Nancy Munro, of Saltwater Inc., an observer and EM service provider based in Anchorage.

Munro was in Kodiak for ComFish 2017 to discuss the project in a forum with others on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s EM working team.

The project tests a model that focuses on the importance of high quality data and cost effectiveness, and highlights skipper engagement, integration of observers into the EM program, cross training of skilled EM personnel and a streamlined feedback loop between vessels and the data.

Saltwater has been collecting fisheries data via its observer programs for the past 30 years and EM data for the last eight. The firm currently provides EM services in multiple domestic fisheries, including Alaska’s fixed gear fishery.

The concept behind the project reflects the thinking of many industry participants, Munro said. With support from the National Marine Fisheries Service and North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the project is part of the pre-implementation of EM for Alaska’s fixed gear fleet.

“Considering the generic human resistance to change and the process of envisioning a program by a committee of competing interests, I think we’re doing OK,” Munro said. “We have a ways to go to design a program which will be cost effective for the industry, but we are making progress.

“As part of the pre-implementation model, current and prior NMFS observers are reviewing EM data in Anchorage. This has created a tight feedback loop between the boats and the data. With timely results, we are able to provide in-season feedback memos to vessels and correct issues that interfere with collecting good data. We are using open source review software, which decreases costs and encourage innovation,” she said.

Also packed into three days of ComFish were a number of other forums dealing with everything from fish politics to marketing efforts, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s global food aid program, and educational opportunities for young fishermen through the University of Alaska and Alaska Sea Grant programs.

Oil Leak in Cook Inlet Stopped

In the aftermath of Hilcorp Alaska’s agreement with the state of Alaska to a temporary shutdown of its oil and gas production to halt the environmental impact from a gas line leak in Cook Inlet, another spill, this time from oil, was discovered on April 1.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) at first said an unknown amount of Cook Inlet crude oil was released into the environment on April 1, then revised that figure to under 10 gallons. The crude oil came from an 8-inch oil pipeline located in the Upper Cook Inlet near Granite Point.

On April 3, DEC issued an update, to say Hilcorp successfully and safely evacuated all crude oil from the suspected leaking pipeline by displacing it with filtered seawater. That pipeline is an oil gathering line connecting two of Hilcorp’s platforms in the area. The exact cause of the oil release is unknown and remains under investigation.

While Hilcorp activated its response contractor upon discovery of the spill, six oil sheens were observed, the largest being 10 feet by 12 feet, while two of the sheens were three to four feet by 20 to 25 feet in size, DEC said.

DEC also said that marine mammals likely to be present at the time of the spill include endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales, seal lions, harbor seals, other whales and porpoises.

Also present in the area at the time were likely to be Dolly Varden, rainbow trout, Pacific eulachon, Pacific halibut, Pacific herring, Bering cisco, humpback whitefish, American shad, Walleye pollock, sablefish, Pacific and saffron cod, yellowfin sole and smelt, DEC said.

The discharge occurred within designated critical habitat for Cook Inlet beluga whales. The area is also essential fish habitat for all five species of Pacific salmon.

“It has been less than a week since Hilcorp agreed to temporarily shut down oil and gas production as part of its response to a leaking gas supply line, said Alaska Gov. Bill Walker. “Now Hilcorp has reported a separate leaking oil line, which is significantly more harmful than natural gas.” The governor said he is deeply concerned about the potential impact to the environment, and that the state’s spill prevention and response team has responded.

Hilcorp Alaska agreed on March 25 to a temporary shutdown of its oil and gas production to reduce environmental impact and safety risks in the wake of the company’s gas line leak in Cook Inlet.

That decision came after discussions between company executives and Walker, who said “Alaskans want peace of mind that our waters are protected.”

Bipartisan Alliance Formed to Address Marine Debris

Bipartisan legislation to help address the marine debris crisis affecting America’s ocean shorelines and inland waterways has been introduced in the US Senate by Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI and Dan Sullivan, R-AK.

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. The governor of an affected state would also be able to request such a declaration from NOAA. The bill would reauthorize NOAA’s Marine Debris Program through fiscal year 2022, to conduct research on the source of marine debris and take action to prevent and clean up that debris.

It would also encourage the executive branch of government to engage with leaders of nations responsible for the bulk of marine debris, examine the causes of ocean debris, discuss effective prevention and mitigation strategies, and economic benefits for treaty nations in addressing the crisis.

The Save our Seas Act, S. 756, would also address other coasts across the globe.

“Marine debris threatens critical species and habitats, litters our shorelines, and hurts coastal businesses,” Booker said. “Our bipartisan bill authorizes NOAA to continue and expand its work to address this problem, and I look forward to working with Senator Sullivan and our other colleagues to secure additional funding for this program.”

“We have a long way to go, but this legislation is a start toward research, international efforts, and responsible trade policies that together will help us better care for the world’s oceans,” Whitehouse said.

Sullivan meanwhile praised the legislation as a way for the US government to hold accountable countries whom he said are responsible for the majority of debris in oceans. “This bill encourages the Trump administration to forge alliances with these countries and to take a stand against the dangerous levels of debris in our oceans and make sure that they do not reach America’s coastlines,” he said.

Harvest Strategy Approved for PWS Tanner Crab

A harvest strategy critical to future tanner crab fisheries in Prince William Sound was approved by the Alaska Board of Fisheries during its statewide king and tanner crab meeting in Anchorage in late March.

Proposal 268, from Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU), amends state regulations for tanner crab in Prince William Sound specifying conditions under which a commercial fishery may occur. It also establishes a sport fishery for tanner crab there as well, when the threshold level is reached for mature male abundance.

The proposal says that a harvest strategy should be formulated from the trawl survey data.

The Cordova commercial fishermen’s group said thresholds above which a commercial fishery could occur, as well as guideline harvest levels, can be determined conservatively using the same format and formulas used for the Eastern Aleutians District tanner crab harvest strategy in the Westward Area, which supports a small commercial tanner crab fishery in most years.

Until the board’s action, Prince William Sound was the only area in Alaska with a stock assessment for tanner crab, but no harvest strategy in regulation.

Tanner crab abundance in Prince William Sound has been increasing and with the harvest strategy in place a commercial fishery there could offer economic opportunity to local fishermen and communities, CDFU said.

There has not been a commercial tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound since the late 1980s because of the lack of abundance, noted Glenn Haight, executive director of the fisheries board.

Proposal 267, from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, also supports creation of a harvest strategy and amending regulations for tanner crab in Prince William Sound specifying conditions under which the commercial fishery could occur and also reducing the legal size limit in the subsistence tanner crab fishery.

The board also approved a number of other proposals, including a 20-pot per vessel limit on the South Peninsula tanner crab fishery.

Haight said that the board planned to take a harder look at the Bering Sea tanner crab harvest strategy during a meeting in mid-May.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

AMSEA Safety Courses Coming Up in April and May

Spaces are still available for a variety of fishing vessel and cold water safety courses from mid- April and through May, offered by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association in Sitka.

The fishing vessel drill conductor workshop at Cordova on April 15 will cover cold-water survival skills, emergency position-indicating radio beacon stations (EPIRBs), flares and maydays; man-overboard recovery and firefighting; immersion suits and personal floatation devices, helicopter rescue, life rafts, abandon ship procedures and emergency drills.

There will be an in-the-water practice session, giving participants practical experience with PFDs and immersion suits, employing survival techniques, and righting and boarding an inflatable life raft.

The same course will be conducted in Dillingham April 20-21. Enrollment for that course in Haines on April 26-27 is already closed, but there are spots left in the marine safety instructor training course at Seward April 25-30.

Other AMSEA courses in Alaska in May include the fishing vessel drill conductor course at Seward May 1, at Anchorage May 6-7, at Sitka May 9, and Unalaska May 26-28.

AMSEA drill conductor workshops meet training requirements for drill conductors on board documented commercial fishing vessels operating beyond the federal boundary line.

