Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Industry Supports Bristol Bay Fish Expo

Fishing industry entities, government agencies and air carriers are stepping up to participate in the second annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo, June 8–9, in Naknek, Alaska.

The event, on the eve of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, is a fundraiser for a childcare facility critical to this major Alaska fishery hub.

Taking place at Bristol Bay Borough School, the Expo will feature speed hiring for crew jobs, fishing gear and a fashion show, a live auction, and several dozen vendor booths.

A major attraction in this election year is a gubernatorial debate between incumbent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Republican candidates Mike Chanault and Mike Dunleavy. The debate will focus on sustainability in rural Alaska. Candidates will be asked their views on how outmigration, economic development, education, transportation, cost of living, mental health services and resource management are affecting rural communities and fisheries.

“This will be the first gubernatorial debate to be held in Bristol Bay in more than 25 years,” said Alaska Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham.

“Half of the world’s sockeye comes from Bristol Bay, and for more than 100 years its commercial fishing industry has been a mainstay economic driver for Alaska. It’s fitting that the second annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo will be the backdrop for the candidates to discuss their perspectives on advancing the state’s economic future,” Edgmon said.

Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association will hold its annual meeting on the afternoon of June 9.

Bristol Bay Fish Expo got its start a year ago–thanks to Katie Copps-Wilson, a physician’s assistant in Naknek, harvester’s wife, and mother of three school-aged youngsters–to raise funds for the community’s Little Angels Childcare Academy.

The lack of adequate childcare facilities is contributing to a demise in Naknek’s year-round population and Copps-Wilson decided to do something about it.

Now in her second year, she benefits from more help from volunteers and increasing industry support. “We are trying to create one stop shopping for all things fish in Bristol Bay,” she explained. Last year’s speed hiring event resulted in a dozen crew members being hired for the upcoming season. “The captains were so happy. They would go down there (to speed hiring) at 9 a.m. and there were people there ready (to work),” she said.

The event, which brings captains and potential crewmembers together for interviews, is sponsored by Grundens, and the fashion show is sponsored by Nomar, a Homer provider of fishing gear.

Updates on events, vendors and sponsors are posted online at www.bristolbayfishexpo.com and https://www.facebook.com/BRISTOLBAYFISHEXPO/

Alaska’s House Bill 199 a Work in Progress

Alaska’s House Special Committee on Fisheries continues to hear testimony on House Bill 199, legislation aimed at protecting fish and game habitat through permitting of anadromous fish habitat.

In a report to her constituents this week committee chair Louise Stutes of Kodiak, Alaska, remarked that out of 111 people who testified, only 12 opposed the bill in its present form. “What we heard was overwhelming support for updating Title 16 (of Alaska statutes) so that Alaska can maintain healthy salmon fisheries into the future as urbanization and development continue to increase,” Stutes said. “There is a lot of work still needed to make sure we get the right protections in place that still allow responsible development to move forward.”

According to Stutes it is unlikely that HB 199, which would update statutes for protecting fish habitat for the first time since statehood, will make it through the process this year. If it doesn’t pass, her committee will continue to make it a better product during the interim and hit the ground running next year to get it into law. Meanwhile an initiative also aimed at protecting fish habitat, currently scheduled to go on the primary ballot on August 21, would be postponed until the November 6 general election ballot unless the legislative session ends on April 22. State law requires at least 120 days from the end of the legislative session and an initiative vote.

The US Army Corps of Engineers meanwhile continues to hold public hearings on the Pebble mine permit application. Since April 9 hearings have been held in several western and Southcentral Alaska communities, including Naknek, Homer and Dillingham. The Anchorage hearing is set for the evening of Thursday, April 19, at the Dena’ina Center. The doors open at 11 a.m. for those wishing to give testimony to a court reporter, with the main event taking place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mine opponents plan a demonstration with speakers at 5 p.m.

Public radio station KDLG in Dillingham reported that those testifying this past week at Kokhanok expressed apprehension or outright opposition to the Pebble project mining plan, while at Newhalen public testimony showed a mix of support and opposition to the mine.

The comment period continues through June 29.

No Further Action on Chinook PSC Limit

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has opted to postpone indefinitely any further action on modifications of the Chinook salmon prohibited species catch limit for Gulf of Alaska trawl catcher vessels in non-pollock fisheries.

Council action at the April meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, could have boosted limits or added flexibility via annual rollovers of unused prohibited species catch for trawl vessels fishing for Pacific cod, rockfish and flatfish in the central and western Gulf of Alaska.

The council reviewed alternatives during its February and April meetings, ultimately deciding it was not appropriate to make changes at this time because of concerns about the status of Chinook stocks known to occur as bycatch in those Gulf non-pollock trawl fisheries. Council members also noted the possibility that federal action related to king salmon removals could create an unintended interference with the decadal renegotiation in progress on the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the US and Canada. The council noted that the timing and direction of trends in affected king stocks cannot be anticipated. While postponing further action indefinitely, the council signaled intent to monitor the status of king stocks and the performance of the PSC-limited Gulf trawl catcher vessel sector.

The council will receive a report after the 2018 fisheries on king stock status throughout the Pacific coast and on Gulf trawl harvests.

Alward Takes Helm of UFA

Veteran harvester Matt Alward, of the North Pacific Fisheries Association, is the new president of United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), succeeding Jerry McCune, of Cordova District Fishermen United. Bob Kehoe, representing the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association is taking on the vice presidency.

Also joining the executive committee on April 15 were Rebecca Skinner, of the Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association, as public relations and membership chair, and Sue Doherty, of the Southeast Alaska Seiners Association, as subsistence committee chair.

The election for the statewide commercial fishing trade association was held in February.

McCune, of Cordova, had served as UFA president since 2014, as well as from 1992 to 1996. He has also acted as a paid or volunteer lobbyist for UFA for the past two decades, and still serves on UFA’s executive committee. Alward, of Homer, was the vice president of UFA since 2015.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Comment Period on Pebble Project Extended

Under pressure from the state of Alaska and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the US Army Corps of Engineers has extended its public scoping period on a draft environmental impact statement on the proposed Pebble project to June 29.

The decision to extend the comment period for an additional 60 days came on April 6, in the wake of letters from Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Andrew Mack and Murkowski, who told Col. Michael Brooks, commander of the Corps Alaska District, that a 30-day scoping period was insufficient.

Scoping input is now invited for entry directly into the project website at www.pebbleprojecteis.com. The proposed open-pit copper-gold-molybdenum mine, with associated infrastructure, would be located in Southwest Alaska, within the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon.

“Due to the size and potential impact of the proposed mine, a 30-day scoping process is likely insufficient for the public to identify, and the USACE to address issues of concern, studies that are needed and alternatives to be examined,” said Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Andrew Mack in his March 28 letter to Col. Michael Brooks, commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District.

Mack specifically described the project as “an open pit mine, a mile across, near the headwaters of the most prolific salmon fishery in the world.”

Murkowski told Brooks that she has remained officially neutral on large scale mineral development in the Bristol Bay region and supports allowing the Pebble Limited Partnership to apply for a Clean Water Act permit without what she labeled “preemptive restrictions” from the EPA.

Still now that the federal review process has begun, “we must ensure that all relevant stakeholders are given ample opportunity to consider the information provided, as well as sufficient opportunity and forum to provide comment on it,” she told Brooks.

Washington Denies Neurotoxic Pesticides Permit

A request from shellfish growers for a permit to use the pesticide imidacloprid on oyster and clam beds to control native burrowing shrimp has been denied by the Washington Department of Ecology on grounds that the environmental harm would be too great.

The denial to a request from Willapa-Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association was issued on April 9.

“We’ve been working with this community of growers for years to move away from chemical pesticides and find a safer alternative to control burrowing shrimp,” said Ecology Director Maia Belton. “The science around imidacloprid is rapidly evolving, and we can’t ignore it. New findings make it clear that this pesticide is simply too risky and harmful to be used in Washington’s waters and estuaries.”

The body of science is expanding due to national and international concerns over use of neonicotinoid pesticides and their environmental impacts. New research points to greater impacts in land and water ecosystems than previously known, DOE officials said.

In its environmental assessment, Washington’s Ecology agencies studied the best available science from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority, plus hundreds of other new reports.

The Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center had all urged the Ecology Department not to grant the permit based on both data gaps and disturbing evidence of harm from neonicotinoids, including aquatic species like Dungeness crabs.

In its own review, the Ecology Department found significant, adverse and unavoidable impacts to both sediment quality and invertebrates living in the sediments and water column, Ecology officials said. The agency was accepting public comment through May 14. Once final, the decision could be appealed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearing Board within 30 days, they said. More information on the review and decision is online at www.ecology.wa.gov/burrowingshrimp.

Federal Fisheries Managers Rule on Angler-Caught Halibut

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has ruled that when halibut harvested using sport guide services possessed with halibut not using sport guide services in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska that all the fish are subject to guided sport fishing limits.

The final action came during the spring meeting of the council this past week in Anchorage.

The council also approved implementation of an annual registration process for transferable and non-transferable charter halibut permits.

Both actions are subject to approval by the federal Commerce Department and so likely will not be implemented at least until next year.

Unguided sport anglers currently may keep halibut of any size without restriction and are not subject to annual catch limits, while guided anglers face daily bag limits, size limits, daily closures and annual catch limits.

