Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wild Fish Conservancy Sues Cooke Aquaculture

A legal battle has begun over a net pen failure at Cypress Island on August 19–20 that resulted in the release of more than 100,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound.

The Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) has filed suit against the owner of the net pens, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific LLC, under section 505 of the Clean Water Act, in an effort to hold the company responsible for negligent release of the farmed salmon.

The Wild Fish Conservancy contends that the net pen failure resulted in the discharge of the farmed salmon, dead fish carcasses and massive amounts of debris, among other pollutants.

The conservancy also contends “the escape event off Cypress Island represents a dire threat to already imperiled wild fish populations, beloved marine mammal species and the fragile Puget Sound ecosystem.

“These discharges represent blatantly negligent violations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits under which Cooke Aquaculture’s Atlantic salmon net pens currently operate,” the conservancy said.

Along with the lawsuit, the WFC said it is working to more precisely quantify the potential impacts of the August release by sending escaped Atlantic salmon samples obtained by the Lummi Nation to independent labs to test for a variety of toxins and viral diseases. Those tests will be crucial in determining the true impact on the well-being of wild fish and marine mammal populations.

Earlier this year, the WFC launched the “Our Sound, Our Salmon” campaign to oppose expansion of Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound. More information on that campaign can be found online at www.oursound-oursalmon.org

Research Shows How Ocean Acidification Affects Wild Salmon

Fisheries scientists studying the impact of ocean acidification on wild salmon will host a panel discussion on Friday, November 17 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the 2017 Seattle Pacific Marine Expo to discuss their findings.

Brett Veerhusen of United Fishermen of Alaska Salmon Habitat Information Program will moderate the discussion featuring Washington Sea Grant researcher Chase Williams, NOAA oceanographer Jessica Cross, and commercial salmon harvester Amy Grondin.

Williams has been engaged, with principal investigator Evan Gallagher of the University of Washington Department of Occupational and Health Science, and others, in testing the impact of high ocean carbon dioxide levels on the sense of smell of coho salmon and sablefish, including its effects on feeding and ability to avoid predators.

Their report notes that other studies show that anticipated marine carbon dioxide concentrations can alter vital smell-mediated behaviors in fish – even repelling fish from prey and drawing them to predators. Their project is exposing coho salmon and sablefish to actual and anticipated levels of carbon dioxide and to odorant signals for food, predators and schooling.

Meg Chadsey, an ocean acidification specialist with Washington Sea Grant, is also participating in the study. What Williams is doing, she said, is testing the fish’s sense of smell for many things. He has taken juvenile coho salmon and reared them in the lab’s tanks at different levels of carbon dioxide and run them through mazes to see if they would notice and turn away from the odor of a salmon skin compound within the maze.

When extra carbon dioxide is put in the water, the salmon seemed to lose their ability to smell or respond appropriately to the predator (salmon skin compound). As concentrations of carbon dioxide increased they didn’t seem able to sense the predator or respond appropriately, she explained.

Run Forecast for Bristol Bay is 51.28 Million Sockeyes

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is forecasting the return of 51.28 million sockeye salmon into Bristol Bay in the summer of 2018, which would allow for a potential harvest of nearly 38 million reds in Bristol Bay and 1.49 million fish in the South Peninsula.

A Bristol Bay harvest of that size would be 35 percent higher than the most recent 10-year harvest of 28.91 million fish, which has ranged from 15.43 million to 38.81 million fish and is 87 percent greater than the long-term harvest average of 20.85 million fish.

State fisheries biologists are forecasting that 36 percent of the 2018 run will consist of 18.43 million age-1.2 fish, with more than 6 million age-2.2 fish comprising 12 percent of it. Another 22.55 million age-1.3 fish would make up 44 percent of the total run and 4.13 million age-2-3 fish would account for 8 percent.

From 1963 through 2017 the Bristol Bay total run have averaged 33.78 million fish, and averaged 42.71 million fish over most of the most recent 10-year period.

ADF&G thanked the Bristol Bay Fisheries Collaborative (BBFC) for funding assistance this year. The BBFC, which began in 2016, is an agreement between ADF&G and the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute to work together with stakeholders to restore a world-class fishery management system and raise funds to support and maintain management.

Frances Leach Named to Head UFA

Frances Leach, a regulations coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), who grew up commercial fishing for salmon, halibut and shellfish with her family in Ketchikan, Alaska, takes the helm as executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska on January 5, 2018.

Leach, who grew up in a commercial fishing family in a coastal community but now a resident of Juneau, Alaska, said she understands the importance of commercial fishing to the state’s economy and cultural heritage.

“The commercial fishing industry faces many challenges at the state and federal level, and I look forward to addressing these challenges as UFA’s executive director,” she said.

UFA President Jerry McCune said that Leach has a proven track record of success and demonstrated leadership during her professional career. “In addition, her life experience working in her family’s commercial fishing business makes her uniquely qualified to be UFA’s executive director,” he noted.

UFA, Alaska’s statewide commercial fishing umbrella association, represents 34-member organizations from fisheries throughout Alaska and its offshore waters.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Alaska Board of Fisheries to Take Up Finfish Issues at Valdez

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will review 50 proposals regarding the Prince William Sound, Upper Copper and Susitna rivers finfish issues December 1–5 in Valdez, Alaska, including 10 related specifically to the Copper River commercial salmon fishery. Proposal 28, from Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU), recommends the repeal of mandatory inside waters commercial salmon fishery closures under the Copper River King Salmon Management Plan.

CDFU argues that since the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has demonstrated its ability to manage fisheries effectively that mandatory closures are unnecessary.

“ADF&G has opposed mandatory closures on sport fisheries as these closures are mandated even when the circumstances of a current year’s run strength and timing do not require them,” CDFU said.

The proposal suggests eliminating the mandatory language regarding the inside closure tool and not the abolishment of tool itself.

Of the 50 proposals up for consideration several come from the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory committee, including one calling for reducing the maximum depth of drift nets in the Copper River District commercial drift gillnet fishery to 29 meshes through the end of May.

The advisory committee contends that deep nets are harvesting too many king salmon in the May gillnet fishery, at the expense of dipnetters and sport anglers, and that escapement goals for the kings were not met in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Public written comments on specific proposals must be submitted by November 17 in order to be included in the board’s workbook prior to the meeting. For submission details visit http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=process.comments.

Comments submitted after the November 17 deadline will be limited to 10 single-sided pages in length, and will be inserted in board member workbooks at the start of the meeting.