AMSEA advises that this is an excellent opportunity for commercial fishermen and other mariners to gain hands-on training with marine safety equipment and learn best practices for surviving emergencies at sea.

Interested mariners may register at www.amsea.org or call 1-907-747-3287.

Togiak Herring Sac Roe Harvest Set

Harvest allocations for the 2017 Togiak, Alaska, herring sac roe fishery are set at 22,943 tons, with 19,060 tons, or 70 percent for the purse seine vessels, and 6,883 tons, or 30 percent for gillnet harvesters.

The spawn-on-kelp harvest allocation was set at 1,500 tons and the Dutch Harbor food and bait allocation at 1,727 tons.

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) said that the allocation decision, which is usually based on the spawning biomass forecast, this year is based on the average spawning biomass for all years for which they have data, 1978 -2015, less 10 percent in order to be conservative.

Traditionally the department has used an age structured assessment model to forecast the spawning biomass of Togiak herring, which requires estimates of the spawning biomass as well as estimates of the age composition of the spawning biomass and the harvest, ADF&G biologists said on March 28.

The Pacific herring spawning biomass for the Togiak District was not estimated in 2016 nor was any estimate made of the age composition of the 2016 harvest due to state budget cuts, hence the decision to use data averages, they said.

The Bristol Bay Herring Management Plan sets a maximum 20 percent exploitation rate for Togiak District stock. Based on the forecast of 130,852 tons, 26,170 tons of herring will be available for harvest this year.

The management strategy for the Togiak herring fishery is designed to provide for maximum sustained yield. This year the sac roe fisheries will again be managed to maximize product quality through long openings, which allow permit holders to make smaller sets and harvest the highest quality fish, biologists said. Long openings also allow processors to have flexible control of harvest volume so that holding time between harvest and processing is optimal.

Based on a preseason poll, processing capacity is expected to be about 2,150 tons a day. The poll also indicates that four processors will participate in the Togiak sac roe herring fishery with a fleet size of 16 gillnet and 19 purse seine vessels.

For the last decade, ADF&G has opened the herring fishery as soon as the threshold biomass of 35,000 tons has been documented and will use this strategy again in 2017. The strategy allows individual companies to maximize their processing capacity and decide what quality fish is suitable for their individual markets.

ADF&G uses a sea surface temperature model based on temperatures near Unalaska to predict Togiak herring run timing. Based on that model, the fishery should commence around the first week of May, but harvesters and processors are cautioned that this timing model has not performed very well the last couple of years, biologists said.

The department has secured funds sufficient to fly aerial surveys and process herring for age, sex and length samples, which will allow staff to resume use of the age structured assessment model for forecasting herring biomass, biologists said.

MCA Offers New Website on Sustainability

An interactive website developed by the Marine Conservation Alliance now offers its “Seven Principles of Sustainability,” a comprehensive overview from MCA’s perspective on federal fisheries management in the ocean off of Alaska.

Included on the site are sections on habitat protection, by catch management, food webs and environmental change.

The site (www.ebfm.marineconservaitonalliance.org) also has sections on community protections and protections against overfishing. Interactive tools allow users to view areas closed to fishing in the North Pacific, explaining how each closure applies and why it was developed.

“There is nothing else like this available to illustrate the complexity of North Pacific fisheries regulations, interactions, and their impacts,” said Lori Swanson, MCA executive director.

“Ecosystem-based fishery management continues to evolve in this area. Managers are doing a lot of things right.”

MCA is a consortium of stakeholders including harvesters, processors and communities. Its purpose is to promote sustainable fisheries through science-based management.

The MCA board is made up of 10 seats, each representing a segment of the North Pacific and Bering Sea fishing industry.

Member organizations include the Adak Community Development Corp., Alaska Longline Co., Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association; Alaska Groundfish Data Bank, Alaska Scallop Association, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, Arctic Storm Management Group, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, the city of Unalaska, Glacier Fish Co., Groundfish Forum, High Seas Catcher Vessels, Icicle Seafoods, Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., Pacific Seafood, Pacific Seafood Processors Association and United Catcher Boats.

Temporary Shutdown of Cook Inlet Oil and Gas Production

Hilcorp Alaska has agreed to a temporary shutdown of its oil and gas production to reduce environmental impact and safety risks in the wake of the company’s gas line leak in Cook Inlet.

The decision came in the aftermath of discussions between company executives and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who said “Alaskans want peace of mind that our waters are protected.”

Hilcorp executives committed to Walker that they will not be starting up production at the Cook Inlet platforms again until federal and state regulators are satisfied that the oil and gas lines can be operated safely and in accordance with all applicable laws, the governor’s office said March 25.

Hilcorp agreed to reduce the gas line pressure by half – from 145 pounds per square inch to 65 psi, the minimum needed to maintain pressure to prevent water from entering the line. Because the gas line was formerly an oil pipeline, old crude oil could potentially leak into the inlet if water were to enter the gas line.

Hilcorp said in its statement, also issued on March 25, that as the company works with government agencies to finalize the plan to reduce gas line pressure, shut-in production and repair the pipeline, “the safety of personnel, wildlife and the environment remain the top priority.”

Hilcorp first discovered the leak into Cook Inlet, an important salmon fishery for commercial, sport and personal use harvesters, during a helicopter overflight on Feb. 7, and reported the situation to federal and state agencies. The company said winter ice has hampered efforts to repair the line because it makes it dangerous for divers and boats to operate in the area of the leak.

Hilcorp contends in its reports to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation that the spill has not unduly harmed the environment, but Bob Shavelson, advocacy director for the nonprofit Cook Inletkeeper said the ongoing pollution “lies in the heart of some of the most important habitat for the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale and its prey species.”

Cook Inletkeeper served notice on Hilcorp in mid-February of intent to file a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act, based on information that methane from the illegal discharge is displacing oxygen in the water column, thereby creating a “dead zone” of unknown expanse, where low or no oxygen levels threaten harm and lethality to fish and wildlife.

The letter, signed by Shavelson, also said that based on the temperature and salinity conditions in Cook Inlet, the solubility of methane in marine waters presents an ongoing threat to water quality, fish and wildlife.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Processor Fined for Dumping Oil and Raw Sewage

East West Seafoods LLC of Seattle has been fined $50,000 in a judgment handed down by the US District Court in Anchorage for violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, the Clean Water Act and the Refuse Act.

The court ruled on March 21 that The F/V Pacific Producer, a large seafood processing vessel owned by East West Seafoods, intentionally discharged oily bilge water and raw sewage into the ocean off the coast of Alaska, and then presented false records to the US Coast Guard.

Acting US Attorney Bryan Schroder in Anchorage said that on March 15, 2013, the F/V Pacific Producer was traveling from Kodiak and grounded near Ouzinkie Narrows. While within three miles of shore, the defendants unlawfully discharged about 1,000 gallons of raw sewage into Chiniak Bay between Long Island and Spruce Island.

Then on March 29, 2013, while departing from the ferry dock at Ouzinkie, crew aboard the F/V Pacific Producer knowingly discharged a harmful quantity of oil into the water within three miles of shore, causing a sheen on the surface of the water, Schroder said. The defendants also regularly used an illegal pump system to knowingly discharge oily bilge water directly overboard, he said.

The defendants also knowingly failed to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book as required, failed to record discharges of oil into the sea through the illegal pump system, and knew that use of the pump system and failure to record the discharges was illegal, he said.

When the Coast Guard boarded the vessel in Kodiak on Jan. 27, 2014, there was raw sewage flowing from piping onto the open weather deck, Schroder said.

The defendants also unlawfully discharged raw sewage into St. Paul Harbor while the vessel was within three miles of shore at Kodiak without a permit, he said.