The council’s action was supported by testimony of the Halibut Coalition, Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance and Cordova District Fishermen United.

The Alaska Charter Association, which represents over 200 vessels engaged in guiding recreational anglers, had urged no action.

The Juneau Charter Boat Operators Association opposed the annual registration process on grounds that it would simply create more red tape for their industry, and that it simply was not a matter that warranted action.

Tom Gemmell, in his testimony for the Halibut Coalition, supported an annual charter halibut permit renewal plan, saying it would add to the integrity and transparency of the program and facilitate enforcement efforts by the US Coast Guard, National Marine Fishery Service and Alaska Wildlife Troopers. Given the considerable uncertainty regarding usage of non-transferable permits, the annual renewal process is needed to restore the credibility of the program, he said.

Rockers Brandi Carlile, Michael Franti Headline Salmonfest 2018

Folk rocker Brandi Carlile and hip hop musician Michael Franti & Spearhead will headline Salmonfest 2018, from Aug. 3-5 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik.

The annual three days of fish, love and music – with over 60 bands playing on four stages -comes together in a family friendly atmosphere dedicated to protecting Alaska’s wild salmon habitat.

Salmonfest also attracts a number of other big bands, including Great American Taxi, along with numerous booths offering everything from food, drink and other souvenir items to arts and crafts and a daily mix of creative activities for children.

The festival got its start several years back as Salmonstock, with a focus on educating people from all walks of life about the potential for adverse impact from the proposed open pit Pebble mine in the areas of the Bristol Bay watershed, and has grown to attract several thousand people every year, most of whom are advocates for strong protections for wild salmon habitat.

Sponsors include the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, with support from Cook Inletkeeper. They join several other environmental entities there annually in trying to educate and rally the public on ways to keep salmon habitat safe.

For information on the developing music program schedule, sponsorship opportunities, tickets and more, log on to www.salmonfestalaska.org.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Fisheries Restrictions for Southeast Alaska Chinook

All harvesters of Chinook salmon in Southeast Alaska fisheries will face restrictions in 2018 in an effort by fishery managers to boost escapement and rebuild stocks impacted by several years of poor marine survival.

“Escapement objectives are not being met, so we’re calling for an all-out conservation effort on behalf of Alaskans and our Canadian neighbors,” said Charlie Swanton, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).

Commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence users will all share the burden of conservation, because of forecasts of record-low Chinook returns in regional and transboundary drainages.

Planning for this year’s Chinook management actions began in Sitka, Alaska in January 2018, at a meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, with the board approving plans for stocks of concern in the Chilkat, King Salmon and Unuk rivers. Other Southeast Alaska and transboundary river king salmon stocks are not officially designated stocks of concern but given recent run data and the outlook for record low runs in 2018, additional conservative management actions are being implemented to protect all of these stocks, Swanton explained.

Commercial restrictions included the closure of the winter troll fishery on March 15. The May-June spring troll fishery will be open only in select terminal harvest areas, and a few defined areas on the outside coast, to target hatchery kings and conserve wild stocks.

The sport fishery will be restricted to non-retention of king salmon throughout the inside waters of Southeast Alaska. If surplus hatchery kings are present, an opportunity to harvest those fish will be provided in designated terminal harvest areas, but it will not be announced until a later date. For personal use and subsistence harvesters, area specific actions will be applied, along with measures to protect transboundary Taku and Stikine Chinook salmon stocks.

Thanks to meetings between Alaska and Canada Pacific Salmon Commissioners, Canada also has agreed to share in the Chinook conservation burden. ADF&G officials said reductions in Canadian harvests could include time, area, bag limit and gear restrictions for sport and commercial fisheries, and that an allowable catch reduction and non-retention are also being considered by Canadian officials.

Details on restrictions and closure in Southeast Alaska were to be announced in early April.

Approved salmon action plans are online at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/RIR.1J.2018.05.pdf for the Chilkat River and King Salmon River king salmon stocks can be found at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/RIR.1J.2018.04.pdf for the Unuk River kings.

Alaska Wants More Time for Pebble Mine EIS

Alaska officials are asking that the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) extend its scoping period for an environmental impact statement on the proposed Pebble mine to at least 90 to 120 days, rather than the planned 30-day period.

The proposed copper, gold and molybdenum project would be adjacent to the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, the largest wild salmon fishery in the world, which supports the economy of Southwest Alaska, subsistence users and wildlife year-round.

“Due to the size and potential impact of the proposed mine, a 30-day scoping process is likely insufficient for the public to identify, and the USACE to address issues of concern, studies that are needed and alternative to be examined,” said Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Andrew Mack in his March 28 letter to Col. Michael Brooks, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District.

Mack specifically described the project as “an open pit mine, a mile across, near the headwaters of the most prolific salmon fishery in the world.”

He said that the scoping process would rightfully include several public meetings with those affected by the proposed project. “Western Alaska is not always easily accessible because travel is often affected by weather and distance,” Mack noted. “With multiple meetings scheduled across Alaska, should just one scoping meeting be delayed it could jeopardize the 30-day scoping process, so from a practical standpoint, a longer scoping period should be considered,” he added.

Mack reported that the scoping period for the proposed Donlin gold mine in western Alaska’s Yukon Kuskokwim region, which included a National Environmental Policy Act review led by the Corps, lasted from Dec. 14, 2012 to March 29, 2013, a total of 105 days. In that scoping process, the Corps conducted 14 public meetings across western Alaska, and the state requests that the Corps follow a similar scoping process for Pebble, Mack told the Corps.

Change of Appointments for Alaska Board of Fisheries

Alan Cain is being recommended by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker for appointment for a second term on Alaska Board of Fisheries.

The surprise announcement this past week came after Kodiak commercial harvester Duncan Fields, a former member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, withdrew his nomination for the state fisheries board. Walker said that Cain, who has served on the Board of Fisheries for the past two years, had intended to end his tenure when his first term expires this summer, but has since reconsidered his involvement. Alaska State Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, noted that there had been tremendous pressure from sport fishing organizations across the state, from legislators and the governor regarding Fields’ appointment.

“Board of Fisheries’ confirmations tend to be a lightning rod for controversy,” Stutes said, in a legislative update to her constituents this week.

Despite her best efforts along with many others to convince people that Fields was the right choice, he faced a lot of pressure to withdraw his name. “He would have been a fair, smart, and effective member of the board,” she noted.

The Kenai River Sportfishing Association meanwhile hailed the change of nominees as a victory for sport, personal use and subsistence fishermen.

Cain worked as an Alaska Wildlife Trooper for 25 years and a decade as a criminal justice planner for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He is currently a contractor, providing enforcement training and support, and has extensive statewide experience with various fisheries, gear groups and harvest methods.

Walker earlier reappointed Orville Huntington, of Huslia, Alaska, to the board. Huntington serves as the wildlife and parks director for the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks.

Legislators must approve both reappointments.

Halibut Sport Limits, Permits Face Final Action at NPFMC

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is preparing to take final action this week on mixing of guided and unguided halibut taken by sport anglers on the same vessel. Under current regulations unguided sport fishermen may harvest halibut of any size without restriction and are not subject to an annual catch limit, while guided anglers are subject to restrictive regulations on daily bag limits, size, daily closures and annual catch limits.

The Council’s preliminary preferred alternative would be that when halibut harvested using sport fishing guide services is possessed with halibut harvested not using sport fishing guide services in International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) or 3A (Southcentral Alaska) that IPHC annual management measures for guided sport fishing for the area the halibut was harvested in apply to all halibut on board that fishing vessel. A public review of that analysis to limit possession of guided and unguided halibut on the same vessel is scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday, April 5) afternoon during the council’s spring meeting in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.

Also on the council’s meeting agenda is a possible final action on a proposed regulatory amendment to implement an annual renewal process for the Charter Halibut Permit, a component of the Charter Halibut Limited Access Program. The council’s preliminary preferred alternative includes a requirement for charter halibut permit holders to annually renew those permits through a National Marine Fisheries Service Restricted Access Management application process.

The council describes the intent of its proposed action it to provide more complete information to evaluate whether changes to the charter halibut permit program are necessary as a result of changes in ownership, to facilitate retirement of non-transferable permits when ownership changes, and to improve the ability of enforcement agents to ensure valid permits are being used.

Public comments on both proposed actions are posted online at http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2018/4/977_A_North_Pacific_Council_18-04-02_Meeting_Agenda.pdf

The council meeting will be broadcasted at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/april2018 and all motions passed will be posted online following the meeting.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

NPFMC Considering Charter Halibut, Chinook PSC

Catch limits are lowered for the commercial halibut fishery that got underway in Alaska on March 24, and now federal fisheries managers are preparing for final action on charter halibut permits, along with adjustments to limits on the Chinook salmon prohibited species catch.

Both items are on the agenda for the spring meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) in Anchorage, Alaska schedule for April 2–10.

The preliminary preferred alternative for an annual renewal process for charter halibut permits (CHP) includes a requirement for permit holders to renew annually with the Restricted Access Management Program of National Marine Fisheries Services. The council said its intent is to provide more complete and useful information to evaluate whether amendments to the CHP program are necessary as a result of changes in ownership and participation of CHP holders, to facilitate retirement of non-transferable permits when ownership changes, and to improve the ability of enforcement agents to ensure valid permits are being used.