During the meeting, written public comments may be submitted by hand delivery at any time if 21 copies are provided. Individuals not in attendance can submit their comments by fax at 1-907-465-6094.

All portions of the meeting are open to the public and a live audio stream is intended to be available on the Board of Fisheries website at www.boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov

Copies of advanced meeting materials, including the agenda and roadmap, are available from Boards Support Section, 1-907-465-4110, or online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo.

EPA Settles with Kloosterboer Dutch Harbor over Ammonia Release

A settlement has been reached by federal authorities with Kloosterboer Dutch Harbor LLC, a Seattle-based firm that operates a seafood cold storage facility at Unalaska, Alaska, for violations related to an ammonia release last year that seriously injured a facility worker.

Kloosterboer has agreed to complete supplemental environmental projects, valued at about $26,000, which will help prevent or reduce future ammonia releases and improve safety at the facility, according to Region 10 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The company will also pay a $10,008 penalty to the federal agency.

Under terms of the settlement, Kloosterboer will upgrade its computerized refrigeration control system. The upgraded system will use leak detectors to monitor ammonia levels in the freezer and send signals to the computerized control system if ammonia levels reach preset concentrations. If a leak occurs, the control system will notify operators and managers via audible and visual alarms, automatically shut off the ammonia pumps, and activate the emergency exhaust system.

Kloosterboer also agreed to purchase hazardous materials emergency response equipment for Unalaska’s Department of Public Safety and to train two of the company’s personnel to respond to hazmat emergencies at the facility and other facilities at Unalaska.

Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Region 10 compliance and enforcement division in Seattle, noted that federal emergency planning, reporting and response requirements are important for protecting workers, emergency responders and the community.

“The company’s failure to provide timely information, crucial in an emergency response, put their workers, first responders and the public at risk,” he said.

The incident occurred on December 3, 2016 when Kloosterboer’s Unalaska facility released 125 pounds of anhydrous ammonia inside the facility’s freezer. Anhydrous ammonia is harmful to skin, eyes, throat and lungs and can cause serious injury or death.The company reported the release to the National Response Center and the Alaska Emergency Response Commission on December 5, more than 46 hours after the release occurred and failed to submit follow-up notification. The release and emergency reporting delays violated the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Final Action on Charter Halibut Management Measures Before NPFMC

Federal fisheries managers have scheduled final action on charter halibut management measures when the council holds its December meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska.

High on the agenda for this North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) meeting are final specifications for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, and Gulf of Alaska groundfish harvest for the coming year.

Other major issues include discussion papers on Bering Sea cod trawl catcher vessel participation, charter halibut permits, self-guided halibut rental boats and an initial review of small sideboards. Also slated for discussion is the Western Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod A and C/D seasons, and a consultation related to the Chinook salmon excluder.

Other meetings scheduled during the December 4–12 week include the Charter Halibut Management Committee, the Scientific and Statistical Committee, the Advisory Panel, and Legislative Committee.

All meetings, except for executive sessions, are open to the public. Submit comments by emailing npfmc.comments@noaa.gov by November 30. The meeting will be broadcast beginning on December 6 at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/december2017.

Motions will be posted online following the meeting.

Proposed Alaska Mine to Benefit Mental Health Raises Habitat Concerns

Officials with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority say preliminary results from initial exploration work in Southeast Alaska have confirmed potential for gold and also quantify other heavy minerals as prospective co-products.

Acting executive director Wyn Menefee says the trust authority may not make an end decision on the mine for several years, but there are potential economic opportunities, from tax revenues for the state to jobs to enhance the economy, and he says international mining companies have already expressed interest in the project. The trust authority’s mandate is to generate revenue to fund programs for Alaskans in need of mental health services – residents dealing with issues ranging from developmental disability and Alzheimer’s disease to substance abuser disorders.

Menefee says if the project proceeds that the trust will be required to and will protect water quality. He also notes that this is a mining district, and that timber harvests have also been going on for many years in this area. So far, the trust has spent some $2 million on the project and they plan to spend another $3 million, he said.

The trust also has plans to develop timber resources and a sale pending to Sealaska Corp., with the regional Alaska Native Corporation to do the harvest next year.

The prospect of mining and logging activity in this area near Icy Cape, about 75 miles from Yakutat, is problematic, according Guy Archibald, staff scientist with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council in Juneau, Alaska.

“All the rivers in this area are anadromous primarily coho (salmon) habitat,” says Archibald.“They are going to bulldoze and basically strip mine around those streams. We know that the permitting process is not protective,” he said. “How are these to be protected from what is basically a strip mining operation?” Archibald is concerned about sand deposits on the shoreline that function as barrier dunes. “They protect the uplands from erosion, especially during the winter months,” he said. “If you remove the sand, how do you prevent erosion from winter storms. This will also impact the rivers.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NOAA Says American Fisheries Remain a Strong Economic Driver

NOAA Fisheries released its annual Fisheries of the United States report today, noting that through 2016 the nation’s largest commercial fishery by volume was still Alaska walleye Pollock, with near record landings of 3.4 billion pounds, up 3 percent from 2015.

For the 20th year in a row Dutch Harbor led the nation with the highest volume of seafood landed – 7,780 million pounds valued at $198 million. The Pollock constituted 89 percent of that volume. Likewise, for the 17th year in a row, New Bedford, Massachusetts claims the highest value catch from one port – 107 million pounds, valued at $3,278 million. Sea scallops accounted for 77 percent of it.

Alaska’s Pollock harvest represented 35 percent of total U.S. commercial and recreational seafood landings.

Overall, commercial fisheries landed 9.6 billion pounds of seafood, down 1.5 percent compared to 2015, but valued at $5.3 billion, which was up 2.1 percent.

The report identified the highest value for commercial species as lobsters, $723 million; crabs, $702 million; scallops, $488 million; shrimp, $483 million; salmon, $420 million; and Alaska Pollock, $417 million.

The report also noted that in 2016 the U.S. imported 5.8 billion pounds of seafood, up 1 percent from 2015, which was worth $19.5 billion, up 3.5 percent. A significant portion of that imported seafood was caught by American fishermen, exported for processing and then reimported to the United States. Shrimp and salmon are among of the top three imported species and much of that is farm raised.