The 75-percent owner of the seafood processing firm, and operator of the F/V Pacific Producer, Christos Tsabouris, 78, of Kodiak, was fined $10,000 and put on probation for five years for his role in the offenses, as was the company itself. During the probationary period the company will be subject to a heightened level of scrutiny, including warrantless searches of its vessels and places of business based on reasonable suspicion of violation of the law.

Both Sides Working to Resolve Pebble Litigation

A joint motion filed this week by backers of a massive mining project adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed and the US Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a stay of proceedings in ongoing litigation in hopes of resolving the matter.

The announcement from Northern Dynasty Minerals in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the EPA said that substantial progress has been made in recent discussions and that the two sides intend to continue negotiating the matter directly, rather than through mediation. Federal government representatives engaged in discussions with the Pebble Partnership are focused on achieving a resolution agreeable to both parties, they said.

Meanwhile, the US District Court’s preliminary injunction, issued on Nov. 25, 2014, will remain in effect. The litigation stems from the Pebble Limited Partnership’s lawsuit alleging that the EPA worked with mine opponents in a predetermined effort to stop development of the copper, gold and molybdenum project. The EPA countered that the lawsuit aimed to undermine its effort to protect Bristol Bay from potential environmental damage.

Mine backers say that the EPA is preemptively vetoing the project on land designated for mineral development by the state of Alaska.

The EPA has defended its decision to use Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, which authorizes the EPA to restrict or deny the discharge of dredged or fill material at defined sites in federal waters, if the EPA determines such sites would have unacceptable adverse impact on various resources, including fisheries.

Pebble partnership CEO Tom Collier said the company is confident of achieving a fair resolution that follows the rule of law, supports the interests of the parties involved and allows the project to move into a normal course permitting process.

Mine backers contend that the mine can be developed and operated in harmony with the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay.

Mine opponents contend that pollution from the mine stands to cause extensive adverse effects to the fishery.

Crab CDQ Fishery Ends, Herring Opens

Harvests in the 2017 Norton Sound red king crab community development quota fishery in western Alaska reached some 37,260 pounds through March 20, and with less than 11,000 pounds of the allocation remaining, the fishery will conclude today. The decision came after a consultation between the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC). Fishermen have just until 9 p.m. tonight to deliver their crab catch to the North Sound Seafood Products fish plant in Nome.

ADF&G said the closure date and time was based on recent catch rates, but that there is a possibility delivery rates could still increase.

NSEDC, the quota owner, has authority to implement additional management measures to ensure the CDQ allocation is not exceeded, and has authority to restrict the fishery prior to the closure time.

Any commercial harvest allocation not taken during the winter commercial fishery will be added to the summer commercial fishery allocation.

In Southeast Alaska, meanwhile, the Sitka Sound herring sac roe fishery opened in northwest Sitka Sound on March 19, with preliminary reports from processors putting that total harvest at 3,500 tons.

Approximately 9,800 tons of herring were harvested in commercial sac roe herring fisheries conducted in Southeast Alaska in 2016. ADF&G biologists said they anticipate an approximate harvest of some 14,600 tons in 2017.

GOA Military Training to be Discussed at ComFish

Officers from the Alaskan Command and US Pacific Fleet will be in Kodiak on March 30 to discuss plans for the Navy’s Exercise Northern Edge 2017 (NE 17) in the Gulf of Alaska May 1-12.

NE17 is one of a number of forums and events planned for ComFish, which runs through April 1.

NE17 is one of a series of Pacific Command exercises to prepare joint forces to respond to crises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. It is designed to sharpen tactical combat skills, improve command, control and communication relationships and develop interoperable plans and programs across the joint force.

Military officials say that environmental protection is an integral part of the exercise and that the military in Alaska have conducted thorough environmental analysis of the activities to be conducted. Captain Anastasia Schmit, public affairs director for the Alaska Command at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Anchorage, said in an interview that the Navy posts lookouts aboard ships during the exercise and if they encounter sea mammals all activities would stop. Schmit said military officials have also worked hard with local coastal communities for greater mitigation measures, and that everything they do is coordinated with the National Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Still their plans have raised concerns, as in past years, from seafood harvesters and environmentalists, over potential adverse impact of the military exercises on migrating fish and sea mammals.

Marine conservation biologist Rick Steiner of Anchorage said there is a need for independent observers aboard participating military vessels to provide independent verification of the Defense Department’s compliance with permit requirements and mitigation practices.

While they are not planning to use bombs or missiles, they will likely use exploding shells, and the duration of use of the Mid Frequency Active Sonar on beaked whales worries him, Steiner said. He and others would also like to see these training exercises moved to winter, reducing or eliminating the potential risk to marine mammals, seabirds and fish.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

204 Million Salmon Forecast for 2017 AK Harvest

Alaska’s statewide run forecasts and harvest projections for the 2017 salmon fisheries are out, with a harvest forecast of 204 million fish, compared with the 112.5 million salmon harvested commercially in Alaska in 2016. If realized, that harvest boost would be owing in great part to the catch of many more humpies.

The overall commercial harvest last year, valued at $414.2 million, included just 39 million humpies. The projected harvest was about 80 million pinks, compared with about 140 million this year. In 2013, the commercial pink salmon harvest came in at a record 219 million fish, compared with the forecast of just under 120 million.

The 2017 total commercial salmon harvest of all species is expected to include 80,000 Chinook salmon in areas outside of Southeast Alaska, 40.8 million sockeyes, 4.7 million cohos, 141.9 million humpies and 16.7 million chums. The projected pink salmon harvest is about 102.7 million more than harvested in 2016. The projected forecast also includes about 12 million fewer sockeyes, about 778,000 more cohos, and about 1.2 million more chum salmon than were harvested a year ago.

The complete run forecasts and Harvest Projects for 2017 Alaska salmon fisheries and review of the 2016 season is online at

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/SP17-08.pdf

Statistics compiled by ADF&G on harvests and ex-vessel values of Alaska commercial harvests dating back to 1994 can be found online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=CommercialByFisherySalmon.exvesselquery

Senators Call for Protection of Coast Guard Budget

A bipartisan group of 23 senators is urging the Trump administration to stop proposed plans to cut $1.3 billion from the US Coast Guard budget, citing its importance to national and economic security and halting the flow of illegal drugs.

According to reports, the FY 2018 presidential budget request could amount to almost 12 percent of the Coast Guard’s budget being cut, the senators said in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Administrator Mick Mulvaney.

“We are concerned that the Coast Guard would not be able to maintain maritime presence, respond to individual and national emergencies, and protect our nation’s economic and environmental interests,” the senators told Mulvaney.

“The proposed reduction… would directly contradict the priorities articulated by the Trump Administration. We urge you to restore the $1.3 billion cut to the Coast Guard budget, which we firmly believe would result in catastrophic negative impacts to the Coast Guard and its critical role in protecting our homeland, our economy and our environment.”

The letter cited many other accomplishments and missions of the Coast Guard, including securing 95,000 miles of American coastline, preventing thousands of cases of illegal immigration, and seizure of a record 469,270 pounds of illegal drugs in 2016.

The letter noted that the Coast Guard had maintained active and vigorous anti-terrorism and national security operations around our nation’s oceans, rivers and ports, and around American ships, boundaries and interests in the melting Arctic, through the Maritime Safety and Security Team and Maritime Security Response Team.

Coast Guard funding has already been allowed to slip well below the levels necessary to fulfill its mission and maintain its equipment and infrastructure, the senators said. Between 2010 and 2015, the Coast Guard’s acquisition budget fell by some 40 percent.

The fleet of cutters and patrol boats that intercept drugs and guard the nation’s waterways are aging at an unsustainable rate with no prospect of replacement, they said. The situation is particularly dire in the Arctic, where the U.S. will be without a heavy icebreaker for eight years, and the only Arctic nation without such a resource, if no action is taken to correct that problem, they said.