The council also plans final action on the mixing of halibut caught under guided and unguided conditions on the same fishing boat.

Regulations differ for halibut harvests of guided and unguided halibut fishing trips. Unguided anglers may harvest halibut of any size without restriction and are not subject to an annual catch limit, while anglers harvesting halibut aboard charter boats are subject to restrictions on daily bag limits, size, daily closures and annual catch limits.

The council’s preliminary preferred alternative is an option to implement International Pacific Halibut Commission annual management measures for guided sport fish for all halibut onboard fishing vessels in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska if halibut harvested using sport fishing guide services is possessed with halibut harvests without those charter services.

The complete meeting agenda is available online at http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2018/4/977_A_North_Pacific_Council_18-04-02_Meeting_Agenda.pdf

The meeting will be broadcast at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/april2018. Motions will be posted on the website following the meeting.

Nominations Posted for Alaska Seats on IPHC, NPFMC

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has nominated six people to fill two Alaska seats on the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) that expire on March 31, 2018 plus six more for two seats on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) that expire August 10.

The IPHC nominees include incumbent Alaska representatives Linda Behnken, of Sitka, Alaska and Bob Alverson, of Seattle, Wash., whose terms are expiring.

Behnken, a veteran longliner, is the president of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, and a former member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Alverson, the general manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association, is also a former member of NPFMC.

Other nominees include:

• Stephen Joner, of Port Angeles, Wash., who is the chief biologist for Makah fisheries management with the Makah Tribe.

• Richard Yamada, of Juneau, Alaska, owner/ operator of a sport-fishing lodge in Southeast Alaska. • Andy Mezirow, of Seward, Alaska, who is a charter boat captain, fisheries manager and serves on the NPFMC.

• Duane Edelman, of Valdez, Alaska, also a commercial harvester, employed as a mechanical maintenance technician for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

The IPHC nominees must be vetted by the Department of Commerce and State Department, then forwarded for consideration for presidential appointments.

Mezirow, whose appointment on the NPFMC expires in August, is also nominated for reappointment to the council. The two seats opening at IPHC include Mezirow’s and that of current council chairman Dan Hull, of Anchorage, Alalska who can’t be reappointed following the end of his third term on the council.

Other NPFMC nominees include

• Paul Gronholdt, of Sand Point, a commercial harvester;

• Greg Indroeland, manager of Yakutat Seafoods in Yakutat, Alaska;

• John Jensen, of Petersburg, Alaska, a commercial harvester and chairman of the Alaska Board of Fisheries;

• Dan Falvey, of Sitka, Alaska, a veteran harvester and project coordinator for the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association; and

• Tom Panamaross, of Kodiak, Alaska, regional and legislative affairs executive with Koniag, Inc., the regional Native association for the Kodiak region of Alaska.

Walker has also appointed Duncan Fields, of Kodiak, and reappointed Orville Huntington, of Huslia, Alaska, to the Alaska Board of Fisheries, pending approval from the state Legislature.

Fields, a veteran harvester and attorney, completed a third term with NPFMC in 2016. Huntington, whose term expires on June 30, is the wildlife and parks director for the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks.

E-Stop Switch Helps Prevent Injury

Emergency stop switches for hydraulic purse seine winches have been licensed for commercial use since 2007, but vessel owners have been slow to put them on board. While fatalities are rare, there have been a number of severe injuries, ranging from compound fractures and dislocations to amputations caused by individuals getting entangled in the winch.

Why such a hard sell is still somewhat of a puzzle, and the matter came under discussion this past week during ComFish 2018 in Kodiak, Alaska.

The concept is simple: if a crewmember becomes entangled in the winch, pushing the E-stop locks the winch in place immediately. The crew can then return the control valve back to neutral and the button can be reset to free the individual from the winch.

While fatalities are rare, there have been a number of severe injuries, ranging from compound fractures and dislocations to amputations caused by individuals getting entangled in the winch.

Why then do so few purse seiners have winches with E-Stops on board?

Cost is a factor. The E-stop switch kit for a purse seine winch runs several thousand dollars for the product and installation.

One harvester at ComFish 2018, where researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health spoke about the safety benefits of the E-Stop, suggested that discount incentives from insurance companies for having them on board would help justify the expensive installation cost.

Veteran fishermen who were injured by winches give their rational on installing E-Stop and why they feel it’s important to have them onboard in a video titled “The Most Powerful Thing…Deck Safety Awareness for Purse Seiners.” The safety awareness video by the NIOSH Spokane Research Lab, is posted online at www.kolstrand.com/products/e-stop-emergency-stop-switch/ and can also be downloaded from NIOSH at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/video/seining.html.

For additional information, visit www.cdc.gov/niosh or call 800-356-4674.

Healthy Pollock Fishery Ahead for Kodiak in 2019

Preliminary results of NOAA Fishery’s winter 2018 acoustic surveys for Kodiak and the Shumagin Islands, southwest of Kodiak in the Aleutians, bode well for 2019 Pollock fisheries in those areas.

“We are seeing lots of fish,” NOAA Fisheries biologist Darin Jones told harvesters during ComFish 2018 – Alaska’s largest commercial fisheries forum and trade show.

The final report won’t be completed until summer. It will then go to the groundfish plan team, which makes recommendations to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, but Jones said he expects no significant changes in the numbers.

The acoustic surveys show lots of 2012 year class Pollock, which have started reproducing, so there is a fairly large one-year old-year class coming into the fishery right now, and that’s a good sign, he said. Overall the acoustic surveys show results similar to amounts observed last year, he added.

Pollock are spawned in March, and the numbers of young Pollock observed in June, July and August of last year showed that they are survived the roughest life stage, he said.

Eophausiid, small shrimp-like crustaceans, are a major food source for young Pollock. The young Pollock, in turn, are a food source for many other marine species, from whales and sea lions to cod, arrowtooth flounder and even Pollock, who are cannibalistic by nature.

Along with the acoustic surveys, harvesters heard a presentation from NOAA Fisheries research biologist Patrick Ressler, on innovative tools aimed at improving their surveys, including the use of Saildrones, carrying acoustics packages, which can be monitored from a desk in the office.

Word of a healthy abundance of Pollock was good news to Kodiak harvesters, who saw their allowable catch quota for Pacific cod cut by 80 percent, due to a dramatically decreased number of cod found in surveys of the Gulf of Alaska.

The exvessel value of cod is higher than for Pollock, but the pounds delivered in Pollock is so much better, said Julie Bonney, executive director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank. Last year Kodiak area harvesters brought in 243 million pounds of Pollock, and 59 million pounds of cod, she noted. In addition, the young Pollock managed to survey the Pacific Blob, a pool of exceptionally warm water observed last year in some areas of the Alaska coastline. The blob began in late 2013 and persisted at least into 2016.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Salmon Initiative Certified for Alaska’s 2018 Ballot

An initiative aimed at providing additional protection of wild salmon habitat will be on Alaska’s primary ballot if the legislative session ends on time, or the general election ballot if the Legislature goes into special session.

The Alaska Division of Elections on March 15 certified the “Yes for Salmon” initiative, clearing the way for voters to decide either in the primary or general election.

Meanwhile, the Alaska House Special Committee on Fisheries continued working on House Bill 199, which would establish general fish and wildlife permits and anadromous fish habitat permits for certain activities, to protect fish and game and their habitat. The likelihood of passage, which could replace the ballot initiative, appeared uncertain in this session as the big focus is on the state budget.

Supporters, including commercial fishing and conservation entities gathered nearly 42,000 signatures to put the “Yes for Salmon” initiative on the ballot. If approved, the initiative would update the 60-year-old state law to promote balanced, accountable management of development projects, with regulation limiting the amount of disturbance to fish habitat allowed for such projects. Current law sets no specific limits on disturbance of fish habitat for such projects, including the proposed Pebble mine site adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed.

The effort to put the “Yes for Salmon” initiative on the ballot came from the Stand campaign, a diverse group of Alaska-based individuals, businesses and organizations.

“Salmon is our way of life, a cornerstone of our culture and economy,” said Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, a ballot sponsor and director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “Promoting responsible development is something we can control and is the most important proactive step we can take to keep our runs strong. And now we officially have the chance to vote on this critical issue.”

Salmon is also critical to Alaska’s economy, providing nearly 30,000 jobs for Alaskans and generating $2 billion in economic activity. The fishing industry also pours millions of dollars in taxes and other revenues into fishing communities and the state economy as a whole.

The initiative has drawn criticism from some businesses and others who fear it would restrict development of nonrenewable resource extraction projects. Leading the opposition is a coalition of Alaska Native corporations, unions, and business and industry organizations. Stand for Alaska contends that the initiative would not negatively impact private projects, as well as public infrastructure projects and facilities.

Interim Final Rule on Halibut Catch Implemented

An interim final rule for 2018 Pacific halibut catch limits published days before the fishery begins on March 24 lowers allowable catch by over 15 percent in Southeast Alaska and 16 percent in the Western Gulf of Alaska.