The United States ranks 16th in total aquaculture production worldwide. In 2015, 1.4 billion pounds of aquaculture production was reported in the U.S.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur ross is quoted in the report urging expansion of the nation’s aquaculture capacity as an opportunity to reduce U.S. reliance on imports, while creating thousands of new jobs. “With the United States importing millions of pounds of seafood annually, and with so much of that seafood foreign farm-raised, the numbers in this report underscore the untapped potential of aquaculture here at home,” Ross said.

The report also shows that the average American ate 14.9 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2016, down from 15.5 pounds the year before. U.S. dietary guidelines recommend 8-12 ounces of a variety of seafood species each week, or 26 to 39 pounds per person per year.

Comment Now on Recertification of Alaska Cod Fishery

The Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management certification draft assessment report for recertification of the Alaska cod fishery is open for registered stakeholder comment through November 30, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) announced today.

The reassessment is being done by DNV GL, an international accredited registrar and classification society headquartered near Oslo, Norway.

According to ASMI all registered stakeholders will be sent a copy of the report and invited to comment on its factual contents, either in relation to the specific sections of the report or specific evaluation parameters.. Any recommendations or criticism should be supported with data or literature citations so that the assessment team is able to evaluate the comments.

After a review of all comments DNV GL will make a determination on whether to recertify the fishery, ASMI said.

ASMI chose the responsible fisheries management model several years ago based on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations code and guidelines because it meets the highest benchmarks for credible certification.

The steering board of the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative has recognized ASMI’s RFM program as meeting the FAO guidelines for the eco-labeling of fish and fishery products from marine capture fisheries.

Banner Year for Alaska Salmon

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) officials say the 2017 commercial salmon of all species harvest came to 224.76 million wild salmon, with an estimated preliminary ex-vessel value of $678.8 million. That’s a 66.7 percent increase from last year’s value of $407.3 million, ranking 2017 third in terms of both pounds landed and value in over 40 years. While fish were still being caught after the report was released in early October, the majority of the 2017 salmon season was over.

ADF&G noted that despite unfavorable market conditions of a strong dollar – which made Alaska seafood significantly more expensive to foreign buyers – and an embargo due to conflict in roe markets, nearly $300 million in additional ex-vessel value went to the pockets of Alaska salmon fishermen aided by a large harvest and continued investments in quality, product development and marketing.

“Tremendous harvests occurred across Alaska, from Kotzebue to Southeast, highlighted by an all-time record statewide chum salmon harvest,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries.

Bowers noted that 2017 is also the third year in a row statewide sockeye salmon harvest exceeded 50 million fish. “Record wild salmon harvests like these are a testament to Alaska’s sound, science-based management, the professionalism of ADF&G’s staff, and thoughtful stakeholder engagement,” he said.

The Bristol Bay harvest alone – with 37.7 million salmon delivered – was valued at $209.9 million.

Other fisheries also saw record salmon harvests, notably in Norton Sound, in Western Alaska, where a strong coho salmon return brought a harvest of 191,000 silvers.

These are all preliminary numbers. The final value of the 2017 salmon fishery will be determined in 2018 after seafood processors, buyers and direct marketers report the total value paid to fishermen.

Trident Donations to SeaShare Reach 20 Million Meals

Trident Seafoods has reached the 20 million meal mark in its donations to SeaShare, the non-profit organization on Bainbridge Island, Washington, that delivers millions of servings of seafood to food banks nationwide.

Jim Harmon, executive director of SeaShare, recognized Trident’s donations in late October, saying that Trident’s generosity and leadership have been instrumental in building SeaShare into the largest seafood donor in the country.

Joe Bundrant, chief executive officer of Trident, accepted the award on behalf of Trident’s 8,500 employees. He challenged others in the seafood industry to achieve the same meal mark to feed hungry families, Bundrant quoted his father, Chuck Bundrant, who founded the company, as always saying “you make a living with what you get, but you make a life with what you give.”

Trident, a family-owned business, is one of the largest vertically integrated seafood companies in the United States.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Court Battle Ensues Over Stand for Salmon Initiative

A proposed ballot initiative aimed at updating and strengthening regulations to protect fish habitat is now in the hands of the Alaska Supreme Court.

While the booklets for gathering the 32,000 signatures necessary to put the initiative on Alaska’s statewide 2018 ballot are out, the state of Alaska on Oct. 20 filed an appeal in the Alaska Supreme Court over Stand for Salmon v. Mallott, a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the proposed ballot initiative.

“The question of whether a proposed ballot initiative makes an appropriation is an important constitutional question that should be answered by the Alaska Supreme Court,” said Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth.

The state takes no position on whether the initiative is good policy, she said. “This is about the superior court’s legal conclusion and our duty to defend the Alaska Constitution, and we believe the superior court got it wrong,” she said.

The appeal came on the heels of a decision by Alaska Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner, who ruled in mid-October that the ballot measure to update the state’s 60-year-old law governing development in salmon habitat should move forward. Rindner than directed Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott to produce petition booklets for circulation.

That decision came after Stand for Salmon proponents sued in response to a September decision by Mallott, who acted on a recommendation of the state’s Department of Law that the initiative was unconstitutional, and declined to certify the initiative.

Once the state’s appeal was filed, the supreme court began the process of issuing a briefing schedule on when the opening brief from the state was due, initiative sponsors would respond to it, and the state would respond to the initiative sponsors’ brief, explained Libby Bakalar, an assistant attorney general for the state. There is usually a 30-day period between each briefing cycle, but the court usually moves more quickly in cases involving an election, Bakalar said.

“The Superior Court correctly determined that the initiative is not an appropriation,” said Valerie Brown, legal director for Trustees for Alaska, commenting after the Alaska Superior Court handed down its ruling reversing the state’s initial decision on the initiative. Brown argued the case for the plaintiff, Stand for Salmon, a diverse group of Alaska-based individuals, businesses and organizations concerned about protecting fish habitat.

“Some industry interests pressured the state to appeal because they benefit from a weak permitting system with no public input,” Brown said. “The current system treats every activity in salmon streams the same, regardless of potential harm. But, as the Superior Court rightly found, Alaskans have the right to have their voice heard through the initiative process and weigh in on how the state protects our salmon habitat.”

“We need to have clear rules for projects proposed in sensitive salmon habitat to ensure they’re being done responsibly – as well as provide more certainty in the permitting process for the industry proposing the project,” said Mike Wood, initiative sponsor and commercial set netter in Upper Cook Inlet.