GSSI Recognizes the Marine Stewardship Council

The Marine Stewardship Council has become the third seafood certification scheme to be benchmarked against the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s Global Benchmark Tool and to achieve recognition. GSSI made the announcement this week, and congratulated MSU for its successful completion of GSSI’s rigorous benchmark process. “MSC’s recognition is a powerful signal to market actors who seek transparency and represent considerable progress toward our common objective of a level playing field in seafood certification,” said Bill DiMento, GSSI co-chair, and a vice president of High Liner Foods.

David Agnew, director of science and standards at MSC, said the process reaffirms the organization’s commitment to maintain world leading, science based standards that are widely applicable and help to drive real change.

London-based MSC is an international nonprofit organization established to address issues of unsustainable fishing and to safeguard seafood supplies for the future.

GSSI is a global platform and partnership of seafood companies, non-government organizations, experts, governmental and intergovernmental organizations with a mission of ensuring confidence in the supply and promotion of certified seafood, and to promote improvement in seafood certification schemes. GSSI’s Global Benchmark Tool identifies and recognizes robust and credible certification schemes and supports other schemes to improve. To date over 20 retailers, brand manufacturers, traders and food service companies worldwide have committed to including the outcomes of the GSSI Benchmark Process in their daily operations. More about GSSI is online at www.ourgssi.org

Harvesters Coalition Supports Small Boat Fishing Communities

Commercial harvesters advocating for small boat fishing communities and sustainable fisheries were in Washington DC this past week, advocating for the proposed National Young Fishermen’s Development Program. The bipartisan initiative from the Fishing Communities Coalition focuses on tackling the high cost of entry, financial risk and limited entry-level opportunities for young men and women wanting to begin a career in commercial fishing.

“Young fishermen today must navigate a tough obstacle course to enter this proud and important profession, which is why we are heartened to see growing support in Congress for this initiative” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “Empowering the next generation of fishermen with the tools they need to succeed is crucial to the survival of many coastal communities across the country.”

FCC members discussed with Congress a range of priorities related to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. These included maintaining science-based decision making, improving monitoring and accountability, strengthening community protections, fully funding science need to responsibly manage fisheries, and reducing bycatch.

The group of FCC members from Alaska, New England and the Gulf Coast met with more than 30 congressional offices and committees, to emphasize building on the success of the Magnuson-Stevens legislation, which has helped rebuild depleted fish stocks through sustainable fisheries management. Thanks to MSA and other federal, state and local sustainability initiatives, the US has rebuilt 40 marine fish stocks in U.S. waters since 2000, the group said. Commercial fisheries and seafood related industries currently support 1.4 million American jobs and generate $153 in annual sales, they said.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

NPFMC Meets in Anchorage April 3-11

Federal fisheries managers will take final action during their spring meeting in Anchorage on community development quota ownership caps.

The CDQ ownership caps are one of 10 major issues before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which will meet from April 3 through April 11 at the Hilton Hotel. All meetings are open to the public, except for executive sessions, and will be broadcast at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/april2017 . Motions will be posted following the meeting.

Also before the council is a discussion paper regarding a salmon fishery management plan, related to the state of Alaska’s petition for a writ of certiorari to the US Supreme Court regarding management of three salmon fisheries that overlap state and federal waters. A writ of certiorari orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review it. The state of Alaska filed its brief with the Supreme Court on Feb. 27, naming United Cook Inlet Drift Association and Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund as respondents. The brief states that the National Marine Fisheries Service agrees that managing these salmon fisheries to meet escapement goals as the state does is more effective at preventing overfishing than how fisheries would be managed under a federal fisheries management plan, which requires managing the fisheries to meet inflexible catch limits.

The state questions whether the Secretary of Commerce, acting through NMFS, may approve an FMP “that excludes and defers to state management of a fishery, because NMFS concludes that the excluded fishery does not require a plan and would be worse off managed under a plan?”

The state’s petition to the court is included in the meeting agenda, which is online at http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2017/4/955_A_North_Pacific_Council_17-04-03_Meeting_Agenda.pdf

Commercial Fishing Loans Bill Awaits Action in Alaska Legislature

Legislation currently awaiting action in the Alaska House Finance Committee would raise the total aggregate amount a borrower may hold unpaid from $300,000 to $400,000 on certain commercial fishing loans made by the state.

The measure, sponsored by Representative Daniel Ortiz, an independent legislator from Ketchikan, and co-sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D- Sitka, was approved by the House Special Committee on Fisheries in late February.

The bill refers to total balances outstanding on loans made by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

House Joint Resolution 12, which passed the House Special Committee on Fisheries unanimously in late February, is now awaiting action in House Resources.

The resolution opposes the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of AquaBounty AquaAdvantage genetically engineered salmon. It urges Congress to enact legislation that would require prominently labeling genetically engineered products with the words “genetically modified” on the product’s packaging.

Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, the resolution’s sponsor, said the measure is designed to protect Alaska’s wild salmon and support sustainable fisheries.

Also of interest to Alaska’s fishing industry is House Bill 60, which has been referred to the House Finance Committee, legislation related to motor fuel taxes.

The bill, sponsored by House Rules Committee at the request of Gov. Bill Walker, would in part increase the tax on motor fuel for all watercraft.

Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, chair of the House Special Committee in Fisheries, passed an amendment to the bill to allow commercial fishermen to apply for a 3 cent per gallon rebate. If the bill passes the Legislature, the tax on marine fuel would rise 5 cents this year and the rebate effectively mitigates that increase to 2 cents.

Stutes also notes that language in the bill was tightened to specify that proceeds from the marine fuel tax should be used to support ports and harbors and the state’s Marine Highway System.

Pacific Halibut Opener Gets Under Way on March 11

Commercial fishing for Pacific halibut will open on March 11, with a catch limit of 31.4 million pounds, a 5 percent increase from a year ago. Alaska’s total halibut catch is set at 22.62 million pounds, an increase of 1.17 million pounds from 2016.

The season will continue through Nov. 7.

The 2017 regulations were published on March 7 in the Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/03/07/2017-04407/pacific-halibut-fisheries-catch-sharing-plan

The announcement came after some industry concern that with the 60-day freeze imposed by the Trump administration on all new and pending regulations that the State Department and Commerce Department would be delayed in approving the start of the fishery. Industry insiders gave much credit to two women in the catch share branch of NOAA’s Alaska Region office who spent hours working on the regulations sent on to Washington DC for approval. They are Rachel Baker, catch share branch chief, and Julie Scheurer, coordinator for charter halibut management and recreational fishing.

The new regulations include authorization for longline pot gear as legal gear for the commercial halibut fishery in Alaska when NOAA Fisheries regulations permit use of this gear in the individual quota share sablefish fishery. Vessels using longline pot gear to harvest IFQ sablefish in the Gulf will be required to retain halibut consistent with IPHC regulations and NOAA Fisheries regulations specified in the final rule to authorize longline pot gear.

Use of longline pot gear as legal gear for the commercial halibut fishery in Alaska was authorized at the IPHC’s annual meeting in 2016.

A regulatory amendment approved by the IPHC requires that beginning in 2017 all commercial Pacific halibut must be landed and weighed with their heads attached for data reporting purposes. The amendment requires that halibut be landed head-on and those head-on halibut will be subject to a 32-inch minimum size limit, the only exception being for vessels that freeze halibut at sea. Those vessels may deliver their frozen, head-off halibut shoreside with a 24-inch minimum size limit.

Concerns Raised Over Proposed Cuts to EPA Funds for Puget Sound

A Washington state congressman is raising concerns over proposed cuts to Environmental Protection Agency funding for Puget Sound.

“These cuts would decimate EPA-backed Puget Sound restoration and leave NOAA without the necessary resources to fight climate change and support Pacific Northwest Fisheries,” says Rep. Rick Larsen, D-WA. Larsen vowed this week to “oppose these slash and burn cuts and continue fighting for a healthy, clean and protected environment.”