The interim final rule revised the catch sharing plan for commercial individual fishing quota and guided sport halibut fisheries in areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska), as well as the catch sharing plan for the commercial IFQ and Western Alaska Community Development Quota halibut fisheries in areas 4C, 4D and 4E.

The National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) noted that the action was necessary because the International Pacific Halibut Commission, during its annual January meeting, did not recommend new catch limits or specific catch sharing plan allocations and charter management measures for areas 2C, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E for the current year.

The catch limit for Area 2C dropped 15.2 percent, from 5,250,000 pounds in 2017 to 4,450,000 pounds in 2018. In the Central Gulf of Alaska, the catch limit went from 10,000,000 pounds to 9,450,000 pounds a 5.5 percent reduction, while the Western Gulf of Alaska saw a 16.6 percent drop, passing from 3,140,000 pounds to 2,620,000 pounds.

For the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, the allocations are:

• for area 4A – 1,370,000 pounds, down 1.4 percent from 1,390,000 pounds

• for area 4B – 1,050,000 pounds, down 7.9 percent from 1,140,000 pounds

• for areas 4 CD and E – 1,580,000 pounds, down 7.1 percent from 1,700,000 pounds.

NMFS also set the guided sport catch limits at 810,000 pounds for Southeast Alaska and 1,790,000 pounds for the Central Gulf.

ComFish 2018 Comes to Kodiak March 22–24

ComFish 2018, which this year focuses mainly on the impact of climate change on Alaska’s fisheries, will open this week in Kodiak, Alaska. The trade show that runs concurrently with the conference will feature many industry related new products and novel ideas.

ComFish discussions will open on Thursday, March 22, with a seafood market update from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and the McDowell Group, followed by a state issues update from Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, and discussions on the impact of global warming from scientists with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. The afternoon discussion will focus on the impact of “The Blob” and will address its impact on the Pacific cod fishery, which is leading to an 80 percent reduction in the allowable catch for 2018, as well as discussion on recent actions of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

A preview of Exercise Northern Edge 2019 from officers with the US Pacific Fleet is on tap for March 23. An update on Alaska’s fish habitat permitting law, a review of fatalities on commercial fishing vessels, new technology to measure halibut bycatch are among the other topics on the agenda.

An array of seafood harvested by Kodiak fisheries will be on display on the morning of March 24, at a processor recognition and fish exhibit outdoor event at the Kodiak Harbor Convention Center.

Then comes the Fishermen’s Showcase, a lively competition where Kodiak harvesters vie for the title of most able fisherman by completing five skills, while the crowd cheers them on.

Preliminary results of NOAA ‘s winter 2018 acoustic surveys on Pollock and an introduction to new survey tools wind up the gathering.

The complete schedule of presenters, and trade show participants, is available online at www.kodiakchamber.org/comfish.

Aerial Surveys for Togiak Herring Fishery
Set for Mid-April

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) biologists plan to begin aerial surveys of the Togiak district herring fishery in mid-April, weather permitting, with regular fishery updates to be communicated directly to processors.

Based on a forecast of a 136,756-ton biomass, 27,351 tons of herring will be available for harvest.

The breakdown is 1,500 tons of spawn-on-kelp, 1,810 tons of Dutch Harbor food and bait, and 24,042 tons of Togiak sac roe herring, of which the purse seine fleet gets 16,829 tons or 70 percent, and gillnetters get 7,212 tons, or 30 percent.

Spawn-on-kelp (kazunoko kombois), a specialty seafood product, is sold primarily in the Japanese gift markets in the Tokyo region.

ADF&G managers at Dillingham, Alaska, said the sac roe fisheries will again be managed for maximum product quality through long openings to allow permit holders to make smaller sets and harvest the highest quality fish. Preseason polls indicate that four processors will participate in the Togiak sac roe herring fishery with three gillnets and 19 purse seine vessels.

For the last decade, ADF&G has opened the fishery as soon as the threshold biomass of 35,000 tons has been documented and plans to use this strategy again this year.

Meanwhile in Sitka, Alaska, herring fishery aerial surveys are already underway.

The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is currently on two-hour notice.

A second herring aerial survey for the Ketchikan area herring fishing was held on March 20 in the Craig area, amidst gusty winds, choppy seas and snow squalls, with no spawn or herring observed. ADF&G said skiff surveys would be conducting daily skiff surveys throughout the Craig fishery and spawning event.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Satellite Based Data Offers Footprint on Global Fisheries

A study published in late February in the journal Science offers a global footprint on industrial fishing, down to the vessels and their hourly activities.

A team of researchers using satellite feeds and common ship tracking technology found that industrial fishing covers more than 55 percent of the ocean’s surface-over four times the area covered by agriculture.

The new data set compiled is hundreds of times higher in resolution than previous global surveys and captures activities of over 70,000 vessels, including more than 75 percent of industrial fishing vessels larger than 36 meters (118.11 feet).

The biggest issue is a lack of transparency in the global fishing industry, says David A. Kroodsma, director of research and development at Global Fishing Watch, the lead author of the study. “It is amazing what we are able to see now. Previously we had a very poor understanding of where fishing was happening in the high seas.

Global Fishing Watch itself is the result of the environmental organization Oceana coming together with Google and SkyTruth several years ago to develop a tool to track large fishing vessels globally.

“By publishing the data and analysis, we aim to increase transparency in the commercial fishing industry and improve opportunities for sustainable management,” he explained.

The study reflects the team efforts of Global Fishing Watch, the National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas project, the University of California Santa Barbara, Dalhousie University, Sky Truth, Google and Stanford University. Their researchers processed 22 billion automatic identification system messages and tracked more than 70,000 industrial fishing vessels from 2012 through 2016, creating global dynamic footprint of fishing effort with spatial and temporal resolution two to three orders of magnitude higher than for previous data sets.

They found that global patterns of fishing have surprisingly low sensitivity to short-term economic and environmental variation and a strong response to cultural and political events such and holidays and closures, they said.

The data set provides greater detail than previously possibly about fishing activity on the high seas, beyond national jurisdictions. While most nations appear to fish predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea account for 85 percent of observed fishing on the high seas.

The study showed that the total area of the ocean fished is likely higher than the 55 percent estimated, as the data do not include some fishing effort in regions of poor satellite coverage, or exclusive economic zones with a low percentage of vessels using automated information systems.

Over 37 million hours of fishing were observed in 2016 and fishing vessels traveled more than 460 million kilometers or 285,830,748 miles, a distance to the moon and back 600 times.

Global Fisheries Face Dramatic Decline in Productivity

University of California Irvine (UCI) climatologists say unbridled global warming is expected to result in dramatic declines in the productivity in global fisheries by 2300.

The world’s fisheries, on average, will be 20 percent less productive, those in much of the western Pacific will see declines of more than 50 percent, and those in the North Atlantic will be down nearly 60 percent, according to the UCI study published in Science in early March.

“There is still time to avoid most of this warming and get to a stable climate by the end of this century, but in order to do that, we have to aggressively reduce our fossil fuel and emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants,” said J. Keith Moore, a UCI professor of Earth system science, and lead author of the study.

The study presents the results of computer simulations showing a world subjected to nearly three more centuries of global warming, characterized by a 9.6 degree Celsius (17 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in mean surface air temperature, nearly 10 times the warming seen to this point. This warming will drastically alter wind patterns, boost ocean surface temperatures and melt nearly all sea ice in polar regions.

“These conditions will cause changes in phytoplankton growth and ocean circulation around Antarctica, with the net effect of transferring nutrients from the upper ocean to the deep ocean,” said Moore. “Marine ecosystems everywhere to the north will be increasingly starved for nutrients, leading to less primary production (photosynthesis) by phytoplankton, which form the base of ocean food chains.”

In today’s oceans, nutrients are brought up to the surface around Antarctica, then move north and eventually flow into the low latitudes, supporting plankton and fish populations there, Moore explained. With increased phytoplankton growth around Antarctica, the northward transfer of nutrients will be greatly reduced.

“You end up trapping the nutrients near Antarctica,” he said.

“By looking at the decline in fish food over time, we can estimate how much our total potential fisheries catch could be reduced,” he added.

Read the full paper at http://www.sciencemag.org

Hardware Bundle Will Aid Reporting of Fisheries Harvests

Makers of a new tablet designed to expedite reporting requirements on harvests and purchases for the commercial fisheries industry say this bundle is compatible with most state reporting software.

The Seaside Seal Pack is built to withstand the harshest work environments and when paired with the provide accessories, will help harvesters and processors get the job done in any environment, according to Christian Bak, cofounder and vice president of product at Bak USA, in Buffalo, N.Y.

The pack includes Bak USA’s rugged 1.7 pound, nine by six-inch drop-resistant, weatherproof Seal tablet, equipped with a built-in flashlight, a Quad-Core Intel processor and Windows 10 operating software.

Also included is a wireless mobile printer with rechargeable batteries and backup ink cartridges, a magnetic card reader equipped with a six-inch USB-C cable and a six-foot USB-A cable to capture fishery permit information electronically in real time.

Flash drive accessories help store, save and report data and information offline on days or weeks out at sea when Internet isn’t available.

A spokeswoman for Bak USA said the idea for the Seaside Seal Pack was inspired by an inquiry from Gail Smith, a NOAA Fisheries electronics landing program coordinator, who came to a Microsoft store in Seattle, Wash., looking for an electronic device to help harvesters and onshore processors meet reporting requirements.