Norton Sounds Harvesters Get Record Payout

Norton Sound Seafood Products (NSSP), a subsidiary of Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. in Nome, Alaska, has paid a record $6.05 million to 172 harvesters who delivered crab, salmon and halibut during the 2017 fishing season. Another $2.5 million went to 258 seasonal employees of NSSP who worked in processing plants, at buying stations and on fishing tenders.

“An infusion of $8.5 million in communities where jobs are limited makes significant impact in the lives of individuals, families and communities,” said Dan Harrelson, chairman of the economic development corporation, as NSSP announced the payout on Oct. 24.

The processors played a big role in bringing the harvest to record levels, said NSSP manager William “Middy” Johnson. “To allow for maximum capacity in the fishing season, the processors worked 12-hour days and seven days a week for 10 weeks straight,” he said.

The 2017 salmon harvest was valued at $2.8 million, more than double last year’s ex-vessel value of $1.2 million. The growth came from the amount of chum and coho salmon delivered by the 139 regional salmon harvesters. The year’s 1.1 million-pound chum harvest more than tripled the 2016 harvest of 344,613 pounds. The 1.3 million-pound coho harvest nearly doubled the 2016 harvest of 701,450 pounds.

The 2017 crab harvest was steady with 409,374 pounds delivered to tender vessels and the Northern NSSO processing plant in Nome, nearly matching the salmon ex-vessel value at $2.5 million. The region’s halibut and cod fishery, with 20 harvesters out of Nome and Savoonga, got a payout of $705,030.

Mislabeling of Seafood Has Negative Economic Effects

A new study on mislabeling of seafood species, including salmon, concludes that such practices have negative economic, social and ecological consequences, from consumer losses due to fraudulent exchange to hiding illegal and unreported catches.

“Economy matters: A study of mislabeling in salmon products from two regions, Alaska and Canada (Northwest of America) and Asturias (Northwest of Spain)” appears in the November online edition of Fisheries Research at ScienceDirect.com.

Salmon are an important part of the culture and economy of many countries in the northern hemisphere, and identifying possible causes of salmon mislabeling is of great interest, even more so where wild species and species from aquaculture are consumed, researchers said.

The study, involving DNA barcoding analysis of a total of 111 salmon products from Asturias in Northwest Spain, and Alaska and Vancouver Island, found that the Spanish and Northwest American samples were mislabeled 6 percent and 23.8 percent respectively.

Species substitutions were respectively wild-farmed and wild-wild, the substitute species being cheaper. Economic reasons and social preference of wild over farmed products seem to be the main drivers in the exchanges detected in this study, researchers said. Enhancing controls over the unrecognizable products is essential and strongly recommended to prevent such fraud.

A table included in the online study identifies the mislabeled Alaska salmon product as jerky labeled as wild king salmon, when the jerky was in fact wild keta salmon.

The Vancouver Island product identified as salmon candy, with a “spring salmon” label was likewise wild keta salmon.

Humane Harvest Line-Caught P-Cod Comes to Seattle Retail Shops

Line-caught Pacific cod that are stunned immediately upon harvest aboard the fishing vessel Blue North, minimizing stress to produce a healthier, tastier fish, will go on sale on Nov. 1 at Town & Country Markets in Seattle.

Blue North is also the first vessel in the Bering Sea to use moon pool technology, harvesting the catch from inside the vessel rather than the weather deck, thus eliminating the crew’s exposure to dangerous sea condition Once cod are caught individually through the moon pool using hook and line, a stunning table immobilizes the fish, putting its central nervous system to sleep prior to processing, so the fish feels no stress or pain. The fish is then filleted and frozen at sea for optimal freshness.

Michael Burns, cofounder and chairman of Blue North Fisheries, said the company’s philosophy is that “all sentient beings, including fish, deserve to be treated as humanely as possible.”

Blue North launched its humane harvest initiative in 2015, and its catch has been available on a limited basis to restaurant groups ever since.

The announcement with Town and Country in late October represented the first time the company was able to provide a fileted product to retailers for direct-to-consumer sale.

A blind study conducted at the School of Food Science at Washington State University found that humane harvest fish had higher levels of nutrients and proteins, were flakier and had improved muscle texture.

“Seafood is one of the most important natural vectors for high nutritional value protein and omega-3s for humans,” said Mahmoudreza Ovissipour, a research associate at the university, wrote in his WSU report in 2015. “Since fish can feel pain and stress, these factors can easily influence their quality, nutritional value, shelf life and consumption safety.”

Ovissipour’s report is online at http://bluenorth.com/home/resources/Review_Reza_Ovissipour.pdf

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Banner Year for Alaska Salmon

Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials say the 2017 commercial salmon of all species harvest came to 224.76 million wild salmon, with an estimated preliminary ex-vessel value of $678.8 million. That’s a 66.7 percent increase from last year’s value of $407.3 million, ranking 2017 third in terms of both pounds landed and value in over 40 years.

While fish are still being caught, the majority of the 2017 salmon season is over.

ADF&G noted that despite unfavorable market conditions of a strong dollar – which made Alaska seafood significantly more expensive to foreign buyers – and an embargo due to conflict in roe markets, nearly $300 million in additional ex-vessel value went to the pockets of Alaska salmon fishermen aided by a large harvest and continued investments in quality, product development and marketing.

“Tremendous harvests occurred across Alaska, from Kotzebue to Southeast, highlighted by an all-time record statewide chum salmon harvest,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries.

Bowers noted that 2017 is also the third year in a row statewide sockeye salmon harvest exceeded 50 million fish. “Record wild salmon harvests like these are a testament to Alaska’s sound, science-based management, the professionalism of ADF&G’s staff, and thoughtful stakeholder engagement,” he said.

The Bristol Bay harvest alone – with 37.7 million salmon delivered – was valued at $209.9 million.

Other fisheries also saw record salmon harvests, notably in Norton Sound, in Western Alaska, where a strong coho salmon return brought a harvest of 191,000 silvers.

These are all preliminary numbers. The final value of the 2017 salmon fishery will determined in 2018 after seafood processors, buyers and direct managers report the total value paid to fishermen.

Coast Guard Issues Vessel Documentation Fraud Alert

The US Coast Guard says a new scam is targeting boat owners looking to save a little time online.

The culprit is websites offering of documentation renewal services or a fee.