Larsen noted that in addition to reducing resources for Puget Sound from $28 million in fiscal 2016 to $2 million in fiscal 2018 that the Trump administration is reportedly seeking to cut a quarter of the EPA’s total budget, eliminating 3,000 positions and impacting programs aimed at reversing climate change, and protecting clean air and water.

The fiscal 2018 budget for the EPA and other federal agencies is still a long way from decided.

Larsen’s office was not immediately available for further comment, but a spokesman for Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said House and Senate appropriators are currently working with their colleagues to outline priorities and topline figures to fund these federal agencies. “There is significant work to be done, including a number of major reforms and policy provisions to roll back many of the previous administration’s destructive rules and regulations,” said Young aide Matt Shuckerow.

Larsen and Young are co-chairs of the 21-member Congressional Arctic Working Group, whose goal is to help Congress better understand the opportunities and challenges of the US as an Arctic nation.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bill Would Require Legislative Approval for Large-scale Mines

A bill back for a second round before the Alaska lawmakers would require legislative approval for a large-scale metallic sulfide mine operation within the watershed of the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.

Such authorization would take the form of a duly enacted law finding that the proposed large-scale mining operation would not constitute danger to the fisheries within the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.

The focus of the bill, while not mentioned by name, is the proposed Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed.

Hunter Dickenson Inc., a diversified global mining group based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has spent millions of dollars on the project to date, in hope of getting the mine permitted and into the operational phase. HDI, whose Alaska subsidiary is the Pebble Limited Partnership, in Anchorage, contends that the mine can operate in harmony with the watershed that is home to the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon. Thousands affiliated with the seafood industry, environmental entities and the recreational fishing and hunting industries disagree, contending that the mine poses great risk to salmon habitat.

HDI and its subsidiary, Northern Dynasty Minerals, have yet to apply for permits to operate the mine, and are still seeking a major financial partner to replace Anglo American, a major global mining firm, that walked away from the partnership in 2013, after investing six years and at least $541 million in its partnership with Northern Dynasty.

House Bill 14, first introduced during the last session of the Alaska Legislature, failed to make it to the floor of the House, but the author of that bill, Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, is optimistic about its chances of making it to the House floor during this session.

HB 14 has already been heard by the House Special Committee on Fisheries, chaired by Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, and Josephson said he’s optimistic that it will move on to the House Resources Committee, which he co-chairs with Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage. From there it would go to House Rules, chaired by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R- Anchorage, and former mayor of the Kodiak Island Borough. Should it pass the House, which Josephson thinks is likely, HB 14 would go on to the Senate, where passage would be a real long shot.

Norton Sound Winter Crab Harvest Opens for CDQ Fishery

With the winter commercial red king crab winding up, the community development quota fishery for Norton Sound red king crab opened on Feb. 28, with an allocation of 496,800 pounds.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists at Nome said that through Feb. 27, 27,600 pounds of the 39,744-pound guideline harvest level were caught, with 35 of the 57 registered commercial permit holders having made at least one delivery.

Based on current catch rates and good weather forecast, and barring any unforeseen ice or wind conditions, ADF&G anticipated the GHL would be reached by March 2.

The CDQ allocation is up to 37,260 pounds of red king crab.

Half of the CDQ allocation belongs to the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., which was also working to get the remaining quota for its resident fishermen.

Under NSEDC’s policies, commercial fishing for CDQ crab is open to any fishermen age 18 or older who qualifies as a Norton Sound resident under NSEDC residency policy, and signs the 2017 NSEDC Norton Sound Red King Crab Fisherman’s Agreement and NSEDC residency verification forms.

By regulation, the CDQ is allocated 7.5 percent of the allowable commercial harvest of 496,800 pounds. In 2017, this equates to 37,260 additional pounds that could be harvested this winter. Commercial fishing for CDQ crab is open to all residents 18 years of age or older who qualifies as a Norton Sound resident under NSEDC’s residency policy, can obtain a CDQ gear permit card, and signs the 2017 NSEDC Norton Sound Red King Crab Fisherman’s Agreement and NSEDC Residency Verification forms.

Sea Lion Boards Fishing Boat, Bites Crewman

A crewman aboard a fishing vessel tied up at the Peter Pan Seafoods dock at Sand Point was severely injured when a sea lion jumped on board, clamped onto his leg with its jaw and slammed him to the deck.

The incident aboard the F/V Cape St. Elias was reported Feb. 28 in an article in “In the Loop,” an online publication of Alaska’s Aleutians East Borough, written by AEB communications director Laura Tanis.

Michael “Mack” McNeil, who is recuperating at home in Deer Park, Washington, never saw it coming. “It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt,” he said.

Ben Ley, the vessel’s owner and skipper, said the attack occurred while the crew was taking off a pollock net and putting on a cod net, and that there were no fish on board. McNeil was running hydraulics and walked around to clear the backlash when the sea lion came up all the way out of the water, jumped up over the stern ramp and onto the deck.

McNeil said the sea lion grabbed him before it even hit the deck. Other crew rushed to grab McNeil before he got closer to the stern ramp. The sea lion took a couple hops back toward the water, but then let go, McNeil said. But the sea lion had bit through his oilskins, sweatpants and long underwear, down to the bone.

The crew called for help and McNeil was transported to the local clinic, then transported to Anchorage, where an orthopedic surgeon operated on his leg later that evening. “The muscles in my calf were partially severed, so the surgeon reattached them,” McNeil said.

McNeil said he is unable to walk right now and he expects it will take at least 12 weeks for his calf muscles to heal, so he can begin physical therapy.

He still is puzzled about the unprovoked attack, because the net was clean and there were no fish on board.

“I’m a big guy,” he said. “I’m 6’3” tall. I was wearing bright orange oilskins. There’s no way the sea lion could have mistaken me for a piece of fish.”

NOAA’s office of law enforcement in Kodiak is also puzzled by the incident, but NOAA officials did note cases where fishermen have dumped fish parts near docks or in harbors, and said that as a result some sea lions may view fishing boats as a food source.

Feeding changes the natural behaviors of sea lions, decreasing their willingness to find their own food, and increasing the chances they will steal fish from fishermen. Sea lions may then lose their natural wariness of humans and associate people with food, resulting in dangerous and unpredictable behavior toward people, NOAA officials said.

The sea lions are, however, federally protected under the Marine Mammals Act, so NOAA’s advice to the public is to be aware that they are aggressive animals and need to be left alone.

Alaska Resolution Critical of Genetically Engineered Salmon

A resolution under consideration by the Alaska Legislation strongly opposes the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of AquaBounty AquAdvantage genetically engineered salmon.

House Joint Resolution 12, sponsored by Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, urges Congress to enact legislation requiring prominently labeling genetically engineered products with the words “genetically modified” on the product’s packaging.

In late February the state House Fisheries Committee had the measure under consideration. Tarr’s resolution notes that this is the first time in history that Food and Drug Administration has approved a genetically engineered animal for human consumption and that the majority of Alaska residents, and more than two million Americans oppose such approval.

The resolution also notes that in May 2013, a research report from Canada’s McGill University detailed findings demonstrating interbreeding between genetically modified salmon and brown trout could occur, suggesting that the potential for similar hybridization between other closely related species could pose risks for wild populations, including wild salmon. That research also demonstrated that transgenic hybrid salmon can outcompete with wild salmon and genetically modified salmon, making hybridization relevant to risk assessments, and that with thousands of salmon escaping from open water net pens every year into the Pacific and Atlantic oceans such escapement is a serious threat to wild fish populations.

A copy of the resolution is online at http://www.legis.state.ak.us/PDF/30/Bills/HJR012A.PDF In a sponsor statement accompanying the resolution, Tarr said that Alaska prides itself in producing the highest quality wild seafood, and that the commercial fishing industry is the largest private sector employer in the state, with seafood exports worth over $3.25 billion annually. Residents also fill their freezers and smoke houses in Alaska with healthy wild seafood, she said.

