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.

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