Microsoft already sold the tablet and Bak USA worked with Smith to put together the bundle. More information is online at https://www.bakusa.com/computers/seal/fishing/

2017 Alaska Harvest Included 47M Hatchery Salmon

Hatchery produced salmon contributed 47 million fish, or 21 percent of the total 2017 Alaska harvest, a catch worth an estimated $331 million first wholesale value and worth $162 million in ex-vessel value. This represents the lowest percentage of hatchery-produced fish in the harvest since 1995, according to the 2017 Alaska Fisheries Enhancement Report produced by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). The lower hatchery contribution was due to strong returns of wild stocks in 2017, the third highest in Alaska history.

An additional 194,0000 Alaska hatchery-produced fish were caught in the sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries.

ADF&G officials note that hatchery production in Alaska is designed to supplement, rather than replace, wild stock production. Over the past five years, Alaska’s hatchery-produced salmon have returned alongside record returns of its wild stocks, with the 2013, 2015 and 2017 harvests constituting three of the four highest wild stock returns in history dating back to the late 1800s. The 2017 harvest of chum salmon was the highest, and pink salmon the fourth highest on record. Record returns were also recorded in areas of Alaska where there is no hatchery production, including coho salmon in Norton Sound, and pink salmon at Chignik and the Alaska Peninsula. The 2017 sockeye harvest in Bristol Bay was the third highest since 1975 and third consecutive year of strong harvests.

Twenty-five of the current 29 salmon hatcheries operating in Alaska are private nonprofit corporations, funded primarily from sale of a portion of hatchery returns. Two sport fish hatcheries are also operated by the state, one as a research hatchery for the National Marine Fisheries Service, and one for the Metlakatla Indian Community.

Hatchery salmon are reared through juvenile stage and released. Farmed fish, by comparison, are those reared in captivity to market size for sale. Farming of finfish, including salmon, is illegal in Alaska.

A copy if the Alaska Salmon Fisheries Enhancement annual report for 2017 is online at www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/RIR.5J.2018.02.pdf

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Millions of Tons Southeast Asia Fish Diverted to Fishmeal Production

A study by Canadian researchers shows that four countries in Southeast Asia have diverted almost 40 million tons of fish to fishmeal production over the past six decades, rather than make all that seafood available for human consumption.

After looking at the total amount of fish landed by industrial fisheries in these countries versus production of small-scale fisheries and omitting the amount of fish destined for fishmeal, researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us program noticed that artisanal and subsistence fisheries provided more fish for human consumption during the entire second half of the 20th century.

Some argue that production of fishmeal supports food security because it is used to feed livestock and aquaculture fish.

But Lydia Teh, the lead author of the study published in Frontiers in Marine Science, said it is very unlikely that the practice can continue for a long time, as it relies on extraction of massive amounts of fish using methods that destroy entire ecosystems and don’t give them enough time to recover.

“Using fishmeal in aquaculture, for example, is not ecologically sustainable because we are still relying on wild caught fish as an input for farmed fish, so producing more farmed fish as a solution to food security does not lessen the pressure on wild caught fish,” Teh said.

The dramatic increase of fishing pressure by industrial fleets in this area caused a fall in coastal fish stocks in the 1990s to just one-tenth of their levels in the mid-1960s. Since they cannot travel long distances to fish in remote areas, small-scale harvesters are the most affected by such activities, according to Teh.

Researchers reported that in Thailand the small-scale harvesters were able to catch up to eight times as much fish in the 1980s as in the 2000s, while in Vietnam they perceived that fish catch decreased by over 40 percent over the span of the 2000s.

Overall, the Sea Around Us research team concluded that the small-scale fleets used to be responsible for 80 percent of the four countries’ total catch in the mid 1960s and by 2013 that number declined to 35 percent. The study, “Who Brings in the Fish? The Relative Contribution of Small-Scale and Industrial Fisheries to Food Security in Southeast Area” is available online at https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2018.00044.

Washington State Senator Holds Town Meeting

Washington State Senator Maralyn Chase will be holding a Town Meeting on Saturday, March 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. The meeting will be held at the Edmonds Senior Center located at 220 Railroad Avenue, Edmonds, Wash., 98020.

Senator Chase has indicated she would love to hear commercial fishermen’s thoughts about the 2018 legislative session, what they are hoping for in the next session and the issues that concern them.

Senator Chase continues to be a tireless advocate for the commercial fishing industry. If you are a commercial fisherman or are connected in any way to the commercial fishing industry, this meeting will provide you the opportunity to lend your voice to educate your neighbors in support of Senator Chase.

Trident, EPA Reach Settlement of Fish Waste Discharges

In a settlement reached with two federal agencies, Trident Seafoods will remove nearly three-and-a-half acres of waste from the seafloor near its plant at Sand Point, in the Aleutian Chain, and limit the amount of seafood waste discharged from its plant at Wrangell, in Southeast Alaska.

The Seattle-based processor also agreed in the agreement reached with the US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency to pay a $297,000 civil penalty, and to conduct a comprehensive audit of the company’s system for monitoring environmental compliance.

The settlement, announced on March 1, will help protect the seafloor, surrounding water quality and important habitat for a variety of marine life, said Edward Kowalski, director of the EPA Region 10 Office of Compliance and Enforcement.

Trident has operated a fish meal plant at Sand Point since 1996 to help limit the quantity of fish waste discharged to marine waters. Yet after years of processing, the historic waste pile exceeds the allowable one-acre limit, and continues to impair the health of the seafloor, EPA officials said. Unauthorized discharge of seafood processing waste leads to large seafood waste piles containing bones, shells and other organic materials that result in unsuitable habitats for fish and other living organisms.

Trident also committed to installing state-of-the-art filter technology to prevent most solids, including fish tissue, from being released to marine waters when fish are transferred from supply boats to the plant.

The company also agreed to screen out most solid seafood waters at the Wrangell plant, to reduce or eliminate water discharges to the nearshore marine environment. Annual dive surveys at both processing plants will now monitor the size of any accumulated seafood waste to ensure continued compliance with permit requirements. EPA officials said they expect the combination of these measures to improve water quality and help ensure Trident’s long-term compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Cod Wins Grand Prize at Alaska Symphony of Seafood

Premium wild caught Alaskan cod by Alaskan Leader Seafoods LLC took top honors at the 2018 Alaska Symphony of Seafoods competition, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF) reported.

AFDF announced during its gala in Juneau, Alaska on February 27 that both first prize in the Retail division and the grand prize winner was awarded to the Seattle processor for its six-ounce, 170 calorie cod fillets in a marinade. The fillets are sold in family size packs featuring six individually marinated portions.

The first-place winners from each category and the grand prize winner will receive booth space at the Seafood Expo North American coming up March 11-13 in Boston, Mass., as well as round trip airfare from Symphony sponsor Alaska Air Cargo.

The Seattle People’s Choice award winner was Jack Link’s Salmon Jerky by Link Snacks, and Kelp Salsa-Campfire, by Barnacle took the Juneau People’s Choice winner title. The salmon links, made from wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, are the results of a team effort from Jack Link’s and Trident Seafoods, and are sold by the bags. Kelp Salsa, composed of 40 percent sustainably harvested wild bull kelp, is used in traditional salsa applications, and can be used as a base for Bloody Marys.

Trident Seafoods Wild Alaskan Skillet Cuts placed second and Barnacle’s Kelp Salsa-Campfire third in the Retail competition. Trident’s skillet cuts are whole fillet cuts of wild Alaska Pollock suggested for use in tacos, pasta and stir-fry.

Trident also took top honors in the Foodservice division with a Hot and Spicy Wild Alaskan Pollock Fish Sandwich. Saltwood Smokehouse LLC placed second with a Smoked Black Cod Dip and Orca Bay Foods LLC was third with Alaska Sockeye Salmon Bites.

Alaskan Leader Seafoods placed first in the Beyond the Plate competition with its Cod Crunchies Pet Treats. Trident’s Wild Alaska Pollock Roe-Barako Style was awarded top honors in the Beyond the Egg competition. Trident produced the product in Alaska from fresh, never frozen wild Alaska Pollock roe. “Barako” is a new style of out of the skin Pollock roe that is easier for chefs and consumer to use in a variety of recipe applications.

Volcanoes, Eelgrass Suspect in Changing Salmon Habitat

NOAA Fisheries researchers say the combined forces of volcanoes and eelgrass are likely suspects in the gradually disappearing nearshore habitat for young salmon and other wildlife at Chignik, Alaska.

The report, published online in ScienceDirect, is the first to quantify shallowing of the seafloor in the Chignik area, and to identify possible causes.

Large runs of sockeye salmon spawn in lakes in the area of Chignik, which lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, surrounded by active volcanoes. Eelgrass beds serve as nurseries for young salmon to feed and acclimate to saltwater. Loss of inshore habitat is of great concern to natural resource managers and area residents who fish commercially and for subsistence.

The 2017 summary on the Chignik area from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game noted that a total of 897,489 reds were commercially harvested, which was well below the most recent 5-year and 10-year average harvests. NOAA researchers said the shallowing of Chignik waters may have a significant, long-term impact on the local salmon run, and other fish, birds and wildlife that feed and shelter there. The researchers hope their findings will help managers and communities to understand the vulnerability of these areas so that they can respond proactively.