“This industry and way of life would be jeopardized with the inevitable, accidental release of transgenic fish into the wild, Tarr said.

“HJR 12 is designed to raise awareness about the importance of wild seafood and the commercial fishing industry while highlighting the concerns regarding the long term safety of consuming genetically engineered food products,” she said.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Alaska Fisheries Board to Tackle Upper Cook Inlet Finfish Issues

There are 174 proposals on Upper Cook Inlet finfish issues that are up for consideration when the Alaska Board of Fisheries begins a 14-day public meeting in Anchorage tomorrow, Feb. 23. All portions of the meeting are open to the pubic and live audio stream is intended to be available at www.boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov

In addition to submitting written public comments, the board invites oral public testimony during the meeting. The tentative deadline for signing up is 2 p.m. Feb. 24.

The agenda and meeting roadmap are online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo

In anticipation of a large number of participants in this meeting, the state’s Boards Support Section plans to hold a brief training session from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. tomorrow in the main meeting area of the Anchorage Sheraton Hotel, to help participants better understand how the Board of Fisheries process works. Training matter will include how the board meeting structure works, how to get the most out of your maximum three minutes of public testimony, and things to consider when working with board members.

Topics before the board at this meeting range from proposals for changes in several salmon management plans and gillnet fisheries to area wide sport fisheries and habitat.

Proposal 134, for example, would amend the Kasilof River Salmon Management Plan to remove restrictions in the upper sub-district commercial set gillnet fisher and allow for regular weekly fishing periods through July 20, with additional fishing periods based on in-season abundance. That proposal from the Central Peninsula Fish and Game Advisory Committee contends that the current plan illegally restricts the commissioner’s emergency order authority and makes it impossible to manage the East Side set net fishery in a manner to meet the escapement goals and harvest the surplus.

SWAMC Summit on Fisheries Legislation, Values, Policies

Alaska fisheries legislation, values and policies will be in the spotlight during the annual summit meeting of the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference on March 3 in Anchorage.

Conference attendees will get an update from legislators on a range of bills with potential impact on harvesters and coastal fishing communities, from motor fuel to state income taxes. Further updates on the state’s community development quota entities, which are allocated a percentage of groundfish quotas annually by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, are to be presented executives with the Aleut Pribilof Island Community Development Association and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.

Jan Jacobs of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation will talk about efforts to utilize the entire catch, and Trident Seafoods’ Stephanie Moreland will discuss the importance of embracing technology for the good of businesses and communities.

Also on tap for the conference is a discussion about fisheries policy for Alaska’s future, with Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty, Ernie Weiss of Aleutians East Borough, Julie Bonney of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank, and Kodiak harvester Theresa Peterson, recently named to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The conference opens on March 2, with presenters including Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten.

King, Tanner Crab on Alaska Board of Fisheries Agenda

Statewide king and tanner crab issues, except for Southeast Alaska and Yakutat, will come before the Alaska Board of Fisheries March 20-24 in Anchorage.

There are 38 proposals on the meeting roadmap, online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo. The meeting is open to the public and live audio stream is to be available via the board’s website, http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo

The board will consider two proposals for the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim, three for Kodiak and the South Peninsula, 12 proposals for the Bering Sea, three for the Aleutian Islands, two for Cook Inlet, and seven for Prince William Sound.

Among those seven Prince William Sound proposals is one from Cordova District Fishermen United to create a harvest strategy and amend regulations to allow for a commercial tanner crab fishery in that area.

CDFU states in its proposal that Prince William Sound is the only area in Alaska that has a stock assessment for tanner crab and no harvest strategy in regulation. Alaska Department of Fish and Game trawl surveys have documented an increase in tanner crab abundance, and a commercial tanner crab fishery could provide economic opportunity to local fishermen and communities, CDFU says in its proposal.

Given the state’s current fiscal crisis, more cuts are anticipated in ADF&G’s budget, which could result in more fishery surveys being eliminated. CDFU is concerned that if a harvest strategy is not adopted quickly, they risk the loss of a survey, and with that any hope for a commercial tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound.

Pacific Cod Pot Gear Harvests Closed in Western GOA

Federal fisheries officials have issued a temporary rule putting a halt to the harvest of Pacific cod by vessels using pot gear in the western Gulf of Alaska.

The ruling, published on February 21 in the Federal Register, is effective through June 10.

NMFS determined that such action is necessary to prevent exceeding the A season allowance of this year’s Pacific cod total allowable catch allocated to pot gear in the western regulatory area of the Gulf.

NFMS manages the groundfish fishery in the Gulf’s exclusive economic zone under the fishery management plan for groundfish in the Gulf prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. This year’s A season allocation for Pacific cod taken by vessels using pot gear in the western gulf was 4,854 metric tons.

Alaska Region of NMFS determined that the A season allowance for Pacific cod in the western gulf would be reached soon, and moved to establish a directed fishing allowance of 4,844 metric tons, setting aside the remaining 10 metric tons as bycatch to support other anticipated groundfish fisheries.

The Federal Register announcement notes that the acting assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries found good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice, as it would have prevented NMFS from responding to the most recent harvest data in a timely fashion.

In Alaska’s Prince William Sound, meanwhile, the Pacific cod state waters fishery will open on Feb. 24, with a guideline harvest of 4,338,141 pounds, down from 4,841,902 pounds in 2016.

The GHL includes 15 percent, or 650,721 pounds for the combined pot and jig gear, and 85 percent, or 3.7 million pounds, for longline gear.

The Prince William Sound Area E parallel Pacific cod season closes at noon Feb. 23, coinciding with the National Marine Fisheries Service closure of the Pacific cod pot gear sector in the Central Gulf of Alaska.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

USDA Revises Salmon Purchase Requirements

The US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service has issued revised supplemental eligibility requirements for salmon processors and processing facilities engaged in competitive bidding on USDA solicitations for seafood.

The supplement previously went out in draft form for industry comment was finalized in the second week of February.

USDA says that all such facilities must be US Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seafood inspection approved establishments meeting all pertinent federal requirements applicable to processing fish and fishery products.

To meet the USDC/NOAA approved establishment requirements, they may participate in one of three USDC/NOAA inspection systems, including the HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) quality management program, the Integrated Quality Assurance Program or the Resident Inspector Program.

The HACCP quality management program requires firms to be subjected to unannounced systems audits on a quarterly frequency interval to substantiate overall compliance with all pertinent regulations and to meet quality requirements.

The Integrated quality Assurance Program is a reduced inspection service which requires that firms assume greater verification and documentation responsibility, with NOAA performing verification checks of the facility, its quality assurance system and product quality results.

The resident inspector program is a continuous inspection service with USDC inspection personnel present during all hours of production to fulfill USDA contracts.

Additional information about the AMS commodity purchase programs, including current specifications and technical documents is online at www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food.

NPFMC Considers Halibut IFQ Leases in Areas 4 BCD

Final action is scheduled in June on a regulatory amendment package that would allow community development quota groups to lease halibut individual quota shares in Areas 4 BCD in years of low halibut catch limits in those regulatory areas.

In effect this proposal before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council would allow CDQ groups to lease halibut IFQ for use by residents on vessels less than or equal to 51 feet length overall, subject to IFQ use regulations and the groups’ internal management.

The council established this action alternative as their preliminary preferred alternative, setting a threshold of a one million pound catch limit for Are 4B and a 1.5 million pound catch limit for Area 4CDE under which this flexibility would be available to the groups. The preliminary preferred alternative would also allow Area 4D IFQ that is leased to CDQ groups to be fished in Area 4E. The council added in the consideration of whether this harvest flexibility would also apply to A Class quota share in years where the catch limit is set lower than the threshold.

The action is intended to provide additional halibut harvesting opportunities for the CDQ communities in times of low halibut catch limits, with the intended beneficiaries being residents of communities that traditionally rely on halibut CDQ for employment and income. The council also added consideration of a reporting requirement in which CDQ groups using this flexibility would specify the criteria used to select IFQ holders leasing to a CDQ groups as well as the criteria used to determine who can receive leased IFQ.