These websites lure boaters with the appearance and convenience of an official government website, but the Coast Guard warns that using these websites can result in spending three times the standard fee. The Coast Guard also noted that Coast Guard boarding officers will not accept their vessel’s documentation as valid. This is because the Coast Guard’s National Vessel Documentation Center in West Virginia is the only authorized entity to issue certificates of documentation required for vessels engaged in commercial trade.

The center is aware that there are commercial entities offering to manage the certification and renewal process on behalf of vessel owners for a fee. However the Coast Guard does not endorse any of these companies and these companies do not operate on behalf of the Coast Guard in any way. While the services they provide are legal, the certificates issued are not deemed in compliance.

According to Russell Hazlett, commercial fishing vessel examiner for the Coast Guard in Anchorage, there are companies similar to the Department of Motor Vehicles that have satellite officers open on weekends and after hours legitimate companies.

More information on certificates of Documentation is online at http://www.uscg.mil/nvdc/

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak Now Open at Cold Bay

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak aircrews have come to Cold Bay in advance of the winter fishing season, there once again to reduce search and rescue response times around Bristol Bay, the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands.

The Cold Bay forward operating location at Cold Bay will consist of one MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter with a rotating aircrew from. The Kodiak based air station will continue to have helicopter and HC-130 Hercules aircrews who are available at a moment’s notice if needed to assist with other search and rescue incidents or assist in complex long ranges.

A Coast Guard cutter equipped with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Kodiak also will be on patrol in the region for the rest of the season.

Air Station Kodiak issues FOLs all over Alaska to reduce response times to mariners in distress.

Air Station Kodiak public increases the effectiveness of Coast Guard response can make a difference between life and death.

Pebble Related Hearings Held in Southwest Alaska

EPA officials were in the Bristol Bay region again this week for two more hearings related to development of the Pebble Mine. This time it was on EPA’s proposal to withdraw proposed Clean Water Act restrictions for Pebble, which lies in the Bristol Bay watershed. The July 2014 decision in favor of the Clean Water Act Proposed Determination would, if finalized, have imposed restrictions on the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with Pebble mine.

Norm Van Vactor of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. said he thought the hearings went very, very well. There was an awful lot of testimony, he said, from small children to adults in need of translators. But Van Vactor also said it was frustrating to have to go back to the drawing board again.

“Sadly it can also be said that this isn’t about mining or minerals, he said. “It is about mining in the stock market and people making a play to make a lot of money quickly in the stock market and leaving other people holding the bag, he said. But meantime the rest of us have to spend a lot of time working on an issue that should be over and done with,” he said.

Pebble Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole said he felt that the EPA heard a more balanced mix of views in Iliamna.

In a related manner, United Tribes of Bristol Bay and the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission say they will announce their intent to formalize today their efforts to stop proposed mega-mines in their respective regions. Veteran Bristol Bay fisherman Robert Heyano, president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said they are uniting efforts to protect their peoples’ way of life from mega-mines threatening their continued existence.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“Stand for Salmon” Ballot Measure Moves Forward

Alaska Superior Court Mark Rindner has issued a ruling allowing the “Stand for Salmon” ballot measure to move forward. The measure aimed at updating and strengthening regulations to protect fish habitat.

“The judge agreed with us that Alaskans have a constitutional right to say how fish habitat is protected,” said Valerie Brown, legal director for Trustees for Alaska. Brown argued the case for the plaintiff, Stand for Salmon, a diverse group of Alaska-based individuals, businesses and organizations concerned about protecting fish habitat.

“What this means is that the initiative will get certified and Stand for Salmon can start collecting the signatures it needs to get the initiative on the ballot,” she said.

Last month Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott declined to certify the “stand for Salmon” initiative after he received a legal opinion that it would limit the ability of the state’s Legislature to allocate state assets.

The Stand for Salmon initiative proposes updates to the state’s 60-year-old law governing development in salmon habitat.

“This ballot measure is an important step back to the levels of protection for salmon that were intended by the authors of the Alaska constitution,” said Gayla Hoseth, an initiative sponsor and subsistence research specialist with the Bristol Bay Native Association in Dillingham. “These are needed updates to an outdated law that will balance responsible development with protecting Alaska’s wild salmon, one of the state’s most vital natural resources from a cultural, economic and recreational perspective.”

“We need to have clear rules for projects proposed in sensitive salmon habitat to ensure they’re being done responsibly – as well as provide more certainty in the permitting process for the industry proposing the project” said Mike Wood, another initiative sponsor and commercial set netter in Upper Cook Inlet.

More information on the initiative is online at www.standforsalmon.org

Bering Sea Snow Crab TAC Set at
18.9M Pounds, Tanner at 2.5M

Harvest limits for Bering Sea snow crab fishery are set at 18,961,000 pounds, with 17,064,900 pounds for holders of individual fishing quota and 1,896,100 pounds for community development quota entities. That’s down from the 2016 TAC of 21,570,000 pounds, which was down dramatically from the previous year’s TAC. The fishery will be open in the Eastern Subdistrict on October 15 and remain continue through May 15, 2018 and through May 31, 2018 in the Western Subdistrict.

The Bering Sea tanner crab fishery, which also starts on October 15, runs through March 31, has a TAC of 2,500,200 pounds for west of 166 degrees, with 2,250,180 pounds for IFQ and 250,020 pounds for CDQs. The fishery is closed east of 166 degrees west longitude.

Last year the entire Bering Sea tanner crab fishery was closed over conservation concerns.

The TACS were announced this past week by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), in the wake of an announcement that the Bristol Bay red king crab season, which runs through January 15, has a TAC of 6.6 million pounds, down 22 percent from the 2016-2017 quota.

ADF&G has also closed Pribilof district red and blue king crab and Saint Matthew Island section blue king crab fisheries for the season for conservation reasons.

Survey Shows Substantial Drop in Gulf of Alaska Cod Stocks

Results of 2017 surveys and preliminary modeling for the 2018 Pacific cod stock assessment show a 71 percent reduction in the Gulf of Alaska bottom trawl survey Pacific cod biomass estimate from 2015 to 2017. The news came to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee and Advisory Panel on October 3 in a presentation from Steve Barbeaux, a research biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington, who said the drop was particularly pronounced in the central Gulf of Alaska.

The Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) said Barbeaux also presented additional data that appeared to corroborate the trawl survey results, including a 53 percent drop in the National Marine Fisheries Service 2017 longline survey and low estimates in recent years by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game large mesh trawl survey. Pacific cod fishery data from 2017 indicated slower rates of catch accumulation and lower catch per unit effort over the season, at least in the central Gulf, compared to recent years, as well as a change in depth distribution toward deeper waters.