These unexpected changes in the nearshore habitat were discovered in an Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) project led by biologist Mark Zimmermann to create fish habitat maps based on old hydrographic maps called smooth sheets.

As he studied the smooth sheets for the 1990s, Zimmermann found notes about seafloor shallowing in Chignik, but no explanation of why it might be happening. He recruited a multidisciplinary team of experts, who determined that eelgrass beds were entrapping and stabilizing volcanic ash flowing into the area.

“Volcanoes and eelgrass were working together to turn a large portion of the Chignik sites into land,” Zimmermann said. “Although this phenomenon has gone unnoticed until now, it is probably widespread, especially throughout the North Pacific, where volcanoes, eelgrass, and salmon are common components of the ecosystem.

“The world’s biggest eelgrass bed is nearby, at Izembek Lagoon, just west of Chignik on the Bering sea side of the Alaska Peninsula,” he added. “A similar dynamic could operate there and in other areas. Understanding it could provide insight for marine coastal management of commercially valuable species like salmon.”

The study, said Zimmermann, underscores the importance of long-term monitoring programs and correctly using historical hydrographic surveys to understand inshore habitat change and vulnerability and not taking habitat for granted.”

The complete study, published in journal ScienceDirect, can be found online at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272771417306716?via%3Dihub

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Satellite Based Data Offers Footprint on Global Fisheries

A new study published in Science offers a global footprint on industrial fishing, down to individual vessels and their hourly activities.

A team of researchers using satellite feeds and common ship tracking technology found that industrial fishing covers more than 55 percent of the ocean’s surface – over four times the area covered by agriculture.

The new data set compiled is hundreds of times higher in resolution than previous global surveys and captures activities of more than 70,000 vessels, including more than 75 percent of industrial fishing vessels larger than 36 meters (118.11 feet).

“The biggest issue is a lack of transparency in the global fishing industry,” said David A. Kroodsma, director of research and development at Global Fishing Watch, the lead author of the study. “By publishing the data and analysis, we aim to increase transparency in the commercial fishing industry and improve opportunities for sustainable management,” he added. “It is amazing what we are able to see now. Previously we had a very poor understanding of where fishing was happening in the high seas.” Global Fishing Watch itself is the result of the environmental organization Oceana coming together with Google and SkyTruth several years ago to develop a tool to track large fishing vessels globally.

The study reflects the team efforts of Global Fishing Watch, the National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas project, the University of California Santa Barbara, Dalhousie University, Sky Truth, Google and Stanford University. Their researchers processed 22 billion automatic identification system messages and tracked more than 70,000 industrial fishing vessels from 2012 through 2016, creating global dynamic footprint of fishing effort with spatial and temporal resolution two to three orders of magnitude higher than for previous data sets.

They found that global patterns of fishing have surprisingly low sensitivity to short-term economic and environmental variation and a strong response to cultural and political events such and holidays and closures, they indicated.

The data set provides greater detail than previously possibly about fishing activity on the high seas, beyond national jurisdictions. While most nations appear to fish predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea account for 85 percent of observed fishing on the high seas.

The study showed that the total area of the ocean fished is likely higher than the 55 percent estimated, as the data do not include some fishing effort in regions of poor satellite coverage, or exclusive economic zones with a low percentage of vessels using automated information systems.

More than 37 million hours of fishing were observed in 2016 and fishing vessels traveled more than 460 million kilometers or 285,830,748 miles, a distance equivalent to going to the moon and back 600 times. The study “Tracking the global footprint of fisheries” appears in Science, Vol. 361, Issue 6378.

ALFA, Saltwater Inc. Win Grants for EM from NFWF

A major grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will be used to improve at-sea monitoring of Alaska’s longline fisheries via electronic monitoring (EM)technologies. The technology uses video cameras placed onboard fishing vessels to monitor catch and bycatch in lieu of human observers. Since many small boats don’t have the capacity to accommodate for an additional person during fishing trips, EM can provide the same observation and potentially be more cost effective.

Electronic monitoring as an option for small fixed gear vessels in the partial coverage sector of the observer program was approved in 2016 by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The $577,959 grant received in February by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Kingfisher Foundation.

ALFA’s Dan Falvey says that 117 longline EM boats signed up for 2018. Of these, 55 are new EM vessels that require EM hardware and installations. ALFA NFWF funds will be used to cover start-up costs for 26 of these vessels. Those funds will also be used to support stakeholder travel and engagement at NPFMC meetings over the next two years as EM is integrated into the observer program, and to develop new tools that prove the utility of EM data for fishermen.

Over the next two years, 120 longline vessels in Alaska will use electronic monitoring while fishing.

This is the second NFWF grant received by ALFA to assist with electronic monitoring implementation.

The NFWF grant program awarded over $3.59 million in grants this year, with those 12 awards generating $3.15 million in matching funds from grantees, for a total conservation impact of over $6.75 million.

Effort Continues on Alaska Legislation to Protect Fish Habitat

Work continues in the Alaska House Special Committee on Fisheries on legislation to assure protection of fish habitat critical to the state’s economy and cultural heritage by establishing fish, wildlife and anadromous fish habitat permits in ways that do not overly restrict development.

The latest version of House Bill 199, which was introduced a year ago and is still in the House fisheries committee, is quite broad, and the committee is working to somewhat limit its impact on road construction and oil and gas development, an aide to the committee said.

The Stand for Salmon initiative slated to go to a statewide vote later in 2018 is designed to establish new requirements and a new process for permit applications, permit application reviews and granting of permits for any projects or activities affecting water bodies where anadromous fish are present. It would prohibit projects and activities determined to cause significant and unrestorable damage to such fish habitat.

Mine proponents and others invested in non-renewable resources contend that HB 199 and the salmon initiative would severely restrict their business efforts.

The committee heard recently from mine opponents concerned about adverse impacts of mine development and operation on the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

“The commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries all play a key role in keeping the region’s economy and cultures alive, and Pebble is too great a threat to each of those fisheries,” said Norm Van Vactor, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. at Dillingham, Alaska.

While the company claims to have a small impact on salmon, the numbers it talks about refer only to sockeye. But the mine is at the headwaters of the coho and Chinook fisheries too, and the impact on all salmon species would be much greater than the numbers they gave.

“Any conversation the state enters into should be fish first,” Van Vactor said. “Just last summer about 60 million fish showed up. Bristol Bay is sustained by salmon.”.

University of Washington fisheries professor Daniel Schindler, who has done extensive research in the area, said “streams and wetlands will be drained, roads will fragment habitat parcels that fish need to move among, and toxins such as excess copper in the water will interfere with the ability of fish to navigate from freshwater to the ocean and back to spawn.

The mine, he said, will create acid mine drainage. “Copper is a known toxin to fish. We can’t forget the indirect effects of copper on fish. It affects their ability to smell. They smell their way home. If there is copper in the stream, it affects their ability to get home and to recognize predators.”

NPRB Considers Updates for Its Core Program Proposal Process

The North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), based in Anchorage, Alaska, is accepting comments (www.nprb.org) through March 12 on updating its core program proposal process to provide a more stable and flexible funding platform for researchers. The board’s stated preferred alternative is to move from its current fixed proposal deadline with one funding meeting annually to a rolling submissions approach with no deadline and funding decisions spread between two annual meetings.

The NPRB is also seeking nominations for one seat on its science panel and three seats on its advisory panel. All four positions will become available on June 1, 2018. The deadline for nominations is March 2.

The science panel assists the NPRB in shaping its scientific program by advising on science planning and identification of research priorities, identification and evaluation of scientific information relevant to the board’s mission and review of proposals and technical evaluations received by the board. More information is online at http://www.nprb.org/nprb/about-us/science-panel.

The advisory panel represents stakeholders, user groups and other interested parties from areas within the board’s purview. The advisory board’s role includes setting research priorities and defining questions, and highlighting proposals with special stakeholder relevance. To that end, nominations are sought from individuals with practical knowledge and experience in one or more of these large marine regions.

More information is online at http://www.nprb.org/nprb/about-us/advisory-panel.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ASMI Partners to Promote Pollock, Sockeye Salmon

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) has partnered anew with two fast food chains in California to promote Alaska Pollock, and a British Columbia supermarket chain to promote frozen and refreshed wild Alaska sockeye salmon.

The renewed partnerships with Del Taco, Jack in the Box and Save-On-Foods were announced in ASMI’s mid-February online Marketing Update, on the eve of Lent, a religious tradition observed every year during the 40 days before Easter. Fish is a traditional staple part of Lenten meals. Patrons of these establishments have come to expect these seasonal seafood specials.

Del Taco restaurants offers a limited time special of beer battered fish tacos featuring wild Alaska Pollock, with the ASMI logo visible in Del Taco promotional collateral across print and digital platforms. The taco comes on a corn tortilla with shredded cabbage, tartar sauce and a lime wedge.

At Jack in the Box, the fish sandwich of Alaska Pollock makes its annual return for the Lenten season, breaded in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried, with tartar sauce and shredded lettuce on a plain bun. Alaska Pollock fish sandwiches are also on tap at Burger King and McDonalds. At Burger King, the fish sandwich has panko breading and is topped with sweet tartar sauce and tangy pickles, on a toasted brioche-style bun. McDonald’s filet-o-fish, with melted American cheese and tartar sauce, is served on a soft, steamed bun.