Value of Pebble Deposit Questioned

A new report from a national investment firm with short shares in Northern Dynasty Minerals stock says that Northern Dynasty’s key asset, the Pebble mine deposit in Southwest Alaska, is not commercially viable.

The opinion from Kerrisdale Capital Management drew an immediate response from Northern Dynasty, in Vancouver, British Columbia, which said the company would issue a rebuttal by week’s end exposing the inaccuracies and outright misstatements in the Kerrisdale report.

The Pebble deposit of copper, gold and molybdenum, was discovered decades ago but has not been mined due to issues related to its location near the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon. Concerns from Alaska Natives in Southwest Alaska prompted efforts by the US Environmental Protection Agency to research whether development of the mine would adversely impact salmon habitat in the watershed, and conclude, after extensive testimony, that there was great potential for adverse impact.

Meanwhile the national law firm of Levi & Korsinsky LLP announced on Feb. 14 that it has commenced an investigation of Northern Dynasty Minerals concerning possible violations of federal securities laws. The law firm cited the Kerrisdale report, which notes that Northern Dynasty stock has risen in value since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, fueled by hopes that a more mining-friendly Environmental Protection Agency will allow the Pebble mine project to move forward. Trump’s promise to reduce environmental regulatory barriers fueled investor optimism about prospects for the Pebble project and since Trump’s election Northern Dynasty stock rose dramatically. The Kerrisdale report says such optimism is misplaced, that the stock is worthless.

Northern Dynasty disagrees, and says there are mining companies who are potential investors who are in due diligence on the project, which it describes as “one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper/gold deposits with a potential mine life which is measured in decades.

Those engaged in the fishing industry in Bristol Bay maintain that the best investment in the region is fisheries, which supports more than 14,000 jobs related to commercial and sport harvests.

The Kerrisdale report is online at http://seekingalpha.com/article/4045672-northern-dynasty-minerals-ltd-pebble-deposit-commercially-viable.

US Coast Guard Suspends Search for Missing Crab Boat

The US Coast Guard has suspended the search for the crab boat Destination, which disappeared northwest of St. George in the Pribilof Islands with six crewmembers on board on Feb. 11.

Rear Admiral Michael McAllister, commander of the Coast Guard 17th District, said the decision to suspend a search is always difficult and made with great care and consideration. The search began when the Coast Guard received an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon alert on the morning of Feb. 11, with the launching of aircraft crews, who were quickly joined in the search by two good Samaritan fishing vessels, the Silver Spray and Bering Rose, plus additional Coast Guard support. Volunteers on St. George Island also conducted shoreline searches.

In all, the Coast Guard coordinated 21 searches involving more than 69 aircraft and surface hours and covering some 5,730 square nautical miles. Aircraft located a debris field in the general area of the EPIRB alert, including the transmitting EPIRB, a life ring from the Destination, buoys, tarps and an oil sheen. The Destination, which was registered in Seattle, had departed Dutch Harbor on Feb. 10 before vanishing off of St. George the following day. An investigation is underway into what happened as the vessel was headed out to participate in the snow crab fishery.

The Coast Guard was able to rescue three people from the fishing vessel Predator on Feb. 13, after it ran aground and began taking on water near Akutan Harbor.

The crew aboard a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter hoisted the three crewmembers and transported them to Akutan with no medical issues reported.

Coast Guard 17th District personnel said the Predator ran hard aground, resulting in an eight-inch crack in the hull, and the crew was unable to keep up with the flooding utilizing dewatering pumps. Weather on scene at the time of that rescue was 25-mile-an-hour winds and 10-foot seas.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Documentary to Focus on Small Boat Fishery Families

Obstacles facing small boat fishery families who want to preserve their way of life for future generations will be the focus of an upcoming documentary from the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka.

“The goal is to portray small boat family fisheries, to document the commitment of these families to sustainable fisheries and ocean health, and to introduce viewers to the many challenges young fishermen face,” says Linda Behnken, a veteran longline harvester and executive director of ALFA.

ALFA had secured some funding to get started with filming for “We Are All Fishermen,” then learned in January that they had been awarded a grant from the popular clothing company Patagonia to complete the project.

“Access is a big challenge, as are regulations that marginalize small boat operations, climate change and more,” Behnken said, a commissioner on the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and a former member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

“Fishing families have a long term commitment to sustainable fisheries,” said Behnken. "They provide a vital voice for ocean health and strong coastal economies. This film will celebrate that legacy, while capturing the many challenges young fishermen face as they enter today’s fisheries.”

The film will highlight the importance of small scale fisheries in ensuring health coastal communities, and, in turn, the role that thriving community based fisheries play in ensuring a viable, sustainably caught food source for the rest of the world.

ALFA is an alliance of small boat commercial fishermen that supports sustainable fisheries and coastal communities by involving harvesters in research, advocacy and conservation initiatives.

The film is being produced by award-winning filmmaker Emmett Williams, of Mission Man Media, a documentary film production company dedicated to helping organizations around the world tell their story. Williams spent a week last spring filming Juneau-based longline and Dungeness crab harvester Peter Ord, his daughter Annika and his son, Nathan, after ALFA launched the project.

Alyssa Russell, communications and outreach coordinator for ALFA, said they hope to complete the documentary by the fall of 2017, get it aired on public television stations and at film festivals and also use it as an advocacy tool for harvesters.

Legislators Concerned About US Withdrawal from TPP

Alaska legislators concerned that the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership will adversely impact marketing of the state’s seafood harvest are seeking mitigation efforts on a federal level.

Senate Joint Resolution 3, introduced by Senators Bill Wielechowski, Berta Gardner, and Tom Begich, all D-Anchorage; Gary Stevens, R- Kodiak, and Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, urges President Trump and Congress to mitigate the harm done to the state’s seafood industry because of the withdrawal of the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

SJR3 also urges the president and Congress to work to benefit and protect Alaska’s seafood industry.

The resolution comes in the wake of Trump’s decision on his first full weekday in office to formally withdraw from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, and announce he would seek one-on-one trade deals with individual countries. Trump contends that the Pacific trade deal was harmful to American workers and manufacturing. But writers of the resolution contend that without that trade agreement in place foreign markets are likely to seek cheaper farmed salmon alternatives produced in Canada, Chile, Norway and other markets in place of the more expensive wild Alaska salmon.

The joint resolution notes that the seafood industry directly employs an estimated 26,700 Alaska residents, more workers than any other private sector industry, and is the second largest sector source of employment in the state. SJR also notes that seafood is Alaska’s largest foreign export, exporting over $1 trillion in pollock, $1 trillion of salmon, $322 million worth of cod, nearly $200 million worth of flat fish, and $141 million worth of crab in 2015.

Fisheries Board, Loans Considered by Alaska Legislature

Alaska legislators have several fisheries issues before them, ranging from the Board of Fisheries to sulfide mining in the Bristol Bay watershed and commercial fishing loans, to the impact of federal legislation on marketing the state’s seafood harvest.

House Bill 88, “Board of Fisheries Membership,” would increase the composition of the board from seven to nine members, adding more diversity of interest, greater breadth of knowledge, and more points of view, said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, who introduced the legislation.

Stutes, who chairs the House Fisheries Committee, also introduced House Bill 87, “Conflict of Interest: Board Fisheries/Game,” which would change the way both boards function. Current rules require members of both boards to divulge any conflict of interest if they or their families have a financial interest on a subject being deliberated. That member then is not allowed to offer any input and cannot vote on the matter.

Stutes’ bill would allow the conflicted member to offer input, but still not vote. “Allowing members with expertise in particular fields to deliberate will help the board make better informed decisions and lead to stronger fisheries management,” she explained in a letter to constituents.