The survey results, Barbeaux said later in an interview, were not what he expected. “Recruitment in 2011-2012 was strong,” he explained. “We expected that would carry us to 2019. We expected a drop in 2019 because we had low recruitment in 2013-2015.” There are still three levels of review to go, by the stock assessment team, the Groundfish Plan Team, and the SSC before the numbers are finalized.

Evidence indicates that the “blob” is a likely culprit. The blob is the name scientists have given to a large mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, which adversely affects marine life.

Temperature records indicate very warm temperatures across a broad range of ocean depths from 2014 through 2016 associated with low forage fish amounts in Pacific cod diets. That likely resulted from low prey availability in 2015 and 2016, which was evident in seabird mortalities due to starvation, as well as other ecosystem indicators. In very warm temperatures the cod would have had to eat quite a bit more to grow and survive, but there was less in the water column for them to eat.

“That was the black swan effect,” said Barbeaux. “It has never happened before as far as we know. We have had warm years before, but this blob went on for three years, and throughout the entire water column across the Gulf of Alaska shelf, even in winter.”

The cod would have needed to keep eating a lot more for three years straight, but in fact “they were in the worst condition we’ve seen, the lowest weight for a given length,” he said. “In the central Gulf, it was the same in the longline and pot survey.”

On a brighter note, cod “are a highly reproductive species, so if conditions are right they can bounce back fairly rapidly,” Barbeaux said. Still it would take at least three years for them to become large enough to harvest.

NOAA Celebrates National Seafood Month

October is National Seafood Month, and Chris Oliver, recently appointed assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, is urging everyone to get out there and enjoy some seafood.

“Health experts, say people should double their intake of seafood and the good news is there is plenty to choose from,” said Olive.

The former executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, who spent 27 years in Alaska helping to manage some of the nation’s largest and most valuable fisheries, credits much of the success in the United States being a global leader in sustainability to the regional fishery management councils, interstate fishery commissions and stakeholders who work together to rebuild fisheries.

“This unique collaboration − driven by the Magnuson-Stevens Act − managed to effectively end overfishing and is steadily rebuilding domestic fish stocks,” Oliver said in a letter posted October 1 on NOAA’s website (www.nmfs.noaa.gov). “At the end of 2016, 91 percent of stocks for which we have assessments were not subject to overfishing and 84 percent were not overfished.”

NOAA Fisheries tracks 474 fish stocks managed under 46 fishery management plans. Since 2000, 43 stocks have rebuilt as a result of fishery management, and overfishing and overfished numbers remained near all-time lows in 2016.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

NOAA Fisheries Proposes Authorizing Halibut RQE

NOAA Fisheries is proposing to authorize formation of a recreational quota entity that could purchase and hold commercial halibut quota shares for use by charter anglers in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska.

The proposed regulatory amendment would allow one non-profit RQE to obtain a limited amount of commercial halibut quota shares under a willing buyer-willing seller model. The harvest pounds associated with the quota shares would become recreational fishing quota that could be used to augment the amount of halibut available for harvest in the charter halibut fishery annually under the halibut catch sharing plan.

The proposed rule, recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is meeting this week in Anchorage, was filed on Oct. 2 in the Federal Register. Once published, it opens a 45-day public comment period.

If the RQE obtains enough quota share, restrictions on halibut size and bag limits could be relaxed for charter anglers in years of low abundance, up to a point where charter anglers could potentially retain up to the daily limit for unguided anglers- which is currently two fish of any size each day.

The proposed rule would implement quota share purchase restrictions the by regulatory area.

For Area 2C in Southeast Alaska the RQE would be limited to purchase no more than one percent of the commercial quota shares in any year, and no more than 10 percent of the total commercial quota shares for that area. For area 3A, in Southcentral Alaska, the annual limit of commercial quota share purchases would be 1.2 percent, with an upper limit of 12 percent of the total quota shares in the area.

The RQE would be allowed to hold those quota shares indefinitely, but also allowed to transfer those shares back to the commercial halibut sector – a provision that adds flexibility to the program and contributes to the market-based approach, NOAA officials said.

NOAA also said that the proposed rule is necessary to promote social and economic flexibility in the charter halibut fishery, and intended to promote the goals and objectives of the North Pacific Halibut Act of 1982, and other applicable laws.

Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail:D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0158, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. By mail, submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, assistant regional administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.

Bristol Bay Red King Crab TAC is 6.6 Million Pounds, Down 22 Percent

Commercial harvesters of Bristol Bay red king crab have been given a quota of 6.6 million pounds for the fishery that opens at noon on Oct. 15 – down 22 percent from the 2016-2017 quota.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also announced on Oct. 3 closures this season of the Pribilof district red and blue king crab and Saint Matthew Island section blue king crab fisheries.

An official announcement is still pending on snow and tanner crab, but Mark Stichert, the state’s regional management coordinator for groundfish and shellfish, said there will be a snow crab fishery and also a tanner crab fishery, the latter in the western Bering Sea. There was no bairdi fishery last year, but there will be one this year, and the TAC on the snow crab fishery will be fairly similar to last year, he said.

The red king crab fishery has been a challenging one, Stichert said.

From 2003 through 2010 the fishery had good production and TACs between 15 million and 20 million pounds, but then they started dropping. “here were generally low population levels through the 1980s. We enjoyed pretty good stability in that fishery for a while, but since 2012-2013 there has been a generally declining trend of overall abundance.”

For the 2014/2015 season, the Bristol Bay red king crab TAC was 9.99 million pounds; in 2015/2016, 9.78 million pounds; and for 2016/2017, 8.47 million pounds.

This year’s TAC of 6.6 million pounds is the lowest TAC going back to 1996.

“These TACS are based on abundance of crab,” Stichert noted. “In the late 1970s there was a regime shift, and populations collapsed from the late 1970s and generally low population levels through the 1980s, and (then) they grew in the early 1990s.”

Beginning in the early 2000s there was another increase in overall abundance that led to TACs of 15 million to 20 million pounds, and then there was a downward trend since that time, he said.

5.6 Billion Pounds of Seafood Had $5.2B Impact on Alaska

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s latest economic value report concludes that the state’s 2016 seafood harvest of 5.6 billion pounds had a $5.2 billion impact on Alaska’s economy.

The commercial harvest itself had a total ex-vessel value of $1.7 billion, ASMI reported in the report prepared by the McDowell Group in Juneau.