Wendy’s takes a different twist, serving up a panko-breaded North Pacific cod fillet, topped with a dill tartar sauce and crunchy dill pickles.

In January, Save-On-Foods began a promotion of frozen and refreshed wild Alaska sockeye salmon in 162 stores throughout western Canada. In February, ASMI presented to top Walmart executives at the company’s first Sustainable Seafood Summit. Representatives from Trident, Marine Harvest, Blue Star Seafood and other suppliers participated along with the Marine Stewardship Council, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative, Best Aquaculture Practices, and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

Fisheries Coalition Urges Flexibility in Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

Alaska harvesters and conservationists are the latest in a wave of members of the Fishing Communities Coalition urging Congress to commit to science-based annual catch limits in all sectors in reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Representatives of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council were in Washington D.C. in mid-February meeting with the state’s congressional delegation. They underscored the need for a scientific basis for setting those annual catch limits and urged a commitment to strengthen other key provisions within the act.

“The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) is working in Alaska and around the country because all sectors adhere to scientifically-sound annual catch limits. Reauthorization will only provide a bright future for our nation’s young fishermen if all sectors – commercial and recreational – recommit to sustainable harvest through improved stock assessment, better catch accounting, and strict adherence to annual catch limits,” said Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

The Alaska contingent discussed the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, urging them to ensure the bipartisan initiative is signed into law in support of the next generation of commercial harvesters. The Young Fishermen’s Development Act would provide grants of up to $200,000 and a total of $2 million annually through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program for training, education and other assistance to the next generation of commercial harvesters.

Just a month earlier, members of the Fishing Communities Coalition from Cape Cod, Maine and the Gulf of Mexico were in Washington, D.C. to meet with policymakers on a similar mission.

The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) is concerned that House Resolution 200, one of several bills from which the new MSA legislation could emerge, would give recreational fishermen more access to fish without requiring them to be accountable for what they catch.

The FCC has proposed mandatory reporting in the recreational sector so that fishery managers know how many fish were harvested. The coalition also contends that H.R. 200, introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, does not constitute a genuine national fisheries policy, as it creates different rules for different regions. The same rules should apply nationwide, the coalition said.

OA Researchers Test the Waters Between Bellingham and Skagway

As the largest vessel in the Alaska Marine Highway System fleet cruises on her route between Bellingham, Washington, and Skagway, Alaska – scientists aboard the M/V Columbia are tracking changes in ocean water that may well impact the fishing future of the Pacific Northwest.

“The project wasn’t by any means a new idea,” says Wiley Evans of British Columbia’s Hakai Institute, , “except that it’s just the first time a carbon dioxide system has been installed on a ferry.”

The project involves a surface seawater monitoring system, installed aboard the M/V Columbia to study ocean acidification, which is caused by increased carbon dioxide in the water.

Water is continuously flowing through the onboard system, which Evans helped to install, entering the ship through a bow thruster port, about six feet below the sea surface. It is measured every three minutes for seawater temperature, levels of salt, oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Data being gathered aboard the M/V Columbia since late 2017 is part of an international effort that began in 2014 to understand the impact of ocean acidification along the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska.

Oceans are absorbing about 25 percent of the increased carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by people. According to the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network that roughly represents seven million tons of CO2 every day. As seawater becomes more acidic it could impact all commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries, as well as wildlife management in Canada, Alaska and the continental United States. Effects of ocean acidification are already being seen in shellfish farms in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

The goal is to detail baseline conditions between Bellingham and Skagway, a distance of about 1,000 miles, Evans said. “Within this domain there has not been very good data coverage, particularly Southeast Alaska and the central coast of British Columbia, there is a need to create baseline conditions and seasonality of the area, and to identify the best places for aquaculture to develop and hot spots for corrosive conditions,” he said.

The current plan calls for the project to extend for five years, which Evans said is long enough to understand how data might differ from one year to the next, but more would be better. “My hope is that this platform and the work we are doing in Alaska goes on at least 10 plus years,” he said.

Harmful Algae Network Works to Assure Safe Shellfish Harvest

A network of state, federal and tribal researchers in Alaska is focusing on better understanding and mitigating effects of harmful algae blooms posing health risks to sea creatures and people. The goal of the Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Network(http://www.aoos.org/alaska-hab-network/ahab-mission/) is to promote more research, monitoring and public awareness of these toxins.

The toxic algal blooms are generated by certain phytoplankton, also known as microalgae, autotrophic or self-feeding members of the plankton community, which are free floating algae. Like terrestrial plants, they contain chlorophyll and require sunlight to live and grow.

Phytoplankton provide food for whales, shrimp, snails and jellyfish and other sea creatures. When too many nutrients are available, phytoplankton may grow out of control and form harmful algal blooms, which can produce extremely toxic compounds harmful to fish, shellfish, animals, birds and people. According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health, climate change is likely to increase the threat of harmful algal blooms. Warmer waters extend the phytoplankton growing season, increasing the likelihood of toxic blooms, and may allow new potentially harmful phytoplankton species to expand their area of reach in Alaska.

Commercially harvested shellfish sold in stores and restaurants must pass federal Food and Drug Administration and state-run toxin testing to assure their safety for human consumption. Testing is not required for personal and subsistence shellfish harvests, but the AHAB Network hopes to eventually develop the ability to forecast such blooms to alert personal use and subsistence harvesters.

The network is coordinated jointly by the Alaska Ocean Observing System and Alaska Sea Grant.

Members include the Alaska departments of Health and Social Services and Environmental Conservation, Aleutian Pribilof Island Association, Axiom Data Science, NOAA’s National Ocean Service and National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Southeast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Apprenticeship Program Offers Salmon Trolling Experience

Applications are being accepted through March 1 for the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association’s (ALFA) crewmember apprenticeship program, offering young people a guided entry level experience in commercial seafood harvesting in Southeast Alaska.

ALFA received a $70,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation late last year to expand this program in Sitka and to support efforts to launch similar programs elsewhere in Alaska.

The grant, leveraged with support from the city of Sitka and ALFA members, was awarded as part of NFWF’s Fisheries Innovation Fund. Its aim to improve management that strengthens the welfare of fishermen and local communities, promoting health fish stocks and healthy fisheries.

“With support from NFWF, we plan to expand the program to include more boats, crew and communities,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of AFLA. “Giving young people an introduction to Alaska’s commercial fisheries will help sustain our fishing communities and create the next generation of resource stewards.”

Over the past three years, Sitka-based harvester Eric Jordan of the fishing vessel I Gotta has introduced over 40 young people to commercial fishing as part of the program. Apprentice deckhands are taught the intricacies of commercial salmon trolling, including sustainable fishing practices and conservation ethics.

“The future of our fisheries is dependent on young fishermen learning to love and care for the fish we harvest and the habitat essential to their well-being,” Jordan said. “Our generation’s legacy will be defined as we, Alaskan fishermen, rebuilt and enhanced our fisheries, and how we mentored the next generation.”

ALFA plans to expand the program over the next two years to include more vessels, skippers and crewmembers. Application information is available online at http://www.alfafish.org/apprenticeship/

Prince William Sound Cod Fishery Opens
with 992,080-lb GHL

The Prince William Sound area Pacific cod state waters fishery opens at noon on February 15 with a guideline harvest level (GHL) of 992,080 pounds, of which 85 percent (843,268 pounds) is allocated to vessels using longline gear and 15 percent (148,812 pounds) for those with pot and jig gear. A reduction compares to the 2017 GHL of 4,338,141 pounds, which was also down from 4,841,902 pounds in 2016.

A dramatic drop in recruitment prompted fisheries managers’ decisions in December to make more severe cuts for this fishery.

The season is set to open 24 hours after the Prince William Sound P-cod parallel fishery closes to vessels using pot gear and coincides with the National Marine Fisheries Service closure of the P-cod pot gear sector in the federal Central Gulf of Alaska area.

Area registration for the state-waters season is exclusive. It allows no more than 60 groundfish pots to be operated from a vessel and each pot must display a buoy identification tag. A vessel may not participate in a Pacific cod state-waters season and any other P-cod season at the same time.

Following closure of the parallel P-cod season, all groundfish pot gear must be removed from the water, except those on vessels registered for the state-waters P-cod season, which may store theirs per state regulations guidelines. Groundfish storage provisions allow groundfish pot gear to be stored in waters no more than 25 fathoms deep on the north side of Montague island for up to 10 days prior to the opening and 10 days after closure of the state-waters season to pot gear. All bait and bait containers must be removed and all doors secured open at the time of the parallel season closure. After the 10-day period has elapsed, no groundfish pot storage is permitted.

Chinook PSC Limits in Gulf of Alaska Face Another Review

Federal fisheries managers discussed modifying the Chinook salmon prohibited species catch (PSC) limits for non-pollock catcher vessels in the Gulf of Alaska this past week, then recommended another initial review of their analysis.

The action came during the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Seattle, Washington The proposed action would consider increasing Chinook salmon prohibited species limits and establishing an annual rollover of unused Chinook salmon PSC for the Gulf’s non-pollock, non-rockfish program trawl catcher vessel sector and/or the Central Gulf Rockfish Program catcher vessel sector.

National Standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require that the council balance objectives of achieving optimum yield, minimizing bycatch and minimizing adverse impacts on fishery-dependent communities. Chinook salmon PSC taken in the Gulf by trawl fisheries is a resource concern. The council previously set hard cap PSC limits that are below the incidental take amount that would trigger consultation under the Endangered Species Act. The trawl fishery is closed if the PSC hard cap is reached.

Since implementation of Chinook salmon PSC limits for the Gulf non-pollock groundfish trawl catcher vessel sector in 2015, the fishery has continued to show variable levels and unpredictable timing of salmon encounter, the council noted.

Potential closures and PSC encounter rates that vary from year to year or even week to week have created uncertainty for harvesters, and adversely affect trawl harvesters, crew, processors and coastal communities. The motion passed by the council noted that alternatives to increase PSC limits or to provide more flexibility under the existing PSC limits were offered in light of new information and multiple years of experience fishing under constraining hard caps for these fisheries in a limited access fishery with variable and unpredictable PSC rates.

The proposed action would not modify other existing features of the Gulf Chinook salmon PSC limits for non-pollock trawl fisheries such as PSC rollovers from the rockfish program catcher vessel sector to the limited access catcher vessel sector, and National Marine Fishery Service’s ability to make in-season king salmon PSC limit reapportionments between certain trawl sectors.

Fishing Disaster Relief Funds Signed into Law

A new two-year bipartisan federal budget deal signed into law this week includes $200 million to help communities with declared fisheries disasters.

Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, with Representatives Derek Kilmer and Jaime Herrera Beutler said passage caps years of work to give relief to Washington state’s fisheries, which have experienced numerous federally declared disasters in recent years.

“This fishery disaster funding represents a critical investment in fishing families and the future of their communities,” said Cantwell.

Murray called the funding a good down payment on efforts to get help to families impacted by these disasters and said she would keep fighting to ensure that these funds make it to communities where they are needed.

Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan also hailed the fisheries disaster funds included in the Bipartisan Budget Act, which established funding levels through the end of fiscal 2019.

Murkowski said the money would be truly vital to communities in the Gulf of Alaska hard hit by the pink salmon fishery disaster of 2016. “From commercial fishermen and processors to local governments who saw less revenue, this hit everyone hard,” she said. Areas impacted by the low harvests of humpies in 2016 included Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Chignik, Lower Cook Inlet, Yakutat, the South Alaska Peninsula and Southeast Alaska.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Changes in Seafood Industry Will Require Fewer Workers

A decline in the domestic workforce for the seafood industry’s harvesting and processing sector is prompting efforts for modernization and automation of the harvest to reduce the number of workers needed, while increasing skills required of those who get the jobs.

That was the message from Gleyn Bledsoe of Washington State University’s Center for Advanced Food Technology to the 69th Pacific Fisheries Technologists Conference in Girdwood, Alaska.

“We don’t have the workers… we lack a stable workforce,” Bledsoe told several dozen conference participants during the first morning of the February 5–7 conference. Many young people in the United States and other countries are choosing less strenuous and safer livelihoods not limited to the seafood industry, he said.

This has left many in the harvesting and processing sectors dependent on a semi-skilled to unskilled immigrant and guest worker labor force that is becoming more difficult to populate and maintain, he explained. The industry’s response has been to modernize and automate their harvest, onboard and shoreside facilities so that the work can be done with fewer people who have more skills. Seafood engineers are approaching the challenge by implementing automated, including robotic, technologies designed to reduce operator numbers and skill requirements and simultaneously develop training program to provide employees with the skills to operate and maintain that equipment.

Washington State University’s School of Food Science’s Center for Advanced Food Technology has now teamed up with WSU’s School of Engineering, Everett Community College Advanced Manufacturing Training and Education Center, North Pacific seafood companies and seafood processing equipment manufacturers to expand current systems and robotics to address these needs and provide associated training programs. More information about the conference is available online at www.pftfish.net

Alaska to Push Transboundary Issues to a Higher Level

Alaska took its concerns about the potential impact of mining near transboundary waterways to a federal level this week, while meeting with Canadian ministers of natural resources, environment and climate, fisheries and crown-indigenous relations and northern affairs in Ottawa, Ontario.

According to Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, the goal was to directly convey concerns over the need to protect the environmental quality of transboundary rivers shared by Alaska and British Columbia, rivers where healthy salmon habitat is critical.

Mallott and Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, discussed transboundary mines, water quality and climate change issues with Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna. Mallott said they also asked Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, for baseline water quality measures, financial assurances and cumulative impact assessments for transboundary watersheds impacted by mining.

Mallott noted that while he doesn’t think there will be immediate follow-up, the big change is the matter now involves the federal governments for the US and Canada.

One issue that came up during the talks is concern about the Tulsequah Chief mine, in British Columbia, where acid drainage from the idle mine continues to flow into the Tulsequah River and then the Taku River before reaching Juneau, Alaska.

Concerns over operating mines, abandoned mines and plans for new mines will come up again at federal level meetings of the two countries in April.

“We’re not saying it’s going to be resolved overnight, but now we have our own federal government engaged and motivated,” Sullivan said.

The meetings in Ottawa raised the level of awareness over transboundary river issues, Mallott said.

NPFMC Meets in Seattle Through February 12

The February meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is under way in Seattle, Washington, with final action scheduled on small sideboard issues.

In June, the council adopted a purpose and need statement, and alternatives for analysis to revise federal regulations prohibiting directed fishing for species with sideboard limits insufficient to support directed fishing by non-exempt American Fisheries Act (AFA) vessels and crab vessels. National Marine Fisheries Service would no longer publish these AFA and crab rationalization program sideboard limits in the annual harvest specifications. This proposed action would also remove the sideboard limit on AFA catcher/processors for Central Aleutian Islands Atka mackerel.

The agenda also includes issues related to the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab and Gulf of Alaska catcher vessel Chinook salmon prohibited species catch limit adjustments.

The meeting hosted at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel is open to the public, except for executive sessions. The agenda can be found at http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2018/2/971_A_North_Pacific_Council_18-02-05_Meeting_Agenda.pdf.

Those who can attend in person can listen to the online broadcast by logging to https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/february2018.

Motions will be posted online following the meeting.

ASMI Reports Americans are Eating More Seafood

A new report prepared for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute says consumers are eating more seafood, citing their health concerns as a primary driver.

According to the Chicago-based consulting and research service firm Technomic, younger consumers are more likely to find seafood and plant-based proteins to be healthier than poultry, beef or pork. There is also growing concern among consumers over how food is produced and where food is sourced, and a growing desire to support food producers located in the consumer’s region or within the United States.

Consumers also told Technomic that the place of origin, environmental impact and production method are all playing a part in decisions to purchase seafood.

Forty-one percent of respondents said it is important to them that the environment is not negatively impacted by the seafood they eat. Forty percent said it is important for them to know which country their seafood comes from, and 39 percent said they prefer wild to farm-raised seafood.

The report said that Alaska seafood is well positioned to take advantage of these trends in seafood consumption. However, in order to do so it will need a strategy that targets consumers in and approaching peak spending years, with product strategy that highlights health, sustainability and uses source-specificity to elevate the Alaska seafood brand.

Read the full report online at https://uploads.alaskaseafood.org/2017/12/Technomic_ASMI-presentation-deck_11_28.pdf

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

EPA Takes New Look at Mining in Bristol Bay Watershed

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has suspended withdrawal of proposed restrictions for hard rock mining of the Pebble deposit in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region and will solicit additional public comment on the impact of mining applications.

Pruitt said the decision neither deters nor derails the application process of Pebble Limited Partnership’s proposed project, but that their permit application must clear a high bar, because the EPA believes the risk to Bristol Bay may be unacceptable.

Pruitt said on January 26 that based on hearing directly from stakeholders and others in Alaska that the EPA would leave the proposed restrictions in place while the agency gathers more information on the potential impact of the copper, gold and molybdenum mine on the world class salmon fisheries and natural resources of this region of Southwest Alaska.

“…it is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there,” Pruitt wrote. “Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection. This action, “will allow EPA to get the information needed to determine what specific impacts the proposed mining project will have on those critical resources.”

“EPA has serious concerns about the impacts of mining activity in the Bristol Bay watershed,” Pruitt said. “From public comments to community meetings, stakeholders stressed the importance of balancing a singular mine venture with the risk to one of the world’s largest commercial fisheries. Second, for EPA not to express an environmental position at this stage would be disingenuous.”

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Alaska Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon and entities representing both the Alaska Native community and fishing industries welcomed the announcement, while the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) said the news does not change its approach toward the permitting process.

Ron Thiessen, president and chief executive officer of Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., of which the PLP is a subsidiary, expects that the permitting process for Pebble will “advance expeditiously over the next few years and that the draft and final environmental impact statement will be completed upon which final permitting decisions for the Pebble project will be made.”

Norm Van Vactor, chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. said that the PLP “had painted a picture to its shareholders that they seemingly have the EPA in their back pocket and this clearly demonstrates that they don’t. It looks like even for the Trump administration that there can be mines that are too toxic,” he said.

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