The House Fisheries Committee currently is holding in committee after its introduction House Bill 14, “Legislative Approval for Bristol Bay Sulfide Mine,” sponsored by Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage. The bill would require legislative approval for any large-scale metal sulfide mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. HB 14 was heard in House Fisheries on Jan. 31.

Also before House Fisheries is House Bill 56, “Commercial Fishing Loans,” an act relating to limitations on certain commercial fishing loans made by the state Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. HB 56 is sponsored by Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan. HB 56 would increase the aggregate amount a borrower may hold unpaid from $300,000 to $400,000.

Also before them are nominations from Alaska Gov. Bill Walker for the appointment of Bristol Bay drift gillnetter Fritz Johnson of Dillingham, and reappointment of John Jensen, of Petersburg and Reed Morisky, of Fairbanks, to the Board of Fisheries.

Johnson served on the board previously, but last year the governor recommended Robert Ruffner, of Kenai, former executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum, to take his seat.

Jensen, the board chairman, harvests crab and halibut in Southeast Alaska, and has over 45 years experience in commercial fisheries. Morisky is a sportfishing guide.

With the resignation of Sue Jeffrey, of Kodiak, Johnson and Jensen would be the only two board members experienced in commercial harvesting.

UFA Update Shows Seafood Industry Impact

An updated set of fishing data sheets released in January by United Fishermen of Alaska shows the broad economic impact of the seafood industry on the state’s fishing communities.

The data release is an effort by UFA, the statewide commercial fisheries umbrella association, to raise awareness of the importance of the commercial fishing and seafood processing industry to the state and these communities.

The statistics are from calendar and fiscal year 2015, the most recent times for which complete data was available. They were sourced from The Alaska Departments of Revenue, Fish and Game, Labor and Commerce; Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Commercial Fishery Entry Commission, and NOAA Fisheries.

The Internet link is http://www.ufafish.org/fishing-facts/

“Alaska’s commercial fisheries bring millions in fishing and processing revenue and employ many thousands in the major fishing ports every year,” said UFA President Jerry McCune. “Alaska’s seafood industry is also a significant contributor for tax revenues and indirect jobs for virtually all Alaska communities.

“Due to the wide range of state and federal agencies involved in fisheries, it is challenging to understand the many different positive benefits that Alaska’s fisheries provide throughout the state and beyond.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IPHC Boosts Harvest Limits

The International Pacific Halibut Commission is recommending to the governments of Canada and the United States catch limits totaling 31.40 million pounds for 2017, a boost of 5 percent over 2016 limits totaling 29.89 million pounds.

The IPHC approved a season to run from March 11 through Nov. 7 for both the Canadian and U.S. individual quota fisheries. “It is important to note that this is a transition year for the IPHC,” said Linda Behnken, an IPHC commissioner who is the executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

“The commission acknowledges problems with the past/current harvest policy and a commitment to moving to a new harvest policy, Behnken said.

“This new policy will likely be based on a spawning potential ratio and the appropriate SPR for halibut will be developed with the help of the IPHC’s marine strategy evaluation committee and marine strategy advisory board. During this transition period, the commission kept catch limits at or close to last year’s numbers with some increases in Area 2.

“The sense of the commission is that the spawning biomass is stable and slightly increasing, although the outlook for near term FCEY (fisheries constant exploitation yield) is pessimistic until more favorable recruitment is documented,” she said.

The IPHC allocations include 10,000,000 pounds for Area 3A, the central Gulf of Alaska, including a 7,739,000 catch and 371,000 pounds for incidental mortality for the commercial fleet, plus 1,890,000 pounds for the guided sport fishery.

In Area 2C, in southeast Alaska, the combined commercial/guided sport allocation was 5,250,000 pounds. Commercial harvesters were allocated 4,335,000 pounds, including 4,212,000 pounds of harvest and 123,000 pounds of incidental mortality, and another 915,000 pounds went to the guided sport fishery; 1,390,000 pounds to Area 4A, the eastern Aleutians; 1,140,000 pounds to Area 4B, the central and western Aleutians; 752,000 pounds to Area 4C, the Pribilof Islands; 752,000 pounds to Area 4D, northwestern Bering Sea; 196,000 pounds to Area 4E, Bering Sea flats; 1,330,000 pounds to Area 2A, California, Oregon and Washington; and 7,450,000 pounds to Area 2B, British Columbia, including a sport catch allocation.

In January 2016, the IPHC allocated 9,600 pounds to Area 3A; 4,950,000 pounds to Area 2C; 2,710,000 pounds to Area 3B; 1,390,000 pounds to Area 4A; 1,140,000 pounds to Area 4B; 1,660,000 pounds to Areas 4CDE; 1,140,000 pounds to Area 2A; and 7,300,000 pounds to Area 2B.

Rebuilding depends on future recruitment, and future catch limits depend on rebuilding and the management goals identified through the ongoing marine strategy evaluation.”

NPFMC Meeting Gets Underway in Seattle

The general session of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Seattle is underway today at the Renaissance Hotel, and is being broadcast online via https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/february2017 On the agenda for today are a number of reports from National Marine Fisheries Service, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the US Coast Guard, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the Navy, the last regarding its upcoming Gulf of Alaska training exercises set for May.

An initial review of community development quota ownership caps is on the agenda for Thursday morning. The Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires that the Council and NMFS establish limitations on ownership and use of limited access privileges to prevent excessive consolidation of privileges. In addition to their allocations under the CDQ program Alaska’s CDQ groups participate in other LAP programs, including the American Fisheries Act and crab rationalization program.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act was revised in 2006 to direct the CDQ groups be subject to excessive share ownership, harvesting, or processing limitations using the individual and collective rule to attribute ownership. Since then, NMFS has implemented the proportional ownership attribution method for CDQ groups to monitor excessive share caps in the AFA and crab rationalization program. Regulations for the AFA and crab rationalization programs and the fishery management plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Island crab have not, however, been revised to reflect this change. The action before the council would revise regulations and the crab fishery management plan for consistency with Magnuson-Stevens and current practice.

Bristol Bay Fishing Jobs Outnumber Pebble Mine Work

Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay says the total economic contribution and number of fisheries jobs in the bay continue to outnumber offerings at the Pebble mine project in Southwest Alaska.

The harvesters’ organization issued its statement on Jan. 31 in response to a study released by the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research on local jobs and income in Southwest Alaska generated by the Pebble exploration project.

The harvesters point to a 2010 ISER study on the economic importance of the Bristol Bay salmon industry. It said that sockeye salmon fishery supported 12,000 fishing and processing jobs during the summer salmon fishing season.

“The Economic Importance of the Bristol Bay Salmon Industry,” prepared for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, is online at http://www.iser.uaa.alaska.edu/Publications/2013_04-TheEconomicImportanceOfTheBristolBaySalmonIndustry.pdf

“Measuring these as year-round jobs, and adding jobs created in other industries, the Bristol Bay salmon fishery created the equivalent of almost 10,000 year-round American jobs across the country, and brought Americans $500 million in income,” said the ISER report on Bristol Bay. “For every dollar of direct output value created in Bristol Bay fishing and processing, more than two additional dollars of output value are created in other industries, as payments from the Bristol Bay fishery ripple through the economy.”

According to the new ISER report on Pebble by Robert Loeffler and Jennifer Schmidt, the exploration project brought more income into the Lakes region of Southwest Alaska from 2009 through 2012 than did either commercial salmon fishing or Permanent Fund dividends.

Average pay was $19 an hour and most workers earned on average about $15,000 a year from the mostly seasonal jobs, the report said.

That full report is online at http://www.iser.uaa.alaska.edu/Publications/2017_01-LocalJobsAndIncomeFromMineralExploration.pdf

The report notes that Loeffler’s position as a visiting professor, and his work, were funded by a grant to the University of Alaska Foundation from the Council of Alaska Producers, a statewide trade association representing Alaska’s mining industry.

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