The impact came from a total of some 56,800 workers who earned $1.518 million, including 29,200 harvesters earning $842 million, 24,500 processing workers who earned $467 million, and 3,200 workers in management, hatcheries and other areas who earned $228 million.

Processors produced 2.7 billion pounds of Alaska seafood products in 2016, worth a first wholesale value of $4.2 billion, while employing an average of 24,500 workers in 2015/2016, including an estimated 7,200 Alaska residents, the report said. The industry for that period included 169 shore-based plants, 73 catcher-processors, and more than a dozen floating processors.

On the national scale, the Alaska seafood industry creates an estimated 99,000 full time equivalent jobs, $5.2 billion in annual labor income and $12.8 billion in economic output, McDowell Group economists concluded. The national economic impacts of Alaska’s seafood industry include $5.4 billion in direct output associated with fishing, processing, distribution and retail. The impact also includes $7.3 billion in multiplier effects generated as industry income circulates through the national economy. The Alaska seafood industry employed some 29,600 residents of other states who came north to work in the state in 2016.

Alaska exports more than one million metric tons of seafood annually, bringing over $3 billion in new money into the nation’s economy. Since statehood in 1959, Alaska’s abundant fisheries have produced over 169 billion pounds of seafood. The largest harvest to date was 6.1 billion pounds in 2015.

The industry catches and processes enough seafood each year to feed everybody in the world at least one serving of Alaska seafood, or one serving for every American for more than a month, the economists said.

In 2016, Alaska seafood was sold in 105 countries. Export markets typically account for about two-thirds of sales value, while the domestic market buys the remaining one-third, the report said.

The complete report is online at http://www.alaskaseafood.org/industry/seafood-market-info/economic-value-reports/

New Food for Fish Farms is Fly Larvae

AgriProtein, a South African firm that recently moved its headquarters to London, has won the BBC Food Chain Global Championship for MagMeal, a protein substitute for fishmeal used widely in aquaculture, agriculture and pet food. The product is produced from black soldier flies fed on food waste.

The award, presented in Bristol, England, was announced in late September. “Insect protein is an idea whose time has come and we are now producing it at an industrial scale,” said Jason Drew, co-founder and chief executive officer of Agri-Protein. “By using existing waste to rear fly larvae, we’re reducing the greenhouse gases and pollution caused by organic landfill,” he said.

AgriProtein has fly farm projects under way in several countries, potentially including the United States and Canada, to produce MagMeal for the $100 billion aquafeed market.

The BBC noted in one of its podcasts (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05gpsz4) that AgriProtein’s South African farm has the capacity to farm more than nine billion black soldier flies. The maggot offspring of billions of these protein rich flies are churned into sustainable animal feed.

At present, about 10 percent of global fish production goes into fishmeal, and is used mainly in aquaculture, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization notes in an online report, http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e07.pdf The high demand and consequent high prices for fishmeal, together with increasing production pressure on aquaculture, led to research into the development of insect proteins for aquaculture and livestock. Meanwhile, aquaculture is growing and fishmeal declining as a source of feed, because of decreased supplies of industrially caught fish due to tighter quotas, additional controls on unregulated fishing, and greater use of more cost-effective dietary fishmeal substitutes, the FAO report said.

The report identifies black soldier flies as the most promising species for industrial feed production, noting that they are found in abundance and naturally occur around manure piles of large poultry, pigs and cattle, and for this reason are known as latrine larvae.

“They can be used commercially to solve a number of environmental problems associated with manure and other organic waste, such as reducing manure mass, moisture content and offensive odors, while providing high value feedstuff for cattle, pigs, poultry and fish, the report said.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

NOAA Takes a Closer Look at Bering Sea Bloom

NOAA researchers embarked from Dutch Harbor on September 22, hoping to witness changing colors in the Bering Sea and gather more samples for a continuing investigation in what these changes mean for an ecosystem critical to one of the nation’s biggest fisheries.

Survey samples will be taken from up to a depth range of 70 meters from the southeast Bering Sea to the southwest of St. Lawrence Island, with hopes that in later years more sampling may be done on the shelf area. The focus will be on coccolithophores – single-celled phytoplankton that live in oceans worldwide, and play a vital role in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Coccolithophores, unlike other marine algae, armor themselves with plates of calcium carbonate-chalk. They shed multitudes of these tiny white discs, called coccoliths, into surface water, where they linger long after the coccolithophores themselves, have gone. These plates reflect light the same way coral sands do in shallow Caribbean waters with similar shimmering turquoise results, NOAA scientists said.

By clouding the water, they make it difficult for visual predators like seabirds and fish to find food and they make the food web less efficient.

Under certain conditions, the number of coccolithophores can skyrocket locally into enormous “blooms” that cloud water, resulting in potentially catastrophic consequences for other marine life, researchers at the NOAA Fisheries Science Center said.

The researchers are aboard the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson, the first in a class of ultra-quiet fisheries survey vessels built to collect data on fish populations, and conduct marine mammal and seabird surveys and study marine ecosystems.

The summer of 1997 was the first time anyone could remember when a vast swath of the deep blue Bering Sea turned milky turquoise. That year 190,000 seabirds died of starvation. The culprit in the color change, and suspect in the seabird deaths, was coccolithophores. Exactly what conditions cause the blooms to cloud the waters and what they portend for the ecosystem of the Bering Sea is the mystery researchers are trying to solve.

To that end, NOAA researchers have been tracking late summer coccolithophore bloom extent from 1998 to 2016 using satellite color data. They compared this index with ocean conditions and looked at possible implications for forage fish and predators.

The study was initiated by oceanographers Lisa Eisner at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Carol Ladd of the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab after they found themselves in the midst of a bloom during a Bering Sea research cruise. The impact of the bloom on commercial fisheries has not yet been determined, they said.

Oil Spilled at Valdez Marine Terminal

A faulty check valve at Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.’s Valdez Marine Terminal is believed to be the culprit in a crude oil spill at Valdez, Alaska, on September 21, which has proven larger than anticipated.

An updated report from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) on September 26 noted that ADEC was continuing to monitor response actions and work with the US Coast Guard and Alyeska on waste management and decontamination plans. Early indicators show that oily water in the oil loading system may have drained through the berth firewater system during a pressure test, the agency said.

Response to the spill, estimated at up to 100 gallons of crude oil, continued around the clock, with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. reporting by September 23 that crews in the field had recovered an estimated 400 gallons of an oily water mix.

Response teams had deployed more than 23,000 feet of boom, and more than 25 vessels were on the water responding, as of September 23. There were no reports of wildlife being impacted by the spill.

Meanwhile, ADEC and the U.S. Coast Guard, along with the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System were scrambling to clean up an oil sheen in the terminal area.

The sheen was noted shortly before noon on September 21 and by midnight booming was completed in two sensitive areas of the Port of Valdez, the Solomon Gulch Hatchery and Valdez Duck Flats, said Kate Dugin, Alyeska’s spokeswoman. There were no reports that the sheen had reached either area, but they were boomed because they are both considered to be environmentally sensitive, she said.

“We recognize and share the public’s concerns and are activating all available resources, including pre-staged equipment around Port Valdez, to respond to the incident and protect the environment and surrounding community,” Alyeska said in a statement. The Valdez Star skimmed the north of the Valdez Marine Terminal with five vessels, pulling some 1,700 feet of absorbent boom, and wildlife personnel were on the water, equipped to respond, the company said.

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound when the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker owned by Exxon Shipping Co., struck Bligh Reef shortly after midnight, spilling 10.8 million gallons of crude oil. The incident is considered one of the most devastating environmental disasters ever caused by people and resulted in efforts to assure prevention of further spills and to have emergency responders in place in the event of any other spills.

Ferry System Budget Issues On Tap for Alaska Special Legislative Session

A budget issue critical to the commercial fishing industry, the future of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AHMS), is on tap for discussion during a special session of the Alaska Legislature beginning on October 23.

At issue is a budget oversight that could leave the marine highway without sufficient funds to operate next spring, but it will be corrected, says Alaska Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak.

The ferry system is crucial to Stevens’ legislative district, which includes Kodiak, Homer and Cordova, as well as the commercial seafood industry and tourism in Alaska.

A 2016 economic report from Juneau’s McDowell Group notes that AMHS provides essential transport for passengers, their vehicles and freight, including fresh seafood and other products critical to businesses operating in Alaska.

“A number of seafood companies rely on AMHS for shipment of fresh seafood,” the McDowell report read. “The ferry offers an essential alternative to air freight, which can be prohibitively expensive, have insufficient capacity and lack proper refrigeration. Having a ferry option lowers transportation costs, allowing seafood processors to pay local fishermen more for their product,” the report concluded.

Commercial harvesters also use the ferry to transport nets, line, equipment and other supplies from the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage, Mat-Su Valley and other locations to Cordova.

The budget shortfall for the ferry system came to light in September when legislative leaders were advised that AMHS would run out of money in early April of 2018.

Brian Fechter, an analyst with the Alaska Office of Management and Budget, said it was due to a bad timing situation, as legislators were struggling to pass a budget to avoid a government shutdown.

Every year legislators pass a budget bill to approve spending for the upcoming fiscal year. Knowing unforeseen events, including emergencies, may arise they add an allotment to cover those costs. That allotment comes from Alaska’s savings account, the Constitutional Budget Reserve. Last year legislators approved an allotment of $100 million, which was much lower than in previous years, and included covering the state’s commitment to Medicaid expansion. Also, there was no way of knowing what would be appropriate for the ferry system in the capital budget, so AMHS funding, which was to be $30 million, was cut down to $7 million. “Everything was moving so fast,” Fechter said. “By the time the bill was sent to the governor we were days before a government shutdown, and there was no time to review the situation.”

Stevens said it’s a situation that needs correcting and legislators will do their best to get funds back to continue smooth operating of AMHS.

Coalition Urges Investigation into BC Mines

A coalition of conservation groups and Alaska Native tribal governments are asking Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to investigate six hard rock mines in British Columbia and their anticipated impact on salmon-rich transboundary watershed.

The coalition petitioned Ross on September 26 to join the Interior Department and other federal agencies in bringing the issue before the International Joint Commission, the governing body of the Boundary Waters Treaty between the two countries.

The coalition’s concern is that development of these six British Columbia mines will adversely impact the salmon-rich transboundary watersheds of the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers, which flow across the Canadian border into Alaska. The salmon are critical for sustenance to wildlife, as well as to thousands of people who harvest and process these fish commercially, for sport and subsistence. While not among the signers of the petition, Dale Kelly, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association, said that ATA shares their concerns and has worked alongside some of those signers for years.

The petition was submitted on behalf of the signers by the Alaska regional office of EarthJustice under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967, a federal law enacted in 1971. The aim of the Pelly Amendment itself was to boost the effectiveness of international programs for the conservation of threatened and endangered species.

The petition analyzes the mine projects and their potential impacts on watersheds and invokes the shared duty of the federal agencies to investigate when foreign nationals may be diminishing the effectiveness of U.S. conservation treaties.

The conservation and tribal entities contend that the transboundary watersheds are endangered by the development of metals mines in British Columbia. Listed in the petition are the Tulsequah Chief, Red Chris, Schaft Creek, Galore Creek, Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell and Brucejack mines. All six mines involve large-scale infrastructure development and generate large quantities of tailings and mine wastes, and require water treatment in perpetuity.

The petition is posted online at https://earthjustice.org/documents/letter/letter-to-commerce-secretary-ross

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Alaska’s Salmon Harvest Reaches 216.5 Million

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

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

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

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

Resolution Designates September as Alaska Wild Salmon Month

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

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

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

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

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

Panel Will Explore Potential for Building Alaska’s Blue Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOAA Seeks Comment on Reducing Paperwork

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

NPFMC Offers Review Documents Prior to Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Failed Net Pen Now Disposed

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

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

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

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

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

An investigation into the incident is continuing.

SeaShare Offers Food Aid to Hurricane Victims

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN Forecasts Fish Production Rise

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Recovery of Escaped Atlantic Salmon
Reaches 145,101 Fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvesters Asked to Help Stem
Alaska’s Opioid Epidemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 6 Deadline Set for Alaska Symphony of Seafood Entries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Washington Halts on Net Pen Permits until Investigation is Complete

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Marine Environment Protections Announced for Canadian Arctic

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

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

Communities Want More Science, Accountability in Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvest of Salmon in Alaska Tops 201 Million Fish

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Deadline for Saltonstall-Kennedy

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

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

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

• Marine aquaculture

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

• Promotion, development and marketing

• Territorial science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farmed Atlantic Salmon Spilled from Damaged Net Pen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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